Every parent knows the feeling of watching their child’s face light up with excitement when they learn something new. But it’s a different experience when your child is hearing and vision impaired.
My wonderful 14-year-old daughter Madison was born premature, with vision loss and profound hearing loss. She loves to learn – smart, passionate and full of curiosity about the world around her, she absorbs new experiences like a sponge. She also depends on hearing aids and American Sign Language(ASL) to communicate.
Most places just aren’t set up to welcome and communicate with Madison. When we visit a public place, like a museum, theatre or airport, Madison relies on me to interpret for her. Although my ASL is good, my biggest fear when I interpret for her is that I may misinform her or influence her learning based on my interpretation of what is being said. She has the right to discover the world for herself. Plus, parenting is already a tough job and adding the duties of a full-time interpreter can be overwhelming.
That’s why our family’s first visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was life changing. It opened our eyes to what “normal” could feel like.
I get emotional when I recall it. I stepped through the front doors and I was overwhelmed by the beautiful architecture, but I knew something else was different. ASL and closed captions were everywhere! The Museum’s mobile app, which takes visitors on a self-guided tour, was even offered in ASL.
For the first time, Madison was able to make her own way, learning alongside her brother Matthew and me about human rights champions who fought for her right to participate in society without being discriminated against because of her vision and hearing loss. To know that the Museum valued Madison’s learning as much as anyone else’s and to see her face light up with amazement and delight moved me to tears. I still hold onto that memory today as a reminder of what being equal feels like.
I’m asking you to donate and support the ongoing work of the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights today so that more children from across Canada can have inspirational experiences like my daughter Madison’s. To have a national institution consciously designed from the ground up to empower my family alongside everyone else’s is exceptional. I am ecstatic that the Museum is receiving all the international recognition it deserves, because it is setting a new standard of accessibility that everyone should follow.
After we visited, I knew that we had to share this experience with more families that had deaf and hard of hearing children. We live in Calgary, so I approached other parents of deaf and hard of hearing students, the Calgary Board of Education and the team at the Museum.
Together, with your support as donors to the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, we launched a pilot field trip that brought a dozen deaf and hard of hearing students from Madison’s school division in Calgary, along with their parents, to experience the Museum for themselves.
I know that these 12 students from Calgary are just a few of the 30,000 students who visited the Museum in 2018. But, behind every student is a family doing their best to raise thoughtful, smart kids dedicated to thriving as equal citizens. Your support of the Friends of the Canadian Museum for Human Rights made that work a lot easier for twelve families like mine that face unique challenges everyday.
That’s a special gift that will stay with Madison, her classmates and their parents for the rest of their lives. Parents keep telling me how grateful they were to have this experience with their child and see them thrive. Students were inspired by the stories of the Museum, and they will keep growing because of what they learned for years to come.
But perhaps most importantly, they understand that they are valuable, and that their human rights matter too. Please make your donation today so that more students like Madison can have inspirational and enlightening experiences at the Canadian Museum for Human Rights.
P.S. My daughter Madison’s visit to the Canadian Museum for Human Rights was a life changing experience. Your support made it possible for her schoolmates from Calgary to visit the Museum and learn so much – including that, as people who live with vision and hearing loss, their rights matter too. You can make sure other students get the same opportunity by supporting the ongoing work of the Museum.