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Lori Roach shares strategies to overcome communication barriers during travel
An interview by Angela Lynn

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Lori has aphasia and is Hard of Hearing. She is the author of My Mother, My Voice: My Life with Aphasia

Aphasia, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, is a disorder that affects how you communicate. It can impact your speech, as well as the way you write and understand both spoken and written language. 

I am Lori Roach, hailing from Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. Currently, I am enthusiastic about learning new things to maintain my health, as well as writing and reading, which assist in improving my speech. I am employed alongside Naturopathic Doctors, working in an administrative capacity where I handle tasks such as data entry, invoicing, product orders, managing inventory and communicating with patients. This role posed considerable challenges for me due to difficulties in understanding what others were saying. I have both aphasia and am Hard of Hearing. I often make it known to others about my situation so that we can achieve better mutual understanding and improved communication.

What are your favourite travel places?

These include Shannon Falls and Squamish in British Columbia, as well as various locations in Vancouver and throughout the province. I relish driving around in a peaceful state of mind. I often come across tranquil spots to unwind and reflect, especially in places that bring back memories of my mother. Among these, the countryside holds a special place in my heart, with its vibrant trees, serene lakes and oceans. Escaping the hustle and bustle of the city to immerse myself in such scenery provides a meditative experience that I cherish.

What is aphasia?

Some children who struggle with learning to speak share similarities with adults who have aphasia. Individuals with aphasia can hear sounds, including voices, but these sounds may not always appear meaningful to them. People with aphasia acquire language much like children do, by breaking it down into smaller components and linking sounds with written symbols. Although I may not be personally acquainted with anyone who is both Deaf and has aphasia, it’s important to note that aphasia can affect both Deaf and hearing individuals, from infants to seniors.

How has your experience as a Hard of Hearing traveller with aphasia influenced the way you plan your trips?

Significantly! As an adult, I no longer have the comfort of travelling with my parents, who used to be my voice. It has been a challenge because I now have to communicate independently. I used to feel frustrated when people didn’t comprehend me, and I would question whether I had misspoken or if my speech sounded unusual. Over the years, I’ve developed more effective communication strategies through online research. I’ve discovered that I don’t always need to explicitly mention, hi, I have aphasia. Instead, I often use the term Hearing Impaired to convey my situation, which significantly enhances communication. It’s worth mentioning that this preference for Hearing Impaired arises because saying Hard of Hearing can sometimes confuse people and make interactions uncomfortable.

Hearing Impaired tends to be more easily understood and accepted by others, leading to smoother communication. However, I want to clarify that I personally prefer to identify as Hard of Hearing rather than Hearing Impaired.

How do you handle situations where communication barriers due to your deafness and aphasia arise during your travels?

In situations where communication becomes challenging due to both my hearing loss and aphasia, I employ various strategies while travelling. I adhere to my doctor’s recommendation to use my voice regularly. I speak deliberately and clearly to enhance comprehension, and I occasionally resort to writing with pen and paper. When I find myself in noisy environments like pubs or restaurants, where loud music can affect my speech, I patiently wait for the noise level to diminish before I engage in conversation. In such instances, I also use my phone to type out notes when necessary.

How do you find or choose accommodations that are understanding and supportive of your needs as a Hard of Hearing traveller with aphasia?

Selecting accommodations that cater to the needs of a Hard of Hearing traveller with aphasia presents various challenges due to multiple factors. Firstly, many accommodations may lack awareness of the specific challenges faced by individuals with aphasia and hearing impairments, which can result in a lack of appropriate facilities or staff training to provide suitable support. Additionally, there is a potential for misunderstandings to arise with communicating needs and preferences. My struggles to express these requirements clearly, coupled with the potential for accommodation providers to misinterpret them, can further complicate the selection process. To address these challenges, I frequently utilize my cell phone, paper and pen to communicate with the staff. In some instances, I also opt for Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) services based on the situation and the individuals involved.

What’s the location of your next trip? 

My next trip will be a vacation to Timmins, British Columbia for my family reunion next year. In the next few years, I would love to travel to the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany and other places in Europe.

Share a bit about your journey as an author 

I authored a book titled My Mother, My Voice: My Life with Aphasia, and it was a truly remarkable experience. A psychologist encouraged me to share my aphasia journey through writing, and with my son’s assistance, I began the endeavour. Completing the book spanned four years, marked by numerous emotional highs and lows. I am genuinely delighted to have been able to share my aphasia experiences through this book.

Here’s a summary: Taking a look at a life through the eyes of Lori will show you that a hard life lived is not a life wasted. My Mother, My Voice stands as a window into another world. A world where the disabled, in one way or another, are not given the same opportunities that a community of equality ought to provide, and are more often not, overlooked and cast aside.

For more information. visit mymothermyvoice.com.

Lori is working on another book about her journey which she hopes to finish in the next year or so. Stay tuned!

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