Happy Hearing Awareness Week

Please scroll to the bottom for the Auslan Version.

Image shows a flock of sheep in close up. In the middle is a wolf that is dressed up as a sheep so as to not be recognised. It represents the saying, Wolf in Sheep Clothing.

Happy Hearing Awareness Week! I hope that is what it is called. We have had so many name changes over the years that I have lost count. But this week is a week of hearing awareness. It’s a week when hearing people celebrate being hearing and let us know that even if we can’t hear, there is hope!! Can Do Hearing proudly proclaim …

“The empathy and compassion promoted by Hearing Awareness Week, generally leads (each year) to an increased sensitivity to the experiences, needs, and aspirations of people with hearing loss.”

Experiences, needs and aspirations of people with hearing loss. There you have it. I am assuming this mean all types, including those in the Deaf community that use Auslan. Or even those who are perhaps not fully involved in the Deaf community but use Auslan. Or little kids, whose parents have chosen Auslan as part of their child’s language development. And of course those that can’t hear, or can’t hear well, and who don’t use Auslan. All of them is what Hearing Awareness week is about and their – “… Experiences, needs and aspirations.” ALL OF THEM!

So this week people in Brisbane driving across the Story Bridge were exposed to this. No doubt a campaign that is linked to Hearing Awareness Week:

OK! Now before I go on I will disclose that I work in the deafness sector. I want to point out that the views that I am about to express are entirely my own. As a Deaf person who lives and breathes being deaf and supporting a diverse range of people with a hearing loss everyday, I am exercising my right to comment on issues that are important to me. That said, these views are my own entirely.

I need to clarify the banner. It is misleading. Firstly it says that deaf kids can hear. Some can but need assistance through aids or cochlear implants. Even with these aids, they hear to varying degrees. It is the same with speech. Some speak just lovely, while others struggle a bit. Some have great language development and others less so. It varies. ALSO deaf can sign too. Again, with varying success depending on lots of factors and access to language models. It is not black and white for any of these “…kids who are deaf …”

May be the banner needs to have the word SOME in it. It definitely needs the words Auslan in it. It definitely needs reporting to the Advertising, Competition and Consumer Commission. Why? Because it is terribly misleading and manipulative. I am actually gobsmacked that it was approved for release. The banner is incredibly damaging.

The reader will have garnered by now that I am a bit angry about the banner. I know I am not the only one because several people have brought the banner to my attention. Possibly in the hope that I would write something about it. With stuff like this, I really do not need a lot of prompting.

It frustrates me because there is a history of this sort of advertising in the last 20 years. Many deaf people, like me, protest about it. They are always ignored and always disrespected. For some, it is disparaging of the identity that they have chosen. Imagine the outrage today if some racially focused group put out an advertisement – “Black people can be white.” Or some homophobic organisation splashed a banner across the Sydney Harbor Bridge focused on the LBGTQIA+ community – “Gay people can be straight.” Yes, I am being extreme, but this is how many in the Deaf community feel about this sort of advertising.

I, and many others, want this sort of misleading advertising to stop. But always we are ignored. Our views are brushed off and we are all considered extremist. We are not. We just see the damage this kind of advertising does to many people who are deaf. It demeans them and tells the world that being deaf is a lesser state of being. I ask the people responsible for this harmful advertising to please stop. JUST PLEASE STOP!

You know, I have witnessed some howlers in my time. There was the lad that was filmed using appalling sign language. His sign language is captioned in the video along the lines of this – “In years gone by this is how people like me communicated …” – he then breaks into speech in what I was told at the time was almost in a sing song manner – “… But now there is a better way”. It is all true; you can read about it in an old Rebuttal HERE.

This was 2008. Yup, we were complaining about this sort of stuff way back then. No one has listened. One of the worst advertisements I saw was of the identical twin sisters, one who was deaf. It was not captioned at the time and I had to get a hearing colleague to transcribe it for me. (Thanks Nic!) This is how it went …

My sister Maddie and I are identical twins. Except that she was born completely Deaf, and I was not. The Hear AND Say Centre for Deaf children helped kids like Maddie to hear and to speak just like me so that they can communicate to the world with confidence like everyone else. And you will be surprised just how much they have helped Maddie.

The other girls talk: – You are Maddie, silly!!!”

Read it slowly and carefully, and let it sink in. You can read this old article HERE.

It is true that this type of advertising offends the Deaf community. But what is worse is that it is incredibly misleading. It gives parents hope, not necessarily a false hope, but it makes them think that hearing and speaking is EVERYTHING. It makes them think that DEAFNESS is an unfathomable tragedy that needs to be eradicated. It means that from diagnosis, parents are seeing their kids as deficit and needing to be fixed. This is the real tragedy because no parent should be starting their relationship with their child with this type of messaging.

The Foundation of Divergent Minds had this to say about the focus on deficit – ” .. When a child is Deaf, in this model, they are disabled because they cannot hear, not because of society.  This model, which is prevalent in schools and therapeutic settings, is a structure that upholds the typical, and places all responsibility for struggle on the individual and their distance from the norm.” (Click on the quote to read the full article.)

And this is what this sort of advertising does. Apart from being disgracefully misleading, it blames the deaf kids. It says that unless they become like the hearing they are not with us. It tells parents of deaf kids that their deaf kids are a problem that need fixing so they can fit with the norm. And worse, it absolves society of any responsibility because – “All deaf kids can hear and speak.” You see?

To the people that continue with this damaging advertising can I just ask – PLEASE, PLEASE STOP!!

Auslan version below.

Universal Design, It’s Not a Mythical Beast!

Image is a black and white sketch of a mythical rabbit with reindeer horns.

For the Auslan version of this article scroll to the bottom.

SIGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!! I have had a day when I just have decided that hearing people or non disabled people, take your pick, need to go in the bin. Sometimes you get to a point where you think they are just more trouble than they are worth. You know, they just think about themselves and no one else. You want to slap sense into them, but my mother told me that violence was not the answer. I am pretty sure she is wrong, but a mothers influence is strong.

Did you read my last article? You can read it HERE if you didn’t. It tells the tale of the deaf couple that wanted a transfer to our services but couldn’t even get past the phone operator because the operator refused the assistance of a third person. That couple who had a 100 km round trip to try and sign up for our services. That couple that patiently waited for two and a half hours while we tried to get them transferred and were refused by a rigid hearing designed system. Yeah them, they are still waiting.

Something that should have taken ten minutes has now been escalated all the way to the top dog. Who, credit to them, replied to me within fifteen minutes and instructed their minions to fix the farce. So now, what should have been over in ten minutes, has a number of high ranking bureaucrats running about to make a simple thing like a transfer to another service happen. I don’t know how much this is costing the tax payer, but this is what happens when you design systems with with very little thought for the needs of people with a disability. Or simply all people for that matter.

Before I get into the meat of this tale, I will tell you a funny little aside. These hearing people told us to tell our Deaf clients to call them through the National Relay Service and they would help them. Another third person but go figure. BAHAHAHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHHAHAH. So funny!!!. As it turns out our deaf heroes are not even registered with the NRS because they think the service is so rubbish. And it is!

But anyway! You non-Deaf, non disabled people out there, I’m going to lecture you. I’m going to Deafsplain to you in very simple terms what you should be doing. Just as you are often condescending to us, I am about to be so to you. I fear it is the only way to make you all understand!

Firstly, all of you, you people with expensive university degrees who are employed and contracted to design systems, services, products and buildings etc, learn what Universal Design means. I will put it in very simple words. You design things FOR EVERYONE. Not just the so called privileged majority. I could explain to you what the term EVERYONE means. But I am banking on the fact that your expensive education has taught you this already.

So, just to be clever I will give you a jargonised definition of what universal design means.

Universal Design is the design and composition of an environment so that it can be accessed, understood and used to the greatest extent possible by all people regardless of their age, size, ability or disability. An environment (or any building, product, or service in that environment) should be designed to meet the needs of all people who wish to use it. This is not a special requirement, for the benefit of only a minority of the population. It is a fundamental condition of good design. If an environment is accessible, usable, convenient and a pleasure to use, everyone benefits. By considering the diverse needs and abilities of all throughout the design process, universal design creates products, services and environments that meet peoples’ needs. Simply put, universal design is good design.

Yes! A building needs to be accessible – A system like a phone system or a customer service system needs to be accessible – Education needs to be accessible – The environment needs to be accessible – Public facilities and services need to be accessible – TO THE GREATEST EXTENT POSSIBLE!



Is that clear? Do I need to put it it in plainer English? Let me know, I am certainly happy to try and explain it more simpler for you . After all, that is Universal Design!

Now in simple terms, if you are a person designing these systems, buildings, services, products etc, ask yourself,

  1. Can all people get in?
  2. Can all people reach it?
  3. Can all people hear it?
  4. Can all people see it?
  5. Can all people get on it?
  6. Can all people process it?

There are other questions, I am sure, but the idea is that you consider as many possible scenarios as you can to encompass all people to THE GREATEST EXTENT possible. This means, just incase extent is a word that you don’t understand – THE MOST POSSIBLE!

Most of all just ask yourself – CAN ALL PEOPLE USE IT????!!!!!!!!

If the answer to any of these questions is NO, design it better. And for god sake, if you don’t know the answer to any of these questions, and it is ok if you do not – Go and consult with people that do!

OOOHHHH, I can read minds – It will cost too much! … It will take too long! … It’s not realistic! My answer to all of you nae-sayers thinking this is – POPPYCOCK!

Read this, then click on it to take you to the website:

According to the Center for Universal Design, “The intent of universal design is to simplify life for everyone by making products, communications, and the built environment more usable by as many people as possible at little or no extra cost. Universal design benefits people of all ages and abilities.” Adds John P.S. Salmen, president of Universal Designers & Consultants, Takoma Park, Md., “Universal design is a much more holistic view of the lifespan and people’s changing abilities throughout their lives.”

In short, take the time to do it right and make the world accessible to everyone. It will save everyone money in the long run. Believe me it takes more time and money to redesign things and systems that inadvertently have not considered the needs of every one. Just ask the bureaucrats who are running around trying to fix the mess that was created and that prevented access for my clients today. I’m betting you that they wish someone had got it right the first time.

That’s Universal Design for you. It’s not a mythical beast! Make it real, it’s in your hands!

Auslan version below. With thanks to Marnie Kerridge


I have been deaf now for nigh on 50 years. I was not born deaf so have the privilege of speech. In addition to this I have a strong language base. Note the word privilege. My life may well have been different had I been born deaf. Perhaps I would have had no access to Auslan until my late teens. Perhaps for many years I would have struggled to express myself in the hearing world that I existed. Perhaps my language development, literacy and education could have been impacted. There are many things that could have happened, so I consider myself privileged.

Now that word “privileged” is not used in a good way here. I mean it in a way that indicates that I have rights and advantages over others. This is wrong. I am a firm believer that everyone should have the same access to everything. Be it education, housing, employment – No one should have ‘privilege’ over others. Alas, in our society privilege is everywhere. It’s ugly. We must tackle privilege head on everyday.

My 35 year career has been about fighting unfair privilege. It’s tough and the fight makes me angry, really angry. I have very low tolerance for people that are privileged who make themselves out as victims. I have a very low tolerance for people who are privileged who try to tell me how I should live life as a deaf person. This low tolerance is what has kept me going in the disability sector for 35 years.

You would think that by now I would have got used to it. You would think that I would just retreat into a hole and say, “That’s just the way it is … “ But no, I still get angry. I live and breathe this shit everyday. When I stop getting angry, I will know it will be time to retire.

Yesterday, late in the day on a Friday, I had a late call from a client. They had been suspended from work. They had been called into a meeting to discuss performance. The client refused unless an interpreter was booked or a support person could be arranged. Instead, because they refused the meeting, they were frogmarched from the premises and told they were suspended. They still do not know for how long because since being suspended no communication has happened. You see, the privileged hearing people expect this person to do all the adjusting and refuse to adjust for the client. A simple text or an email seems to be beyond these privileged hearing people.

I spoke to the client for nearly 2 hours. The client was depressed. I mean really depressed. They spoke about driving home and not caring what happened to them. They spoke about how they had requested interpreters and were told no because they were a good lipreader. The boss had said, “… if you don’t hear something, let me know, Ill tell you.” They had requested the staff TV in the staff room have the captions put on. This was refused because the captions were a distraction and annoyed the hearing staff.

As the client told me this story, my anger was palpable. I had to do many things for this client. The priority centred around the depression and making sure that the client was safe. As a professional I did this in a cold and methodical way. As a human being I was seething.

Earlier in the week I had been working with a client that wanted to transfer to our service. They had been supported in a “hearing” organisation that, in the clients own words, “… didn’t understand deaf.” If you are hearing, a transfer is a very straight forward process. There is a number you call, you provide details and request a transfer to the organisation that you want. It takes 10 to 15 minutes.

Of course, if you are deaf and for whom Auslan is your first language, accessing this transfer line is problematic. I have the privilege of speech and a captioned mobile, so I told the client I would ring for them.

Now, before I regale the reader with this tale, I should explain that before calling we tried a number of other ways to make the transfer happen including online means. The online method failed because it sent a code to the clients mobile, which was unfortunately broken. No matter, there was the phone method which hearing people get to use. It’s their privilege.

So I rang. Trusty captions on my mobile telling me what buttons to press to get where I needed etc. I got an operator and explained what I was trying to do on behalf of the client. The operator, point blank, refused to process the transfer. They wanted to speak to my client. I pointed out this was not possible because they were an Auslan user, their speech would not be understood over the phone and so on. Didn’t matter, the operator still refused. “If I help you …. “ said the operator, “… Ill get in trouble.”

I explained why we couldn’t do it online and why the transfer phone line was our only option, all to no avail. The operator said I could try this special line that helped people who use different languages. You see, if you are hearing and don’t speak English you can use this other line through a spoken language interpreter. I explained that this was slightly harder with an Auslan interpreter. But the operator assured me it would work with Auslan too. Yeah, RIGHT!

So, I called this other line and was asked by the AI technology what spoken language interpreter I wanted. I said Auslan and was asked to confirm if I needed a Bengali interpreter. I decided not to respond in the hope that I would get an operator. I did, eventually, but as I was explaining the Auslan issue the line cut out. I tried again with the same result except this time I was asked to confirm if I needed an Arabic interpreter.

In exasperation I called the original transfer line again. I was told the same thing, that they wouldn’t process through a third person. They said that my only option was to call the organisation that the client wanted to transfer from and organise it by agreement. So I did.

So after messing about for half an hour getting through this organisations call centre, I got put on to a case worker who referred me to their manager. The manager refused to process the transfer as well. She said that the clients would need to come into the office and ask for the transfer themselves. I pointed out they were Auslan users and had traveled a fair distance to see us for this transfer (over 50 kms.) I pointed out they wanted to come to us because we were a specialist service for deaf. The manager was adamant …. They had to come in to their office.

It was two and a half hours into the appointment by this time. I apologised profusely to the client. They were very understanding. (I wouldn’t have been) The client said they would pop into the organisation on the way home. They did so, saw the manager for five minutes, who said OK and that they would email me the transfer forms. A week later I am still waiting for the signed transfer forms.

I might get in trouble from work for writing this. I am beyond caring. I am so angry. This client traveled over 50 Kms to see us. They patiently waited 2 and half hours as we tried to resolve things and get them transferred. They were forced to travel back home and attend the office of this organisation. They did all they were asked for and the transfer has still not been processed. If they had the privilege of being hearing, this whole process would have taken ten to fifteen minutes, tops. Let’s also consider that if you are hearing and speak another language, you have more privilege with this system than a person who is deaf!

Yes, I am angry. Not for myself but my client and thousands like them that have to endure this shit every day. Privilege, especially hearing privilege, is rife in Australia! It is a disgrace! As for me, rest assured my anger will drive me on. A few people will be hearing from me next week. It wont be pretty and it wont be fast but change has to happen.

It’s just not fair!

And It’s Farewell From Me ..

Image shows an electric cable has been cut. The cut shows two ends held apart with frayed multi-coloured wires portruding.

“Hi Gary…”, the friendly sounding email greeted me. ” It’s been nice knowing you, but it’s adios. We did warn you, but you ignored us! As a result we have kicked you out! Soz about that, but if you wanna come back, just re-register all over again. Cos you know, we know you just got oodles of time to waste on registering online. And what’s more, you’re Deaf, and its our job to make your life as complicated as it possibly can be. See ya online soon, or not!

Much love

The No Help Desk, National Relay Service

Of course, the National Relay Service didn’t write that to me, but they may as well have. It’s true they greeted me at the start with Hi! They then proceeded to deregister me because I had not responded to them as to whether I wanted to remain registered or not. They did actually tell me I could re-register again if I wanted to, but that’s really not the point.

For you hearing people reading this for the first time, The National Relay Service is a service that Deaf people use to access the phone. In years gone by they used what was called a Teletypwriter (TTY). This was a device where you could type messages to another person who had a TTY via the phone line. What the Government did in 1995 was set up a new system where Deaf people could phone a hearing person who didn’t have a TTY through the National Relay Service . A Hearing Relay Officer would then relay what you typed to the hearing person at the other end and type out what the hearing person responded..

For three decades or so this was primarily the way that Deaf people called hearing people. It’s how they ordered their Pizza or got themselves a taxi. The more hardy, like me, would call girls they had met in the pub and try to charm them through the Relay Officer. The Relay Service was a godsend and, I am sure, even a life saver for many.

Over time, technology lessened our reliance on the Relay Service. First it was SMS, then email, then chat services like Messenger. Eventually services like Skype gave unapparelled visual communication access for Deaf people and led to the establishment of video relay service for people that used Auslan and wanted to make phone calls through Auslan interpreters.

But as technology and the internet took over, the need for the Relay Service became less. But there was and still is always a need for the service for many Deaf people. Like if your car broke down and you needed a tow. You could use Internet Relay Service to call for a tow and a rescue. But the use of the Relay Service for many of us has became very sporadic indeed. Nevertheless, it is often still needed.

The National Relay Service changed hands a few years ago. The new provider insisted on users having to register. Because you know, life is just too easy for Deaf people. You can just imagine the executives in their offices saying to each other… “These Deafies, they have it all on a platter. Endless supplies of interpreters. Open captioned movies three times a year. Hospitals that meet their every communication need and access to education and employment wherever they go.” Clearly the executives decided Deafies had to be brought down a wrung or two. So they came up with the concept of registering for the Relay Service, true story. And just to make it a little more difficult they decided to kick Deafies out sometimes and make them reregister.

I jest, but it really isn’t funny. Why, why, why – should Deaf people have to register at all? Whereas hearing people can call any time and anywhere, Deaf people have to jump through hoops. And then whatever device they use – Phone, iPad, laptop, work laptop etc- they have to sign into each and every one of those devices to access the Relay Service. And don’t forget your password, whatever you do, because otherwise you will have to sign into all those devices all over again after you reset it.

Too add insult to injury, you have to register for a service that often does not answer. It often takes many minutes to connect. It often drops out mid conversation. It’s a shambles of a service now. A far cry from the wonderful and efficient service it was when it was introduced.

And what if you re a person that doesn’t check your personal Gmail too often. The National Relay Service has sent you an email saying to get in touch or you will be deregistered. You don’t see it, you get deregistered., You’re driving in the country and your car breaks down. You try to use the Relay Service to call for help but cant because, unbeknown to you, you have been deregistered because you didn’t reply to the email. Or the power goes off at home and you need an electrician. Or you need to call your elderly mother to see if she is alright and she isn’t tech savvy. I bet you our dear friends at the National Relay Service didn’t think of these scenarios when they came up with this ridiculous and grossly unfair idea of registration.

For me, it doesn’t matter anymore. I have my captioned mobile. I can call anyone at any time without the need for a third person. But I have the privilege of speech. Many Deaf people do not, let alone people with a speech impediment that also use the Relay Service. What of these people? Having to register and then running the risk of being unknowingly deregistered is just not fair.

As for me… It’s farewell from me National Relay Service. You have destroyed a once proud and essential service. I might not need you anymore but just remember, many people still do. LIFT YOUR GAME.

Changing of the Guard


Glen Flindell

I was at the Australian Open tennis last weekend. There was a special tournament on featuring Deaf tennis players from all over the world. My mate, Glen Flindell, was playing. He is knocking on 43 and he is still out there. He has probably seen better days but he can still give the youngsters a run for their money. The tournament was probably a bit of a changing of the guard as far as Deaf tennis in Australia goes. He jokingly told me he was over the hill and wished he had a time capsule to take him back ten or fifteen years to when he was at his peak. Indeed, Ashlee Narker, at just 16 years of age, was beating everyone in sight at singles and doubles. She eventually won the tournament. Australia’s Deaf tennis is in good hands.

I watched Narker play her doubles match. Sitting next to me was a nine year old deaf boy. He was an Auslan user and had two cochlear implants. On his implants he had magnets of Buzz Lightyear and what looked like a replica of a red and white ice hockey puck. I thought of my day when I was a young deaf lad. I was encouraged to wear my hair long to cover my hearing aids. Here was this young lad with neon green cochlear implants, further being shown off by bright red cartoon magnets. His mother told me he had a whole collection of these magnets that he wore with pride. It is how it should be.

I had a chat with this young boy. I signed to him and asked him who he was going for. Narker was playing doubles. Her partner was a brilliant young woman from Tapei. Their opponents were from Greece and Japan respectively. The young lad was of Asian descent and told me he was going for the team with the Australian in it. Indeed, watching Narker would have been inspirational for him. He chatted about his school and the fact he was returning to school on Monday after the holidays. I suggested to him that in 7 years time, when he was 16, he would be out there playing just like Narker. He flashed me a beaming smile and nodded in agreement. You could see that Narker was his inspiration.

Ashlee Narker.

From Flindell to Narker and this 9 year old deaf boy, I was acutely aware that the Deaf community was seeing a changing of the guard. But what would the future be for this 9 year old deaf boy? He was possibly watching Deaf sport for the first time. I wonder what impact it was having on him. I remembered my first involvement in Deaf Sport. Every single member of my team signed. I was a fledging Auslan user at the time. It was an eye opener for me.

Over the years I was involved in the Australian Deaf Games. Through cricket, golf and soccer. Auslan was always central to our communication and sense of community. In 2005 I volunteered for the Deaflympics in Melbourne. Deaf people from all over the world. Different sign languages from different countries. Sign language was central to everything. Everywhere you looked people were signing. These are the memories that I and others took away from these events. The sport was important but that sense of community and cultural gathering was what it was all about.

So here I was at the Australian Open, watching the Deaf tennis. In the stand I caught up with the Deaf community. Of course, we all were using Auslan. People I hadn’t seen for a while, big smiles big hugs and endless conversations in Auslan. Marnie and I are becoming grandparents. Everyone was asking questions about the little one. Oldies like me exchanged health stories. Hip replacements, knee replacements, medication and tales of where their children were now. It was marvelous. It would have been brilliant for this nine year old Auslan user to see.

But out on the court it was different. None of the players seemed to sign. The umpires did a little bit. They would brush the top of their hands to indicate a let. They would use number signs to indicate the score for the deaf players. But as I watched these deaf players, seemingly none of them signed. I watched Australia’s John Lui get beaten by a hard hitting player from India. No one spoke, no one signed – they were fully immersed in the game. They shook hands at the net, they spoke to each other, they didn’t sign. I thought that was odd.

I went to watch the next game. The Indian player who had beaten Lui sat in front of me with two people who were probably his parents. He had two hearing aids on. He and his parents conversed in spoken language. No signing. They may as well have been hearing. I looked out at the game I was watching, Narker was playing. I could clearly see Auslan interpreters behind the umpires chair. There was a minor disagreement as to whether the ball was in or out. The foreign player spoke to the umpire, the umpire spoke back. No need for the interpreters. Narker and the foreign player said something to each other. No signing.

I watched the doubles. Surely now the players would sign to each other. Alas, no. It was interesting to watch. The doubles teams would get together to talk tactics. One would turn their back on their opponents and the other would stand directly in front of them so that their opponents could not see what they were conversing about. I felt for sure they would sign to each other, just small signs but hidden from their opponents. But no, they spoke to each other. I found this strange, not because they didn’t sign but because the doubles partners were from completely different countries. I wondered how much they had actually understood of each other and how much was bluff. Plenty of nods and thumbs up, but I wondered if some of this was actually a Deaf Nod and they had no clue what the other had said. Cynical of me, I know.

I did note that they had some signals that they would use behind their backs when their partners were serving. This is common in tennis and does not really equate to sign language. Despite this. my observation was that communication was primarily spoken language. From what I could see sign language was absent or distinctly in the minority.

Later, I watched Australian women’s players, Narker and Macy, socialising with each other. They were obviously good mates but they didn’t sign to each other ether. I watched Macy play doubles with her German partner – no signing, they spoke. I watched Narker play with her partner from Taipei – they spoke too. They were playing against a Greek and Japanese combination who spoke to each other as well. For me, an old fart from the past who came from a time where participants of deaf sport all signed and where if you were oral you either learnt to sign or sunk without trace, it was a huge culture shock.

I wondered if this is the way of the future. I wondered if cochlear implants have become so dominant, where speech has become so dominant over sign languages, that this is the future of Deaf sport. I wondered if in the future Deaf sport will be dominated by these oral implantees and where signing participants will be the minority. Rather than this huge gathering of signing sports people that I had experienced, those that sign will be the minority. Confined to small pockets where they communicate with each other while the oral dominant participants SPEAK to each other.

Is that the changing of the guard that we are witnessing. I hope for my nine year old Deaf Auslan user friend that this is not the case. I hope that Deaf sport will always be about the Deaf community, its culture and its beautiful and diverse sign languages. Because while the sport is important it is not as important as the Community for which Deaf games have always been a cultural gathering of significance. My wife tells me she noticed a couple participants signing off court. Who knows, may be I am overreacting.

Interesting times, interesting times indeed.

Footnote** I write this piece, not to start a war about communication methods, rather as an observational piece as to how the make up of the Deaf community and institutions like sporting events have seemingly changed over the years.

Deja vu, Part 2

Image is of an empty cinema. There there is dim light and rows of seats. The blank white screen is prominent at the end of the rows of seats.

Hello readers. I am here again. It’s kind of Deja Vu. As retirement beckons I have this overriding sense of DeJa Vu. I have worked the best part of 35 years campaigning, fighting and convincing the powers that be that life is not fair if you are Deaf, hard of hearing or have disability/s. I would like to look back and think, yeah its good, life is better now and feel an over-riding sense of achievement. Instead, I feel this incredibly oppressive sense of Deja Vu.

Melanie was on Facebook last week. She was having a moan. And good on her for that. But it’s sad that she is moaning about the same things that I was moaning about 15 to 20 years ago. (For the record, Melanie, I mean moaning in the nicest possible way.) Her moan was about cinema captioning. She started her moan with a question:


Indeed, why cant we? Melanie and her family had wanted to watch a movie at the cinema with captions. She has a Deaf husband, a Deaf child and they just wanted a night out as a family. Perhaps a quick stop at their favourite takeaway. Perhaps a little evening stroll while slurping an ice-cream on a warm evening. Maybe sitting on a park-bench together as the evening cools and the sun sets in an iridescent haze. Then to the movies, family time at its best. Something that families all over Australia enjoy on a regular basis.

Alas, wishful thinking if you are Deaf or hard of hearing in Australia in 2023. Melanie and her family had to travel more than forty minutes to see a movie. Unlike most people, because they are a Deaf family, they cant just rock up at their local cinema. They have to hunt through the newspapers or online to find a movie that is open captioned. If they are lucky, the cinema will have remembered to advertise that the session is open captioned.

And you know, most people have a choice of movies that they can watch. Hoyts are your best bet. They have Cinemas everywhere. Unfortunately, very few open- captioned options (I couldn’t find any today, this day 22/01/2023). You can try Eastland, Chadstone, Broadsmeadows, Forest Hills, Northlands etc etc – But today there are no open captioned sessions, none! Plenty of closed captions sessions with Captiview, yes of Craptiview fame, but no open captioned sessions.

Why would her family want to chance Craptiview. They would need three of the devices. She and her husband would need to set it up for themselves and their Deaf kid. What are the chances that the the cinema does not have enough devices? Or the devices are flat. Or the signal is crap. Or that their kids cant focus from device to screen. And that mandatory ice cold Coke or choc-top ice-cream, where do you put it when the device takes up the cup-holder. Nah, I fancy Melanie and her husband just said to themselves, “FUCK THAT“. If you want to see just how bad Craptiview can be, just watch this video. It was made in 2013, but from what I hear, nothing much has changed.

Since that time cinemas are now providing more Craptiview options. The problem is that most in the Deaf community loath it for all the reasons I have highlighted and that are shown in the video. They just want to go to a movie, any movie, close to home, sit back and enjoy it. They dont want to go to the ticket office, confess that they are Deaf, ask for the device, hand over their license as proof of ID and walk into the Cinema with these horrible and bulky devices. They just want to rock up and enjoy the movie!

To avoid the scourge of Craptiview they have to scour the Internet and newspapers in the hope of finding a movie that has open captions. THEN, they have to hope that the movies is one that they actually want to see. They have to hope that it’s a genre that they enjoy. In Melanie’s case they need to hope, also, that it’s family friendly and age appropriate for their kids. And then, if by chance they actually find a movie that they like, the likelihood is that they will have to travel an hour or more to get there, factoring in Melbourne’s appalling traffic and parking that comes at a premium and often at an exorbitant price. BUT WAIT, THERE IS MORE!!

Last year Thomas from Queensland entered the lottery to find an open captioned movie. Lucky Thomas, he found one! Alas, like Melanie, he had to travel 40 minutes to get there. Luckily, Thomas didn’t have a family to worry about. It was just for himself. Probably, knowing the Deaf community, Thomas let his Deaf friends know and his Deaf friends were going to meet him there. Open captioned movies being at a premium as they are, many in the Deaf community take what they can. Even if its a crap movie.

So Thomas went about his day. No doubt looking forward to the down-time he was about to experience at the movies. I fancy he was looking forward to catching up with Deaf Dick and Tracy too. Covid restrictions being gone as they are, we can actually meet people. At the appointed time, Thomas set out to the cinema. Braving the traffic and the elements as you do.

He arrived to meet his friends. Hugs and chatter all around. Tickets bought, into the movies they went. No captions, WTF! It was advertised. Thomas and his friends had come all this way for nothing! Angry, they seek out the manager only to be told that there are no captions. Why? Because the cinema had been sent the wrong caption file. FUCK!

This is what Deaf and hard of hearing people all over Australia have to endure everyday for the simple pleasure of watching a movie at the cinema. Is it any wonder many, myself included, have simply given up the ghost and prefer the comfort of our own home and streaming options like Netflix and Stan. We have become hermits, rarely venturing from the comfort of our armchairs because it is just not worth it.

And for me its Deja Vu. I was among the many who campaigned hard for better cinema access for Deaf and hard of hearing people. We started in the early 2000’s campaigning hard for many years. We fought the cinemas, the Government and even each other. (My wife famously got told, very publicly on Facebook, to shut up in a debate over Craptiview.) Some of us thought Craptiview was better than nothing. Others, like myself, thought Craptiview unacceptable and wanted more access to open captions more often and at more cinemas.

We fought the good fight for many years. We attended meetings. We negotiated with cinemas. We sat on Government committees commissioned by the Government and met in Canberra. Hell, we even joined forces with our friends in the Blind community in campaigning for Audio Description for the Blind. We set up the Action on Cinema Access Facebook page. We worked hard!

We did so with high hopes that future generations would have better access than we did. The gains have been marginal. The problems of access, the problems of choice and the tyranny of distance are still there. And Craptiview is still crap. And when Melanie and Thomas post on Facebook about the very barriers we fought so hard to break down, there is an overwhelming sense of Deja Vu!

Never mind, there is Netflix and retirement that beckons for me. As for the younger generation, the fight continues. And fight you must because it is just not fair. My advise to this younger generation is be prepared for the Deja Vu because the hearing community, particularly big business, are not well known for their empathy and willingness to change! Good luck, I’ll watch you all keenly in my retirement!

T’was The Night Before Xmas

T’was the night before Christmas and all through the house
Deaf people were stressing, it’s far from grouse
The hearing coming, deaf slumped in a chair
Lipreading, socialising, its really not fair ….

Christmas is a time to be jolly. It is a time to sit back and relax. It is when you catch up with family and share the love. A tipple or two is to be had. The diet goes out the window. Hugs and kisses abound. It’s a great time for many, but Xmas often highlights awkward social issues and compounds them. This is especially so if you are deaf. While the cheer and gatherings of the holidays are a welcome break for many, some find this time more difficult. For those in the Deaf community, the holidays amplify existing challenges.” Pfieffer, 2020..

For me, 2022 was quite a tough year. It began with so much promise. I was leading a team of very dedicated advocates. One other, whom I was not leading, was deaf too. I felt I belonged and was enjoying the role immensely. And then it happened, as it often does within an organisation designed for people with a disability. An abelist and non disabled person spoils it. To cut a long story short, when I complained about the appalling behaviour of this person to the Board, that person turned on me. Gaslighting and victimisation ensued.

“Screw this ..” I said to my wife. At 57 I just wanted to enjoy my work. I tendered my resignation, with her full support. The Board didn’t want to accept my resignation. I said to them that I was willing to reconsider but under no circumstances would I continue to work with this person. The Board had no choice really, they accepted my resignation.

Before my last day at this organisation, I had found another job. I had two jobs to choose from but the one I chose allowed me to return back to my roots and work with the Deaf community again. I am loving it, but come Xmas I was tired. It had been over a year since I’d had a proper holiday. I was looking forward to a break at our holiday home in Adelaide. In fact, I was craving the break. My expectations for a relaxing break were high.

It is fair to say that both my wife and I were exhausted last year. Working in human services can sometimes take its toll. People you are assisting are often going through difficult times. The behaviour and support of these people needs careful consideration and management. Human suffering or stress can be difficult to experience. It’s not always possible to remain untouched by it.

I am sure I speak for many in this area when I say dealing with the trauma of others can be draining. In a year I have experienced other peoples depression, suicide attempts, family break ups, deaths and cost of living trauma. Human services workers are not made of Teflon, it sticks sometimes. Hence, I am sure many of my colleagues in this area, including my wife, were hanging out for the break.

But for my wife and I that break involved Xmas gatherings of of mostly hearing people of which she and I were the only deaf people. We were both looking forward to it, but it is fair to say we had a fair amount of anxiety and apprehension about what we were about to confront.

We arrived in Adelaide on the 22nd December. Unfortunately, the people who had been renting our house short-term left a mess. We had been hoping that we could just wind down and relax. Alas no, we had to clean up the house as quickly as we could before our ‘hearing’ guests arrived. This was stress we could have done without.

Our first guests were my wife’s family. They are all wonderful people. They came for drinks on Xmas Eve. It’s fair to say that my wife and I were buggered having spent the best part of the day cleaning up and taking rubbish to the tip. Our defenses were pretty low. We all sat outside on the balcony and the conversation was rapid. Following the conversation was hard work. After about an hour I just wanted to crawl into bed. I looked over at my wife and I fancy she was feeling just the same.

This year was different from years gone by. I had an iPad with voice to text technology. It is very good and very accurate. I turned it on and tried my best to pick up the gist of the conversation. The technology is not designed for rapid fire conversations. Of course, with a social gathering there is never one conversation. To the left a couple of people might be talking about theatre. Across the table they were talking about Covid, to my right it seemed they were talking about sunsets and the beaches. All of this was coming up in text at the same time. It wasn’t perfect but I managed to join in bits and pieces of the conversation.

Not so long ago this would not have been possible. What I used to do is find someone who was easy to lipread and try to chat with them. Inevitably after a time that person would tire of just me and seek out others. As I got older, rather than make the effort, I just withdrew. I would find a quiet corner with my beer and hope that people would ignore me. Alas, this rarely happened. Some kind soul, seeing me on my own, would come over and try to chat. Often these kind souls are really hard to lipread. Conversations would be difficult and halting. It will surprise no one that I and my wife are often the first to leave these hearing gatherings. The exhaustion and effort is often just too much.

Christmas Day arrived. Being chief cook, I was up early preparing the food. My wife joined me and this was sort of the calm before the storm. My adult kids woke up and my eldest arrived with his partner and step-son. It was fun. My kids are obviously deaf aware. We began to open presents and then my sister arrived early to help.

That was fine. She is easy to lipread as is my brother in-law, John. Then everyone else began to arrive. My nephews and their partners. Suddenly the house was full of chatter as the ‘hearing’ greeted each other. I looked over at my wife, she seemed to be in a mild panic. “What’s up?” I asked. She said she was feeling overwhelmed. I tried to reassure her but if I am honest, I was feeling exactly the same.

These situations give rise to a lot of social anxiety. Society has these unwritten rules of conformity. We had guests in our house. It is our job to make them feel welcome. It is our job to show an interest in them. It is expected and my wife and I are acutely aware of this.

But it is hard. Everyone is chatting. You have no clue what they are talking about. How do you interrupt? How do you join a conversation when you don’t know what people are talking about? I look around and people greet me and smile at me. Sometimes they say something and I have no idea what they have said. I often pretend that I do. It’s awkward and it is stressful. But I had my iPad, it would be different this year. But fuck! It was flat and I had to charge it so first hour was a complete blur. (Not helped by the fact that I mucked up the turkey.)

I looked around for my wife. She had taken herself outside. She was with a small group that included my brother in-law. I joined them. The chaos of conversation inside had worn me out. Later my wife was to tell me that she was so thankful for John. He is laid back and makes sure you understand him. He helped her to relax. I spent a fair bit of time out there with them too. So exhausted and stressed was I, that I didn’t even have anything to eat!

Later my iPad charged and I went inside and had some conversations and mingled. I couldn’t catch everything with the iPad but I managed to find out what people were talking about. Holiday homes, wine, dogs, sick family members, work, music, Melbourne vs Adelaide – Just lots of random stuff. It was actually brilliant having them all there and after a time I began to enjoy myself. When they all left I was kind of sad but also thankful. I was spent.

And that was the pattern for the whole holiday. New Years Eve was spent with my sister in-law and her partners family. It was lovely and they made us feel very welcome. This time I remembered to charge the iPad. This being a smaller gathering, it was easier to get involved. A retired ophthalmologist was talking shop and it was fascinating. My sister in-laws partner was talking single malt whisky. Her partners mother was chatting about the loathsome Scott Morrison and the equally loathsome Royal Family. Before the technology, I would have had no clue.

There were a couple there that I met for the first time. They were fascinated with the iPad technology. They asked me how long I had been deaf, except the caption came up as dead. I said that I was very much alive. They look confused and I explained that the caption had come up as dead instead of deaf. Laughter all round.

Later my wife and I retreated to the kitchen and just sat together. A week of communicating and concentrating had caught up with us and we needed a little time out. I apologized to the host for being so unsociable. The host said not to worry, she understood that for us the communication was hard work and told us to take all the time that we needed. I thanked her. The empathy was very much appreciated.

And that was my Xmas. It was great to see everyone. It may not seem it, but I really did enjoy catching up with them all. But it is hard work. These gatherings give rise to a lot of anxiety and they wear me out. This is what it is like for many deaf people the world over who have to fit in to a hearing world.

It’s bittersweet. Returning to work can be almost respite.

I think the deafness affects me more than I realise; I think it makes me more tired. I loathe parties. I attend, smile and leave.

Stephanie Beacham


Image is of a black and white photo from the early 20th century. It is a group of women in clothing of the times with protest signs saying VOTES FOR WOMEN, GIVE US THE VOTE NOW, EQUALITY FOR WOMEN. The woman in the middle can clearly be seen yelling her protest.

HULLLLLLLLLLLO! Apparently, a new word has been invented … ‘YELLY‘ It is a new advocacy term for people with a disability that are passionate, vocal and driven. That’s my take on it anyway. But, apparently, there are some non-disabled people, people who think that they know better than people with a disability about how to live life disabled, these people are anti- ‘YELLY’. These non-disabled use the word ‘YELLY’ disparagingly. A friend, who has been a brilliant advocate over many years, was told that a campaign they were running was too ‘YELLY‘. Of course, this was by their non-disabled boss who, in my experience, yells all the time. Usually at people with a disability. (This is a semi-fictional account of an incident that happened recently, written in this way to hide peoples identity.)

There are these snobby people that believe advocacy needs to be nuanced. They think in your face advocacy is a bad thing. Typically, these are people that think Unions are thugs and that strikes are an inconvenience. Typically, they think protesters are irresponsible and should get back in their box. Write letters to the newspaper they say. Contact your MP they say. Let management know, politely, that you were left stranded at Bus Stop 36 because the bus didn’t cater for wheelchairs. You know, you ended up in Bendigo when you wanted to go to Ballarat because you didn’t hear the announcement of the platform change. Just write a nice letter to the CEO and let them know. No matter that this is 2022 and these companies are breaking the law. No need to be ‘YELLY’, lets be ‘MEEKY’.

What utter nonsense. I will have you know that every single piece of advocacy we do is ‘YELLY’. When we write a letter to the CEO we are making them aware. This is still a form of ‘YELLY’. But there are lots of types of ‘YELLY’ and combined they make effective advocacy.

I can tell you that writing to the CEO and saying:

Dear CEO

Yesterday I went o Bendigo, but I wanted to go to Ballarat. This was because I am deaf and your company announced a platform change on the speakers, but there were no visual announcements. As a result I got on the wrong train. Sadly, I was late for my party. Can you please make things better for Deaf.



Well – This will get you nowhere. But still this meek little protest is a way of being ‘YELLY’ – It is bringing attention to the issue and in its own way is demanding a response from the CEO. The CEO is likely to reply. They will apologise and promise to look into it. When MEEKY dies in 2072, people will still be ending up in Bendigo by mistake. There needs to be more.

Now, on the other hand, if thousands write to the CEO, perhaps with a little more emotion than MEEKY, the CEO might feel a bit more compelled to act. If thousands end up on the platforms and disrupt travel for a week because they want change, the CEO will jump. If the company is splashed all over the media with angry and disadvantaged patrons, the CEO is likely to have to respond publicly and commit to some sort of change. If hundreds yell to the Australian Human Rights Commission and put in DDA complaints, the CEO is going to be swamped. Perhaps, the CEO might even agree to meet a delegation, begin to negotiate change and agree to timelines. None of this will happen quickly, but the process involves many ‘YELLY’ parts, all combining together to create change.

Did the Women’s Suffrage movement push for women’s rights by quiet and polite little requests? No! They used every means at their disposal – The Suffragettes were part of the ‘Votes for Women’ campaign that had long fought for the right of women to vote in the UK. They used art, debate, propaganda, and attack on property including window smashing and arson to fight for female suffrage. In London they, “… maintained a constant presence in Whitehall, petitioning Downing Street, heckling MPs and chaining themselves to government buildings.” There was not a MEEKY in sight. It was ‘YELLY’ from top to bottom. The key was to be consistent with message and diverse with response. And it never stops, even when positive change happens. Just look at the Roe vs Wade situation in America. That women are having to fight this battle again is a disgrace.

Closer to home, the NDIS started on a wave of protests and constant media exposure. Who can forget then AFDO President, Dean Barton-Smith, at the podium of an Every Australian Counts protest letting the Australia know – “The time for talking is over, The time for Action is Now!” Even now, after having the NDIS established, there is a constant protest from people with a disability to make sure the NDIS delivers what it is supposed to. The disability movement have a presence on The Drum, on social media, on Q and A, on the radio and behind closed doors – they are everywhere. People with a disability speak out and demand more from the NDIS – As they must. Never take anything for granted – Bring on the ‘YELLY’s’‘ I say. They have achieved so much!

So be a ‘YELLY’ and be a ‘YELLY’ with pride. Because it’s the only way that change happens. Just remember ‘YELLY’ comes in many guises. And you Non-Disabled – don’t you dare tell us not to be ‘YELLY’ – Because even when the Non-Disabled make the changes needed, we have to continue yelling to make sure they don’t muck it all up. All heil the ‘YELLY’s’

AI – The Next Big Challenge!

Image is of a futuristic scenario. There is a robot hand and a human hand. The forefingers of the two hands are outstretched and touching each other at the tip

Oh, I love technology! I have made it part of my career to find ways to make technology work for me. The latest cool gadget is captioned mobiles. It uses voice recognition technology to caption the speaker, I lost my hearing around the age of 8 or 9 so I have ok speech, people at the other end can hear me. Sometimes they don’t and I have to repeat myself but that’s ok. No matter, after 57 years I now use a mobile to receive and make calls without a third person assisting. Available on an Android phone near you. C’mon Apple, catch up.

I was so excited about this when I found out about it. I contacted Jobaccess and said I have a new employer and need a workplace assessment. So I prepared my case. Basically, when the job assessor came in I had al the information ready for them. I even had a video that showed how it worked. I can be kind of clever sometimes. I met the assessor without an Auslan interpreter and used my iPad with the Microsoft Group Transcribe app to show just how effective this new technology could be. I kind of blew the assessor away. She was a bit gobsmacked. I convinced her, as well, that I needed good internet coverage so she recommended WiFi extenders too. And then I said I could cast the captions to my computer screen using Chromecast so I could read the captions on the big screen. So she recommended Chromecast and an extra monitor, so Jobaccess bought that too.

BRILLIANT!!! Then my friend Michael tried to do the same and they said no. He became a sooky lala. He says there is one rule for me and one rule for everyone else. Spat the dummy good and proper he did. So I became his advocate. Went into battle for him and they bought him the required phone too. I’m not sure if he got extenders and an extra computer monitor as well, but at least he got the phone. Oh technology, how I love thee!

And you know, in the last few years I have basically not booked Auslan interpreters. I kind of prefer the immediacy of communication rather than all the hassle of booking and hoping someone is available. You know, I turn on my Group Transcribe in the office and know what people are talking about. As a boss it is useful. I hear, or see rather, what my team mates are talking about. When I see they are having problems or there is something that needs my input , I am able to pipe up and contribute to this discussion on the floor – For the first time in the 35 years of my career I have felt close to fully involved. Hell, one of my teammates, when they want to chat with me, the first thing they say is, “Put your thing on” – It is that good.

Automatic captioning is an example of AI or artificial intelligence. Wikipedia defines AI as;

“Artificial intelligence is intelligence – perceiving, synthesizing, and infering information – demonstrated by machines, as opposed to intelligence displayed by animals and humans”

So when a computer program hears a voice and then is able to transcribe it to captions, this is an example of artificial intelligence. A program or machine replacing what a human might otherwise do. It’s interesting, because recently I spoke to a very good friend who is a live captioner. He said that since automatic captioning has begun to improve, work for his business has started to dry up. That makes me feel a bit shit. My thirst for immediate communication, low on hassles and cost, is putting people out of work! That’s a bit of a downside.

You know, my job involves advising Deaf and hard of hearing people of their options. It would be remiss of me if I didn’t explain to them and demonstrate the solutions at their disposal. Like me, many of them are amazed. It has meant that they can now consider other jobs that involve intimate human interaction. It has meant they can access the phone, group chats, deliver customer service and the like. It is wonderful – BUT, the downside is that it is changing life as we know it in a negative way too.

The amazing thing, or the sad thing really, is that AI is like a real person. Some AI is great, but AI also discriminates. You see, I speak ok. Not every deaf person does. It is fine to know what others are saying but how do you contribute if you don’t have good speech or are an Auslan user. What I am seeing is people are now saying, “Oh great, Johnny can use this technology with us. Problem solved!” Shit, NO! Johnny has literacy issues, Johnny needs to be heard too, communication is two way! This technology might work for me, but it wont work for Johnny! It is a real danger that people start to think it is a one size fits all! It isn’t, other options are still needed.

And do you know, businesses are increasingly using artificial intelligence as part of their recruitment processes. People apply for jobs online. Artificial intelligence is now screening these applications. The blurb of the companies that promote this recruitment process is that it’s fair. There is no bias. It just picks people who can do the job. Sounds good? No, its a nightmare if you are deaf or have disabilities.

A few weeks ago, as an experiment, I applied for a job using one of these online application processes, just to see what would happen. Within ten minutes I was invited to an interview over Zoom, that afternoon. OK! Now imagine you are deaf and an Auslan user. You have to go for this interview. It doesn’t ask if you have any access requirements. It just jovially says, congratulations, you have been invited for an interview and sends you a link. Just like many real people, AI can be clueless.

So I logged in at the allotted hour. A man was there. He said something, but of course there were no captions. Their Zoom didn’t have a captioned option either. I explained to the bloke that I was deaf and needed captions, silence. Truth be known, I had Microsoft Group Transcribe running and could follow what he was saying. BUT, as I was talking seven or eight more people joined the interview. It was a group interview. The man just ignored me and began to speak to everyone else, talked about breakout rooms and how there was a task in the breakout rooms and we had to leave voice responses to the questions. I got out there and then.

I was horrified. I imagined any number of Deaf community members applying for this job, (Packing and picking in a warehouse by the way.) I imagined they wouldn’t have Group Transcribe. They wouldn’t have Auslan interpreters. In reality they would have no access, no hope and would be totally excluded!

Since I did this experiment other clients have spoken to us about the same issue. They apply online. They get invited to interviews. They don’t know what is going on. They are expected to hear, respond and speak their responses. It is horrific! This wonderful technology that has the potential to include so many is now doing what humans have been doing for hundreds of years, it discriminates. Sadly, AI can also be AUI … Artificially Unintelligent.

And here lies our one of our next great advocacy battles. This battle is to make these AI systems accessible and inclusive.

To the credit of the companies involved with the recruitment, they accept and recognize the problem. They have agreed to meet to discuss a way forward. It’s gonna be a long road but at least they have come to the table. To resolve this we are gonna need a bit of real intelligence. Wish us luck!


Image is a silhouette of a woman sitting in a field. there are dark cloud in the background. She is holding her face in her hands.

It has been a difficult week. I am in no mood to mince words. People in the Deaf and Disability communities are hurting. Rather than easier, this world of ours is becoming more and more difficult to navigate. On one side of the coin a large proportion of the Disability community fear just leaving home. This is because of Covid and the Governments dropping of all restrictions. No masks, no isolation and so on. If you are fit and healthy, wonderful. You can get Covid and likely recover, no complications. But if you are elderly, have severe degenerative disability or are immuno-compromised, catching Covid can be a death sentence. Just simple things like mask wearing and isolating when you catch Covid can save lives. But nope, seemingly no one cares.

In the Australian Deaf community there have been two suicides within a week. I wont go into detail because people are hurting. However, once again it throws a light on mental health and deafness, indeed all disability. The National Library of Medicine suggests that the incidence of depression and anxiety in deaf people is 25% higher. A recent study of mental health episodes amongst people with a disability found that one third of all people with a disability in Australia experienced very high levels of psychological distress during the pandemic while only 8% of the general population did.

Why? Well, because our society is disabling people more than it needs to. The isolation, lack of employment, lack of accessibility and never ending barriers takes its toll. Indeed, there has been no improvement in the disability employment rate for 28 years. Dylan Alcott was on TV this morning pleading with employers to take on people with a disability. This in a time of labour shortages where employers cannot fill vacancies.

Sometimes when I see figures like this I feel like an imposter. I feel like 35 years as a disability advocate has been a complete waste. You want to just throw in the towel and crawl under a rock. That is until Sky News come up with headlines like this:

Inside the ‘failed’ NDIS: How it secretly funds sex work and why the scheme will eventually cost Australians $100 billion every year

Now, at this point I have to say that what follows are the opinions of myself and no one else. They do not reflect the views of my employer, friends or family. Although I am pretty sure a good proportion of my friends and colleagues will be cheering me on.

I have a message for the author of this piece, Jonathon Lea. How dare you scream that the NDIS is a failure. What would you know? What would you understand about getting out into the community three or four times a week, where as in a past life you would be lucky to get out once a month? How dare you suggest the amputees who are getting prosthetics are part of a failure. Or the physically disabled who are getting bathroom renovations so that they can shower are part of a failure. Or the Deaf person who can get an interpreter for their brothers wedding is part of a failure. Or the person with speech difficulties who gets a communication device to communicate with others is part of a failure. How dare you suggest that all of these people are a burden. Sure, the NDIS is far from perfect and I am one of its biggest critics, BUT, to call it a failure is the height of ignorance.

And here we go again. The cost. It’s expensive! Those dastardly disabled are such burdens. Apparently the disabled are sending the country broke. $100 billion it will cost! Mr Lea, let me give you some advice; open your mind. If you bothered to do your research you would see that for every dollar spent on the NDIS, $2.21 is generated. It is creating whole industries out there mate. It creates jobs in the care industry, it creates jobs in the technology market, it creates jobs in innovation, it creates jobs for Auslan interpreters, it creates jobs for tradies who do the renovations and adjustments, it creates jobs for professionals and therapist. We could argue that the NDIS is an absolute pillar of the economy.

Do you know about the multiplier effect Mr Lea? Where when a person with a disability goes to the movies they take family and friends with them? Did you know on average one disabled person will bring four others with them to a cafe, a tourist venue, a winery and so on. Mr Lea, thousands upon thousands of businesses’ and employees owe their careers and incomes to people with a disability. Imagine if we go back to the dark ages and these disabled people were restricted to the odd outing here and there throughout the year. How dare you call them a burden and suggest that they are taking money from other areas where it is needed. You are an absolute ignoramus! Oh! You have no idea what I really want to call you!

But the worst of this is Mr Lea trying to show that he understands why a person with a disability needs intimacy by way of sex:

“Stephanie has cerebral palsy, a degenerative movement disorder which leaves her bound to a wheelchair and dependent on 24-hour carers who sleep in a spare room..

But once every few months she pays a male escort to visit, to do the sort of things consenting adults do, and maybe stay for the weekend.

Stephanie prefers not to say how much they cost, nor how she fudges her claim. Only that she does.

Sex isn’t supposed to be against the law. But it is, when taxpayers are footing the bill.’

And that’s what he said. He basically said Stephanie has no right to intimacy and that it is wrong that the tax payer should assist her to fulfil what others do most days. I don’t know Stephanie. It is possible that Stephanie has coordination issues to the point that she cannot use sex toys. Or it is possible that her coordination is such that self intimacy is beyond her. It’s possible that she asked for assistive technology through the NDIS to assist her with her intimate needs but this was denied.

But I don’t care. Stephanie has a right to human touch. Stephanie has a right to human interaction. So what if she pays a support person for this. After all, does not the NDIS proclaim it is the persons right to lead an “Ordinary Life.” Stephanie is a human being that has social and intimate needs. She is living in a world where people with disabilities are victims of sexual abuse. She is living in a world where she possibly does not fit into societies warped sense of “attractive”. She is probably very lonely, isolated and in need of human company and intimacy. And Mr Lea shows his empathy by saying this – Sex isn’t supposed to be against the law. But it is, when taxpayers are footing the bill.’ I read this and felt physically sick!

I am tired. I am sad. I see my Deaf and Disabled community struggling every day. I see it impacting on their health as they struggle to fit in with this increasingly non-disabled world. It’s making them sick. It’s sometimes making them kill themselves. And then Mr Lea comes along and suggests that Stephanie is a criminal for wanting and needing intimacy, in his words, “Every few months.” Yes, here and there, where it can be had! Would you like to live such a life Mr Lea?

Mr Lea, you and Sky are a disgrace for printing such inhumane and demoralizing crap! You are SCUM!