Championing disability inclusion in honor of International Week of Deaf People
- Posted on October 2, 2023
- Estimated reading time 3 minutes
September 19-23 marked International Week of Deaf People 2023. To mark this week of significance, Avanade’s Luis Alberto shared his experience living with hearing loss and having a cochlear implant.
My name is Luis Alberto, and I want to share my experience with hearing loss and a cochlear implant with you. At the tender age of 1 year old, an ear infection led to me losing my hearing, thus classifying me as a prelingual deaf individual, meaning I lost my hearing before acquiring language. For many years, hearing aids were my crutch, but as time passed, my hearing only worsened.
In the pre-COVID era, the conditions of my hearing worsened considerably, to the point that hearing aids were no longer a useful tool for me. Consequently, I considered the option of undergoing surgery to receive a cochlear implant in my left ear. Nevertheless, the beginning of the COVID pandemic caused hospitals to suspend such operations – focusing their resources on treating rampant cases instead – forcing me to endure a prolonged waiting period of two long years until conditions normalized and the so-called "new normal" returned.
At last, my long-anticipated day of surgery arrived. Everything proceeded as planned thanks to the aid of a highly experienced surgeon in the field, and it lasted just two hours.
The post-operative process was initially hard. With the cochlear implant, I started hearing a variety of metallic noises which until then were unfamiliar to me. I also became acquainted with annoying sounds that I had never heard before, especially high-pitched sounds like the tweeting of birds or the crying of babies. In time and through a fair period of adaptation, I managed to acquaint myself with these new auditory experiences.
At present, I am in the process of undergoing rehabilitation to learn how to listen again. My chief aim is being able to listen clearly without the necessity to lip-read. I acknowledge that it's a lengthy journey, but I am resolute and prepared to achieve this milestone, come what may.
In the professional domain, I underwent a significant transformation when I started working remotely owing to the COVID pandemic. This new work method brought both advantages and challenges with it.
One significant benefit I discovered was the ability to utilize disruptive technological tools, particularly Teams. As a result of various feedback and collaborations with the accessibility department, the platform has seen considerable improvements. Currently, it is an indispensable tool during video conferences thanks to its automatic subtitling feature, which assists me in following meetings by providing additional support to my hearing capability.
However, I also needed to confront challenges whilst working in this manner. For one, the shift to a digital communication model was a monumental change for me, as I was accustomed to face-to-face conversations in a physical environment. Abruptly I found myself in front of a screen, communicating via a camera and a microphone – a completely alien setting that I had to learn to navigate.
Upon entering the realm of work video calls, I had to conquer initial insecurities such as nerves and a tendency to stutter slightly. As time went on, I gained more confidence and control in how I expressed myself in this new environment. This transition poses a personal challenge that I am determined to conquer, as I think of it as an integral step forward in my journey of adapting to the digital workplace.
Every challenge I face is an opportunity for learning and improvement, and I am confident that these hurdles will only strengthen my communication and adaptation skills. In spite of any hardships that may arise, I am devoted to overcoming each and every one of the challenges that come my way.