In 1998, I gathered with about 30 other SayWhatClub members in Rocky Mountain National Park for a long weekend camp out. That was the first time I had been around other hard of hearing people and I loved it. No one felt out, there were 5 repeats if necessary with patience, calls on bluffing and some sign sprinkled here and there. We toured the park, hiked and even sang around the campfire. I remember I had a hard time leaving the group, a part of which were continuing to tour Colorado. I stayed with them as long as I could but I had to go home. There must have been a lack of sleep because I remember stopping at my parents in Arizona to sleep for half a day before going home to southern California.
A couple of weeks ago, I attended my second gathering of hard of hearing people but this was on a much bigger scale. HLAA’s annual convention was held in Rhode Island and my local chapter gave me a scholarship to attend. I went knowing it would be my world; CART, loops and I figured all the patience and understanding I felt at the SWC gathering all those years ago.
I roomed with a couple of girls, Laura from Massachusetts whom I found on a message board and Robin from Colorado found me/us via another SWC member, Debbie. She too was looking for roommates to keep costs down. What turned out to be cool is all 3 of us were in our 40’s so we sat on the edge of our beds that first night like girls at a slumber party talking until late. (Robin is the most excellent lip reader I have ever met, by the way.)
At my first workshop the next morning, we were reminded to turn our T-coils because the rooms were looped. I turned mine on and WOW!!! I never experienced loops before this and I have to say I was blown away by the quality of sound. CART was there but for the first time in a long time, I only occasionally needed it. I could become a big advocate for looping now. I wish the U.S. wasn’t so far behind in this technology. What a simple solution. What great sound. I attended various workshops all weekend, using my T-coil and learning lots.
The people I met were awesome. Many are hard of hearing, some are deaf and a few Deaf. At the meet and greet a little while later, there was a balloon artist making hats and he made me a good one…
Then I had a caricature done…
After that I went around in the room in my hat with balloons squeaking just above my hearing aids. I met and talked to many people. I wound up meeting someone who attended the conventions for the last 15 years and he sort of took me under his wing, introducing me to more people. John is basically deaf since birth but grew up oral much like my roommate Robin. He learned sign later and now has two cochlear implants. He never understood music before the CI’s but now he loves it. That’s what got us talking because we both like techno music for the good, strong beat.
Over the course of the weekend, I joined his group for lunch and dinner several times. They signed as they talked, their signing much more advanced than mine but they had their families with them who signed also. (I know some sign but have no one to practice with.) Nini and Elenore, who are hard of hearing, told me it was another tool to use, anything to help with conversation. As I relaxed, I picked up some of the sign and it does make a difference. Sometimes what I couldn’t pick up verbally, I picked up in sign. It is a tool and it gave me more to contemplate.
I soaked up as much up as I could while there, staying up late with the others even though I am an early riser. I think I slept 3 to 4 hours a night while there and I still couldn’t get enough of it; the technology, meeting more people, making contacts for the various projects I’m in and making friends. This was our world, a wonderful hard of hearing world to explore. When the convention was over, a handful of us had time to gather for one more lunch. A happy bunch, aren’t we?
By the time I got on the plane, I felt exhausted. I thought I would go to sleep but Debbie came down the line. I waved her over to sit next to me, convention bonus time because I didn’t get to talk to her much at the convention. We chatted the whole way to Chicago, making a crick in our neck. Usually in planes I have a hard time understanding people. With Debbie it was easy because we knew what to do. In Chicago, we went separate ways. On the next plane I sat next to a couple of mute guys who didn’t chat at all so I finally got my nap.
I came home feeling high from the whole experience, exhausted (it took me a week to catch up on sleep) and maybe a bit cranky because I don’t have much of that in my home life. Thank goodness for the small slices I get at the Sanderson Center.
Now I have the SWC convention to look forward to, here in Salt Lake next month. At the HLAA convention, I missed John Waldo’s presentation because of a mandatory workshop I had to attend but I will be there for it this time. Our convention is a smaller more intimate affair but with all the same stuff; loops, CART and workshops. A few people I met but many I haven’t yet. I look forward to all the same camaraderie and late nights, soaking it up once again. If you haven’t attended an even like this before, I highly recommend it. It’s a world built for us and it’s beautiful thing to spend time with a group of hard of hearing/deaf people.
- Pay attention to weather, cowboy boots and jeans are not the way to come to town during a heat wave with high humidity.
- I never thought of it before but the hard of hearing are a noisy bunch.
- If in a group and walking somewhere, expect to go slow for being accommodated, in other words, we face each other as we walk instead of watching we are going.
- Sign language is a good thing to know, even if I can only get a few words in each sentence.
- Loop technology is the greatest thing since sliced bread.
- It’s hard to get from one place to another because I keep running into so many remarkable people I met.
- The hard of hearing, when together, are an inclusive bunch. We wait to make sure everyone is together before going somewhere.
- There is such a thing as hard of hearing culture and I found it.