top of page

Perspective on Unique-abilities With Ashley Walker


Join me in meeting our extraordinary guest, Dr. Ashley Walker, to the spotlight. Ashley is a deaf pharmacist, an entrepreneur, and a strong advocate for the deaf and hard of hearing community. Ashley believes that deafness shouldn’t be viewed as a disability - but rather a unique ability. Her brainchild, Med Max Consulting, is a shining example where she helps provide medication and counseling in American Sign Language to the community.

Moreover, Ashley's commitment goes beyond the surface. Med Max Consulting is on a mission to bridge the communication gap, ensuring healthcare providers and business owners interact effectively with the deaf and hard of hearing community.

As someone who once worked closely with this incredible community, Ashley's story is near and dear to me. The dedication she brings to her pursuits is truly inspiring. From achieving a doctorate in pharmacy while navigating technology and lip reading to being a nurturing mother of three, Ashley embodies resilience and brilliance. To connect with Ashley, check her out on LinkedIn:


Watch Ashley's Story




Welcome to the I Don't Give a Should Show – a podcast exploring ALL the ways that women SHOULD all over themselves. How many times do you find yourself acting out of obligation or doing what everyone ELSE expects from you without stopping to consider why? Where do all those beliefs that are driving you come from? If you're tired of feeling resentful, overwhelmed, stuck, exhausted, or pissed off, you're in the right place.

Shoulding all over yourself is a real thing, but it doesn't have to be in the driver's seat.

I'm your host, Jen Sherwood, and I spent way too many years trying to prove that I was good enough and worrying what other people thought while avoiding conflict at all costs. Today, I don't give a should – well, not as many anyway, and neither should you. I'm talking to women like you who figured out how to stop shoulding and start LIVING.

I know every time I start one of these episodes, I say to you, I'm so excited to bring my guest to you today, but genuinely, I literally am every time. Today, there is this link between my guests tonight that is really near and dear to my heart. I'm extra excited to bring my guest today - her name is Dr. Ashley Walker, and Ashley is a deaf pharmacist; she's also a wife, a mother of three, and an entrepreneur.

She is a strong advocate for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. Ashley believes that deafness should not be viewed as a disability but rather a unique ability. Ashley launched MedMax Consulting, a company that provides medication counseling to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community in American Sign Language. Additionally, because she is so passionate about this, MedMax is committed to educating healthcare providers and business owners to communicate more effectively with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

For those of you who don't know, my previous career was as an audiologist. I spent a good chunk of my career in conjunction with the deaf and hard-of-hearing community, and I worked on a program in the state of California. This is the piece that's near and dear to my heart. When Ashley came into my life and we started talking, I was so excited to meet her and so excited to get to know her because Ashley, as I can imagine, going to school for a doctorate in pharmacy is hard enough. Then, you add on the need to rely on technology and lip reading. You're just kind of a badass all the way around, and so I'm so thrilled to bring you to my audience and to have this conversation with you and to hear and learn more about you.

So welcome, Ashley.


Thank you, Jennifer, thank you so much for having me here today. Like you said, it has been a challenge. I wanted to take the opportunity to share with you my story. I actually have a twin - my twin brother is the one who notified my parents something was wrong with my sister. She's not responding like she normally does, so he was sort of the wake-up call by my parents; wellWell, maybe we should just take her to the doctor, and they did.

It was discovered that I didn't have any hearing, and I was four years old. I remember specifically sitting in the hospital with my dad, and the doctor walked in, and his name was Dr. Pugh. He walked in, and he was talking to my dad, and I said, Dad, why is he talking to you when I'm the patient and all of a sudden, the doctor leaves the room, and he comes back with his team. He told my father that with the type of hearing loss his daughter had, there was no way she should be talking - none at all.

I was diagnosed with severe to profound bilateral hearing loss initially, which means I'm pretty much at the bottom of the scale on a chart when it comes to hearing. How am I able to talk? I don't know what that means, though.

First of all, I'm the only one on both sides of my family - that still is not genetic, and I was not sick. I literally went to bed hearing and woke up, and nobody knows why. I remember my dad telling me, you said my grandfather told him that there's nothing you can do to change it, and you have some thinking to do - you can either embrace it or you can miss out on helping her grow into who she's called to be.

He says he remembers sitting under a tree, and he said he went ahead and cried out all the tears he could cry, and he made up his mind that no matter what, whatever he put his mind to, he's got to find a way to support me and indeed he did! Not just my dad but my mom and my brothers never told me No, you cannot do that, and it was always. What do we need to do to make this work for you?

If I wanted to play the drums, I played the drums. My brother, my twin, he's actually a drum player, so he took this time to teach me the count, and that's how I learned to play the drum. Most people learn how to play by ear, but I didn't have that option. We just adapted the way for me to do it, and it was also the first time I was separated from my twin brother. I went to a different school if you will, and the school I went to had a program specifically geared for deaf and hard-of-hearing children to help them thrive.

That was really the first time that I realized I was different because all of my clients were deaf and hard of hearing, but they didn't speak with a voice - they spoke with their hands. That was the first time I was exposed to sign language, and my parents were afraid that if they learned sign language, then when I would come home, I wouldn't sign or talk. My parents made the decision that I couldn't sign at home, so I was able to keep the best of both worlds. At school, it was easy for me to learn sign language because I was around it for several hours a day, and then at home, I was forced to use my voice.

If I wanted to communicate what my parents thought, it was a good way of keeping me practicing. As I got older, going through school - was challenging because, remember, I didn't know sign language in the beginning. So while learning reading, writing, and math, I was also learning sign language, which then I had an aide with me, who would literally sit next to me and mouth while signing so I could learn to sign in order to keep up with work. As I got older, my teachers realized we could keep her in this program. She's too smart, and so they made the decision to mainstream me, and that means I will go to a regular classroom, if you will, and learn that way. I went through school without an issue, but it did get lonely because when I became a middle schooler, I was the only deaf student there.

I was separated from the deaf and hard of hearing program because my teacher taught me I have potential, and I want to push you beyond your potential. She challenged me academically, and it was rare because, in the middle school that I attended, I was the first deaf person there . This helped mold me into who I am today because I quickly had to learn what my rights were as a deaf individual. I had to learn how to use my own voice because there was nobody else doing it for me. My parents helped, but little did they know that when I entered high school, I would be moving 1000s of miles away. I literally closed my eyes, picked a spot on the map, and landed in Rochester, New York, on a full scholarship to the Rochester Institute of Technology. At that time, I didn't know that one of the colleges on their campus is actually the National Technical Institute for the Deaf.

They have a huge deaf program, and I didn't know that until I went there, so the other people like me in college thrive - it was just the right environment for me, and that really prepared me for pharmacy school. At Rochester Institute of Technology, I didn't want for anything - I never had to ask for an interpreter and never had to request a notetaker; it was already there. With that knowledge in mind, when I started pharmacy school, I was the first deaf there as well, and I had no clue what to do. How to provide those services for me, which was the part about growing up each milestone, was to prepare me for the next milestone.

With that knowledge, I was able to get what I needed in order to be successful in pharmacy school; it wasn't easy. Each semester, for two weeks without an interpreter, if you don't know about pharmacy school, it is fast-paced, and it's very easy to get behind, but I had an amazing team of interpreters who stuck with me throughout the entire four years. They made a decision that we don't care if we get paid or not. We're not going to let you start this semester without an interpreter. That was so phenomenal for me that I got married and I became a mom.


Your story is kind of blowing my mind, and first, I just want to walk back for a second and ask if I could put my arms around your grandpa and hug him. I mean, what a wise man to say, look, you can either live in misery about what's going on or step up to the plate and be her family - that's what it sounds like to me.

They really did, and it's incredible, particularly coming from my background; your story is not typical. Families often are so overwhelmed - they don't know what to do, and so I just love your family. It's amazing, and so I can imagine, as you're experiencing this journey, along the way, you had this support at home, but as you're moving through this process to school to pharmacy, you know, where were you running into, oh, I should be doing something else, or people had expectations of you that you thought you needed to live up to?

Where were you shoulding on yourself in this process?


Well, I hate to say this, but it's true - the expectation of someone who's deaf or hard of hearing, that alone or any other unique ability, whether it's blindness or wheelchair-bound, the expectation is you're not going to amount to anything.

I can remember the very first time I was told that. I was in fifth grade, and I was preparing to take a test for middle school. You had to take a test to get into this middle school because I had a magnet program, and I was going to the magnet program. A teacher I had specifically told me, you're wasting your time. Deaf people are not smart enough to have an education; the only thing you will amount to is sitting at home, popping out babies, and collecting checks.

I remember talking about that, and I didn't know anything about collecting a check - I was talking about social security, and I don't know what that was. My dad said that you have a choice and the world is cruel, but you're going to either fall victim to it or you can just get up and brush off what they said and prove them wrong.

Every negative thing that has been thrown my way, I just use that as food for the fire to keep me going because I want people to know that a unique ability doesn't define what you're capable of doing. Use your heart and remind yourself that each time is what you're capable of doing. How far are you willing to go? What are you willing to do to reach that goal? My hearing loss is nothing - I can't hear like the typical person does, but it's not stopping me from breathing. It's not stopping me from dreaming, it does not stop me from doing anything I want to do, and it's not keeping me from learning.

I just had to push forward, and that has always been my reminder because I do get frustrated and I do get tired. But I remember my why - am I doing it to prove anyone wrong? That's just a plus.

I'm doing it because I matter, I'm here, I have dreams, and I have aspirations, and nobody's gonna do it for me but me.



It's interesting - the majority of people that I talked to on the show take on that societal expectation and are really bogged down by it, but you actually seem like there is this anti-should naturally in you, which is so incredible like your makeup, because you said this wasn't a genetic hearing loss.

Whatever it was left you awaken, you know, waking up one day with no hearing, but there's something in that makeup that also makes you really fierce, and it's so interesting. Before we hit record, we were talking a little bit, and I was asking you about when was there this transformation point, and you had this very visible reaction.

Now I'm extra curious about this because the way I had worded it to you in our pre-recorded conversation was, you know, when did you know you were living under the shoulds? So now I'm very curious about what that was like because I don't know. Now, if you were living under shoulds, I think you were kicking the door down when the shoulds showed up, and maybe that shifted - maybe there's something else now I have to know about?

What was this transition point that you had that you had a strong reaction to what I asked you about before we hit record, so what was that? What led up to it?


Actually, the birth of my son.

After my journey with pharmacy school and working, I was very discouraged - like I'm tired. I was pregnant at the time, and unfortunately, my son started to make his appearance at 25 weeks. He didn't make his appearance, then I was actually in the hospital, and they were gonna keep me since he wasn't due until May. I had been in the hospital; I went in the first week of January, and then come February 15th, he said I gotta get out of here. My husband was home painting the nursery - I'll never forget the day.

They were doing daily ultrasounds, checking the cord flow, and without saying anything, I just knew I saw it on her face. The next thing I knew, the specialist was coming, and he said, We have to take them today and I said okay, so they started me off the medication, but this particular medication blurred my vision.

I already can't hear, and it has blurred my vision. I can make out shadows, the people coming in the room, but I can't hear you, and I can see you. Once the medications stopped, my vision came back, and then the doctor went Are you ready that's when my OB realized the interpreter was not here yet, and the interpreter walked in just when they were wheeling me for my emergency C-section. It means the world to me that he remembered that, and he's I don't care what the interpreter looks like, just make sure she's in this room because she deserves to know everything that's happening.

After the birth of my son, he was in NICU, and the fire in me woke up again. That was what my calling was, and my son reminded me of that. Being a pharmacist and a mom is not a good combination, and I would argue with the doctor about his medication because we know too much about medication.

I remember going toe to toe with his doctor, and finally, she went, what are you a pharmacist or something and I said I am - they had no clue. They literally thought, oh, she's deaf, and she doesn't have any knowledge because you just do whatever. That hurt me, and I can't keep quiet anymore - I cannot because what happens to the next mom who comes in, and she's deaf?

She doesn't have the knowledge that I have at the pharmacy, and that does not exclude you from communicating with the parent who's deaf about the needs and the health of their child because, at the end of the day, I have to make the decisions. If I am going to communicate with you the same way that you communicate with my husband, who is hearing - it's the problem.

It's got to stop, and I've got to get people to look at the individual as the individual. Keep in mind how I can adapt to meet their needs so that they can have access to everything in order to make an informed, well-rounded decision.

That's when I woke up, and I'm like, no, it's time to roll my sleeves up, dig deep, and raise my voice because it needs to change.


So there's this moment, or this, over this period of time, while your son's in there where you were like, this is not working for me. This is not okay, and is that what sparked the idea to start working in your own business to start advocating for deaf and hard-of-hearing people?


Yes, it is because even at that time, I was a retail pharmacist in my area, which has a large deaf and hard-of-hearing community, and then how my colleagues were questioning the needs of this customer.

I was like, no - you make everything accessible for someone if they speak Spanish, make it accessible for those who are blind by giving them brail, but why not those who communicate using American Sign Language? What are you making accessible for them?

That was my sign to step up, but I'm only one person.


Someone has to start it and start somewhere.

I want to acknowledge that I just want to back up for a second that I said deaf and hard-of-hearing people. I know that is not the correct terminology; we want to put the person first, so I just want to acknowledge that I heard that come out of my mouth.

I want to say you are working with people who are deaf or hard of hearing in that community. I want to be very conscientious about that, so tell us quickly about your business and what you do within the business.


I mentioned one of the biggest issues with therapists for deaf and hard-of-hearing members and getting an explanation or a clear understanding of the medication. I started out small - we have a deaf center, which is the community-wide location where all of the deaf and hard of hearing community gather for different resources or help with day-to-day living, or how to get asked us to think and our host brown-bag meetings.

I allow them to reach out to me, and I break down pharmacy language in American Sign Language, which is what they understand. So I do that, and then on the flip side, because I have so many colleagues reaching out to me, especially with the release of over-the-counter hearing aids, how do we interact with this community?

I teach them about resources that are available in their area, and it carries across the nation. I'm also partnered with several other organizations and companies where I can refer you to the products. There was the issue of communicating effectively and efficiently with the deaf and hard of hearing community, and I advocate; I hope to be treated and speak about how to do it - what is the right way or the wrong way to communicate with someone.

For example, you don't want to talk to someone who has hearing loss with a mask on, but because we're in a pandemic, there are ways around it. Many people are not aware of those barriers, so I bring awareness today and educate about them.



It's interesting, you know, you said when you're talking to the other business owners that it's not that hard to communicate. I will advocate for your services, though, and someone who hasn't thought about it, who doesn't know where to start, so maybe once you have the tools, it's not hard, but we need people like you to educate folks and keep that information rolling so that it isn't hard that it is just a normal part of communication.

When someone comes into your business who needs a specific type of communication, like you said, we advocate for people in other languages, or we have resources for them or for the blind. This just needs to become another form of communication, not some outlier. I can't handle it, but it's just part of it. This is how we communicate with this population, and I love that's what you're doing.

Here's my summary of Ashley, badass, should should door kicker downer like, you just are amazing. Your family is amazing in the way they supported you, and I hear you; you got sort of worn down in your career. Then this incident happened with your son that lit a fire - it's an incredible, incredible story, so thank you so much for sharing it with us.

I understand if my listeners want to come and find you, which I think they will because you want to get to know Ashley, she's pretty amazing. LinkedIn is your primary location, and you're at, correct?

We will put that in the show notes so people can come and find you, and I mean, just, it does not matter. If you are not living in a deaf or hard of hearing community - if you don't know anybody in a deaf or hard of hearing community, Ashley is an inspiration. Maybe it would be helpful for people in the hearing world to get a little bit more familiar with it, frankly.


You will be surprised at how I can almost bet you that you have come in contact with someone who thinks how to hear is my unique ability is not right,


It's one of those that it's one of those things that you just don't notice if you're not paying attention.

I hope people hear this and have more awareness, and then if we do have people who are in the deaf or hard of hearing community or have family or friends, they send them your way for this amazing opportunity that you're providing.

So Ashley, thank you so much for being here today - I really, really appreciate it.


Thank you so much for having me, and thank you for using your platform to shine like we're in such a unique community.

3 simple steps laid out in 3 bite-sized videos to go from overwhelm to ease (even if you think it's not possible!)



Recent Posts
Search By Tags
bottom of page