The Lads

I became a groupie. And it was for theatre. Me, a self professed loather of theatre. People prancing about on stage and overacting has never been my thing, I often say, only half joking, that if it doesn’t have a ball it is not worth watching. But Jodee Mundy changed that. Her show, Personal, about her life as the one hearing person in a Deaf family, enthralled me so much that I even flew to Sydney with my wife to watch it again at the Sydney Opera House. It enthralled me because it was brilliant and clever. I think it also had such a huge impact on me because it hit very close to home.

For those that do not know me, I and my wife are both deaf. We have three strapping lads aged 21, 18 and 17 who are all hearing. Jodee’s theatre performance got me thinking about their life. It got me thinking about the challenges that they have had to face growing up with deaf parents. The challenge, as I see it, is not so much the deaf parents but the attitude of others.

You see my kids are easygoing. They believe people are people and that we are, or at least should be, all equal. I mean my middle child rushed to enrol to vote so that he could vote yes to same sex marriage. My eldest wouldn’t shut up about it on Facebook insisting that he could not understand objections to it. I am very proud of them for the young men that they have become.

One of the things that Jodee’s play highlighted to me was that she became a bit of a sideshow freak to others. At six years old she was interviewed by her teacher in front of her class about how her deaf mum and dad adapted to life in a hearing world. She was asked how they used the phone, how they watched TV, how they heard people at the door and so on.  She then had to explain this to everyone. She was just 6 and did a very passable job.

It made me wonder how their teachers, their peers, their soccer coaches and the like all reacted when they had to, and still have to, disclose that their parents are deaf.

The point is; how many other kids are asked questions like that about their mum and dad? It made me wonder how my kids coped having to disclose that their mum and dad were deaf. It made me wonder how their teachers, their peers, their soccer coaches and the like all reacted when they had to, and still have to, disclose that their parents are deaf. I mean, even now, when there are parent teacher interviews they will ask the school to book interpreters on our behalf. It is a lot for a kid to have to deal with.

It must be painful for them to sometimes watch us struggle in a hearing world. I mean I am a shocker. I have spent my entire life bluffing as have many of us. I’ve seen them cringe when I have misunderstood a shop assistants question or not heard it at all.

I’ll be fiddling around in my wallet and Jo Checkoutperson is asking me if I want a receipt or not. Of course I don’t answer. Tyler will be with me and probably as embarrassed as hell has said “He is Deaf”.  That explains a lot of the wide eyed and weird looks I get  when I finally make eye contact with Jo Checkoutperson. It must be mortifying for my kids sometimes.

It must have been hard for him to have to stand back and often watch us muck up.

The eldest, Aden, is a bit of a control freak. When he was younger he would try to save us all the time. Many a time we had to tell him not to interfere. We didn’t want him taking on responsibilities that a little kid should not have. Sometimes he would jump in and try to communicate for us. It must have hurt that instead of thanking him we would tell him to back off. That it wasn’t his responsibility. We would emphasise to him that as adults we needed to deal with things. If we made a mistake it was our problem not his. It must have been hard for him to have to stand back and often watch us muck up.

As parents Marnie and I wanted our kids to be kids. We never wanted them to interpret for us unless it was absolutely needed. This was especially so when they were young, As they got older we asked them to help a little for some things. Like those voice calls to our mobile or a call to someone just quickly to let them know we are on our way.

For example the phone rings – “Fin can you take that?”  Fin does and chats away to whomever it is. Walks around the room not telling us anything while he chats away.  Meanwhile Marnie and I are looking frantically on wondering what’s happening. He hangs up and we enquire what it’s about. ” Just some telemarketer.” will be his answer. It is often anti-climax and hugely disempowering if you are deaf. We try to ask for this assistance as little as we can but the lads are always willing to help if we do. (Mind you we sometimes get teenage attitude when we do ask 😀 )

And I wonder if they hear hurtful things said about us by others. You know comments like, “Deaf, parents, how sad.”  I know my kids have got angry more than once playing soccer with me because someone will have said something nasty behind my back knowing I cannot hear them. I have had to admonish people for trying to pass personal messages to me through my kids rather than communicating to me themselves. I wonder how many kids have teased them about having deaf parents and they have just had to turn the other cheek. That is the kind of world that we live in. It is not always pretty and people, especially other kids, can be cruel,

Possibly I will never know. My kids are not Jodee Mundy. They don’t have the capacity, nor the desire, to lay their souls bare like she did. What my kids are is top blokes. They all men now. They have a great sense of social justice. They accept people for who they are. They abhor discrimination. They despise racism. They believe in equal rights. They take everything in their stride. In short they are well adapted and brilliant young men.

I and Marnie are immensely proud of what they have become. We are especially pround of their ability to see the funny side of life. A sense of humour is a must, especially living with me. This sense of humour is best demonstrated by this video made by Aden about dumb things people ask him about having Deaf parents .. Enjoy, especially the last part.

To Aden, Finlay and Tyler, even though the first two are unbearable slobs, thank you for who a you are. Don’t change!

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmoo.bloody.cow%2Fvideos%2F986676144715608%2F&show_text=0&width=560

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Personal – Just Wow

Deaf on TV, theatre or film has never translated well for me. Usually it is some rubbish romance story about deaf meets hearing and love conquers all  like Children of a Lesser God. I hated this movie and made myself unpopular by insisting that Marlee Matlin was irritating and overacts.

Sometimes deaf portrayals are just absurd. Like VJ of Home and Away having a cochlear implant and  flying to America. There he was mysteriously cured and did not need it anymore. Or there is Tribes on stage where the hero is a super lipreader. He bluffs his way into the policeforce to solve crimes. Shamefully I cried watching Mr Hollands Opus, and look at what melodramatic tosh that was. I have no desire to see any of the latest deafness offerings either. This is despite the Deaf community being in raptures about them. ( I mean Aliens apparently communicating through cochlear implants, who woulda thunk.)

So it was with some trepidation that I attended Jodee Mundy’s stage performance of Personal. This stage performance explores her life as a hearing person in a Deaf family. I expected more of the same.  I could not have been more wrong.

I was not sure how this story would unfold on stage. I was even more perplexed when I saw the stage. There were about six large boxes set strategically around the room. On the stage you could see coloured tape. Presumably the tape was placed so that actors would know where to stand. But this was a one person performance. The complexity of the stage set up intrigued me.

Jodee enters the stage wearing an inconspicuous blue outfit with simple white sneakers. She looks around at the audience to acknowledge all who are present. Most she would have known as members of the Deaf community or the theatre fraternity. She smiles broadly and begins her tale.

She uses Auslan to sign a part of the story and then voices for the hearing people in the audience who cannot sign. She reverses the order, voices then signs. In this way she introduces her story and her family. As I watched I thought to myself that we were in for a long night if this was how the whole performance was to be conducted. And then the lights dimmed.

In the background Jodee can be seen frantically/gracefully rearranging those mysterious boxes. These boxes, as it was soon to become apparent, were to be the prime means to convey her tale. Onto these boxes were beamed old films of Jodee’s family, Jodee as a young girl, trips to the beach, family dinners and so on.

Through rearranging the boxes pictures would change. They would change from small, expand to large or shrink to single shots. It was fantastically choreographed. The boxes were a fascinating sequence of film, light and sound that were all used to convey Jodee’s story.

Sometimes Jodee would hold the boxes aloft so as to capture parts of the film. I am told that each box weighed 13 kgs. Jodee herself is just a wee waif. I am amazed at her strength. I am told that to get the films, light and sound all working in proper sequence there were more than 700 moves programmed into the computer.

In one sequence Gavin, her brother, is being beamed to one of the boxes. Through clever use of timing and questions Jodee and Gavin discuss her life growing up as the only hearing person in a Deaf family. Jodee would come  home from school and her parents would have a list of phone calls that she had to make for them. At first it was just a few. As Jodee became older the list grew and grew.

It became clear that as a child Jodee had to take on an enormous amount of responsibility. She would be talking to adults and conveying adult concepts to her parents. Sometimes her parents would be anxious and want to know what the hearing person was saying. They would be demanding and for Jodee this was likely frightening.

One can only imagine how traumatic this could have been for a young child. This young child having to deal with adult concepts, adult language and then having to ensure her deaf parents and the hearing person understood each other.

She asked her brother through the medium of the box whether he thought this premature responsibility harmed her development and impacted her as an adult. Gavin thought about this for a while and said with a wide grin – “Well it made you a better interpreter.” And we laughed. Jodee didn’t want sympathy. Her subtle humour throughout the performance was a joy.

For me the best parts were the stories of how growing up in a deaf family that led to behaviours and gains. In her first share house she was known for being noisy. Growing up in a deaf household she was used to being as noisy as she liked. She told the story of how she, as a 15 year old, sneaked her boyfriend into the house while her parents sat unknowing and unhearing in the front room. It reminded me of my own kids who would often tell the McDonalds checkout person to get a large coke when I was asked what size I wanted. They did this knowing that I had not heard the checkout person.

The clever thing for me was the use of  the light show to represent how Jodee was torn between the Deaf and hearing worlds. On the boxes were beamed a series of lines and squiggles. Jodee would contort and align her body to fit in with the rapidly changing shapes of the lines. When they curved she curved and when they straightened she straightened. Her face would contort into concern or seeming internal pain as she tried to fit into all the different shapes that the light formed. It was both graceful and haunting at the same time.

Bravo Jodee, not only did you make me enjoy theatre but you also profoundly moved me. It is simply compelling theatre and not to be missed!

Jodee will be performing Personal around country Victoria and in Sydney at the Sydney Opera House. I believe there are performances in Paramatta too. If you can, I urge you to go and see it – You will not be disappointed!

Click on the link below to find out where she will be performing.

https://www.jodeemundy.com/personal-premieretour.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save the NRS

My first ever phone call on the National Relay Service (NRS) was at work. At the time I was working with Disability South Australia, then known as Options Coordination. I worked in the physical and neurological area. My job was to basically assess and then broker care plans for people with a disability, including technology. There were a lot of private service providers of care. My first call was to Jeanne. She ran a nursing home and also provided care in peoples homes. So through the NRS we negotiated a package for a client and arranged for a meeting. After the meeting we went to the pub and had a chat. This was the start of a very brief romantic interlude. That was the power of the NRS. For the first time I could call hearing people on the phone.  I could use the phone to call hearing people who did not have a TTY. This created enormous opportunities for me, both professionally and socially.

For people not in the know the NRS is a service that allows deaf people to contact hearing people via the phone. When it first started deaf people who had a TTY could call hearing people through the NRS. Basically a third person based at the NRS would receive the typed message from the deaf caller and voice it to the hearing person. What the hearing person said they would then type it to the deaf person. In this way a conversation occurred.

Before the NRS the only option a deaf person had was to either have a friend or family member relay messages or to call other people who also had a TTY. With the advent of the NRS deaf people could now work in jobs that required the phone. They could call for a pizza. They could call for a taxi and so on. It was a life changer that opened up a multitude of doors for deaf people.

This was in 1995 and the world has since changed greatly. Now deaf people have enormous telecommunications choices. They can text people. They can text chat with people in real time. They can video chat too. Many services now have a text chat feature where people can contact them and chat about the services and products that they provide. You can send online queries. You can order pizza online. You can book plane tickets, cars and holidays  online through any number of apps. And of course we have trusty email. Many of the things we used the NRS for in yesteryear we deaf people can now do independently.

In fact there is a level of loathing for the NRS. Not because it is a bad thing. More because deaf people now cherish the independence that they have. The NRS, for many, is now a service of last resort. When all the options we have at our finger tips fail the NRS is there.

It might be that your car  has broken down and you need assistance. It is true that RACV have an SMS service for this  but not all drivers are members. Many people have 24 hour roadside assistance with their car purchase. This means these deaf people have to call through the NRS. Tradies generally have to be contacted by the NRS when a pipe blows or a window breaks. Most goods and services, including hospitals, still require you to call. Mind you some GPs actually have online bookings now. The NRS still has a place and a very important one at that. That said one would imagine that the demand for it has reduced over the years owing to the wealth of technological options at the disposal of deaf people.

The Government has recognised this. They think that because deaf people now have this greater telecommunications independence that the NRS is less important. The Government wants the NRS to be scaled back and for deaf people to use the other solutions as much as they can. I do not think this is a bad thing.  Savvy Deaf people who are able to use technology to their advantage are the ones most likely to be successful. However, the Government is considering making the NRS a part time service.  They are considering scrapping the 24 hour service. This is where my support ends.

It is really simple. Deaf people do not live part-time lives. They are busy and productive people. Like everyone, especially in today’s world, they need ready and easy access to communication. When your car breaks down this can be at any time. When a pipe bursts this can be at any time. People cannot predict when communication will be needed. For this very simple reason deaf people need a 24 hour NRS.

God forbid if  your car breaks down at 4am in the morning. Oh bugger, just sleep in the car  until the NRS opens at 9 am. Be late for work, lose your job and inconvenience everyone. That is OK because, you see, the NRS is shut. Having the NRS available for anything less than 24 hours is a ridiculous idea. It is not rocket science. Let’s hope the Government wakes up on this one.

The Government has also completely cut Outreach services. Outreach for the NRS basically provided information to the wider public about how the NRS works. It was certainly greatly needed in the early stages of the NRS. We deaf people will all have experienced people hanging up on us  when we were using the NRS. Often it is  because the person we called thought it was telemarketers or something. People hanging up on NRS calls is still common but much less now. That is a testament to the success of the Outreach program.

One could argue that the need for Outreach is much less now. Certainly the Government think so because they have scrapped it altogether.  Arguably Outreach is needed now as much as ever. Especially so if the Government wants more people utilising the technology that they have rather than the NRS.

Outreach could serve a purpose to educate deaf people of the options. It could serve a purpose of educating the wider business community as to how they can adapt their business and services so that communication with deaf people is more accessible. It is very short sighted to do away with Outreach altogether. Rather we should be looking at how Outreach can be targeted better.

I can understand why our Government is looking to scale back the NRS because there are so many innovative telecommunications options available to deaf people now. That said, the NRS is still a critical service. People need it for work, emergencies, arranging services and a whole host of things. Sure we need it less but we are a long way from needing it less than 24 hours a day. Maybe the aim is to make the NRS redundant in 20 years but we are a long way from that now.

Here is hoping that the Government wakes up to this one.

 

 

iDeaf

I thought that I would start this article a little bit differently. The video that you have just watched inspired me. It inspired me because it made me realise that deaf education is behind the times. So what I have done is I have written the first paragraph entirely using voice recognition technology. What you see is word for word what the voice recognition technology on my phone produced. But I am a rarity. I, you see, am iDeaf.

What is iDeaf ?  Put simply iDeaf is an informed and proficient deaf person. It is a deaf person that knows how to interact with the world. It is a deaf person that understands and utilises all of the many technological solutions at hand that will enhance their interaction with the world, socially and economically. It is a deaf person that knows how to use interpreters. It is a deaf person that knows how to use live remote captioning. It is a deaf person that knows how to adapt to any number of situations, particularly when captions or interpreters cannot be had. It is a deaf person that can use the simple mobile phone in a way to beat down many of the barriers that this deaf and disability unfriendly world presents to them. In short the iDeaf person has all the tools that they need to tackle this deaf unfriendly world of ours.

I loved the part of this video where the lawyer uses posters to demonstrate how things have changed. He shows a photo of a smart phone and then a picture of what phones were like  a hundred years ago. He shows a picture of a modern streamlined car and then a picture of what was probably an old Model T Ford. His point is that we have progressed. Things have become better, efficient and more streamlined. He then shows a picture of a modern classroom and compares it with a classroom of yesteryear. Virtually nothing has changed.

Still kids are seated at desks. Still they are in rows. Still the teacher is out the front and writing on the board. No matter that it is a white board, it is still a board. It is true that other things have been incorporated into schools like computers and technology but teaching and the classroom set up remain relatively unchanged.

What is his point? His point is that we are short changing our kids. We are under-funding education. We are underpaying teachers. We are lacking in innovation. His point is that mostly education strategies have not moved with the times. The result? Our kids are woefully under-prepared for life.

This made me think about Deaf Education. Has it changed? Has it kept up with the times? Are we preparing our Deaf kids for this modern world so that they can compete? The simple answer to this is NO! Few of our Deaf kids are iDeaf!

“Let’s ignore the fact that the Education Department thinks that hearing is everything. Let’s ignore that they think a deaf kid that is doing OK is enough .

Today I met a mother of a deaf girl. The mother had tried to get her daughters school, a mainstream school, to provide her daughter with a classroom interpreter or communication aid. She had been refused by the Education Department. The Education Department claim that her daughter hears well enough with her cochlear implant and Phonak device. Therefore no other support is required.

Let’s ignore the fact that the Education Department thinks that hearing is everything. Let’s ignore that they think a deaf kid that is doing OK is enough. Let’s ignore for a moment that providing support to the deaf girl so that she can meet her absolute potential is her right. Whatever way you look at this case it will make you angry.

I asked the mother if they had discussed the possibility of using live remote captions in class to facilitate communication and  improve the girls English. “Whats that?” asked the mother. It had simply never been considered or discussed. Who is preparing this girl for life as as an adult? Indeed, does teacher of the deaf training teach new teachers of the deaf anything about technology and innovation that can support deaf kids? Beyond listening devices that is. Who can help this girl to become iDeaf?

” Well the solution may just lie with the humble smart phone and the voice recognition technology within.

Let me give you a simple but effective example. Deaf Gaz has been pulled over by a policeman. Policeman rocks up at his window with big bushy beard. Unlipreadable!!!!  It becomes clear very quickly that Deaf Gaz is not going to understand him at all. What next?  Well the solution may just lie with the humble smart phone and the voice recognition technology within.

What you see below is a word for word mock conversation I had with my son Fin. I used my very cheap OPPA phone that is given free with a $40 plan. I switched on the voice recognition technology on the keyboard. This was the result.

Gaz: Hi Fin I was the soccer (“I” should be “how”)

Fin: yeah not bad

Gaz: and do you have a game on Saturday

Fin: I do

Gaz: where are you playing at

Fin: Blackburn

Gaz: you said that you hurt yourself what did you do

Fin: and you’re my ankle (He said, “I hurt my ankle”)

Gaz: how did you do that

Fin: twisted it I will look after it

Forgive Fin. He is a teenager and talking beyond a grunt is hard for him. But I mean how good is this? You could use this at the doctor if you wanted to make sure you understand what the Doc is saying. Or may be you’re in the back of an ambulance and they are trying to work out if you have any medical conditions so that they don’t inject you with something that will kill you. Trusty old mobile to the rescue. But how many deafies know how to do this? How many kids are learning about and practicing simple solutions like this? How many iDeaf are there out there?

She asked me how I could make these teleconferences accessible. Lucky that I am iDeaf.

Just this week my boss said teleconferences are returning. You know we deafies hate teleconferences. Bastard things that they are. Work tends to just organise them and then gets  some poor sod to sit next to me and type frantically what people are saying. It is far from satisfactory. I have no input and the poor typist is so stressed worrying that they are not keeping up that they cannot contribute either. Typically and frequently the poor typist can’t keep up and I miss heaps of information. But thankfully I have a new manager who is switched on. She asked me how I could make these teleconferences accessible. Lucky that I am iDeaf.

The solution is quite simple. What we can do is use the Gotomeeting platform. This is basically just conferencing software where people can chat to each other, see each other or text chat to each other. So what we can do is get all the people who are part of the teleconference to all log in to the same meeting and have Bradley Reporting caption it for us.

If you are an Auslan user you can use Auslan Services to interpret for you. As I speak I can just use captioning and take part in the teleconference like everyone else. Auslan users could use the interpreter to voice back. Admittedly it takes a bit more coordination to use the Auslan interpreter but it is possible. I know this because I am iDeaf.  It would look something like below:

 

This is the new world of the deaf professional. At their finger tips are a myriad of communication solutions. Sometimes they are sophisticated like Gotomeeting. Sometimes as simple as Facebook messenger. Sometimes it is just emails and Skype. It is a far cry from when I started work in 1989 and there was not even a National Relay Service. Email? – Oh don’t be silly!

It’s not just technology that deaf people must know either. They need to know how to explain their needs. How to educate others. They need to know about their rights. They need to know how to sell these solutions at a job interview. You can bet your bottom dollar that their possible employer to be wont know. Because they do not know this possible employer is already finding ways to not employ them. The iDeaf person is sharp, articulate and assertive.

The question we need to ask is ARE DEAF KIDS LEARNING THIS AT SCHOOL? Are new teachers of the deaf learning this as part of their training. Or are these new teachers simply learning a couple of weeks of Auslan, maintaining hearing aids. audiograms and speech?

Clearly there is much that the modern day deaf kid needs to learn beyond the curriculum. Are they learning this at school so that they are ready for the world? I don’t think so. We are developing a whole generation of just deaf kids with no i. They are expected to use whatever hearing they have to get by. This is not the way. It is time to graduate them iDeaf!

Hi Ya!

I think at 53 I am becoming more cynical and more insular. You know for  45 of the 53 years I have been deaf. You put up with a lot of shit when you are deaf. Not just deaf but if you have a disability of any type. People are either over the top in trying to meet your needs or they just exclude you all together.

Yes, I have had religious people come up and bless me when they have seen me signing with friends. I’ve had literally hundreds of people come up to me and sign Hi! This is either with an exaggerated wave or they finger spell it. The worst is the American alphabet H and I. With a broad grin people come up and do that awful wrist flick with a H and an I.

Is it entirely wrong for me to want to punch them in the face when they do this to me? OK, it’s a little bit wrong but believe me it’s very irritating. I swear it’s part of the reason a night or even week at home with Netflix is so much better than this kind of human interaction.

If you think that I sound old and bitter you are probably right. But you know there is a campaign that is aimed at making people with a disability feel more included called Just Say Hi! There are heaps of videos just like the one below. For a laugh turn on the automated captions, it’s the only access deaf people have to this video. How do you make deaf people feel included?  Just make videos like this with no or second rate access!

 

“Instead it came across as go seek them out and say HI!  No one does that in real life. EVER!

 

Many people with a disability hate this campaign because they think it is really patronising and it is.  Because, you know, we just walk up to complete strangers and say Hi every day. I want to make more Muslim friends so I go out and find Muslim people and say Hi! I don’t know many Aboriginal people either so I am gonna go to Redfern and mingle and say Hi to every Aboriginal person I see. It is completely normal isn’t it? No it isn’t. It is daft and patronising.

That is not to say you ignore people with a disability. It is to say you just talk to them when you meet them in life. Perhaps at a party. Perhaps at work. Perhaps in a bar because they are with your group of friends. You say Hi when you have common interests and you have a genuine interest in people.

I am sure this is what the designers of this campaign had in mind. They were trying to say treat people with a disability like any other. Instead it came across as  go seek them out and say HI! No one does that in real life. EVER!

But why were people with a disability so upset about this campaign? I’ll tell you why.

It’s because it gives non- disabled people a license to use people with a disability as a tool to make themselves FEEL GOOD. John with CP over there .. HIIIIIIIII! I’ve done my good deed for today.

Stella Young hated these kind of campaigns. She despaired getting on a train or going into a bar because some well meaning person would come over and say something like -“Hi, it’s great to see you out and about.” Inevitably someone will come over and think they are being kind by taking an interest in you. “What happened to you?” they enquire.

Sadly this is often what well meaning campaigns like JUST SAY HI do. They just give people a license to satisfy their curiosity and do their good deed for the day.

 

“It is a truism that it is nearly always up to the person with a disability to lead the way.

 

Inclusion is never easy. It is a truism that it is nearly always up to the person with a disability to lead the way. They have to explain their needs and make endless requests for the environment to be adapted. This is because the needs of people with a disability are rarely considered in the design of things.

In my current job I spent some time teaching and informing my workmates as to what needed to happen for me to be included. I was very strong in letting them know that when they are chatting I often miss out on what is going on. Often what they are talking about is relevant to work and I need to know.

To their credit they’re terrific and when they’re chatting on the floor they will, often without me asking, just let me know what they are talking about. Even if they’re talking about what they did on the weekend. They do it naturally and easily and it makes me feel very included.

And that is the key – Do it naturally and easily. It cannot be false and it cannot be forced. It especially cannot be orchestrated by well meaning campaigns like JUST SAY HI!

I dare say if the designers of such campaigns took the time to ask us people with a disability what we thought before diving headlong into such campaigns they could have saved themselves a lot of pain and bother. Mostly they could have saved US, the people with a disability, the pain and bother.

Nevertheless, the struggles of non-disabled people to make us disabled’s feel included can be the stuff of much hilarity. Watch the video below and if you want to have an awareness campaign that works – Follow the format! Enjoy.

A Question of Priorities

I’m a cheater. I have cheated lots of times. Probably more times than Steve Smith and David Warner combined. I played Cricket for the Deaf cricket team many times.  It was kind of crazy because when we played umpires were players from our own team. So when I batted the umpires, more often than not, were other deaf cricket players. So hearing bowler steams in and bowls me a rank long hop which I try to pull over mid on. There is the faintest of snicks that goes through to the keeper.

The hearing opposition go up as one, “HOOOOOWWWWWZAAAAATTTTTTT”. Of course the deaf umpire cannot hear the snick so asks me if I hit it. Hell, I’ve yet to score and I am not going anywhere. I shake my head in denial. “Not Out.” says deaf umpire. Meanwhile hearing opposition have gone hysterical and are calling me every name under the sun. Do I care? Nope, I just wanna bat some more. Is it bad? Of course it is but in the scheme of things I am hardly a mass murderer am I?

So the Australian Cricket team cheated. They tried to rough up the ball a bit so that their bowlers could make the ball do reverse swing. I wont bore the reader with a scientific explanation of reverse swing suffice to say it makes the ball go in the opposite direction as to what it should.  You know roughing up the ball probably only gives the bowler as very small advantage. It’s  no biggie really. But the problem is they tried to do it on the world stage with television cameras everywhere. They got caught, OOPS.

A bit naughty really but they are not the first nor will they be the last. A fine and a slap on the wrist was probably all that was needed. But OH NO! Australia and the world went mad. Every newspaper, every comment on Facebook and every news item on television leads with it.

” He is livid because Peter Dutton, that leg of mutton, has had the gall to let white South African’s come to Australia on protection Visa’s

SACK THE LOT OF EM people cry. The Prime Minister even has something to say about it. James Sutherland, CEO of Cricket Australia, emails every registered cricketer and fan in Australia to apologise. The captain is stood down, fined and suspended. The Vice Captain is stood down and the nation is in shame. OH MY GOODNESS it’s the world’s end!

Meanwhile David Marr is on Insiders, the ABC’s Sunday morning political review of the week. He is livid because Peter Dutton, that leg of mutton, has had the gall to let white South African’s come to Australia on protection Visa’s.  Apparently white South African farmers are being killed and this warrants protection. In Marr’s view this is racist because Black, Islamic or Syrian refugees are being denied entry to Australia and sent to Manus Island even though their need is just as great. Marr believes that white people are being given favouritism. But let’s forget that because the Australian Cricket team cheated and are a national disgrace.

“Surely this warrants a higher level of outrage than cheating cricketers. SURELY!!!

Apparently, according to Marr, there are literally tens and thousands of people in other countries in similar danger as the white South African farmers. These other people have a greater need but their requests for help are being ignored. Marr is angry because children are still on Manus Island who have self harmed and are being denied entry to the Australian mainland. Why don’t these important, tragic and compelling humanitarian circumstances raise the anger of Australian people in the same way as cricketers cheating? Why doesn’t a clearly racist immigration minister who addresses his critics by announcing that the said critics, “…are dead to me…”, raise the same level of response? Surely this warrants a higher level of outrage than cheating cricketers. SURELY!!!

In this sports obsessed country of ours a little bit of yellow tape down your pants is more important than refugees dying. Sticky in my Dicky reads the headlines and meanwhile George Pell is in court on child sexual abuse allegations. Sack the captain they say but ignore Michaelia Cash threatening to spread salacious gossip about innocent women who happen to work for Bill Shorten. I don’t see the country screaming for her head when they should.

Meanwhile people with a disability can’t get work and 45% are living in poverty but a cheating cricket team warrants more attention.  All over Australia people with a disability are being abused and even killed. In some cases the courts seem to endorse it calling it compassionate killing. Where is the nations outrage about all of this!

No question that the Australian cricket team did a bad thing. But in the scheme of things it’s just a game and really not that important. How is it that a bit of yellow tape and a roughed up ball can cause more outrage than real human suffering? I don’t understand it.

This is surely the nations shame!

We do not have a money problem in America. We have a values and priorities problem.

Marian Wright Edelman

Ableist- We Love em Anyway!

(Please watch the video before reading the article. Otherwise it will make no sense.)

I hope you enjoyed the video. Of course racism is nothing to be laughed at but this video is very good. It pokes fun at white people who sometimes exhibit unconscious bias. You know, those people that claim they are not racist but actually are. Usually they start a sentence with – “I am not racist but ….”

But this article is not about racist it is about ableist. I’m going to use this video to highlight the many experiences of ableism that I have experienced in my life. I am sure many of my disabled and Deaf colleagues will relate. And to all those non-disabled people out there who accept me and are inspired by me because of what I have achieved despite…. This is for you!

“You see I was special. I was Lil’ Deaf Gary”

“We love white people at SBS and we deeply respect their vibrant culture and way of life. HELLO ELLEN …” – It was this line that made me realise that their are many similarities between racism and ableism. Who amongst us in the disability community has not heard of the Down Syndrome community being tagged as happy and joyful. “Down syndrome people are so lovely , they are always happy …” Or those hearing people who wish they were Deaf because Deaf culture is so enchanting. But mostly for me it was the bloke patronisingly getting down to Ellen’s level, almost as if he were superior, to say hello loudly and slowly. This really hit me!

Not to long ago I worked at the Yarra Ranges Council. We worked in these partitioned offices. These offices were divided by false walls and at eye level there were small glass panes. Every morning my boss, Rachel was her name, would come in and peer at me through this pane. With eyes wide and an enormous grin she would wave crazily at me. “MORNING GARY .. ” she would say in what I fancied was a high pitched mocking tone. Being Deaf I would not know.

Not to anyone else, just to me. You see I was special. I was Lil’ Deaf Gary. She meant well, I know. She was trying to make me feel included. But every morning I dreaded the moment that she would come in and unconsciously patronise me. It was a strangely stressful routine that irritated me no end. I felt guilty for wanting to punch her in the face. In hindsight this desire was entirely warranted. She looked not unlike the woman in the picture below, honest.

Photo of an oldish woman, Staring manically with a wild grin, She has fishing line spool for earnings. She is wearing black spectacles and curlers in her hair.

“I firmly believe that white people continue to make a fascinating and meaningful contribution to society …..”  – Breathe deeply  my Disabled and Deaf colleagues. We have all heard this. Non-disabled people spouting nonsense about how people with a disability should be allowed to be a valued part of our community. It is almost like these non-disabled people give us permission to do so.

It’s not seen as something that should be standard. It is seen as something that is rare and wonderful. When we disabled people are actually out their achieving something it’s because these non-disabled people have made it possible. Not because we disabled people have worked our butts off to get our qualifications. Not because we have overcome any number of prejudiced attitudes. Not because we have found a way around any number of barriers that society has placed in our way. It is because non-disabled people think we should be able to. And permission granted they ride off into the sunset with a warm glow because they, of course, made it all possible. Harsh? Perhaps, but that is the reality.

” … And he is just like anyone else.” – Oh yes Deafie plays cricket just like everyone else even though he can’t hear his team mates. Oh yes, Bobby the autistic is just like all of us. He loves and eats and goes to the toilet. Oh and they have sex too . They are gay, god forbid, but there are gay disabled’s too. Stella Young used to tell the story of people patting her on the head and proclaiming that it was wonderful that she was out and about. No doubt it was a shock that she could do this,  just like them. I had girlfriend once who took me to a dinner party and started telling people all the things I could do and liked to do, just like everyone else. The relationship did not last long.

My favourite was the cabinet maker that loved employing deaf people because they couldn’t hear what people were talking about and were not distracted.”

“Some of our best employers are white …. “  – Now … This one really grates. I have worked in and around the employment sector for nearly 30 years. This is how the disability sector markets people with a disability. You see people with a disability are spectacular workers. Their disability does not stop them. They love coming to work. They are rarely sick. They are punctual. My favourite was the cabinet maker that loved employing deaf people because they couldn’t hear what people were talking about and were not distracted. This made them more productive. And people with a disability are good for team morale, they inspire everybody.

I have spent a lifetime telling the sector to stop marketing disability in this way. I say often that you must focus on the skills that the people with a disability bring. You must focus on the fact that they are good at what they do. That they are value for money. You invest in the person because they are worth it and will bring a return for your investment.

Disability comes into it a bit. After all you have to modify things sometimes. Sometimes you need some assistance from the government to meet the cost of modifications. This is all part of the marketing. Please don’t start marketing with, “… if you employ a disabled person you will get x amount of dollars in wages subsidy.” Focus on the value and the skills. Despite my best efforts, nothing much has changed.

There you have it. The video at the start of this article was a spoof on racism. It reverses things and highlights the attitudes and behaviours that white people often are guilty of.

People are often unconsciously racist.  If you pick them up on this they will become incredibly offended. This is also the case with ableism. We people with a disability or who are Deaf face it everyday. We grin and bear it most of the time. But make no mistake, even though it can sometimes be funny, it hurts!

*** The Deaf community often use the term Audism to highlight ableism that is targeted at people who are deaf.

 

“There’s nothing more debilitating about a disability than the way people treat you over it.”
Solange nicole