Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

lundi 9 juillet 2007

Don't I get a say in this???

I'm sitting in a doctor's office right now waiting for an anaesthetic to kick in, but I'm seething because a mediocre signer was nearly foisted upon me as my interpreter.


OK, now I'm home, ready to continue my tale. I was in to see a doctor I'd never seen before due to this odd lump in my throat (apparently an infected lymph node, a byproduct of a cold. And they say colds are mild affairs. Jeez.) He came in and asked me, "Do you read lips?" I do, quite well, but when it comes to medical matters, I'm not willing to take any chances, so I shook my head and signed, "Write, please." He had the effrontery to look annoyed and left the room. I groaned inwardly because I did NOT want an interpreter. He came back in a few minutes with a very well-dressed woman, who signed awkwardly, "Hi, I'm Nancy. I'm an audiologist who works here. I'm here to interpret, help you communicate." I smiled, thanked her, and said no thanks, I prefer to write. She shrugged, pooh-poohed my comment and said, "It's better. It's easier and I'll help you." With that dismissal of my preferences and her presumption that she knew what was best, I became quite livid, but kept my cool. I grabbed pen and paper and wrote the following:
"Thank you — this was very nice. But I'm perfectly capable of communicating on my own. We can do it this way or I have typed back & forth with other doctors via your e-mail program & Patient Notes."
After I'd written the second sentence, Nancy tapped me on the shoulder. I didn't look up and held up one finger to indicate that I wasn't done. Once I showed them my note with a smile and they read it, they both looked stunned, but nodded in acceptance. I think Nancy was miffed by my insistence that I certainly did not need a third party to talk to my doctor, but the doctor seemed like he wasn't upset. I thanked Nancy for understanding with a smile and watched her walk away, quite happy to see her amscray. Dr. E and I proceeded to communicate via pen and paper and the rest of the appointment went quite smoothly.

This brings up several issues, some of which are obvious (such as the jaw-dropping level of patronization and arrogance) and some that aren't so clear.

It was interesting to note how well-dressed the audiologist was. Perfectly coiffed, lovely manicure, well made-up, and generally dripping money. Her clothes were much more Saks than Old Navy. Mm. Two things immediately come to mind. 1. Clearly a lucrative profession, hein? 2. This just may prove the adage that image, image, image is everything. Audiologists and speech therapists do have this tendency to ooze wealth, which implies class and education. And what do we pro-bilingual education professionals tend to wear? Jeans. My school has a no-jeans policy, but that's routinely violated. Some of us may wear button-down shirts and pants, but they look rumpled. Some of the people at my school definitely dress nicely and look professional, but there are a good number who think nothing of wearing jeans once a week or more often. I've even seen T-shirts or track suits (!). Which image would instill more confidence in confused parents searching for guidance? I know which one would help sway me. This is what I do as I dress for work daily: think of your appearance as PR, not only for yourself, but for your worksite and for your philosophy. You never know whom you're influencing and what way that influence goes.

On to a different aspect — this whole situation made me reflect on my communication choices with medical professionals. I feel strongly that it's so important to get accurate information both to and from my doctor. I don't want to deal with the potential for botched translation when my health is at stake, nor do I want to limp along with lipreading. Hence my insistence on written English communication, since we are both using the same language and it is completely accessible to both of us. Another issue I have is privacy. I know too many of the interpreters in this area and I see them socially. I'm not too keen about anybody but people I choose to tell knowing my medical stuff. I don't care about the code of ethics - I just don't want interpreters knowing my business. I'm not ruling out using an interpreter for a doctor's appointment or medical emergencies ever, but I very strongly prefer not to use an interpreter or be forced to rely on spoken English. Don't get me wrong – I'm glad it's an option and it's great that people who want to use one can do so. Just not for me with my doc. *headshake* No thanks — give me clear, completely accessible monolingual communication any day.

The thing that ticked me off the most about this whole thing was Nancy's refusal to accept that her "offer of assistance" was simply unwelcome and unwanted. She was ready to insist that she knew what was best, not me. I'm willing to grant her the benefit of the doubt. After all, she's probably been brainwashed by the system to believe that deaf people need help and that's what she's there for. It's also possible she's open to not being needed but she wanted to help the doctor and felt obligated, since he had asked her to help out. It's also possible she's never been exposed to someone like me, who is quite happy with writing back and forth. However, her refusal to listen to me in the first place was inexcusable. I believe the only reason she backed down was because my declining her services was there in black and white where the doctor could also see it. And that is paternalism, no matter how she wants to justify it.

I could type a whole bunch more, including thoughts on the dominant paradigm, why I'm glad I always have pen and paper, et cetera, but I'll close here by summing this entry up: We need to consider what image we're projecting and how that reflects on our stance on deaf issues. Our choice of communication method is a highly personal one that may vary from individual to individual and depending on the situation, but it is ultimately ours and ours alone, which means that it *should* be respected by those around us.


  • At 13:21, Blogger Lantana said…

    Oh my goodness! I do not blame you for being absolutely LIVID.

    Nancy's first mistake was saying that she would help YOU with YOUR communication. When two people have a communication problem, they BOTH have a problem, right?

    Nancy was on a gigantic ego trip. 'Like a little girl being called to the head of the class to exhibit a painting she had done. :(

    I have never had a positive meeting with an audiologist. Never. Neither has my husband (who was talked into purchasing 2 hearing aids that did not work for him).

    When situations such as your's happen to me, I go right home and write a letter to the head honcho and tell them exactly how I feel. I have received some very kind and compassionate letters back!

    Better luck next time, and I so glad that swollen lymph gland was not something serious!

    Lantana, Lantana's Latitude

  • At 15:13, Anonymous Dianrez said…

    That reminded me of a recent appointment where I went for X-rays and an interpreter showed up.

    I had said it was okay for the interpreter, but only for meeting with the doctor, not for the X-rays which were routine and I had been through them before.

    Despite my telling the interpreter to please wait in the waiting room for the consultation, she came to every step of the X-rays and I could hardly kick her out without causing a scene.

    Finally, time to consult with the doctor, and she spent more time talking with the doctor than with me.

    You can bet I will be very specific about spelling out the interpreter's role before the next appointment.

  • At 18:11, Anonymous DE said…


    Another one outta the ballpark! While I'm all for options- if Deafies wanna write directly, fine; If Deafies wanna interpreters, fine...(Then again, interpreters need to understand that they're there NOT because the Deaf people need 'em; it's because the professionals around 'em do not sign. :)), I'm nearly jaded with all those Nancys out there who come with the presupposition of Deaf people as helpless and incompetent. Sigh... this is part of a grander narrative sprouted by agBAD- that signing is a crutch, that Deaf people "lack hearing" which is the root of our "helplessness" (i.e.: our "deafness"). I'm disgusted that Rich White Audiologist Nancy initially resisted your desire to communicate with the doctor directly. As if we can be lorded over...

    Deaf is Dandy!

  • At 22:08, Anonymous jason k said…

    What an asshole! Yes, I do agree professionalism appearance do win easily over others based in our society. However, I have had experienced with a couple of doctors who looked exasperated to write down on a note with pen. Sometime it baffles me, aren't they supposed to be humanitarian? Nancy prolly used to "mothering" around people who could not hear at all. I am glad someone like you actually stood her up. :)

  • At 09:15, Blogger moi said…

    Thanks, e'body, for your empathy! I'm sorry you guys had to go through what you've gone through. I wonder just how many horror stories about well-meaning hearing professionals who work with deaf people just riding roughshod over deaf people there are out there. Perhaps gathering these stories into a packet could be a useful tool in our fight for self-determination!

    Lantana, I'm mulling over writing a letter, and if I do, I'll post it here. :) Great idea - thanks!

    Dianrez, I confess that you're nicer than I am. *smile* I would've made a scene once it became clear nothing I said was going to dissuade the interpreter from taking over, even though that's the last thing I would want to do. Your idea of being VERY specific about the interpreter's role before going in is a very practical notion.

    DE, LOVE your comments. *grin* I agree - options are important and should be respected. I'm just amazed at the sheer GALL of some of these people. Your comment brings Ella's video about stakeholders to mind. Exactly. Why are WE not in charge of making decisions and why are we at the mercy of hearing professionals who have been brainwashed to think they know better? Thanks for sharing! Yup, to be deaf is dandy - my AIM status message was "I LOVE being deaf!" all evening last nite. *grin*

    Jason K, yup, I don't understand why writing elicits such annoyance from a few people. Yup, it's different, but so what? I love how you described Nancy as being used to mothering deaf people. You're probably right. She probably sees hapless deaf children with very little communicative ability being dragged by their mother who just wants them to talk. ;) Good point.

  • At 09:18, Blogger moi said…

    Forgot to add - Lantana, thank you very much for your concern for my health! :) The lymph node appears to be healing quite nicely with antibiotics, which is good news.

    I also had another thought about Nancy saying she would help ME. You're right - the situation was not all on me and it wasn't fair of her to say it that way. But I don't see it as our having a communication problem at all. I didn't have a problem with communicating, so there was no communication problem at all as far as I was concerned beyond a bit of education for the doctor... UNTIL Nancy showed up. Sigh. Thanks again for sharing. The letter idea *is* a good one.

  • At 06:41, Anonymous Beth said…

    Send this to the audiologist :-) She needs some education.



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