In the late 90’s I started an internet search late one night for a hard of hearing support group. I felt alone in my hearing loss and desperately wanted to know others like me, how they coped and if there were secrets for getting by in the world. The first few entries listed on the search showed ALDA (Association of Late-Deafened Adults) and SHHH (Self Help for the Hard of Hearing now Hearing Loss Association of America). Their websites featured chapters sprinkled around the country and while that was exactly what I wanted, I lived too far away from them in a remote part of California. The nearest chapters were at least 2 hours away and that just wasn’t practical or feasible.
Searching further I ran across the SayWhatClub website. It was an internet based community and I joined right away. I don’t need to tell you all how much I learned and the new friends I made because you probably already know. I learned everything I know about hearing loss here from others like myself. It was a godsend.
In July of 1998, the SWC held their second mini-convention, a group camp site in Rocky Mountain National Park. I lived in Blythe, California, and on the way to Colorado, I picked up SWC member Joannie, also from the Connect list, in Vegas. We packed my green Mercury Sable full of camp gear and food and hit the road. It was our first face to face meeting though we were friends on the list. Talking in the car wasn’t easy but we still had fun traveling together.
A day later, I met twenty something other SWC members from various lists and we had a great time. Everyone heard and made sure the others heard. From time to time I heard someone call out, “Hey! You’re faking it!” because there was getting away with it in this group. Throughout the whole weekend, no one felt left out of conversation to my knowledge, even at night around the campfire. Someone brought a guitar, we sang (off key I’m guessing), we shared stories and there was a lot of laughter. The experience of being with others like me touched my heart.
Here’s a few pictures I took of other members. I think I was so happy to be socializing that I didn’t take many pictures, darn it. I wish I had taken a group photo.
Without the SWC, I don’t know where I would be today. I haven’t been to another convention since that first one and how I wanted to go the last couple of years but money and time prevented it. In 2012 it’s going to be held in Salt Lake City and I’m on the committee so I get to attend! Yea! I’m excited to meet more SWCer’s and I just know it will be another event I will remember forever.
Not only do I get to attend but I get to help plan it. We are still working on things but here’s a sneak preview of what’s to come.
We have John Waldo coming to speak. For those of you who don’t know him, he’s an attorney (hard of hearing himself) from Washington who advocates for equal access for the deaf and hard of hearing. He fought for captioning in theaters and some of us are now seeing those results. He’s done this and so much more. Visit his website for latest information on access and advocacy issues, Wash-CAP.
He came to Utah about a year ago to give our Popcorn Coalition, now Utah-CAN, a pep talk on getting equal access in public places and I had the pleasure of seeing him speak. One of the things he stated was how we hard of hearing folk seem to be the meekest of the handicap groups. We are hesitant to make our needs known, not wanting bother others with our requests but you don’t see that with people in wheelchairs… they aren’t afraid to ask for equal access and are much more vocal about it. That got me thinking and gave me courage to attend a couple of events that I would have otherwise shied away from, with success. It’s ok for me to ask for my rights and most of the time people are willing to work with me. If I’m not going to ask, who will? I’m excited to have John Waldo attending our convention and eager to hear him speak again. Come to the convention, listen to him speak and see what inspiration he offers you.
There’s going to be a fun workshop called Happiness 101 with Frank Clayton who is a licensed counselor in Utah. Come learn about what happiness is and is not, the myths of happiness and the happiness set point. Learn why you’re not happier, but most importantly come to learn what will make you lastingly happier based on scientific research. Visit his website, Happiness 101.
When I moved to Salt Lake City, I discovered the Sanderson Center for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. This place has been a haven to me and it too has a special place in my heart. I went to the Sanderson Center the first time to attend a local HLAA meeting and to my amazement, CART was provided. It my first time experiencing it although I heard of it long before. We hold our Walk4Hearing meetings here and CART is provided. Seminars are offered, with CART (or interpreters) and workshops as well. They provide classes for the hard of hearing as well. There is a level of acceptance here which I only experienced 14 years ago in the Rockies at that first SWC convention.
Donna Penman and Jazzy came last August to visit Salt Lake, to see if it fit the needs for the convention and scout hotel sites. I took them to the Sanderson Center and Donna was amazed at the set up we have here. I believe it’s considered to be one of the best hoh/deaf centers in the country and I feel incredibly lucky to have landed here in Salt Lake City for that reason. The Sanderson Center is eager to help us with the convention and will provide tours of the premises, even sending vans to pick us up. Check it out when you come.
That’s all the news I have for you now but I will update you all as details are settled. Be sure to mark your calendar and join the SWC convention, August 15 – 18, 2012. See you there!