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An Outlook on Deaf Culture

Hey guys, I am so sorry that I haven’t blogged in a long time.  Just have a crazy schedule.  But here I am.

Alright.  So today I want to talk to you about deaf culture.  I have been taking an American Sign Language class since June at my local library.  I met the person that works with me every week to learn sign language at a local farmers’ market and decided to do it because I am moving into a group home.  Who knows?  Maybe I will need it to communicate with deaf  people.

As a part of our discussions, we discuss Deaf Culture and how they perceive hearing culture.  Hearing culture refers to people that are not deaf.  Where do I fall?  I’m right in the middle of deaf and hearing culture.  There is a phenomenon that I would like to share with you.  It says, “I don’t like being deaf, but I wouldn’t change it.”

What does that mean?  OK, so take me for example.  I have problems walking and talking about well as not being able to control my body movements.  Do I like putting up with my movements when I move excessively?  No, but would I change it?  Absolutely not, because that’s what makes me Donna Heather Klippel.  It isn’t my disability that defines me.  It is the way I handle my disability that defines me.

That is why the deaf community wouldn’t change being deaf.  Deafness has become part of their identity.  Anyone, especially me, does not like having a disability, but we cannot change that so we accept that disability into our identity.

People can say to me, “Who are you?”

I might answer,  “My name is Heather.  I am a blogger with cerebral palsy.”

Don’t let your disability define you.  Let the way you handle your disability define you.

The Beautiful Grey’s Tower

So, a week ago, I visited beautiful Grey’s Tower in the Hudson Valley.. It was another mansion tour and if you know me, you know I love history. My obsession with mansion tours began a year ago when I first visited Lynnhurst, and a few others through an agency that does historic tours.

So, what was Grey’s Tower? Grey’s Tower was Gifford Pinchot’s house. Pinchot was the one of America’s first conservationists. This mansion was his house, designed with French château and a beautiful interior. The grounds were very well-kept. It included a pool where fruit floated, a fancy way to serve it. It was a very nice tour.

My First Week of Sleepaway Camp

So let’s reveal exciting news before talking about sleepaway camp: I’m moving out on my own for the very first time! I’m going into a group home!

So this summer, I’m doing some weeks at a sleepaway camp, located in Warwick in beautiful Orange County. I will, by the way, be moving to Rockland, not far from Orange, and I will be with Young Adult Institute.

The problem? I have never been away from my family overnight before. So my dad sent me to a sleepaway camp in Warwick for people with disabilities and I had a blast. This week was my first week and I’m going back next week, and, hopefully, one more week after that.

It’s funny because when I was a junior in Girl Scouts I always wanted my camping badge. Well, I couldn’t do it so I never got it. But, at camp, I went swimming, canoeing, made s’mores at a campfire as well as a talent show. It was also a Christian camp so we had Christian education and a lot of arts and crafts. We went to the drive-in and had a dance. It was so much fun. We had awesome staff and an awesome teacher.

I was able to soak in some beautiful nature and as I did, I quietly said to myself, “I will definitely miss beautiful Orange County, but I know I’m going to a better place that can help me.”

A Wonderful Experience Talking to Kids

Wow. You know, growing up I never knew if I liked children. I admired children’s play, their innocence, their creativity. Children’s way of simplifying things: good, bad and indifferent.

I was a communication board user growing up. I was the second oldest of five grandchildren. I loved experiencing the three younger cousins growing up. The problem was my communication board didn’t talk. I couldn’t talk to my cousins.

Well, now I have an AAC device, that changed. I can talk to my cousins. I can converse on a different level.

I even gave a speech to a fifth grade class last week. A fifth grade class. They were doing a unit on inspiring people. They read a book called “Out of My Mind”. It was about a girl like me, who had a photographic memory. I do not have a photographic memory, but this girl had a disability that’s similar to mine. They found my blog and invited me to speak.

I spoke. They loved it. Now a second class asked me to speak. Who knows? Maybe public speaking will be my career. Time will tell.

A Website to Share and a Speech to Give

OK guys. This is a two-part blog. In the first part, I have a website to share and then, I want to talk about a speech I’m giving tomorrow. Sound good?

Alright, let’s go…

 

Part A. A website to share.

So, one of my readers asked me to share this website with you: https://www.basementguides.com/home-safety-for-people-with-disabilities/. It’s a guide to make your home more handicapped accessible. I always like to share these. My grandfather did some home modification work, and a lot of construction. So whenever I get one of these, I think of him.

 

Part B. A Speech to Give

Tomorrow, I’m giving a talk to fifth grade class about inspirational people. They read a book called Out of My Mind. It was about how a girl with an AAC device has a photographic memory. They found my blog and asked me to come speak to their 5th grade class.

I’m excited to do this. I don’t know how good I am with kids. I think this will be a learning experience for me and I hope it’s a good one.

Bickering About Low Pay Rates for Aides

You know, I think I went off on this before, but I wanted to blog about it again. Why are aides, people that assist the disabled, elderly and sick, getting paid close to minimum wage? We’re talking about people that help people with daily needs. Aging family members that need help.

This might be one of the reasons why Self Direction is growing so rapidly. The participant can adjust the pay rate. No more minimum wage. It could also be that participants are getting more assistance.

I encourage two things: a) More people to get onto Self Direction, and b) More aides to get on these budgets. I predict that if those two things get done, there will be more aides. It’ll be easier to find assistance too for the young and the old.

 

First Day Back At Swimming

Last Thursday, I went back to swimming in five months. I had to stop for the winter. It felt really good to get back in the pool. My instructor has me using one noodle that’s really buoyant, and it seemed to really help me. Let’s lay out the progress I have made getting over my fear of swimming over 15 years:

  • 2004: Horrible fear & using an Aqua Jogger
  • 2005-06: Swimming with no floatation devices & just my gym teacher
  • 2007: Calmer in the pool
  • 2011: Fear minimizes & swimming in deep end with only two noodles and my teacher. I’m more relaxed in the water, but I still don’t have the capability to use goggles
  • 2018: I start swimming at the YMCA. Now I’m starting to be able to use goggles

 

I have made tremendous progress with swimming over the last 15 years. I can’t wait to see what 2019 brings!

Another Story of Inspiration: Soul Surfing with a Swimming Goal

“Spring has sprung. The grass has ris. I wonder where the flowers is.”

Although I am not a heat lover, I enjoy being a waterbug. I had a fear of drowning growing up, but I always dreamed of participating in water sports like snorkeling, swimming, boating…I have always had a profound interest in going snorkeling.

There were just two problems with that: 1) I couldn’t swim, and 2) I had a lot of masks. Every time I went underwater, I came up with water in my mask, causing my body to flail all over the pool!

But, did that end my snorkeling dream? No.

I encourage you guys to watch the movie Soul Surfer. It’s about a girl that was a surfer, loses her arm in a shark attack, and she eventually goes back to surf in Regionals. She went on a retreat to another country and while she was there, she taught kids about surfing out of love. How many acts of love do we see nowadays?

Now, I have a dream that I would like to pursue. It’s snorkeling. Did I fail a hundred times? Yes! Of course I did! But last year, I went back to swimming after eight years and I was able to use goggles for the first summer. So now, I’m like, “Is this dream pursuable?” I have a great instructor. Maybe he can help me.

I may have sunk a thousand and one times, but maybe this time, I’ll sail.