A Sign of the Technology Times

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Linda and Maxine

Seven years ago, I met a wonderful woman who has become one of my favorite customers and a dear friend. Maxine Hewett walked into our store one day to talk to us about purchasing her first computer. She had retired from her job of 35 years the year before and had a desire to keep learning. She had used computers when she worked processing Social Security Disability determinations, so she knew that there was a vast world of information available through the internet. While she certainly knew that having a computer in her home was going to be a lot different from using one at work, she didn’t let that stop her from making her first computer purchase. But it wasn’t just that she knew there was information there to be consumed; Maxine had specific goals in mind. You see, in 1995, Maxine had surgery for a brain tumor that resulted in the complete loss of hearing in her left ear. Since this particular type of brain tumor has affected several members of her family, the doctors told her that she might have more issues in her future. They suggested that she learn sign language so that she would be prepared in the event that she suffered additional hearing loss. Maxine enrolled in classes at LCC that would teach her to sign, and she needed the computer so she could complete her assignments and practice her skills. There were a number of websites and specialized software that helped her along the way. One tool allowed her to type a word and watch while the word was signed. Then she could practice the word herself. These practice drills helped her become confident with her sign language skills. Now she frequently signs when she speaks, even when she is talking to people who don’t sign — like me! Maxine didn’t stop with that knowledge. She spends time working with many special needs children — children who have autism, cognitive disorders and sensory integration dysfunction. Every week, she conducts research to find resources that she can use with these children, printing materials and sharing them with others. She also regularly researches gerontology issues that are helpful in her work with older women. The day we spoke for this article, she had been working with a woman who is struggling with her transition to an assisted care facility. If you were to ask Maxine why all of this learning and working with others is so important to her, she would tell you that God gave her back her life and that she intends to make the best of it. She knows there is still much to learn and she plans to keep on learning — about technology and her specific areas of interest — just as long as she can. While I am certain that Maxine does not consider herself to be a “Wired Woman,” she has used technology to rise to the challenges she has been given. I am so thankful that she walked into our store in 2003 and has allowed me to be a part of her journey.
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Tags: hearing loss, Technology, wired women