I have a dual disability of cerebral palsy and a hearing loss. Due to this, I wear both a hearing aid and a cochlear device.
My name is Dominic Hong Duc Golding. I live in Canberra and I currently work as a disability advocate at National Ethnic Disability Alliance (NEDA), a national peak for those from a Culturally and Linguistically Diverse (CaLD) background with a disability.
I was diagnosed with hearing loss around the age of four, so I do not recall how my adoptive family reacted to my deafness.
However, my loss of hearing did confirm the story that I was found next to a building that was bombed, before being placed into an orphanage in Sai Gon’s Chinatown, Vietnam.
My hometown was in Mount Gambier; a large township in rural South Australia. I feel that the major challenges I had faced were social and educational marginalisation, being Vietnamese and a disabled person. Discrimination from peers and institutional access barriers has followed me through tertiary education, the arts sector, to gaining employment security as a professional social worker and disability support worker. In spite of it all, my experiences in community development have shown that these can be challenged and change by having CaLD people tell their stories and create structural change.
Katie is my Hearing Assistance Dog, and I received her July 2022.
She is a natural watch dog. She is also a morning alarm system which has brought a sense of security for myself and my mother-in-law, who has dementia. Having Katie assures me of who is around or if I need to be aware of potential situations. She also informs the household of our next-door neighbours arriving, other locals walking past, teenagers on their bikes, tradies or posties knocking on my door, amongst other things.
Her alerting me to sounds around the house also gives me security.
I feel safe knowing that Katie will alert me to most of the environmental sounds in the house or when I am tending to the backyard, like the new fire alarm, or when the timer goes off when I am cooking, or when a visitor is at the door knocking and buzzing. I tend to forget my surroundings when I get busy, you know!
She is a pawfect PR agent for Lions Hearing Dogs.
However, sometimes I do get mixed social interactions when I’m out in public with Katie.
While the majority of the time people are warmed by seeing her, there have also been times where I’m denied service because I have a dog by my side, such as access to taxis, restaurants, supermarkets and stores, even having people telling me my access rights.
Having Katie out allows me to have open conversations about the role of service dogs, and that there is more than just Guide Dogs for the Blind or vision impaired.
Having a new cochlear has fundamentally changed how I hear any given environment, but it has not made my hearing better. I am still an individual with severe hearing loss. While Katie, in my view, does not complement my use of hearing aid and cochlear, what she does as a service dog still ensures me and keeps me aware of my surroundings when we’re out shopping or going on walks.
Katie is basically family.
She interacts with me when I am frustrated, and her being around allows me to stop, step back and take a breather when I really need to.