Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Deafness or Blindness?

If you had a choice, which would you choose?

This topic came up in a discussion thread on one of the deaf-blind mailing lists I am on.

My answer was, as usual, that I would rather lose all my hearing than go blind. I was born hard-of-hearing. I am used to the frustration of dealing with hearing loss. I have a TTY (teletypewriter text phone), Sonic Alert, and hearing aids. I also know Signed Exact English (SEE) sign language. I can talk like a hearing person. I get by. I always considered myself an in-between-not quite fitting in the Deaf world and not quite fitting in the hearing world, either. I am culturally hearing, though.

I can be honest and say that I am scared of going blind. I don’t want to think about it. I want to push it away and pretend that it’s all in my head. All I need to do is pinch myself and find it's all been a nightmare. I didn’t have vision problems till I was in my mid-twenties. Back then, it was soooo easy to ignore it. But as the peripheral vision moves stealthily, tapering off the edges of my vision more and more, I can’t blame the little gopher (If you’ve watched Caddyshack, you’d understand this.) for sneaking into the house and moving things around. I have to scan more to make up for the loss. But, ironically, as more and more of my vision makes a disappearing act, I want to hear better, too.

Some people with Usher Syndrome retain central vision for a long time, sometimes well into their 60s. I hope I am one of them.

As I said in a previous post, I still feel like I am in-between, but this time, I am not blind, but I have limited vision. I just can’t win.

These are comments by the others:

Blind people are more relaxed than deaf-blind people. Deaf-blind people have more pressure.

Helen Keller thought that deafness was the greater disability. (It was her perspective.)

Someone born blind would perceive deafness as the more “difficult” disability…and visa versa. Deafness, blindness, and deaf-blindness aren’t as limiting as it was 20-30 years ago.

Someone who lost his or her sight adventitiously might think that blindness is the “worse” disability because they no longer can drive and need sighted assistance for shopping, errands, mail reading, alternative techniques for independent living (cooking, laundry, etc.). For someone who just lost his or her hearing later in life, he or she would feel that deafness is the “worse” disability, because of the inability to hear on the phone, hear without an FM system, hearing aids, or the CI (cochlear implant). If a totally deaf-blind person were asked which disability was worse, it would be difficult to make a conclusion.

There are many Deaf people who are proud of their deafness and do not consider it a disability. When Deaf people think about blindness, they think about being unable to drive, rely on sign language visually or lipread. To them, it would be devastating, if not more, than being unable to hear. It’s all a matter of perspective.

It depends on one’s situation. When was the onset of deafness or blindness? And it’s one thing when we talk about deafness or blindness,,,it’s another when we talk about deaf-blindness. The sum of deaf and blind reads 3 + 3 = 3000. When you are deaf, you depend on your eyes A LOT. When you are blind, you depend on your ears A LOT…but if you are deaf-blind, you depend on your endangered sanity A LOT.


At Wed Jan 31, 08:09:00 AM , Blogger Jenny said...

I've asked myself this question before and go around and around in cirlces. The comments you share are interesting.

By the way, I'm familiar with the Helen Keller story, but I've never actually read the book. I'm going to try to buy it today.


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