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Blogger Spotlight: Shanna Groves, lipreading mom

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The intersectionality of disability and advocacy is something Shanna Groves has known for more than 20 years. She lives with bilateral progressive hearing loss that was diagnosed in 2001 after the birth of her first child, who has a disability. She has published two books about deafness, Lip Reader (2009) and Confessions of a Lip Reading Mom (2013), and led advocacy presentations throughout the United States. Shanna decided to pursue a love of teaching and obtained a Master’s in special education. She previously taught young children with a variety of disabilities and created Individual Education Plans (IEPs) for students. She currently serves on the board of the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard   of Hearing.

Your best travel experience

Hitting the open road is one of my favourite warm weather activities. My family and I have travelled Route 66 twice and frequented highways in the U.S. West, South and East. We’ve visited places like Oklahoma and Texas more times than I can count to see family and friends.

Your worst travel experience

Before starting a family, I used to travel by plane to various destinations for work. My least favourite travel experience was when I was four months pregnant and I had a very short layover when flying home from a work event. The first plane was late taking off, which impacted me catching the second flight in a different terminal. I had to run across the airport while dealing with morning sickness and almost missed the flight!

Also, airport announcements are usually not captioned, and I cannot understand them clearly enough, so I have almost missed boarding some flights or gone to the wrong terminal to board because the terminal change PA announcement was not accessible to me.

Driving trips with family

Despite the joys of summer travel, driving and I don’t always get along. I blame this stress on my need to lip-read while driving the family places. It’s difficult to have any conversations in rush-hour traffic or even long stretches of desolate interstates. And night driving? It just doesn’t work well with my reliance upon lip-reading.

From the scrape on the passenger door of my minivan to the cracked bumper, I have participated in enough fender-benders to keep my insurance agent in business. Would it be okay to blame the inattentive driving on my three kids? Not every mom has to lip-read her children in the rearview mirror to understand what they are saying. But I do because I’m hard of hearing. When it comes to sitting behind the wheel, my eyes are my ears.

During some minivan excursions, my eyes focus on the cars ahead of me instead of the kids sitting behind me. Like magnets, bumper stickers catch my attention:


The last bumper message is something I should have been doing all along, instead of memorizing all the car stickers or talking to my kids through a mirror. Maybe if I took a deep breath and remained calm more often, I wouldn’t have backed the car up and side-swiped the passenger door against a mailbox. Or I would have stopped instead of rear-ending a dumpster. Maybe my van would still be in its pristine, straight-off-the-car-lot quality, instead of reeling with wounds.

Life is impacted by my driving style. When the days are more at peace, it is because I keep my eyes on the path before me. When my eyes sway off the path, I am left feeling anxious. If my driving skills are a metaphor for my life, then I am in big trouble!

Handy travel companions

I make sure to carry my iPhone, which has apps for accessibility, such as live captioning. I use the captioning when people are talking to me and I can’t understand them. I also have used a frequency-modulated system (FM system) that works like a microphone that the speaker wears and I hear their voice directly into my hearing aids. Also, I make sure to carry back-up hearing aid batteries because they need to be replaced every four to five days. I also carry a secure, dehumidifier case for my hearing aids and place them inside at the end of each day to remove moisture from them.

Advice to your younger self

The next time I am tempted to take my eyes off the road, I need to remember that simple, yet powerful, statement once spotted on the back of another beat-up car. When I strive to live in peace with those around me, my attention focuses on the joy of being on the open road before me and less on the distractions behind me.

Here is a new bumper sticker I’d love to create: IGNORE THE DENTS. I’M A WORK IN PROGRESS.

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