“Their whisper would hurt me a lot.”


“Their whisper would hurt me a lot.”

Hello, I’m Yasuko Abe, DEAF-SHIRUs founder’s grandmother. I will be 75 years old this year and have a disability ID card. The disabilities listed there is of physical disability of fingers and hearing. I would often get sick when I was little and was frequently hospitalized. At that time, doctors prescribed me a lot of medicines and made me undergo multiple surgeries. Although I was getting healthy, the side-effect of those drugs caused a significant decrease in my eyesight and hearing. Today, I would like to share the story of my fingers and ears.

Back then, my family’s profession was livestock farming and I come from a big family of five siblings. Since I was physically weak, I would always stay by my mother’s side and so was greatly pampered. One day when I was three years old, my mother was chopping straw through a big straw-silage chopper. I approached her from behind so as to ask her for a piggyback but being ignorant, I happened to place my right hand under the bunch of straw at the feeder which were yet to be chopped and so my mother didn’t notice it at all. In a split second, my fingers too got chopped along with the bunch of straw. I screamed and wailed in pain and mother noticed my hand right then. She immediately wrapped it by her washcloth which was wrapped around her head and afterward, we ran to the hospital. Back then, we didn’t own a car, so they took me to the hospital pushing me on a handcart but it was too late to rejoin my fingers.

I took my physical checkup again after joining school. When I compared myself with the people around me, I then realized for the first time that I was hard of hearing and also had low vision. When asked, the doctor said that it was caused by the side effect of the medicines prescribed before. I didn’t have any hearing aids at that time, so it was very difficult to hear what the teacher was saying, but I managed to continue studying by looking at the textbooks and reading the teacher’s lips. However, it didn’t go so well with English that way because it was a foreign language which was too difficult for me even to read the teacher’s lips.

As I grew up, I realized I was more different from others because I didn’t have fingers on my right hand and I was also HOH & with low-vision. I could see my friends whispering behind my back and I could surely assume that they were backbiting about me. That was tremendously hurtful.

I decided to use a hearing aid only after my first child (a daughter) was born. She really was squirmish and would run away from my sight, get lost and cry, so I needed hearing aid to find out her whereabouts. In the past, hearing aids were of the type that you could put in your pocket. I had my disability card, so could get it for free. I felt really uncomfortable and dizzy the first time I put it on because of various mechanical sounds. It took me weeks to get used to it. Hearing aids are surprisingly fragile. They break quickly even at a slight bump or the influence of humidity and are not durable for a long time. On the contrary, they are getting more and more expensive, and even with a disability card, they cost around $2000 to $3000. I often think that the government should provide them for free so that HOH people of any class can use them.

I was weak in the past but struggles have now made me stronger. As my child grew older, I started sewing which I still do. At first, I worked in an institution for the people with disabilities and later, I started my own business as a tailor. I’m a person with a disability, so I don’t charge as much as a normal tailor but only half the normal wages. I believe that the skill of tailoring is better for me than anything else. Now, at the age of 74, I am still working and living very well surrounded by gentle, kind and valuable customers. Thank you!

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