There have been several events in the past few months where deaf and hard of hearing people showed to the world that they can do anything as long as communication access services are provided to help them become successful.
Yesterday was a historic day for people with hearing loss who practice law. There are about 250-300 of them in the USA. On that day, 13 deaf and hard of hearing attorneys were sworn into the bar of Supreme Court of the USA. It was not the first time that an attorney was admitted to the SCOTUS bar, but it was the first time that such a large group of attorneys with hearing loss were sworn into the bar. The ceremony was accessible via both live captioning (for those who don’t know or understand sign language) and sign language interpreters (for those who use ASL for communication) to meet various hearing and communication needs of attendees. I have a pleasure knowing some of those attorneys and am glad that deafness didn’t prevent them from studying and practicing law.
Another recent example is showing that you can dance without hearing. Nyle DiMarco, a fourth generation Deaf person who uses American sign language as his primary language, amazed everyone by his excellent dance performance at Dancing With the Stars. He is the second after Marlee Matlin (a Deaf American actress who won an Oscar award in 1987) to participate in that show. You don’t need to be able to hear to dance. Some deaf people may dance even better than some hearing people. Like many deaf people (including myself), Nyle can keep rhythm by counting and feeling vibrations from music as well as by following cues of his dancing partner. Prior to participating in the DWTS, he participated in The American’s Next Top Model and became the first deaf person to be a finalist.
Not all deaf or hard of hearing people use sign language – many are oral wearing hearing devices and using spoken languages. One of them won a title of Miss Pennsylvania – her name is Elena LaQuatra. She was born with normal hearing and became deaf from meningitis at an young age (like myself). Elena got a cochlear implant shortly after her hearing loss. She graduated from university with a Bachelor’s degree in Broadcast Communications, interned at local TV studios, and became a video reporter for WTAE. She hopes to become the first deaf anchor on a national network – it would be cool if it would happen!
Those events show the world a great variety of hearing and communication abilities of deaf and hard hearing people who can do anything they want. If the world is accessible to us via various communication options than just listening and speaking, possibilities are limitless!