Monday, May 31, 2010


As a deaf person, I am all too familiar with a hearing person unacquainted with the motions of a relay call hanging up on me. This has happened several times. A hearing person who does not know what a relay call is, or that relay is used by the deaf and hard-of-hearing to make a phone call with, often are surrounded by so many stories of phone scams, telemarketers and relay being used to con unsuspecting people out of money, etc., and so they automatically avoid receiving a relay call.

That said, on a personal level, it is extremely frustrating when I am trying to contact a company for their services or contact someone at a place of interest, only to have them say things like "this sounds like a scam" or "I don't have time for this" and they hang up. How sad they "don't have the time" to address a deaf person over the phone. I have ever since avoided these places and businesses (they have lost a prospective customer thanks to their paranoia and ignorance). However, when it is a family member who KNOWS that it is me calling (since I'm the only deaf person in my family and they know I must use relay for phone calls), it is downright offensive and hurtful when they hang up on me.

The most common situation in which this happens is at my mother's house. My younger brother and his four children live with my parents. For months, even years, trying to contact my mom by phone has stretched my patience thin. My brother has been known to answer the phone, give some remark ("I'm busy right now" or "there's nobody here") then hang up the phone without allowing me the chance to say a single word. Or, his kids will answer the phone, and since none of them are aware of what a relay call is, they hang up (that actually happened yesterday). Apparently, nobody over there has taken the time to teach those children proper phone manners. They just don't say anything after the relay operator announces the call and just hang up. Hey, guess what, kid? You just hung up on your deaf aunt!

But I never get to say a word. My ability to speak to them is cut off, because they have cut it off. They have decided they "don't have the time" to take a call from me, they don't want me speaking to my mother over the phone or they just want me to STOP CALLING. (One aunt I tried to call using relay kept hanging up on me, as well. Her husband finally answered the phone, screamed into the receiver "stop calling!" then hung up. I was deeply hurt, but you can bet I never called over there again. And, I never will. How sad even they don't understand that a deaf person in this family is trying to make a phone call using the only way she can do so: With a relay service.)

Trying to call back after being hung up on is useless. Nobody answers the phone. Not at all.

Today, I did get a chance to talk with my mother -- for all of 5 minutes. Then my dad got upset over her water being spilled on his papers, so she told me to call back in an hour while she cleaned it up and weathered another one of his fitful storms. I called back but when the phone was answered by my brother, he hung it up after learning it was a relay call. I called back, asking the operator to ask for my mom. My brother answered again and said he was busy right now, then hung up on me AGAIN. I called back a third time. This time, a woman answered the phone. After the operator asked for my mom, this mysterious female said "she's not here" and hung up.

So, I got to talk to my mom for 5 minutes today. That's it. Didn't get a chance to tell her to PLEASE explain to my stupid brother's children what a relay call is, and to give her the phone when they get a relay call. Not to hang the phone up! That is just rude. Just give the phone to her and say, "Grandma, Dawn's on the phone." Is that so hard?

But this whole thing is not just about manners. It also screams "discrimination" and "rejection." It's like they are saying, "If you can't call me like a normal hearing person with your voice on the phone, don't bother calling at all." Seriously, this is just one more thing certain members of my family reject about my deaf world. Plain and simple. It's just another slap in the face.

After yesterday's incident, I angrily decided not to call over there anymore. So why did I call over there again? Am I really that desperate for their kind of rejection and mistreatment? Am I a sadist for punishment? No. I called over there again because I desperately want to talk to my mother. My mother does not have email. She is not on the Internet. She has no cell phone, either. And writing letters would be useless; I doubt anyone over there would give them to her. Or if she can even mail back a reply. So phone calls are my only way to reach my mother.

And, unfortunately, nobody else over there seems to want me to call on the phone. They just hang up on me without giving me a chance to say a single word.

My mother lives in Illinois. I live in Oregon. I have not seen my mother for 3 years and what makes it even worse is that the cancer she has been fighting for decades is just getting worse and worse. Some days are good for her. Other days, not so good.

Would be so nice if I could maintain just one connection with her. Let me talk to her. Please, let me talk to my mother.

Mom, I love you very much. I didn't get a chance to say that on the phone today. I cry so many times because I can't see you and I am sad and angry I can't see you and that my attempts to call you are met with such rudeness from so-called "family." You will have a special place in my heart forever and I promise to come visit you as soon as I can. But even in spirit, please know that me and the kids are there with you. We miss you terribly and hope you will hang on until we can come and see you in person. I will always love you, Mom. Even if I can't ever say that to you again.


Anonymous said...

Sorry to hear this Dawn, your brother sounds like a real shmuck if I do say so myself! Are they aware of what a relay call is and how it sounds etc? Maybe they are behind on bills and think its a company calling to ask for money? Does your brother have a cell phone. I think I would try texting him and telling him I will be calling at such and such a time to talk to my MOTHER, please dont hang up on me!!!!!

That makes me so angry for you Dawn!!!

Dawn Colclasure said...

Thanks, Nancy. It has made me very depressed. Yes, my brother pretty much fits that profile. I forgot to mention that sometimes my mom will answer the phone, but she does not always answer it. When she doesn't, this is what I have to deal with! I miss her terribly and it's harder to keep going with each day because I can't talk to her as much as I would like to. No, he doesn't have a cell phone. The heck of it is, I have been deaf for over 20 years, and they still act like they don't know what a relay call is. You would think that, by now, everybody was well acquainted with what a relay call is!