I’m Tracey. I’m 45 and I am hearing impaired. That’s my favourite term to explain. Sometimes I say “profoundly deaf” if people are not really too sure what “hearing impaired” means ‑ is it a little bit deaf or is it major? So it just depends on the context and who I am with, but generally speaking, I like to go by “hearing impaired”.
35 years ago I went to a mainstream school and I was the only student with a hearing loss. It became apparent that having carpet in the classroom would be a help to me to muffle loud sounds, but for whatever reason, the teachers and the Department of Education didn’t think it was a good idea despite the fact that my parents even offered to pay for the carpeting. They were resistant to change. There was a lack of understanding. But my parents, they advocated and so, I was placed in the front row. I wanted to be in the front row because I knew from a very young age that lipreading was my survival key to get through. But then, I had the problem that the teachers, when they were writing on the blackboard, did not turn around. So primary school was a struggle, a really big struggle.
After high school I became a hairdresser. And there was another big access issue in my hairdressing salon: that a requirement of being a hairdresser was to answer the telephone. Well, that was a barrier for me as technology regarding National Relay Service wasn’t really around then. So my wonderful mother, who had recently retired, worked for me for nothing. She was my receptionist and answered the telephone. That is the only way I was able to get a job as a hairdresser.
From a social point of view, I am very selective about where I go. I live in Wangaratta, a relatively small town, where I prefer to get takeaway and go to a park where I have open space and my girls can run around. I do like going to those great big clubs where you order something at the bar and then you get a little machine and you take it with you and then when your order is ready, it flashes a light. That visual aspect really does help. Going to McDonald’s is a very good experience for me because when I go through the drive‑through ‑ of course I’m not able to hear what the box is saying to me, but I just say my order, and then I get the confirmation on the menu page. So I am able to double check my order.
All in all, I think access is improving. Who knows what it will be like in 20 years’ time? I think that’s something to be really hopeful for.