Deaf Writer At Work By Dawn Colclasure

As a rule, I don’t say it. Yet, when a source, editor, or publisher wants to talk with me on the phone, it’s got to come out: “I’m deaf.”

Working as a deaf writer has had its ups and downs. One hurdle I’ve had to overcome was working out a solution to phone communication. Many times I’ve had to explain to my contacts the process of having a phone conversation with me. I let them know beforehand that the phone call they receive from me will be via an Internet relay service. It won’t be my voice they hear on the other end, but a relay operator, who will type to me what is being said. I use Sprint IP Relay and for online phone communication, though others exist. Both resources require users to go through a detailed registration process in order to avoid being used by scammers and fraudulent services. Internet relay, a TTY device and special phones for the deaf help make phone communication possible, yet many in the hearing community are not comfortable using relay calls.

This is where email comes in. Email is my main driving force in communicating and networking with writers, editors and publishers. By using email, I don’t misunderstand anyone and there’s no request to repeat anything. Email communication has helped me sell articles to magazines such as Mothering Magazine, get a book contract for four books with traditional presses, and land paying writing gigs.

The Internet has indeed helped me find success as a writer, least of all by offering email and online relay services. Another way I’ve been able to work as a deaf writer on the Internet is by conducting interviews through instant messaging. Ironically enough, one such interviewee for an article I was assigned was another deaf person, who was experiencing problems with her TTY device. Many interviews for my articles and books have been done through instant messaging, and I have learned that one of us chatting will need to pause and allow the other time to respond to questions.

By running a blog at, I have further managed to find interviewees for my articles and books. I often comment on other writers’ blogs, and when they visit mine and offer comments, it’s a new source for an article, a new interview request, or a new idea for something to write.

Online job boards have been helpful in finding work as a writer. My first paying gig came from such a resource for writers, and many of these editors prefer electronic communication instead of phone or in-person visits. One such gig I landed came from networking with another deaf writer, who was associated with a newspaper for the deaf. Eventually, I became one of their regular contributors, earning checks writing about all things deaf-related. Additionally, I became part of an editorial advisory board for a British magazine devoted to disabled parents.

Social networking is another great way for me to find work and network with others through the