This site now acts as an archive only. For the latest news, opinion, blogs and listings on disability arts and culture visit

Disability Arts Online

> > > Gary Thomas

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.




3 January 2011

Hi Gary-

I hear ya, well sort of...I am hearing impaired in both ears and wear those hearing aids all my life. It gets old having to explain to folks that you can't hear as well as they do and when you say "Pardon" they just repeat the same thing at the same volume level. If you repeat again "Pardon" they get frustrated and think they are part of a joke that they don't get. So it is always best to explain. I like your t-shirt but still it is not always possible to wear such a t shirt as Larissa says. BTW, I hate phones too.

Larissa Bone

8 October 2010

Hi Gary, do you think that logo on your t-shirt will stop people asking about your disability or will encourage them to ask even more questions?

My son has hearing loss and wears hearing aid too and copes well with it. It helps him to communicate and without it he would not be able to learn to speak,but I trully understand about hidden disability, he always has to explain to people that he is deaf. I think that t-shirt like that is acceptable in fine art, but not in everyday clothing as you would be a target to bullies.

Add a comment

Please leave your comments. They will display when submitted. DAO encourages critical feedback, but please be considerate. DAO reserves the right to edit or remove comments that don't comply with our editorial policy, which you can find on DAOs 'About' pages.

Your e-mail address will not be revealed to the public.
HTML is forbidden, but line-breaks will be retained.
This can be a URL of an image or a YouTube, MySpaceTV or a Flickr page (we'll handle the media embedding from there!)
This is to prevent automatic submissions.