Hard of hearing

Signal dog

Signaalhond
Source: http://www.stichtingsignaalhond.nl/

In my blogs, I regularly write about technical aids that support better speech and hearing understanding.
Today I want to highlight a living tool that is hairy and has four legs: the signal dog.
Almost everyone is familiar with the guide dog, a dog “in progress” that warns its blind or partially sighted boss or female of obstacles.
However, there are also dogs that are specially trained for the deaf and hard of hearing, signal dogs. This was unknown to me until 10 years ago, until I started accompanying a client who was training a signal dog.

The dog signals sounds at home, but can also be taken by his owner to work, the shop, on a trip, to conferences and the theatre. Some examples of sounds that these dogs can signal are: the doorbell, telephone (including text messages or whatsapp), being called by someone, objects that the owner unnoticed drops.
Sometimes it is sufficient if a signal dog as a pet mainly signals sounds in the home environment. Then he doesn’t have to go withhis owner everywhere. Such a signal dog is called a ‘light dog’.

Of course, all signal dogs, like guide dogs for the blind, are trained by special training. Puppies are selected for this training and when they are old enough they start their training in a playful way, until they are old enough for the more serious work.
When the signal dogs are at work, they wear a special jacket with a clearly visible logo, so that it is clear to everyone: this is a special dog. They may not be disturbed by others, for example by stroking them or appealing to them, because then they lose their concentration of work. They have to watch out for their owner and be alert to their owner’s commands.
In their spare time they can be like all other dogs, play, laze and enjoy.

The intensive cooperation between the signal dog and its owner also creates a deep bond with each other. Therefore it is also important that, when someone starts with a signal dog, there is a good click between dog and owner. And in many cases, the signal dog also has a social function for his owner and can provide coziness at home. Both owner and dog are initially supervised by a trainer in teaching commands and in dealing with each other.

A signal dog has a very valuable contribution to the life of its hearing impaired owner, a value that is often wrongly underestimated.
For those who are considering a signal dog or just want to know more about signal dogs, information can be found for example under https://www.dogsforbetterlives.org/hearing-dogs/

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Hard of hearing

Discrepancy

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Last week was quite hectic and exciting for me. In the Dutch media it was announced that a law is being drafted that allows employers to hire people with a handicap or a disability for less than the legally required minimum wage.
Although it is certainly praiseworthy to strive to employ more people with disabilities, the drafting of this law is not good.
On the one hand, because this law could send a signal to “normal” colleagues that they may have taken away their work from colleagues with impaired working conditions or handicap who might work cheaper, which would make a conflict in the workplace quite possible.
Secondly, this law sends the wrong signal that employees with disabilities or impairments are less valuable. In this society, a lot of value is placed on participation in the labour market and unfortunately people who cannot work or “only” work voluntarily and without payment, are wrongly classified as less valuable. This law would underline this social rift.

Now I am absolutely no activist and this is not about personal awareness, on the contrary, but such a law would hit the core of society and especially the people who often have to struggle with their impairment or handicap every day anyway. They deserve at least a valuable share in society.
That is why I wrote an open letter to the MP in the Dutch Parliament, of the party that proposed this bill. I also published this letter in the social media. Many have copied this letter and sent it under their own name.
Meanwhile there is also a good initiative to collect signatures against this bill.

Also this week, I had to cancel a workshop “All around the ear and hearing” here in Switzerland, because unfortunately there were not enough interested people. Of course a little disappointing, but it has made me realize how little this topic lives in our society, although the consequences of impairment, such as hearing impairment, are often very serious.
It can not only influence the social life of those affected, but those affected also have a hard time finding and retaining work worldwide.

With my goal of making people more aware of the challenges of everyday life with hearing impairment, I still have a long way to go and I hope many will accompany me on this path. Please forward this blog to others, talk or write openly about your (hearing) impairment.
As a well-known proverb says: “Unknown makes unpopular”. However, more information leads to more awareness and more awareness leads to more acceptance.

Will you join me?

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