According to Gallaudet University, in 2012, the Bureau of Census estimated that there are 4,022,334 people living in America that are either deaf or have a hearing disability. Of that estimate – 82,461 are thought to live in Kentucky.
Of those deaf Kentucky residents – 25 year-old Ciera Carter of Louisville is striving to prove to the rest of the world that being deaf doesn’t hinder one’s ability to succeed.
Being the middle child of three, Carter is the only sibling to suffer from a hearing disability. In fact, she says that there is no history of anyone else in her family ever being deaf.
Carter is classified as legally deaf although; she can hear a small amount of sound when she wears her high-powered hearing aid – but without it she is totally deaf.
She has been wearing a hearing aid since the age of three however; she still needs an interpreter when she engages with the public because the sounds that it picks up are extremely faint.
One of the benefits that she gains from being deaf is that many of her other senses are heightened. For example, she says that her ability to feel vibrations is probably greater than non-deaf people and her sense of sight in enhanced.
“FOR ME BECAUSE I’M DEAF, MY VISUALS ARE ENHANCED. I CAN SEE THINGS THAT MOST HEARING PEOPLE TAKE FOR GRANTED. FOR EXAMPLE, I CAN READ PEOPLE’S BODY LANGUAGE REALLY REALLY WELL.” -CIERA CARTER
As a young child Carter began to read lips and decided that being deaf wasn’t going to deter her from reaching her goals. She attended the public school system and functioned like a normal child. The only difference from her and every other student was that she had an interpreter in class with her at all times.
“THE MAINSTREAM SETTING WAS A BETTER FIT FOR ME BECAUSE I WAS ABLE TO MOVE BETWEEN THE DEAF WORLD AND THE HEARING WORLD AT SCHOOL. BEING IN MAINSTREAM, I LEARNED HOW TO SPEAK PROPER ENGLISH, I WAS ABLE TO LEARN WHAT THE HEARING KIDS WERE LEARNING AS WELL AS DEAF KIDS. SO I DECIDED EARLY ON THAT THE MAINSTREAM SETTING WAS A LOT BETTER FOR ME.” -CIERA CARTER
Her strength and determination led to her becoming a member of her middle and high school step-teams. She says that initially the coaches and other students wondered how she would be able to dance and step being that she was deaf and couldn’t hear the music. However; once she demonstrated that her ability to dance was guided by the vibrations and beat of the music – she was welcomed to the team.
Life seemed to be going well for Carter. However; tragedy struck once she became pregnant at age 20. She began having complications during her delivery due to her daughter being turned the wrong way inside the womb. Doctors would order her to have an emergency cesarean delivery (C-Section).
What happened next would devastate Carter for years to come. She claims that during the emergency C-Section, the physicians would use unsterile surgery utensils resulting in her developing a life-threatening infection.
During the procedure she said that she flatlined five times and before she left the hospital – doctors removed her ovaries and uterus because they were so severely damaged by the infection. Carter claims that her interpreter overheard the doctor telling the nurses that the infection may have come from the use of unsterile equipment.
“THE DOCTOR SAID IT… BUT BECAUSE I HAD A SIGN LANGUAGE INTERPRETER, IT’S THEIR JOB TO INTERPRET EVERYTHING THAT’S GOING ON IN THE ROOM. THEY [DOCTORS AND NURSES] WERE OVERHEARD SAYING, ‘OH MY GOODNESS, I THINK WE USED A DIRTY KNIFE AND SUPPLIES’ – AND THE INTERPRETER INTERPRETED ALL THAT.” – CIERA CARTER
After being released from the hospital, Carter says she followed up with an attorney and attempted to file a lawsuit against the hospital but was ultimately unsuccessful. She is elated that her daughter was born healthy however she’s frustrated that she can no longer birth children.
“UNDERSTAND THAT I BASICALLY HAD A HYSTERECTOMY AT THE AGE OF 20 SO I’M UNABLE TO HAVE ANYMORE CHILDREN… AND SO THEY TRIED TO ACT LIKE IT WAS SOMETHING THAT WAS REALLY WRONG WITH ME. I STARTED HAVING SEIZURES IN THE SHOWER AFTER THE THIRD DAY I WAS THERE… I HAD TO HAVE THREE MRI’S AND ALL OF THIS STEMMED FROM JUST HAVING A BABY.” – Ciera Carter
The entire ordeal gave Carter a new perspective on life. Her successes and tragedies inspired her to become a role model for the deaf community.
She created a brand called “Rip Curves” which will produce books, clothing and a perfume line. The name of her company is derived from her personal experiences. Rip essentially means that although life can often “rip” you apart – you can still survive. The “curves” is just a description of Carter’s curvy figure.
In February 2016, Carter will release her book entitled, “Can You Hear Me Now: Let My Heart Speak”. The book is based on her life and focuses on empowering women in the deaf and hearing community.
“I DON’T SEE MANY BLACK DEAF WOMEN THAT ARE ENTREPRENEURS.” – CIERA CARTER
She is also in the process of putting the finishing touches on her “Rip Curves” clothing and perfume lines.
Interview interpreted by Kenya McPheeters. She has 12 years experience as an interpreter.