Get Seekered!!

I watched Special on Netflix last week. It stars Ryan Connell, an actor who has cerebral palsy. I only watched a few episodes mind you. It was recommended to me. It is about a guy with “MILD” cerebral palsy. He is also gay. Might have been Jewish as well. Reminded me of the old Sammi Davis Jnr joke when asked his golf handicap, “.. I’ve got three – I’m blind, I’m black and I’m Jewish.”

But Special was a bit twee for me. A wee bit Brady Bunchish.  That’s despite the rather explicit sex scenes and the swearing. That said it was an interesting examination of society and its attitudes towards people with a disability. It was also an interesting examination of how people with a disability view themselves. The awkwardness, the worry of what the Ablebods will think of us. What’s gonna happen when we have sex? Our own inherent Abelism, Says the star of the show, and often, ” … I’ve got CP but it is only mild though.”, as if by saying so the Ablebods will see him as more normal and accept him.

The exploration of sex interested me most. It was a very explicit examination of how the physical disability can “get in the way” of sex. The lack of coordination, perhaps the inability to control saliva, limited mobility and so on. Naturally this makes the disabled person extremely self conscious. I well recall when I started to explore sex. The worries of what people would think of my hearing aids and whether the hearing aids would whistle and so on. Looking back, absolutely trivial compared to the challenges of a person with severe (for want of a better word) physical disabilities.

Using a sex worker is something a person with a disability might do to satisfy their sexual needs. Completely understandable. The show did not shy away from this. Then there was the compassion and patience shown by the sex worker to our star as he loses his virginity.

Yeah it was man to man anal sex and our star proclaims something like “Anal sex is divine…” or words to that effect. It was confronting because our stars limited mobility meant that adjustments needed to be made. I am sure this is hellishly embarrassing for the person with a physical disability, but thats life. This is part of the reason the show is so great. It provides us with an insight and understanding of these challenges in a human and empathetic way. But yeah, the show was a bit twee, little bit too wholesome and mushy for me. 😀

But you know the star of our show wasn’t a person with a disability. Well he actually was but in today’s brave new world he isn’t.

You see there is a new train of thought that believes that being disabled is offensive. The word disabled is now up there with words like Nigger as being offensive and needs to be done away with. No more using the word disabled please … Those days are over, finished. DO NOT INSULT US – for we are Access Inclusion Seekers. Don’t believe me well click on the link below –

ACCESS INCLUSION SEEKERS

Yup, we are now either Aised or we are Seekered. I kind of like Seekered. You know there is too much to play with on Aised. Can you imagine. “Im not Aised” or ” I cant be Aised”. It would get way too silly.

Seekered has a lovely ring to it. I am Seekered. It makes me feel real, like people are looking out for me. I feel really accepted being Seekered. Way, way better than that old negative DISABLED. That term DISABLED and all of its negativity, I want no more to do with it. Out with the old and in with the new for I am Seekered.

Think about it. With this new term we will need to change the name of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). It won’t make sense now that we are Access Inclusion Seekers. No siree! The new name will be a mouthful. Think about it, The National Access Inclusion Seekers Insurance Scheme. Yup, NAISIS. That looks kind of wrong. Something that Fraser Anning would be all over. It’s either that or we come up with a complete new name and brand for the NDIS that incorporates Access, Inclusion and Seeking. Cannot be too hard, I am sure.

But yes, I jest. Regular readers of The Rebuttal will know my pet hate is the never ending quest to find a nice way to label us Disableds. The Height Challenged, Voice Impaired, the Differently Abled and so on and so on.

I always hope, beyond hope, that we are over it. But sadly not. That people will actually come up with a tongue twister like Access Inclusion Seekers and others will take it seriously tells us that society has such a long, long way to go before it’s comfortable and accepting of people with a disability.

For me I prefer the message of Special. It just tells it as it is. It accepts that disability is there. It sees the disability and the person. It sees the challenges and the adjustments and just accepts them for what they are. In recognising the different way that a person with a disability lives their life society can then design itself so that the world is better designed for people with a disability. In short.

Will people please get over it and focus on what matters. An Access Inclusion World – Make the world take responsibility instead of just us the Seekered. Sorry, I mean the disabled. One can but dream.

In the mean time the fools that come up with these ridiculous terms. Well, they can go and get SEEKERED … Make of that what you will.

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A Book and Its Cover ….

coverHave you ever walked down the street and turned your nose up at people. You know the homeless person on the street. Bit smelly, dog at his feet. Said to yourself, ” ….if he can afford a dog he can afford a job,”  Or the Tattooed guy with the mullet. Snorted at him under your breath did you?  Or maybe those Crocs with socks, shocker that hey? Yeah we have all done it. Me included.

Yet we like to see ourselves as open minded and accepting. Despite this we have these preconceived ideas about what makes an upstanding person. In your mind this might be a person dressed immaculately who speaks kind of plummy, walks gracefully and doesn’t have a hair out of place on their head. Good person that. The book and its cover and all that.

But you know that guy with tattoos and a nose ring might have a PHD and be working on the Human Genome Project. Paradoxically, that guy in his immaculate suit might be a drug dealer. You would never know.

But a books cover does not tell you if it is any good. The cover does not tell you the full details as to whats in the story. It might give you an idea that it is action or romance. Perhaps that guy in army khaki can indicate it’s about war. The reality is that until you open the book, you really do not know what is within. More often than not the book will be very different to what you perceived and throw up surprises. Generally this is what makes a good book. People are like that too.

I was reminded of this during the week. Of course Facebook was the catalyst. I was Facebook hopping. It’s a term I use for people that endlessly flip through their newsfeed in the vain hope that they will find something interesting. Every hundred or so posts something might grab the hoppers interest. In my case it was Deaf people swearing.

It was an advertisement for the ABC Tv show, You Cant Ask That.  This is the informative ABC show that focuses on marginalised people and answers the daft and sometimes insightful questions that mainstream people want to ask the marginalised.

Like asking a gay man, ” Does it hurt when you have sex?” and the like. It is sad but true, people tend to focus on the insignificant.

So the swearing? Yep, its what I get asked most. How do you sign dick, cunt, sex, fuck and so on. People want to know. It’s the human mind that drifts to the filthy and irrelevant. We wish it wasn’t so, but it is.

I am always more than happy to oblige. Why? Because I know it is people just trying to engage with me. Trying to use humour to break down barriers. People trying to find a way to break down their discomfort with having to find a way to communicate. It is just people being people.

So back to the ABC advert. Swear words in sign. What better way to get peoples attention. Cocksucker, motherfucker, fuck, shit etc … Yup this is how the ABC drew people in to watch their show. Perhaps it was the shock factor that the ABC wanted to shamelessly exploit or perhaps they thought it just humanised things. I suspect it was the former but either way it worked. I took a look.

I rolled my eyes. I knew that this was going to make people watch. I knew that swearing in signs would ping their interest. I reasoned that this was not necessarily a bad thing. Perhaps there would be other things that they would learn that would help to promote deaf people and Auslan in a positive light. Then I saw the comments from the Deaf community.

“This is a Disgrace! Some signs are not Auslan what were they thinking?????”  …. “Horrific, shame on them” ….. “Are you joking?” …. “Using our language as a cheap party trick!!!” and so on and so on.

Basically the Deaf community members who were part of the show were lambasted for taking part. They were criticised for using the wrong signs. Criticised for using swear words. Criticised for cheapening Auslan and the Deaf community. In short they were given curry!

Why? Well because people judged the book on its cover. If they had watched the show proper they would have seen that the swearing was just a very small part of the whole story. Like the gun on the cover of the book. It provided just a small indication as to what was within.

I watched it and I liked it. What the show did was show that deafness comes in many shapes and forms. It showed members of the Deaf community. It showed a young deaf person. It showed people with an acquired hearing loss. It showed a person who was deafblind. It showed that deafness is like a box of chocolates – You never know what you are getting.

It touched on families, communication, bullying and adjusting. It showed positives and it showed negatives. But mostly it was positive.

It showed deaf people, including Deaf people, in their various shapes and forms enjoying life, confronting challenges and doing it with humour and grace. It showed them as human beings.

Yet on the basis of a short clip from the ABC that was designed to shock, the people involved with the show were judged. They were told to be ashamed of themselves. They were told that they were using the language wrong, using the wrong signs and so on.

It’s the use of language that really gets my goat because I don’t know anyone that uses any language properly. The English language is bastardised daily by people and often the bastardised versions become common and accepted parts of the language … Just watch how the Oxford dictionary changes every year. And so it is with Auslan. It is unavoidable and all part of the evolution of the language.

But mostly I am pissed because the people that took part were ridiculed and criticised. And the criticism was based on a very short clip that did not even come close to showing the content of the show. A content that was informative and exceedingly human. Never judge a book by its cover.

Shame on you people that attacked them. It was snobbery at its worst.

 

Not Good Enough

good
Graphic is a meme that reads, Not good enough, not good enough, never fucking good enough.

“You have to be the best planner I have ever worked with, a breath of fresh air. Absolute champion.” With those words my week ended. It’s a good way to go to the weekend with that sort of praise before my very eyes. I was going to say ringing in my ears, but as it was sent by text it didn’t quite seem right. And anyway it would make me seem like a pretend hearie.

But the praise made me reflect. It made me realise just how far that I have I come. I have taken on insurmountable barriers and knocked them down. I have come from a time where support at university was minimal. I have been part of a movement that has lobbied hard so that Deaf and hard of hearing people all over Australia need never be excluded.

I started work at a time when there was no technology, no email, no NRS. I had to rely on finding time that the Deaf society accountant could spare me for interpreting. I had to get others to make my calls. I come from a time where jobs were simply not an option for me because there was no way around the communication issues.

But I fought those barriers. I fought them, as did others of my ilk. The battles that we have fought have meant opportunities could be afforded to Deaf and hard of hearing people previously considered impossible.

In my time we have fought for the NRS. We have utilised technology innovatively to create opportunities. We have introduced captioning to the workplace. We have done many things. I am very proud of what I and countless other Deaf and hard of hearing people have achieved during my 30 year career.

So when I get praise like “You have to be the best planner ever….” It moves me. It moves me because I could so very easily have been denied the opportunity to be at this point where my skills are so valued. It moves me because I know countless others have benefited from those heady days of the 80’s and 90’s where we achieved so much and created so many opportunities. I am very proud to be part of a movement that made Australia a better place for all people who are Deaf and hard of hearing.

The opportunities that I have been afforded because of my and other peoples hard work I expect others to benefit from. My expectations for other people who are Deaf and hard of hearing are high. If those expectations are not met it makes me angry and very frustrated. And so it was last night.

I was asked to be interviewed. A young deaf woman who is studying journalism wanted to interview me about the benefits of Auslan. She touched on many issues such as teacher of the deaf training, influences on Auslan, mental health, what makes a good Deaf school, language development, cognitive impacts and so on.

Towards the end of the interview we began to touch on mental health and why the incidence of mental health was so high among people who are Deaf or hard of hearing. To try and highlight my point I asked her how she was going at University at the moment.

She said that she was going ok. I asked her what support she had. She said a note-taker. That was all. I asked how she coped in group sessions and discussions. She said she didn’t. She was frustrated and left out. I pointed out that this is the frustration of many deaf people and that it often leads to stress and mental health issues.

I wanted to know why it was that she had only received a note-taker. She said she thought it was that she speaks so well and communicates well in small gatherings. Because of this she felt that they had assessed her as needing only a note-taker.

I questioned her about live remote captioning and interpreting. She knows Auslan but is not proficient. She knew nothing about live remote captioning. I was livid. She attends one of Australia’s largest and richest universities and she had received virtually no advise and offered next to nothing.

This frustrates me no end. We are in 2019. In 2019 there is no excuse, whatsoever, for a large and wealthy institution not to provide advice, options and adequate support. The disability support staff at this university are vastly experienced. That this young woman was provided with only a note-taker and left to fend for herself for the rest of her learning is not just discrimination, it is tantamount to abuse.

I spent 12 years as a National Disability Coordination Officer. In that time I worked hard to promote access and inclusion in education for people who are Deaf and hard of hearing. I created solutions for access to online learning. I provided examples and training on how to make media such as videos accessible. I showed how using green screen you could super impose a lecture with an Auslan interpreter so that online content was accessible in Auslan. I showed how you could provide access to Auslan and captioning from virtually anywhere in Australia so that travel costs and the like could be minimised.

In short I know what I am talking about. I know that the solutions exist. AND I know that no Deaf or hard of hearing person, anywhere, need be excluded or miss out. There are no excuses whatsoever. Yet this young woman is being made to watch videos in classs without captions!!!

This young woman confessed that she feared drawing attention to herself. Subconsciously, perhaps, she feared that asking for support was a sign of weakness. She felt a burden. This saddens me. She should not have to ask. She should be advised and offered a range of support. Sure, if in the end she chooses only a note-taker than that’s fine. But this did not happen. It disgusts me.

“But I am doing ok. I am passing.”, she said. She confessed that she didn’t feel right having them pay for her support. I pointed out to her that by getting the support she is actually providing employment to people. Because of her people can pay for their cars and food. Without her virtually thousands of people would be without a job from hearing aid makers, interpreters, captioners, audiologist and the like. No way should she feel a burden. She, along with millions of other Deaf and hard of hearing people, is the centre of a thriving economy! There is no guilt to be had.

I have offered her my support. I have offered to go in and make the institution provide what they should be providing. I have offered to go in and remind the disability support staff what their job is!

My god, this is 2019 and this should not be happening. I will be damned if going to let 30 years of hard work and advocacy from myself and many others go to waste.

It’s just not good enough

An Age of Influence

kindOn the weekend two of my sons had a bit of biff baff. I didn’t know. It is not unusual for brothers to come to blows. Young kids can have a bit of argy-bargy. Except my sons are not little, they are grown men.

I didn’t know. Being Deaf I am oblivious to what is happening in the rest of the house. I was in the backroom watching After Life with Ricky Gervais. I was having a little chuckle as Ricky threatened an 8-year-old with a hammer if he should so much as touch his godson again. Then one of my sons came storming in, red-faced and puffing.

“Why are you puffing?”

“He is a maniac”

“Who?”

“They are my friends not his”

“What, what, what you on about?”

“He tried to hit me, he is nuts!”

After about 10 minutes conversing in this vain I pieced together the puzzle. The short story was one was playing Playstation online. The other did not like it, because it was with his friends. One said, “They like me better…” The other didn’t like that and tried to forcibly turn off the Playstation. Then BOOOOOOOOOOM – the biff baff started. Somewhere along the line one screamed – “You do that again and I will put you in the ground.” I deciphered all this, eventually, while at the same time trying to keep the peace.

This bout of brotherly love bothered me. It made me question myself as a parent. What have I done that makes this sort of behaviour remotely possible? I get angry sometimes and swear. I can be aggressive at sport. Throw tantrums at golf. I am far from the perfect being. But I am not violent towards others. I don’t punch people. I certainly don’t threaten to, “Put them in the ground.”

Nevertheless I realised that certain elements of my behaviour would have influenced my lads. I can be loud, I can swear and I can punch things (not people) when frustrated. I recognised that a little of the hot headedness in them comes from me. I needed to take responsibility for that.

It was a weekend of violence. Over in New Zealand a crazed Australian gunman shot dead 50 people and critically injured just as many. The world is in shock at this terrible act of violence and needless loss of life. The gunman was a white supremacist. His target was Muslims and at their place of worship.

At the place they probably felt most safe he shot them. He shot them knowing full well they would be sitting ducks. It was a senseless and incomprehensible tragedy.

In the wake of all this an Australian politician, Senator Fraser Anning, blamed Muslims for their own death. He said if we had not let them immigrate in the first place none of the deaths would happen. He basically said “You came here, so it’s your fault!”

Unsurprisingly this caused uproar. There were  calls to remove Anning from parliament. A petition was circulated on Social Media calling for his removal. It, apparently, received in excess of 1 million signatures. Politicicians came out of the wood work to condemn the attacks. Many of these politicians, including our Prime Minister, had previously expressed anti-Muslim propaganda themselves. Let us look at some of the things that they have said.

  • In 2011, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, February 17, 2011 – Scott Morrison, our now Prime Minister, urged his party to capitalise on the electorates growing concerns about Muslim immigration and the inability of Muslim migrants to integrate,”
  • On Wednesday 3 January, 2018, Peter Dutton claimed that Victorians are scared to go out to restaurants  because of African Gang Violence.
  • Phil Coorey writing in the Financial review quotes ex Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, defending people’s rights to be anti-Muslim. Abbott is alleged to have said, ” Islamaphobia, unlike terrorism, never killed anybody. (People in New Zealand would beg to differ.)
  • SBS News, 23 March 2017, Pauline Hanson calls to ban the Muslim faith altogether.
  • The last word to Dutton,  22 November 2016, ABC news claims Dutton said ex Prime Minister Fraser made a mistake by letting in Lebanese Muslim migrants in the 70s.

Let’s not forget Sco Mo claiming that migrants are responsible for the congestion in Australia’s major cities. Not poor planning, just too many migrants.

Just yesterday David Koch on Sunrise attacked Pauline Hanson for her anti-Muslim propaganda. He virtually blamed her for the rise of hate speech and white supremacist. True, but Sunrise for many years have allowed Hanson to spout her bile. I don’t see them taking any responsibility.

And that’s the thing. Politicians and the media have to take responsibility for promoting the very propaganda that fueled the views of this deranged man who cold bloodedly murdered Muslims in New Zealand. If I can accept that my actions contributed to my sons behaviours, then our politicians and our media have to accept their role in these murders. Including Koch, who was more than happy to share a TV screen with Hanson for many years. He can hardly blame her for all of it.

Consider this. New Matilda, March 3 2018, claims that Murdoch Newspapers printed 2891 stories trashing Islam in a single year. And if it is not the trashing of Islam it is the white privilege bias. The picture below is from a British newspaper but it could well be an Australian Murdoch press.

On the one hand the white man who killed people in New Zealand was once an angelic little boy. On the other hand a Muslim responsible for the same kind of atrocity in a gay night club is somehow an ISIS maniac. Just born that way, you see. By virtue of being a Muslim. Yes, the media  have a lot to answer for.

Which brings us to Egg Boy. He is the guy that smashed an egg over Fraser Anning’s head. He is just 17 year old and who for his trouble copped a punch or two from Anning and was more or less beaten up by Anning’s minders.

Egg Boy has become an overnight sensation. Every one loves him and Social Media is in overdrive encouraging people to egg Anning just as he did. Egg Boy is even so much of a sensation that he has made Washington Post and late night TV all over the world. He is also quite astute and had this to say,

” Let me inform you guys, Muslims are not Terrorists and Terrorism has no religion. All those that consider Muslims a Terrorist community have empty heads like Anning.”

So Egg Boy is a hero. But should he be? Well no, in my view he shouldn’t be. While I can empathise with his views, addressing violence with violence is never the answer. Yes, smashing an egg over Anning’s head is violence. If we have learnt anything over the last few days it is that violence leads to tragedy. We should not condone it in any form. No matter how strong our feelings are about Anning.

So I wont be joining the Egg Campaign. I certainly won’t  be encouraging others to egg Anning, or anyone for that matters. I am certainly going to be more aware of the language I use. For example, I called Ableist people swine (pigs) in a recent post. Violence is in many forms, physical and verbal. I have to acknowledge that I am also guilty of that.

My take from all of this is that we all of have more influence than we care to acknowledge. It’s fine for us to blame politicians and the media but we are now part of the media itself. Through Social Media we have the ability to influence and even be complicit in violence against others. A violent photo. A sexist meme. Racist comments. All of these influence others, probably just as much as Murdoch’s 2891 anti-Islam stories.

We can change this, simply by modelling and doing the right thing. Be kind to each other, because this is the age of influence.

” Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napoleon Hill, American Author

 

 

The World that We Live

Picture shows former Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, at a rally alongside a sign that says ditch the witch.

I love to see a young girl go out and grab the world by the lapels. Life’s a bitch. You’ve got to go out and kick ass.

Maya Angelou

Happy International Womens Day. I have been lucky in life to grow up and work with strong women. Nearly all my bosses have been women. I am married to a woman who is very strong, scarily so. She is never backward in reminding me and our three lads when we are sexist. My mother was a person, while old fashioned, who taught me to go out there and take the world on and never take a backward step. I have learnt from the best. I am lucky.

Sadly for all those women that were my boss the person above them was nearly always a man. You can have women as managers but the ultimate prize at the top of the organisation is nearly always a man. Even when I have sat on Boards the President has nearly always been a man.

I am a social worker, It is a profession that employs mostly women. You know helping and caring is womens business in this world. Wanting a better world and empathising for the disadvantaged, puzzlingly, is seen as womens business. Nurses are predominantly women. Teachers are predominantly women. Yet even though this is so the people at the top, the CEOs, the school principles, the managing directors and so on are still overwhelmingly male.

This is what I am reminded of on International Womens Day. I am reminded that men control everything. Men are paid better. Men pull the strings. And when a woman does manage to get up to the top they face insurmountable barriers and prejudice.

Who can forget what happened to Julia Gillard. She dressed poorly. She spoke badly. She was barren because she didn’t have children. The then opposition leader Tony Abbott proudly stood in front of a banner stating, “Ditch the Witch” It was disgusting.

None of this is ever experienced by a male. If they do not have children they are career driven. If they are single minded they are tough. If they are ambitious they are hardworking. But not women.  Nearly always these so called strong traits in men are considered a negative in women.

Yet despite this Julia Gillard was, arguably, the most effective Prime Minister that we have ever had. Even though she presided over a minority Government she had a rate of passing legislation in parliament higher than any Australian Prime Minister in history. She was not just tough, she was effective, skilled and a supreme negotiator. History will be a lot kinder to her than politics was. Or men were for that matter.

Compare her achievements to the current Liberal Government that can hardly get any legislation through Parliament. When they fail it is because of a hostile senate and not because they are a male dominated Government that are well – SHIT! Excuses abound but the reality is that they are rubbish. Julia Gillard set an example for them to follow and they have failed miserably.

So this is International Womens Day. It is actually sad that we even have to have it. We have to have a day where we remind ourselves how important women are. Fancy that? That’s quite sad when you think of it. But it’s needed because every day a woman is beaten or murdered by someone who is male. Every day women are belittled by men and treated like sex objects, and yes even I am guilty of this sometimes. Everyday women are paid less than men, often for doing the same work. This is unfathomable to me.  And I am only talking about Australia. Let’s not forget other parts of the world where it is even worse.

But this is Australia today. It’s a country that discriminates by habit. Just this morning there is a story where the Ibis Hotel in Alice Springs puts all Aboriginal people that they deem as from “The Communities.” In one of six rooms. An investigation of these rooms by the ABC found these rooms to be filthy and not on par with the rooms that privileged and predominantly white people stay. Then wheelchair users can’t get in planes and blind people cant get a Uber if they have a guide dog. It happened this week.

It almost seems that discrimination is ingrained in our culture to the point where it is acceptable. This is the world that we live.

But anyway – Happy International Womens Day to all the women in my life. As an aside, what say we appoint Julia Gillard to head the Royal Commission into the Abuse and Deaths of People with a Disability. Now that would be something to celebrate on International Womens Day. God help us if they appoint another doddering retired judge who is a Government lackey. It is the last thing that we need!

 

 

 

 

An Ableist Swine!!

Dr Tim Jones writes for the Aim Network. They are a kind of left leaning online Ezine. Like Crikey and The Conversationalist they are having a field day with the current Liberal Party who are dead on their feet. Which would make them Zombies. Except Zombies are scary and dangerous and the Liberals are totally impotent.

Dr Jones wrote a very good article about Julie Bishop. Remember her. That lovely woman who walked out of parliament the moment the discussion of the Bill for a Royal Commission into the Abuse and Deaths of People with a Disability started. That lovely woman who refused to support the compensation claims of Asbestos victims. Or the woman who voted 26 times against a Royal Commission into our corrupt banking sector. She was just lovely our Julie.

But anyway she quit. She quit and she said she would have won the election if the Liberals had made her their leader. This is common among Liberals. When they are upset about something they resign and say the Liberals will win the next election. They then proceed to shoot the party down with a machine gun. Remember Abbott – I won’t be an ex-Prime Minister who meddles or Turnbull who got his son to go about rubbishing the Liberals so that they lost his previously safe seat that had been with the Liberals for 90 years.

But anyway the good thing is that The Liberals are toast. They are done, they are finished. And good riddance to bad rubbish. This was the gist of Dr Jones article. And it was great until Dr Jones turned out to be a dirty, rotten and nasty ableist swine.

Why? Well he said this – “Their leadership is ineffective, with ProMo (Morrison) and Friesenburger (Josh Frydenberg) having the communication skills of Helen Keller”

I will give the reader a moment to digest that.

For those that may not know, Helen Keller is one of the most famous people ever. She was a disability activist, feminist, academic woman who also happened to be Deafblind. Keller is famous all over the world. Keller had a fine intellect and she wrote widely. She travelled the world. She met royalty and Prime Ministers. She was revered everywhere.

This extremely accomplished woman wrote no less than 12 books in her life time. She was the first Deafblind woman to earn a Bachelor degree. She was a philanthropist. She won the Presidential Medal of Freedom. More tellingly Time magazine ranked her in the top 100 most influential people of the 20th Century

In short she was no mug. She had an enormous intellect and she communicated just fine thank you very much. Very fine indeed.

Yet Dr Jones makes a mockery of her! If our Prime Minister, indeed any of our politicians, had the intellect and communication skills of Helen Keller I dare say they wouldn’t have the crap reputation and gross mistrust that they have now. If they had a smattering of the intellect of Keller politics would be better for it.

Yet because Keller was Deafblind and communicated reading lips with her fingers, receiving messages through tactile signs and with interpreters somehow Dr Jones feels that he can belittle her and how she communicated. Somehow alternate communication equates to not being able to communicate at all. Yes, let that sink in too.

That is sad. It is not just sad it is rank. It shows that this world of ours is as ableist as it has ever been. People with a disability cannot be on the same level as anyone else. We are to be pitied, mocked and disregarded. Even if we are among the top 100 influential people the world has ever known! Yes that is what you did Dr Jones!

Shame on you Dr Jones. You may have got it right about the Liberals but at the end of the day you are nothing but an ableist swine!! Let’s see if you have the gumption to apologies or perhaps you are just no better than the politicians you have just so gleefully written off!

Keeping Us In Our Place

Julie Bishop resigned. She went out with a bang. In her own subtle way she hinted that the Liberals are not giving women a chance. She suggested that quotas maybe the way to go. The Liberals are a party of sexist old men who think women must compete on merit. Which is fine except that women traditionally do not enter politics or big business at the same rate as men. So what do we do?

If women are to compete solely on merit they will be royally screwed. Simply because there are just so many more men that are in big business and politics, particularly in the Liberal Party, that men are always going to be over represented. If you ask most women to compete based on only on their business and political experience then they will have no chance. Why? Well because men have simply had that much more of a head start. On merit alone women will not be able to compete.

So Bishop is suggesting that the Liberals need quotas for women. She is suggesting that she be replaced by another talented woman rather than a man. And why not? The Liberals don’t have enough women. Why not aggressively target women to fill vacancies at the expense of men. I say go for it because merit as a principle sounds great but when it comes to disadvantaged groups it is simply a tool to keep them in their place.

I have been thinking of this lately. I have been thinking about how people with a disability are kept in their place. I started thinking about this because a friend asked on Facebook whether Advisory Groups are much chop. Advisory Groups abound in the disability area. They are a tool used by disability organisations and the Government to show that they are actually listening to people with a disability. Problem is – Advice is one thing having to act on it is another.

Consensus seemed to be that Advisory Groups really are not much chop. Giving advice is fine, but useless if it carries no legal bearing. Agreement seemed to be that advisory groups are simply tokens to show that orgs and the Government have made an attempt to listen and implement the views of people with a disability. PFFFFFT!

What people with a disability want is real representation and power. They want a real say in the decisions that are made about them. They don’t want to be on a group where they are flown business class, given a nice scotch and a fancy lunch. They want power. They don’t want to just say, “Please consider this…..” They want to be in a position to say “WE WILL DO THIS…” There is a difference!

But of course even when people with a disability are in a position of power on Boards they are often out voted. They are usually the sole person with a disability. People nod sagely at them. “Hear, hear…” they will say when token Deafy speaks up and then just do the complete opposite. When asked they will say that they have disability representation on their Board and that they take it seriously. Usually something like 8:1 in favour of non-disabled. Yup that will work.

I was once on a board of a reputable deaf organisation. I was token deafy among ten to 12 others. In Board meetings the hearing members would all talk at once, interject and generally make it nigh impossible for me to partake fairly.

One day it got particularly bad. The Auslan interpreters looked at me imploringly to take control as everyone spoke at once. It is fair to say I lost it. I told the board it was pathetic that a Board representing the needs of Deaf people could not even conduct itself in a manner where deaf people could participate equally. I remember bellowing – “150 years of service to deaf people and what have we here??? … A bloody shambles!!!!” or words to that effect.

And what happened? Well a Board member piped up and said, “ …. Well if you don’t understand something Gary, just put your hand up and tell us.” I lost it and demanded he take his patronising drivel elsewhere and take some responsibility instead of expecting it all to be on me. It wasn’t a pleasant meeting but it is an example of the ableist and audist attitudes that we people who are Deaf or who have disabilities must confront every day. Especially at work or at executive level where you expect people to know better.

And you know this same organisation asked me in for an interview to discuss a management level job. I had let them know I would be interested. So they called me and asked if I would like to come in and discuss the position.

Now before I go on I should tell the reader I am pretty hot. I am skilled. I got experience. Lots of it. I have written tenders. Business plans and funding requests. I have been involved at Government level developing tender documents, deciding the successful tenders and then part of committees that evaluated performance against the tender requirements. I wrote my organisations submission to continue the delivery of the program that I was employed. This had a three year strategic plan to go with it and a yearly business plan for each of those three years. I am hot, not too modest, but I am hot.

So anyway I came into “discuss” this position. First thing that was said as I walked through the door was basically – “We don’t think you are right for this position.” No questions about any of the skills or experience that I have. Nope, just a pre-judgement and then informal discussion. No questions about how I might transfer my considerable skills to the job. Just dismissed even before I had walked in the door.

And you know this same organisation appointed its CEO from its Board who has even less experience than I do. But it is ok. You see the person is not disabled. So it is ok. That my friends is how it works. One rule for them and another rule if you are disabled. Do I sound bitter? I am not, I am just supremely frustrated.

Merit? Not in this world my friends. Like the women in the Liberal Party – The barriers to equality for people with a disability seem almost insurmountable! It is how they keep us in our place.