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People with deafblindness and hearing impairments perceive sounds differently, including grammar

You can find below a life story. Dorel Santi is a person with deafblindness from Sibiu, a true advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. We thank him for giving us the permission to publish his story on our website.

In June, the entire world celebrates the Helen Keller month – the month of deafblindness. Helen Keller is a symbol, she lost both her sight and hearing at the age of 19 months. She was a writer, the first person with deafblindness to graduate college. At national level, we have Vasile Adamescu. Officially, he was a blind person because the law does not allow for people with deafblindness to have a personal assistant.

Deafblindness = a person with both hearing and visual impairments, a different degrees, or the lack of both senses. Deafblindness generates major difficulties in communication, orientation and mobility. Deafblindness has 2 categories: congenital/from birth and acquired.

I thought hard whether to write a few words about myself or not. Some people know me personally, others via social networks.

I am a person with deafblindness from birth, I cannot see with my right eye and I can hear almost nothing with my left ear, I am wearing hearing aids on both ears and I have a ”French” accent due to the hearing impairment.

I went to mainstream school and, at one point in the first class, I was transferred to the Special Inclusive School no. 1 on Sibiu – not no. 2, for children with hearing impairments, probably because they thought I had other issues as well. After a few weeks, the inclusive school director called my parents in and told them: ”take him back to mainstream school, he is more intelligent than the typical children”.

I attended all school competitions in mathematics and geography, starting from the fifth grade until the end of high school. Mathematics helped me a lot when entering high school and at university. On the other hand, I was really bad at grammar, almost failed to pass the year, as people with deafblindness and hearing impairments perceive sounds differently, including grammar.  In secondary school, I had a Romanian language teacher who made us read one book and learn by heart one poem per week. I used to hate him for having to do this instead of playing football and hanging out in the neighbourhood. Maybe it was all for the best, as I got my taste for reading.

In high school, I was followed and investigated by the Securitate (military police) for anti-communist propaganda, as per my file at the National Council for the Study of Security Archives, I had been given up by my best colleagues and friends. After graduating high school, I went into the army at Diribau, doing agricultural work and constructions. Due to my disability, I should not have been called into the army, but this is what he Romanian Communist Party wanted for me.

After the army, I entered the Economic Studies Academy inBucharest, distance education. I hated he capital city, I used to go once every two weeks there to copy/write the courses from my colleague students, as back then there were no copying machines. I abandoned university 2 years later and I started the Faculty of Economic Sciences in Sibiu. I wanted to abandon this one as well, during my first year I thought higher education was not for me: i wasn’t able to hear what the professors were teaching, but eventually I graduated with a scholarship in both thirds and fourth year.

I was married to an economy teacher. I worked in the private sector, but I also worked as a public clerk. Currently, I am retired due to health issues caused by a double coxarthrosis surgery on both hips, I have difficulties walking, I walk like a duck or a goose. In school, I was an athletics champion.

I worked as a public clerk at Sibiu Townhall, with two mayors, Condurat and Iohannis, enrolled in the HR Department until 2000, and after that I was appointed chief of a newly established office dealing with personal assistants and people with disabilities. My first year of work was titanic, we took over all work books from IPHS, they needed to be checked, length of work had to be calculated. After I left, the office ”vanished” into the Social Work department.

I sued to attend many events, seminars, lectures and even electoral debates in the field of disability. Once, I was invited by a university professor to talk to students about my life as a person with disabilities. I didn’t ‚now what to say to them, I told them a few things about myself, I said I have the same needs as the other person, I earn my living through work, I have hobbies, I like parties and women, that in high school or in university we had parties and drinking evening every week. At one point, I simply let them ask the questions. At the end, I was surprised when the students invited me to have a beer with them.

Five years ago, I was refused and humiliated at a job interview, when I mentioned I have a disability, the interviewer suddenly stood up and left. I came home angry, feeling like I needed to do something for people with disabilities. I contacted Matei Ghigiu to create a group where we can debate inclusion, independent living, accessibility and the rights of people with disabilities. He told me this is in vain, there are only a handful of specialists in the field and that is why he didn’t want in. I abandoned the idea, so the group and the page are only to promote disability.