By Tracy Stine
I was born profoundly deaf and legally blind due to unknown causes.
Eventually, I got glasses to correct my vision to 20/200, and a pair of hearing aids. Other than this, I had no other adaptations growing up – I held books and toys closer to my face and sat closer to the television.
During the summers as a child, I was assigned an intervenor from the Canadian National Institute of the Blind (CNIB) to facilitate involvement in the community.
She and I would go to community events, libraries, science museums together where she worked one-on-one with me to relay what instructors, guides, and other people were saying.
For one or two weeks during this time, we went to CNIB’s summer camp where I got to hangout with other deaf-blind children.
I was mainstreamed in a public school with specialized classes for speech, hearing and English with other deaf and hard of hearing kids, but spent the majority of the day in the regular classroom with a powerful hearing aid and microphone for the teacher.
After a good deal of bullying from the other students, I asked my parents if I could start high school at the deaf institute.
After graduation, I tried hunting for work, thinking the only drawback I would face was being unable to drive, but capable of anything else.
I quickly learnt the reality of discrimination – after two years and numerous rejections because of my dual-disabilities, I decided to attend university to improve my chances of employment.
Four years and a bachelor’s degree in business administration later, I still struggled to get past judgmental headhunters to find employment and had a few sporadic jobs throughout my adult life.
I realized I had a naïve view of the world as I could only understand things within the five-foot bubble of what I could see, hear, or what was relayed to me.
This is the reality of a deaf-blind person.
With the advent of technology like the internet and later, social media, my world exploded open.
I could keep up with conversations in online chat rooms and was not prejudged by my disabilities.
In one of these chat rooms is where I met my future husband. After revealing I was deaf-blind in a private chat, he taught himself sign language to ease our communication and we’ve now been together for 20 years and have two children.
Eventually, my vision and hearing worsened to where I reluctantly had to accept using a white cane and had a cochlear implant.
Being an adult and a parent, I go out in public frequently to various places like shopping malls, play areas, doctor’s offices, school, and so forth.
Occasionally I come across people expressing an ignorant view of my deaf-blindness; “Where’s your caretaker?”, “Who helps with the kids?”, “It must be so hard being you”, and “I could never be deaf or blind.”
I’m Deaf-blind and that’s okay.
It may take me longer to do things, or do them in a different way, but I’m still a person, a wife, a mother, a daughter, a friend, a blogger, and a writer. I take care of the house, kids, cooking, bills and anything else a wife and mother does.
I don’t need special treatment aside from the standard accommodations of an occasional ASL interpreter or SSP (Support Service Provider – an American version of an Intervenor).
I don’t need people’s patronizing attitudes, stares, doubts, discrimination, or misguided help.
I’m just a Deaf-blind woman going about living my life to the fullest and enjoying the ride.
You can follow Stacy on Facebook and Twitter, and additionally you can check out her Confessions of a DeafBlind Mother blog.
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