Health Care, Life Stories, Wellness, Life, Social Justice

Hearing loss in the Mosque

Accessibility is important in every space.

Having a hearing problem is a quietly isolating experience. There are often large chunks of conversation that are missed, and oftentimes people become angry when you can’t hear them. It is also viewed as something deeply negative as if we can’t live a meaningful and fulfilling life: hard of hearing and deaf culture is vibrant and beautiful in its own way. You don’t need to hear properly live a meaningful life. The only thing that makes having a hearing problem a hindrance is the lack of accessibility.

There are no speakers loud enough for me to hear the sheikh (Islamic preacher) during khutbahs (Islamic lectures) or even during prayers. There are no ALS interpreters. There are no discussions about deafness; it is simply seen as something to be pitied. Oftentimes, you hear people say things like, “Be thankful it isn’t worse,” or, “Pray that doesn’t happen to you.”

Religious spaces are supposed to be sanctuaries. They are a respite from the harshness of the world. However, for deaf and hard of hearing individuals it is a place where they are not seen as respected. complicated humans. They are an object of pity and abhorrence.  It is a reflection of our ableist world : disabled people are robbed of their humanity.

 There are also financial implications to having a disability: it requires more effort to accommodate.

Many deaf and hard of hearing individuals also live in poverty and have trouble accessing jobs etc. If you are an immigrant, Muslim, first generation or any combination of the three you also face challenges finding a job. Being both a minority and deaf puts you at a unique disadvantage.

There is also the presumption that ASL is the only deaf language, but this is far from the truth. Arabic, Punjabi etc. all take on beautiful forms in sign language. I know of two deaf Syrian refugees in my city who would benefit from others knowing Arabic sign language.

If you truly want to make a difference in the life of someone who is deaf or disabled, start by doing research and making it a point to include them in conversations. Don’t get flustered you have to accommodate them. In addition, safe spaces like a mosque should not make anyone feel like a financial burden. Having a disability is costly, and we unfortunately live in a capitalist world that does its best to make disabled individuals feel worthless.

Keep in mind that it is never easy to ask for accommodations. It takes great courage to discuss deafness or hearing loss due to the inevitable repercussions: the social stigma, the immediate drop in respect and consideration. I discovered I had hearing loss when I was ten years old. I remember arguing with the doctor about having to wear hearing aids. I wanted them to be grey and unseen instead of choosing from an abundance of beautiful colors