People know of my fight for almost the past year to get access to a Deaf interpreter (Text to Speech) in English. As a Deaf person, I have been denied this right. I was also denied the right to learn how to communicate in sign language when I became profoundly Deaf in November of 2014. Six months after I had been begging for the right to have an interpreter, KELA threatened to call the police and demanded that I leave immediately…. because I – the Deaf woman requesting the right to an interpreter – was talking to loud. I welcomed the police coming. I welcomed the worldwide headline it would bring:
DEAF WOMAN ARRESTED IN SOCIAL OFFICE FOR TALKING TOO LOUD WHEN BEGGING FOR AN INTERPRETER.
The social office did not welcome it and told me to just leave.
Since then, I have written six books, I am represented by a publisher in London, and I have shown that my Deafness does not at all make me a useless member of society in Finland. (Up until 30 years ago, Deaf people were forcibly sterilised as soon as they were diagnosed as being Deaf… the government in Finland did not want “those sorts of people” to reproduce). I have written to the Prime Minister, the President, and sought help from far and wide. To this day, I still do not have the right to an interpreter.
Last month, when my eyesight had all but gone, the social office of Finland granted a one-off use of a Speech to Text interpreter in English so that I could consult with an eye doctor. The consultation was at Näkökenttä in Tampere. The social office also agreed to absorb the cost of the glasses and the consultation. I was overjoyed that finally something was going my way, REGARDLESS of the fact that I am Deaf.
The consultation was extensive… on my right eye. A prescription for the lens of my right eye was made. The interpreter then advised he had another appointment to go to. Rather than continue the consultation and investigate my left eye, the eye doctor instead decided that the consultation also needed to end. I expected the consult to continue on another day. I was wrong. The glasses (almost 1,000€ in cost to the social office) arrived. They are also of no use at all to me. My right eye, I can almost see perfectly with the glasses. My left eye (the stronger of my two eyes), I can now see absolutely nothing at all through the new glasses.
When putting on my old glasses, I closed my right eye… and sure enough, the left eye was better with my old glasses. The doctor had chosen to put through half a prescription and I have been given half a pair of glasses. Why? Because I am Deaf and my interpreter had another appointment. It did not matter to the eye doctor that my husband (who can sign fluently in ASL to me) was also in the room and could convey to me what the doctor was doing and/or needed me to do for the tests. Without my interpreter present, the eye doctor became a rabbit in a set of car headlights. He was too scared to be in the room with me.
Now this profoundly Deaf / legally blind author cannot see a bloody thing. Sure, if I close my left eye permanently or have it removed, then I will be able to sort-of see out of my right eye. But the fact here is that my left eye is much stronger than my right eye. The store and the eye doctor flinched at having a Deaf patient when the interpreter left. Now my career is on hold.
My husband and I returned to the store and explained that the glasses do not work. The receptionist said it was because of my eyes. I told her the GLASSES do not work. My old glasses work better than the half-glasses that they provided me with simply because the interpreter left.
It is my right, whether Deaf or not, to have glasses that allow me to see to the best of a prescribed ability. But as I live in Finland, I have no rights. The Finnish Association of the Deaf (Kuurojen Liito) and the Deaf/blind Society of Finland have worked tirelessly to get Finland to sort themselves out when it comes to discrimination. Regardless of their efforts, I (and all other Deaf/blind) are swept under the rug or placed in the trash. It is unacceptable.
We have now been told that if we want a further consultation with them, we will have to pay for it ourselves. We will also have to pay for another pair of new glasses ourselves, regardless that they screwed up.
This, people, is what Finland is about. If you are Deaf and want to be hearing, you are treated with respect. If you are Deaf and are at peace with being Deaf – if you are Deaf and proud – you are trash and are treated as such.
As much as I love this country and the people in it, the laws need to change. Discrimination needs to end. Equality should not be crushed simply because a person cannot hear, regardless of which country you live in.