It’s human nature for people to not look past someone’s speech to discover the person first. I know it because I live it. Oscar winning film, The King’s Speech, echoes this message. Zach Anner, co-winner of Oprah Winfrey’s Your OWN Show, reinforces the message that people with disabilities want others to see them as people first.
It’s happened many times in my life. People giving me all kinds of looks as soon as they hear my deaf accent.
Nod … Nod … Nod …
Saying, “What?” also stresses me because it gives people another reason to think I’m less than intelligent. Of course, everyone says, “What?” However, add the accent to that and it sends a different message than a simple, “I didn’t catch it the first time.”
No wonder many people like me have “head nod syndrome.” We’d rather nod our heads to indicate we understand when we don’t because we don’t want to make trouble or risk others seeing us as inferior.
Eleanor Roosevelt said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” While true most of the time, people with disabilities know that humans often judge the wheelchair, the stutter and the monotone voice before the person.
Qualifying for the Job
On Your OWN Show, Zach Anner mentioned that he didn’t want people to think he got this far just because of his wheelchair. Some think people with disabilities get a pass to meet diversity quotas or some other reason. Although it can and probably happens, it wouldn’t happen repeatedly because we need to be able to do the job.
Many people with disabilities are harder on ourselves than anyone ever could be. Growing up, my mantra was “Keep showing them you’re just as good or better as anyone else.” Had I been born with hearing, I may not have had the successful life that I have. That mantra is what helped me work for what I have.
Oprah along with co-hosts of Your OWN Show Nancy and Carson were right to worry about Anner’s stamina. Oprah explained that doing a TV show is grueling work. Even Anner worried about that when he found out he was a finalist for the show. When I was a kid — like most little girls did, I wanted to be an actress when I grew up. Of course, I later realized it wouldn’t happen. I never expected to have a career in front of the camera, on stage or on radio because I don’t have the speech quality needed for these jobs.
What about the whole “set your mind to it, make your dreams happen?” Even if I wanted to be a news reporter or in a front-of-the-camera job, it still demands high quality speech. I took speech therapy for years, and no therapy can fill in the key component that helps speech: hearing. However, I’ve been on TV and did a couple of plays. They were memorable experiences.
I also appear in BBS: The Documentary. Director Jason Scott asked if I would be offended if he added subtitles to my portion. I thought it was a great idea. In fact, Cupcake Wars sometimes adds subtitles for French pastry chef’s Florian Bellanger’s comments. Good for Cupcake Wars. The show didn’t let Florian’s accent stop them from using his expertise, which enhances the show.
I never considered having my own business and fell into it. I love the work. I love the clients. I love the diversity. Thank goodness for technology for making it possible and allowing people to see me as a business person first.
Marlee Matlin stars in the upcoming edition of The Celebrity Apprentice. It will be interesting to see how she handles business especially since people rely heavily on cell phones. I read somewhere that contestants must use the speaker phone to avoid legal issues. Well, if she’s like me, she’ll be sending text messages — if that’s allowed. So it’s not just about her dealing with challenges, but also the rules of the show and the contrived situations.
An uncaptioned preview (Meaning: this is how I interpreted the preview without the words to go on) of The Celebrity Apprentice showed Nene Leakes fake signing as if she was mocking Matlin. Though negative, you have to give Leakes credit for treating Matlin like any other contestant. They mock each other all the time.
What challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?