Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Interview with John L (Blog #4 for LS 581)

This blog entry is for a course at the University of Alabama that discusses people with disabilities, impairments and the aging society in regards to technology. This is an interview I did with John L on Sunday, April 19, 2015.  

John told me that he was born in the 1960s as a preemie. He wasn’t sure if the medication used during that time caused it his hearing impairement. He went on to saying that hearing impairments and deafness does run on his mother side of the family (some of his cousins and an uncle, his grandmother was born deaf, grandfather qualified for cochlear surgery [although declined]) and his mother is severely hearing impaired. His specific kind of hearing loss is a high frequency hearing loss which means that sounds like watch alarms, whispers, etc., he cannot hear at all. The use of American Sign Language (ASL) was a necessary second language growing up. He told me that he learned it that way a child learns Spanish in a Hispanic household, it is kind of a homegrown “dialect” of formal ASL.  

He went through school well enough, although he failed his first hearing test in 2nd grade. He did admit that his delinquent behavior in school could have been linked to not being able to hear well in school, but he felt like it wasn’t a huge detriment until his late teens when he tried to enlist in the armed services. He failed it outright. At 18, he wore his first hearing aide, which was one that went inside. Today he uses a very powerful over the ear aide to be able to hear people, although he needs to read lips. He is unable to hear without them, and he told me that as he gets closer to 50s the decline in his hearing has progressed. 

Meeting John, you would never figure he was deaf until you realized he was staring at you so intently to read your lips. He doesn’t “sound” deaf although if you are more of a soft spoken individual or mumbles or speaks in a heavy dialect, he will ask you to repeat what you say. He said that often times, people shout and slowly pronounce every single word once they realize he is deaf. It has affected him in securing steady work and he backed up that statement by saying that the unemployment rate for a deaf individual ranges from 40% - 50%. He said that he was glad to have made it through his school years under the guise of “normal”. He is very well aware how cruel kids are to those with disabilities. 
Within the last 10-15 years, John has embraced technology to the fullest. He never was fond of the TTD/TTY relay systems. He said he never liked the idea of someone “listening” in on a private conversation. 

When I asked him how else technology has helped him outside of “text messaging” he said this, “…Interesting question. For me it allows expression through writing. It allows me to have closer mental relationships and companionships with people which I wouldn’t have otherwise. It allows me to practice videos with lyrics for my band pursuits (he is an ex drummer and singer for various local metal bands), and I’ve met some really wonderful and unique people via the internet, some of which I’m honored to call family. As far as romantic liaisons…you’ll just have to find me and find out for yourself.”

Technology has also allowed him to fulfil the dream of publishing his first children’s book, The Adventures of Itty Bitty and Lulu which can be found on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Itty-Bitty-Lulu-Book-ebook/dp/B00NWSUYFI/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1413829832&sr=8-1&keywords=adventures+of+itty+bitty+and+lulu