We Are All Ambassadors

We are all ambassadors… of SOMETHING.

We are a living, breathing, advertisement of “something”. How you choose to live your life, and how that choice is reflected in your daily interactions with others is so important. We don’t realize when someone is watching, listening, or studying how we live. I think it is so important that people with invisible and visible disabilities live their lives in a way that reflects how their disability doesn’t overshadow their abilities. I suppose being a mother I have always been cognizant of “who is watching”. But now that my kids are grown and in college, they rarely study mom and her life anymore. Others are watching, however.

I shouldn’t be surprised when people stop me to ask questions or make an observation. In spite of having invisible disabilities (“hearing again” with a cochlear implant, and Meniere’s disease), I try to make them visible so that I’m not taken by surprise by not hearing something or getting bumped by “I’m in a hurry” people. I wear “bling” on my cochlear implant to draw attention to the fact that I hear differently than folks with normal hearing. I am with the constant companion of my hearing assistance dog, Chloe. Let’s face it. Nothing draws attention to “something is different about me” more quickly than entering places of business with a service dog. But in spite of my own mom’s occasional teasing of “you’re such a drama queen”, the biggest reason I am visible about who I am is because I’m not ashamed of it. I welcome questions and curious people. Hearing loss is so misunderstood. People seem to understand the culturally Deaf. People born deaf and then choose to embrace American Sign Language as their primary means of communication seem to be understood better than those who are adventitiously deaf and choose technology, surgery, speech reading, and spoken language.

Baby boomers were recently cited as a fast growing “hearing loss” crowd. (Story can be accessed here). Yet young people are part of a new (and alarming) growing crowd of individuals with hearing loss as the result of iPods, concerts, and environmental noises. (Story can be accessed here). I am proud of my cochlear implant and proud that I am now independent thanks to the assistance of my service dog. I don’t have to worry about what I am not hearing thanks to her alerts, and I know if I drop something she will be right there to pick it up for me. I like being an ambassador.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes I’m in a hurry and do not really want to stop to answer questions. That’s why I try to carry my card with me so that people can contact me through email. I also carry information about my cochlear implant and information about Fidos For Freedom. (We discussed how to handle questions when in a hurry at a recent client chat at Fidos For Freedom!) In this way, even when I am in a hurry I can still be a good ambassador for people with hearing loss and people with service dogs. Am I always a good ambassador?

No. No one is perfect. You are going to have “bad days”.

In spite of those bad days, however, I encourage you to remember that people watch you. Some are people who know about your invisible or visible disabilities. Others may be folks who know nothing about you. I love meeting other “great ambassadors”. If we ever “meet up” in public, don’t be surprised by a HIGH 5 from me!

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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3 thoughts on “We Are All Ambassadors

  1. Wow….thank you for sharing your thoughts! I think our biggest fear is how we think other people perceive us. Clearly, they can see there is something different but they simply don’t know how to respond to it. Even my own wife of 30 some odd years sometimes STILL forgets I am deaf especially without my ears on.

  2. WELL SAID, I couldn’t say it any better. You’re saying what I was thinking. My sound processor is very visible and everyone can see my style’n blue skin. I too welcome questions and curious minds. I have shown them my newly C.I. and also the comparison between bte hearing aids and cochlear sound processor. As well as what good we get from wearing C.I. How much different between them two.
    Let keep informing those ‘watchers’.

  3. I love your bling! I do up my crutches, but just because I love bling. My son rigged me up battery LEDs up and down them for the holidays! The battery packs made them a bit heavy, but worth it.

    My service dog is for brain stuff. So, **totally** invisible disability. (I actually prefer disability, for me, because people won’t realize it unless I say it. Differently abled doesn’t make sense, here, as they already think I’m ordinarily abled. I’m not). He is a cavalier King Charles, and I use crutches. The crutches have nothing to do with my need for the dog. Absolutely nothing. And a Cav wouldn’t be able to do much for me but pick things up, but, still, people accept him better when I am using my crutches than when I leave them in the car. (Good days, short distances…you know).

    I will talk the ears off a statue, so I’m constantly teaching about service dogs. But, even I can get tired of the 5th conversation in the grocery store. So, I made up business cards. On the back is the ADA info, link, “2 questions”, and my answers. The front has a photo of my dog as the background, I am Pigwidgeon (which we never ever use) “please don’t distract me, I am working…” yadda yada. I didn’t use his call name, as if they use it, he might get distracted. But, it *is* technically his name, so I don’t feel like I’m lying. I also tell all questioning strangers his long name. It’s nice to have it to hand to disappointed children, as well. They are inexpensive business cards, so I can hand hem out freely.

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