BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Imagine trying to get the haircut you want, without being able to hear what a stylist was saying.
That’s reality for more than two hundred thousand people with a hearing disability in Alabama. In fact, according to the state’s latest disability reports, one in ten people in Alabama will experience some kind of hearing loss in their lives.
For Hair Stylist Kisa Powell, deaf awareness comes naturally. She grew up with deaf parents.
“Deaf people don’t have options. My parents never got a haircut, my mom never did her hair. They never felt comfortable to go to somebody. Deaf people want to be seen and heard, they want to stand out but when you got to a salon and say I want purple hair – they don’t explain it to them,” explains Powell.
Her dad lost almost all of his hearing after suffering a high fever at age 7. Her mom lost hers at 6 months after contracting rubella.
“I wouldn’t change it for the world. It gives me a different perspective on the world,” she says with a smile.
Growing up, she had to advocate for her parents in a world that offered little support to the deaf population.
“When my mom got sick, there was never an interpreter, never anything made available to them. So I was at 5 or 6 years old the only option they had. We’re just trying to make people be deaf aware because it can become a life threatening thing if they can’t communicate and get the right care,” says Powell.
She’s passionate about extending services to those with hearing loss, and wants to make them feel included.
“Deaf people always tend to feel left out. You go into a nail salon and they don’t speak your language, and everybody is laughing and giggling and talking. So we try to always include people. If we have something going on I tell them about it.”
Her passion, is what made the owner of the salon “Beauty for Ashes” in Homewood so aware of the need.
“It’s really helped open my eyes to the need, and to just how our culture our society as a whole doesn’t open up to them,” says salon owner Stephanie Jordan. “I love that it’s whole different community of people. They are so sweet and interesting and I don’t know if they get to tell their stories often enough.”
She worked to make the business deaf friendly certified, meaning they have apps and extra training on communication to make clients comfortable. Kisa is the only sign language speaker on staff, but the entire salon works to give deaf clients the ability to interact and ask for what they want.
“I would love to see more business in Birmingham become deaf aware and deaf focused where they actually modify things in their business to seek out that community and welcome them,” says Jordan. “It’s made me a bit more humble in my approach to realizing there are a lot of needs out there we can meet that we may not even know about.”