WEDNESDAY WOMAN: It’s no easy road
BY THE AGE OF TEN, Sandra White-Belgrave had been knocked down by vehicles on three occasions. The first accident when she was two-and-a-half years old caused serious head injuries and damaged her hearing. She now wears a hearing aid.
“My parents took me to a picnic; they said they put me in the car to sit while they went to get me something to eat, but instead of staying in the car I was so anxious to get on the beach that I got out,” Sandra said. “In no time they heard this car screech and that was it.”
She was rushed to the hospital and underwent emergency surgery to relieve severe swelling to her head. Her hearing loss was not immediately recognised, but when Sandra started school it was observed that her speech was slow and she was not picking up things as readily as children her age should.
The other accidents at age seven and nine were not as serious. However, Sandra is convinced that her great-grandmother’s road safety advice was a contributory factor in her early accident-proneness.
She said her great-grandma took the road safety rule of “look up and look down before crossing the road” literally and would chide her when she looked left and right, and that may have had a role in her being knocked down on those two occasions and almost a third, had it not been for her mother’s intervention.
“When I see parents telling children to look up and down before they cross the road, I always tell them ‘no, it is left and right’,” Sandra said.
Even though she could have gone to a special needs school, her parents were adamant that she receive her education in a mainstream school. She attended Sharon Primary School and recounted her schooldays as “a not-so-good experience”, mainly because she got into a lot of fights that were the result of children teasing her and calling her names. Over time she became very withdrawn.
“I refused to socialise with people, even into my secondary school years at Springer Memorial I was always a loner,” she said. “I hated wearing the hearing aid because everyone was just staring at that clumsy thing so I stopped wearing it. You do not want to be left out so sometimes you may not understand what they say you just agree with them, but over time I developed my own way of communicating with people.”
Sandra said she had no special classes at school, and was treated not as deaf but as hard of hearing.
She would go on to gain CXCs and higher level certificates.
In terms of employment, Sandra worked in many capacities at her family’s auto business, Whites Corporation. She also held different jobs but said that people would take advantage of her and she would end up doing more than her job description. Added to that, she was not paid on par with other workers.
She admitted that it was a very long journey to accept who she was and she finally came into herself as an adult when she stopped being so conscious of the way other people perceived her.
Even though she did not want to join the New Life Deaf Club initially, she is now the secretary, working very closely with the president Lionel Smith.
Because she can hear, she straddles both hearing and deaf worlds.
She said the club had a lot of challenges especially because of the different categories of deaf based on the level of hearing; hard of hearing, hearing impaired, deaf. She said the biggest challenge was communication and understanding the dynamic sof the deaf, who have their own language and culture.
Therefore, Sandra said she and the president were leading by example and pursuing educational qualifications and self-development initiatives.
“He has a driver’s licence and they know so can they; he has gone back to school and we are telling them that they can too,” Sandra said.
“I find that the deaf community are always left out in translating of communications. Beside the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation’s Evening News sign language interpreter, most often there is no other news that is translated,” she said.
Sandra is married with three children. Her eldest daughter is a doctor, a son is a supervisor at a local hotel while her 13-year-old daughter is a student of The Lodge School.