My Life Experiences

By Tuttles Manley

I am from Bombay, India. After my parents discovered that I was deaf and had dysarthria - stemming from cerebral palsy - I was taken to England for my education as there were no suitable facilities for the deaf in India at the time. So from the age of three, I was brought up in London.

My parents were advised by a counselor that I was very intelligent and should be mainstreamed into a regular school. Although they wanted the best for me, they hesitated and finally decided to send me to a day school where all the teachers concentrated on language, reading, writing, speech, and lip-reading before allowing the pupils to move on to other subjects in their curriculum. Since they were strict about not using sign language in England as I was growing up, I was taught the oral method throughout my early education. During most of my ten years there I received a prize for speech. In my last year there, I was also awarded a top prize for overall achievement in school.

Because I was born with cerebral palsy, I was encouraged (mostly by my older brother) to take up swimming as a therapy to build up strength and to overcome and improve control of my jerky movements, which are now negligent. Naturally, I was swimming like a fish by the time I was nine years old. One year, the swimming coach at the club in Bombay, where my family maintained a long-standing membership, thought I would be good enough to enter their annual swimming gala. Back in London, I was so good at it that I was chosen to swim for the school.

I transferred to a deaf boarding school for three years and continued with the oral education. We had a very strict principal and some ridiculous rules were imposed in that school, which contributed to my unhappiness at this program. I was glad to have the advantage of, and I always looked forward to going home every weekend. I was given the responsibility of a small child who also lived in London and whose parents wanted her home every weekend. I used to take her on the train and deliver her to her parents on Fridays and accompany her back to school on the following Mondays.

As the time went on, it became clear that I was bored and yearned for a change and some means of widening my knowledge and experience of the wide world. My parents decided to take the plunge and suggested a public school where my cousin had attended long before. Of course, we were all a little apprehensive as it would be the very first time I was immersed in a completely hearing world. Once again, I transferred to that school and - as you can imagine - being the only deaf girl there, found everything was new and difficult. The first few weeks were terribly confusing. I hated it and was very homesick for my family. However, the other girls were marvelous and helped me to settle down quickly. By the end of the first term, I was popular with both the girls and the staff. I learned and achieved a lot there - I helped the night staff look after the junior girls, including seeing that that they got to bed on time, comforting them when they got homesick or upset, etc. In the second term, I was elected a prefect, became a member of the swimming team. Looking back, the transfer to that school was the turning point of my education and, eventually, my life. I had the chance to prove to myself and others that I can do A-N-Y-T-H-I-N-G in the hearing world!

Next, I went on to college for one year to prepare for a G.C.E. - General Certificate of Education. After that, I started working in a travel agency in London. I enjoyed my first job which involved outside messenger work and learned many facets of the travel business. I also became familiar with the passport office, embassies and consulates. After work, I helped out at my mother's boutique where the clientele included celebrities such as royalty, film stars, and so on. We also traveled a lot - mostly in Europe. Thus my experiences in a number of countries in the world provided me with additional knowledge and sophistication.

Later, working in the Indian Market Research Bureau in Bombay was also an interesting experience as I had never before worked in India and didn't remember living there as a small child. While working there, I used to feel frustrated sometimes as I knew I was on the same level as those I worked with, but had to convince them of that fact continually.

At the same time, I took a course in Key Punch and studied French privately. Wanting to further my education, I eventually came to Denver, Colorado. I studied at the Community College of Denver - Red Rocks and obtained an Associate Degree. I enjoyed my stint at CCD where I made many friends and learned more than I ever did in England. It was here that I decided to learn sign language as I wanted to make friends and communicate with the deaf. I must admit it was not so easy at this late stage as I had always been an "oralie."

After a short break in Bombay, I returned to work in an advertising firm in London and then went on to Geneva, Switzerland, when the firm expanded. Working in Geneva was a good experience and really fun as I had to speak French at times. I returned to London with a job at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry as an invoice clerk/book-keeper in the Accounts Department. Then I took a few temporary jobs before I decided that I wanted to specialize in Special Education and transferred all my credits from CCD to the University of Denver in 1980.

There I ran into problems. I found I was not getting anywhere - I was fighting for some support services such as an interpreter and a note-taker and had to enlist the help from the Office of Civil Rights to solve the case. I also worked on campus. While still a student there, I met my late husband, Duane - who was hard of hearing, at a fellow deaf student's friend's party along with a couple who brought him and also became my friends. Duane and his friends had no contact whatsoever with the deaf so I acted as their interpreter. He then realized that he wanted to be with me and communicate with my friends so he took sign language classes along with one of his friends. I remember the teacher, who previously interpreted in my classes at DU, calling us the "lovebirds" or "sweethearts" when I used to accompany Duane - and kidding us about it. I got the tuition back from DU and went on to the University of Colorado at Denver where everything looked up and I changed my major to Journalism. I was there until May 1981 when Duane proposed and asked me to marry him. We got married five months later. He caught the travel bug from me and we traveled to England and India a few times. We also took trips around the U.S. and weekend excursions in Colorado.

Since then I worked temporary jobs and for two Denver area travel agencies where I initiated a unique service for the hearing impaired while Duane had his job at a printing company till he retired in 1988. At the same time, I volunteered in many projects with the City and County of Denver including role-playing at the Police Academy and working on a mayoral campaign. I was also on the Task Force Committee -now called the Deaf Access Committee. In 1988, we moved to Florida and then to Georgia. I continued with the service for the hearing impaired in St. Petersburg, Florida. Duane did some odd jobs. While there, we also started a mail-order sign language greeting card business. After some time passed, we found that we did not like living in the South and missed our friends here so we returned to Denver in 1996.

I then became involved along with others in a project: lobbying members of legislature to get the Colorado Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing established. Duane and I were also Ambassadors at Denver International Airport (DIA). I also volunteered on some other projects, including an editorship and proofreader for the Colorado Association of the Deaf - until Duane became sick. He was diagnosed with cancer and passed away in January 2003. Since then, I have been looking for a part-time employment.

I feel it is wrong to attack or criticize the parents of hearing impaired children on their chosen way of raising and educating their children. They have every right to decide on what kind of education their children should receive. They should be allowed to observe several methods before they decide which option to take, with the help and advice from professionals.

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