Disability Awareness Spotlight On Inclusion With Dr Ken Coleman

Throughout the month of October, various personal stories will be shared by members of our RVC community that highlight the importance of acceptance, support and inclusion of those who experience disability. This week’s spotlight is on RVC's Dean of Advising & Retention, Dr. Ken Coleman.

I had hearing impairment since I can remember. My parents do not recall if I was born with it, or if it was something that developed during childhood and grew worse as I have gotten older.

A Misconception Related to Hearing Loss:
We are fortunate to live in an era where our society embraces disabilities, though we still have a far way to go. When I was a child growing up in the 1980s, no one really believed that I had a hearing impairment. The belief was that I was not paying attention; I was not listening; I was deliberately disobeying instructions.

Personal Experiences Living with Hearing Loss:
Life has been a struggle with hearing impairment, mostly because I tried to hide it and was never forthcoming regarding it. Instead of telling someone that I was not able to hear them, I would often smile and nod and hope that my response was not inappropriate. A perfect example of this is someone once told me their dog died but instead, I heard “I won a prize” and I responded with “congratulations!!!”

The other struggle has been avoidance of social situations. Without the use of hearing aids, it was practically pointless for me to go to restaurants because I was incapable of engaging in a conversation with individuals at my own table. I also dreaded family gatherings for the same reason, I was embarrassed with constantly having to respond with “what?” or “huh?” every time someone asked me a question.

Regrettably, I lived more than half my life without hearing aids, though I now wear them, because they were so expensive. Even with hearing aids, I often still struggle. I learned that if I am upfront with people and tell them that I do not hear well, they are understanding and will often accommodate. Many embarrassing moments could have been avoided had I simply been upfront.

How We Can Support Those with Disabilities:
It’s simple: choose to be nice!