Embrace Disability Pride? Me? YES.

By Becky Montgomery, HLAA-WA Board Member

Pride? What’s with Disability Pride? I thought Pride was only for LGBTQ+ communities.

Well…no. Read on.

How did Disability Pride come about?

Twenty years after Gay Pride started, Disability Pride was born, right after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed.

Those twenty years were packed with disability activism. Initially, activists focused on changing laws and social standards that too often isolated people with disabilities in institutions. The work evolved to demands for basic education, such as laws like the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) that required “free, appropriate, and public” education for children with disabilities. With the passage of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, the fight against discrimination in employment gained federal backing. And finally, the ADA. For the disability community, the ADA was like reaching the top of a mountain after a decades-long climb.

Just a few months before President George H.W. Bush signed the ADA into law, as Congress debated the final version of the bill, there was an unexpected finale. To show the American public why the bill was critical, several thousand activists marched from the White House to the 100 steps that lead up to the Capitol building. At the end, more than 60 people with disabilities climbed out of wheelchairs, threw down crutches, abandoned white canes, and then crawled to and up the stairs. They were led by an eight-year-old girl with cerebral palsy, Jennifer Keelan-Chaffin.

Capitol Crawl at Washington D.C., 1990
The Capitol Crawl showed, in vivid color, the barriers people with disabilities faced.
ALT: color photo of people with disabilities climbing capitol steps in Washington DC.

I can’t help thinking of our own young activist, also eight years old, Hugo Esterhay, who visited many of our state legislators in 2023 to tell them why hearing aids are critical to kids. Sometimes, children really do lead the way.

Hugo Esterhay is a young
disability rights advocate.
ALT: Color photo of grade school aged boy with brown hair in suitcoat and button-down shirt

Getting back to the idea of Disability Pride: The twenty long years of activism in the courts and law-making offices were grueling, but they also gave the activists amazing skills. They educated judges, congresspeople, agency representatives, and even presidents and cabinet officers about the barriers that people with disabilities face every day. Disability activists threw their considerable energy into attending meetings, writing legal briefs, and joining forces with more experienced civil rights leaders across the spectrum. Not only were they successful, but they also came to see themselves as capable, influential, even sometimes powerful. What a revelation.

After the ADA passed, activists embraced this confident energy and applied what they’d learned to help the millions of people with disabilities who were not activists. Unfortunately, many people with disabilities blamed themselves for their isolation and lack of opportunity. Constant frustration about basic needs such as being able to enter a building without help can leave you feeling hopeless and inadequate. So before they could make progress on key accessibility issues, disability activists had to find a way to help their larger community feel pride in themselves. Disability Pride was born.

Disability Pride and people with hearing loss

Which brings me to us, people with hearing loss. Should we embrace the idea of Disability Pride? I say, YES. Here’s why.

At first, it can be tricky to think of ourselves as “people with disabilities.” Disability means you can’t walk, right? Or that you can’t see, or it somehow means something that seems more dramatic than not being able to hear well.

You (probably) have a hearing aid, right? But disability is even simpler than that. Disability just means that you’re limited from some ordinary activities of life. Does that fit? Are you stopped from some ordinary life activities by hearing loss?

Next, what about “Pride?” In some contexts, pride can be a negative thing, as if you are seeing yourself as better than others. But in this context, pride means you’re recognizing that, as a human being, you’re important too. You’re entitled to dignity, and to be treated fairly and with respect.

You might be saying to yourself, “But I’m not a hero like those people who climbed the Capitol steps. I’m an ordinary person in an ordinary life. I just have a hard time hearing.”

I bet that sometimes you are a hero in many situations that perhaps you haven’t really considered. Let me give you a pep talk.

Yes, you CAN be proud

Does anyone really think that having a hearing aid fixes everything in life? And does anyone really think that speaking up for your needs means that you’ll be able to understand a mask-wearing pharmacist talking to you about a new medication? Or that captions make it possible to feel Willy Loman’s agony as you’re watching Death of a Salesman? Or that when you ask someone to repeat what they just said, they say, “Oh, never mind. Not that important,” and you smile patiently?

No, of course not. All of those situations demand a huge effort and many skills on your part, which you learned to do without thinking about it. You practice those things daily. You have learned to use more than one superpower:

  • Imagination. Every day, many situations demand that you put a lot of effort into understanding what others are communicating. You look for clues, such as the face and body language of the person. You look for contextual hints, like the conversation topic, signage, or text on a package.
  • Resourcefulness. Someone says something that you almost understand. Immediately your brain starts seeking possibilities and evaluating them. Did he say “pill” or “bill?” What fits best in this conversation? As Shari Eberts explained, having a hearing loss is like playing “Wheel of Fortune” when most of the letters are missing. And eventually, you figure it out.
  • Social savvy. If whatever you are trying in a social situation is still not working, you run through your internal toolkit. Is this the time to be assertive and demanding? Or does this person have a sense of humor, and can you make a joke? Is it best to just be very direct and ask them to move to a quieter area to talk?
  • Strategic thinking. What can I do next time to make this work out better? How can I solve this problem?
  • Resilience. When your simple ask for someone to repeat themselves gets brushed off, or even trivialized with “It’s not that important,” you shake it off and bounce back, ready for the next puzzler.

You can think of these skills as a variety of Deaf Gain—in other words, these are really huge advantages for people with hearing loss. I confess I’ve used this list in job interviews to let the interviewer know that getting someone with hearing loss as an employee can be a big win.

Bottom line: I Invite you to join me in celebrating Disability Pride. You’ve earned it, and you can look around you to honor others who earned it too.

blurred photo of a woman with short brown hair and glasses.

Becky Montgomery writes about living with hearing loss from a very personal place – she has progressive hearing loss. She managed with hearing aids for 20-odd years but now wears bilateral cochlear implants.

Becky is now retired and works hard at catching up on her reading and movie watching. In the past, she worked at Microsoft, where she was deeply involved in the company’s Employee Resource Group for Disability. She’s also an HLAA-WA Board member.


Hearing Aid Help, Our Picnic Next Weekend, and More News

Welcome to our July news! Our next newsletter arrives August 6, 2024.

Washington State Hearing Loss News

Our Annual Picnic Is Next Weekend!

You’re invited to our annual picnic at Lake Boren Park in Newcastle, Washington, on July 20, 2024, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. We’ll eat at noon.

A hearing loop and PA system are provided so we can hear one another better–thank you, Spencer Norby. We’ll have a FREE raffle with dozens of prizes coordinated by Sandy Bunning, barbecued hot dogs and sausages by grillmaster Rick Faunt, and more. We’ll provide coolers, ice, condiments like ketchup, chips, water, and coffee.

Everyone is welcome, including friends and family. Feel free to bring something to share, about 8 servings: If your last name is A-L, please feel free to bring a dessert or a side; M-Z folks, please feel free to bring a salad. Alcohol is not allowed in the park. Seating is limited, so you may want to bring a lawn chair, camp chair, or blanket.

Lake Boren Park is at 13058 SE 84th Way, in Newcastle, Washington, not far from Bellevue. We’ll be in the covered park area #2.

New Hearing Aids. What’s Next?

It can take a little time and effort to get used to new hearing aids. But it’s worth it.

Audiologist Ashima Verma offers some good advice on our blog this week, including on what to do if your own voice sounds too loud, where to find auditory training, and how music might help.

illustration of two people at a table with ears and musical notes and instruments surrounding them

Captions on Televisions in Public: It’s the Law

Televisions in public places are required to have captions turned on–always on. This is thanks to a law we helped pass in 2021.

Our blog post offers more details. You can also check out this helpful article from our friends at DeafFriendly Review. Please feel free to share our blog post and the links we included with restaurants, offices, bars, or anywhere you need captions on a television to enjoy a program, receive safety and other information, or simply relax and participate as others do.

photo of people cheering a sports event on a big-screen TV at a bar. the TV has the OC symbol for open captions

Volunteer Opportunity: Test a New Assistive Listening System in Olympia

Do you have some time to help us test a new assistive listening system at the ODHH offices in Olympia this Wednesday, July 10, from 10:00 am till noon?

The folks at ODHH have installed a Williams AV FM 558 Pro, which is said to be compatible with both Bluetooth and telecoil hearing aids and cochlear implants. The local Avidex AV team is conducting the training and testing in the Blake East Building in the Rose Conference Room.

If you can attend and perhaps help carpool, please let us know: cheri.perazzoli@loopwashington.org.

white meeting room with large window, white table, black chairs

National Hearing Loss News

Disability Pride Month: Checking Our Biases

The word “disability” doesn’t need to bring up negative feelings or connotations. In fact, by checking our biases and learning from others, we can help make the world a better place for people with disabilities of all kinds, including hearing loss.

We like this video from Blair Imani on disability pride, and this article from our friends at The Arc that talks about what else we can do to support Disability Pride. You can find a toolkit with ways to celebrate the Americans with Disabilities Act anniversary here.

color photo of black flag with diagonal rainbow. blue sky in background.

Huey Lewis Speaks Up About Hearing Loss

Remember the 80s pop star Huey Lewis? He’s been forthcoming about his hearing loss, and he has some interesting stories to tell. Here’s a cool interview with him from WNYC radio. We didn’t see a transcript for the audio interview, but let us know if you find one.

Photo credit: “All Star musician, Huey Lewis” by Rafael Amado Deras is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

rock star huey lewis, man with glasses holding a microphone

The Cure for Noisy Restaurants

Restaurants can be really frustrating when you have a hearing loss. Yet dining out with loved ones can create really lovely memories.

The Washington Posts discusses why restaurants are so maddeningly loud and what we can do. Why restaurants are so loud, and what science says we can do about it – Washington Post

Hat-tip to Carolyn Odio for this story.

color photo of three women sitting at an elegant restaurant drinking wine

Hearing Aids 101: Understanding the Complexities

Choosing a hearing aid isn’t a straightforward process. Here are some important things to know, such as why hearing aids aren’t like eyeglasses, the types and styles of hearing aids, and key features to consider.

color photo of a woman talking with another woman. they are looking at hearing aids

Treatment for Tinnitus Uses Your Tongue

You might have heard about a new, FDA-approved treatment that may help your tinnitus. The device, called Lenire, stimulates your tongue while generating sounds. The goal is to train your brain, in a sense, to pay less attention to the tinnitus.

Read more in this NPR article. If you’re interested, you can find a clinic that offers Lenire here.

If you’ve tried this new tinnitus treatment, please let us know how it works for you: webmaster@hearingloss-wa.org.

black and whit ephoto of a young woman covering her ears

Hearing Loops & Telecoils Spotlight

Pass-Through Spaces Need Loops, Too

Sometimes called “transient spaces,” these are the places you pass through briefly: information desks, ticket booths, and checkout counters. It can be really difficult to hear in those contexts, but an assistive listening system can improve customer service and communication, and help keep the line moving.

Hearing loops can help in these types of places. Read more from The Center for Hearing Access at The Shedd Institute.

color photo of three people smiling behind a counter. they'e holding signs with the blue ear symbol for hearing loop access

Hearing Loss Support Groups and Other Events

Hearing Access Awaiteth Thee at the
Oregon Shakespeare Festival

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival continues through the summer and into the fall with ASL planned performances, assistive listening devices, and closed caption tablets in several theaters.

You can currently get tickets for Macbeth, Virgins to Villains, Lizard Boy (an indie rock musical), Coriolanus, and many more.

Mariners Deaf & Hard-of-Hearing Night

The Seattle Mariners are in first place in their division. At least for now. Really!

So why not join them for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Night on September 28, 2024. Tickets are specially priced at $45 for the Main Level and $25 for View Level.

If you’d like to attend, please contact Ashima Verma, aashima.verma10@gmail.com. Ashima will coordinate our group attendance. If we have 20 or more fans in our group, we get free tickets and an announcement on the screen.

HLAA-Whatcom County Meeting
July 20, 2024

The award-winning HLAA-Whatcom County Chapter meets the third Saturday of every month, 10-11:30 am, at Christ the Servant Lutheran Church in Bellingham. At July’s meeting, the topic is “How We Have Fun!”

Virtual Hearing Loss Support Meeting
Find HOPE on August 7, 2024

Facilitated by a caring, compassionate HOPE Crew, these monthly virtual meetings are free, live-captioned, and open to everyone with hearing loss and to their friends and family. You’re welcome to ask questions, and also to simply relax, listen, and spend time with people who understand what it’s like to live with hearing loss.

Read the notes from the July HOPE meeting here. The group talked about healthcare access, restaurant TV caption, and more.

HOPE meets the first Wednesday of each month at 4:00 pm. We hope you can join us! 

text reads HOPE, virtual support group for living well with hearing loss, HOPE hearing other people's experiences

NO Renton Hearing Loss Support Group
Meeting in July or August

Our Renton support group meets the second Friday of each month (except July and August) at 1 pm at the Renton Senior Activity Center, 211 Burnett Avenue North, Renton. No need to register; simply check in at the front desk.

This group is led by our award-winning HLAA-WA Secretary Glenda Philio. A hearing loop is available, and everyone is welcome. Always free.

We’ll see you in September!

Seattle-Area ASL Social Events Offered

Seattle has an active community of people who use ASL. Several groups offer different events, and you’re sure to find one you like. Here’s a sampling:

black and white map of washington state with photos of people

Stay Involved with HLAA and HLAA-WA

We’re glad you’re part of our community.

What more can you do to support people with hearing loss?

HLAA-WA does not endorse any technology, nor does exclusion suggest disapproval. We support the full spectrum of hearing technologies for everyone. As an all-volunteer run organization, 100% of every dollar donated is directed to our programs. HLAA-WA is an IRS non-profit 501(c)(3) organization; all donations are tax-deductible as allowed by relevant IRS code.

Related Posts

Free Raffle, Hot Dogs, Friendship, and More at Our
Annual Picnic

You’re warmly invited to our annual hearing loss community picnic.

July 20, 2024
11:00 am to 4:00 pm, eat at noon
Covered Park Area #2
Lake Boren Park
13058 SE 84th Way
Newcastle, Washington (just outside Bellevue)

We’ll have FREE raffle with dozens (really!) of cool prizes, thanks to Sandy Bunning and Cheri Perazzoli. A PA system and a hearing loop will help us hear one another better—thank you, Spencer Norby!

We’ll provide barbecued hot dogs and sausages by grillmaster Rick Faunt, condiments like ketchup, and chips, water, ice, and Starbucks coffee/cream/sugar. Tables, plates, cups, and napkins will also be on hand. If your last name is A-L, feel free to bring a dessert or a side dish; M-Z folks, a salad. You can also bring something you’d like Rick to grill if you’re on a special diet.

Please feel free to also bring…

  • Lawn chairs or a blanket, since seating is limited
  • Sodas or other drinks; alcohol is not allowed in the park
  • You friends, family, and anyone you’d like to welcome to our community

Directions to Lake Boren Park:

(just off of Coal Creek Parkway, located between Factoria and Renton)

Traveling South on I-405, just after the I-90 interchange, take Exit 10, Coal Creek SE. Go about 4 miles. There is a small lake on your right. Turn RIGHT onto SE 84th Way (stop light) and a sign that says “Lake Boren Park.”

Traveling North on I-405, take Exit 5. Turn RIGHT onto Hwy 900 (NE Park Dr., which becomes Sunset Blvd.) Go about 3 miles, then turn LEFT at light onto Duvall Ave. NE, Which becomes Coal Creek Pkwy SE. Go about 1 mile and turn LEFT onto SE 84th Way (stop light).

The Park entrance is on the RIGHT shortly after turning into SE 84th Way. Follow it into the park towards the gray restroom building, and park here (the only building and parking lot in the park.) Behind the building past the tennis court is our picnic shelter site. Signs will be posted. The park is physically accessible with walking trails, tennis courts, and playground facilities.

Board member and raffle coordinator Sandy Bunning and treasurer Rick Faunt at the 2023 picnic.

Captions on Televisions in Public?
It’s the Law in Washington State

Did you know that in Washington State, televisions in public spaces are required to have captions turned on?

Thanks to efforts by HLAA-WA and other disability advocates, Senate Bill 5027 took effect July 25, 2021. This law applies to these types of businesses:

  • Restaurants
  • Bars
  • Salons and barber shops
  • Hotel lobbies
  • Transportation centers (train stations, airports)
  • Hospital visitor centers
  • Medical offices
  • Waiting rooms in places like vehicle maintenance services

If there’s a television that members of public can watch, and the television has the technology to show captions, the captions must be turned on whenever the television is on. Note that if there are multiple televisions, up to 50% do not have to display captions, but those that don’t display captions must show they are on mute or have no sound. For businesses that sell televisions, at least one television must show captions.

Noncompliance can result in fines of $75 and up to $150.

Why Captions on Televisions Matter

Without captions, people with hearing loss and people who are Deaf may not understand the program or video. This could mean they miss out on vital safety, emergency, medical, or public service information. Or it could mean that some people simply can’t relax and enjoy a program, such as a sporting event, with those around them.

Turning the captions on sends a loud signal that everyone is welcome in your space, regardless of how well they hear. You may never know who you’re helping with this simple, inclusive step.

For More Information on the Public Television Caption Laws

Our friends at the Hearing, Speech, & Deaf Center created this helpful video and this interview with caption advocate Dean Olson and Devin Myers. The DeafFriendly Review also has an outstanding article.

For more details on complying with the law, you can read the State of Washington’s guidance here, or this slide show/PDF here. If you’re a member of the Washington Hospitality Association, you can log in to their website and read their guidelines in their updated HERO (Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations).

Questions about the law? Have you found success — or failure — with captions on televisions in public spaces? Let us know in the comments below.

Adapting to New Hearing Aids
What to Expect and How to Maximize Your Hearing Health

By Ashima Verma

Congratulations on taking this wonderful, big step for better hearing health! It’s an important milestone in improving your quality of life, communication abilities, and overall well-being. But your journey with hearing aids doesn’t end once you buy the device.

In fact, fitting is a continuous process that will help you successfully adapt to the new technology and help make sure that your hearing aids don’t end up in a drawer unused.

What Awaits You After Your Hearing Aid Fitting

Getting Used to New Sounds
Imagine you’ve been living in a quiet bubble and suddenly someone turned up the volume on the entire world. That’s what it feels like with new hearing aids. You might find that everyday noises, like the rustle of your clothes or the ticking of a clock, are surprisingly loud. It’s like having a front-row seat at a rock concert when you’re used to the library.

Here’s a nifty trick: Take it slow. Don’t freak out if the sound of your own footsteps sounds like a herd of elephants. Your brain just needs a little time to recalibrate. Soon, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without these sounds.

Feeling Something in Your Ear
Your ears are probably thinking, “What is this foreign object invading my space?” The sensation of having hearing aids in your ears can be a bit  strange at first, just like wearing a new pair of shoes.

Pro Tip: Keep wearing them. Pretty soon, your ear will be like, “Oh, this? Just my trusty hearing aids, comfy comfy.”

Hearing Your Own Voice
With hearing aids, your own voice might sound odd or echoey, and sometimes even very loud. This is called the occlusion effect, and it’s more prominent for people with high-frequency hearing loss. That is, it’s commonly seen in patients with age-related hearing loss (presbycusis). This phenomenon can be fixed with vents, but in general, as you listen more with your hearing aid, the unnatural quality of your voice will get better and more comfy.

Pro Tip: Practice speaking and reading aloud. You’ll get used to your ”new voice” in no time, and you might even start to appreciate its unique charm.

Steps to Ensure a Successful Hearing Aid Experience

Wear Your Hearing Aids Often
Well, no surprises here! When you are a new hearing aid user, I recommend that you wear them every day, gradually increasing the time the aids are in your ears. Build up this habit to full-time hearing aid use. With time, your hearing will become stronger. Plus, you don’t want to miss out on any juicy gossip, right?

Take Care of Your Hearing Aids
Keeping your hearing aids clean can help you avoid expensive repairs. Always use clean and dry hands to handle your hearing aid. You should also wipe your aid with a soft tissue to remove any earwax or debris. Use the brush that comes with the kit to brush the microphones regularly as they can get clogged.

Practice Listening
Think of it as a game. Engage in different listening exercises, like tuning into different sounds around you or focusing on conversations.

Join a Support Group for People with Hearing Loss
Connecting to others who use hearing aids can be incredibly helpful. Joining HLAA-WA’s HOPE virtual meetings or in-person support meetings are perfect for this reason.

Try Music and Auditory Training
According to ongoing research in auditory rehabilitation, music therapy interventions have been found to have a profound effect on hearing. For example, musicians with hearing loss have enhanced auditory skills, including speech-in-noise perception. Learning to play a musical instrument is particularly effective. It involves auditory processing, coordination, and fine motor skills. Music listening exercises, which are activities focused on distinguishing different musical notes, rhythms, and melodies, can also be used.

Auditory training involves the systematic and purposeful presentation of sounds to help listeners make perceptual distinctions. This process essentially serves as exercise for the auditory brain, improving its ability to perceive speech in noisy environments. Auditory training can be conveniently done at home using computers and mobile devices. There are various tools available, including:

Making The Most of Your Hearing Aids

Enjoy the Small Sounds
Take a moment to appreciate the sounds you may have missed. It’s like rediscovering a world of hidden gems.

Communicate with Loved Ones
Let your friends and family know about your new hearing aids. They can support you by speaking clearly, facing you while they talk, and by being patient with you.

Use Hearing Aids During Social Activities 
Don’t shy away from social gatherings. Your hearing aids are there to help you enjoy these moments completely. Sometimes it helps to turn your hearing aids down. If hearing in noise troubles you, make use of different listening programs available in your hearing aid.

Here’s a Bonus Nugget from Your Hearing Aid Fairy…
Going out to restaurants can be difficult due to background sounds and other unwanted noise. Here’s a helpful app called SoundPrint, which gives you live reading of noise levels in the restaurants in your area. You can download this app from the App Store and plan your trips accordingly.

Final Thoughts

Adapting to life with hearing aids is a journey, but it can significantly enhance your life. With patience, regular use, and ongoing communication with your audiologist, you’ll find that your hearing aids open up a world of sound that you might have been missing. Welcome to a world full of clearer, richer sounds!

About the Author

Ashima Verma is an audiologist with a passion for advancing hearing health and helping individuals with hearing loss. With experience in clinical audiology, she is currently exploring PhD programs to further her expertise and contribute to the field.