I got as book from the Dutch library for the blind which is a collection of interviews with women with disabilities. One of these interviews struck a chord with me. It’s with a severely hard of hearing (nearly deaf) woman in her early thirties. Many things of what she describes have been similar for me and that makes me think about my own situation and the classic “deaf vs. blind” issue.
The first thing that caught my attention was this woman’s struggle to get a proper education. There appear to exist HAVO schools for the deaf/hard of hearing, but she could not attend one cause it was too far away. Her parents even had to fight to get a MAVO (lower level high school), cause the domestic science school would be too low-level for her. It was, however, assumed by the school that this woman wasn’t intelligent, which she attributes to her being the most severely hearing impaired in her class. That wasn’t the case in my school, cause the blind and partially sighted were educated in the same classrooms, but of course I know lack of stimulation in school. Eventually, however, this woman did go to college, and now she’s working as a social worker or the like.
Another thing that I can relate to, is the competition going on amongst the hard of hearing: this woman had the most severe hearing loss, so she was excluded from her peer group. I, however, don’t remember this happening much when I was still at the school for the partially sighted in Rotterdam: in fact, I don’t remember being a social outcast till third grade. The competition was far more evident at Bartiméus, but I don’t attribute my social trouble to that. This woman does say that deafness did have an effect on her social skills, in that she couldn’t pick them up as incidentally as the hearing do. I think the same goes for blind people, even though verbal communication is easier for us, but non-verbal is more difficult.
This woman also discusses the attitude her parents had to her and her deafness. She says her folks were very ambitious and they passed it on to her, but that her mother was also protective, not wanting her to try things she might not be capable of and even trying to get a hard of hearing nurse to convince her that a social vocation wouldn’t be good for her – which didn’t work, cause the nurse was very enthusiastic. This stuff has some similarities to what I feel about my parents, even though mine never doubted I could get any vocation I wanted (except for pilot and the like, of course). I still see that inadequacy: my folks are ambitious and hopeful with regard to my situation, but they don’t really know how I’m going to get there, I think. I’ve gotten a little more cautious when making assertions about what my parents think of me, because I don’t know how much of it is actually projection. However I do think I can say with certainty that my parents had much ambition for me, and they most certainly did pass that on to me – and I probably distorted it into something not quite healthy, but I’m still not sure of what all this expectations stuff is about. My parents let me do anything I wanted to and were not afraid to fight to have me participate in something. That’s something extremely positive that I value sincerely, cause it’s gotten me much experience. I greatly appreciate that.