” I think the biggest obstacle is getting people to realize not all deaf people use ASL; a lot can actually speak, write well, and carry on long conversations in sometimes non-ideal settings.” We interviewed Alanna Kilroy, a business student at Boston University, who uses cochlear implants, is verbal and studied in the UK for a month in 2016.
1) Is being a cochlear implant user a large part of your identity? Do you find it difficult to be a cochlear implant user? Why, or why not?
Prior to starting college, I hadn’t thought about my CIs being a part of my identity. I had grown up in the same town for 19 years, surrounded by the same people in a largely stable environment. I was obviously different because I received accommodations in school, but this never defined my identity. When I entered Boston University, however, I feel like I became more aware of the CI part of my identity because I was truly on my own and had to navigate many situations, especially socially, that were not ideal. From a young age, my parents always taught me to advocate for myself whether for getting accommodations or speaking up in situations where I couldn’t hear/understand what was going on.
The only time I ever find it difficult to be a cochlear implant user is when I try to put my hair up in a certain way, but the CI coil gets in my way. Other than that, I don’t ever think about the difficulties of being a CI user; my CIs simply enhance the quality of my life.
2) While studying abroad in the UK, what accommodations did you use? How available were these supports compared to the US?
I think most deaf people will notice differences in accommodations when studying abroad because certain countries may not offer all services (i.e. CART, C-Print, note taker, remote captioning, FM system, etc.). While in the UK, I just had a note taker, which was actually sufficient enough for me because I had a small class of 6 students. I did have the opportunity to use an FM system, but opted out because I felt it was extra equipment that I didn’t need.
At home, I have a CART provider and note taker, both of which prove incredibly helpful for me in succeeding in classes with over 50 students. I cannot remember the exact reason why I wasn’t offered CART in the UK; it may either be due to lack of funds or availability.
(Note: I don’t use FM systems anywhere usually because it takes too much time for me to set it up, it’s excess equipment, and sometimes they are not updated.)
3) What are your hopes and dreams for your/our generation – and future generations – of cochlear implant users?
I truly hope the general public becomes more aware of the differing communication modes within the deaf community. I hope more people get access to CIs, and that more CI users obtain positions of influence to show younger deaf generations that they can do anything (very similar to Hillary Clinton and how she serves as a role model to many young girls).
4) What are your dreams for yourself?
I have lots of dreams that, of course as a young adult, change day to day. But, I really hope to work in the entertainment industry, perhaps as a film producer, and as an avid traveler, I hope to continue exploring new parts of the world. I hope to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro and go on an African safari one day.
5) Lastly, are there any final thoughts you want to share with the Sound Advice audience?
If anyone ever has any questions or concerns, feel free to reach me at amkilroy<at>bu.edu or via twitter @alannakilroy. I am always happy to talk!
(Interview compiled by Miranda Meyers).