Faces Behind the Screen: Lisa

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lisa gault

After discovering Faces Behind the Screen this summer, Lisa decided to send us a short email about herself.

She told us a little bit about her story as a deaf, single mother who struggled to raise a hearing son while living off of disability assistance before finally landing a rewarding job back in her home state of Montana.

Eager to learn more about the ups and downs of her fascinating journey, we were more than happy to reach out and give Lisa a full interview in response.

Do you identify as deaf, Deaf, or hard of hearing?

I identify as deaf. Not capital D, not quite, as I was not around Deaf people much until I went to Gallaudet University. I was born deaf.

I prefer to communicate in sign language but I consider English my first language.

What is the d/Deaf community like in your part of Montana?

The d/Deaf community is quite small compared to other places I’ve lived. I lived in Virginia prior to moving to Texas and both have huge Deaf communities. There’s more access to interpreters in those places and here we just don’t have that as much.

I have [recently] been more involved in the Deaf association, Montana Association of the Deaf, and we just had our biannual convention this past June. I was elected to be a delegate and also be the publicity director which means I’m responsible for the quarterly newsletter.

“Children often asked my son why I spoke funny and I had one incident where the teacher tried to tell my son to pass on a message to me.”

What is it like raising a hearing child as a deaf parent while also being a single mother?

It was a challenge. I could have used the support of a partner. Financially it was a struggle as I couldn’t buy him things like other children did and he went to a school where a lot of the families were well off and it was easy for the parents to give their kids everything.

We lived in apartments for most of his life and I was limited in social opportunities like the other parents had. Also, the children often asked my son why I spoke funny and I had one incident where the teacher tried to tell my son to pass on a message to me. I emailed that particular teacher and told her not to use my son as an easy way out and to communicate with me directly. He was not my interpreter and I was determined to give him as normal a childhood as I could. I doubt I’m that unique in my parenting experiences except that my son didn’t sign. It wasn’t my intention to not sign, but most of my social outlets were with hearing people while in Texas.

How and why did things change once you moved back to Montana?

I was able to tap into support with my family being close by again. I live in my brother’s rental house and he lives next door. My mother lives just down the hill from me. I’ve been able to reconnect with people (deaf) that I knew when I was growing up here.

I got my current job through the vocational rehabilitation office which happened to know my present boss as she was a previous employee/boss in that office and is well known through the vocational rehabilitation network in Montana. She worked there for years before transferring to the agency I work for now.

I’ve been able to pay bills on time, finally got a credit card again, been able to travel more now through my job and for personal leisure and my mother takes care of my animals which is so nice.

“Independent web series still don’t [address] the captioning issue. There are so many videos I want to watch and I cannot.”

What is your greatest struggle right now?

My greatest struggle at this point is the isolation. Montana has a small d/Deaf community and there are very few in the town I work in (Helena). The social opportunities are very limited and I have very few friends (hearing) that I can hang out with.

I wish I could take a class or something [to expand my social network and and/or advance in my career], but, although the interpreters are fantastic, there are not very many in the entire state. I think — as there are only two interpreters I know of that live here — one just moved to another city two hours away and the other interpreter is already working full time at a preschool. Montana is a huge state, but very few resources.

How do you feel technology helps or hurts your ability to communicate?

It has helped so much. Videophones, cell phones, closed captioning have all given us so much access to the world at large. We still have a long way to go as far as YouTube goes. Independent web series still don’t [address] the captioning issue. There are so many videos I want to watch and I cannot.

What is your proudest moment?

I was chosen last June to be a delegate for the NAD convention next summer. Another proud moment was when my son graduated high school. It was a huge struggle for him to adapt to a new school since we moved before his junior year.

Can you give one piece of advice?

Love yourself. It’s hard to do. But worth it.

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Pictures of four people who were interviewed for the Faces Behind the Screen project

Faces Behind the Screen is a storytelling project focusing on members of the Deaf and hard of hearing community.

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