As part of my search for answers to where are all the deaf, hard of hearing, sign language people are at, I am interviewing people from all walks of life, literally all over the world. Here is the text interview with Rosie Malezer, a Deaf-Blind Australian who is living in Finland.
I have to tell you that this is a great interview because she taught me more in this interview than I could in an hour googling.
You may want to grab something to drink or a snack and get comfortable while you read this. I think you will not be disappointed.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, who you are, where you are from, where you are living now.
I am an Indigenous Australian who was raised by my dad. Gubbi Gubbi Country (in South-East Queensland, Australia) is my tribal land and I was originally from Cribb Island until the government bulldozed the entire suburb to make way for Brisbane’s airport.
I no longer live in Australia, however, as the state and federal police were unable to protect me over a span of fourteen years from my former spouse.
When I travelled to Finland to visit a friend, I fell in love with the country and returned six months later, only to meet the man who would eventually become my husband.
When we married, we had a choice of which country to live in. Due to my circumstances and my love of the cold, we both chose Finland as our forever home.
I speak my tribal language, English, Finnish, and also use AUSLAN and ASL, although I can hold a conversation with somebody using BSL.
I have a very close kinship with Nature and I love animals. Cats are my favourite four-legged beasts and I am owned by two of them.
I am not a fan of the word “disability” because we all have abilities. And none of us has the same abilities. But I do want people to know and understand better about your “disability” and what abilities you use to show the world you are capable of doing. Can you tell us a little bit more about this?
I actually fell back on some very old abilities that I had learned when I worked as a Prosecutions Officer and a Paralegal. I was also Copy-Editor of the state department’s magazine and was trained in many aspects of that job while I worked my normal job, assisting the Prosecutors. I was 19 years old at the time.
After receiving a spinal injury in an elevator accident (I was in an elevator which fell ten floors with me and another person inside), I was no longer able to work in an office that did not keep my feet on the ground.
I became claustrophobic, had panic attacks on trains, at work, in shopping centres, and was diagnosed with Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder after the elevator accident and with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) escaping the insanity of my former abuser.
When I woke up in November of 2014 without being able to hear a sound, I was diagnosed as profoundly Deaf, and my eyesight started waning shortly after. I am now classified as profoundly Deaf / legally blind (Deaf-blind).
As the government in Finland wrote me off as being useless, I decided to utilise some of the many useful skills I have and began writing.
I completed a professional proof-reading and copy-editing course to refresh my skills and now have twelve books under my belt so far.
When I am not writing, I work as a professional book reviewer and provide Editorial reviews to new authors to help them promote their books.
You have a fantastic blog, Rosie Malezer, that I enjoy reading. It would be awesome if you can share the three biggest benefits your audience gains from your blog and why?
There are actually three main things that I blog about.
The first is Deaf-awareness.
My journey as a Late Deafened Adult (LDA) has been extremely tough and filled with discrimination, audism and surdophobia from the Finnish government.
It saddens me to think that people who I have respected for so long treat the Deaf so badly. Our self-esteem is crushed under their shoes on a daily basis, audiologists treat you as a real nobody the very second you refuse Cochlear Implant surgery, which they classify as an essential surgery for Deaf, and the use of American Sign Language (ASL) is frowned upon so much that if you use it to communicate as a Deaf person in Finland, the government will not even provide you with speech-to-text interpretation.
Many people ask why not just learn Finnish Sign Language? Well, at a cost of almost one year’s income, that was completely out of the question, and was the only reason.
I was taught ASL for free by a linguistics professor at Sacramento State University – Dr. Bill Vicars – and my husband and I use it daily as our communication language.
The second thing I blog widely about is animal welfare.
Animals don’t have a voice that we can communicate with fluently. We need to be their voice and to stand up when they can’t.
The books that I write in the Cathood series (including the children’s Cathood books) raise money to help animals that await adoption, and that money goes to veterinary care, housing, bedding, food, kitty litter and more.
When I read about horrific things like the Yulin Dog Festival, Spanish bullfighting, trophy hunting, puppy mills and other types of animal abuse, I feel the need to scream at the top of my lungs…. ENOUGH!
While my donations to animal charity are not massive, it’s a start. I wish people would dig deep in helping our animals, while standing up and being their voice.
The third thing I blog about is (of course) books.
If I happen to read a book that blows my mind, that makes me cry, makes me lose sleep, makes me unable to focus on other things until I know how it ends, I let people know.
I have a few pages on Facebook (my author page, my Cathood page and my book review page) which share the news of really great books that have been released.
I also blog with tips and tricks to get your work noticed, the right way to get a great review, and press on the importance of having your work properly proof-read before submitting it for review.
Blogging is a great way to share information about what you have to offer. With that in mind, what is the number one question you are asked by your audience (friends, inquiring minds, followers, readers)? And have you answered that question?
The most asked question would be: “Why can’t I buy it in paperback?”
For a long time, I worked with Kindle only, as I thought that this is how many people work now. It allowed me to write, proof-read, edit and publish easily before moving on to the next book.
When I was signed by a publisher in London for my first book, “Change Your Name and Disappear,” which is the true story of how domestic violence and an elevator accident dramatically changed my life, I decided to write the next chapter of my life in a book called “How to be Deaf,” which deals with the radical changes made by the government after I woke up without sound.
In the interim, I pen the Cathood series to promote animal welfare issues for children and adults. “How to be Deaf” is available in paperback right now, and I am still awaiting publication of “Change Your Name and Disappear,” which is still only available in Kindle format.
Also, what is the most random question you have been asked? What was your answer?
About six months after I was diagnosed as profoundly Deaf, my father said something to me that left me speechless. He sent me a text saying: “How can you be Deaf? You can still speak!”
Silence followed that question and it was the very first time I had been left absolutely gobsmacked. I always grew up thinking that my father knows all, and we are very close to this very day.
But for something so ignorant to come from him upset me greatly. Of course, we didn’t know any Deaf people when I was a kid and, as far as I know, my father has never met a Deaf person in his life, so it should not have bothered me so much… but it did.
I ended up letting him know that I don’t hear with my mouth, and that while sounds no longer register, I can still speak… albeit a little too loudly.
I have been threatened with arrest for speaking too loudly in public and people often tell me that my hearing status should not dictate how loud I speak.
From memory, standing in a room with my sister when she was wearing headphones and listening to her favourite song, unable to hear herself speak, she would blast me with her voice when she was talking to me. It’s really no different for me.
I can’t hear myself when I talk. I try my best to speak at a normal level and I fail. I have been asked to face my head downwards when I talk so my voice comes out softer. This implies shame, and I am not ashamed of who I am.
I keep my head held high and am proud of who I am. I communicate with sign language and (sometimes) if I am in a room with a hearing person, I use my voice. Needless to say, my dad now knows that Deaf people can speak.
Can you tell us how long have you been blogging and what does a typical “blogging” day look like for you?
When I was a child, I kept a diary. I still have it and roll my eyes at some of the nonsense contained in those pages.
Around 15 years ago, I heard of blogging and (very shyly) started to blog in diary-style on MySpace. Soon issues came up which were important to me and I would blog about them to raise awareness.
When MySpace shut down, taking my blog with it, I signed up at a blogspot, but then my eyesight started to fail and the menu and my own writing was too small for me to see. I changed to WordPress and have been with them ever since.
While I don’t write a blog every day, I do write one when I have something to say, whether about books, mental illness, animals, being Deaf, or on days when I try to remind myself that I am not a lost cause, that I very much AM worth it, and that I have reasons to smile.
Do you find social media helpful in promoting your blog? If so, what are your top two social networks? How much time do you spend a week on those two networks?
I get good feedback from blog posts through Facebook and Twitter, although I also share my blog through other avenues via RSS feed in Google+, Goodreads, Amazon and LinkedIn.
It is always a great feeling to know that one of the blogs I have posted have reached somebody and made a difference in their lives.
One of the most viewed blogs I have ever posted is an Aboriginal Dreamtime story called “Tiddalick the Frog.”
Tales of the Dreamtime are mostly passed down from generation to generation through word of mouth from the Tribal Elders, telling how the Earth was formed, how we got our mountains and winding rivers, how the birds got their colours… and I like to share the Dreamtime stories with the world.
Looking ahead to the next three years, what do you think will be the greatest change in the deaf and hard of hearing world in terms of awareness or accessibility?
Schooling is one of the big ones.
More and more, countries around the world are shrugging off the importance of Deaf schools and are trying to mainstream the Deaf, forcing students to learn to lipread and to speak.
If the governments of the world want to make a vast improvement for both Deaf and hearing, why not instead teach your local sign language in all schools?
Don’t mainstream the Deaf if you won’t incorporate signing into the curriculum. I read constantly about how “Deaf people are dumber because their grade point average is…..” OH PLEASE! We aren’t dumber.
Our opportunity to learn is lessened dramatically because the government does not make a real and genuine effort to include us.
Another thing I would love to see happen is for some of these “concepts” of audio alerts (vibrating bracelet, vibrating rings) to become a reality.
I see so many hearing people invent a concept and then shop it to the world so that people can say “Oh wow, what an amazing person you are to think of that.” Sadly, the idea is where it ends. It doesn’t become reality.
I have been almost hit by a bus and a truck, with my husband dragging me out of the way quickly while they blast their horn, attracting every single bit of attention possible to everybody… except the person who can’t hear it.
If somebody wants to make these devices a reality, major kudos and a big THANK YOU from the Deaf community worldwide.
What is the number one tip you can recommend that you would share with all of the deaf, hard of hearing and sign language users interested in blogging?
Don’t be afraid to express yourself.
One of the most important things when including a video in your blog, however, is captions. If you sign your message to the world, please include proper captions (NOT auto-captions).
If you speak your message, again, please include proper captions. The world is not just made up of us Deafies. The world does not solely include hearing people.
If you want your message to reach everybody, captioning bridges the communication gap between us.
Just for fun, if you could book a one-way ticket anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
One way? It’s kind of funny and ironic to see this question.
I would love so much to visit my family in Australia again, but I know that it is never going to happen because of the risks involved. I have also been house-bound for the past eight months with my Agoraphobia with Panic Disorder and PTSD going a little nuts.
My biggest dream in this world is to see my family in Australia and to hug my parents and tell them I love them… but I would have to make the ticket a return one.
Finland is my home by my husband’s side. While the government aren’t Deaf friendly, I couldn’t wish for a more wonderful and breath-taking place to live.
It rains almost every day in summer and snows almost every day in winter. I see squirrels run up the trees just outside my window and smile so hard that my lips almost touch my ears.
As much as my life has changed, I am still more fortunate than many people. So if the ticket must be one-way, it would be to my local library which is at the end of my street!
I’m curious, what did you learn from Rosie’s interview?
I think Rosie gave us some awesome answers that allow us to understand how we can work to make our world a better place for all deaf and hard of hearing people everywhere. Now it is time for me to ask you what did you learn from this interview because you may have some answers or questions. I look forward to your responses.
On a final note, I finished reading Rosie’s book, Change Your Name and Disappear (Amazon Associate link), a true story based on Rosie’s personal life. I have to admit I am very impressed with the quality of her writing. As stated in my review on Amazon,
Rosie has crafted a story that is accurate and realistic in a quality manner that pulls you from chapter to chapter to discover what happens next.