Causing a Scene: Selfish (an open letter)

Dear person who used the free text box on the survey to comment that people with hearing loss are “being selfish to demand something that only helps a small group of people”,

I saw your comment way back when I closed the survey last year and I’ve known that I’ve needed to address it, but I haven’t known how. Then I remembered that I have a website. So, I’m writing you this letter, post night shift (so be gentle about typos).

The idea that we must only cater to the masses feels absurd to me. If we follow your logic then it’s selfish for wheelchair users to “demand” adjustments such as ramps, wider shop aisles, lifts. If we follow your logic, we can get rid of those special buses that hiss their way down to the pavement so wheelchair users can get on the bus without having to perform some kind of wheelchair acrobatics.

Except we would never do that, because it’s 2017 and because we are sensible people that recognise that people with any kind of disability or difference are entitled to the same life experiences that the rest of society takes for granted.

When we limit a minority’s access to something, we devalue that minority. In your comment, which I imagine you popped in that text box quickly and unthinkingly, you devalued people based on whether or not their needs would affect your experience. Your experience.

When did your needs become more important? Subtitling does not affect whether or not you can attend the cinema; you may not be used to having subtitles on a screen, you may not like it, but ultimately they don’t affect your level of access. The same can’t be said for a person with hearing loss.

Put simply, both you and a person with hearing loss can go to the cinema when the cinema has provided access to personal subtitling devices or subtitled screenings. Only you can go if they don’t. But as long as you’re enjoying yourself eh?

Ultimately though, I’m forced to admit that I am selfish. I want to go to the cinema with my mum, or my pal who lost her hearing through some medical treatment. I want to be able to do that easily, just like you can. Maybe we are all a bit selfish, but it’s how our selfishness plays out that we need to be mindful of. Does our selfishness limit or promote people? That’s how we can determine whether our selfishness is acceptable.

Yours is not. Not in a world that has come as far as it has. Not in a country where people with hearing loss account for 1/6 of the population. Not when people “being selfish” means words being on a screening instead of not.

Catherine x

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