Desma Hunt's Diaries #6

It is official. Deaf people mean nothing to Channel 9 or even Australia. We are inconsequental, know nothing morons who sit in the dark and gibber.

People who are deaf, according to Channel 9,  dont need access to information. The only information they will give people who are deaf is information that they must so that they do not get fined. How else can you explain why they have cut their captioning content from 83% to something like 55%. Coke once advertised that, “Things Go Better with Coke.” – Well lets sing to the same tune, “Things are lousy at 9”

But it is not just Channel 9. It seems to be the whole mentality of this sodding country. People who are deaf do not matter. Here we are in Australia, a rich country, putting up with what can only be seen as paltry amounts of access. Recently the Australian Human Rights Commission gave the free to air television companies an extension on their need to increase captioning. What was it? 5 years or something and I bet they will get another 5 years in 5 years. The Commonwelath government gave us the $5 million dollars over five years to meet ALL our Auslan interpreting needs in employment. After 21 years of age we may as well chuck out our hearing aids cos the commonwealth Giovernment wont buy us anymore til we are 65. Spend millions making us hear then take it away. Talk about taking candy from a kid.

In America captioning is coming out of its rear end and in Britain Employment Support is ongoing for the life of your employment. In Denmark they provide you with a free laptop for phone access anywhere anytime. All this for the deaf. Yet in Australia, a comparably rich country, we have access to captioning when TV decides it can afford it. We have employment support over five years that in total, for all Deaf Australians, wont even by you a house in Sydney’s Western Suburbs and we have to hope our hearing aids dont die on us when we are 21 .. Which they usually do a year or so after we turn 21.

ENOUGH. Australia can afford it … NIKE Kevin – NIKE!!

Im Desma Hunt, I’m deaf and Australia is a suckhole of excuses!

Lessons from Obama

A slave becomes president. Now that’s Karma. Barack Obama is the president elect of the United States of America. He is America’s first ever Black president. It’s been a long time in coming but the conquered are now the conquerors. If Obama got anything right it was in his slogan “Yes We Can.”

“Can we change?” asks Obama and then swiftly answers his own question, “Yes we Can!” The questions rolled off his tongue “Can we beat Racism?” – “Yes we can!”; “Can we create peace and prosperity?” – “Yes we Can!”  The cliches run of his tongue like water cascading down a waterfall, but it is inspiring and America has bought it. And thank god for that! It’s a long way from Obama’s ancestors chained to the bottom of a boat, transported thousands of miles, sold to the highest bidder and then more often than not abused.

Obama won – That’s Karma!

Deaf people and any people who face discrimination should be inspired by Obama. We should adopt his slogan – ” Yes we can!” Ask the question – “Can we have 100% captioning.” – Answer it at the top of your voice or with the most assertive and flamboyant signing you can muster – “YES WE CAN!” Ask the question – “Can we run our own lives and organisations?” Answer it with gusto – “YES WE CAN!”  Ask the question – “Can we make Australia provide for all our communication needs?” What’s the answer?  “YES WE CAN!”

What Obama has shown, as Nelson Mandela had shown before him is that the little people can win. From descendant of slaves to leader of the free world! If that’s possible, well the small matter of 100% captioning should be a piece of cake. It’s already happening in America!  Me thinks we accept too little – “Can we get more?” – “YES WE CAN!” You just gotta believe.

Desma Hunt's Diaries #5

What fabulous news it was to hear that Deaf Australia won the tender to provide Auslan Training for the Queensland Education Department. The Queensland Education Department allocated $30 million over five years to introduce Auslan to the schools. I don’t know how much went to Deaf Australia but it would be a significant amount of money. OOOOOOOH I wish it was me!

Even better they beat the nasty Empire Builder to the tender. The Empire Builder doesn’t get involved in peanuts. He only goes for things that will make him look big and important. That Deaf Australia won is the BEST news the Deaf community has had for a long time. That the Empire Builder lost is EVEN BETTER!!

BUT .. and there is always a but – No sooner than Deaf Australia won than the whingers came out of the cupboard. “Deaf Australia are an advocacy organisation, they cant provide services.” .. ” The courses they provide are little baby courses.”  – ” They don’t have the experience.”  And out they came with negatives left right and centre. Well let me remind you that Auslan is the language of the Deaf community and the Deaf community own it. Who better to teach the Queensland people than a Deaf run Deaf organisation?

It is a vote of confidence for Deaf people and we should all be proud! To the whingers I say, ” Get back in the cupboard.” Who would you prefer Deaf Australia or the Empire Builder? …. As Yoda would say ” Be with the Force may you.”  And may the force be with Deaf Australia on this one. It’s either that or Darth Vader.

Have Boots Will Travel

Congratulations to Deaf Australia on winning the tender for providing Auslan training for the Queensland Education Department. It is fantastic news for them and Deaf people in general. It is fantastic news because it recognises that Deaf people and their families own Auslan. It is therefore fitting that they should be in control of teaching it.

Rumour has it that Deaf Australia beat off a joint submission put in by the empire builder, Deaf Children Australia and Deaf Services Queensland. That is millions of dollars of fire power against little old Deaf Australia and Deaf Australia won. Talk about David against Goliath. It is a fabulous achievement that should not be underestimated. I have criticised Deaf Australia in the past for their inability to work constructively with Deafness Forum but that is a different issue. The achievement to win this tender was enormous.

I was even more happy to hear that Donnovan Cresdee has been appointed to lead the program. Dr Don achieved his Phd last year. His research centred on differences in grammar between Auslan and English and had great relevance to how we teach Auslan. Dr Don has been a loyal servant to the Deaf community and when I heard that he was involved in heading the program I was rapt.

What has all this to do with Have Boots Will Travel. Well Dr Don has had to move to Queensland for this role. Based in Adelaide, where he has been lived for most of his life, he has had to move away from family and friends to take up this post. He will commute and will get great support from his wife, Alex, but it would have been a heart wrenching decision to make. But that is often the lot of the Deaf professional.

Dr Don is no stranger to moving around. To further his education he attended Gallaudet University in America. His Phd was supervised  under the Charles Sturt University in Darwin. In the last few years Dr Don has had to travel Australia, working in Sydney and Melbourne just to put his considerable talents to use and to achieve his Phd. It is true that hearing people have to move around too but for Deaf professionals an open airline ticket should be offered with their qualifications.

Dr Don owes his new job to Gail Smith and her family who took the Queensland Education Department to court for the lack of Auslan provision to her daughter. After a struggle that lasted several years Gail’s family won their case but not before they had to pack up and leave their family and friends so that their daughter could get access to Auslan in her education. Her victory came at great personal and financial burden. Years from now the Deaf community will be thankful to Gail’s family for their courage to keep fighting. It seems travel and drama are almost a prerequisites of the Deaf and their families. Perhaps Deaf Australia should honour Gail’s family by naming the new program after their daughter.

Myself, just to further my career, have lived in Adelaide, London, Queensland, Sydney, Melbourne Alice Springs and now Ballarat. My home and heart is in Adelaide but their simply are no opportunities there for the Deaf professional. I could stay and try to compete with hearing people for jobs but recognise i would be facing an uphill battle. I have to go where the work is and I do. Dr Don has had to do that too.

Others have had to move too. Look at where our modern Deaf pioneers are now. Colin Allen is in the Balkans or is it Cambodia? Robert Adam is in London.  My great friend Paul Bartlett is also in London and unable to come home to Australia simply because their are no opportunities for him. My wife and I had to move to Alice Springs simply so she could get experience as a Teacher of the Deaf, something she could not achieve in Adelaide. We are a transient lot us Deaf people – but not by choice.

I had a debate with a friend on the weekend who suggested that our Deaf organisations have no obligation to promote Deaf professionals over hearing professionals.  He suggested that our Deaf organisations are only obliged to ensure that they achieve the bottom line goal of survival with minimal risk. Therefore, said my friend, if Deaf professionals apply for jobs with Deaf organisations and get beaten by more experienced hearing people then that is just too bad. How do we compete? How do we get 15 or 20 years experience in various roles when we face an uphill battle to access interpreters, captions and access to information that hearing people take for granted?  My friend could not answer that question.

Do Deaf organisations have a responsibility to promote Deaf people over hearing people? You bet your mother they do. Why? Simply because if they cant take a risk on Deaf professionals then they have no right to tell the wider community to do so too.  It is not the role of Deaf organisations to save each and every Deaf person but by promoting Deaf people to management roles at least they practice what they preach. At the moment, bar one or two, our Deaf organisations are the worlds worst hypocrites.

So congratulations Deaf Australia. The Auslan tender win is a feather in your cap. If the Queensland Education Department can put their faith in a Deaf run Deaf organisation to run a multi-million dollar program then surely this is an example for others to follow. To YOU – and YOU know who you are – Sit up and take notice!

This Speaking Voice of Mine is Nothing But Trouble – Submitted by Billy Thatcher

I speak…fluently…but it’s not fair that hearing people can understand me while I have the hardship of ‘listening’ them back.  I am totally deaf.  So, what’s the point in my speaking in the first place if I cannot understand them?

When I was younger, my hearing loss was not so bad.  I was diagnosed with a mild hearing loss.  This greatly helped in conversations with hearing people.  As I got older, my hearing gradually got worse and now I am profoundly deaf.  What good is my talking voice when I am profoundly deaf and having such difficulties hearing and lip-reading the hearing people that I am talking to?

It’s much easier for me to engage in legalities by writing as it enforces the communicator to write back, even though they’re hesitant to do so.  After all, I get to keep the paper of what has been stated between us.  In fact, I have used these written statements as evidence of previous conversations to my benefit when needed.

Those who speak and are proud of their talking voices…good for you, but from my point of view…whoopie do!  Yes, my talking voice can be understood, I speak…but, I can’t hear or understand others!  It’s not that I disrespect anybody for being ignorant, I simply can not hear and its hard’n’stressful for me to wisten (a combination of Watching and Listening; although, it’s not a word).

I am concerned about the false encouragement given to many deaf people who speak. Many are often told that they ‘speak fluently and crystal clear’, when the fact is, they have a horrible sounding voice. This false encouragement leads to the deaf/HI person believing that they have a pleasant voice when the reality is that their voice sounds horrible. Unfortunately, these false assurances cause great pain when the deaf person finds out that they actually have an awful sounding voice.

To this day, my parents insist that I speak well. I am skeptical about it and try to keep verbal speech to a minimum.  Auslan to me is for keeps and it allows me to communicate effortlessly.  This is how it should be … ‘communicating effortlessly’.

People nowadays want to communicate effortlessly. But professionals and authorities such as the Education Department and schools with philosophies that disregard sign language think speaking is the solution to communicating effortlessly.  It’s not, not for those who are deaf or who sustain heavy hearing loss later in their life. After all it is a fact of life that most of us lose a degree of hearing as we get older.

There are many older folks who have hearing difficulties and still speak fluently; however, they still have a hard time trying to understand what is being said by others.  Communication between carers, families and friends of these individuals is often strained. If only, people learned sign language they could communicate effortlessly with anyone at anytime especially those who are Deaf or who have lost their hearing.  That is, if they do not have any other problems with their body.  We should all admire Scandinavian countries and other countries who implement mandatory sign language in their schooling programs.

Between English and sign language, which method would be better for communication between those who sustain hearing loss and those who have no hearing loss? The answer is straight forward – Sign language! We know that everyone loses at least some of their hearing as they age. For those that lose their hearing completely what good is speaking?!

People, institutions, or any others that endorse the philosophy of speech over sign language are bloody idiots. They are contributing to the undeniable consequences of communication hardship. Of course, taking up sign language is a personal preference, but don’t say I didn’t warn you and I wish you all a peaceful old age.

(The Rebuttal thanks Billy for his submission. It outlines many frustrations that many Deaf and HOH people experience. We are happy to print Billy’s views; just remember the views are Billy’s alone.)