Rachel McCallum is a native Southern Californian. McCallum was diagnosed with a brain tumor as a kindergartener in 1993. Over the course of a few years she underwent surgery, chemo, and radiation. She has had a progressive sensorineural hearing loss since elementary school, presumably caused by the tumor or some aspect of treatment. Currently, McCallum is profoundly deaf in her right ear but manages to get by fairly well with a hearing aid in her left ear, depending on the noise level of the surrounding environment. She identifies herself as hard of hearing.
According to McCallum, the stigma attached to hearing loss discouraged her from being more outgoing throughout high school and college. She was under the impression that there were two groups of deaf people: those who had been born deaf and used sign language to communicate, and those who had simply lost their hearing due to old age. She didn’t fit into either category and did not meet another hard of hearing person her own age until college.
Even today, McCallum feels stuck between the hearing and Deaf worlds, explaining, “We have to become fluent in ASL for them [Deaf people] to fully accept us, and we can do our best to ‘get by’ in the hearing world, but we can never fully experience the world the way people with full hearing do.”
At Chapman University, McCallum used a captionist for her classes. Her captionists often mentioned another student that they captioned for. McCallum got in touch with Rhianon Gutierrez and the two discussed their frustration with the lack of support groups for young adults with hearing loss. To remedy this, they created a team for the Hearing Loss Association of America’s Walk 4 Hearing in Long Beach called Hear YA Now.
For the walk in 2009, they had about 40 hearing, hard of hearing, and deaf team members from around Southern California. While Hear YA Now is not officially a non-profit, nor an official chapter of HLAA, McCallum and Gutierrez do still affiliate with HLAA. In fact, they are heavily involved with 100 Portland, an initiative to encourage young adults to attend the 2013 HLAA convention in Portland, Oregon.
McCallum takes pride in the sense of community among Hear YA Now Facebook members, saying “I feel like I’ve really accomplished something in getting these people together.” When she’s not working on Hear YA Now projects, McCallum spends her time job hunting, networking, and volunteering, although she wishes she could make Hear YA Now her full-time job. An English major, McCallum enjoys reading and writing in her free time. She also likes to swing dance and volunteer at organizations such as the Girl Scouts of Orange County and Easter Seals of Southern California.
More information about Hear YA Now can be found at the following:
The Portland campaign can be found at http://hearingloss.org/sites/default/files/docs/100Portland.pdf, and donations can be made at https://fundrazr.com/campaigns/7QBHa.