“Being deaf doesn’t stop me”
We are honored to feature Erin Bosley as our “In the Spotlight” candidate. Erin aka “Airza” was born on June 26, 1981. At the age of 15 months, she become deaf due to a meningitis illness. The rustle of the wind swirling, a distant jet passing by, a cricket chirping, the sneeze of a stranger, and a dripping faucet are all sounds that we sometimes take for granted. But for Airza, these sounds would be a welcome distraction. Airza is constantly challenged, but not by her deafness. She is challenged by her determination to educate people about deafness, disability, and accessibility. We learned a lot from Airza and believe you too should “hear” what she has to say.
Imagine having to start over as a toddler. Imagine learning again how to walk, talk or eat without sound. Gone are the cues, missing are the hints. Airza endured her childhood and overcame those incredible hurdles. However, there is one place where Airza feels equal to someone with intact hearing: sports.
Competing in events and physical activities makes the playing field somewhat equal. Airza quickly excelled in sports. In basketball, softball and volleyball, she found that her natural abilities were somehow adequate to vanquish the silence. Swimming became her favorite sport to compete in during her early years.
In 2011, she ran her first half marathon.
Airza instantly fell in love with running and quickly increased her distances and frequency of running. In 2015, she ran her first full marathon: the Pittsburgh Marathon. This served to further strengthen her love for sports. She started to feel more confident and began to challenge herself to go farther and faster. In fact, not satisfied with just running her own race, Airza began pacing races. She decided to help other runners reach their time goals, truly giving where she can give!
Airza joined the Pittsburgh Triathlon Club (PTC) club and slowly learned about the nuisances within this multi-discipline sport. Over time, she learned more and more. At first, she volunteered and helped with the organization of events.
She then started racing local Triathlons such as the Mighty Moraine Man (one of her favorite local races in Pittsburgh). As she learned more about the sport, she feel deeper in love with it. Airza’s motto throughout her life is simply: “The very best way to learn is to involve yourself.”
Now she competes in triathlons. For Airza, sports have always brought her to a place where she feels like she is equal to her peers.
“Communication isn’t the issue because it’s almost impossible to do while you are racing. So that puts us all in the same boat.”
While she will tell you there are challenges, when Airza is on the course swimming, biking, or running, she believes everyone is the same.
Airza’s passion for sports is second to her desire to educate everyone about deafness.
From accessibility to educating others, Airza constantly finds ways to communicate effectively about her mantra.
“The challenge that I often face today, as many of us who are labeled ‘disabled’, is not the disability itself. But it’s the society that disables people, through designing everything to meet the needs of the majority of people who are not disabled.”
As a child, she was never exposed to using American Sign Language (ASL) for communication. She strongly believes and is a major advocate that having these tools available at a very early age can greatly enhance a deaf person’s life. Airza’s goal is to eliminate what she endured as a child. Having a means to communicate adds significant value to self worth and confidence.
Through her own life experiences, challenges, and learning about accessibility, Airza easily communicates in a profound and compassionate manner about deafness.
She is very active with her own local Deaf community by fighting for the rights of Deaf people, making sure they have equal access as everyone else, making sure places provide interpreters, and constantly educating people about ASL, Deaf Culture, and the ADA law.
She is also currently working towards her certification as a Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI). Since there are no CDIs in the Pittsburgh area, Airza knows this is another step towards equal access for the Deaf.
Erin lives with her husband and two beautiful children with another child on the way!
The next time you see Airza crossing the finish-line, be sure to congratulate her. “Hold one hand with another and give it one good firm shake” and know that Airza somehow will “hear” this.