Saturday, October 02, 2010


You would think that people today have progressed enough they wouldn’t ostracize those who are different. That people by now should have learned better social skills in their community and even in work. What happened to professionalism? But yet, we still have people today that shy away from something that is different, especially those with a disability. You would think that today with our advanced way of thinking, people wouldn't be hesitant to come up to someone who is blind, deaf, in a wheelchair, or even walks differently than the average person. Why do people feel uncomfortable about something different? People are even hesitant if a person dresses a certain way, wears their hair a certain way. What happened to look at a human being, rather than being judgemental of their external appearance? Even a well dressed person with first impression good social skills could be a sociopath that has engaged in criminal acts. If you try to get to see the human being you might see this, but yet, we live in a society that judges the book by it's cover, rather than reading its content to know what is really going on.

Why is anyone ostracized?

Maybe that is why prejudice is still around today. People still haven't learned how to deal with something that is different from them. The perceived threat.

I have to keep reminding myself to not let others define me. That I am a kind and gracious person. Their judgement is so strong, that it interferes in having an open mind to see the real me. Judgement can put a barrier in exploring your world. Judgement can hinder a sense of wonder. Judgement can be toxic and produce a negative aura. Judgement may not have all the correct facts. So if I know this, why is it so hard to blow off people who are judgemental and ostracize me? Why do I allow their problems smother me like a blanket that puts me in darkness and isolation? Why can't I have the same opportunities to connect with people? All humans are social beings that need interactions. Being robbed of this is difficult. You have to work harder in creating your own world.

When I was in third grade, I was mainstreamed from a blind school I attended. My family wanted me to socialize with kids that were not disabled and give me the opportunity to socialize in the norm. Be in the mainstream. The first half of the school year I went to a private Catholic school. I was horribly teased, ostracized and shunned in many ways. Kids would steal my lunch, play dirty tricks on me and use obscene language with me. I was bullied and nearly had the whole class picking on me. I told my mother I never wanted to attend that school again. I just didn't want to go anymore. My mother told Sister Josephine where she had the whole class write me apology notes for their behavior. I still didn't go back and went to a public school. Just as the Catholic school, at the public school I also got lost academically. The kids picked on me. In fact, I pcked on another kid. I don't know why I did that, perhaps being tired of being picked on all the time. I was sorry to late to apologize. Both schools were socially and academically too difficult for me so I returned to the blind school. The bulling, the ostracizing and picking on me was just too much for me to handle. I was not given any skills to handle these kids. What I lealrned as a young child that "normal" kids are really mean and being with my disabled peers is much better. I learned to over the years to really dislike "normal" kids.

Ostracizing is hard for anyone to accept, no matter who you are in this world. Some can adjust when it is once in awhile, but if it happens on a frequent basis, it is more difficult to blow it off. You get tired of facing this often that it is pretty much your whole life. How do you change this pain?

In the 1950's there are stories of deaf individuals who were put in mental institutions. This is because the deaf person was unable to communicate to a hearing person. The hearing person makes judgement of not being able to communicate with them, therefore, something must be wrong with them. It is perplexing that judgements of doctors put an functional human being that only needed a different way to communicate in a mental institution. They had no mental disability or learning disability, but were isolated from the world. Segregated just as the blacks were before the civil rights movement. The deaf who were put into the mental institutions were ostracized from society. They have lost their freedom. They are locked up because they were misunderstood due to a judgement by someone who is considered to have above average intelligence because they are a doctor. These deaf individuals were labeled that they didn't fit the norms of society, so let's lock them away in an institution since we don't know what to do with them.

For a child, this is locking them away from appropriate development. Emerging a person in the normal society enables them to develop a more normal lifestyle. I remember as a young child apart of a blind youth group, there was this one girl I knew in my carpool. Mary, not her real name, was very withdrawn, wasn't outgoing and always needed assistance to get around. I met her brother and sister and was appalled at how active and emerged in life they were, but how Mary couldn't handle a slop at a winter camp and freaked out as she lightly slipped on the pine needles. She was a teenager at the time. Mary wasn't totally blind either, she had some sight in both of her eyes. She also had hearing of an average person. I'm so fortunate that my parents allowed me to ride horses, climb trees, play on anything I desired. Sure, there was a chance I could get hurt, but there is a balance between over protection and normal development. Some people might think I was sheltered due to going to an elementary school for the blind, but compared to many other disabled children, I wasn't. Sadly, because Mary's parents didn't think she was capable, they smothered her to be not well adjusted. She was sheltered from normal development. How could she ever emerge in society? Society will ostracize her because she is different. Fortunately, I have been able to blend into society, but even me being a higher functioning disabled person, I still run into issues. I have challenges of ostracization and bullying too. It depends onthe people I'm with and who I am around.

In my later years, I was a Special Education Aide at a middle school. The boy I took care of was 12 years old and had a vocabulary with complete understanding of about three words. His family was told by the doctor that he has a mentality level of an infant. Being told the level of this child, that's all the family inspired to be around him. Even at age 12, they were still treating him like a small infant. They carried him, fed him and just treated him only what an infant can do. I had to be hired at the school because the previous special education aide couldn't stand being around him. She also ostracized him. Couldn't be around a boy that remedial. She had no desire to reach him or treat him like a human being. My goal was to reach this boy. It took me a month for me to realize he didn't understand consequences because everything has been done for him. He certainly had the capabilities to feed himself, but the family wouldn't take the time or the effort to teach him how to feed himself. In their minds, he was an infant, not a twelve year old boy they should have tried to teach years ago how to eat for himself. He would come to school with food all over his shirt since he fed himself with his hands like an infant does.

Another boy in the same school had a "difficult" mother. I say difficult because the school felt she was difficult. She was demanding in getting the best education for her special needs son. He received appropriate guidance. He probably had a vocabulary of 200 or more words. I didn't work with him that closely and his vocabulary could have been more. You walk up to him and he would make eye contact and say "Hi" and hold out his hand. His mother made sure he came to school impeccable. Always a clean shirt, always with colonge and looking very neat. The boy I worked with, if he had the same intense program, most likely would have been at the same functioning level as this other boy who had a mother who made sure her son got everything he needed. Although the better cared for boy will never be able to live on his own, at least he is functionable enough he could have a job or so something in society. The point is, the more richer your environment, regardless who you are, the better functioning that person will be, to ostracize is to rob a person of life.

Why is our society still this way? That the first idea towards a disabled person is to lock them away or segregate them? It does not hurt or damage anyone to reach a hand out to accept these people in normal society. Even the higher functioning individudals who are productive in society, just that slight difference in them, people want to push them away. Even in the workplace, even the normal ones. Society is a mixed of all kinds of people. People need to deal with this. 

The school systems currently have inclusion programs. A long fight had to occur so disabled children were not segregated away from society. Disabled children, along with adults, need to be in society and not deprived of connecting with people. They need social interaction just like anybody. Why do you think social media like Facebook or Twitter are so popular? Why do you think social gatherings are so popular, it is because people need to socialize. I have seen countless times people say, "I'm a loner," but then I see they have one person or a small group they hang with occasionally. Even loners will occasionally interact and socialize with people, because it is a human need.

Having a hearing impairment puts barriers in the way of socializing with hearing people. Many times those with a hearing loss feel segregated, separated, left out, and ostracized. Most hearing people do not want to take the perceived extra effort to communicate with them. I say perceived because communication is a two way street. That other peron has just the same right to interact with people as you do, but because of the perception it is "harder" they ostracize them. That putting a little extra effort is too difficult, when it is not. Can you imagine the extra effort the person with the hearing loss has to go through every single time they talk to someone? That perhaps they are putting more effort out than the hearing person? Most people with a hearing loss are exhausted at the end of the day,much more than the average person. They have been straining all day trying to connect to their world. Then the added ostracizing just makes it too much to handle, most will become more recluse. Not because they want to, but because they are tired of being exhausted.

At least for the blind, they are not as isolated since they can hear. Not that being blind is easier than being deaf, that is subjective and variable. However, due to their ability to hear the world around them, they do have a bit easier time connecting to the hearing world than a deaf person. Hearing may feel hesitant around them, but because they can communicate to them, barriers are a bit easier to knock down. Realize I'm explaining a narrow example here. I must stress that saying one disability is easier than another one is very subjective and depends on the individual person, their lifestyle and their desires in life. The blind still have enormous challenges as well. Many do very well adjusting, others do not. So one disability is not easier than the other.

The 1950’s provided more opportunities for the blind. Their independence was starting to get better. Guide Dog schools were developing more in the 1950's. Some blind individuals prefer using a White Cane which started around the 1930's. Both the Guide Dog and the White Cane are tools of preference. The public has become more aware of these tools to signify a person's vision limitations. People saw the blind as becoming more independent compared to other traditional disabilities at this time.

Also, in the 1950's, the Foundation for the Junior Blind in Los Angeles was founded. The 50’s and 60’s had a whole host of musicians and entertainers that were blind. Ray Charles and Stevie Wonder come to mind. People were educated in how blind individuals could lead cool lives. Blind individuals started experiencing more freedom and were less ostracized. They still had to overcome barriers with obstacles and people. They still experienced ostracization due to their disability, but during this time, it was the major turning point for the blind. As time went on with technology, the blind can better connect to their world. Although, some would argue that the fast advancing technological age forgets to accommodate the blind with all the techno gizmos out on the market.

As for the deaf community, their turning point started in the 1980’s when deafness was starting to come to surface. Closed Captioning for the deaf started on regular TV stations, TDDs became more available for the private home where the deaf could finally use the telephone, Relay services were becoming more available for the deaf to be able to talk with a hearing person on the telephone and vise versa, the hearing person could talk to the deaf person on the telephone. Technology enabled the deaf to connect to the mainstream world. Song signing performances were being booked across the country, people wanted to learn sign language and movies like “Children of a Lesser God” were a big hit. Marlee Matlin was the first deaf actor to get an Academy Award. In addition, Hearing dogs were becoming more publicized through the efforts of Canine Companions for Independence even though the first hearing dog program started in 1968 by International Hearing Dog, INC.

A slogan became popular in the late 1980's, which started out in the deaf culture.  "I'm not deaf, I'm ignoring you" made it in the mainstream. Of course it means one thing to a hearing person and means something completely different to a deaf person. Deaf individuals were getting tired of hearing people saying they were only faking their hearing loss and that they heard when they wanted to hear. The deaf community came up with the slogan of, "I'm not deaf, I'm ignoring you" as way to release some ironic humor.

As a society and its perception of the disabled, we were moving forward. People were seeing that the disabled are not the pathetic people who couldn't do much with their lives anymore. That someone who is deaf or blind are not freaks and we do not need to be ostracized. We are different, and we may have to do things differently, but that shouldn’t cause people to ostracize us. People were getting it, people were having more open minds, it seemed the open minds and understanding was at an all time high. Except now that blindness and deafness is no longer a fad, no recent big hit movies, and no PSAs we are turning into a time we need to educate people again. I'm seeing a change of lack of understanding. I sometimes see it harder to educate people now than ever before. People look at us as if we want special treatment. There is a big difference between accommodations and special treatment.

The disabled are people too and sometimes the masses think we are just like them, but we are not. We are human beings like them, have feelings like them, have human nature like them, like to laugh and have fun like them, but we have to function differently depending on the disability. People need to be open to us functioning different. This also could mean our behavior is different, or look different, talk different, walk different and socialize different. Its hard to function in a world that thinks you need to perform a certain way, like everyone else, because you are an average human. To function different is my way of life, apart of me and it shapes me, my personality and how I function in the world. It is weird to other people, but it is all I know. Why do people have fear around that?

I have experienced when I start in a new place like work, a class or a gathering, at first people are all excited to be able to have a disabled person come to their party, be in their class or come to the workplace. It is a new novelty. Isn’t this exciting we have someone different. Now we finally have a chance to show off we accept the disabled, except what does that really mean? At this time the different is neat and cool. But if people find out later they must change themselves or the person must do or learn differently, people shy away. Then if I don't respond to them the way they expect, then they think I'm stuck up. Or I blew them off. could it be I couldn't hear or see you?  Add an assistance dog to the situation and there are mixed feelings. Some people love dogs and think it is cool that a person can have a dog to assist them, to make their lives more independent. Then you see some people jealous that you can get away with having your dog and they can't take their dog every where. Then on the contrary,  While others see dogs as dirty animals that must stay outside. Does an assistance dog compliment the disabled person or make them seem more disabled or weird. Will they be more ostracized in the workplace or in public because of their dog? It is definitely a mix. In public, it is no big deal, you do your thing, your dog accompanies you, and you move on. Once in awhile, you will have someone persistent to have your dog removed. Clarification of the law, most of the time educated people that your dog is allowed. In the workplace, some people have to face this animosity every day. You feel the tension, every day. You feel the ostracizing and it can be subtle, but the actions are strong, like not having anyone take the time to answer a question. It will be short and just barely enough to grasp onto the information you need. They look at you with matter of fact attitude and ok we are done, I told you enough attitude. The words were not spoken, but the actionn definitely speak louder than words. They will say "Hi" to show they are polite, but won't include you in on information or anything that makes you an equal.

As I try to find others around me who are in the workplace, it is challenging. Can I find someone to relate to? In general, it is difficult. Finding a national conference on deaf-blind issues, may find someone like you and then you realize you are not the only one. Still very few, but finding one or two is better than none.

When I talk to a counselor of the State Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, it is disheartening to find that today, society is still ostracizing the disabled. Unemployment is 50-75% for the disabled and this statistic is from when the economy was doing very good. I personally know people who just cannot take the stress of dealing with people in the workplace, on top of trying to brake down their barriers. My Department of Vocational Rehabilitation counselor tells me that she has boxes and stacks of cases that are depressing. Very few are successful and most do not have the drive or ambition to overcome all the hurdles that comes with the “baggage” to the eyes of other people. Attitudes and ignorance of other people is very difficult to overcome.

They say the number one fear of people is the fear of rejection. The disabled get rejected constantly and frequently. This is why many stay in their homes and not come out. They may go to the store, because on the surface people can be nice, but once they get to know you and find you do have a real disability, they shy away, they can't handle it. Once in awhile a hearing or sighted person will have this happen, maybe 3% or less in their lives. Try to deal with it when it is more than 50% of the people in your life. Even relatives that think you are a freak and maybe retarded when you are not.

People will advise, don’t let it bother you, while they are in a circle of normalcy among the other co-workers or in society. How on earth could they even begin to understand? They are in the circles in the "in group" just like high school all over again. In the workplace, they think you want to be “friends” with everyone, no we just want a normal environment. They are treating you like they are back in high school, ostracizing you from their in group, while all you want to do is learn your job and have a working relationship. Some people do strive for friendship, I strive for community.

When you do not let it “bother you” then you are a recluse, or some other thing that someone will criticize. You are the scape goat or the dart board. However, in some situations, that same criticism is a way for them to justify themselves for not treating you as an equal. They now have an excuse not to treat you normal. It is justification that they don't have to include you or accept you. Of course it isn't your disability, they find other issues to bring to the attention of management that I'm too slow, I'm not up to par, I'm not as smart, I'm not doing this right, I need to read my directives. All excuses to keep me at a distance. They create the hostile environment that leaves the disabled person ostracized. But they will quickly point out how they say "Hi" to me, I may miss it, but they have justification that I'm rude because I didnt' say "Hi" back. When I see this happen, I want to scream "Get Out of High School!" "Get over yourself" and treat me like a normal co-worker who doesn't do things like your or most other people. hings slightly different.
I have had 23 different jobs in my lifetime. I’m also including volunteer work, internships and paid seasonal work I have done. I have been in a variety of places of work. I have worked in a small mom and pop businesses, federal government, the school system, small corporations, large Corporate America, non-profit organizations etc. I have been with co-workers who have been awesome and made me feel like a human being. This didn't occur often. Most places I have worked, I have to deal with either a small few to a whole office that give off negative energy towards me. The small few I can deal with, but when it is a whole office, that is tough. I also find the more difficult the people, the more they try to justify their actions for treating me this way by saying, "Don't let it bother you." But these lessons are a reminder of how strong I am in a critical world. I have a strong belief if I cannot handle a tough situation, then I'm not grounded in who I know who I am. The irony of this too is, I'm stronger than these people who say "Don't let it bother you" because if the tables were turned, they really would not be able to handle it as well as I do.

I find it interesting how some people can be so ostracizing, they will smile and say "Hi" to you one moment and turn around where they can’t even have lunch with you. I realize lunch is a social thing and not a work thing, but still to have no one in your department have lunch with you is certainly ostracizing. I did have one person who kept asking me to go out lunch, but it was always presented in the future. “We need to go out to lunch sometime.” But she never said let’s go today. I figured when she stopped, it was she didn’t want to go to lunch with me and my hearing dog. People do have issues with dogs.

I only have three people that I normally talk to on my floor at work. We only talk at work. Everyone else seem to be a bit more tense polite. They will be congenial, but wish you would go away. You wish they could relax and realize you are a cool dude, but that doesn't happen. They do not realize how rude their actions are and that I have to deal with this every day and most of every body at work. It gets old. This isn't about being friends, it is about being treated normal and being apart of a working community. I'm left to stand alone. When infants are born, if they are shoved off, they wither and die or become severely mentally damaged. I work hard with myself, and coach myself every day, do not let small minded people ruin your life. You have too much to give and have too much talent to waste on them. Focus on what you need. You know that there are good people out there. You have made quite an impression on many people, don't let some insecure people who cannot handle life get you down. Find your ground. Find your happiness. These people haven't found happiness and they want to bring you down.

Being deprived of normal social interaction is difficult. Humans are social creatures and if we do not fulfill this need, it can be difficult. People take for granted just simple interactions that I'm deprived. I really wish there was some how I could turn the situation and I know they wouldn't be able to handle it as well as I could because only weak people ostracize people, not people with strength and integrity.

If you would confront these people they would deny it. They want to think we are civilized people, but in general they are not. Proof in this is watch TV. We want to see perfect looking people. That’s what sells a program. Sitcoms really put down people who are different, maybe a little slower or not as quick with the wit they are really put down. TV is literally anti-disabled, even though you will see an actor that is portraying a disability or they actually have one. But this is also very rare or it is in a mature program.
Just as Law Enforcement is all about physical physique and how long you can hold out in harsh conditions. The only disabled that are accepted are disabled veterans. But the rest of us, you see the slight subtle curl of the lip and eyes of patronization. They mentally put “idiot” on our forehead. Their aura is, "you are beneath us." If we have to do something different, they don’t like it. They are not open to understand why someone would have to learn something different. One size fits all, Law Enforcement is para-military. You have to do it all the same or you don’t cut the mustard. It is only laws for the disabled individuals that protect us, otherwise we would be long booted out. These laws also are resented by these thugs that can't open their minds and hearts to learn something new and inspiring. We have to cover it all up, show the toughness, never show weakness, but their perception of weakness is obscured by their arrogance.

I have a private office due to an apparent severe allergic reaction someone has to my hearing dog. Not only am I socially ostracized from my Department, but I’m also physically separated. I will go for weeks without anyone coming to my office, just to say "Hi," and make sure I'm alive. Others have a daily routine where first thing in the morning they will go around and say “Hi” to everyone. They never come to say “Hi” to me. But I’m suppose to smile anyway. I’m suppose to let this stuff slide off my back. But if they were in the same situation, it would be different. Besides, I’m fortunate to have an office all to myself. I’m getting a benefit over everyone else. But this is going back to the 1950’s when the deaf use to be put in mental institutions or had segregated schools. I went to a segregated school for the blind in elementary school. I felt so accepted by my peers. When I tried to be mainstream in 3rd grade, it was a very hostile and horrible experience. I actually enjoyed going back to my “blind” school with my peers. I was protected from the harshness of the real world and how they perceive me. At my blind school, t there I was treated like an equal. Not some freak or ugly dork. There is no one that this would affect one way or another. Of course we can put up a front. Pretend this isn't happening to us e, which many disabled people do. But get them in a support group and the tears run down their faces in how horrible, cruel and cold people can be and they don't have to be this way.
A few jobs that I have had, before my first day, my co-workers knew I was coming. Imagine having spread around the office that someone with a vision and a hearing impairment will be working with you. In two places it was received in a very negative manner. People were instantly having negative thoughts about me and I hadn't even met them yet. Can you imagine walking into a situation like that, people have a negative outlook towards you before you even get a chance to give a first impression? I found out later after a nice person have gotten to know me, they told me the harsh gossip that went around about me before I came. Usually people are happy to know a new person is coming. Not me, they see me as baggage or a hassle. They dread me.They sometimes go to the extent to harass me to get me to leave. Maybe if we are really mean to her, she will leave and the problem will go away. They can't learn to know me or learn how to deal with me, they treat me as an enemy that needs to be eliminated. Boy, this mentality makes your blood rush and you want to show them you can be happy, positive and not be like them. That's how you win and that's how you set your ground.

They will say lies about you, twist your words so they can try to get you booted out or fired. They will think of other things to indirectly harass you so they can be free of any guilt. They are gutless people who can't even talk to you like a human in your face. For me to rise above this gives me empowerment. For me to continue to keep my integrity, while all the lies and evil events around me occur, makes me feel stronger. I'm more grounded than I thought. Does the stress of this go away? Of course not, but it gives me something to work on to be a better person every day. that when I can go work in a place that people accept me, it will be a dream and I will appreciate the people so much more.

Interesting that I’m an outwardly type person, very much with an expressive personality. This is why I enjoyed being a park ranger and a teacher. I'm almost to the point I'm theatrical. I will express my feelings and people will interpret this as being too sensitive or weak. Then I see how they respond to stupid little things and I wonder, how on earth could they handle what I go through every day and they call me sensitive? Wow, I really am a strong person. Outward expression in no way means you are weak. Although people think stoic people are strong, no, they just hide or cover up. This actually can be more dangerous. But looking and seeing what I have gone through like first, dealing with two disabilities, second, dealing with how to over come them and then three, dealing with people who are so clueless, rude, and ignorant. I look back at my life and know very well I’m a very strong person. People misread, mislabel or have mis-conceptions on how people should act, which doesn’t always reflect the type of person they are in this life. I have become to believe, the average person has been so spoiled and pampered by urban life that they really do not know what is life, what is being tough and what strength some people have. People are superficial in being absorbed in texting, fashion models of plastic on billboards and television. Where is the real life?

As a society, we can't handle deformity or something not plastic perfect. Look at all the plastic surgery people are having today. People taking out a loan to have their body shaped to something they perceive as perfect. What happen to living life in enjoying people, not an external plastic shell?

We pretend to be nice, but deep down inside they have an uneasy feeling. Most disabled individuals feel this right away. I know for me it makes me very uneasy. I have a hard time knowing how to handle people who are uneasy with me. I work very hard in how to connect to people. But when there is no connection, I want to work harder to reach the person and sometimes, sadly, it makes the issue worse. I want to put people at ease and just don’t know how to do it. How can I? I’m different, I’m the freak so how can someone different or is perceived as a freak ease this? I want to show, "I'm really ok!" You don't have to be afraid or scared of me. You don't have to be uneasy. I'm a human being just like you, you just need to perceive me in a different way.

This uneasiness is a burden that is dumped on me. The other person is with the problem, but they expect me to fix it. I cannot fix other people’s attitudes, and prejudices. Unfortunately if I want someone’s attitude to change towards me, the situation is dumped on me if it is right or not.

I have read several books on people skills, how to communicate and how to understand the other person. When I'm around a lot of negativity, I wear down and have to recoup to regain my passion within myself. I get energy from those with positive energy. Negative energy does bring me down. I feel this, I have limited hearing and vision so my other senses are more in tuned. Trying to shut this off is like a hearing person trying to shut their hearing off and a blind person going around with a blind fold on. The way I perceive the world is different from most people and I need to connect to my work in a different way. Please be excited that I actually do find away to connect my world instead  of fearing this unique and special way to connect to my world. I want to meet you, can you try and meet me with an open mind?

1 comment:

  1. Spot on, Christie. You said it all. I have been hearing impaired (60%) all my life and people just really stink. I used to say that 98% of people I have met, do not accept me nor treat me normally.