I had a Tinder date that night and all I knew about my date was his first name and the suburb he lived in. Oh and of course I had his profile photo from his Tinder account. While I probably should have been working, I instead applied myself to online stalking this guy to learn more about him. It wasn’t long before I knew his life story (clearly my PhD research skills are handy as a life skill too), and uncovered he had played for the Australian Deaf Wallabies (for the non-Australian’s reading this book – this is a Rugby team).
‘Shit he’s Deaf’, I thought.
“Hey Google, how deaf do you need to be to play in the Australian Deaf Wallabies?”
Google answered, “A hearing loss of at least 50 decibels in one ear.”
Well that didn’t mean much to me. So, I continued to google my date and found a photo of him getting off a rugby tour bus and I could see he was wearing hearing aids. This stopped me in my tracks. My thoughts then raced;
‘How deaf will he really be?’
‘What if he’s non-verbal?’
‘How will we communicate?’
‘Could I really have a relationship with someone that’s deaf?’
‘Could I really have a relationship with someone with a disability?’
I seriously considered cancelling the date. Like seriously I was going to cancel, but because I couldn’t come up with a good enough reason to send in a text message quickly, it gave me a bit more time to think about the decision. Feel free to judge me – you should be. But please don’t be too harsh until you hear me out. You see, in the end I went on the date for three reasons.
Firstly, I went on the date out of pity. I know it sounds terrible, but what’s the point of me not being honest with you? You see, I figured he didn’t tell me he was deaf because he had probably told other potential dates on Tinder that he was deaf, only to have them cancel on him. I didn’t want to be one of those people.
Secondly, I had taught myself the Auslan (that’s Australian Sign Language) alphabet off morning TV when I was just seven years old for no apparent reason, and had not used it since. Considering I could still remember how to sign the alphabet over 30 years later…I took that as a sign in itself.
Finally, he was super hot. I mean, who says ‘no’ to going on a Tinder date with someone as hot as him?
While my date did turn out to be profoundly Deaf, to my relief my date was verbal so that was one hurdle overcome. Our date, however, was in a busy Mexican burrito bar. You know those restaurants that are so noisy that all you want to do is go home because you can’t hear yourself think, let alone the others at your table? Well that was this restaurant. I couldn’t hear a thing my date was saying to me. But here’s the irony…he could understand what I was saying despite the noise around us because he could read my lips.
I looked across at this man in this noisy restaurant and instead of seeing his disability…I saw a man fully functioning in an environment where I could not. And in a flash it hit me. Turn the lights off and I can’t see. Turn the music up and I can’t hear. Put the book up too high and I can’t reach. It became abundantly clear to me in that very moment that ability or disability is a consequence of the environment we create. With that realisation I instantly saw this man for everything he was, not for what he wasn’t.
Fast forward, and we are now married. Imagine if I had cancelled that date? I would have missed the chance of meeting and falling in love with someone that makes me feel more loved, seen and heard than I had ever felt in my entire life. My husband is the reason inclusion matters to me, and the reason I believe in creating a world where everyone is included.