Monday, October 25, 2010

Defining Disability - Part 1

I have a lofty goal this week, my friends. I've been thinking a lot about hearing loss and disability and how the church can come alongside of people who live with disabilities. I had so many thoughts (um, what else is new?) that I wound up with what would have been a freakishly long post, so I decided to break it up a little. So far I have four parts. Okay, three and a half, but let's just round it up. I'm planning to make it a five-parter, which means I might actually post every. single. day. this week. Which has only been a goal for the last, oh, five months. Procrastinator Extraordinaire, at your service! Also, I don't really have a fancy name for this series, so put your thinking caps on. Ideas. Need. Brain. Hurts. Thanks.

Anyway, here's part 1. It's short, but it's Monday. I didn't want to have to think too much on Monday.

I mentioned some time ago that I tend to view my hearing loss as a disability. I'm hesitant to share that because I have deaf and hard of hearing friends who probably cringe at the term and I certainly don't want to cause a division between us. And I'm hesitant to use the word disability because I feel like there are so many people who have more challenges than I do that claiming a disability, I worry, makes light of their situations.

It is not my intention to divide or belittle with the word "disability." I just take the definition literally. Dis-ability. Which basically means un-ability. And I do not have the ability to hear without assistance. I'm lacking a very specific ability that most people have and it interferes with my life in the sense that I need to work a little harder and utilize outside resources to accomplish regular tasks. In our culture of "everybody is unique," we are slow to use words like "normal," (because how could there possibly be such thing as "normal" if everyone is "special?") but the truth is that wearing hearing aids is not normal. That does not mean that it is unacceptable or weird or gross. It simply means that the vast majority of people do not have to wear hearing aids and I am different for doing so.

So that's what I mean if or when I ever reference hearing loss as a disability. I could also write a whole other post, or series of posts, on how, for me, hearing loss is also more than a disability; it's become part of me. But that's for another day. Or week. What I'm just trying to establish right now are my thoughts on the word "disability." Capisce?


  1. I HATE the word disability. I always say ability! I do not like hearing impaired either, I don't like to have my deafness sound negative, because it is not.


  2. I don't like the word hearing impaired much. I don't know why but I just cring when I hear that word or see that word.

    But disability does not offend me, because at the end of the day it is a disability. I have lost my hearing. I do not see the word disability as a negativity, but others see it that way, like when I had a job interview once years ago, which I had plenty of experience of, and enthusiasm. I mentioned this on my blog. I wasn't taken on. It certainly was my deafness that done that. But I have no proof, as I had the interview at the end of the day.

  3. Kym, I agree about hearing impaired. I'm not fond of it either... and I'm with you Liz, it makes me cringe! It seems awkward and outdated and just plain icky! :)

    I don't see "disability" as a negative thing. It just is what it is. In my mind, it's just a neutral definition. I can see how some people would be turned off by it, though.

    Liz, I'm sorry you had a bad experience with your job interview. It can be hard out there to get a job when you can't answer phones. At least I remember feeling like that after college!

  4. I think that in being cognizant of my language so as not to offend anyone, it is making me sensitive. I read a comment that one of my blogworld friends wrote. She described my daughter as "hearing disadvantaged."

    Disadvantaged? I don't think so. But this friend didn't mean anything by it. She was just searching for a descriptor and that's what all of these things are - words to describe the way a body works.

    Lots of people are using the term "differently abled". I'm not sensitive to the term "disability" so I think "differently abled" is pretty silly.
    Still I'm a parent with no personal experience. Time will tell what my kid thinks about all of this.

  5. I'm ok with the term disability because I have met far to many people with disabilities that are so wonderful "ABLE". I also understand that for the time being, my freedom as an individual with disabilities is actually protected by this wording from the ADA. I, too, am not overly fond of the terms "hearing impaired". To me, that has more of a negative feel about it.

    Ultimately, I think whatever term one adopts to explain how hearing may be different for them - it all boils down to attitude. How we identify with whatever "label" usually mirrors how other people view us too. I've found that if I'm positive and upbeat about it and concentrate on the ABILITIES I have, people don't dwell on the disability. Great post...