Wednesday, August 25, 2010

What difference does it make?

I am not awesome at advocating for myself. Educating others on communication is not my strong suit. That's why I have this blog, to make up for what I don't do face to face. Maybe I'm chicken. Sometimes it is hard to stand up to someone or something and say, "Hey, could you please do this or that? I need help communicating." It puts me in a vulnerable position to do that. Sometimes it's awkward. So I lose a lot of opportunities to advocate because I'm chicken or shy or lazy or whatever.

Tthere's also a niggling question in the back of my head. "What difference does it make?" For instance, one of the things that really strikes a nerve with me is the fact that it is almost impossible to watch a captioned movie in the theater in this city. There's only one theater that has subtitles and the showtimes are bizarre. Like 11am on a Friday morning... um, hi, I have to work just like everyone else! A few other theaters offer rear window captioning, but I have yet to meet a deaf or hard of hearing person who enjoyed that experience. So in the interest of advocacy, I could write letters to the theaters, chains, management, the companies responsible for captioning and so on. But I don't because I know they'll come back with, "It's too expensive." I don't even try because I assume I'll lose.

The job I have now is the first one I had out of college. I've been there almost three years. It took me about a year just to find it. I probably applied for a couple hundred... ish jobs in that one year span. I had a college degree. I had work experience, both on and off campus. If I may say so, I was a pretty good candidate for employment and while I don't have any hard and fast proof of this, I think it took me so long to find a job because employers didn't really want to hire someone who need accommodations (all I really needed was a CapTel phone). I know deaf and hard of hearing people who struggle to find a job because they can't talk on the phone. That's frustrating and unfair and the Sheriff of the Universe in me wants everything to be brought to justice. I want to fight and stand up for people like us so that we have an equal shot at getting jobs. But what can one person do? What could I really say so that someone will listen and take me seriously?

There is so much that needs to be explained about hearing loss, but sometimes it feels like no one is really listening. Movie theaters only care about money. Employers don't want to take a small step for a valuable employee (uh, to clarify, in case my co-workers ever find my blog, I love my employer. And they love me. They've done so well in providing me with a phone, including me in conversations and they have, in the past, provided an interpreter if I ask. So many employers may be lazy... but mine isn't). Churches don't always have the resources to be accessible and even friends get impatient. So sometimes it just seems easier to let things slide and pretend I can get by without them. Little fish, big pond.

I know, I know, I need to get over this self-defeatist mentality. And a lot of my reluctance is rooted in my laziness; advocacy is hard work and I'm not always willing to put in the effort. But I wish my friends and family would go a little easier on me and not scold me so much for not standing up for myself more. What they don't understand is that if I asked for clarification every time I missed something or advocated for myself every time I felt ignored, I would never stop talking! There's just so many communication barriers that need to be torn down that I wonder what the point is in even starting. Which is kind of how I feel about my closet right now. It's so messy, what's the point of even trying to clean it?! :p

But as with the closet, I guess it starts one step at a time. One small group at church. One friend. One letter. And maybe even one blog. :)

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