Shaheem Sanchez serves as a passionate advocate for the deaf community by educating his social media followers on what life is like for those with hearing loss. He’s equal parts educator and entertainer, all while delivering an important message about inclusion. He recently paid us a visit to upgrade his hearing aid and we wanted to share his story with you, too.
Tell us about your hearing journey (when you lost your hearing, your experience with hearing aids, learning sign language, etc.)
Shaheem — I was born hearing. Then, at the age of four, I got sick and lost my hearing from a bad nerve inside my inner ears. I don’t remember hearing anything when I was younger. My mom found out I was deaf, and she helped me get a hearing aid. My whole life I’ve been wearing a hearing aid and grew up speaking. I was put in American Sign Language (ASL) class in my freshman year in high school along with other deaf people. I had interpreters for all my classes and passed them after learning a lot of ASL. After that, I started getting more involved in the deaf community, and now I don’t feel left out anymore. I don’t feel alone. I can communicate with other deaf people who speak the same language as me without struggling.
What inspires the content you create on social media?
Shaheem — I’m a dancer, I act, and I make funny videos. I hope to inspire others by bringing deaf awareness to digital communities - bridging the gap between the deaf and the hearing community, educating deaf culture, teaching ASL, teaching wheelchair users dance with ASL and much more.
How do you hope to inspire those who come across your page online?
Shaheem — I hope to inspire people who come across my page by continuing to teach ASL, dance and educate them on deaf culture. People always comment on my posts asking questions, and I help by educating them on the deaf community or teaching them ASL. It’s always great to educate on deaf culture to others, so they can be aware. I’ve seen some people who’ve told me that I opened their eyes and taught them something new. They now have a new respect for deaf culture.
What do you wish more people knew about the deaf community?
Shaheem — I wish people knew more about the deaf community, so that all schools would require ASL classes. There are a lot of deaf people around the world. How can we understand each other if we can’t communicate? I also wish people understood that because we are deaf doesn’t mean we can’t do anything that a hearing person can do. Deaf does not equal dumb.
How can others join in advocating for the deaf/hard-of-hearing community?
Shaheem — Others can advocate for the deaf community by taking ASL classes, studying deaf culture, respecting the culture and understanding our rights. Hearing people often think that deaf people aren’t any good – that we aren’t as good at work or other things as hearing people. Being deaf just means we can’t hear, not that we can’t do all the same things as hearing people. I’d love for people to help amplify deaf creators in the online community, so we can continue to educate and show the world what we can do.
You can follow and interact with Shaheem on the following platforms!
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