New friends' invaluable work

HELEN HARVEY
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014
Mojo Mathers
DOMINIKA ZIELINSKA/ Fairfax NZ
LEARNING THE ROPES: Green MP Mojo Mathers spent some time with hearing dog trainee Zero in New Plymouth yesterday.

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A hearing dog could transform the life of a deaf person, Green MP Mojo Mathers said yesterday.

The MP, who is deaf, visited Hearing Dogs For Deaf People New Zealand in New Plymouth yesterday as part of Hearing Awareness Week. There were 57 hearing dogs who had been trained at the centre working across New Zealand.

She said the work the dogs do is invaluable.

"Particularly for women, because if you have a hearing loss you won't hear an intruder in the house," she said.

Once there was a mixup when her partner thought she was going to Christchurch, but she stayed in Wellington, she said.

He texted her, but she had gone to bed so didn't pick it up.

"He rang the police. At 1am the police went round to my flat, banged on my door, went out the back and banged on the window. That didn't wake me up."

But flashing a torch through the curtains did, she said.

She thought it was a burglar so opened the curtains, yelling and screaming, to see a very embarrassed-looking policeman.

"It shows how vulnerable you are when you can't hear. Having a dog makes you feel so much safer, especially one that will come and wake you."

Hearing Awareness Week was an important opportunity to put the spotlight on people affected with hearing loss, she said.

"With an ageing population, hearing loss is becoming more and more of an issue for a wider range of people," she said.

A couple of weeks ago Ms Mathers copped some flak for flying from Christchurch to Wellington to do a radio interview with a Masterton radio station that represented disabled people. But because of her hearing loss it was easier to do the interview in person, she said.

"People with disabilities have to find their own ways to get the job done. They have to find different ways of doing things."

And for her, it's not just that she couldn't use the phone.

After a day of talking at meetings she gets really tired because she has had to concentrate to lip read, she said.

"So, I won't feel like going and socialising with business groups. I'll opt out because I'm too tired at the end of the day to have cocktails with people I don't know."

As a deaf MP she feels a responsibility towards people with disabilities. "But I do realise there is a need for someone to be in the role that I have. I use it to raise awareness."

There was a lack of awareness of just how significant barriers people with a hearing loss faced, she said.

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"If people don't know what is going on they feel isolated and there are significant flow-on consequences."

- Taranaki Daily News

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