I am increasingly beginning to feel the isolation that COVID-19 is creating in my life, and I'm not referring just to the social isolation of not meeting or interacting with others.
I don’t hear. I use hearing aids - heavy-duty, hi-tech Resound GN digital ones that can be fine-tuned to suit situations. I also lipread and both combined together (the aids and lipreading) have so far allowed me to lead an independent life. And now with the pandemic, social distancing and self-isolation protocols have made it difficult for me because they limit my human interactions and my ability to see people face to face — major aspects of communication for the deaf.
The mask seems to shut me out from everything. At times it’s overwhelming. Anyone with profound deafness will have difficulty with muffled speech. I now avoid picking up deliveries at the gate, and thanks to the family, I cope. What’s disturbing is that I know masks will be needed in the future but I can’t bring myself to contemplate living in a world of masks.
I’m invited to a webinar, Zoom calls galore but there isn't any captioning. I can't hear a speaker if they don’t have their video on. Sometimes if there's poor network, the words being spoken don’t lip sync. I disengage or I get exhausted trying to catch up. And it leaves me wondering at the paradox - is it that I am being brave in crossing comfort zones in attempting this or foolish that at the end of it I’m left feeling frustrated at not being able to listen to what’s spoken?
Then again I do have help. I have my daughter sitting by my side nudging me when I am called out and have to speak/share on a Zoom call. I have support through people who haven’t forgotten I am profoundly deaf and who look out for me.
Thank you Jyotsna for writing about just how far we need to go on the path of inclusion in these times. I am sure that your words will resonate with those facing the same challenges and I hope that amplifying the message can pave the way to solutions and inclusivity.