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Saturday, March 27, 2010

I'll Be the Eyes, You Be the Ears

One silver lining to my hearing loss is that I have become more sensitive to challenges that people with other disabilities have. For example, one of my work friends has mobility issues. She often complains to me about objects she finds carelessly set in her way. Things that can be easily walked around but are an obstacle to someone on a scooter. I don't think anyone intentionally leaves a library cart or other impediment out with the idea of blocking her access but the result is the same. Listening to her vent her frustration has raised my awareness of how I can make life a little easier by moving things aside near the doorway and always keeping a clear path to my cubicle.

Last week I assisted a patron in a wheelchair. She was unable to see the computer screen that another librarian was using to answer her question, so I brought around printouts for her to see. When she was ready to go to the stacks for books, I accompanied her. She commented how annoying it is that step stools are left out in every aisle blocking her access to the shelves. I had never considered that problem before and urged her to express this concern on our library's suggestion form even going so far as bringing over a blank form for her. I don't know if she filled it out or not, so I may need to follow up on this myself. I just hate the idea of someone feeling shut out from browsing our library collection.

Another time I helped a woman at the photocopier who admitted to me she has visual difficulties. "That's okay", I responded, "I don't hear so well. I'll be the eyes and you be the ears."

But even though I've become more aware of how challenging ordinary situations can be, I still have much to learn. This was demonstrated to me one day, when a student asked to be shown where our machine is that magnifies written material. She had been to the library to use it once before but due to her visual difficulties needed me to guide her to where it was located. I was happy to assist with her request. When we got there, I asked if there was anything else I could do for her and she explained that she needed to reschedule an appointment with a campus writing tutor. I suggested we use the telephone at the reference desk. We went back there, I dialed the number for her, and gave her the phone. When she was finished, I asked if there was anything else I could do. She said yes, that she needed to be shown the way back to the magnifier machine. Duh! I felt so bad that I had just assumed she could get back there on her own. It gave me a flash of understanding as to how hearing people can seemingly forget my communication needs.


Jonathan said...

I loved this article!

Even though I do feel that I'm quite consider of others, I don't think I can be 100% bang on when trying to accommodate things for people who may have a vision loss, a hearing loss, or whatever. The final sentence of your blog was such a revelation that I think my view on hearing people's attitudes about people who have a hearing loss has been changed forever!

Thanks so much for sharing that with us.

kim said...

I have also found this to be true. Being challenged made me more aware of how fortunate I am to be able to see, think, and move-- and when I meet others who can't, I feel we are kindred spirits, even though our specific challenges are different.

SpeakUp Librarian said...

Thank you, Jonathan. I'm really touched by your kind words.

Kim, You put it better than I did "we are kindred spirits" - that's exactly what I felt when I was assisting the lady at the photocopier and we were both open and honest about our limitations. Thanks for your comment.