Deaf Life20th November 2013
A Deaf Person’s Road to Success
Growing up Deaf in Malta and experiencing a lack of deaf awarness, Annabelle is intent of changing long held stereotypical views about the deaf
My mother tells me that when I was a kid, I could hear my father’s car everyday when he arrived home from work. I used to rush to the door and wait eagerly for him to come inside to welcome him with a squeeze. After a few years, my parents got suspicious when they started to notice that I was not reacting to sounds anymore. I was getting in trouble at school, as the teacher started to think that I was not listening during class and one day my mother dropped some pots on the floor but I did not react.
I was 6 years old when it was established that through a viral infection I had become 90% Deaf in both ears. I started to wear hearing aids and at school I was given a learning support assistant to visit me on a few days. I also got some help from the Gozo Association for the Deaf (GAD). I enjoyed my childhood and as far as I recall, I was always happy. Becoming Deaf did not stop me from being or feeling different to anyone else. My parents and teachers encouraged me to read books – which I strongly believe helped me with my communication skills. I also started to read lips in order to help my understanding of what the person talking to me was saying.
Although I started to have a hard time telling new people about my deafness during my teens, I never looked at myself as being different. I can drive, I can work, I can travel and I can live independently. I have also danced with several dance schools – why not? To this day, I still feel like an everyday person with the exception being those moments when I can’t participate within society because of the lack of access to certain services because they are not deaf-friendly. This includes things like a lack of subtitles, lack of visual alerts and lack of awareness about how to communicate with me.
I managed to further my education and graduate with a degree from University and I also managed to find employment with the help of an employment scheme for persons with a disability. I am not saying that it was easy; I just faced more challenges and had to work harder than hearing people. I did have bad days where I wanted to give up, but I always managed to find the strength to keep going. Being Deaf does not mean that I am different, it is the society that forces me to feel different!
Through a determined attitude, I never let anything stop me from achieving what I wanted to do, until I was forced to leave the job I had. I started looking for another job, but this turned out to be pretty difficult this time around as I did not have the help of the employment scheme. I realised very quickly that not being able to find employment easily was something most people go through. I felt ok about that until one day, I recognised that the main reason I was being turned down so often was because I am Deaf. Interviews were getting canceled or “postponed” after employers found out I am Deaf – regardless of my qualifications, work experience and suitability for the job.
For the first time in my life, I started to feel like a complete failure. I stopped believing in myself. I lost all hope and I felt sad most of the time. A friend who was watching me going through this tough and unfair time encouraged me to speak out. So I opened a Facebook Page – A Silent World, on which I started to post information about the Deaf or about people with hearing loss in order to try and raise awareness. I wanted to help to teach society that Deaf people are as capable of doing things as hearing people!
The positive feedback I received was overwhelming and nothing like what I expected. People started to contact me, telling me to continue spreading the word. Parents of Deaf or Hard of Hearing children thanked me for all that I was doing and for giving them hope as they were worried. Teachers asked me to give talks in their schools to teach the students about the Deaf community. Suddenly, my life turned upside down, I started to involve myself more in issues that concerned Deaf people and other people with a disability and this also helped me feel stronger. I joined the Deaf People Association (Malta) as a board member and together, we are working hard for the rights of Deaf people in Malta. The joy I feel from being able to help others is unexplainable. During a seminar I attended, a speaker said that being successful does not mean having a high powered job or having a big fat salary, it is about achieving something that you worked hard for. The thing is, I have never been a failure, but I faced major challenges. Ultimately, that made me stronger and more successful.
I am where I am today because I am determined and because I keep fighting to achieve what I want. However, I am also where I am today because of my family - who have loved me unconditionally, believed in me and made me the woman I am today. I have also received great support from my partner's family and my friends, who have always been there for me. My partner and friends have been patient with me and given me courage and confidence. They push me forward to achieve more than I ever thought possible. The Deaf People Association (Malta) and the Gozo Association for the Deaf (GAD) who work hard to help people with hearing loss have both been very supportive. Finally, there are all the people who have visited my Facebook site and left supportive messages, giving me their best wishes and provided many words of encouragement.
Through this article in SLFirst, I am hoping I will be able to raise more awareness about people with hearing loss. I am also hoping to instill courage and hope to other people who may be going through a tough time. Because, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”.
About the Author:
Annabelle Cauchi graduated as a Bachelor of Communications with Psychology. She currently works as a Marketing Executive and has a passion for PR and online marketing. Annabelle is a board member of the Deaf People Association (Malta) and is also a member of other disability committees. Her recent project aims to raise awareness about the Deaf, particularly in Gozo and Malta, consists of a Facebook page, ‘A Silent World’, which is constantly updated with interesting information, data, statistics and personal experiences about people with hearing loss. If you would like to follow Annabelle's Facebook page please go to www.facebook.com/silentworldmalta
Article by Annabelle Cauchi
posted in Community / Deaf Life
20th November 2013