Do you think bad guys know about the ADA? I mean, if I asked, do you think they would remove the mask, so I could read their lips?
Notice to boy scouts of the world: I have ripped off your ‘rule to live by’ and it’s now part of my manifesto for living successfully with hearing loss.
Be prepared! The recent emergency planning for Hurricane Irene reminded me of how people with hearing loss (PWHL) can be isolated and endangered in any crisis, small or large. In this case, information was available on captioned television, 24/7, advising prevention and safety procedures for people in the storm’s furious path.
But most dangerous situations don’t come with such a long CNN warning period. Sometimes we need to know in an instant, a blink of the eye, what to do or where to get information that will keep us safe. I mean, Communication Challenges-R-Us! Every day we face some sort of barrier, large or small, dangerous or just irritating.
I’m not preaching paranoia here, but I have been in some very dangerous situations which would have been better handled or even prevented if I had been prepared. Some situations, I have successfully anticipated, while others have not actually happened – so far – but I worry about them anyway.
Unprepared: I was living in an Australian town that was flattened by a cyclone on Christmas Day. The only communication, before and after the disaster, was by radio and I was totally dependent on other people to re-voice everything they heard. During the cyclone, as we huddled for safety, the noise was so beyond-loud that I couldn’t understand what anyone said, although I clearly heard the roof blowing off. At a refugee station during the post-storm evacuation, I was separated from my friends. Because I couldn’t hear the authorities calling my name, I was almost left behind. (Not unlike being paged at a busy airport.)
Prepared: I don’t understand in-flight announcements, because the little TV screens don’t carry live captioning. I now self-identify as hard of hearing, either when booking or checking in. The flight attendant crouches by my seat and asks how she can help me; I let her know that if there’s an emergency, please come and tell me directly. If I do forget to self-identify and find myself in an exit row, I ask to be moved. Even though there’s extra leg room, in the event of emergency evacuation, you don’t want people pushing you from behind as you scream, “What am I supposed to do, again?”
Prepared: When I check into a hotel, I let them know that I have hearing loss, and make sure they mark it down. I give them further instructions: “If there’s a fire, I won’t hear alarms. So your first task is to send the biggest, handsomest firefighter to break down my door and carry me to safety.” Still waiting.
Sort-of-Prepared: One of my biggest fears is that I’ll be in a bank, and bad guys burst in, wearing masks. What if I misinterpret what they say? That’s beyond dangerous. Do you think bad guys know about the ADA? I mean, if I asked, do you think they would remove the mask, so I could read their lips? Huh? I’ve started banking online.
Be prepared! As PWHL, we have to think ahead, to anticipate communication barriers. It’s the smart thing to do.