Today I came across a video doing the rounds of a hearing woman and her assistant in a laboratory. They are playing with chemicals and obviously testing some horrific disease. From the look on the women’s faces, I equated the disease to Ebola or something equally shocking. It turned out that the disease was Deafness.
One of the laboratory assistants forgot to wear gloves, the diseased liquid touched her and suddenly she was Deaf. She touched her fellow lab assistant who also “caught the Deaf.” The look of sheer horror on their faces reminded me of the looks I used to get when I would leave my home with my husband, start a conversation in ASL (American Sign Language). I am profoundly Deaf and he is hearing. It stirred up a lot of anger inside me, especially since I am these days too afraid to leave my home after too many incidents that shook me up in a big way:
1. Attending a government office (KELA) after begging for the right to an interpreter and having my application yet again rejected…. before they threatened to call the police because I (a Deaf woman) was talking too loud;
2. Being physically grabbed from behind by a bus driver as I was looking for a seat on my local bus after my ticket didn’t make the beep noise it was meant to and after I didn’t hear him screaming at me to come back and re-swipe;
3. Having doctors refusing to treat me unless a registered interpreter is present – an interpreter which the city does not allow me to have, thereby preventing a Deaf Finnish citizen from seeking proper medical treatment;
4. Being stared at constantly, like I have fresh cow manure hanging from my nose, by people who don’t like seeing Deafies signing in public.
Shortly after watching the video and feeling the anger re-build inside me (I quickly forced myself to calm down as I suspect I now have a stomach ulcer from stress), I opened my email. As a home body, I tend to read my email many times per day just in case something arrives from my Editor, Publisher or one of my Deaf friends from across the globe.
I was taken by surprise when I saw that the email was from the Prime Minister’s Office and, for just a fraction of a second, I started to get excited that maybe, just MAYBE, I would be granted my right to have an interpreter when needed. Instead, it told me to apply for the interpreter through KELA and if they say no, go through the appeals process – something I had done well before I contacted their office four months ago with my “URGENT” tag line in the subject heading.
Being safely inside my home, I decided to openly tell them of the book I have written, detailing what Finland have done to one (or possibly more) of their Deaf citizens and that I won’t be going through any more appeals or begging and pleading. A Deaf person in Finland (and most other countries) is entitled by law to an interpreter. My rights have been trampled enough.
My book “A JOURNEY TO SILENCE” will soon be published, but I would like to give you an extract, showing what my life has been like since I lost my hearing on 23.11.2014 – I would usually say “Enjoy the read!” at this point, but not this time.
Extract of “A Journey to Silence” by Rosie Malezer (copyright 2015).
I receive an email from SOT, asking me to contact a woman called Katja so that I can have a few things installed into our home to make life a little bit easier, including flashing lights when the doorbell rings.
That afternoon, I decide to board a TKL bus (one of Tampere city’s bus fleet) so I can travel into the city. Catching a bus is something I have done for seven years and I feel confident that I can catch Bus 13 into the city and relieve some of the boredom that sitting at home for too long brings.
When I board the bus, I pull my ticket (which has 52,20€ loaded onto it) and swipe it on the scanner. Usually I can hear it beep, but since losing my hearing, I still hear nothing but the ringing in my ears. After swiping the ticket, I make my way towards the centre of the bus to find a seat. I am extra-aware of the people staring at me and tell myself that it is all in my head, until a large set of hands grab me from behind. I scream in terror at being grabbed and am turned around by the owner of the hands, who also happens to be the driver of the bus. Fury is written all over his face and his lips are moving fast as he talks to me. I point to my ears.
“I can’t hear you! I am Deaf! I don’t understand what you are saying to me!” I say to him. He then roughly grabs me, pulls me down to the front towards the ticket machine. I reach into my pocket to pull my ticket out again, tears streaming down my face. I think he wants me to scan my ticket again but he instead throws me out the door of the bus, closes the door and drives away. I am left in a sobbing mess at the bus stop. I decide at that very moment that I never again want to catch another bus, as I slowly walk back home.
End of extract.
It frustrates me that people don’t see the problems that they don’t want to see. Deaf people are not unlike hearing people. We have emotions, we can think, many of us can speak (some, like myself, choose not to because we cannot hear our volume or voice). We are not invisible. We are not broken. Most of us are a hell of a lot smarter than many hearing people. We have our own way of communicating. Sign language is nothing more than a “foreign language” that anybody could learn if they ever bothered to try.
I believe that if the President and the Prime Minister of Finland were to both walk in the shoes of a Deaf person, even for just one day, there would be no more shrugging of shoulders and overlooking the laws and constitution. My two cents.
– Rosie xx