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Monday, 03 August 2015 17:38

Communicate Don't Assume

Written by  Molly Watt
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Up until 12 I believed I could do most things, why not, I was deaf but with hearing aids could hear. 

It did make communication an issue sometimes, group settings, noisy environments and bad acoustics did make life more difficult, using a phone could also be testing with my early hearing aids too and unfamiliar voices and accents could be testing but I could usually after a little practice get used to them.

Of course there would have been a few things I couldn't do but in the main I felt capable of most things.

To my surprise my disability was more of an issue to the outside world than to me.

This very strange assumption that firstly I would use sign language to communicate was the first barrier I came up against followed by the assumption I would use Braille!

I remember being very shocked at the thought as I had not met a first language signer until I was 14 years old and all I knew about Braille was learning about Louis Braille in Year 2 at Primary School!

I learnt to speak just like my older sibling accept I was slower and I needed specialist speech therapy and I learnt to read books in Primary School as I could see perfectly back then.

BSL is a beautifully visual language and I did learn it just to communicate with other deaf people who use it, I'm not the best at it but I do my best as communication and inclusion is so important to us all.

I really struggle with sign language now my sight is so poor but if it is somebody's only way of communicating I can interpret if the environment is right, this means good lighting, not bright lighting and for the person signing to be at a distance that suits my small window of vision. 

The level of concentration for me to interpret is huge as I have to be very alert to scan, process and convert what I'm seeing into speech, that said I'm happy to do it if I can to help.

Being able to communicate with speech is a huge asset to me, particularly since I became deafblind.

Life is challenging but I am able to communicate with the larger society, it is larger society who need to realise not all deafblind or deaf people communicate with sign language and not all deafblind or blind people use Braille.

Also not all blind and deafblind people use voiceover!

I realise going from deaf to deafblind reduces my options, causes confusion and is very misunderstood.  However, I like to be the person who decides what I can and cannot do.

Assumption and patronising is very annoying and often damaging, those of us with disabilities that are able to communicate tend to be the experts on us, respect us enough to listen.

Communication is a two way thing and if those who should listen don't then we have a problem!

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