- I read an article on the impossibility of enforcing Affirmative Action in academic enrollment. Even if racial or cultural questions are not legally permitted to be asked, admissions officers can assume a great deal simply by the applicant’s name, home address, high school demographic, parents’ colleges (or lack thereof), extracurricular memberships, and so on. Therefore, impartiality is essentially a myth. Since it’s the academic job hunt season, when I need to decide at what point in the process I will reveal my deafness, the similar difficulties in enforcing ADA* laws (and in attempting to conceal a ‘disability’ until I’ve had a chance to demonstrate what I can actually do) immediately struck me. You can’t legislate equity if people in power don’t actively, genuinely want it. The only thing these laws can do is to give some recourse in situations where discrimination is utterly blatant and ironclad, with witnesses, and such situations are depressingly easy to sidestep.
- I had yet another e-mail snafu this week. E-mail (or text messaging) is my phone, my primary mode of communication. I had intended to write a strong argument, to build a case. The response, as it so often is, was that my message was ‘angry’. Hearing people want to communicate in the only way that’s comfortable for them, by voice, so they can make judgments on, or be reassured by, tone and inflection. (A huge part of one faculty job interview I had last year was not a discussion of my accomplishments or abilities, but focused instead on the fact that it was so frustrating for ‘them’ to communicate with me. I was told, “I never can tell what you’re thinking!” What I was thinking, at least during that ordeal, was “Hey! Read…My…Words.”) I used to think that e-mail was the great equalizer, that it leveled the playing field. Not so, in a hearing world. (And, I have found that many educators, like doctors who make terrible patients, often refuse to be educated.)
- My ‘el novel’ this week (I devour one or two a week while commuting) is “Talk Talk”, the first thing I’ve ever read by T. Coraghessan Boyle. It’s about a deaf woman who becomes a victim of identity theft. Boyle writes painfully accurate descriptions of a voice that isn’t heard by the speaker herself: “…voice like an electric drill…even hollower and more startling than usual…toneless…chopped and elided syllables…” You get the idea (and I’m only on page 117). I can’t really hear my voice. I feel it in my throat and skull. I’m often asked where I’m from, or what my accent is. A close friend recently told me, apologetically, that my voice gets sloppy, slurry and ‘low-class’ at times (which made me cringe). Another friend, a deafened Ph.D. and ADA advocate, constantly recommends speech therapy as our hearing lessens. In an article she wrote last summer, she stated that this is necessary because hearing people most often interpret our voices as projecting either lack of interest in what’s being said, or as…anger. So, even if I could hear on a phone, I’d be damned if I could, and am damned cuz I can’t. (Add in perplexed, frustrated facial expressions as I try to simultaneously lip-read five or six people who routinely insist on all talking at once, and I’m doubly damned).
- As I talk (or e-mail) with far-flung friends about my determination to improve my circumstances, I have heard (or read) several times, “Just be glad you have a job, any job, in these times!” Sadly, that advice has come exclusively from deafened friends. The unspoken message here is: we are ’lesser’…we should settle, be content, never strive or take risks, because we are broken.
That, I just cannot accept. I would rather live in constant battle than stagnate in such a fearful, closed existence. To do that would make me as angry as so many people already think I am.
*Americans with Disabilities Act