Hello everyone welcome back to Hear and Now Podcast, my name is Sophia and in today’s episode we are going to be talking about my unconventional approach to education and how I managed to cope with hearing loss. If you are new here make sure you subscribe, like us on Facebook at Hear and Now Podcast, and follow me on instagram. I changed my user name to @sophialebano to match my website. As always, link to transcripts will be provided in the show notes below or at sophialebano.com/podcast. If you haven’t done so make sure you catch up on my most recent episodes.
So, to recap from last week’s episode, I mentioned that I had to withdraw from a school that was unable to accommodate me as they had originally promised. It isn’t the first time that I’ve heard a school tell me that. It’s been my story for the past 12 years, and because of it I feel like I’ve lost trust in the educational system. It’s annoying, because I love to learn. And I know that sounds stupid, but I love to learn about new things. You can literally find me googling something new everyday, whether it’s reading someone’s biography on wikipedia or learning how to code html players into WordPress.
My high school career was the craziest 4 years of my life. I was enrolled in 4 different schools, but actually attended 3. I did common core curriculum, distance learning, and classical education. I attended a common core school for my freshman year, and then the first semester of sophomore year. Sophomore year was rough – it is truly the sophomore slump year. I started to feel myself slipping away as my accommodations were too.
Just a quick note, when I say accommodations, for those who don’t know – accommodations means students and people with disabilities need extra support to function. So as examples, an accommodation for a deaf person means having closed captioning on videos, being exempt from oral tests, etc. They aren’t designed to necessarily make life easier or give us advantage, but to give us a fair playing ground with those who don’t have the same challenges. It could be anyone with a disability.
One of the most memorable moments that I have in the last few years, was the time I discovered the difference between equality and equity. I saw a picture on Pinterest, and if I can find it, I will link it in the show notes and on my website. But basically, the picture was three guys standing at a closed fence, each was taller than the other. None could see over the fence, so they got boxes to increase their height. There were 3 boxes in total. If you think of equality, each person got one box each. But because the one was taller than the others, the boxes did nothing for the smaller two. The tallest could see over the fence even without a box.
But for equity, equity would mean giving the shorter man two boxes, the medium one, and the tallest none. This way, all men have an equal playing field and are given the same opportunities.
The third image removed the boxes, and replaced the wooden fence for a chain link one. This way, all could see the game without support or accommodations because the inequity and inequalities were taken care. Equality is sameness, while equity is fairness.
The same remains true for those with disabilities. We don’t want equality, but equity. My classmates used to think that I was “using” my disability to get out of certain things and to cheat the system. In reality, I wasn’t given the opportunity to participate because equity wasn’t instilled.
Another short story, I remember in my sophomore year of high school, I went back for a retreat before making my decision to fully leave. I had just had my surgery and only been activated a few days prior. Everything sounded really weird, like Darth Vader and Donald Duck. We had reached out to the school a few nights before to make sure that accommodations were in place so I could still participate in the activities. Sure enough, I got there and we were going to play a game called ships and sailors. This game was a “hearing game” but I’ve played it before and I’ve never had any problems. One of the teachers approached me and said “I don’t think that you should play this game. Sit this one out, because you need to hear in this game.”
Normally I would have countered her, but I was so stunned that I sat down (basically with my dunce cap on) in front of 150 people while the teacher sat next to me. It was one of the most humiliating moments of my life. The reason I mention that is the lack of equity. I was not even given the opportunity that my classmates got.
After that day, I knew that I was done there. I went back to my locker (secretly) and cleaned it out. I haven’t been back since that day.
Following that day, I enrolled in an online school where I completed my sophomore year, all while healing from my surgery and attending listening therapy. That March, one of my very good friends who lives halfway around the world, came to stay with us and helped spread the word about hearing loss awareness. She’s a musician and isn’t letting her hearing loss stop her. Shoutout to you Eloise! I miss you.
That summer I attended camp to learn how to be a better advocate. I was enrolled in a new school, but they had told us they couldn’t guarantee accommodations. I was stuck, because I didn’t want to keep doing the same thing over again. When I got back from camp and vacation, I withdrew from that school and enrolled in a small classical school, where I graduated with only 3 other seniors in the class (yes its that small). I had the time of my life there, and I was thriving.
I got my second implant in May of my junior year, and I was back to school 5 days later. The support there was insane. I loved every single person there, every teacher and staff member. Junior year was the best year of my life.
I’m just not going to talk about senior year because I don’t even know what happened there but I get to college and the same accommodations were again not in place, and I figured it was time to take matters in my own hands and handle this.
With all that being said, education for me hasn’t been conventional. Not going through the same path as everyone else. I’m not going to keep talking about myself, so I’m going to give you a job to do.
September is deaf awareness month, and your task is to educate someone. I don’t mean go up to a random person on the street, but if you are deaf/hard of hearing, know someone who is, or you have a child that is, educate someone on your needs. If you are talking to someone who is hard to understand, remind them that you need them to speak clearly or write it down. The world won’t know until you bring it up. I can’t tell you how many times someone will be impacted by you because you spoke up for yourself. Maybe throw out this fact – hearing loss is 30% of the world population. There are about 327,000 people who have been implanted with cochlear implants. Hearing loss and deafness are known as invisible disabilities, because people rarely know unless you speak up for yourself. It’s so invisible that I knew someone for three years and they didn’t even know I was deaf. I went on a tour of another college yesterday and the person said to me that she would have never known because I speak so well. My speech has improved so much since I first lost my hearing. Go out and educate people.
So take the challenge in September, educate the world and it will thank you. The hearing loss community will thank you, and so will I! I want to see you guys spread the word this month. So, if you are listening to this, use the hashtags #hearandnowpodcast and #deafawarenessmonth – share a picture of you listening to the podcast, share a fact about deafness and educate others! I can’t wait to see your posts, and make sure to tag me in them as well. Comment on my instagram and I will try to be active this month. I want to educate you on hearing loss awareness. You make the world a better place because you are in it.
That is all for this week’s episode, make sure you follow me on Instagram at sophialebano, like the facebook page, and subscribe to the blog mailing list at sophialebano.com, subscribe to the podcast. Comment or direct message me on instagram and let me know what you want to see in the future.
Thank you guys so much for listening to this week’s episode! Happy September, happy deaf awareness month! See you next week. Bye guys.