Sharing Burdens

Note: This is a raw, honest testimony. Because it comes from a D/deaf point of view, it will be very different from what hearing people understand and experience. I would like to thank you for taking the time to read. This is not a “pity me” post. It is a call to action. Are you ready to join us? We have sign language 🙂

“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” – Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of our anxieties stem from external factors. It usually comes from people (we all are guilty as charged) looking out for their own interests without considering other’s interests as well. We can practice all the self-care we want, but until the root of the problem is resolved (usually comes from working in concert with other people), anxieties will continue to eat away at us.

Let me give one personal example. Deaf anxiety.

Deaf anxiety – what is it? My first clear understanding of it came from a Deaf activist, Artie Mack.

He articulated many things I experienced as a person who went through all stages of hearing loss (from mild hearing loss to profoundly deaf). Deaf anxiety is hard for hearing people to understand – I think it is one of those things that have to be lived in order to be understood.

D/deaf, HOH and those with Auditory Processing Disorder (APD) carry the heaviest burden when interacting with hearing people. To make communication work.

Part of deaf anxiety is feeling as if I’m a burden. People may not necessarily say it out loud, but the way they have treated me shows differently. The deep sighs when asked to repeat. The eye rolling as if I should have known better and should be keeping up with everyone else. The “never mind”, “I will tell you later,” “it’s not that important”…..The dismissal attitudes. I am always placed in situations where I have to meet the expectations of hearing people around me to process and respond in the same pace as they do – without support. Without any accommodation.

Deaf anxiety is not related to our identity of being D/deaf, or the challenges related to our disability. Rather, it comes from the fact that we constantly overwork ourselves to function, communicate, respond and connect with others as a hearing person would without giving any consideration to our own needs. In my perspective, deaf anxiety is mostly a result from the widespread belief and attitudes that we D/deaf people have to accommodate the hearing world. In other words, we constantly challenge ableist attitudes. We live in a society that doesn’t respect us, and teaches us that we have to be like a hearing person. Our anxieties come from external factors, and therefore requires external solutions in collaboration with hearing people to address them. We live in an inaccessible society!

I’m told that I lip-read pretty well. But the truth? There is always the chance that I misunderstand. And I have seen the ugly side of people who have used that against me. The problem is that while speech accommodates hearing people, lip-reading does not accommodate D/deaf or HOH. When D/deaf or HOH people lip-read, they are actually accommodating hearing people as well.

When society tells D/deaf or HOH to just lip-read instead of taking the time to learn sign language, finding alternative as well as appropriate means to communicate, or refuses to hire an interpreter, this leads to problems. These attitudes and ideas are based on the assumption that lip-reading is an acceptable way for D/deaf or HOH to communicate. It also is rooted in the belief that hearing people don’t have to make any meaningful effort to communicate with us. That’s why we say the main difference between D/deaf, HOH and hearing people is privilege. This is not the way Bible teaches us to treat others.

As Christians, whenever it is in our power and capacity to act, please do good to others (Proverbs 3:27). Meet other’s needs even if it means going out of your comfort zone to do so. This is what it means to fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

I encourage you to start being more mindful of D/deaf and HOH communities. Try learning more about sign language and take the journey to understand how it is a language equal to spoken and written language. Try to understand how D/deaf and HOH’s experiences are shaped with challenges from learning spoken and written language. Just as you would struggle with learning and communicating through sign language, we too struggle with communicating in spoken and written language. Despite the fact that our language and method of communication is not considered to be “normal” by hearing people’s standards, it does not make sign language any less significant or fully expressive.

If you’re an employer, I strongly recommend you to accommodate the D/deaf or HOH’s needs the best you can in a manner that helps them work and communicate fully without hindrance.

We are all made in the image of God. We all are here for His purpose. We are not a burden. We are your blessing in disguise.

“Then the LORD asked Moses, “Who makes a person’s mouth? Who decides whether people speak or do not speak, hear or do not hear, see or do not see? Is it not I, the LORD? â€ś – Exodus 4:11 (NLT)

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