The Impact of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Role Models

deaf blind fire fighter deaf firefighter deaf role models disability hard of hearing role models Dec 08, 2023

In high school, I wanted to become a reporter and work at the Chicago Tribune. I took a journalism class in my junior year. My first assignment was to cover a volleyball game. The gym was noisy, the action was fast, and I had no idea what I was going to write about. I attempted to interview the coach after the game. He was gruff and was nearly impossible to lipread. I left the game and could only write a few sentences. 

My teacher was extremely disappointed in my lack of information for the article. Next, she assigned me to the school board meeting. 

My heart sank. It was nearly impossible for me to follow group conversations--how in the world was I going to report on a school board meeting? 

Keep in mind, this was long before captioning apps and I didn't know sign language so an interpreter would not help. 

I showed up at the school board meeting and grabbed bits and pieces of conversations--enough to figure out what the topics were about. I lucked out, I obtained a copy of the minutes and wrote my article based on that. 

The teacher gave me an A. 

After I graduated from high school, I dropped the idea of journalism and thought about nursing. I really wanted to work in a hospital as a Labor and Delivery nurse. The problem was, I didn't know anyone who was hard of hearing or deaf--working as a nurse.

Then...I became deaf just before my second year in college. 

I met with a career counselor and mentioned nursing. The counselor was quite discouraging about this choice of major, pointing out that I could not use the phone and would have difficulty communicating with doctors and patients, 

I dropped that idea. 

I went the safe route: I would become a counselor and work with deaf/hard of hearing people. 

During my first job after graduation, I met a hard of hearing nurse who worked in surgery at the local hospital. Then I met a deaf doctor who delivered babies.

Then I met a deaf author who worked at the Chicago Sun Times. 

One by one, deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, deafdisabled/DeafPlus people were showing up in my life. 

Where were those role models when I was growing up? 

What would my life had been like if I met those awesome role models while growing up? 

One of the first books I wrote early in my writing career was "The Passionate Lives of Deaf and Hard of Hearing People." I captured the stories of a few people I met along my own journey. Musicians, comedians, university presidents, TV reporters, mountain climbers...

One parent bought the book for her middle school child and the book created a positive impact. Her child became a confident young adult who is now a leader. 

The impact of having a positive role model in the lives of deaf/hard of hearing/deafblind/deafdisabled/Deaf Plus kids and adults is immeasurable. A role model paves the way for confidence and a "can do" attitude. 

If your deaf kid wants to be a fire fighter, there's Mark Kite who is a fire chief who is deaf. And...there's Melinda Neff who happens to be hard of hearing and losing vision due to Usher's Syndrome, but heck, she's an assistant fire chief. 

When you focus on the ABILITY instead of the disability, (I have a sweatshirt for this!) that's when you can tap into potential instead of limitations. Role models help pave the way in this. 

And...if it's never been done before, maybe YOU need to be the first to lead the way. 

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The Impact of Deaf and Hard of Hearing Role Models