Being in a wheelchair is already very difficult to live through as it is, without having to worry about another handicap. But what do you do if you are in a wheelchair as well as having to live with being Deaf? You can’t walk, have difficulty moving your arms, and your ears malfunction. What is there to do? Deaf people normally learn sign language to communicate, thus removing a large amount of communication barriers; but, there are still issues to deal with without needing to wonder about how to get a loaf of bread, or how to cook.
Well, this is the life of some Deaf folks. They are wheelchair bound, can’t fully feed themselves – cooking and cleaning up after themselves is next to impossible – and they depend on people to help them in and out of bed or the bath. After, once that is taken care of, they must ask someone else to call the handicap transport for them, and another to interpret for their entire doctor’s appointment, or else they won’t understand a word the doctor says. Then, they have to ensure they make their way through the crowd, still accompanied, to make it back to the spot the handicap transport told them they would be picked up, only to wait two more hours because it got held up in traffic. Yet, they keep smiling.
When they arrive home, they feel like cozying up in bed together – yes, they are a couple – only to have the evening employee tell them it’s not safe and they are not allowed privacy for their little romantic yearnings since she needs to keep an eye on them and doesn’t want to have to enter the room while they are doing anything no one wants to walk in on, and anyways, it can’t lead anywhere because marrying or having children is out of the question for them. Finally, the smile leaves their faces. This woman, a hearing employee that had been working with them for months now and had always seemed non-judgmental, just showed her true colors: she believed they shouldn’t pursue their relationship. But they needed her, and help was hard to get by with all the conditions required for this job, and they accepted… only to find out, a few days later, that she wasn’t the only one to believe the same thing. The only one who supported their relationship was the only Deaf employee there, a friend of mine who welcomed me into the Deaf world when I was only starting to learn sign language.
Without knowing this story, my friend asked me to visit their home. I had met both of them but didn’t know anything about their relationship – I just thought they were close friends. When I arrived, I sat down to find out I had a hard time understanding the girl: her physical impairment made it hard for her to even sign the simplest signs, and I had to ask the second Deaf friend (not an employee – just visiting with me) to interpret for me.
That’s when I found out that the girl was announcing that she and her boyfriend were going to get married. “Oh, but that’s wonderful news!” I exclaimed in sign language. But the reaction I got was not the one I anticipated. She turned her wheelchair straight around with a stunningly quick precision and darted for the kitchen, where my friend had been cleaning up after dinner.
After a few seconds, both came back into the dining room with my friend saying that she knew that was the answer I would give. She was only trying to show her that not all hearing people are judgmentalby telling me to pretend they had gotten engaged, and that her initial shock of being told that she shouldn’t pursue her relationship was wrong. What they were doing was completely natural and they had a right to fight for what they wanted.
I left, feeling pretty down myself, but my friend (the visitor) told me that she was happy I went. She wanted to make the couple understand that they should not let others tell them what to do, and needed me to prove it to them. I felt better again.