Only Human | Podcast Review | November 12, 2015 | By

Only Human: “Dreaming of a Deaf Utopia”

I love Mary Harris, and I love the premise of the show – I am just impatient for the producers and hosts to find the style that is most befitting to their vision for the show.

As promised during Episode 5, this week’s episode focuses on the ability to hear. Episode 6 starts off with Amanda explaining that the word ‘cure,’ used in last week’s episode, was a bit of a tough word to use. The word ‘cure’ implies that there was something inherently wrong in the first place. But many people in the deaf community do not consider deafness a problem. In their opinions, it is just another way to be, similar to being short. Deaf people do, after all, still live their lives, partake in communities, and contribute to societies; they just so happen to not have the ability to hear certain sounds. The rest of the 31-minute long episode builds on this premise.

Mary Harris again hands off the mic to Amanda, who covers the story of Marvin Miller. Marvin is ‘deaf of deaf,’ meaning that he is a descendent of deaf parents (and, as it so happens, deaf grandparents). Marvin was so accustomed to sign language and the inability to hear that as a child, he thought something was wrong with other people who did not know how to sign. Ever since his childhood, he has aspired to build a town that caters to a deaf community. The episode goes on to discuss the process, struggles, and outcomes of Marvin’s attempt to actualize his dream.

This brought back memories of a class I took in the Architecture school that was one of the first collaborations of public health and architecture. We were taught that, in terms of walkability, small things matter. For example, few would hardly notice the small frozen section of the sidewalk unless you were in a wheelchair, unable to circumvent the hazard. Few would realize that just a single speeding car unnoticed by a deaf pedestrian could radically change lives for the worse. We had to walk around and find various aspects of our university community that made things more difficult for anyone who did not have what is medically considered ‘normal,’ and the results were rather staggering; hazards and obstacles are everywhere for the disabled and sight- and hearing-impaired.

Let’s return to the episode. Marvin made huge progress in realizing his dream. He found a 388-acre piece of land. They raised $300,000. They had a list of people from various cities, states, and countries who were interested in moving in. They had angel investors. However, there were financial difficulties that Marvin was unable to circumvent. The dream eventually vanished. Rest assured, though – Marvin is well on his way to pursuing a new dream of electing a deaf public official.

Mary Harris introduced a slight change in the layout of the podcast. Starting on Monday, November 16, there will be daily mini-podcasts instead of a weekly 30-minute podcast. Each show, she excitedly explains, will give listeners a daily challenge to hone their listening skills (ironic, no?). She recommends taking a quiz on (simple, sophisticated format, but didn’t necessarily tell me something I didn’t already know).

I have to be honest. I love that this podcast is so interactive. There are challenges, requests from the hosts, and different ways to learn about being ‘only human.’ But I am starting to get a bit bored of the changes to the podcast that are being introduced every few weeks.

Don’t get me wrong – I will still be a dutiful subscriber to this podcast, because I am a health nerd. But I was actually really looking forward to the #onlyhuman campaign, which was originally introduced as a consistent slot each episode to describe weird or gross things that people did concerning their health. I understand that the particular topic was eventually given its own episode, and that the producers are trying to adapt and find that perfect format for the show, which is still in its infancy – but I do wish there was a tad bit more consistency with the promises made during the episodes.

I think it’ll be worth sticking it out. I love Mary Harris, and I love the premise of the show – I am just impatient for the producers and hosts to find the style that is most befitting to their vision for the show.

About the Author

Annie Ungrady is a writer at Audiologue, where she writes a weekly column called Podcast Perusal with her impressions of classic podcast and radio episodesYou can email her at

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