Melissa: So how did you get involved with Ai Media to do that story with them?
Amber: It’s funny you ask me that, it actually all started with Sean Forbes. He reached out to me and said Ai Media was looking for some kind of emergency signs video. They wanted a first responder who knew how to sign the top ten...well really it was 11 words not ten but anyway,
Melissa: So people get a bonus!
Amber: [laughing] Right, right! Exactly. So, after a little bit of back and forth, I recorded my signs and just kinda sent it off, and I had no idea it was on Ai Med-- well, at the time I was on a trip for a medical conference and he [Sean?] one day was like, here it is, and I was like oh! Thanks for the heads up!
Melissa: What did you think when you saw the video?
Amber: Hmm...well, I mean it’s always weird seeing myself on TV, definitely weird. Well, you know, the internet. But, you know it’s good but I learned a valuable lesson too because now I’m getting bombarded with friend requests, private messages and everything. A lot of deaf people are eager to become paramedics, EMTs, firefighters, police, I actually just heard from a police officer today so...it’s just really nice to have that awareness out there for people in emergency situations. It can serve to better accommodate people. I hope that we can continue to spread that awareness.
Melissa: Yeah, definitely. For myself, one reason I was so intrigued by your video is because it’s not often you see a Deaf person working in that type of field.
Amber: I never planned to go into this field. Really it just happened out of the blue. Before this, I was modeling and doing a little bit of acting. So yeah, growing up, it wasn’t until I turned 18 that I realized that working in media wasn’t always nice, so I had to rethink things and consider a different field. And after searching around I wasn’t really finding anything.
I lived out in the country, and one day my brother was out dirtbiking with some of his friends. Two of the friends got into a crash. I was the only one on the property at that time, so I felt like it was my responsibility to help. It’s funny because I’m from a big family that consists of firefighters, EMT’s, flight nurses and first responders. My first thought was, how do I dial 911? I’m Deaf! We didn’t have any phone service in our area. I realized I needed to take a first responders class just to learn the basics. That way if I’m stuck in a situation like this again, I would be able to help and not look like a fool so to speak. But once I took that first responder class, I fell in love. And I kept going. The more challenging it became, the more I wanted to persevere and succeed. But I will say it was not easy. It was not easy to get through the course. I had an interpreter for the class, but the interpreter wasn’t necessarily trained in specifical EMT vocabulary and terminology. So I really struggled with that. And I struggled with people accepting me wanting to become an EMT. A lot of people would look at me and say, “You can’t, you’re Deaf.” And that would just boil my blood you know.
Melissa: That stigma of, “You can’t because you’re Deaf.” Did that come from people in the medical profession, or people out in the community?
Amber: All of the above, including my family!
Melissa: Oh wow!
Amber: Yeah that hit me hard because my brother is a firefighter, and although he never told me I couldn’t be an EMT, he would say, “You know your limit.” And he would tell me he understands their perspectives, their liability and their safety. But you’re my sister, and I’m not going to tell you no. He was more concerned when I decided to go into the firefighter academy. He knew they were not going to be very nice to me. He understands because he’s my brother, but he knew it would be tough. And he was right. It was the toughest thing I’ve ever faced. The firefighter academy wasn’t very nice. They were very oppressive and tortured me through the program. It was a good experience. I don’t regret any of it. I can look back and say I’m happy I did it. Would I do it again? Yes! Definitely!
Melissa: Do you have anything else you want to add, or any advice you have for the community wanting to enter this field?
Amber: This kind of job isn’t easy. If it was, there’d be a lot more of us out there working it. So, from my understanding, in America there are no profoundly deaf EMTs, firefighters working for pay. There are many volunteers though. I just hope that we continue to fight the good fight in knocking down these barriers. We’re fighting now, so my hope is that the fight continues. Then one day we can finally say we did it and have paid workers.
Melissa: Thank you Amber! You’re an inspiration to us all.