Wow wow wow……. End of Second Month AVT

Some new milestones……

I’ve had to use the phone a few times this week, and as I directed the call (established the topic),I was able to handle the conversation reasonably well (80%). In my AVT session today, my therapist did a phone exercise with me. I understood 98% of the sentences we used. Granted there were specific words used and it was a script from Med-El Soundscape, it was still an improvement. We went through two drive thrus for drinks and I also comprehended about 95% of the other person. This is a significant milestone and a step in the right direction.

I’m noticing my son’s speech is getting clearer, and he says new words almost daily. I can hear him from another room most of the time, and I am starting to understand him without lip reading a little. That one is definitely new for me, as I couldn’t do that with the older two until they were older. I still need to lip read everyone, but more and more I am listening and hearing better, and becoming less reliant on lip reading slowly but surely.

I went to see Catching Fire and my daughter used the caption viewer more than I did. I have also resumed listening to music more, and have picked up more of the lyrics, particularly when I listen to old favourites. The new stuff I need to find on the music channels or YouTube to get exposure to them. I have started listening to books, namely children’s stories, and have been doing well. My therapist did a short story, and I repeated back 98% accurately.

Overall I am feeling good, and very excited to see what the next month results are. I will be seeing my audiologist for an evaluation for the left ear hearing aid. I plan to get her to test me, to see what changes have occurred for the right side since I last saw her. So excited for that.

The journey is just beginning!

A Phone Call to Customer Service

I needed work on the vehicle, and with the husband working, I had to arrange it. ?£€<%##|}.!¥£€£|!!!!!!!!!

What was that?! Oh yeah… I had to make a phone call. No email, no Facebook message, but a phone call to arrange work on my vehicle. We’ve all had to make those types of calls, and they’re rarely quick or easy. We contend with that awful hold music, noise on the other end, people speaking too fast or with an accent. Sometimes that godawful menu comes up, with the “press one for ….”;. Today was no exception. My first attempt was frustrating, as I was transferred to customer service, and then put on hold. Then a lady comes on, and her voice is high pitched, and she spoke too fast. I immediately stated I had a cochlear implant, and couldn’t understand her. After a few minutes of trying to establish an appointment, and repeating myself that I needed her to slow down, I ended the call in frustration. I texted the husband, asking him to call. Later in the day he told me he was unable to, and asked me to try again. I did, and this time got a lady who was less high pitched, spoke normally, and immediately understood when I stated I was deaf. Within five minutes, my goal was accomplished, and the appointment set. This time, I understood 80% of the call! And it was my most successful since I was activated. Yay for the auditory verbal therapy. So after that successful call I was feeling pretty good.

Then I started thinking, about all the other times I had to make such calls, and the feelings of frustration I usually had. Every call I make, even to the doctor, has me feeling unsure about how I did. The worst part is, I often indicated that I am deaf, and needed them to speak slower, or repeat, and usually ended up calling back later with someone to help. Sometimes though, I still have to handle the call as they won’t allow someone else to speak for me when something is in my name, like a credit card. It’s extremely frustrating, when my husband clearly has my permission and authority to speak on my behalf that he is not allowed to do so. Stating that I am deaf seems useless at times.

Customer service representatives seem to have an inability to accommodate a deaf person on the phone. Often it seems like they ignore that statement, and press on with a scripted call. As disabled people, the law states that we must be accommodated by businesses, with wheelchair access, Braille, and so on. A deaf person, whose disability is largely invisible, seems left out in the cold. Just because I am using the phone, or trying to, it does not automatically invalidate my claim that I am deaf and need assistance. When a Deaf person relies solely on ASL and interpreters to communicate, they use a relay service to make calls when texts, emails or families aren’t available.

With the age of technology we are in, why hasn’t customer service caught up and provided other means of communicating with their customers. In some companies , online chat service is available, and some doctors, dentists, and small businesses will use email for their Deaf clients. When that isn’t available, we need these people to have patience when they are repeating themselves, to be open to another person assisting, and to actually LISTEN when we say that we are Deaf and need accommodations.

When a business or service ignores the needs of the Deaf community, simply because as a whole, we are rather invisible due to our deafness; that business or service could ultimately lose those potential clients. In the age of smartphones, computers, and the internet surely businesses and customer service centres would use online chats, email or Facebook messenger as an additional means of keeping in touch with their customer base. It may be time to reevaluate customer service and see how you can assist your Deaf customers, and extend and even maintain your customer base.

Friday December 6, 2013

An update. I had to take my vehicle back as it was leaking transmission fluid. I was on my way to Ottawa for my AVT appointment. They took a quick look and informed me the seal had cracked again, and I had to cancel my appointment. I did so, and they took me and my son home. Hours later, they called, but I missed it due to making lunch. They texted me to let me know a driver was coming. I unfortunately had to wake my son, but what made today easier to handle, was that they took the time to text me, knowing I was Deaf. It had been noted on my record from the last appointment, for repairs a week ago. I was really pleased that they remembered that, and took that extra step, however small it was to communicate effectively with me. Because of this, they will get my repeat business in the future.

Adding a link to my Communication Strategies post.

A Message to Employers

I have sat across from you in an interview. I look presentable, dressed in slacks and a nice top. I look like anyone else, and speak like anyone else. I answer your questions confidently, and smile through the interview. I might stumble on a response, but otherwise I did well. On paper, my resume shows a good education, strong computer skills, and a wide range of experience that shows the ability to be adaptative, quick to learn, and loyalty to my employer. It shows consistent employment since I graduated from university, with the exception of three maternity leaves, and a desire to stay and grow with one company. I have many references who can attest to my employability, and yet they are never called either.

Then it comes out, that I am Deaf, with a cochlear implant. It is something I am reluctant to put attention onto, however by law i have the right to be considered, and acknowledge these things without being penalized for it. I wonder what you’re thinking now. Perhaps wondering if using the phone is an issue, or how I might deal with my co-workers, or what kind of assistance or adaptative requirements I might have. You can’t ask me those questions, but they’re there in your head. It put that little nugget of doubt, of whether I fit in with your business. That doubt is there despite my consistent employment history illustrating my employability.

I have come in and dropped off resumes, and spoken with the supervisor or manager hiring. We would have little conversations about my availability and the position. Yet, I didn’t get a call for an interview. Something made you decide not to do so, even though I match the position perfectly. I cannot help but wonder if my cochlear implant, my hearing aid, or my speech gave you the impression I could not handle the job.

When you don’t give someone with a disability a chance, you’re losing out on an individual that can bring something different to the business. When that person has shown a consistent employment history, and matches the requirements, you have lost out even more. Those of us with disabilities, are like anyone else, we want the same opportunities. We have the same responsibilities in our lives, for our families, children, and in paying bills. Not hiring someone with a disability, because it may be too much work or too costly to accommodate is hardly justifiable. The sad part is, that you end up contributing to the unemployment rate of the disabled, and thus the increased need for social assistance.

I have been unemployed for the past year, and that is the longest stretch for me. I have sent out an average of 25 applications a week, and dropped off resumes as often as possible. I have had a grand total of five interviews in the past year. I have recently applied to a few jobs that I knew without a doubt I was qualified for. I never had a call, and I visited one of those places dropping my resume off to you, the manager. I cannot help but wonder if I am being discriminated against, based on that little meeting, the possible obviousness of my deafness. Which is against the law you know. I do have the right to go to the Human Rights Commission and get them to investigate whether I was disregarded as a candidate, and discriminated against. I have never done so, even though there have been times I probably should. I have been working with the Canadian Hearing Society lately, to get help with my interviews, and to figure out what is keeping you, the employer, from hiring me. I have never needed to do this, and it saddens me it has come to this.

Like anyone else, I want to work. I do not want to rely on social assistance or be dependent on my spouse. I have a lot to offer, and a unique perspective that can help your business. So the next time you see me sitting across from you in an interview, or chatting briefly with me while handing off a resume, take a second or third or fourth look at me. Think about taking a chance on me. I just might exceed your expectations. After all, my past employers did, and I exceeded their expectations, and learned and grew under their tutelage and direction. Think about what YOU might have to offer me, that you can teach me, and add to my experience. After all, part of a job is to learn and grow, and who best to teach someone the business than you?

Adding a link to my Communication Strategies post.

I Hear, I Hear

With all the posts lately about the Auditory Verbal Therapy, and random topics, I noticed I had not written about the sounds I can now hear. As I had previously mentioned, one of the hardest things for me is having what I hear identified and validated. My toddler is learning the same things as I am so he cannot exactly help me with this.

With the cochlear implant, I can now hear higher frequency sounds. In addition to hearing the beeps from the microwave and stove from further away, I can now pick up these sounds over normal background noise. Not consistently, but it is getting there. The same is true for the backup warning beeps in the vehicle, I can often pick up on it over the stereo. I can pick up birds chirping in the trees and locate them.

I’ve heard conversations outside the vehicle a few feet away. Amazingly, I picked up an emergency vehicle siren about 100 meters away, while inside a building, through a window. I can identify water running or trickling, raindrops on the windows or roof of the vehicle, the crackle of the fire in the woodstove behind me over the tv. Earlier this year, during a big snowstorm, I heard the crackling of the ice on the deck outside the patio doors. This freaked me out as my husband was away and it was just me and our son in the house.

Speech sounds and words are becoming clearer every day. I practice daily, and try to use a variety of things to increase my comprehension. My son is giving me loads of practice daily as he works on his own speech development. I am even beginning to randomly identify words he says or yells out over the baby monitor when he is playing instead of going to sleep.

I once heard sounds coming from the basement when I passed the stairs. It took me a while to figure out where it was coming from. Once I did, I went down and discovered that somehow, a small electric sander had fallen to the cement floor and turned itself on. I don’t even want to contemplate what might have made it fall, but needless to say, the noise was scary enough.

One of the newest changes is that when I recently saw Catching Fire in the theatre with my daughter, I was able to follow more of the dialogue than I had ever been able to in the past. I was using the closed caption device, but rarely looked at it, as it was not accurately reflecting the dialogue. My daughter said she was looking at it more than I was funnily enough. I enjoyed more of the movie experience than I usually did.

There are so many environmental sounds I could already hear, that now sound fuller. I try to take the time to appreciate what I am hearing, even the noise my kids make. Life is definitely better with more hearing.

Deafness and Intelligence

Many people do not understand that our linguistic development is tied into our linguistic comprehension. For if we do not know or understand the meaning of the word spoken or written, we cannot understand the message. If we miss a key word or sentence in a conversation, it does not mean that we are stupid. It only means that our understanding of the topic was impacted by missing a crucial piece of information because we did not hear it, or lipread it. So when you must repeat, do not get frustrated or get angry because we misunderstood something. It does not mean we are dumb.

Intelligence is not conveyed through hearing, it is conveyed in our words, our understanding of the messages, and can also be demonstrated in other ways, mathematically, artistically, musically. Intelligence is not solely a product of words. Nor is hearing, vision or physical ability solely the proof of intelligence.

I say this because I have encountered people, who thought that because I am Deaf, I therefore must be Dumb. This is the worst kind of prejudice that I have encountered, and still struggle with appropriately responding to (or not, as the case may be). The condescending attitude, the use of exaggeration in speech or language used, or worse, the “the dumb downing of conversation” has been experienced periodically in my life.

To me, the people that chose to see me as Deaf and Dumb, are the ignorant ones, the bullies, the ones who look for faults in others so that they may deny their own shortcomings. My daughter has told me over the years of classmates who were deaf, or disabled in some other way. She has told me of witnessing prejudicial behaviour, and treatment, and experienced at times, a backlash when she chose to stand up for those classmates and chastise the ones behaving in an ignorant fashion. I am both dismayed and proud when she tells me of these things. She, of all of her classmates understands that a disability or deafness does not automatically mean dumbness, or that they must be treated like infants. We’ve had many conversations her and I, about disabilities, bullying, and the character of the people around us. She has learned that how we treat others reflects back on ourselves. She believes no one should be treated differently, and stands up for many of her classmates when she witnesses any kind of bullying or prejudicial treatment.

My lack of hearing does not mean I am dumb, nor does it mean that I should act dumb either, or accept being treated that way. I am a normal person, built with the same cells, organs and structure like the person next to me. My deafness is caused by missing or damaged nerve cells in the cochlea. That simple fact created the uniqueness of me that is my deafness. Take away the fact I cannot hear, as you read these words, and ask yourself, is it the words I use that conveys my intelligence, or is it the manner in which I write? Suppose if I video blogged in sign language, and wrote accompanying pieces using ASL linguistic structure. Would that therefore make me seem dumb? Simply because you cannot understand ASL, and that I did not use correct grammatical structure. ASL is a separate language, with its own vocabulary (signs), sentence and grammar structure. ASL focuses largely on the body language and facial expression to enhance the communication if a thought or feeling. This is not unlike a person using volume, intonation, and inflections of the voice in a monologue to convey emotions and thoughts.

Stephen Hawking is the premier physicist of our time, and communicates with the help of a special computer that takes his thoughts and speaks them to others. Is he dumb just by virtue of the fact that he is physically disabled and cannot actually speak? His disability was caused by motor neurone disease, in 1963. Obviously he already was brilliant, and thus had to find a way to overcome the limitations caused by the disease. His mind is not fettered like his body is. Clearly the successes of his journal publications, his books, and his presence at many conventions and universities to present his theories, show that he is not limited by his disability. http://www.hawking.org.uk/

So the question one might ask, can you tell just by the way a person looks, speaks or writes how intelligent they are? No, because intelligence can be shown in many ways. A person with Down’s syndrome can convey in the simplest of ways the most profound statements of life, and frequently do. One must take the time to see past the exterior, the equipment, the methods used to communicate and look directly at the MESSAGE being given. The written word, oral history and song, a musical composition, paintings and pictures, and mathematical equations all convey a message.

Prejudicial treatment is the bane of anyone’s life, no matter the color if their skin, or lack of an ability. It happens to even the most able person, and the most intelligent person. So when you look at someone, when you speak with them, or read what they write, look at the message, not method or medium that conveys it. Don’t judge by what you see or hear, judge instead, the message given by the person.

Differences Are Beautiful

Exactly.

See also a previous post from my best friend, entitled “Words of Encouragement From My BFF” written last summer.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Image

Last night I wrote about asking my friends what it was like to have a friend who is hard of hearing, and they told me they didn’t see a difference.  A fellow blogger pointed out that

They really don’t see us differently. The ones that do, are the prejudiced ones.

Her comment on my blog got me thinking.

Am I really different, or do people just perceive me as such because I’m not like them?  Of course, that begs another question: What is normal anyway?

As far as I’m concerned, there really is no such thing as “normal”.  No two people are exactly the same, not even identical twins.  Our personalities make us unique.  Who we are sets us apart from everyone else on this Earth.  So, why then am I the different one? Is it because being able to hear is considered “normal”?  Maybe according to science and all…

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Turning Gobbledygook Into Words

Toddler speak is often gobbledygook to us parents, and it is quite challenging for me to interpret what my son says. Lately though, since I started the Auditory Verbal Therapy, I am starting to understand so much more. Now if I can only remember them all!

Here are his favourite things to say:

Uh Oh!
Wow!
Right there!
Mom! …. Mom!……. Mom!
Come here!
Sit down!
Diego!
Yay!
Yeah!
Thank you!
Hmmmmm! (When eating something he likes)
That’s a baby!
I gotta go! I gotta go! (We aren’t sure if this is referring to his possible readiness to toilet train or just his awareness, or something else entirely.)
Up!
Night night!
Bye!
Hi!
Daddy! … Dad! …. Daddy! Is home!
Ew!
I got a stinky!
Moo! Neigh! Roar! Hee Haw! Oink! Meow! Woof woof!
Vroom! Beeeeep! Choo choo!
There it is!
My car!
Mine!
Please!
Help!
Quack quack! Duck!

Notice a trend? Everything he says is with tremendous enthusiasm and a big huge grin.. Then we get these serious moments, when he looks at us and softly goes: “Mom! I ga da ba do to ma ga ..” And then smiles sweetly. I am not even sure what he said but it’s the cutest most adorable thing! There are more words and every day I catch something new, or a new attempt.

The best part is, I am starting to get some of what he says from another room. I am really loving watching him learn and listening to him play and talk. Bedtimes has become a favourite now that I can understand what he is saying better, and his newfound interaction with the books. He has a favourite book, by Usborne, called 100 First Words. He points to the picture, and finds it in the bigger pictures; and then he also says the word, or attempts to. He is giving me so much practice and we even play mimicking games with speech sounds. His favourite is to blow raspberries, sssss, ah, and oo.

He plays on the iPad every day, and discovered the Photo Touch apps. He always seems to pick the Zoo one. When I sit and watch him pick the animal picture matching the word spoken, I find that I am actively listening and gaining practice at the same time. It was kind of sneaky of me, as I had downloaded them for me to practice with but in the end, he is benefitting too. So a little patience, a little practice and plenty of repetition, gobbledygook is slowly but surely turning into words.