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Breaking Barriers contest winner: Jacki Andre

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In the Spring of 2018, the Canadian Hearing Society launched a new contest and fundraising initiative called Breaking Barriers. The contest encouraged people to submit a personal story of how they’re breaking down barriers for Deaf and hard of hearing Canadians.

This year, our grand prize winner was Jacki Andre. Read her inspiring story below – and stay tuned for more information on next year’s Breaking Barriers campaign soon!


How I'm breaking down barriers
By Jacki Andre

Imagine that you move - all by yourself - to a new country, where you don’t know the language and no one knows yours. How do you communicate? How do you let people know what you need? How do you ask for help when you’re hurting? How do you feel when you’re excluded from the conversations all around you? Will you go to the movies or a concert? Will you join a book club? Will you attend a yoga class?

The single hardest thing about being hard of hearing is the difficulty in communicating with other people. It’s an extremely isolating disability.

For a long time, I felt like I just didn’t belong. I couldn’t communicate with hearing people very well; but because I didn’t know ASL, I didn’t fit in with the Deaf community either.
And then I found social media. It has been a game changer.

Social media helps me out on both sides of the conversation. I have a lot of trouble in spoken conversations - not just hearing, but talking too. I’m not able to process information as quickly as hearing folks; I can get lost in the middle of a conversation and have trouble picking up the threads; and it can be very difficult to know where to jump in.

Because of the voice it gives me, social media is a terrific platform for awareness and change. Sometimes I just post my stories for my friends, such as when I won tickets to see Michelle Obama speak and struggled with accommodations. Sometimes I go bigger, and I write blogs for the Huffington Post Canada about my experiences. My piece on the inaccessibility of Prime Minister Trudeau’s Town Hall, for instance, was shared widely and I received a response from the Prime Minister’s Office. Sometimes, the topic is “smaller” - like what it’s like to listen to music when you have a hearing disability.

Whatever I write about, and wherever it’s posted, I hope it helps people to better understand what it’s like to be deaf/Deaf/HOH. My writing helps me to break down my own personal barriers of isolation by reaching out to other people; and it’s my hope that, together, we will raise the awareness that’s needed to break down the bigger barriers in society as a whole.

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