Mercy continues to drive positive experiences and opportunities for those in the disabled and deaf communities. Believing that a mentor will open the doors to a greater understanding and acceptance from those outside both communities.
She hopes her awareness will inspire change and the willingness to help others through mentorships.
In this interview, we talk about being a voice for those who feel they have none, taking the reins of your own future and understanding internalised and structural ableism.
It's a rainy day in late October 2022 and I begin our chat on Zoom by congratulating Mercy on being a finalist for Oticon’s Focus on People Awards and what a sense of achievement that must bring.
Mercy takes a pause, and starts by agreeing that it feels good to be recognised for her work and for founding the Youth Disability Empowerment Organisation, but then tells me her biggest personal achievement, she feels, is something else entirely.
"Well, yes sure, but for me - I really think my biggest accomplishment so far has to be my online article in Forbes”
I nod, knowing where she’s coming from - being able to use this respected platform to express and be a voice for the young disability and hearing loss communities is something to be proud of. Together with her gift for words, she created a piece of content focused on empowering those with disabilities to mentor other people who deal with the same barriers.
"The article's goal was to inspire people with disabilities to mentor other students with disabilities, seeing as we barely have that representation. I actually started writing at a very young age.
I love my stories – I still have them just in case I want to continue any of them or if I want to escape. The love of writing has just grown with me. It has evolved in so many ways"
Her confident storytelling and empowering words offer confirmation and show that there are no limitations to what you can do with the right guidance, support and resources – regardless of hearing loss.
I started to think about how hearing loss can be isolating for some and what the benefits of having a mentor for guidance might look like. Someone who understands the challenges that can provide a sense of connection and support.
Mentors with hearing loss or disabilities can share their own strategies and coping mechanisms for dealing with challenges, which can be helpful for those just learning to navigate life and perhaps expectations unfairly set by society.
There’s no doubt that Mercy's words have inspired both the deaf and disabled communities and changed outsiders' attitudes toward such. For example, Mercy informed people of the danger of using “low/high functioning” labels. She also mentions that mentoring others with disabilities can help foster acceptance and highlight the challenges faced by those with disabilities in society.
We move on and go back in time to when Mercy’s hearing loss journey began and the potential her parents saw in her - deciding to leave their old life behind in Ghana and focus on her future.
“I went to an audiologist and got diagnosed when I was eight years old. Surprisingly, I was very relaxed about it because my knowledge was limited back then. My parents were originally the ones who were worried because they thought it would limit my educational opportunities.
There were strong feelings, seeing as we immigrated to America to better my education. They were afraid for my future and the negative social impact hearing loss might have”.
In many ways, Mercy’s parent’s determination and drive have clearly rubbed off on her over time, as she made the steps to found her charitable organisation. One that empowers those with hearing loss and disabilities to have their own voice and take the reins.
"My organisation is based on my belief that you should be in control of telling your own story, focusing on the narrative of people with disabilities and making your own decisions – giving them a voice. One that is different from maybe teachers or parents.
For the longest time, my voice wasn’t included. The control was with my parents. It didn’t seem fair as I knew more about deafness than they did because I was living it. So, why was it that they were the ones in the meetings deciding my treatment, progress and educational path?"
As the interview draws to a close, I ponder on family involvement in hearing healthcare for a moment and how hearing loss experiences are unique to the individual. There are some that do benefit from getting the family involved in their hearing loss journey - to perhaps ease the burden of decision-making and organising follow-up appointments. It’s all relative.
On the other hand, mentoring people with hearing loss can help improve the quality of life for both the mentor and mentee by reducing isolation, providing support and increasing access to resources. Building resilience and helping to develop a voice to control how you want to hear, live and play out your future.
We sign off Zoom and I wish her luck in the awards, I feel I've gained some insight into how relevant the role of a mentor is for those with a disability or hearing loss. To see someone who has successfully navigated the challenges of hearing loss can provide inspiration and hope for those just starting out on their journey.
Hearing loss can be a difficult and isolating condition to deal with, especially as a young adult. However, there are steps you can take to manage your hearing loss and continue living a full and active life.
Managing hearing loss as a teenager (or beyond) can be challenging, but it's important to remember that you are not alone and that there are resources available to help you. By staying informed, communicating with others and seeking out support, you can lead a full and active life despite your hearing loss.
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