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This article is part of our Fall 2022 issue of Breaking Barriers. This installment focuses on acquired disability. Most people with disabilities were not born with their disability, but acquired it through stroke, accident, illness, aging, etc. In this issue, people describe how their acquired disability has affected them, what they’ve lost, and what they’ve gained. If you'd like to read more stories from this issue, please subscribe to Breaking Barriers.

As someone who was born with a physical disability that became noticeable when I started walking, disability has been baked into my identity for as long as I can remember. For those who eventually become disabled—whether through accident, onset, trauma, aging, or some other development that doesn’t “get better”—disability is often considered an intrusion, whether the disability is apparent to others (visible) or not apparent (invisible). 

In all cases, there’s a need to come to terms with one’s disability. It’s never been an issue for me to identify as disabled, mainly because mine can’t be hidden and I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t disabled. Others are not so quick to think of themselves as disabled (or admit they even have a disability). For example, several people who are hard of hearing have said to me, “I don’t have a disability; I’m just getting older.” 

Since hearing loss is invisible and typically acquired with age, it is among the most challenging disabilities to come to terms with. Hearing loss is challenging for other family members; and, when it’s not acknowledged, a hard of hearing person is likely to miss out on nurturing and developing meaningful relationships (think grandchildren). 

Hearing loss is isolating and frustrating. It’s made worse when churches don’t provide effective accommodations and hospitable environments that help people to hear so they can participate fully in worship and other aspects of church life. Read Veronica Heide’s letter to churches about hearing loss in this issue of Breaking Barriers, and then join us for a live virtual presentation at 7:30 p.m. (Eastern) on February 6, 2023, when two hearing loop experts will describe the benefits of hearing loop technology.

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