My Nightmare

I once was the victim of subtle bullying at work. It is hard to describe how it happens. There were two of them. My department manager and my direct supervisor. Together the two of them conspired to make my life hell. My line manager was incredibly patronising, Each morning she would come to my desk, veer through the glass partition, grin widely and wave to me as if I was a child. It was infuriating. I ticked it off to just her being uncomfortable with my deafness. I now think it was just part of a tactic to systematically devalue me.

The bullying was not obvious. It was sly and cruel. For example the department manager would deliberately place roadblocks to prevent me completing my work. She refused to approve surveys for distribution. She would promise to do so but not do it. This would prevent me from completing my research. She did this for a year. My direct line manager would then pressure me to beat deadlines that I could not because the department manager refused to release the surveys. My line manager would claim that I was lying and making excuses. No matter that I provided her with copies of 51 separate emails requesting approvals from the department manager. I provided nearly as many from the department manager stating that she would do so within a week.

One day my line manager asked me to provide her with details of the social, medical and economic models of disability. This I did. She would ask me what I felt were key components of a disability action plan and how I would set the objectives. She would ask me for contacts for consultants for whom she could use to run workshops  and consultations. I dutifully obliged. Come the day of the release of the disability action plan she had used virtually everything that I had provided her, word for word. I asked if she was going to acknowledge my input. She laughed sardonically and said … ” No…its all mine.”

One day I won an award as part of a working group. I received a certificate for this. I took a photo of it and posted it on Facebook with the line – “I wonder if my boss will offer any praise for this,” A few days later my line manager  approached my desk and handed me a letter. I was to be disciplined for not completing the research and undermining the management. They had been monitoring my Facebook and they provided me with a copy of the offending post.

At this point I lost it. I ran down to Human Resources and stated that I wanted to make a complaint. I broke down and sobbed. I continued to sob for many hours. I phoned an interpreter friend to come and help me. HR were organising for me to see a counsellor through EAP. They managed to get an appointment.  I texted my wife and told her I had broken down. She came immediately. The interpreter worked pro-bono for me at that first counselling session. I went home and told my wife there was no way I was going back to work there. She said that I didn’t have to. I sobbed all night. I was a mess.

I sobbed all weekend. It was so bad that my family took turns to hug me. My wife would hug me and need a toilet break and Tyler would take over. I would go sobbing out to the deck and Aden would follow and give me bear hugs. It was hell for me but it must have been worse for them.

The breakdown happened on Friday and by Sunday I was still a sobbing mess. I told my wife I needed help and she drove me to the GP. Because everything happened so quickly we could not get interpreters. My wife, who is deaf, had to interpret. The Doctor was from Middle East Asia and had a thick accent. My wife struggled to understand him and ensure I understood his questions. This is what it is like if you are deaf and have mental health issues that need support urgently. Family members have to take on the load because the system just cannot provide the interpreting support that is needed at short notice.

The Doctor gave me a month off work. He gave me some valium to calm me down. He offered me anti-depressents which I refused at the time. In time I calmed down. In moments alone I would cry. I would take my middle son, Finlay, to hospital for his treatment and I would basically sit in a corner crying every hour. It was an awful time.

About four weeks into this I was contacted by the police. I had apparently, while helping a friend move house, sideswiped someones car mirror. This was with a rental truck. I was unaware that I had hit the car. But getting the news was the straw that broke the camels back.

If I was bad before I was completely gone now. I howled and screamed, I wanted to punch walls. I would raise my fist to smash a hole in the wall and restrain myself. I wanted to just get in a car and drive away, as far away as possible. In the middle of all this were my family watching in horror. My wife phoned Lifeline for me through the National Relay Service. She watched as I told them I was planning to abscond. She dashed around the house and took all the car keys.

In the end I ended up at hospital. Again my poor wife was the interpreter. Interpreting the nurses. Interpreting the doctors. We requested an interpreter but nothing was arranged. My wife was by my side all through the night. She would have been worried and stressed while at the same time, under great duress, trying to be my interpreter.

Early in the morning she returned home for a time. She needed to change and get the boys off to school. They actually didn’t go, after seeing their father like that they were in no fit state to do so. While she was gone the social worker visited me. She was great except she had cerebral palsy and severe speech impediment. I could not understand a word she said. Eight or nine hours in I was still without an interpreter. I understood only four words the social worker said – “You need a rest.”

My wife returned. The initial plan was for me to be admitted  to hospital. Eventually they sent me home and said the mental health team would visit my home the next day. We asked them to book an interpreter for this. They promised to do so but never did. Again Marnie, my poor wife, had to interpret.

This session went on for a couple of hours. At the end of it all I was given drugs and the mental health nurse was to visit me twice a week for the next two weeks. We asked that they book interpreters for this but they never did. Fortunately the mental health nurse was easy to lipread.

This is what it is like today in Australia for people who are experiencing mental health crisis. When it happens there is no response strategy to get interpreting support or any communication support in place. Families are expected to fill the gap. Often these family members are also deaf. Those without support just have to communicate themselves by hook or by crook while under great strain. It is awful.

I thank fuck for my family in this time. Without them I may well be dead today. I thank fuck for interpreter friends who helped me out. Most of all I thank fuck I have the language skills to at least understand what is happening because for many deaf people experiencing mental health crisis this is not the case.

I got lucky. I am sure others have died because they were not as lucky as I. This is happening in Australia today. It is not good enough. It has to change and now.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Good Health

Few years back I had a friend who self admitted for mental health issues. She attended the emergency department of a hospital and requested an Auslan interpreter to speak with the Dr and mental health people. The hospital staff had no idea what to do. My friend was at her wits end.

She began to text my wife and I. Rapid fire texts every two minutes or so. She expressed her frustrations to us. She just wanted treatment so that she could get better. The hospital staff had an emergency number for booking interpreters and tried their best to contact that number to no avail. I have many contacts in the interpreting fraternity. I contacted one interpreter I knew who had experience in mental health. She said she could be available in an hour or so. I used my contacts with an interpreter booking agency and booked my interpreter friend. I sent a text to my friend to show the nurse. The text explained to the nurse how to call to confirm booking for the interpreter. Although this was against hospital protocol they booked anyway. At least in the short term this meant that my friend got interpreting and peace of mind. Kudos to the nurse because she continued to communicate with me via text to get advice as to how she could communicate with my friend in the interim. This was just the beginning of a long drawn out saga. At one stage my wife spent four hours translating a mental health questionnaire into Auslan for my friend. Interpreter bookings promised did not happen.  It was not for want of trying. It was just that the hospital processes were so unclear no one knew what to do. Suffice to say my wife and I traveled some 160 kms a day to the hospital for seven days to ensure my friend got the support that she needed. We worked with the doctors to ensure that they understood the communication issues and to ensure our friend was disadvantaged as little as possible. Of course somewhere in Australia what happened to my friend will be happening to some other Deaf person. It might not be for mental health reasons. It might be because they have had an accident. It might be because they have had a heart attack. It might be because they or some loved one has been diagnosed with cancer. Whatever it is I guarantee you most of the time that whether they are the patient or the carer that the Deaf person will be stressed. They will request interpreters and mostly be denied. They will request interpreters and doctors or nurses will insist that they try and lipread or will write brief and entirely unsatisfactory notes. At worst they are completely ignored while medical professionals just converse around them. Scared and worried about what is happening they will be denied access to essential information. Children, young children, will be asked to convey complex medical information that they are not equipped to convey. It is hell and this will be happening multiple times in Australia today. It is unfair and scary and Deaf people deserve better. The system is broken on so many levels. Emergency booking processes are inadequate. Hospital staff lack awareness. Supply of qualified interpreters for complex medical scenarios cannot meet demand. Yet it seems to me that just one person in Australia is making a noise about it and copping abuse for her trouble. So much that she fears speaking out now for the abuse she has received. The system needs fixing and we need to talk about it. Because if we don’t, to misquote Einstein,

We who remain silent are guilty of complicity …..

OMFG

 

Disability and deafness is such a combative sector. We are constantly on alert. We spend all our lives fighting for access. We tend to come out fighting at the slightest hint that this hard earned access might be taken away.

Sometimes the things we have to deal with daily are just bizarre. So bizarre that they make you want to throw in the towel. But somehow we just keep fighting. I do not know how.

A friend contacted me last week. She wanted to debrief.  She works in a disability organisation. They have regular meetings for which they book her interpreters.

One of the great things about interpreters is greeting them before the job, sharing a bit of gossip and having a laugh. Of course we also bring them up to speed with the job they are about to do.

It is almost like the water cooler for hearing people. In offices they say that people gather around the water cooler. At the water cooler they gossip, debrief, arrange dates, invite people to parties and generally just talk about the world.

For the deaf person this essential socialisation that is part of a normal and healthy workplace does not happen in the same way. Especially if they are the one deaf person in the team.

So what they often do, and I am no exception, is spend time chatting with interpreters. It’s their time when they are not struggling to lipread. It’s a time where they can just converse easily and naturally.

It is limited compared to what hearing colleagues can do. Hearing colleagues chat across the floor. They chat at smokos, in the lunch room and of course at the fabled water cooler. All day long.

There is much you learn from these chats. It contributes to team morale. You learn what other people are doing. More efficient ways to work. Changes in process. All sorts of things that are relevant and valuable to work. For the deaf worker, isolated in this hearing environment, it can be a hard slog.

So back to my friend. She does what we all do. She chats to the interpreters, She shares some of her frustrations at work. Laughs at bad jokes. Catches up with Deaf community gossip and so on. It is a fun relaxing part of the work day that generally only comes around when interpreters are present.

Imagine her shock when her boss approached her to tell her someone had complained. Apparently someone in the office complained that when she was chatting to interpreters in reception that she was a distraction. A distraction to the office and customers.

Apparently this one time when she can talk freely she is wasting time. She spends too long chatting and not working.  Bugger the fact that hearing colleagues chat all day long and waste countless hours. This one time she can converse freely she is a time waster.

To add insult to injury the boss agreed. Told her that if she must chat to the interpreters to find a private booth so that she didn’t distract others.

This, my friends, is a true story. It happened this week in Australia. We have such a long way to go. Which leads me to my final words.

OMFG .. .

Deaf in Control

The NDIS has changed the landscape for ever. Especially for our deaf services organisations. In the past these organisations were the centre of the earth for the Deaf community. They controlled the money and where it went. They controlled who got it and who did not. At a whim they could take away what they had once given. The power was firmly with them. That power, largely, was with hearing people. Hearing people who often had a welfare and controlling mentality. They were the HELP and SAVERS we were the HELPEES and people that required SAVING.

And suddenly it changed. The millions of dollars that these organisations had controlled in block funding was suddenly taken away. Bit by bit as the NDIS rolls out they lose chunks of their funding. Some could lose up 75 %, perhaps even more, of the funding that previously governments provided them. BUT it is not all bad – They can get some of this back through the NDIS – But only if WE, the Deaf, decide that they are the best organisations for us. The power has firmly shifted.

But for deaf services organisations WE are not enough. Indeed the big money is probably not with the Deaf community but with the hearing impaired/hard of hearing community. These people, as do the Deaf community, require technology. hearing aids, smoke alarms, listening devices, hearing aid batteries, flashing doorbells and even Apps so that they know their mobile is ringing. Some require advice, assessments  and even counselling. If Deafness Forum are to be believed 3.5 million Australians out there have a hearing loss. Not all will come under the NDIS, mind you, but a lot will. So to survive our Deaf organisations have to appeal to broad market and not just the Deaf community.

Deaf services organisations are in a mad scramble to diversify. They have to market themselves as the best. They have to meet the demands of the people that have the money. This is us, the Deaf and others with a hearing loss. They have to attract us and convince us to spend our NDIS money on their services.  The days where the Deaf Society was the community centre of the Deaf community are probably over. It is now free enterprise and capitalism.

This has meant Deaf organisations have begun to look at their branding and how they can be seen as a service of choice. In Victoria Vicdeaf have changed their name to Expression Australia. Gone are the words Deaf and Victoria . Why have they done this? Well as I heard, and I cannot verify this, one day a representative of Vicdeaf was working with a sporting organisation on Auslan translating or something. This was in Sydney. They were asked if they only serviced Victoria because that is what the name Vicdeaf implied.

In this market oriented NDIS world the NDIS might not be enough for Deaf services organisations to survive. There is a need to attract other avenues of business. Why limit this to Victoria? Captioning videos, interpreting emergency announcements, translating information to Auslan and so on. So if the name Victoria was removed Vicdeaf could be seen as a national organisation. Thats what I heard and it does make complete sense. So Kudos to Vicdeaf for having the business sense to see the need for rebranding and to move on it.

Now the name Expression I am not to keen on. Sure I get the need for rebranding but I am not so sure about this name. I mean I was driving through Lilydale the other day and their is a furniture shop called Expression. My first thought was, “Wow, VicDeaf are really diversifying”. Point being that Expression is used so often for a business name it is a little hard to relate it to deaf and hearing impaired/hard of hearing needs. It could be anything. There is even a business using the name Expression who sell tea towels.

My pet peeve is that they have gotten rid of any reference to Deaf or deaf. This is apparently because people who are hearing impaired or hard of hearing are a bit adverse to the term deaf. So the business decision was to bow to their sensibilities. In this way it was hoped that they could attract these “deaf sensitive” consumers to use the services of the organisation.

That to me is sad. For years people have tiptoed around disability terms. They have tried to come up with “more sensitive” labeling. This is part of the reason people avoid using terms like deaf or blind. Instead they use vision impaired, sight challenged, hearing challenged, the differently abled and have patronising twaddle such as “What’s the hell is normal anyway?” I hate it and I wish the old Vicdeaf had retained deaf in the new name somewhere. It is what it is. I get why they did it but I think it is really sad that they did.

I am sure Deaf will re-surface in the name as the various branches of services are established. They will have various branches of Expression Australia. Expression Australia, Audiology. Expression Australia, Interpreting and Translating Services, Expression Australia Deaf Community Services and so on. But still I cannot help feeling that Deaf pride lost a little in the quest for the almighty dollar. I’ll get over it, I am sure.

A long time ago Damian Lacey, ex CEO of Deaf Children Australia, tried to take over the Deaf sector in Australia and brand Deafness services as one nationwide service. He was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He may have had more success pushing his vision in today’s climate.

Now, rather than coming together as was Lacey’s vision, our Deaf services organisations are positioning themselves to compete against each other. I mean in Queensland Deaf Services Queensland have dropped Queensland from their brand so that they are now known as Deaf Services. I dare say that this is part of their own push to branch out all over Australia. I am not sure the market is big enough for them all.

Perhaps now is the time for Deaf services all over Australia to come together as one. Pool their resources, have one CEO and one marketing branch. Maximise profits to give back to the Deaf community. Give back what they have taken away like Deaf clubs and so on. I would love to see the end of revoltingly patronisng brands like Deaf Can Do. Remember them? It is a truism that many in the South Australian Deaf community label Deaf Can Do as Deaf Cant Do.

Then and again a market works better when there is competition rather than a monopoly. Who knows what the future holds. One thing I do know, we the deaf who now control where our NDIS dollar goes have an enormous amount of power, We are yet to fully realise just how much power it is that we now have.

One thing is for sure – Deaf services organisations will never be the same again. We, the deaf people, now control where we want our money to go. We may not be the only funding source but mark my word we are the major one. We, the deaf, are firmly in control. Let’s use this power wisely.

 

 

 

The Inaccessible Accessible

It is a wonderful world we live. No really it is. Yes, there is a hint of cynicism in what i say but really the world is a wonderful place. I compare it with the world that I lived in when I started my career and I can only wonder as to how far that we have come. In 1989, when I started my career, i could not make phone calls independently. A letter took two days to arrive. Texts and email did not exist. Jobs and opportunities were few and far between because that dreaded phone was inaccessible. That has all changed now. The world is much easier for me to access. Couple that with the the growth of social media and free communication tools like Messenger and Skype I really should not have much to complain about. Or should I?

I am moving house. Don’t worry Dear, I am not about to announce the address to the world on this Blog. I already made that in error on Facebook. But anyway, moving involves a lot of logistics, You have to book removalist. You have to finalise leases. You have to connect utilities. You have to notify of changing addresses (Preferably not in error on FB for the world to know.) In short there is a lot to do. Our world today is so much easier for a deaf person to navigate. In years gone by I would have struggled to get it all done on time but not in today’s world.

I mean I don’t even have to wait the mandatory eight minutes  now for a relay officer to actually answer when I use the National Relay Service. Take for example booking a removalist. I go on the internet and I can book online. I can ask for quotes from multiple people through a “removalist broker”. This is like a central point where removalist register their services. You post your needs and those that service your area will contact you with a quote. You can add a little note, “Please text or email because I am deaf.”  The daft ones still call and you ignore them. You just deal with the ones that follow instructions properly. Shows an eye for detail I reckon. But it’s easy, It is such an advance on the inaccessible world of yesteryear.

Then with utilities they also have a text chat feature. If your hearing use it. Why? Because there is no being put on hold and they respond almost in an instance. I am with Optus and I changed the address, got a different package and saved myself $30 a month.  All in 15 minutes. Wonderful.

Well what is there for me to complain about?  Nothing you would think. Yes, John I can hear you from here saying, “HERE IT COMES.”  Well I called DoDo you see, via text chat, and this wonderful new world of mine all came crashing down.

DoDo, if you do not know, provides internet, Gas and Electricity to Australians. I signed up for their gas and electricity because at the time it was the cheapest provider in my region by a very long way. I had had their internet previously. It was OK. I only changed because Optus signed up the English Premier League and if I did not sign up with them I would not be able to watch my beloved West Ham. I remember when I ended it with DoDo for Internet they tried to tell me i owed them the rest of my contract. I reminded them I signed up as it was a no obligation contract that could be ended anytime. The grugingly admitted that I was right. I did this all by text chat. no problem.

So I thought it would be just as easy to transfer my account to a new address. Was I in for a shock. Everything was going swimmingly. We ascertained who I was, where I lived and where I was going. All was beautiful and then the operator asked if he could call me.  Obviously I said no. Told him I was deaf and that it would be pointless.

He insisted that he had to call. He said I had to read out my credit card number to him over the phone. I thought this rather bizarre and wondered how many Deaf people with unclear speech or anyone with a speech impairment would cope with that. I lied a little and said he wouldn’t have been able to understand my speech and that it was pointless,

The operator was having none of this. I reminded him I already had a direct debit account and that they did not need my credit card. He insisted he had to read out the terms and conditions to me. I reaffirmed to him that he needed to type them I would not be able to hear him. He told me not to worry and that I just needed to answer my phone while he read out the terms and conditions for me. I didn’t need to hear them he insisted but he had to read them. “Please just answer the phone. I will be patience.” Yes, this is what he said, grammar error and all. I realised about this time that I probably was dealing with an offshore call centre.

I typed out to him that what he was suggesting was actually illegal. He said he had to go talk to his boss. I waited 15 minute but he did not come back.  I ended the call in disgust.

It left a sour taste. I could have just focused on the positives. In an hour I had arranged a move, almost. It just left me frustrated that with all this wonderful technology to make my life easier the only barrier that I had was – AN IGNORANT HUMAN BEING.

And it is always the case. Solutions abound but the barrier is nearly always an unaccommodating and ignorant human being, Attitude is everything. ignorance is not bliss it is a pain in the arse, It is seemingly only humans that can make the accessible inaccessible. If you do not believe me click on the photo below.

Throwing the Baby Out

There is a saying that goes – Don’t throw the baby out with the bath  water.  Many people believe that this is a British saying.  It is actually German. It is attributed to Thomas Murner, a German satirist and poet born in 1475. It is a simple saying that implies that we should be careful to retain good things rather than giving up on everything because parts of the whole are not working or are not workable. Often the fruits of a great idea take time to evolve. It is important that we keep the good things whilst we are seeking solutions. And so it is with the NDIS.

Despite the many perceived benefits of the NDIS the response from Deaf people towards it has been varied. Much of this is because decisions are often inconsistent. There is concern because the criteria  for access seems unduly harsh. Support provided is inconsistent and what one person gets another may not. The processes are also not always straight forward either. Plans are difficult to understand. The Portal is often down. Getting a hearing aid or a new speech processor for ones cochlear implant can seemingly take forever. It has not been plain sailing for many and this has caused much anger and frustration.

Yet amongst all this anger are lots of success stories that very few people talk about. For example there was this 60 year old Deaf woman who had been attending a local arts course. For many years she simply attended, did her thing and went home. The NDIS rolled out in her area and she received interpreting to partake in her arts course. For the first time she had a proper conversation with other participants in the course. She discovered that a person who attended the course with her had an autistic brother, just like her. It might seem such a small thing but one of the major reasons for depression among deaf people is the isolation that deafness causes in big hearing groups. It is no small thing what the NDIS has achieved for this woman.

One of my favourite stories is the Deaf couple who installed the Bellman system in their home. I arrived at their home and the wife excitedly told me to sit and watch. She had the pager and she pressed it. In two minutes her deaf husband came running in to see what she wanted. She cracked up in hysterics. “For the first time..” she said, “I don’t have to run all over the house looking for him.”

She wasn’t finished there. She regaled me of a tale where her grandchildren had visited. Deaf grandpa was asleep. She used the pager to set off his new vibrating alarm clock. Grandpa woke up with a start. Grandchild found this immensely amusing. “Do it again nanny!!!” he implored. Grandpa was also the proud owner of a new hearing aid obtained through the subsidised hearing aids from the Office of Hearing Services. Sure it was not a top of the range model but it was his first new hearing aid in 20 years and he didn’t really care. And all of this because of the NDIS.

I also attended a farewell for a work colleague who was hearing. A Deaf colleague booked interpreters for the event with his NDIS funds. We have all experienced these hearing and Deaf gatherings. Usually the Deafies are in one corner and the Hearies in another. There is usually sporadic interactions between the two. I have to be honest there was still a bit of a divide but the two groups actually did interact and had meaningful conversations. Access was had to speeches as well. The same colleague booked interpreters for his mothers birthday party. He told me he was really thankful because he could actually have a conversation with his bearded brother who was a bugger to lip-read.

And even though there are families that are missing out on Auslan packages, usually because of the lack of knowledge of planners, there are families that are actually getting access to learning Auslan.  This is for children and adults too. They are being encouraged to include extended family into these sessions so that inclusion within hearing families can improve. Sure, the provision of Auslan support is inconsistent and some are missing out but it is happening. While the inconsistency is frustrating we need to remember that as precedents are set awareness is created and such packages are likely to become more common.

Counselling is also being provided. Where it can be shown that Deafness is isolating and causing depression and withdrawal counselling is seen as a way to build capacity and develop strategies to overcome these issues. Again the frustration is that it is not being provided consistently and again much of this is due to a lack of knowledge of many planners. It is frustrating but hopefully in time, as the system evolves and develops, we will see resources developed to assist planners understand deafness issues. We may also see a pool of subject matter experts who planners can consult for expert advice.

Believe me there are many Deaf people working within the NDIA who are working hard to create awareness and make the system stronger. As they say, Rome was not built in a day. It will take time. In fact it is predicted that it will take ten years before the NDIS is working close to optimally. It is a huge social reform that is a long way from being perfect,

One of the biggest issues of the NDIS is the pressure it is putting on the interpreting market. Unfortunately at this time the market cannot meet demand. It is likely to be this way for many years. This is cause for much concern. There is a big push at the moment to get programs going to train more interpreters. This is great and needed but is a long term solution. In the short term maybe there are things that we can all do.

Utilising VRI might help as it will save many hours of travel time for interpreters thus freeing up time for them to actually work. Some of us can actually utilise captioning in some instances and where we can do this it will free up interpreters for those that really need them. At work I actually access an Auslan interpreter through VRI who is based in Japan when no one local is available. Interpreting is a limited resource and building talent is a long term solution. Perhaps we need more discussions about practical solutions as to how we can make the limited interpreting resource go further.

It is true that we must continue to flag issues and problems. We must do this because if we do not improvements will never be made. Unfortunately there are many that seem to want to bring the system crashing down before it has had a proper opportunity to develop optimally. I understand the frustrations and even the anger because many people simply do not have the time for the NDIA to get its act together.

Even so I firmly believe that the NDIS can and will be the best thing that could happen for people who are Deaf, HOH and who have disabilities. While we strive to make it a better system we need to be careful not. “To throw the baby out with the bath water.” All I ask is that we balance up the negatives with a good dose of positives.

Sadly I think these positive stories are too few and far between. The stories are out there – Let us talk more about them.

 

 

The Sad, Weird and Wonderful World of disability

I have been around the disability world for a very long time. I have seen some weird stuff. I have seen some sad stuff. I like to think that over the years the world has come a long way for disability inclusion. I like to think that attitudes have changed. I tell myself every day that things are better now and I should be thankful. Yup, thankful!

A few years ago I was asked if I needed a lift home. This was because the person that offered thought that people who were deaf could not drive. I find this mildly amusing at best. Except that the person offering had worked in the disability employment sector for a decade. Then there was the hearing woman that asked me, hand on heart, how my deaf mate could laugh if he could not talk. Or the instructor of a professional development course who told me I was responsible for bringing my own interpreter because people in wheelchairs bring their own wheelchairs. Not forgetting the professional disability event organisation who offered me a free $2000 registration on the proviso I provided my own interpreter for a day long conference. They reckoned this was smart because paying $900 or so for interpreters would mean that their business would not be viable.  You do the maths.

But it’s better now isn’t it?

Then I read online last week that prisoners who were sex offenders were being used to care for other prisoners who had disabilities. Perhaps we should consider the fact that sex offenders can become better people. You can do that if you like. Me? Well I like to think that people have more common sense than to put people who are already vulnerable and less likely to be able to defend themselves in situations where they can potentially be abused. Maybe it is just me overreacting. Read the article at the link below and be the judge. If true; what were they thinking??

Calls to scrap scheme that paid sex offenders to care for prisoners with disabilities  

This week I was asked to interview for a job interstate that I currently do. I really could not have relocated at this time. I have kid doing year 12, a house to fix, a house to sell and the like. I thought why not do the interview, just to put my face out there if a similar job comes up later when I am in a better position to move.  You know I have been in this role as a senior supervising numerous staff for nearly two years. I’ve been told I am a bit of a gun with the planning process. Without reservations I am happy to say that I am pretty good at what I do.

I just would have thought an organisation involved in the biggest disability program in Australia would have known better. Making an ASS out of U and ME as they say.

Anyway 12 emails later I had managed to educate this new organisation as to how to book interpreters. This was after I requested captioning for the online interview. They preferred interpreters and notified me that that was what they were booking. I wasn’t too fussed but did wonder if they understood the principles of choice. I just would have thought an organisation involved in the biggest disability program in Australia would have known better. Making an ASS out of U and ME as they say.

So anyway they sent me a link for a Skype hook up. The link was on Skype for Business. I was a bit worried as I was linking up on my general Skype account. I sent them an email about 45 mins prior to the interview and said I might have trouble linking up. They replied almost instantly saying that they would get their IT guy onto it.

They had no idea I had connected. So said as gently as I could, “HELLO”

Anyway in the meantime I worked out what to do. Sent them an email and said I had fixed it. I don’t think they read the email because I dialed in and connected. There was no video but the interpreter could hear them on the other end chatting. Apparently they were saying that the fact that I had not connected showed that I lacked problem solving skills. Apparently I needed to have been more prepared and should have identified potential problems beforehand. I watched the interpreter translate what they were saying with amusement for about 45 seconds. They had no idea I had connected. So I said as gently as I could, “HELLO”

The silence was golden. After a good 15 seconds someone piped up. “Who am I talking to.”  I confirmed that it was I. We linked up by video. Throughout the interview I demonstrated to them what thirty years of experience means. And then they asked me if there was any special funding to cover my reasonable adjustments.

I was very honest. I said there is JobAccess  but it doesn’t go far and that if I were to work for them there would be additional expenses to cover my interpreting and that it was not cheap. It wasn’t a very good link but the facial expression on the interviewer when I said this was priceless.

So anyway the interview came to an end. They sent me a link where I had to show my mastery of Office programs and my typing speed. There were lots of questions relating to Excel. I’m not good at Excel. So anyway I did the test as well as I could. Sent it off and waited. A day or so later I received an email that they wouldn’t be processing me further.

I emailed them and confessed surprise. I said you wont find many who have 30 years of experience and who have been successful in the role for two years. I pointed out I was proficient in all the systems of the job too. Apparently I wasn’t progressing because I am not good at Excel, and being good at Excel is mandatory in this organisation. They asked me to consider other positions as they arise. I promised I would and that I would do a crash course in Excel in the meantime.

They professed that they were mightily impressed with my knowledge and abilities but being good at the job is not as important as knowing Excel apparently.  I will leave the reader to be the judge of that one.

And then there was the person that seriously asked if Post It notes as a communication tool could be considered as an alternative to interpreting. And then suggested that perhaps a voice recorder might help. Skillfully the situation in this case was used in a positive way to educate the person concerned. But Post It notes? Just way to weird for me to process.

So that was my week in disability. Just way way to weird! And there was me thinking we had progressed.