15 July 2010
Gary Thomas talks frankly about invisible disability and identity.
I'm on the phone right now, as I'm writing, waiting for someone to pick up the phone so they can tell me about access to work.
I really hate phones. They genuinely scare me. I've been waiting for them to pick up for three minutes. I'm wondering what they'll think at access to work when I start talking about hidden disabilities. I've always had a disability, whether it was being born with a flat nose & cleft pallet or having depression since I was very young.
I now have a new disability to add, and it won't be hidden. I'm half deaf in my right ear, and I've agreed to have a hearing aid.
When I say I've agreed, I was asked a couple of years ago, and said NO. That's right, I didn't want one. I didn't want it to be obvious, or have comments like 'help the deaf bloke' or what ever I imagine people might say. Then I thought how interesting that reaction was from me, considering I work with people with disabilities most of the time. Why should I be afraid of it?
Then I began to think about the whole hidden disabilities issue. You see, up till now I could entirely choose who I could tell about me being disabled. I have been a bit more blatant about it recently – it's on my website, I even had a photo of me taken with the word disabled written on my T-shirt. This was because I was fed up with having to explain everything to people (cos after all, I do have to do everything.)
So if I add a visible hearing aid to that, what's the problem?
So the other week, I reluctantly agreed to have one. No idea what it will be like, as I haven't had my appointment through yet, but I hope it's one of those really cool smaller digital ones – I wonder if it will affect the signal on my iphone??
Though it's only in one ear, and it is all related after all (ear nose and throat etc), but I haven't told anyone yet (unless your reading this and you know me!) I do kind of want to see what the reactions are from people when they see me with it for the first time. I wonder if it'll be fun.
By the way, I didn't talk to anyone from access to work. They hung up after five minutes.