Jen Dodds: Why do people assume there’s something wrong with being deaf?

Posted on October 28, 2013



The other day, my toddler and I took our car to have some work done to it at a garage in a nearby town. We were greeted by a rather annoying salesman-type manager person, who was probably also working part time as a game show host.

You know the type? Sharp suit, stiff hair, far too much fake smiling going on. One of those.

Anyway, I was a bit late and keen to be on my way, so when the annoying manager asked:

“Can your daughter hear? Yes? Good!”

I didn’t challenge him. I just glared at him, and took pleasure in the fact that my daughter glared at him too. Despite being only two years old, she can be quite frightening.

You see, it’s happened before – I’ve been asked the same “hearing” question about my son, and other questions like that too. “Is your son deaf too? No? Good!”, that sort of thing.

A woman at a party once asked me, “Do you work?” and wasn’t quite polite enough to cover up her surprise when I said yes. Then, she asked me what I did, and practically fell over when I told her that I taught English, because well, that’s what I did at the time.

What exactly is so wrong with being deaf?

Thinking about the car salesman/gameshow host: I had just driven (yay! deaf people can actually drive!) up to his office building, in my 4×4 (guess what? deaf people drive shamefully large cars that are bad for the environment too!), with my daughter in the back (and wow! they even let us have children! fancy that!).

Which part of that scenario told him that it was “good” not to be deaf?

Thinking about the impolite woman at the party: Er, why can’t deaf people work? (Actually, she told me later on that she used to work with a deaf person. Oh. Not sure what to think about that one either.)

I don’t get it.

I know deaf people who do all sorts of things; for example, we’re HGV drivers, solicitors, teachers, doctors, nurses, actors, artists, geeks, scientists, managers, students, parents, factory workers and postal workers.

I even know a deaf woman who lives in the Orkney Islands, doing accountancy for a company that installs wind turbines, and in her spare time, she power lifts. Oh yes. Deaf people are strong too! And good at maths.

Come to think of it, I actually even know of a deaf person who sells cars, just like Mr Stiff Hair! And, I can think of quite a few deaf people who would make fantastic game show hosts, but I’m going off the subject here.

My point, really, is: why do some people automatically think negatively of deaf people?

Obviously, not everyone does – this is not an attack on hearing people, but a genuine question – what is supposed to be so bad about being deaf? Also, why is it OK to comment on it?

It would be much nicer if everyone was like the random hearing woman that I met this morning. When I told her I was deaf, not ignoring her, she said “Oh, I’m sorry I don’t know any sign language. Do you… read lips?”

There you go – respect.

Jen Dodds is a Contributing Editor for The Limping Chicken. When she’s not looking after chickens or children, Jen can be found translating, proofreading and editing stuff over at Team HaDo Ltd (teamhado.com).

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