Skip to main content

"Your disability/injury doesn't define you."

I hear this a lot, read it a lot, and I've thought about it a lot, as a disabled person.  And I've come to the conclusion that this is wishful thinking.

As much as I would like it that my hearing disability didn't define me, it does.

I used to play musical instruments - in particular the woodwinds and dulcimer.  I can still, to a very limited extent, play a dulcimer, but I can't tune it and I can't hear when it's out of tune. I once defined myself as a musician. Because of my disability, I can no longer make that a part of my definition.

I used to enjoy music and had amassed a wide ranging collection of music, from the classics to cybergrind. I can't hear most of this now, so I am no longer a music collector and lover. My disability shaped that part of me out of my life.

Ditto for movies - I can't hear a lot of the movie music, the things they say because they don't continually face the screen and I haven't found a single theater that does closed captioning on first run movies.  I have to wait for them to come out on DVD/Bluray/whatever home viewing medium gets developed so I can run the closed captioning option (which isn't always present and when it is present isn't always accurate).  My disability shaped cutting edge pop culture right out of me.

On line games are also difficult because so many rely on audio cues for various actions.

I can read about these things, and even engage in decent conversation about them, but I no longer have primary experience and that does, indeed, define me in ways I didn't want to be defined.

There are also many things I do now that I never would have considered doing before I was hearing impaired (mine was not a gradual hearing loss, but caused by traumatic injury).  One of the biggest changes, one by which I am definitely defined, is that I am now partnered with a hearing assistance dog.

Like it or not, having Itzl does define me.  I am "that girl with the dog" ("girl" still, even in my 60's).  

More, I have had to become a service dog advocate and spokesperson.  Everywhere we go, we are educating people on what it means to be partnered with a service dog, what our access rights are, and to deal with the negative and positive consequences.  I can't do anything, go anywhere, without having to build in time to deal with others stopping me to try to pet the dog, to talk to the dog, to tell me I can't have a dog there, to delay me in my ordinary, everyday business. I used to be able to shop for groceries in 15 minutes, now, I can count on it taking me 40 minutes or more. That defines me, like it or not.

Because I don't hear well any more, I don't respond to people talking to me if I don't notice they are talking to me.  That now defines me as "snobbish", "stuck up", and "aloof". Itzl has helped mitigate some of that, but since he is snobbish, stuck up and aloof, not a whole lot.  If he doesn't know you or doesn't like you, when you talk to me, he won't necessarily alert on it. He will alert on those he likes, the ones who call themselves his "harem". That defines me, like it or not.


I was reading an article the other day about a young man who was paralyzed, and he was claiming his injury didn't define him, but I think it did.  He was, before his accident, going to be working for a magazine.  Now, after his accident, is he working for the magazine and pursuing his pre-accident goals?  No. He's developing skin care products for paralyzed people, and  is an advocate for quadripelegics. He is, like it or not, defined by his accident. His life changed, and he's not doing what he'd originally planned, he's not the man he was, the man he hoped to be. His life now has been shaped and defined by his injury.

I have friends who have, over the years, had various major injuries that caused the loss of legs or hands or that caused paralysis, that have gone blind or deaf, and let me tell you - every one of us has been shaped and re-defined by those injuries.

Maybe we're better people for those, but they do define us. We are not the people we were before the injury, before the disability.

Originally posted to Noddy and Itzl on Wed Nov 14, 2012 at 08:48 AM PST.

Also republished by Pink Clubhouse.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site