Sunday, June 30, 2013

Conversation with a Campground Host: Redefining Disability

Riding/Climbing/Hiking Icicle Canyon in Leavenworth, WA

The morning sun slowly warmed away the chilly summer night air of Icicle Canyon, beckoning me to come out of my little one-person tent.  Upon seeing me stumble out, the campground host, a old man with a peppered beard, hobbled to my site with the obvious intent to collect my dues. I pulled out my National Park Access Pass, a disability card, and handed it over. He looked at me sternly and asked "What's this?"

"An Access Pass."
"No, where did you get it?" His suspicion heightening.
"Sir, I am Deaf."

Eyes popped wide, he took back a step.
"Wh-... I.... Uh.... But... How do you ride that thing?" He stammered, pointing at my purple motorcycle.

While handing over my campsite dues, I explained I ride just as safely, if not safer, by relying on my other senses. I feel the vibrations, I sense when the bike needs to shift gears, and I'm constantly visually aware of my surroundings. Besides, who can really hear over the rumble and roar of a motorcycle anyway?

Dumbfounded at my Deafness, the old man confessed he was puzzled as why he couldn't wake me up by shouting through my tent walls and told me he had planned to come back later with the police.

"So, what are you doing out here? Hiking?"
I replied that I planned to hike today and rock climb tomorrow.

"Climbing?! You... Uh...!!! That's too dangerous for you if you can't hear!"

"Nope! I've been doing it for a while and have worked out effective communication."

"Don't you have a boyfriend?"


After a short awkward pause, the old man's eyes skirted the ground. Stammering as he walked away like a dog with his head down and tail between his legs, "well, you're.. Uh... Too... Uh..... Um... Uh.... Pretty not to have one"


Since when do I need to have hearing and a man to be awesome?? 

I have a disability. Go ahead, slap that label on me.  I shamelessly admit it. However, I don't let it stop me. It took a lifetime of learning and positive reinforcement from family and friends to let my disability strengthen me, not weaken me. 

There was a time in my life when I was too shy to admit I was Deaf. I remember sheepishly telling my teachers I couldn't hear well and then slink quickly back to my desk as the school environment mumbled around me. I was too scared to try and do things I really wanted to do, such as try out for the school play. 

Things have changed. Drastically. 

Being immersed with Deaf pride at Gallaudet University  has empowered me to be ME.  

I've figured out what my personal communication needs are and have learned not be afraid to communicate that to others, whether it be at work, on the mountain, or simply running errands around town. But most importantly, I've stopped believing that having a disability is my limit. 

If others choose to believe that then just go ahead...Climb your mountain and prove them wrong. 


  1. Exactly!!! Thats right girl you got it 100%! Being Deaf is an enhancement of who we are as Deaf people and Deaf climbers! Looking forward to climbs together!