I’d like to talk about my experiences in encountering individuals who have shared their insights about my being Deaf. Everyone has different perspectives and opinions, so let me share mine. Before I go on, it may help to visit this page [Community and Culture – Frequently Asked Questions] to learn a bit about certain words and identities within the Deaf community.
As you may know, I’m a driver for Lyft and Uber, where 95% of my riders are hearing.
I’ve also had blind riders —if you were wondering how we communicate, it was a piece of cake! When I learn my rider is blind, I immediately send a text message to let him/her know that I’m Deaf. I typically get a reply saying, “No problem. Thank you.” Cool beans! With the hearing riders, they usually say the same things:
“I’m sorry for not knowing sign language/I wish I knew sign language/I used to know some, I forgot, my bad…”
My response: It’s fine, and I’m sorry I don’t use my voice except when I’m angry! LOL. (To see a previous blog I wrote about communicating, click here.)
“Do you read lips?”
My response: I always say no, even if I can read lips a bit, and open a voice-to-text app to chat with the rider. This question is the most misleading one, because even the most experienced lipreader catches only 20-30% of the words; the rest is guesswork. So this means most lipreaders don’t catch even 20%. It’s better to use other ways, such as writing or texting, for brief, superficial conversations. It’s my goal to make every person comfortable in talking with me, which is why I have over 2,000 five-star ratings from satisfied riders!
“You should get a cochlear implant!”
My response: This is a hot-button issue within the Deaf community. It’s certainly an option for many, but for me, I choose to not receive one for many reasons. I’m perfectly content being Deaf without hearing aids or cochlear implants (I haven’t worn a hearing aid since the eighth grade!). I was born Deaf, and don’t know any different — which is just fine with me. Besides, when I wear hearing aids, it becomes very irritating and I’m not able to distinguish sounds from each other.
Some people receive cochlear implants later in life, others receive implants early in life — and for many different reasons. I have friends with cochlear implants who are still culturally Deaf, and I have other friends who aren’t as culturally Deaf as before receiving their implants. I’ve heard many, many stories — some positive, some very sad — about implantation.
Again, implantation is an individual preference. I prefer to be fully Deaf, physically and culturally.
“You’re Deaf? I’m so sorry!”
My response: Don’t be. You’re not sorry for who you are, and I’m not sorry for who I am. It’s perfectly fine.
The most important thing is to be patient, since I may be the first Deaf person riders have met — or maybe I’m not the first, but they had bad experiences with the previous Deaf person they met. The bottom line is we are all humans, and we all have different personalities, characteristics, and perspectives, whether we’re Deaf or hearing, and whether we’re drivers or riders.