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  • Charli

Pardon?

Have you noticed how someone chuckles if you say you’re a bit hard of hearing? They don’t? Ok – so you’re not hard of hearing. But ask yourself, how often do you ask people to repeat themselves? More than once if it’s busy? Perhaps you should get your hearing checked!

Do friends, colleagues and family pass comment if you ask to borrow their glasses, or pause for a moment while you put your glasses on? Not usually, not in my experience anyway.

But when I say that I am struggling to hear and use the words ‘I’m quite deaf in my left ear’, more often than not the response is a giggle or chuckle.At a party recently when I explained that I was hard of hearing, a woman to whom I had just been introduced started shouting in my deaf ear and gesturing as if I was a two year old. If she had asked, I would have suggested that she slowed down the speed she was talking at which was in a typical West Coast – way, i.e. super fast, and given me time to hear what she was saying, which was actually quite interesting. So, when has it ever become funny to laugh at another’s affliction?

I can answer that: when you know someone well enough who has some form of impairment and you are not saying it with any malice. He has a visual impairment and this can cause a lot of frustration at times. Looking at Him you would never know but there are tell tale signs: he doesn’t notice if someone wants to shake his hand, for example, because He has impaired peripheral vision. When we travel together I now insist he takes his stick with him. The difference is incredible, people get out of the way, offer us seats, ask if they can help. A couple of years ago as we were travelling through King’s Cross, I was a few steps ahead and turned round to be sure He was ok only to witness a very pretty blonde woman asking him if he needed any help. We were all able to share the laugh, and since then He is certainly happier to use his stick.

But what of those with a hidden disability? My hearing aid is tiny and I have long hair so easy to conceal. But I’m thinking more about those with learning disabilities or mental health issues and how debilitating that can be.

We are getting better as a society at recognising and actively supporting those with disabilities but we still have a long way to go.

Next time you see someone stumble, or bump into a bollard, or trip, try not to giggle, but ask if you can help. Who knows? It could be you one day.

Pardon? – a poem

What? WHAT? WHAT DID YOU SAY?

How? can I go on this way?

Who? cares what you did today?

It is so much easier to look away.

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