A Liar and a Fake

I am a liar and a fake. I lie and fake on a daily basis as do many deaf people. It’s what I do when I can’t be bothered with communication. Sometimes the effort of lip-reading and intense concentration involved with communicating with hearing peers is a drag. So rather than make this effort I lie and I fake. If you are deaf I am betting THAT YOU DO TOO!!

It happens everywhere. Where I work there are thousands of people walking around everyday. They come from all walks of life. From overseas, from up the road from regional Victoria … you name it we have it. At least four times a week someone will stop me, lost in the vastness of the campus and ask for directions. Now sometimes it is a simple ask like, “Where’s the loo?” and sometimes it’s more elaborate and detailed like, “..Where is the X room in the Y building?”

Now generally I can assist but from time to time I get an Asian person asking for directions. Now I am not racist but I can not lip-read many Asian accents. Some Malaysian student will come up and ask me a question and I just will not understand them. So I fake it and answer, “No idea mate, the office will be able to help you.” And point them to the office. Sometimes they give me weird looks. They probably asked something like, “What’s your name?” and I answer, “No idea mate, the office will know.”

McDonalds and any like fast-food place are the pits. It’s noisy and the person serving you just can not accept your order. You specifically say what you want and they ask if you want more. “Large chips?”, “would you like an upsize?”, “Desert with that?” -It’s worse than the Spanish inquisition. On occasions I will fake it, look a my son and say, “What do you reckon?” This is a mistake because he will always say “Yes”, “Large” and “More”. The consequence is I end up spending 20 bucks more than I intend to!

Then of course when you have ordered they have to repeat your order to you. It’s noisy in McDonalds you know. I have a deaf voice and have trouble monitoring my volume in noisy areas. I either scream or whisper but very rarely get the right volume for the moment. What this means is I am often misunderstood. The person serving me will read back my order of a Big Mac with a large fries as a “Kids pack and an apple pie” I of course – fake it and nod vigorously. Mind you its fun to play with the toys. I guess you reap what you sow.

I am a liar and a fake – My question to my fellow deaf folk out there is – ARE YOU?

And in the Left Corner ……

Sometimes you have something on your mind that you just have to get out. It sits there and bothers you when you should be focusing on other things like work or that short four foot putt that you need to sink. Today is one of those days. Perhaps I really need to get a life because surely there are nicer and more exciting things to worry about than what I am about to offload.

I was chatting the other day with a group of friends about our representative Deaf and hearing impaired organisations. We have two – Deafness Forum and Deaf Australia. These two organisations are like chalk and cheese yet are almost essentially the same. DF represent a whole range of issues including hearing health, parents, education, access, Deaf people, captions, hearing technology and anything else under the sun that comes under the banner of “hearing loss:. Deaf Australia represents the Deaf community and issues that affect them. Most of them include exactly what DF represent with the exception in that they focus solely on the Deaf community, the rights of the Deaf community and protecting Auslan – these issues they OWN and protect like a rabid dog with a bone.

…..these issues they OWN and protect like a rabid dog with a bone.

DF of course claim to represent everything that DA do too. DA doesn’t want DF to represent anything to do with the Deaf community. For DA they would rather DF focus on hearing health and that stuff and leave anything to do with the Deaf community to them. The problem is “Hearing Health and that stuff” often overlap and include the Deaf community. For example Deaf people wear hearing aids and want access to them and repairs throughout their life. DF represents that argument and DA SHOULD represent it too. Other issues that overlap include education, captioning, communication access and so on. The two organisations represent Deaf and hearing impaired people on nearly all issues bar say hearing loss prevention and tinnitus. On the latter I am sure there are Deaf people that suffer from tinnitus, so maybe that overlaps too.

Now DA want DF to take a running jump on anything that is relevant to Auslan. Auslan, say DA, is their domain SOLELY. DA want DF to leave Auslan alone to the point of removing reference to Deaf people in their constitution. DA would like a clause in the DF constitution that acknowledges Auslan and Deaf people as the SOLE domain of DA.

DF will not do this. They rightly point out that they have Deaf members too. They argue that too many of the issues overlap. That much of what they advocate affects Deaf people as well as hearing Impaired and blah blah blah we have an impasse. Neither organisation will budge and US, the tax paying Deaf and hearing impaired people of Australia, watch in bewilderment as the two organisations war with each other. “Its MINE” says one president – “ITS OURS TOO” says the other – and the two children continue their squabble ad-infinitum.

I can’t claim from this quick glance at the websites of these organisations to understand the politics that go on within them

I wonder if Australia is the only place in the world that is like this. I took the liberty of goggling deaf advocacy in England, Canada and America. I came up with organisations like the Royal Association of the Deaf in the UK, Orange County Deaf Advocacy in the US and the Canadian Deaf Legal and Advocacy Services. I picked all these at random. Not ONE, I repeat not ONE, represented only Deaf or only hearing impaired people. The advocacy services of these organisations covered the broad spectrum of Deaf and hearing impaired issues.

I can’t claim from this quick glance at the websites of these organisations to understand the politics that go on within them BUT at a glance they seem to quite happily blend the needs of the various groups into one compact service.

I would not be so naive to assume that these organisations are without their conflicts. I am sure there are plenty of disagreements within. It just seems that everywhere I look that advocacy agencies around the world have managed to put political differences aside, find some common ground and advocate for the needs off both the Deaf and hearing impaired successfully. Perhaps Bill Shorten should give DF and DA some money to jointly research how these agencies operate successfully with the view of doing the same in Australia. As it stands it just seems so much time and money are being spent by DF and DA duplicating each other.

I am well aware of past injustices to the Deaf community. Timothy, on the now defunct AAD Discussion page, was fond of evoking the spectrum of the Milan conferences in the 1880’s. I am well aware of the battle that people like Colin Allen and Robert Adam fought to have the Deaf community and Auslan recognised. I am also well aware that these gains were hard fought and that the Deaf community are rightly suspicious and slightly mistrusting lest these hard earned gains be lost. However, smart individuals and organisations learn from past mistakes and move forward and find better ways to meet the needs of their target groups.

The current situation between DF and DA has gone beyond a joke. Bill Shorten and his head Minister, (Is it Jenny Maklin?) should tell the two of them to get together and sort it out. They should tell them “SORT IT OUT OR WE WILL FOR YOU” All they need to do is learn some lessons from the past and move forward. If DA and DF can not do this then the only losers are US, the long suffering, tax paying and bewildered Deaf and hearing impaired individuals of Australia.

The Rebuttal Goes Auslan – But What of the Hearing Impaired?

“Excellent work as usual. I think there was some mention some time ago about providing this forum in Auslan for those who struggle with English as their second language. My understanding is that there are still a large proportion of the Deaf Community who are finding the articles too “English” to follow. At this stage do you have a timeline for when the Auslan version of the Rebuttal will become available?” Mark Quinn
A simple email such as this was the catalyst to finally get The Rebuttal translated into Auslan. We replied to Mark that we were all volunteers and asked if he would assist us. He, of course, was only too willing. Not only that, he asked Vicdeaf if they would be willing to help with the translations of The Rebuttal. Vicdeaf kindly agreed and to top this, they even made their studio available to produce the video. We at The Rebuttal can not thank Mark and Vicdeaf enough. We also need to thank James Blyth and Cheryl Sandilands, interpreting staff of Vicdeaf, who provided their skills for the videos.
The Rebuttal team had been aware for sometime that the E-zine was not accessible to many of its readers. A fair proportion of people on our mailing list have some difficulty with reading English. The reasons are many but it is a fact of life that many Deaf people leave school with below average literacy. Many have good literacy but not quite the extensive vocabulary of their hearing peers.
This happens because people who have a hearing loss (Deaf and hearing impaired) do not have the same ability to “overhear” as their hearing peers. Overhearing the conversations of our peers, listening to talk back on radio, watching media on TV /Internet or simply listening to chatter on the bus all contribute to expanding a person’s vocabulary and social awareness. People with a hearing loss, for obvious reasons, miss out on this. Couple this with a lousy education system for the deaf and you have a recipe for low literacy.

A simple email such as this was the catalyst to finally get The Rebuttal translated into Auslan.

Of course literacy levels vary. Some Deaf people have excellent literacy and some do not. One can never assume. It is therefore vital that when we produce media such as The Rebuttal, we think of ways to make it accessible to as many people as possible.
It is a challenge that is not easily met. Money, time and lack of knowledge of the technology that enables access are all reasons why it is difficult. But it’s not impossible! If a free and voluntary publication like The Rebuttal can provide it, in partnership with a willing organisation such as Vicdeaf, then our richer multi-million dollar friends certainly can. Perhaps resources need to be channelled into more important priorities??
But how far do we go? It is naive to believe that providing access to The Rebuttal in Auslan will suddenly provide access to all our readers. Like with English, the Auslan skills of Deaf people vary. Many learn Auslan later in life and it is their second language. Many who learnt Auslan as a second language also have English literacy issues. So for them the Rebuttal in Auslan can be a double whammy!
The Auslan used in The Rebuttal videos is sophisticated. It does not “dumb down” The Rebuttal. The translations largely catch the nuances and meaning of the written English version. BUT unless you are proficient in Auslan to a high standard, the Auslan versions can be difficult to follow. Some recognised proficient Auslan users have commented that they needed to watch the videos two or three times to catch the full meaning. They have commented that they were fortunate to have good language development to help them with their understanding.
Sadly this is not the case for many Deaf people in Australia. Whilst the Auslan versions of The Rebuttal provide access for more people there are still those that will not have full access. What is the next step – a plain English version? Do we, as volunteers, have the capacity to do all of this? Will plain English be able to convey the subtle nuances and messages of the language used in The Rebuttal? Or worse would a plain English version been seen as patronising to the reader and “dumbing down” The Rebuttal?
Is it really feasible for us to be considering providing access to everyone? Indeed a few people have bemoaned to us that there is far too much emphasis placed on Auslan in the deafness sector. Auslan users make up a very small proportion of the “hearing loss” population in Australia. Despite this it seems that near on 100% of recent funding for communication access from the government has been directed towards Auslan users.
In recent times we have seen $18 million provided for Auslan interpreters to private medical appointments through the National Auslan Booking Scheme (NABS). We then had $5 million directed to the pathetic program called the Auslan for Employment Scheme (AFE). This for a population of Auslan users that is, at most, 25 000. The reality is that the number of people that will use Auslan interpreters regularly is probably half of this.
It is great, the AFE aside, that this funding has been provided but it beggars belief that somehow our advocates and the Government have failed to see communication access on a larger scale. There are millions of hearing impaired people who require access to communication at the doctor, at work, for job interviews, for counselling and so on. Yet despite this we continue to see the topic of communication access in isolation.

The puzzling thing has always been why NABS is limited to medical appointments and Auslan.

It would make sense for a service like NABS to focus and fund other means of accessible communication. A patient could, in theory, attend a doctor’s appointment with a laptop or PDA. The doctor would link up to a captioning service through the phone and what the doctor says to the patient can be relayed through the internet to the laptop or PDA. The puzzling thing has always been why NABS is limited to medical appointments and Auslan. Why not expand it to other communication means? Why not add employment to the scope of services that NABS can cover and do away with the worthless AFE? In this way we could fund communication access to work meetings, professional development, interviews and so on.
It is so very important that our Deafness sector organisations work closely together to identify key issues. It makes no sense to have separate Auslan funding when we are talking about such a broad issue as communication access. Communication access is the same thing – even if the mode is different. A simple and open partnership based on respect between The Rebuttal and Vicdeaf is providing access to many of our readers. Perhaps our Deafness sector advocates need to take this on board.

We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.
Martin Luther King