Austin Cary is like most men at California Baptist University. He loves backpacking, surfing, hiking and participating in sports. He is a junior majoring in liberal studies and eventually would like to attend graduate school. There is, however, one thing that sets him apart: He is deaf.
Cary was born with the ability to hear, but lost his hearing when he was 8 months old due to a high fever. Despite being the only deaf person in his family, Cary’s parents always made sure to have his best interests at heart.
“When my parents found out that I became deaf, they took classes to teach me sign language,” Cary said. “They cared for me, wanted to communicate (and) have a relationship with me regardless of my disability. They are the reason why I’m here, the way I am. I’m deeply grateful for their hearts.”
While most people might consider being deaf a hardship, Cary proves otherwise. He has learned to cope with being deaf in everyday life and even found alternative ways to communicate with the people around him.
With 20 years of practice, Cary can lip-read roughly 70 percent of what friends and family say to him. Lip-reading is a helpful way for him to understand what people are saying, but he compares it to a situation most hearing people have experienced.
“Put on your earplugs and look at your friends,” Cary said. “Their mouths are moving, laughing at a joke you missed. They’re looking at you, talking to you, but there’s no sound. That’s pretty much what all of my life is like.”
While Cary’s world may be silent, his character speaks volumes of who he is. Michael Franciscus, junior biology major and longtime friend of Cary’s, said he understands why Cary is deaf.
“I remember one time, a group of close friends prayed for Austin, that he would receive hearing,” Franciscus said. “He did not. I’ve often wondered why and what benefit would come from him being deaf, but I can see that he has a heart for the deaf community and a desire to bring the gospel to a very unreached people group.”
In spite of everything, Cary said he has a strong desire to use his deafness to further the kingdom of God.
“I believe God made me deaf for a reason, to go through some of the struggles that deaf people go through,” Cary said. “We can relate to one another and I think that with that, the deaf will listen to what I have to say.”
With such a positive outlook on life, Cary said he wants all CBU students to know that being deaf does not mean he is unapproachable.
“I’m just a regular guy,” Cary said. “You can come talk to me whenever you see me, even if we haven’t officially met. I’m happy to meet new friends.”