Photograph by Jamie Dunek

Photograph by Jamie Dunek

At age 2, I beat cancer leaving me partially deaf.
At age 5, I got hearing aids.
At age 8, I learned American Sign Language.
At age 24, I graduated from the second largest college for the deaf and hard of hearing, Rochester Institute of Technology.

Being deaf has always been…me. I grew up in the hearing world, was born to hearing parents and lived with hearing sisters. I am also a triplet, but the black sheep in a white herd. Although I was raised around people who could hear, I identified with the ones who couldn’t. I can speak but I’m also fluent in American Sign Language, which is a language made up entirely of hand movements and facial expressions.

With life, I feel like I’ve always had to pick. I had hearing aids but hated them and tore them out of my ears every chance I could. I tried to get a cochlear implant (a surgically implanted device to help me hear) and quickly decided against it. I spoke with my hearing family but signed with my deaf friends. Even my voice changed depending on whom I was with. It was always one world or the other.

I reached out to Amber to help me feel more empowered in my own skin. To help take the two worlds I was blessed enough to be a part of and combine them into one.

With this art, I’m speaking for the 360 million people worldwide that are deaf and hard of hearing, whose voices may not always be heard and often misunderstood.

Diversity as a whole surrounds us everyday. Most turn a blind eye to it but it’s everywhere; it’s the gay couple sitting in the corner of the coffee shop, it’s the deaf girl who didn’t hear you say, “excuse me” to get by her on the street, it’s the blind person with the service dog in a crowded restaurant.

If you happen to pass by this art, I hope you think about the world and the people that make up it.

#Can’tYouHearMe. This is my voice. This is me.