Today is Blogging Against Disablism Day. And for today, I wanted to write about a sort of ableism (as we call it here in North America) that’s rather subtle and largely unconscious, but no less problematic.
An important concept in social justice circles is the idea of privilege. For those unacquainted with the concept, perhaps the easiest way to describe it is that by being born into a certain group (race, gender, economic class, etc.), you’ve automatically, even unconsciously, been given an advantage in certain matters as a part of that group. This, of course, even applies to disability: if you’re not disabled, you’re automatically granted advantages that many disabled people will have to work for at best, or may never attain at worst.
I’d write about neurotypical privilege here, since that’s the most obvious case that’d be relevant to my own disabilities, but Bev from Square 8 has already created a neurotypical privilege checklist that’s so good, I don’t think I could ever manage to outdo it. (And besides, I contributed a couple items to it myself!)
However, along with Asperger’s syndrome, I also have auditory processing disorder. It affects pretty much every act of spoken communication I participate in, so it’s not something that can be easily ignored. And I’ve noticed that many people don’t even consider how certain activities can be discriminatory to those of us with abnormal hearing or auditory processing.
I wish I could provide an outright hearing privilege checklist, but that’d be problematic given that I have at least some privilege in that respect myself. My hearing itself is OK; I’m overly sensitive to noises, and I have perfect pitch that’s a blessing for solving the Selenitic Age in Myst but a curse when I’m asked to play on a piano that’s horribly out of tune. At the same time, because of my auditory processing disorder, I do share many of the same difficulties understanding speech that someone who’s deaf or hard of hearing would have. Nonetheless, it’d be best to refer to this as an auditory processing privilege checklist, not a hearing one.
So, without further ado:
The Normal Auditory Processing Privilege Checklist
- I can watch first-run movies in any theater and still understand a majority of the dialogue without having to attend a specially scheduled screening with subtitles.
- I can watch movies on streaming services and comprehend the dialogue with the same ease that I could with a DVD rental.
- TV shows are equally accessible to me whether I record from TV or watch them online. I could drop my cable TV subscription without losing access to those shows.
- I can easily carry on conversations with several other people in a bar or restaurant, no matter how noisy the place is.
- I can easily understand what people say to me on the phone, and do not have to frequently ask for repetition.
- If I want a smartphone data plan, the minimum required voice plan of 300–400 minutes that must accompany it is not overkill.
- I can decipher the lyrics for most songs without having to look them up.
- Rock concerts are at a perfectly reasonable level; I don’t need to stand at the back or remember to bring earplugs.
- I can understand messages broadcast over PA systems without a lot of difficulty.
- Lectures are just as easy for me to comprehend without visual feedback such as PowerPoint as they are with visual feedback.
You’ve likely never thought about how many of these experiences aren’t universal, or how these situations might be discriminatory— and that’s precisely the point of this. I see so many posts, for instance, talking about eliminating cable subscriptions and going to online TV viewing; yet most of the cable-only shows I’m interested in, if they are available online in the first place, aren’t captioned in any form.
And that’s just the start. Can anyone think of any other examples of privilege experienced by those without auditory processing disorder? I’m totally open to suggestions; feel free to leave them in the comments!