The words 'Deaf and Dumb' used to go hand in hand many years ago. I think it took many years of fighting by the deaf community for the stigma that if you were deaf, you were dumb, to wear off. I have had a couple of instances in my life where I have experienced this. The worst one ever was when I was secretary of our hearing impaired Club 'The What? Club'. It was a phone call that went something like this..
Stranger: "Hello - I'm enquiring about the What? Club"
Me: "Oh hello, I'm only too happy to help - what would you like to know?"
Stranger: "Anything you can tell me really"
So I go on to explain where we meet and how often and the type of outings/fun things we get up to, the number of members and the age range etc...'
Stranger: "Oh this sounds wonderful - but I should tell you, it's not for me, but my son, but he's not deaf, he's just a bit slow as in mentally retarded, but thats okay isn't it because deaf people are slow anyway?"
Me - opening and shutting my mouth like a fish out of water totally flabbergasted "I dont think so - I don't think the club will be suitable for your son" and I hung up.
I was ropeable, angry, livid, outraged for about 5 minutes, when it dawned on me that it's not the deaf that are dumb, but people's attitudes about deafness. Fortunately this doesn't happen often, and for the last 10 years, with near normal hearing, I've had very little experience of these attitudes. Naively I thought that things had improved. Then my implant stopped working and I can no longer hear on the phone. All of a sudden, I realise that things haven't really improved, I have just been protected by having good hearing.
Take today for instance. I sent an email to a business organisation, and specifically asked them to contact me via email as I was deaf, and could not hear on the phone. They emailed me like I asked, attaching an 0800 phone number asking me to ring them back. Hellooooooo!!
If this was a one off, I could understand, but last month I wanted to purchase a particular kind of chocolate from a Nelson company that is very very nice, for christmas gifts. I found their email on the website (there was nothing else on their website), and emailed them asking if they could email me back with some of their retailers in Auckland, so I could buy their products. I again explained that I was deaf so email was the only way to communicate with me.
They sent me an email back asking me to contact the manager, with a phone number to ring. I sent an email back reminding them what I said, again explaining I was deaf. To this day I haven't heard back. They obviously don't want deaf people to buy their chocolate.
So the Deaf - yes - that applies to me, but I think the dumb really applies to a large percentage of population out there that can't see/read, or follow instructions properly. It really does make life frustrating though.
The photo above is by Brittany in the USA. It can be found here