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An Open Letter to The Man Who Called Me Retarded

An Open Letter to The Man Who Called Me Retarded


I have a unilateral hearing loss.

You have a lot of learning to do.

My hearing impairment has always been a part of my life. I have a physical disability. Often it is neither here nor there, simply a part of me. I wear a hearing aid and in everyday life I do not struggle; in fact I thrive. It is so irrelevant that friends simply forget about it, and sometimes, I do too. It has never made me lesser, and I have never really identified as disabled, despite that being the truth.  My disability is a part of me but I am not my disability.

One of my ears has a profound loss. To give you an idea, at some frequencies I can feel the sound wave vibrations before I can hear any sound. Sometimes, in check-up tests, the sound is so loud that it physically pains me … and yet, it is silent.

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Unlike you, I do not see it as a bad thing. Of course apples are apples and this is a disability. However, this blessing in disguise is an integral part of me. It has shaped me to be open-minded and empathetic. Because I am deaf, I take care of my hearing. Because I am deaf, I am thankful that I can walk, talk, see and think. It is a unique trait, it is the root of many comedic (if not exasperated) stories, and it is a source of continual learning, gratitude and humbleness. To me, my impairment – my disability – is many things. It is not, and never will be, a reason to be insulted or discriminated against.

Last night I saw my disability through your eyes. I saw it as disgusting, as a liability and as a manifestation of me as a whole. You were disgusted simply because I struggled to hear you? Please.

Work is the most challenging place. It is loud and there are so many sounds competing for my attention. While working in a fast-food drive-through I struggled to take your order through my headset. After several attempts, I asked you to drive around to the counter window so that I could hear you. This process is nothing new, but your reaction was. You insulted me for something outside of my control and proceeded to be rude, despite me informing you of my impairment. Calling me retarded wasn’t your finest moment … at least I hope not.

You were wrong in your assumption. Furthermore, you neither had the audacity to apologise yourself, nor to me directly. Yet, your rudeness was only part of the problem. I have one more bone to pick with you.

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The insinuation of intellectual disability as an insult is pathetic. Intellectual disability should never be criteria for suggesting someone is lesser. People with disabilities, physical or intellectual, are equal with everyone. Why do you think disability is something to be made fun of? It is pitiable that you thought this was an insult. People do not choose to have a disability. They do, however, choose how to treat people.

Moreover, ‘retard’ in itself is such a vulgar word with a history of judgement, hatred and fear behind it. There are so many words to choose from, so many beautiful things I am sure you have said. Yet, you chose ‘retard’. I am disgusted you used it. Why spread hate speech? It only hurts.


I must say, that is not the way to treat someone. Wisen up, and grow up.

Featured photo source: Bridget Herrmann
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