A friend pointed me to Kalia's Instagram account several months ago and I was glad that she did. Kalia is a total powerhouse. In an effort to share her true mind and spirit with everyone, I am sharing her story as told by Kalia herself.
My name is Kalia Douglas-Micallef. I was born 3 and a half months premature. I
was supposed to be born November 30th. Instead, I was born August 15th weighing only
1 pound 11 ounces. My parents told me that one of the many side effects of the
medication I received while in the incubator included hearing loss. However there is
no known cause. Since I was a preemie, I underwent tests at earlier ages than most
children who were born at a healthier weight. Nowadays, those tests are done right
away for every infant, so that diagnoses are made earlier. I was diagnosed with my
hearing loss and received hearing aids at age 10 months old, and I have been wearing them
As I’ve grown older and have reflected on my upbringing, one of the main
frustrations I have is that I was absent from deaf culture growing up. There was a
lack of acceptance around my deafness in the sense that I did not learn ASL. My
parents wanted me to thrive in mainstream education along with children who were
not deaf and HoH. Therefore, I was often the only child in the class with hearing aids.
This made it extremely difficult to have my needs fully met, and to be treated with
dignity and respect. Oftentimes, I felt very lonely and self-conscious, but
nevertheless I always made friends with my spunky personality.
Another frustration I have is that there’s a lack of awareness and understanding around ableism. I was told, “You can do anything you set your mind to” without the knowledge that
there’s a specific discrimination against people with disabilities, and that I would face
many barriers in my life due to the way non-deaf people view deafness. I think if
we’re taught this starting from a young age, it is easier to self-advocate and
understand our rights and legal obligations and requirements. I’ve had to learn
many hard lessons from being vulnerable in mainstream spaces, and how people
take advantage. This can occur in many forms, some to which we don’t even
acknowledge is patronizing or wrong. My boundaries are often violated because
non-deaf people think I need their wisdom and advice around my deafness and
ways of living when really I am voicing my concerns around accessibility and equity.
For people to say we’re ‘equals’ is in a way diminishing because we require
accommodations to have equal access, and that reality is continuously denied. The
fact that people are lazy and make a point not to include us and meet us halfway is
beyond infuriating as we have a lot to bring to the table.
I’m after systemic education reform for children and students with disabilities. This
means spreading awareness through workshops that I would like to present to
school boards across the nation on how to teach starting from an anti-ableist
rhetoric. In the future, I would love to see more legal aspects set in place to hold
educators and institutions accountable for their actions or lack of as we’re severely
mistreated under their care. It starts at the foundation level, and no better place to
teach than at school.
Kalia, thank you for sharing so much of yourself with us. You are not obligated to do so but did it with open arms. I appreciate you for embracing Hear For The Curls and for standing up for what you believe in because you choose to & not because you have to.
These words by the late Stella Young resonate with me and I hope that they touch many others:
For many of us, disabled people are not our teachers, or our doctors, or our manicurists. We’re not real people. We are there to inspire…. I’m not here to inspire you. I’m here to tell you that we’ve been lied to about disability. We’ve been sold the lie that disability is a bad thing… and to live with disability makes you exceptional. It’s not a bad thing, and it doesn’t make you exceptional. And in the past few years we’ve been able to propagate this lie further with what I call “Inspiration Porn” [inspirational posters and quotes about disability]that exceptionalizes and objectifies us. They objectify disabled people for the benefit of non-disabled people. The purpose of these images is to inspire you… and think ‘however bad my life is, it could be worse. I could be that person.” But what if you are that person? ... I want to live in a world where disability isn’t the exception, but the norm. I want to live in a world where we don’t have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own name in the morning. I want to live in a world where we value genuine achievement for disabled people.