I hope everyone is feeling okay as the nights get colder and summer comes to an end. As my fifth year started, I was beginning to move into my new house for the year, when I started feeling anxious about something in particular.
I don’t wear my hearing aids when I am alone. It is very freeing to be able to take it out at the end of the day, both emotionally and physically. I get listening fatigue at the end of the day and all the sounds can be quite overwhelming. They also feel heavy at the end of the day, especially when my poor ears have to hold my glasses and mask as well! I feel a real joy in being able to shut out the world when I choose to, and being able to tap back in when I want.
This means I don’t feel disabled when I am alone, rather, I am disabled by barriers in society. I am unable to enjoy cinema screenings without subtitles (and when captioned screenings do run, it is once a month at 2pm on a Wednesday!) I cannot enjoy music the same way without lyrics. I cannot hear people in groups, in dim lighting and in crowds. In all of this, my frustration comes from having to trust people and systems that often know and understand little about disability. My accessibility relies on other people, and I have no choice but to accept this.
Back to how this came up in the midst of packing boxes for my new room. Every year at uni, someone has walked into my room, when I have not expected it. I cannot hear any knocking or talking, so the absence of my response leads to people thinking there is no one inside. Though this is not the individuals’ fault, I have repeatedly felt upset, humiliated and helpless. In 1st year, I was in the middle of getting changed when someone walked in. In 3rd year, I woke up to three people in my room. All of these experiences have made me quite paranoid that someone might come in at any time, even when I am sleeping.
In my 4th year, I started using a doorbell fitted on my door, which is connected to a device by my bed that lights up and plays a loud, high-pitched sound. I use the Honeywell Series 3 portable wireless doorbell, bought from Connevans (a really good shop for all disability-related!)
This has been working well for me but the paranoia still has not left me. So when I moved house this year, I was glad to be able to start the year with the wireless doorbell. This is when I realised the doorbell was screwed onto the door of the old room! This led to some confusion, with a staff member about to enter my room one morning. Thankfully, the knocking was loud enough to wake me up from my sleep and I was able to call out to them to stop just before they pushed the door open. Ultimately, the situation was resolved and the doorbell had been successfully fixed to the door of my new room. Although there was no real incident that day, it still upset me that there was little I could do but rely on other people for my accessibility, peace of mind and feeling of safety.
I write this not to blame anyone. My university experience has been amazing, and all of the people above have done nothing wrong knowingly. Rather, I wanted to just talk about how helpless disability can make us feel, and how even with the best intentions, our accessibility relies on the understanding of non-disabled people, and this can be scary. If you ever want to talk to anyone about this, or just want to share your experiences, please do reach out to me. I send love,