|Photo description: a purple bejewelled hearing aid worn in an ear with two piercings|
I was watching television last night and saw an advertisement aimed at the senior crowd. It was for a 'discrete' brand of hearing aids and it was clearly demonstrated that, when worn, it was virtually invisible. Now the nice, pleasant face, honey voiced senior man who was pitching the product made it clear that this product would make voices more distinct and conversations easily heard. The benefits were clearly stated, hearing wise. But it seemed that the primary pitch was that no one will know, that the product hides the shame of using a hearing aid. It was all very subtle, but it was wild to watch how carefully they phrased everything. If the fellow could have whispered and been heard, he would have.
This stands in stark contrast to a teen girl I saw walking with friends wearing two brightly turquoise hearing aids. Her hair was cut short. They were plainly visible, more than that they called out to be seen. They, and she, were simply beautiful. Her choice of those hearing aids, I believe was not casual. The sheer brightness of the turquoise belied that assumption. They were there to be seen. They were worn with purpose. Purpose made fun, purpose made fashionable, purpose made turquoise - but there was purpose there.
The stark contrast of this young teen proudly displaying, even calling attention to, her disability gives me great hope that, maybe, a change is coming. Older people who are discovering they need assistance want to cloak and shield that need from view. It's as if they want to jump into the disability closet and hide away. They come from a time when shame was attached to disability.
And it still is.
But less so. People with disabilities who are growing up and into an era where disability pride has begun to raise awareness of the need to eschew shame and embrace difference are making very different choices. I wrote a long while back about seeing a handsome man on an airport shuttle wearing bright yellow and blue elbow crutches that just screamed for visibility. That was the first time I'd seen brightly coloured crutches. But ...
|Photo Description: Four brightly coloured elbow crutches, green and blue, blue and yellow, black and green, black and brown.|
... they come in many colours, fitting a variety of personalities and a myriad of outfits. They've become something that can be considered both a fashion accessory and a helpful aid for walking.
So, just from watching that commercial on a day I saw a young girl proudly wearing her hearing aids ... I have determined that shame is lifting and change is coming.
I hope I'm right.