Over the weekend, I attended an HLAA/ALDA picnic at a park in Indiana. Some of you who have been reading my blog, may remember the picnic from last year where I brought my dog along with me as an icebreaker. This year I felt comfortable enough to venture out on my own. Upon arriving at the busy park, I wondered if I was in the right spot as there were youth soccer games being played nearby. Then I noticed that several people gathered beneath the picnic shelter were signing and I knew for sure I had found the right place.
I saw several people I had met before which set me at ease right away. I spotted Julie (pictured) right away and got put to work helping her set up a table of brochures and pamphlets. Working on this task allowed me to make a new friend, Jennifer, who had come to the event from Indianapolis to represent Bionic Ear. I enjoyed learning how getting two cochlear implants have improved her hearing. Her mother who was with her wore a t-shirt with Jennifer's audiogram on the back. The audiogram showed Jennifer's unaided hearing, her hearing with hearing aids, and her hearing with cochlear implants. I was so happy for her to see how much the implants had improved her hearing! I also noted how much better she hears than I do in the higher frequencies.
I also met Ken, a man close to my age who has had a similar hearing loss experience to mine. I could really relate when he commented that he can hear people speaking, but comprehending their speech can be a different story. He also had some amusing hearing loss anecdotes to share.
I was very moved by a conversation with a man whose name I can't remember now who spoke of feeling accepted in the deaf world after experiencing rejection in the hearing world. He is married to a woman who's deaf and I'd be interested to know more about what their life is like together. Many deaf people attended the picnic which inspired me to want to improve on my signing skills so I can interact more fully with them the next time.
One funny thing happened that I just have to share. I was eating with Julie and Ken when a woman named Ann joined us at the table. When we were introduced, I was struck by the familiarity of her name. I asked her if I had met her at another event but she said no. Later on near the end of the picnic she came up to me and said, "You're Speak Up Librarian." I said "Yes". Then she explained that she'd seen my moniker on a flyer for my t-shirts and told someone she wanted to meet me. To her surprise I was the person she had sat next to at lunch. She hadn't noticed the shirt I was wearing with "Speak Up" on it and so hadn't made the connection. She knew me not from my blog but from my email address and my work on the Hearing Aids Insurance advocacy bill. She told me how much the research material I had sent her had helped her. She shared her confidence that this bill would be passed very soon in Illlinois. Hooray!
Last but not least, I made my first t-shirt sale. An older deaf gentleman was very interested in purchasing my "If you want to be heard, you need to speak up" T-shirt. He doesn't have a computer of his own, so I arranged to order it for him and then deliver it when it arrives. Fortunately he lives near where I work, so we'll see how this works out. All the flyers I had brought with me to the picnic were picked up and I received a positive response from everyone who talked to me about the designs.
During the four hours I was there, I interacted with many others not mentioned here. I've never been to a family reunion but this event had what I would imagine was a similar atmosphere. A feeling of belonging and an opportunity to get to know others better. To paraphrase the Cheers theme, "Everyone may not know your name, but they're all glad you came!"