This weekend, I had the opportunity to present the workshop “Thriving with Hearing Loss” at the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) national convention. This was my first ALDA event and, I must confess, ALDA members are some of the best advocates I have ever seen. Here is a glimpse at what I learned from listening to and chatting with ALDA members during and after the workshop.
A Hearing Loss Community Does Exist
One of my workshop PowerPoint slides dealt with the characteristics of people with hearing loss: reliance on technology, visual methods of communication, and need for connection. At the close of my presentation, an attendee shared that ALDA already stands for all of these characteristics. While hearing loss may seem isolating at times, there are like-minded people who rely on hearing aids, cochlear implants, and assistive listening technology to enhance their hearing. These people may also depend on visual communication methods, such as speech-reading (the ability to read a speaker’s lips) and sign language. Through online chat groups, social media, and at local and national events such as the ALDA convention, the hearing loss community is vibrant, vocal and passionate about advocacy.
Advocacy Opportunities Are Everywhere
As I have blogged about recently, advocacy is the opportunity for those of us with hearing loss to request that our needs be accommodated. At the ALDA convention, I listened to stories of individuals all over the United States who are requesting accommodations in their communities. One person shared about working with a hearing loss group to advocate for Communication Access Real-time Translation (CART) during meetings at a library. Another individual discussed advocating that closed captions be displayed on every television at the gym she attends. I shared about advocating with my local fire department for smoke detectors with strobe lights that could visually alert me during an emergency at home and work. I heard from an attorney who specializes in Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rights for individuals with hearing loss. He shared about the importance of the ADA in ensuring that our accommodations be met, such as having open and/or closed captions provided with movies shown in theaters.
The Strength of Unity
Probably the most important thing I learned this weekend is that there is power in joining with people. Having a hearing loss can be frustrating and lonely, but it doesn’t have to be. Ten years ago, I was involved with starting a local chapter of the Hearing Loss Association of America. This weekend after interacting with a large community of people with hearing loss, my passion for this community has been reinvigorated. A few moments ago, I paid for my annual membership with ALDA. I look forward to learning more from this bold group of individuals.
What have you learned about advocacy when it comes to your hearing loss?
Please share your story in the comments section below.