Hi everyone! We have a lovely guest post today from Meryl, my twitter buddy who’s a roller derby beginner. Just about anyone who wants to play roller derby can do so, no matter how well they can hear. Tell ’em gurl!
What It’s Like To Be a Hard of Hearing Roller Derby Skater
I only started skating a mere six months ago with Derby Lite, here in Chicago. I’m new, but now like so many others who skate, I can’t imagine my life without it. I also wear hearing aids, and have since I was 14. I’ve been hard of hearing my whole life. After a series of short-term fix ear surgeries and a couple of bouts of cholesteatoma, hearing aids finally proved to be the long-term solution my family and I were looking for. It’s not great having to rely on hearing aids, but it’s also not so different from having to rely on wearing glasses or contacts every day.
Not being able to hear well by no means rules out skating for me, or anyone else. There are tons of deaf and hard of hearing skaters, and they kick ass.
Because I am still learning the basics of roller derby, I haven’t come across as many scenarios where calls are being shouted. When that time comes, I plan on following the guidelines suggested by the Deaf and HoH Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide, an excellent resource for all Deaf, deaf and Hard of Hearing* skaters, NSOs, and refs. Their mantra is that skating should be inclusive, and I completely agree. This group provides several documents, including tips for leagues, players, skaters and fans. Some tips offered to players like me include things like finding a buddy who knows what’s up and can make sure information is being communicated to you on the track. You might also choose to wear a sweet sticker bearing the International Deaf and Hard of Hearing symbol – or maybe not. That’s totally up to you and how you feel about identifying or not identifying.
Here are some other tips they suggest, specifically for use during bouts:
- Watch your Bench Manager, particularly if you are jamming.
- When your line-up is getting ready to go out on the track focus more on your pack and less on what is happening on the track. You need to know what your pack needs from you when you skate out. This is true for all Skaters – Deaf, HoH or Hearing.
- Be alert to your Jammer or Pivot – whoever is making the calls for your pack.
Some tips down the road might mean telling my league about my situation and possibly asking my teammates to learn a few signs. In recent years I have taken American Sign Language classes, and luckily the Deaf and HoH Roller Derby Skaters Worldwide page offers a ton of resources for learning derby-specific signs in a range of sign languages. In case you didn’t know, not all nations’ signing languages translate to ASL. Signs even vary across regions within the United States — like accents!
I personally have not made my hearing loss public to my league because I am still just learning to play. Sometimes I have trouble hearing at practice, but my skate buddy Lisa is great about making sure I am up to speed.
At this point in my skating career, my main concern is protecting my hearing aids. They are like very tiny, expensive computers, except way less fun than my Macbook. But whether I like it or not, they’re crucial part of my life, and I need to keep them safe. My helmet does a pretty good job of covering them, and mine are luckily pretty water-resistant (aka, sweat-resistant). My next helmet, however, will probably be a hockey one – those often come with ear guards, which can offer them an additional level of protection.
Maybe you’re reading this and you’re a hearing skater. Thanks for reading! Here are some tips for you and other hearing folks:
- If you skate with a Deaf, deaf or hard of hearing person, I would suggest you do whatever you can to treat them the way you would any skater.
- You should also note that being deaf, Deaf, or hard of hearing are all different things – it’s a lot to learn, but the difference is pretty important in the culture. You can read more about these differences here.*
- I personally have zero qualms about letting people know what’s up and answering questions, but know that not everyone feels that way and that’s their right.
Just as it is for anyone, it can be tough to admit you need a hand. Respect that, always be sensitive, and try to support your fellow skaters however you can. Roll on!
Meryl Williams is a Chicagoan who’s moving to Portand, Oregon in July. She can’t wait to transfer to the Rose City Rollers, but for now she loves her Chicago girls. She blogs at The Sleeper Hit and writes regularly for HelloGiggles and the Addison Recorder. For more of her writing, subscribe to her TinyLetter.