There is a saying that goes like this: “We’re all disabled at some point or another.” It’s usually because of a broken leg, rendering building access more difficult, or at night, when we no longer see as clearly as during the day, or just when we get older.
But how about being deaf?
Sure, you could just use some earplugs, and try to live a day, but it’s not realistic.
How about travelling to a place where you would feel deaf?
1. Foreign country: sort of deaf
If you travel to a different country using a language fairly different from yours, that you do not speak, you can hope to experience living as functionally deaf.
Go to a country known for its limited English, and aim at a smallish town.
Now, you’re effectively deaf as if you were in your own country:
sure, you can hear, but don’t understand a thing;
yet, you can still read everything (thanks to an app to translate anything with your phone’s camera);
with a mask, forget about lip reading (assuming you could).
2. Time to test some activities
Some activities are easy, such as going to the restaurant, because they provide a written menu, so you can read, select and point at what you want when the waiter comes to take your order.
You could wave your credit card to show your intend to pay, and read the price on the credit card machine.
Forget about arguing about allergies, or errors in the bill, though.
Going to the shop is very similar: prices are displayed on each product, you have all the time you need to check them out, and the total price is displayed at the cashier.
2.3. The Doctor
Feeling ill? Let’s go visit the doctor.
You might want to check the opening hours. Try to see if they have a website.
If you’re lucky, you might be able to book an appointment online.
If you’re not, you need to call, or to go there first.
You can prepare notes with pre-made sentences to explain your needs.
Once you see the doctor, describing and understanding the process will heavily rely on your notes or on your phone.
Good luck with impatient doctors.
(Fun fact: I once visited an ORL requiring phone calls for appointments…)
The prescription part is rather easy: it’s written down, and passed to the chemist. Pay, and it’s done. You can even read the dosage and the side effects from the piece of paper that comes with the medicine box.
2.4. Internet Access Provider
Signing a contract with an internet access provider is rather easy, and you may even be able to do it online.
Yet, if you have issues, many hotline services are calls only. For those able to hear, they might have to wait an uncountable amount of minutes, and navigate a robotic, multi-choice maze to talk to a human (often with no choice of language).
Even if you managed to get a human, not much will happen.
Actually, you might probably be hanged up upon with rude language if you do.
Many people seem to be rude if you can’t speak or hear.
If you’re really lucky, your IAP might provide an online help forum.
A technician might come to your house, and might call you to confirm your address, or because they are stuck at the entrance of the building.
Better wait at the entrance, just in case.
Hopefully, that person is nice enough, but be ready for some rudeness.
Fancy a film?
If the film is dubbed in the local language, you have very little chance of having subtitles. Some cinemas have better choices of non-dubbed foreign films with subtitles. Films for kids, or local movies won’t be subtitled though.
Really, it’s better to find the film you want online with proper subtitles.
3. Smartphone: the good parts
Smartphones are really great at helping if you can’t hear:
you can write notes on them without a pen;
they can record what people say, and transcribe it on the fly for you to read;
they vibrate if they recognise certain sounds (alarms, crying, etc.);
they show subtitles in videos;
4. Smartphone: the bad parts
However, some parts are really unusable:
getting a call? no way to record it easily, and no transcription on the fly. Voicemail? Same;
someone sends an audio recording to you on a messaging app? No transcription available.
Our phones support dictation, so they should be supporting that out of the box.
If you’ve ever travelled to a different country where you don’t speak the language, you might have felt how being deaf can feel.
Back home? Try to notice how many services around you depend on information that is only available with sound or voice.
Do something about it, for the next person, but also for your future self.