You can also listen to Ciara's Blog here: https://open.spotify.com/episode/0g87Rs76dOMV7ZavWTeblz?si=5b33129feb9b44d4
Hello, I’m Ciara McCarthy (@deafciara), and I have profound hearing loss with bilateral
cochlear implants, cerebral palsy, and autism. For deaf awareness week, I wanted to share
my story of being disabled and deaf.
I was born with congenital CMV (cytomegalovirus), a condition which often leaves babies
with many health issues, and there was a 95 per cent chance of permanent disability. I spent
my first eight weeks of life in an incubator and was first diagnosed with cerebral palsy and
hearing loss at nine months old.
At two years old, I was first implanted with my first cochlear implant, and three years later, I was
implanted with my second.
I’ve been fortunate to have attended mainstream education since I was 5; however, it was
isolating being the only deaf and physically disabled student in school. I was missing
conversations because of noisy environments and missing out on P.E. because my cochlear
implants would fall out or I would trip over my feet.
I always found P.E hard to begin with, however, in my second year of Highschool an incident
occurred while the whole class was playing dodgeball. I’m fuzzy on the details but I
remember being hit with the ball, I fell and my cochlear implants fell out. After that day, I
was told to stay away from contact sports, which I completely understood but I felt like I
was missing out. One sport I missed playing was hockey so when everyone else was playing
hockey or netball, I stayed inside in the fitness suite.
Unfortunately, I was bullied for being disabled, and I struggled to connect with my peers
because I felt misunderstood.
It can be challenging when you have no role models like you. I saw no representation of
people like me on TV or social media. I could relate to some of what disabled people were
discussing, but their experiences weren’t my experiences.
All I saw was abled-bodied people dominating mainstream media, shows like Liv & Maddie
only casted abled bodied people and the diversity they had was limited. Even if shows
represented disabled people, they would be the butt of the jokes or even treated as if they
have some sort of disease. Girl meets World is well known for how they reacted to Farkle
potentially being diagnosed with Autism. The main characters, Riley and Maya, reacted as if
this was a terminal disease and told him to tell his assessors that he does not have autism.
I do believe if mainstream media had shown a positive representation of autism or a
character in a wheelchair. There might have been a chance of me embracing who i was
earlier and connecting more with the disability community, on the other side of the coin, I
think that representation would have benefitted my non disabled peers in seeing that
disability is normalised.
I found a passion for activism; I wanted to fight for a diverse and inclusive education for the
current and future generations because I believe education about disability could decrease
the bullying and misinformation about disabled people.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned to embrace who I am and noticed things I wouldn’t have
when I was young. For example, I get sensory overloaded from too much noise and
interactions, but I also deal with hearing fatigue. I wouldn’t have been able to notice that
within myself, and I’ve learned that’s why I feel fatigued after a day of college or even after
events I do.
I hope that sharing my experience as a deaf and disabled person empowers young people
who have multiple disabilities to advocate for themselves in both education and daily life.