Breaking the sound barrier

In my continued translation of old news articles about me, I now turn to a promo piece in the Tri-City News, that appeared on July 30th, 1997. This was to raise awareness and funds for my first Helen Keller World Conference, held in September of same year.

It was written by Mike McQuillan.

I did not pick the title of the article… what am I breaking?

Anyways… here we go:

Well, that was a shot missed, I just tried to find the article in question at the Tri City News archives. I guess they didn’t save my article!

The article is proceeded with a picture of me, with hair, looking at email on my old desktop computer. The picture is in black & white, so I don’t know if I had a monochrome monitor, or something ugly that I’d rather forget, as I am sure many of you do as well!

So, here is the article.

Being legally blind and partially deaf have never been much of an excuse for Craig MacLean of Port Moody. When he was just one year old he contracted viral encephalitis, a virus that has gradually reduced his sight and hearing. (While the encephalitis was the starting, it was not the reason, as we learned in 2014, that I had CAPOS.)

But he doesn’t have handicaps, he says, only disabilities. Today, he is a few courses short of his psychology degree from Simon Fraser University. He teaches American Sign Language and volunteers with numberless agencies, helping to promote the causes of the deaf-blind. He’s the vice-president of both the Canadian Association for the Deaf-Blind and the B.C. Association for the Deaf-Blind.

This September he travels to the Helen Keller world conference for the deaf-blind in Columbia (the right spelling is Colombia, can’t believe the editor at the time let this misspell pass by undetected!), South America, where he will be a keynote speaker.

Because of the communication barriers MacLean faces, the internet (now that is an archaic word, its now social media!) has opened up a whole new world to him. He has found it invaluable tool for connecting with others, including The Tri-City News this week. This is his story.

– What has the internet done for you?

“It’s opened a great lot of messages and support and gained me some great friends. It has made some things accessible, such as finding out about the deaf-blind around the world… what they are doing, learn from their errors and tell the world of my successes and failures. I get support from people I would not have expected it from.”

– What sort of things do you use the internet for?

“I would like to get into a chat room but currently due to busy days, I am just using e-mail. I am on a deaf-blind mailing list that connects me to many deaf-blind persons, parents and professionals around the world.” (I probably wanted to say something more like: “I would like to get into a chat room, but due to my 14.4K modem being so slow…” oh those were the days… that I don’t miss at all!)

– What exactly is viral encephalitis and how did you contract it and describe how it afflicted you over time? What is the current nature of your handicap?

“Actually, I am not urge what that disease does or did to me. I believe it is a virus that attacked my body before my immune system was able to stop it. It damaged my hearing and visual nerves and is has caused me to slowly become more blind and more deaf.

“I do not have a handicap! (Underline added for emphasis.) Please be careful, handicapped is a negative attitude. I have a siability, I cannot see and hear very well. I also have balance problems that make me look “drunk” which I am not.”

– What are your goals?

“I want to teach, not necessarily children but adults as well. Anyone who needs special assistance and has special communication barriers. What I have told many employers is, I want to work with the deaf-blind as a teacher because I have BEEN there, I’ve done that, I know what I have to do to OVERCOME it. So far no has hired me. Smile!

“I have a minor in learning disabilities, I tutor various children and I teach American Sign Language in elementary schools, all on a volunteer basis. I like to see young minds acquire knowledge.

– You do a lot of volunteer work. Why are you interested in helping others?

“Well, i must help people to help improve myself… otherwise i would be nothing. I want to help others because it leads to social recognition, something that I like but don’t get enough of. (Boy was I full of myself, yes?)

“What this means is that I want friends and if I can busy myself helping others I will gain their friendship and they will gain mine. As well, those I help gain independence and self-esteem.” (Phew, saved that one!)

– You’ve also achieved quite a bit. Was it difficult?

“It was a hassle to get the right kind of service for me and learning what I need to do, assertively, to get those services. For a long time at Douglas College I was pushed around because I was not aware of my (it should be ‘the’) services that I had a right to. But now I know what I need and I get them!”

(This is the climatical question, and I answered it so-so, gosh, it was dreadful, subpar! Like hitting a nail with a rubber chicken! I can’t believe I was so indirect! I will update that question in my next blog…)

– For people who aren’t deaf-blind, what sorts of things would you like to tell them? What attitude and stereotypes do that have that really tick you off?

“The biggest thing, aside from the above, is that hearing people tend to ignore us. They think they can abuse our rights. Many times I have requested services and assistance only to be left waiting for a long time while the people are standing around. One guy is sitting right there and did not do anything. (HUH??)

“This is negative… so you can sum it up in the following way: I want to educate the public about deaf-blindness. I feel the lack of knowledge leads to prejudice and misinformation.”

– What are the greatest infringements on the rights of the deaf-blind in Canada NDBAM worldwide?

“It is my belief that Canadian people do not know what deaf-blindness is. They falsely claim it is a group of DEAF people of a group of Blind people. Therefore it should be grouped under either one of those umbrellas. But DEAF-BLIND is a culture in a class by itself. It is true that there are certain parts of each culture involved in the deaf-blind culture, but there are also others. (Okay, so I partly answered the previous question… but I ended it rather lamely…)

“What I am doing with the CNIB is trying to raise more awareness by making posters and other paraphernalia that will educate the Canadian public. (What!? I never worked with CNIB, not even as a volunteer… so I don’t know where this came from. Maybe McQuillan, the author, misheard me when I actually said CNSDB…)

“Regarding worldwide, I believe that the worldwide deaf-blind, specifically in the Third World countries, are even worse off. (… than what? This was prior to my attendance to the HKWC, so that was my blanket answer, apparently it was more appropriate than saying ‘I don’t know…’) I do not have actual information but I believe that they do not have quality interpreters (was I thinking Intervenors?) or educators. It is my hope and dream that I can meet some of these people in those countries and offer them my skills as a teacher of the deaf-blind. Then, after I complete my BA, I will go and work for them.

McQuillan ends the article with a plea for donations for me to attend the Helen Keller World Conference, giving CNSDB’s address and, holy-moly, right name! I don’t know if I received any donations.

  • Oh boy! Not only did Mike McQuillan get the name wrong; it is the Canadian National Society of the Deaf-Blind, he also said FOR, as in FOR the Deaf-Blind! Thanks to Facebook, I learned that if a group has FOR, they are helping others, whereas if a group is OF, they are helping themselves. For groups are usually people who are not, well, Deaf, maybe parents or medical individuals. Of groups are run by people who are Deaf, DeafBlind, Queer, Intervenors, etc. If I had seen the draft before McQuillan had sent it out, I would have been able to correct him! However, I didn’t see this error until 23 and some months later!
  • Notice I say that I have vision, hearing and balance issues? This was way back in 1997, so even then I knew I had something unique. It wasn’t until 17 years later, the lifespan of a teenage rebel, before I found out these three, plus two others are actually related!

Okay… enough for today!

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Good day to you all!

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