By MARY KAYE FALCONY
A PLACE FOR ALL
Most of us are familiar with the phrase “can you hear me now” made popular by an advertisement produced by Verizon wireless in the early 2000s. In the commercial, it was emphasized how important it is for one to be able to hear and hear clearly. I am sure that many of us in the hearing world rarely think of this ability unless for some reason we are deprived of it, or our attention is drawn to its presence or absence.
This is not the case for the five million people in the United States who are deaf or experience hearing loss. For these individuals, living in the hearing world comes with certain challenges.
For those of us who are not deaf or have no hearing loss, these challenges may not be evident. I know this was true for me until I journeyed with my mom as she began to navigate her life in a new way because of significant hearing loss. It was only then that the realities of what it was like living in a hearing world without being able to hear became clear.
Accompanying my mom to the audiologists allowed me to experience first-hand what she could no longer hear – what she was missing. This visit also provided insights as to how it was impacting her everyday life and what we could do as a family to accommodate her new circumstance so that she did not feel isolated but, instead, felt engaged in all aspects of her life.
I share this experience with you about my mom because, in our parish communities, we have individuals who may be experiencing hearing loss or may be deaf. And they may need accommodations to fully participate in the life of the Church. It is important for us to recognize “there is a broad spectrum of auditory differences which call for varying types of accommodations and programs” (National Catholic Partnership on Disability). There are organizations that may be of great help to parish communities in providing information and resources which will allow for greater understanding and practical solutions for parish life.
One organization is the National Catholic Office for the Deaf. Its mission is to serve the Church by promoting the full and active participation of deaf and hard-of-hearing Catholics in the mission of Jesus Christ. Please visit www.ncod.org to explore all it has to offer. The National Catholic Partnership on Disability, ncpd.org, also provides information, resources and personal stories that help us understand the experience of those who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
Finally, I would like to bring to your attention two recently developed resources for faith formation for the Deaf community. “Hands of Grace: The Catholic Sacraments in American Sign Language” and “ASL YOUCAT,” which is the Youth Catechism translated into American Sign Language.
In the future, I hope to share more on this topic.