My sister Laure is 52 years old. During her lifetime she has spoken about 10 words. Don’t get me wrong. Laure tries to speak but her speech is garbled. She is profoundly autistic. Over the years we have heard “Please.” “Thank you.” “Go home.” That’s about it.
What is it like for people with disabilities who cannot communicate?
“It’s a ‘guessing game’ to know who said what and what was said,” comments a woman with deafness that I interviewed. “Even with hearing aids, I miss portions of conversations,” said another. It’s got to be extremely frustrating and isolating. I know how tough it’s been on my parents, brother and sisters. We would love to be able to hear what Laure tries to tell us through the sounds she makes. I guess that’s one big reason why I work here at Vu.
When I met our company founder, Alexandra Cartier, I was impressed. Her level of understanding is amazing. She carries on a thoughtful, interesting conversation in real time. Rarely do we have to stop and try to figure out what we each are saying.
I know now that my perception of people with severe hearing loss and deafness was skewed. Growing up with an aunt who is profoundly deaf, and a sister with finite speech, limited my thinking. In other words, I thought people with these disabilities were limited in achieving in school or other things. Boy, was I wrong.
Overcoming the Hearing Barrier
Despite her Hard of Hearing disability, Alexandra reads lips expertly. She wears two hearing aids and handles technology like a ninja. While Alexandra is well aware her speech sounds different from the hearing world, she doesn’t let that stop her from speaking up. As a result of her determination, she is a motivated, passionate individual, successful entrepreneur and educator.
When I told my mom that Alexandra had her MBA, we both cried. My mom congratulated her. All those years of pain of not being able to talk with my aunt and my sister was somehow mitigated in that moment. It gave us hope that someday we could understand each other without having to scribble notes. Or wonder what each of them was trying to say. What Alexandra achieved despite struggling her whole life to communicate is remarkable. We could only imagine the obstacles she had to overcome to get that coveted degree.
With Vü, I see a better future for people with hearing loss, deafness and other disabilities. Maybe others will take notice and want to help, too.
Together, we can enable the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to join the conversation and achieve more than people like me thought possible.
Do you have a story of a person with deafness or hearing loss that taught you something?