Looking at the impact that her deafness has had on her life and communicating herexperiences to the parents of deaf children is the focus of a new book by GriffithUniversity’s Dr Donna McDonald.

Born in the 1950s and diagnosed at the age of three as ‘moderately-severely deaf,sloping to profound,’ Donna’s parents’ aspiration was that she would live and succeed inthe hearing community, kept separate from the deaf community.

After first attending the Oral Deaf Pre-School at Yeronga for five years, she was thentransferred to All Hallows, an inner-city private girls’ school. She grew up without accessto Sign Language. Donna’s efforts, combined with the determined advocacy of herparents, resulted in her achievements including a thirty year career in public policy andcurrently, the position of Senior Lecturer and Convenor of the Disability Studies Programat Griffith’s School of Human Services and Social Work.

A lightbulb moment

Yet despite her willingness to fit into the hearing world, Donna eventually had a ‘lightbulbmoment’ where she suddenly realised she was not living the life she really wanted.

“There was a trigger point when I was about 48 and working in the UK, where I felt I wasnot really living an authentic life and that I desperately needed to explore all those closed offfeelings about being deaf and what it means,” says Dr McDonald.

“I was ready to break my self-imposed silence about my deafness, and in writing mymemoir, I reconciled my childhood deaf self with my public deaf-hearing persona. Thisbecame my PhD which later turned into my book.”

An attempt to talk back to the hearing world, The Art of Being Deaf also looks at what DrMcDonald calls the ‘forgotten generation,’ the orally raised deaf kids that no one wants tothink about.

“These are the people who are neither embedded in the deaf community nor completelyaccepted in the hearing one, and there are many within this group who feel lonely andisolated,” she says.

“To this day, I continue to be horrified at the extent of some parents’ grief when they learnthat their child is deaf or hearing impaired. With my book I hope that by sharing mypersonal experiences, I can help parents see the potential for the opportunities that lieahead and realise that deafness is no death sentence.”