Nick Sturley: Ten things Deaf people should never say to an Usher person

Posted on December 4, 2012

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Charlie Swinbourne posted an excellent article two months back here called Ten Things You Should Never Say To A Deaf Person, which highlighted ten of the most common stupid things hearing people say to Deaf people.

I thought I’d do the same for Usher people, but the difference is that it’s the stupid things that DEAF PEOPLE say to or about Ushers.

Yes, hearing people have said things along similar lines but that’s understandable because they don’t know or understand what it’s like. However, coming from Deaf people themselves makes this even stupider considering the fact that they know perfectly well what it’s like to be told similar things by hearing people.

A few general things about Usher syndrome for those who don’t know what it is or understand the kind of life Usher people lead. Firstly, Usher syndrome is a genetic condition that combines deafness and progressive visual loss and you can read more about it in What is Usher?

Secondly, Ushers know their own limitations and will know when it is the right time when deciding to stop doing it. Or to make some adjustments which fits in their lifestyle and also based on their own life’s experiences.

Thirdly and lastly, it is important to remember that they all are NOT the same in the same manner as all Deaf people aren’t.

So, I asked the members of the UsherLife Facebook group, which I co–moderate, about their experiences, including a few from my own, of the stupid things Deaf people had told them. Here are ten of the most common stupid things they said:

How do you cope at home? Is someone looking after you at home? Can you cook at home?”

And 98 more stupid questions about how Ushers live at home. They aren’t invalids, you know! They do manage fine at home in the same way as anyone. They don’t need looking after although there are times when they need help with something such as finding things that were dropped or dealing with things – but that’s what everyone does at home anyway. Cooking? We all aren’t Jamie Olivers or Nigella Lawsons, are we? Of course, Ushers can cook, thank you very much for asking!

Wow! That is AMAZING that you could do [this and that]!”

How would Deaf people feel if hearing people said the same thing? The problem with Deaf people is that they take one look at the Usher person and they’d think they’re stupid or incapable of doing even the simplest things. They go heads over hells when they’re told what Ushers could do or had done. I could write a long, long list of such things that Deaf people would never imagine Ushers could do!

No, you can’t do [this and that] because you can’t see well!”

Why not? Is it because Deaf people think Ushers can’t do things they could do just because they can’t see too well? Wrong! Their eyesight may be rubbish, but their brains aren’t, so they’re as intelligent as you are. And please don’t tell them what they can do or can’t do – it’s patronising, so let them make their own decisions, okay?

How do you tell your children off?”

One Usher mother who had raised two children bemoaned about this daft question that Deaf people often asked her and she always replied: “How do you tell yours off?”

Please tell him/her that…”

This is one of the most irritating things for Ushers when someone comes up to him or her for a chat, they would tend to talk to the partner, accompanying friend or guide and expect them to convey to the Usher person as though he or she was invisible.

How nice of you helping him/her – you have such a kind heart.”

Again, that’s another irritating thing Deaf people say. They think communicator-guide (CGs) working with Ushers are Good Samaritans helping out of kindness when in fact it’s actually paid work. Some Ushers need CGs to access outside of their home. Yes, there are some volunteers though, but that’s their own private arrangement. Are the BSL interpreters doing their jobs out of kindness and heart, right?

How much can you see me?”

How much can you hear me? – Hearing person to a Deaf person. Although it’s understandable that Deaf people are curious about what Ushers can see and they would sometimes be happy to explain, it can be really irritating and rude because it can have a knock–on effect on their dignity.

Oh look at him/her walking like that, he/she’s drunk!”

Drunk? No! I have Usher! Ushers have poor balance and they don’t always walk in a straight line or acting like a bull in a china shop, so it’s easy to see why Deaf people think Ushers are always intoxicated! But if they’re actually drunk after a drinking session, then they’re drunk just like any other although it has been known that for some strange reason some Ushers do have better control of their drunkenness than some drunk Deaf people do…

They’re gay!”

Sigh. This often happens when a male guide is guiding a male Usher or a female guide guiding a female Usher with the hand on the arm and they’d get strange looks from everyone – both Deaf and hearing people. You have to remember that not all Ushers like to use a white cane to show for it and some of them don’t even need guiding as they can manage, but there are times when they need a helping hand such as walking in the dark or in crowded places. Oh, and by the way, when they’re holding hands to communicate in BSL doesn’t mean that they’re madly in love (unless they’re actually partners, of course!).

If that’s what it like? I’d kill myself!”

This may seem harsh and they’d think having no hearing and sight is the end of it, finished and dead. But they seem to forget that Ushers and deafblind people have to live with it EVERY DAY for the rest of their lives. They always have to make constant adjustments in their lives as their vision changes. Of course having Usher or being deafblind is not the greatest thing in the world and there have been suicides by some of them, but they have to be positive and get on with their lives as best as possible. Besides, there are other people out there that are far, far worse than Usher and Deaf people, so do count yourselves lucky!

In conclusion, there are lots more stupid things Deaf people say to Ushers that I could write, but I hope the above will make you understand that Usher people are human beings; they have got their own pride and dignity so it’s important to respect their feelings.

Nick Sturley is an award–winning author & writer, director and screenwriter who has just published his new book Innocents of Oppression. He has Usher, but he has never let it get in the way of his never–ending challenges in life. His motto is: don’t let your eyes rule your life, let your brain do that. Check out his website here or follow him on Twitter as @NickSturley.

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