Sometimes? There’s Not a Great Solution…

Chloe doesn't know Spanish...

Sometimes? There is not a great solution available for positive advocacy.

This past Friday, my 21-year-old daughter asked me to go shopping with her. I’m always thrilled when she CHOOSES to spend time with me, so I agreed so long as it was the morning so that we could “beat the heat”. She agreed. She wanted to shop for new “under things” and I knew JCPenny was having a sale on these items. Kyersten, Chloe and I headed for Annapolis Mall to shop.

The bad thing about shopping in the “intimates” department is that there is not much room to maneuver. I was having some difficulty with my balance as well so I was just being extra careful about how much moving I had to do. Chloe does great even in confined spaces with the exception of that tail. I talk to her a great deal while we are out because it helps to keep her attention on me. Kyersten was busy looking at different styles available.  My main job was to offer the occasional opinion and situate Chloe so that her tail didn’t knock things off with her loving “wag”. Chloe may not understand all that I say to her, but she does know her name and will wag as if she is paying attention to everything else I’m saying. Because my attention was on HER, and as we were in “tight quarters”, I was taken by surprise by two little girls who ran up and threw their arms around Chloe’s neck.

One little girl was about 4-years-old, and the other (obviously big sister) was probably 9 or 10-years-old. I stuttered out, “Oh! I’m sorry. She’s a working dog and cannot be petted right now”. The girls continued to squeeze and talk excitedly.

I tried to tune in a bit better and realized they were talking in Spanish. With my heart plummeting to my stomach, I held up my hand and shook my head NO saying, “Please don’t pet her. She is a working dog”.

The older girl stopped and tried to talk to me in English, and I understood “She’s a pretty dog”. At this point Chloe broke her sit/stay in order to break the choke hold. I was unprepared and went to my knees and caught myself on a rack.

With bras, panties, and tiny hangers attached to various body parts, I again held up my hand, shook my head no and said, “No please!” in a very firm voice. As I was still wobbling, I sat on my caboose to get my bearings.

The older girl said, “Oh … sorry” with some other words that I could not make out because of the accent. I did understand that she understood that Chloe was NOT to be petted. In Spanish she (I think) explained to her younger sister about Chloe. I think she realized something was amiss because I was now sitting on the floor with lingerie scattered around me. She left quickly with her little sister in tow.

I had Chloe brace so that I could get up, and asked my daughter to pick up some scattered articles. (Chloe could have, but I didn’t figure anyone else would want dog saliva on merchandise). Right as I was on one knee about to stand, the youngest came zooming around the corner with a squeal to squeeze Chloe again (who was now in a stand/stay and “brace”). I held up my hand and intercepted the young lady and my hand blocked her at the chest. Although I did not PUSH, it did stop her in her tracks. I said firmly with a head shake, “NO!” She turned and ran away.

I did NOT want to place my hands on someone else – let alone a child. I didn’t injure her, but I really felt out of options. I was “rattled” the remainder of the day. I was very upset with MYSELF that the resolution to this problem ended up playing out like it did.

When All Else Fails… Be Firm

I did look around for the youngster and never did see her or her older sister during the remainder of our shopping trip. When something doesn’t go according to plan I tend to beat myself up about it I’m afraid! I kept thinking about other options I may have had, and tried to think of what I might do should this happen again. (I’m open to suggestions – grin).

Sometimes we can try to advocate in a positive way – and the situation may just fall apart. Sometimes? You just have to be firm and resolute. We should always try to be positive and upbeat at the beginning…

“It would assist me in staff meetings if everyone would just pop a hand up before speaking so I can locate who is talking”.

“I can easily do my share of answering the phone if I had access to a captioned telephone that would provide understanding for when I don’t hear everything”.

“She’s not a pet. She’s a service dog and she can come into the store with me”.

Yet there are times we may have exhausted other options and have to stand firm.

“I need everyone to simply pop your hand up with a small wave before you speak. Thanks in advance”.

“I will require a captioned telephone so that I can do my job and share the task of answering the phone”.

“Here is a flier about what the ADA says about my rights. I’ll be over there shopping should you have any additional questions”.

I don’t think ANY of us welcome having to be firm and insistent, but there is a time and place for being firm. I try to always remember that there will be others who come after me that may also have accessibility issues. How I handle a situation may condition someone with normal hearing to respond to the next person they interact with who has a disability. There are times, however, when all pleasant and positive avenues have been closed to you. Even in your firmness… keep your cool. Keep it short and stick to the facts. My husband grins and tells me, “Denise! TMI. Keep it short! They don’t care about your background or care to hear your story”!

Accents, Foreign Languages, and Hearing Loss

The great thing about our country is the diversity. Because of where I live there are a large number of minority populations who speak English as their SECOND language. I do not speak an oral foreign language so I’m a little jealous of those who can! My mother taught high school Spanish for over twenty years, but her children never learned (much to her dismay). I have a lot of respect for people who speak English as their 2nd language. It is difficult, however, to understand language when an accent distorts the way a cochlear implant and/or hearing aid pick up the words. I have trouble understanding people with thick accents that may speak PERFECT English. I even have problems with American accents such as folks from Boston, Texas, etc. (I understand “Southern” as I lived there for so long!)

However, the fact that I have difficulty with accents, is MY problem. People with hearing loss should have patience with those who speak other languages as their primary language. I have heard late-deafened folks demean and criticize those who speak other languages. I always think to myself, “Really?” It is far more productive to explain that you have a hearing loss and have trouble understanding when an accent is present. Let them know that you are aware it is your problem, and pleasantly ask if they can perhaps speak slower and face you when they speak. I’ve overheard HoHearies blast people with heavy accents – as if it is THEIR fault! Always – ALWAYS – remember you are an advocate for others with hearing loss whether you signed up for it or not! If you are negative, critical and defensive, you are having a negative influence on how the rest of us are treated in the future. Yes, it can be frustrating and even embarrassing to have to ask someone with a heavy accent to repeat themselves again and again. But “own” the problem as yours – it isn’t their problem. It’s a big thing to be fluent in more than one language, so treat them with the respect they deserve.

Denise Portis

© 2011 Personal Hearing Loss Journal

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2 thoughts on “Sometimes? There’s Not a Great Solution…

  1. Sadly, some kids just don’t understand about a working service dog. But by the same token, where was the parent? It is very easy to get lost in a store like that. When our boys were young, we never let them go running rampart when we were shopping.
    I also applaud your efforts to be firm and sometimes actions of a last resort are necessary. You shouldn’t have to think twice about that and you shouldn’t have to regret it later.
    Thanks once again for a wonderfully inspiring post!
    🙂

  2. You are so right that we are all advocates for people with hearing loss. I try my best to explain that I am hearing impaired, and point to my hearing aids. (I stopped saying I’m “hard of hearing”, because it seems like so many times I’d say it to someone they would say, “Oh, so am I” and brush it off.) I ask people to talk directly to me. I explain when there is a lot of noise, I can’t hear as well.
    And you are very right about accents. I have a very hard time with them…but I’ve never felt like it was someone the person’s fault.
    We like British comedy, but the only way I can watch it is with my iCom so my hearing aids have the sound from the TV straight in my ears…and still it’s much better if there is closed captioning. (thank goodness for sub-titles!)

    I agree with Sam, where were the parents? You should not feel bad that you had to be firm. I understand that you felt uncomfortable putting your hands on her, but you didn’t hurt her, you didn’t push her…you simply protected yourself. Chloe, had to help you, without distraction. Even though this child may not have understood English, I’m sure she can understand “NO!” It’s the same word in Spanish. But children to get overly excited sometimes. However, they really need to understand that not all dogs are friendly. I’m just amazed that you had to deal with them for that long without parental supervision. That concerns me.

    On a different note about children in stores..not a hearing problem though…
    I was in Target leisurely shopping, pushing my cart along, and a little boy, who was just walking…came up to me and started helping me push my cart. He was very adorable, and there was a couple to the side Ooing, and Ahhing…I thought that he was theirs… Then another woman comes out of no where and is standing by me watching…she then says…”OK, that’s enough, time to go” and took the little boy. I was so confused. And bewildered. How did this little one wander away so far and for so long. (He was with me for some time.)

    It concerns me that parents are more aware of where their children are and what they are doing.

    Thank you for being such a wonderful advocate!
    wendy

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