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Discussion: Am I hearing things? Not bloody likely - disability arts online
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15 July 2010

Gary Thomas talks frankly about invisible disability and identity.

photo of author with the word disabled written in red down a white t-shirt

Photo of film-maker Gary © Thomas Michele Martinoli

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.