Wednesday, June 23, 2010

An Unfortunate Interaction

At work this past week I had a pretty unfortunate experience. A customer at work refused my help because I am deaf*.

I ended up switching places with a coworker who was doing something in the back because I was kind of upset. It upset me that this random person was calling my job skills into question and refusing to allow me to help him, even though I could easily have done so if he was only willing to speak in a normal tone of voice (he insisted on mumbling because he is "soft-spoken.") It also upset me that one of the few times I chose to advocate for myself ended so badly.

Luckily I did not have to deal with this person again that day. Later that afternoon three Deaf people came in and I was able to help them, which made me happy. Though my ASL is rusty, I was able to assist the three of them, and they were willing to be patient and help me out a little... something this previous individual was not willing to do.

Unfortunately I do not think there is much I can learn from this. It can't stop me from telling people I am deaf because I'm not going to stop advocating for myself. It only serves to wear me out on the world a little bit.

However, as I wrote elsewhere, "What I have to remember is that nothing about myself has changed from this interaction. I am good at what I do. While I can continue being the best person I am, this person has to deal with their apparent emotional difficulties and difficulty dealing with other people every day of their life. It is their problem, not mine."

* Correction: originally said hearing impaired. Old habits die hard.


  1. He refused your help? Can I ask what happened?

    'softly-spoken'...*pshaw* I'm told I mumble sometimes too but if someone asks me to speak louder I do.

    There's a word for people like that- I can't repeat it.

    I'm glad you were able to help the other people. Remember, YOU tried- it was his problem. How hard is it to speak up a little??

  2. Hi Melissa - thank you for your comment and kind words. :)

    The person in question wanted a library card. He was mumbling as he looked through his wallet, but I could tell he was asking me a question, so I asked him to repeat himself. He looked at me and said no, that he is soft-spoken, and he wouldn't yell. (Wasn't asking him to yell...) I told him I am hearing impaired and he got angry and told me well, then, he was going to wait for the next person. I ended up having to switch with another coworker to avoid dealing with him.

    Neither of my hearing coworkers could hear him, either!

  3. If I was in that situation, I would ask him if he could write his questions. But because he sound so stubborn, that probably wouldn't help either.
    He definitely have an audist attitude but not toward deaf people but toward ANYONE who can't understand him because he refuse to repeat himself. Funny how he look up at you and made it clear to you that he is soft spoken and will not repeat...and you understood him right there. He should have used that method in the first place when he was asking a question. But he is a stubborn audist who judge people how well they can hear him so there is not much you can do about it.

  4. btw, this really common because most customers think they need to be treated with best service possible and this include good hearing.

  5. He might have a speech problem and didn't want to speak up and make it more obvious. No matter, HE had the problem, not you. Attitude is the worse of his problems as well.

  6. Dianrez, that's what I thought too because my brother have LD (not sure if he have a speech problem because he sound fine to me) he mumbles alot and I'm guess it is because he doesn't want the unneccessary attention. But he will look at me when I ask him too. Which is why I suggest writing and see if he will take that (if not, it is better if he work with someone else no matter what his real issue is) But he really could be the type of person whoexpect people to hear him at all time. I know many people like that when i was working as a cashier, and they usually end up YELLING at me

  7. Angry...hmm, maybe he did have a speech problem and was embarrassed? You didn't ask him to yell- there's surely a place in between softly spoken and yelling. Hmm, I guess sometimes there's nothing to do but think that their problem is nothing to do with us, and we can't control it. If he comes back I'd glare at him lots....

  8. That guy had the problem, as has already been said but of course it does not make it any the less hurtful. Unfortunately when we encounter gross stupidity there is little that can be done, as I found recently in an encounter ( ) with a muslim woman. Regards, Judith

  9. I have had multiple similiar situations. Since I work in a pet retail store I deal with the public everyday. I'm in charge of the actual animals so whenever someone wants to look at one I get to take the animal out and talk to the customers about the animal. Many times I deal with folks that speak too soft and some will speak up if I ask them and others will treat me as if I"m dumb. Fortunatly my friends at work will normally come to help out if I'm dealing with a customer that is not cooperative. Lately since it has been so hot I've been putting my hair up so my hearing aids are visable and I'm noticing some people notice and immediatly make sure that I can hear them when they talk to me. It's funny before I would of hid my hearing aids but now they tell people "Hey speak up a bit please." without actually having to say something.
    So don't get discouraged as some people will not understand and there are some that actually have problems speaking. I have had one friend at work that had an issue with her vocal cords that made her speak in a whisper even if she strained to speak loud. It was hilarious when she called in on the phone and I couldn't hear her. I had to get someone else to answer the phone as I thought I was speaking to a customer that was sick or something. My son who is also hearing impaired but for some reason he mumbles when he wants something and seems to only speak loud when he is excited about something. If we go into a restaraunt and he is ordering something we have to tell to him to "Speak up! If we can't hear you how can the waitress?"


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