It happened again today.
I did my civic duty and voted this morning. Even though I’m living in unfairly disenfranchised Washington DC where our only representative in the U.S. House of Representatives has no voting power and where we have no Senator at all, I still voted. (All that stuff about DC’s disenfranchisement, though, is an entirely separate rant.)
I stood in line for maybe two minutes tops before I was able to go check in. So the poll workers started talking to me. It was clear that the immediate thing they needed to ask me for was my name so I could just show my id without needing to understand exactly what they were saying. And when they spoke some more and pointed to the next table, well I didn’t understand what they said then either but it was clear enough that they were done with my check in and needed me to proceed to the next step. So I just did that.
So the people at the next table start talking to me too, and this time I’m not clear what they’re saying, so I ask them to write. Instead of writing, they just start trying to lead me while still talking. I keep asking them to write what they had been saying. But instead of writing, the woman says, “It’s okay.”
This is a thing hearing people have done to me before:
Me: I’m having trouble understanding. Please write that down.
Hearing person: blah blah, it’s okay, blah blah
Me: No, I’m saying I need you to please write what you are saying.
Hearing person: It’s okay, it’s fine. (Keeps talking and continues to not write anything or make any attempt to obtain a writing implement or paper.)
Why do hearing people do this? Why do hearing people seem to think that I need reassurance when I’m simply explaining that the current approach to communication isn’t working for me and that I need for them to switch communication strategies? What is going on in their heads when they say “It’s okay” without actually doing anything to MAKE it okay?
Once, some years ago, I was trying to complain to someone at the hospital that I had been waiting hours for the sign language interpreter I had requested to arrive with no sign of either the interpreter or any communication on the status of obtaining an interpreter. Instead of saying, “Oh, I’m sorry, let me check what’s happening with that,” they said, “Don’t worry about it, it’s okay.” WTF?
So it’s not just a one time thing, it’s a thing that hearing people do. Instead of accommodating my communication needs, they keep on trying to communicate in a mode that I have already explained isn’t working while saying “it’s okay” or otherwise trying to reassure me.
NEWS FLASH for all denizens of the universe who do not themselves experience disabilities that affect communication with ill-informed non-disabled people: When a deaf person says, “this communication style isn’t working for me” then NO they are not seeking reassurance. They do NOT want to hear that it is okay for them to be left without comprehension, abandoned to communication isolation, and denied the communication access they have requested.
NEWS FLASH for hearing non-disabled people: It is NOT UP TO YOU to decide if it is “okay” that the current approach to communication isn’t working or that the people who were supposed to hire an interpreter for you failed to do their job.
NEWS FLASH: If a deaf person is saying that communication isn’t working, then this is them saying that NO IT IS NOT OKAY.
NEWS FLASH: If a deaf person is asking you, “please write” (or “please get an interpreter) then what they need is for you to ACTUALLY WRITE. (Or actually go check on why no sign language interpreter has arrived and what can be done to fix that). ”Reassuring” them that ‘it’s okay” DOES NOT REPLACE ACTUALLY WRITING.
NEWS FLASH: Saying “it’s okay” while STILL NOT PROVIDING the communication access the deaf person has asked for is the OPPOSITE of helpful.
NEWS FLASH: If a deaf person asks you to change communication strategy, then what they need is for you to ACTUALLY CHANGE COMMUNICATION STRATEGY.
There’s more rant I could rant about all this, but this is already long enough.
Possible supplemental future rant (which also happened when I was trying to vote this morning): Hearing people who do this:
Me: I didn’t understand, please write that down
Hearing Person: Oh, I understand you just fine, your speech is perfectly clear.
(?? Hello? Logic? Hello? And, why on Earth do some hearing people think that deaf people are only worried about them understanding us and not about US understanding THEM?)