Growing up, I wasn’t as confident as I am now as I was too ashamed and embarrassed to speak up and let others know I’m hearing impaired. Moreover, I thought I was alone because people in my community wouldn’t understand. Because there is no awareness.
I decided it was up to me to change this.
I started meeting so many wonderful and kind people. Some of these people are also organizers or volunteers at different community and religious events. It took a while but I started to open up and let them know of my barriers and how to accommodate them. Almost all were so accepting and ready to assist in any way they can.
For example, there is an organisation called the Guide Institute and they have small classes teaching Islamic and religious topics. I sit at the front, hand in my FM to the lecturer and everyone is so accommodating and accepting. I’ve been going there for about 3 years and learnt so much. They guided me and changed my life in so many ways. They even baked me a cake to celebrate my cochlear implant and it was one of the nicest gestures anyone has done for me. I love going there because I can understand what’s going on. They make me feel included.
But what about the wider community events? What about going to the mosque or events were a lot of people attend which makes it harder to see and hear? What about like during Ramadan when all the Muslims flock to the mosque to pray and worship God, and I can’t hear the Sheihk and what prayer we are up to now?
Sometimes my friends help me, but there are so many things I miss out and no one really understands the barriers I face.
Then I met an amazing person.
She is the first female MUSLIM sign language interpreter. The first Muslim sign language interpreter in NSW and possibly Australia. I still remember how happy, blessed and exited I was when Sophie first introduced herself to me about 3 years ago.
Each year, some Muslims gather and attends religious lectures for 10 days to mourn and remember the martyrdom of the Holy Prophet’s (peace be upon him) grandson Imam Hussain and his family and companions. Every year I would go, sit at any seat I can find and think “what’s the point? What’s the point of coming?” I always felt left out and excluded because my hearing loss prevented from understanding the sermons and simply just being a part of the community.
2 years ago was the first time I felt included. My beautiful friend Sophie, the sign language interpreter came on the 1st day to interpret for me. I introduced her to my friend who is one of the organizers and she got her a chair at the front. Alhumdillah I was able to understand what was going on! So for the rest of the 10 days, I had seats reserved (even if I come late! Which was a massive stress reliever) and Sophie ready to sign so the whole hall can see her in case any other hearing-impaired people might come!
It was so amazing that within such a short period of time people started to accommodate without me asking. And in such a short period of time, awareness has spread. But the most amazing part was someone understood. Sophie understands the barriers hearing-impaired people face, especially Muslims, and she selflessly strives to break down barriers. Even in the last few nights of Ramadan she came and helped me in so many ways. She filled in gaps and interpreted what’s been said.
Alhumdillah the last few years things have changed. There is more awareness in my community and organizers at different events and places are willing to save me seats at the front, accommodate my needs when I ask, or simply are just aware. I still get shy or embarrassed having to ask for assistance or the fact that people now know that I’m hearing-impaired and help me without me asking them to.
But Alhumdillah God has given me the confidence and strength to raise awareness for other people who are neglected in the community and suffering in silence.
Alhumdillah God has inspired me in so many ways and crossed my paths with so many people who can help me and I help them.
Alhumdillah now more wonderful people are creating change such as the Muslim Deaf Association Sydney.
But there is still a long way to go. And we are only a few.
God willing we have many dreams and ambitions we would like to see happen.
God willing I seek the day no one feels neglected from seeking God because of their barriers. Or simply feel excluded.
But all praise belongs to God for He surely brings those out of the darkness and into the light.