By Paul Bass | New Haven Independent | Nov 2, 2017
Before Justin Farmer could ask people to vote for him, he had to explain the headphones he was wearing.
Farmer wears those headphones when he’s marching in labor and immigration-reform and social-justice protests in New Haven, such as one Wednesday on behalf of homeless people’s rights.
He also wore the headphones door to door in a successful quest to win the Democratic primary for a seat on Hamden’s Legislative Council.
Farmer, who’s 23, wasn’t wearing the headphones to listen to music. He wore them to keep noise out — because he suffers from Tourette syndrome.
He discovered he has the neurological disorder — characterized by involuntary, repetitive motor tics combined with a vocal tic — when he started having mini-seizures five years ago in reaction to noise.
At first he ignored the sudden energy build-up in his muscles, which felt like a budding sneeze “you need to get rid of.” Then one day at school, “a fire alarm went off,” Farmer recalled during an appearance on WNHH radio’s “Dateline New Haven” program. “I dropped to the ground and started convulsing.”
Since then he found the right medication as well as the noise-reduction headphones.
He said he didn’t mind having to explain the headphones when he went door to door seeking votes in last month’s Democratic primary for the Hamden Council’s 5th District seat. He decided to run in part to call attention to the needs of people with disabilities, he said.
“They made it easy for me,” Farmer said of voters he met on the doors. After explaining his illness, he spoke of running in part to support greater funding for special education in Hamden schools, which he grew up attending. “People were completely fine. They gave me time to earn their votes.”
“I have a genuine passion to help my community,” he said. “My disability shouldn’t get in the way.”