How One College Student Is Advocating For Those Who Are Deaf Or Hard-of-Hearing

How One College Student Is Advocating For Those Who Are Deaf Or Hard-of-Hearing

Emma Rudkin’s transparency is inspiring.

As a college student and a non-profit owner, there is a lot she has to balance. I am lucky enough to go to the same University as Emma. I first met her in class, and I knew we would be friends because of her passion and honesty in her journey. I got the opportunity to talk to her and learn more about her story!

HelloFlo: What is Aid the Silent?

Emma Rudkin: Aid the Silent provides resources for disadvantaged children and teens who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. We have the privilege to give away love in the form of hearing aids. Families apply to receive classroom equipment, hearing aids, speech therapy, ASL lessons, and summer camp scholarships. It is a meeting place where deaf individuals from all different backgrounds can be united and where the hearing community can learn to love their deaf friends better.

HF: What inspires you to do the work you do?

ER: My own personal struggle with deafness. The painful memories of being left out or teased as a little girl motivates me to prevent that for other children. Every story and need that comes into Aid the Silent for scholarships inspires me to keep going even when I am exhausted and emotionally drained. Each face has value and none of these kids should be denied hearing aids or the opportunity to go to camp simply because they cannot afford it. Also, scripture constantly inspires me. I love these kids so much, some of them whom I’ve never even met, that I gladly share my own life and every ounce of my free time to them. I know that my life is not my own.

HF: What do you do to advocate for disability rights?

ER: I have become accepted in both sides of the deaf world. The capital “D” Deaf culture with sign language and the oral deaf community with speech. I sign and I speak so I have become a bridge between a normally divided group. I have a voice to stand up for the community in the hearing world.

Aid the Silent is a social justice platform with a ministry heart, so everything we do is to give a voice for those who feel voiceless. I advocate by attending protest rallies for bills regarding the deaf community and hearing loss.

This past year, I have continued my almost lifelong struggle with a movie theater company in San Antonio called Santikos. For years I have been trying for them to provide deaf accommodations through captioning and they have adamantly refused to provide captioning systems. With my platform of Miss San Antonio, I gathered a news team and we released the story of them refusing to accommodate deaf and hard-of-hearing people. This allowed for us to have only one open caption night. Even though that was a great victory, it segregates deaf people from their family and friends to just one night of a captioned movie. Currently, I am working on a lobby team for captioning laws this coming year. In the future, ATS (Aid the Silent) will have an advocacy department.

HF: What are some misconceptions people have about being deaf?

ER: What I have experienced the most is people trying to shout or yell and over enunciate. In reality, that does not help at all, and only makes it harder to communicate. Talk to me like a normal person because the yelling and super exaggerated talking makes me feel dumb or like I am not capable of carrying a conversation. As long as the person speaking with me is facing me and talking at a normal pace and volume, we are going to be fast friends. Also there is a misconception that the deaf require special treatment. The only thing I need is for someone to communicate well with me and I can do the rest. The most hurtful misconception is when people think I cannot talk or think for myself, and talk me over to my friend or family thinking they will translate the conversation back to me.

Learn more about Aid the Silent by visiting their website.

HF: How do you balance your work with being a college student?

ER: If I am honest… no sleep. I go weeks with no weekends and very little sleep. Sometimes I start homework after events at 10:30 until midnight or 1 am, and wake up at 6 am. I drink unhealthy amount of coffee and I read a lot in between events and school. I plan events in between classes and try to schedule no classes on Friday so I can travel all weekend to make Monday morning. It is doable and to stay sane, every month I book out a solid 3 days of nothing to rest and recuperate. In those 3 days of rest, I ignore every email and text.

I am trying to become better at living a rhythmic life and saying “no” more. I have to prioritize and evaluate my schedule and sometimes start crossing things off.

HF: Why do you think it’s important for young girls to be confident and raise their voice?

ER: They need to know their voices matter. I spent most of my life believing my voice was “too deaf” or that no one was listening to me. I was told a lot of hurtful words about my voice and hearing aids. My insecurities were debilitating. I had a massive life shift at 14 years old and I grew in confidence, I felt like I had stepped from death to life, like I had never really been breathing before. In that moment, I decided I was the one who had the power to speak words of life into other people. Our words hold the power of life or death so by young girls raising their voices— they hold the power to change lives. It is important to be confident in the most authentic way because by being who you truly are, you invite others into being their true authentic selves. Confidence is a ripple effect— it changes the atmosphere of any room.

Cover image courtesy of Emma Rudkin.