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Life Being Deaf and Disabled by Ciara McCarthy

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.

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