Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

Are People's Needs Being Met?

We’ve come a long way since the days of serious oppression vented toward the deaf and hard of hearing population. Things such as interpreters and phones are now readily accessible in most situations. Most. So, when I found myself a patient at a nearby mental health facility, I was quite surprised at the workers’ attitude toward me and my deafness.

I should first let you know that this specific admission was, by far, not my first time being there. Not only are accommodations the law, but these people knew me by name when I got to my unit. You’d think they’d already know about my needs. You’d think it anyway….

The first main problem I had was the fact that several of the nurses didn’t believe that I couldn’t lipread.  “All deaf people lipread. I think she’s faking for attention’s sake.” One nurse in particular took many people aside and said, “If you catch her lipreading, come tell me. I don’t believe she can’t.” Now, why would I fake something just to make my life more difficult than it already is?

After a few admissions, I think the staff finally “got it” that I need an interpreter, but in there lay another problem…cost.

Although they were usually good about calling for a ‘terp, the problem was when that ‘terp should leave. A ‘terp was scheduled from 9 till 12 and from 1 till 4 for groups, meeting with my doctor or case manager, etc. But they would often give me medicine to de-stress me and it made me unbelievably sleepy. However, when I would lay down to try to sleep it off for a half hour or so, they would send the interpreter home—saying that they didn’t want to have to pay for an interpreter if I wasn’t awake to use them.

But what about the doctor? They would send the ‘terp home and then, later, would say the doctor needs to talk with me or that group is happening and it was mandatory to go. What they didn’t understand was that ‘interpreters are paid on a two-hour basis. No matter when they actually left, the hospital would still have to pay for the full two hours at a time. So, sending them home didn’t save anyone money and it made me miss the doctor or nurse or any professional who needed to speak with me.

Another problem that was never rectified while I was in-patient, was the telephone. Technically, it would be best if they had a video phone hooked up for deaf patients to use. They said they “thought they had a TTY around here somewhere,” but, not only was it yet to be found, but no one I know has one anymore. They’re very outdated,  So I would need to have my interpreter call on a regular land line phone, tell me what the person on the other end said and then let me speak into the phone and answer them. No privacy whatsoever. It was just wrong.

While I was in there this last time, several of my interpreters commented to their agency regarding how mistreated I am as far as communication goes. When I was discharged from the hospital, I worked with the customer rights’ unit at the agency and was told that things would be different next time. Next time? I hope I don’t have a “next time,” but I guess, if I do, at least (hopefully) it will be able to meet all of my needs.

Friday, October 18, 2013

How Can I Appreciate You If You Won't Go Away?

Everyone of you must have had at least one or two experiences where you’ve been out in public and someone approaches you and starts talk with you and you haven’t the faintest clue who they are. So what do you do? Well, if you’re like most people, you smile, nod, and act like they’re one of your closest friends all the while trying to get a name out of them.

That happens to me a lot. Being Deaf, I am approached by many people of whom I haven’t any idea who they are. Could be lack of memory on my part (I would forget my name if it wasn’t written in my underwear), but usually it’s people who are learning sign language and see me using it, so they want to practice with me. It can get pretty scary. Here’s a few scenarios:

  1. Person approaches. “Hi! Blah, blah, blah!” I respond, “I’m Deaf.” They run away as quickly as they can.
  2. Person approaches: “Hi!” Then they throw their hands up and start making a crude attempt to sign with me. Since they obviously already know I’m Deaf, I attempt to make it look like I can remember them or know them, but their signing looks like a cross between two cats fighting and a seizure victim. I run away as quickly as I can.
  3. (This one happens pretty much every time I leave my house with someone and am signing.) A friend and I are signing at the store. A few people spy us signing and then stand there and watch (“It’s such a beautiful language.) This is called eavesdropping, as you may know. Next thing I know the audience approaches and starts showing me the signs they know (ABCs, numbering, NICE TO MEET YOU, “Jesus Loves Me.” –gag gag gag gag). They won’t leave, so I’m trapped trying to look polite, all the while hoping against hope that something will distract them soon and they will have to go away.

So, I’ve been asked what the proper etiquette is if you see someone signing. Do you approach? Do you wave? Do you show them the I LOVE YOU sign? (You have no idea how many people love me as soon as they find out I’m Deaf.)

To me, it’s kind of like being fluent in French and you happen to overhear some people talking in that language. You might wait for a break in the conversation and then venture over there and say, “Hello.” Short and sweet. If you’re FLUENT in American Sign Language, it’s OK to go say Hi and tell them how you started learning sign. You might find you have some of the same friends. But if you don’t know how to sign at least at an advanced level, please pass. Walk by—maybe smile and sign HELLO…and keep walking. It’s nice you appreciate their langauge, but don’t bug the deaf person. That may sound harsh, but there are exceptions to the rule.