Friday, October 10, 2008


This morning I watched a documentary called "Hear and Now" about a married couple, Paul and Sally, who had both been deaf their entire lives and at the age of sixty five they both decided to get cochlear implants. The documentary was filmed, produced and narrated by their daughter Irene Taylor Brodsky. It takes you through their journey from before their surgery until a year afterwards.

The whole story is very touching and really makes you appreciate having all of your senses in tact. Paul and Sally lived very fulfilling lives as deaf people and it doesn't appear to have hindered them in achieving the goals they set out for. It was only in finally achieving hearing that they seemed to be handicapped in any way. I can imagine it was just as hindering as going through life hearing and then suddenly losing that ability. They could turn off their hearing aids and did often because all of the sound they were taking in was overwhelming and nonsensical; at the same time is was like a whole new world they had never discovered and they spent a lot of time in awe of their new sensory perception.

By the end of the documentary I was wondering exactly who was handicapped, Paul and Sally or the other "normal" members of their family? Irene kept saying how much she wanted her parents to be able to hear things like music or the sound of their family's voices. But it didn't make any difference to her parents. The sounds were like toys in a way. They could play with them, but at the end of the day they preferred to go back to the silence they had always known. They appreciate life and the things around them in a different way; maybe better than people who can hear. They have had to work harder for what they have achieved. Not because they were any less able to function, but because "normal" society couldn't function their way.

It seems like when we see someone who is deaf or blind who has achieved something great, something that is considered commonplace for "normal" people, we are in awe of their determination and will to reach out and grab what they want. We say, "Oh look what they have had to overcome to reach their goals." We assume that their lack of hearing or sight must have been their biggest obstacle, but what if it wasn't? If that's all they have ever known then is it really an obstacle, or is the way we treat them the biggest obstacle? Our fear of the unknown and assumptions regarding their "disability" might be the biggest thing standing in their way.

When a couple is expecting a child the one thing that they wish for the most is that they are happy and healthy. But if the child comes out "unhealthy" or with some sort of handicap, who is really going to be affected the most? If the child can't see from the beginning then it is the parents that have to make the biggest adjustment in their lives. So are we scared for our children or are we scared for ourselves? Scared for what they are going to be missing, or what we will miss them experience? Even though their lack in one sense will let them experience things that we could never imagine. A person who lacks hearing sees things more vividly and in more detail, and a person who lacks sight will hear things that "normal" society would never pay attention to.

We need to take the time to appreciate what these "handicapped" people can do and how they experience life. If we take the time to pay attention to who they are, handicaps and all, we might find a new way to appreciate who we are.

1 comment:

  1. Oooohhh, interesting. I'll have to put this on my Netflix list!