This post brings me back to the reason I started writing this series, initially inspired by Disclosing Disability: Employment in Archaeology on Doug’s Archaeology. It was this post that made me start considering my own experiences within archaeology as someone who wears hearing aids.
Disabilities are under-reported and under-represented in the archaeological profession. Now, I may or may not be contributing to this problem, as I have never really worked out whether I am disabled or not. I think, not?
In the UK, the definition of a disability is:
‘if you have a physical or mental impairment that has a ‘substantial’ and ‘long-term’ negative effect on your ability to do normal daily activities.’
My hearing loss is long-term, it’s not coming back. I’ve dealt with that (and yes, that is something I had to deal with). But, I do not think I can say with certainty that is has a substantial effect on my daily life. But maybe it’s not so clear cut.
I wear glasses/contacts. Without them, I can’t see well at all (-2.75). I would not be able to do my job without some adjustments. But with them, my eye-sight is spot on. For this reason, requiring glasses isn’t considered a disability (if, even with glasses you still cannot achieve 20:20 vision – or you have other eyesight problems – then it can be classed as a disability).
Without my hearing aids, I can’t hear very well (mild to moderate hearing loss). I would not be able to do my job without some adjustments. Actually, that last point requires some clarification. I would be able to do a lot of things as is, but if I were working on site or teaching, with other people, then I may need some adjustments – usually these would be for two reasons: health and safety and effective communication. This down to the fact that there are fairly big differences in the job descriptions for those working in an office as a researcher and those digging around heavy machinery!
But with my hearing aids, well actually, even with hearing aids my hearing still isn’t spot on. Unlike glasses, which can achieve perfect vision correction pretty easily, it’s very difficult (if not impossible) to achieve perfect auditory correction with current technology. With that in mind, my hearing aids allow me to do most things (safely and effectively) without any adjustments. And because my ‘normal daily activities’ aren’t affected, when the box comes along on the application forms [Do you have a disability?] I usually tick ‘no’. If there is a box for further details, I will sometimes write “use hearing aids”.
If something arises at an interview or once I’m employed that means my work could be affected (e.g. radios with headsets that I can’t wear) I’ll bring it up so that reasonable adjustments* can be made. I suppose there are probably some things that are classed as ‘adjustments’ where I just don’t agree with the definition (e.g. being able to hear someone shouting at you from another tent shouldn’t be expected of anyone) and therefore I’ll advocate for myself and when – and if necessary (it hasn’t been yet) escalate it to wherever is appropriate. Otherwise, if it’s not going to affect how I do my job, I don’t say anything at all. It might come up in conversation with co-workers (especially as my hearing aids are visible, or – at least one of them because of my totally fashionable asymmetrical hairstyle) but I don’t think that’s quite the same as declaring a disability.
I do wonder sometimes why I’ve make these decision though. I’m obviously not bothered about people knowing (hellooooo public blogpost), so I can only assume that I have some concerns over how potential employers will view my disability when it’s reduced to a vague ‘yes’ on an application form…
*What is reasonable adjustment? I’m glad you asked! It’s super vague.