A Countercultural Practice (Breaking Barriers Fall 2021 Editorial)

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This article is part of our Breaking Barriers Fall 2021. This installment features articles on people living with speech differences and the challenges they face, adaptations they have made, and the power of listening and being heard. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers.

My friend Cecil lives with Parkinson’s disease. He is a perceptive, informed thinker and conversationalist who keeps up on current events. He does this in spite of extreme hearing and vision loss that makes telephone conversations, reading text digitally or in print, and seeing and hearing TV difficult. His mobility is compromised, and his speech can sound labored. At 91, it’s best to schedule time in advance with Cecil and to sit close in a quiet environment, but visiting with him is delightful.

Cecil has always enjoyed interaction and engagement. He is outgoing, thoughtful, and interested in people, but his world is closing in. He now depends on the patience of others to speak and give him space to ask questions and hear what he has to say.

Not all speech differences require a slower pace, but several do, as both Chris Klein and Elizabeth Schultz illustrate in their articles. Like many disabilities—and I’m also speaking from my own experience as a disabled person—practicing a slower, more deliberate pace is a countercultural discipline, but it’s also a gift that serves everyone well.

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