The Migrants

planeI came home one day in 1995 to see my father crouched over the coffee table. On the table he had some documents. His hands were clasped under his chin. To my concern I noticed his eyes were slightly hazy. He is not an emotional man so this was a worry for me. I stole a glance at the documents on the table. They were the deeds to the house. That morning he and my mother had paid the last instalment on the house. They now owned their house. And here lies the story.

Our family arrived in Australia from England in 1966 on an assisted passage. For a time we were based in Wollongong at the migrant hostel there. Apparently the flies drove my mother to distraction so we moved to South Australia after my father had secured work as a Welder at Holden’s in Elizabeth. We were based, for a time, at the migrant hostel on Grand Junction Road and then a small flat bordering a park in Para Hills. Being only two years old at the time my memories are vague. I recall walking to Woolworths with my mother to food shop or swinging or sliding in the park as she did the washing. She would check on me as she hung out the washing by looking over the fence. At some stage they bought a house – I have no recall of this.

My father and mother both had to work to make ends meet. My mother worked first at the TAB office and then at Wiggins Teape as a clerk. My father worked shift work at Holdens. Eventually after 12 years he tired of the shift work and set up a business as a window cleaner. He charged $3 per house. Both my parents worked in these menial jobs for over 30 years. Ironically they both ended up working at the Adelaide Casino as Environmental Officers – A fancy name for cleaners. My father retired there and my mother ended her career as a clerk with Australia Post.

They are a classic migrant story. They never earned big money but they made ends meet. My sister and I never went without. We went on holidays, once even back to England in 1975. How they managed it I do not know. But they did. In 1995 as my father crouched over the coffee table gazing over the deeds for the house that he and my mother now owned he would have been looking back to that day we all boarded the plane for Australia for a better life. He would have been remembering the good times and the bad times. Most of all he would have been proud. Proud because the papers on the table were the sum of all his and my mothers hard work, is it any wonder his eyes were hazy!

It is a truism that our parents mould us. I look back at the person that I am and I reaslise that I am who I am today mostly due to my parents. My parent’s took nor gave any crap. Life was tough, you got down to the nitty-gritty and got on with it. They gave me no sympathy for being deaf. They did not molly-coddle me or protect me, their philosophy is and was – get on with it and do what you have to do.

When I wagged school for 14 days in a row they did not use my deafness as an excuse. I was 14 at the time. I was struggling with my deafness, in denial, refusing to wear hearing aids – hell I would feed my hearing aid to the dog so he would chew up the ear moulds. Not surprisingly my school work suffered. It was tough for everyone but my parents kept me grounded. Bad behaviour was bad behaviour and that was that.

I realise now that they actually understood more than I give them credit for. Shortly after this episode I confessed to my parents that I was really struggling. I told them I thought I should go to a school for the Deaf. This was probably my first step to acceptance of my deafness, maybe even theirs too. I was so naive at the time I thought I was going to a home where I would have to live with all the other deaf kids. I had visions of the movie The Miracle Worker about Helen Keller. Old buildings full of rats. Big cast iron gates where all the kids were locked in. A place where you only went home for holidays.  Looking back I was in need of a lot of help.

And my parents helped by keeping me grounded. They just dealt with the issues that arose and did what needed to be done. They enrolled me in the local school that had a unit for deaf kids and pretty much normalised my life as much as possible. They have no time for the arty farty, no time for fancy counsellors – Just get on with it and do what you need to do without fuss.

Of course they stressed and they worried about me. But they tried not to show it openly. I am sure that when I was not around they talked and shared their worries with each other and their friends. But to me they just made me get on with it. No excuses for poor school results – and there were some – not because of my deafness but because I hated being a student – I did the bare minimum. But they were cluey enough to know that when my school work wasn’t up to scratch it was because of my ATTITUDE and not because I was deaf. I am thankful that they were intuitive enough to know the difference because they have passed this intuition on to me.

I think the greatest thing they gave me was balance. They knew that my deafness was an issue but they didn’t want to make it my whole life. When my deafness needed to be addressed they addressed it. When my behaviour was bad they focused on the behaviour. They did not seek excuses, they just did what they needed to do. They either found me a school that would help or they disciplined me because my attitude sucked. They never once told me that there was anything I couldn’t do. They just told me to get on with it.

And I think that’s what I do. I think that’s my attitude. I am an advocate. I advocate for disability rights. As an advocate I don’t look for excuses. If someone needs technology to get access, well give it to them. If a person needs interpreters to access education, well do it. We need captions for the cinema – well do it. I, like many, am not interested in petty excuses. We all know, for example, the cinema industry can afford to do a lot more than they are doing now, so they should just do it. My parents could see the difference between an issue and an attitude. I like to think I can too.

As a parent I have a child with a disability. He must attend hospital weekly for an infusion of an enzyme that helps, at least in part, to correct his condition. My wife and I accept no crap from him either. He can get stiff joints from his condition. To help himself he has to do exercises. If he doesn’t because he cant be bothered we address his attitude rather than look for excuses. He has to have a needle inserted in his arm every week. It can be painful. We have encouraged him to go to the room on his own and get it done. Our reasoning is that it is something he has to do for the rest of his life so why not start accepting it now. And he does. We are proud of him. It’s hard to sit in the waiting area as he goes off on his own .. but he is just doing what he has to do.  He comes back, needle in arm picks up the Wii controller and gets on with it!

I wish the world was more like my parents. Just did what needed to be done and got on with it!

Deaf Australia's Letter

Hello everyone, We at Deaf Australia understand that many people are unhappy about the cinemas application for an exemption from complaints while they work on increasing the number of cinemas from 12 to 35. We are very frustrated with the cinemas too. We have been working for many years to get the cinemas to improve things. Not just the number of cinemas but other things like the types of films, the number of times a film is screened, better advertising etc. Our submission to the AHRC about the exemption application is at Our submission explains that after all the years of work we have done to try to get the cinemas to do more, we believe the cinemas just won’t do anything unless they are given a temporary exemption that locks them into doing something. It says that if the AHRC gives the cinemas an exemption, we want them to also give them very strict conditions to force the cinemas to fix thing other things as well, not just the number of cinemas with captions. More than 200 people have told AHRC they object to the exemption application. Some of them are members of Deaf Australia. Most are not members. We understand that many of our members support what we are trying to do. Some members have helped us with our work in the past by sending in formal complaints to AHRC against their local cinema. In the last few years we encouraged our members to put in formal complaints to AHRC against their local cinema, and we represented members and helped them negotiate their complaints. A few were successful. Most of the time the cinemas just refused to do anything. This meant the only option our members had was to go to the Federal Court. We understand why members haven’t wanted to do that. If you really want to make a difference and support the work that Deaf Australia, Media Access Australia and Deafness Forum are trying to do for all Deaf and hard of hearing people (not just our members, everyone benefits from our work) then the best way to do that is to send in a formal complaint against your local cinema. And do it now. Deaf Australia is currently representing 2 new complaints that people have sent in against their local cinemas. 200 formal complaints against 200 local cinemas that the cinemas have to answer and negotiate will have a much bigger impact than a public march. To make a formal complaint against your cinema, you can use the complaint form on the AHRC website at Or write a letter to Your complaint must give the name and address of your local cinema, your name and address, and state that the cinema does not show captioned films and so you believe your are being discriminated against. Do it now – this week – before the AHRC makes a decision on the cinemas exemption application. This is what will help us achieve what we are trying to achieve. Thanks. And have a happy Christmas everyone.

Karen Lloyd Deaf Australia Executive Officer

Hey all .. we still think that the exemption should be oppossed but there are two sides to every argument. We agree with Deaf Australia … COMPLAIN NOW!!!!! Lodge your complaint here:

Craig Manyard's Opposition to the Captioning Exemption.

Craig has asked us to publish this. We have done so unedited .. Thanks to Craig for allowing us to publish his opposition to the exemption.

I am appalled at the report that outlined the services. On the one hand I am being told to support the exemption application because it is the best that they can come up with and while I can appreciate that Deaf Australia Inc has debated on this issue and come to realise that they must support the exemption application inorder to make roads into positive future.

As a Deaf person, we were told that in 2005 and it is now 2009 on the brink of 2010. We have 0.3 percent access to movies that are captioned.

When I look at UK and America – it astounds me to see that the proportion of captions shows and movies are way in excess that I would have to go there to see it to believe it because we have had it so bad here in Australia.

To support the exemption application are (with thanks to Kate Locke for putting it into plain English for us who are trying to understand the full documentation and was able to spell it out for us) which Australian Human Rights Commission has failed to do so in the first place).

Reasons why we need to support this exemption application:

1. The exemption will increase the number of screens in cinemas operated by the applicants capable of delivering captions to 35 over the next 2½ years

2. The exemption will provide audio description capability in all those 35 screens, including a retro-fit of the current 12 cinemas offering captioning.

3. The exemption will cause the cinemas to commit to a review of the current program in consultation with representatives from key stakeholders starting 9 months before the end of the Temporary Exemption period

4. The exemption will ensure accessible information on captioned and audio described film schedules.

5. It has taken 2 years of negotiations between MAA, DFA, DA, and cinemas to get to this point.

6. The Commission also have no way of making the industry respond in a timely manner – note how long this one has taken.

7. If this one is rejected, we get nothing in the interim, and start negotiations all over again. There is nothing to make cinemas improve access. There is no law or legislation, except the DDA. No government intervention. If they decline, people have to take them to court.

8. If AHRC reject this exemption application, there will be NO increase on current number of cinemas. The Commission does not have the power to bump up the numbers in the exemption.

9. If we reject this application, then we will go back to process of individuals having to make complaints and going through conciliation and hoping someone takes it to federal court which is not very common (so far not at all) and is difficult for Deaf groups to support these individual complaints.

10. The only way to make a rejection of this application successful is to have someone complain after its been rejected and take the complaint all the way to the Federal Court. There is currently no one willing to do that.

11. If we accept, then we can still complain about other main stream cinemas and independent cinemas – just not the 5 listed in the exemption.

12. The blindness sector is very worried about the exemption being rejected because it means they are left with nothing too (which is what they currently have).

Reasons why we need to reject this exemption application:

1. It seems to be a very pitiful, small move forward.

2. It prevents individuals from making a complaint about the cinemas for the next 2 years.

3. It could be perceived as ‘giving in’ to the cinemas, giving them time to ‘slack off’ when they could be doing more.

4. There have been around 100 submission to AHRC opposing the exemption. (DF has received 5 emails from its members opposing the exemption).

5. No real commitment to social inclusion in the proposal.

I am opposing the exemption application on the grounds that the business and the movie industries is making a mega profit and they demonstrate that they are not able to listen to the general public and the needs of the community.

We are the voice of the community. The organisations representing our best interest are not able to support what we want because they are being effectively silenced by these big organisations.

Given that in comparison to overseas such as America and England, this exemption is pitiful and is a very small movement for the future. Its not a solid plan for betterment, its about making the least investment for a huge monetary outcome which discriminates against the wider community and people with disability. It spells out that we are not infact important enough investment for the future.

The movies in place do not support majority of Deaf people, they show it on a Friday night, Sunday at 3 pm and then on Wed at 10 am. What normal people can go without their usual Friday night Deaf Club and Sunday at 3 pm is a long way to go to see a movie on a Sunday and then followed by 11 am on a Wed where majority of Deaf people are working.

These are usually in short term and usually shown approximately 1 month after first showing it.

This is a pathetic movement and it says that we are not valued as individuals and it allows them to dictate what is good for them and not take into consideration our needs and our consumer rights to have access to appropriate timing and captioning of movies in the cinema.

This is not good enough in the face of finances, how much money is made the profits that are made. Usually after a movie is shown in the cinema, most of us wait till the movie is released in DVD to purchase it and watch it a number of times to really understand. Watching a movie is a pleasurable experience for most of the general population, but for us, we need to read the captions and see a bit of the movie and the next movie we watch the movie itself and watch a bit of captions to be able to enjoy the cinematic show, then the third time is where we actually can marry the caption and the movie itself. We are into dual processing but the initial stages are separate because of our cognitive ability is only able to take one or the other… so yes it is pitiful that we must wait for approx 2.5 years and not have complaints against what is happening. They have had plenty of time to do this and investigate this more thoroughly.

I am closing my argument that this is not good enough and sending this before the 5 pm deadline that was not advertised clearly. Only just found out today.

Yours sincerely

Craig Maynard


dohA dear friend once described me as an angry man.  “You!”  he said ” Are angry at the world!” I am not really. I do get angry at aspects of it, but I am not angry at it. You see to be angry at the world is to over generalise. The world, by and large, is a great place. The unfortunate thing is that a few people, ignorant people, make simple solutions complicated. Most people get it, it is an irony that the people that need to get it, unfortunately don’t!

As an example,  just this morning, I was looking up quotes from Bill Shorten, Australia’s Parliamentary Secretary for Disability and Children’s Services. Several times this year I have been fortunate to hear Bill Speak. He is very passionate and has been brave enough to go on record and say Australia, being rich as it is, can provide far better for people with a disability than it currently does. I wanted to find a quote of him saying this. Googling the Internet I found a series of videos of Bill speaking on disability.  These were placed on on a website for a group known as Disability Confidence, an organisations dedicated to creating employment opportunities for people with a disability.

Of course the videos were not captioned.  There is Bill, recently re married, glowing and happy with shiny teeth. He is obviously spouting his wisdom, and he is a very clever man, but what he had to say I would not know.  The website itself is actually quite good, but the people that created it, who should get it, have not thought to make the videos accessible. This is my point and it is this that makes me angry – not the world but the lack of foresight of a few people that should know better. Perhaps it is wrong of me to single out this little website but it is a glaring example of what I am trying to say.

All weekend I have been receiving emails about the current  moves to make sure emergency services are accessible to people who have disabilities. The gist of these emails is awareness material that is being circulated. You know those videos about preparing for fires and so on. This is part of the review into emergency services that followed the tragic bush-fires in Australia last year.

Now this is a frustrating situation because the awareness ads that are going to be circulated will be captioned. The  difficulty is that they are making the captions inaccessible to many. You see they want to use closed captions on the ads. Closed captions requires people to  have the technology to access them. To overcome this possible glitch all it requires is to use open captions which can be seen by everyone. This means people such as the elderly who have acquired their hearing loss and are unaware of the needed technology or people who lack financial means to be able to afford the technology and have a hearing loss can access the information. It would also mean that information videos placed on the Internet could be accessed by deaf and hearing impaired people as well.

The powers that be have decided to primarily use closed captions  which will mean the ads are not fully accessible. They have been advised to the contrary, that for this sort of information EVERYONE needs immediate access and not just the ones fortunate to have the technology but they will not change their mind. It’s a simple solution but the people that SHOULD KNOW BETTER wont budge.  Angry yet?

In our last edition of The Rebuttal Marnie Kerridge wrote of the situation with cinema captioning in Australia. A potential market of probably 5 million Australians only get  .3% access to the cinema through captioning in Australia (Yes note the decimal point that is POINT THREE percent). The Cinema Industry have offered a paltry, pathetic and insulting minimal increase to this and have asked to be exempt from any legal action for discrimination for the next two and half years. 

Deaf people and their associates are up in arms about this. They are angry and, by and large, have rejected the application for the exemption. They understand that if they do the minimal offer of an increase on the table and access through audio description for the blind might be lost. But they don’t care and  they are sending a message – respect us and offer us something we are worth! But will they be supported by their peak organisations? Or will peak organisations go against the very people they are supposed to represent and support the exemption?

It is worth noting, if you read submissions on the Australian Human Rights Commission website, where you can lodge your support or objection to the exemption, that there are even blind consumers that have rejected the exemption and they currently get nothing! If the consumers are not supported I wont be the only person angry. I can guarantee that! 

In the midst of all this though there is some hope. Click on or cut and paste the following link to your website browser. – …  It is a blatant advertisement for a fast food-chain in America. Its is of a deaf woman who tried to access a drive through facility at a rival fast food chain (note the name of the offending fast food chain was not mentioned ) The deaf woman explains to an interviewer that she was threatened with the cops when she tried to access a drive through facility because she was unable to use the drive through speaker. The worker at the offending fast food chain refused to be flexible and accept her order at the window, slammed the window and threatened her with the cops.

And here is where the blatant advertising happens and the rival chain, Culvers, show what they have done to make their drive through facility accessible. (Ignore my cynicism because it is actually a very good solution.) It’s a simple solution, they have placed a button on their speaker system that you can press if you are deaf. This button then informs the worker that you can’t access the speaker system. You drive to the window and are offered a pen and paper to write your order. Simple solution. An investment of a few thousand dollars and suddenly you have made your business accessible to  millions of potential customers. THERE IS HOPE!!

Now if only the Cinema Industry, emergency services, our peak bodies and the powers that be will take note. The answers are right there before your eyes and they are not complicated!

Listen – We Have Something To Say!

pop-on-captionsDeaf people are speaking out in unison. They have finally had enough of the slow, almost non-existent trickle of progress and are letting people know what they want. I speak, of course, of the campaign to increase captioning in cinemas. The Cinema Industry has applied for a 2.5 year exemption in the need to increase access to captioned cinema. To pacify the deaf and hearing impaired people of Australia they have offered a minimal increase in access. They have offered captioning at 35 cinemas 3 times a week. The way this currently works they only offer captioning for one movie a week and nearly always for off peak movie sessions. This minimal increase is for a potential 4 million customers. If any other industry treated 4 million customers in this way they would be out of business in no time.

In fact at the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) web page, consumers are invited to view and comment on the Cinema Industries application for exemption. If they so desire they can then submit whether they oppose or agree with the application for exemption. To date more than 100 people have chosen to submit a response. The vast majority are violently opposed to accepting the exemption. Further they are clearly fed up and angry with the lack of real progress and real increase in access to captioned cinema. The community is speaking clearly and one would hope that their views would be respected. Apparently not!

You see, despite so many people voicing opposition, some within our deafness sector are prepared to accept the Cinema Industries application for exemption and the minimal increase in captioning that has been offered with it. There is a train of thought that some increase is better than no increase. There is a belief that even if we oppose the exemption it will be granted anyway AND if the exemption is not granted then any gains that have been made will be lost.

And believe it or not, some of our leaders within deafness sector are actually angry that consumers are so violently opposed to accepting the exemption and the fact that the community is dismissive of the minimal gains that have been made. In some ways this is understandable. Imagine having worked for several years on lobbying for increased access to cinema captioning, getting some minimal gains and then being told it wasn’t good enough by us and then have to go back to square one. It would not be a pleasant feeling.

Some of the leaders have actually become quite defensive. They are claiming the rejections are personal and that it’s because certain organisations and individuals are not liked. They are asking why the community did not complain before when it mattered and are only now stomping their feet and protesting. They claim that if more people had made complaints we wouldn’t be where we are now.

And believe it or not they are actually prepared to go against the majority of over 100 people who have submitted a response to the cinema industries exemption application. The community, they say, do not understand the strategic approach that is being used. The community were too passive for too long they say … this is the agreement – like it or lump it. I would like to ask one question of these leaders and organisations – WHO ARE YOU REPRESENTING?

Consider that there are potentially 4 million people who are Deaf or hearing impaired in Australia who require captioning to access movies. Consider also that as part of the lobby for increased captioning, Blind and vision impaired people have also asked for the introduction of audio descriptions in movies. How many more people that the blind bring to the table I do not know. I imagine that by making cinema more accessible to the deaf and blind you have the potential to provide access to five million more Australians.

In this sense providing access isn’t just the right thing to do; it makes good business sense. If a business had the potential to get 5 million more customers don’t you think it would be prudent to invest in their needs? Of course it would. Instead the cinema industry is claiming that it’s too expensive. To me, 5 million people spells PROFITS … any outlay will be returned very quickly by the increase in customers.

But to get the returns, the cinema industry needs to invest in access properly and I dare say, aggressively. The cinema industry is currently claiming that captioned cinema is, at present, poorly attended. Well DUH! Of course it is. They provide access to only one movie per week to selected time slots. These movies are usually at off peak times when no one can attend. While the general populace has a wealth of movies to attend the deaf have a choice of ONE. Whether it is crappy or of no interest to the individual is of no importance; if we don’t attend it is seen as a lack of interest in captioned cinema. OH COME ON!! It does not take Einstein to see what is happening. If you provided one movie at 3 pm only on Thursdays to the general populace, how many would attend? I would hazard a guess that it would be VERY FEW!

And did you know that if the exemption is granted that it will mean that for the next 2.5 years no one can complain about cinema access. If the minimal gains that are on offer are accepted and the exemption is granted, that is our lot for the next 2.5 years. No complaints will be allowed. In a nutshell, agree to this exemption and the paltry gains on offer and the right to increased access for the next 2.5 years is gone. We will be powerless. What is more – we will have to hope that our lobbyists, who have not been able to get any substantial gains in the last few years, will get an agreement to further gains when the exemption runs out. Will they? Don’t bet on it.

My advice is – TOUGH IT OUT. Oppose and reject the minimal gains that have been offered. Oppose strongly the application from the cinema industry for exemption from increased captioning access. Let these people know that Deaf and hearing impaired people are not a COST but are people to be valued. Let these people know that it will not be until we are invested in properly that the financial gains will flow to the cinemas. Let these people know that we want access to cinema at near to the same level as everyone else and not a mere dribble of progress that will lead to full access, according to Arts Access Victoria, in 1000 years. Let them know that we are SERIOUS about access and that access is not just a feel good handout. And most of all let our deaf sector organisations know that when we speak, as we have on the AHRC page, THEY SHOULD LISTEN. Remind them that they represent the views of the consumers. Because, after all, is this not why they are there?

Making the Law Count

handDid you know that in 1996 that 3 362 people died as the result of accidents in Chinese coal mines. Or that 16 workers died building the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Building the Empire State building led to the deaths of five construction workers. Death at work is a tragic and mostly unnecessary thing.  Recognising this governments the world over have enacted Occupational Health and Safety Laws (OHS). Indeed OHS is in our faces all the time. Have you seen the latest ads on TV.  Where  workers fall off ladders or slip on floors, as they fall we see their limbs hitting the ground and they are in X Ray format. In all their gory detail we see the pain etched in the faces of the workers and their bones shattering in slow motion. Its queasy but effective advertising that leaves the watcher in no doubt that OHS is an important thing.

In the Australian Capital Territory gross breaches of OHS laws that lead to death can attract manslaughter charges. Fines can reach $1 million and there is a maximum of 20 years imprisonment for gross breaches of OHS laws that lead to death. State OHS laws in Australia vary but standards must be maintained. Large fines and imprisonment are the norm. Employers are subject to random spot checks from inspectors that can lead to substantial fines. In short OHS is no joke. Employers breach OHS laws at their peril. And rightly so because serious injury and death is no joke either.

But it has not always been the way. For years employers got away, virtually, with murder. It goes as far back as the Industrial revolution when workers were forced to work in dangerous conditions and for ridiculously long hours. It took unions and intensive lobbying to get OHS laws implemented. To this day OHS laws still are not seen as being strong enough and industrial advocates continue to lobby for further protection. Thankfully governments have largely enforced OHS laws,  introducing imprisonment and large fines for breaches of the laws. In short OHS laws today offer PROTECTION. Employers are left in no doubt as to what they must do and what can happen if they do not meet the required standards.

This is a far cry from our disability discrimination laws. Our disability discrimination laws offer loop holes that are so big a herd of elephants could get through them. Our disability discrimination laws rely on the principle of reasonable adjustments and unjustifiable hardship. In short organisations can argue that they have taken all reasonable steps to avoid discrimination and they can even argue that they discriminated only because they did not have enough money to not discriminate.

Compare this with our OHS laws. Imagine Judy going to work tomorrow. The safety cover on the meat slicer is broken. She chops of her hand and can’t work in her chosen area ever again. The employer argues that they tried to fix the cover several times but couldn’t. Last month they lost a few thousand dollars and simply couldn’t afford to fix the cover. The judge takes a look at the case and says OK .. you did everything within reason and if you fixed it you would have gone out of business. Case dismissed.  Meanwhile Judy is left waving her stump in  a pathetic effort to remind everyone that she was the victim .. “WHAT ABOUT ME” – she cries. Too bad – money and profit comes first.

Of course this scenario is unlikely to happen in Australia or any other developed countries. Employers KNOW that if they break OHS laws they face big fines and are LIKELY to make sure the workplace is as safe as it possibly can be. Random spot inspections from OHS authorities serve to keep employers on their toes. In the case of injury workers compensation is likely to support workers like Judy. Admittedly there is no compensation for the loss of her hand but at least there is help.

Did you know that the Cinema industry have applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission for an exemption for another 2.5 years from increasing cinema captioning. Arts Access Victoria  put out a media release today imploring all and sundry to reject their application for exemption. Arts Access Victoria provided figures that showed that at current rates of progress it will be 1000 years before the deaf get full captioned access to cinemas. An absurd state of affairs.

In 2004, for example, Greater Union Cinemas posted a net profit of $52 million. Healthy by any standards yet it will not commit to any substantial increase in captioned cinema. We deaf people are expected to say thank you very much for whatever paltry handout we get and then accept this as our lot for the next three years. Imagine if we had Discrimination Standards similar to OHS laws whereby the standard was that  all Multiplex Cinemas must commit to at least 1 captioned session of EVERY movie per day including at least four peak time showings per week.  If they don’t then they face huge fines or six months in jail. (Ok Jail might be a bit extreme.) I bet you they would comply quick sharp.

Imagine if there were disrimination inspectors. At random they visit schools or workplaces.  They ask to see disability action plans, they check for accessible formats for information, they check if all meetings are interpreted for deaf participants and so on. If you don’t comply .. Fines. And what is more there are no excuses! Organisations have a responsibility to KNOW. Just like with safety.

Imagine with DVDs if we have a law that says EVERY DVD will be captioned … no excuses. $10 000 fines for distributors that don’t comply. Every DVD checked by the inspectors … No captions then face the consequences! Would they comply? HO HO HO HO .. you bet they would.

Legislating for discrimination in the same way as OHS is not hard. You just recognise that people who are deaf or have disabilities are active and contributing members of our society. You recognise that discrimination, like injuries in the work place, is preventable and abhorrent and you draft laws with punch that protect and prescribe what must happen. Enough of this Reasonable Adjustments crap … Enough of unjustifiable hardship nonsense – if safety can be dictated and prescribed then why not discrimination laws. Its not hard and it is not as far fetched as it seems!


communication(1)… Every word like an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness . Samual Beckett.  Beckett could well have been foreseeing Facebook because many would say that this quote describes Facebook to a tee . There are cynics of Facebook, and I am one sometimes, who believe that Facebook is nothing more than inane drivel. Often it is but it is also hellish fun and it has done something that we cant do fully  in real life. It has bridged the gap between  hearing people and deaf people.

I guess this is truer for those deaf who have a good grasp of the English language and who can use text easily. Nevertheless hearing and deaf, through Facebook, communicate and interact as if their are no communication barriers. There is no broken sign language or exaggerated lip movements. No please repeat that, no pretending you have got the joke and laughing along so as to not look like a miserable bastard .. it’s just people interacting, sharing loving and laughing together at will.

The truth is that Facebook mirrors real life. Those people  who say, me included, that Facebook is inane drivel need to look back at their last face to face conversation. They would be hard pressed to remember what it was. Mine was talking about the relative merits of Carlton Cole and Zavron Hines with my son. This is serious stuff. One is a six foot three centre forward with pace and strength to burn, the other is a short  zippy right half with an eye for goal. They balance the team wonderfully. Important stuff this!!!

Meanwhile on Facebook my wife has announced she has hurt her finger at netball. This is, of course, something we all really needed to know.  We just could not survive not knowing. Somehow the announcement has sent people off on tangents. Brendan has started talking Arabic, my wife has replied in French, Colleen has shared that she didn’t like her French teacher while I have responded to Brendan that he is trying to get Colleen in the sack. Inane drivel, funny drivel .. pointless .. but no more pointless than my discussion with my son on the relative merits of two West Ham players.

On Facebook I can meet virtually anyone who has a good grasp of English and start communicating with them at will. I can do this through the chat feature or I can play on the status updates. I can share wit and wisdom at will. Hearing friends who know how will sometimes caption the videos they put up so that I miss out on nothing.  It’s almost a perfect virtual world. Almost because I can not share in the audio and the music but no matter,  I can interact fluently anytime.

I can’t do this in my real world. I can’t walk into a pub and start a conversation with someone at the bar. Well I can, but chances are it will be stilted. Chances are that the conversation will stop and start. If I meet someone I would hope to hell that there wasn’t anyone with them so that I could just focus on that one person instead of trying to follow a conversation with multiple participants.

We deafies from hearing families all dread the family reunions. Where everyone is laughing and joking and we have to hope that someone will cue us into the joke. Where auntie Martha with her moustache that  makes her impossible to lipread insists on being the only person that will talk to you. We indulge the family, do our bit and go home. Usually exhausted at the trials of trying to be part of the group.

But on Facebook I meet people and have virtual dinner parties. We link up on Yahoo messenger and  all chat and joke at will. No one is left out. We post pictures of our food. Share videos  and photos. We have little asides with individual members of the group . We share, laugh and sometimes cry. It takes us away from the constant struggle to be included and lets us experience something that is often not possible in the real world. All praise Facebook – for all its faults it means that for the deaf the virtual is often better than the real reality!!


FrustratedWomanI  have written about this before, and I will write about it again because it frustrates the hell out of me. Namely  Australia’s deafness sector and Australia’s disability discrimination laws. The sector because it is over represented  by a myriad of organisations who work at tangents to each other. The discrimination laws because they are putrid bags of nothing that require us to complain to get anything changed. Putrid because the moment anyone complains against an organisation it immediately creates a putrid air of non-cooperation to the point that it becomes a cesspool of bad blood where there has to be a winner and a loser.

It is frustrating because complain is all that deaf people and the sector seem to do.   Apparently at a recent Government enquiry into deafness one guy, to the embarrassment of the deafness sector,  told the enquiry that Australia had many deafness sector organisations  -“And they all hate each other.”  Although the Government enquiry was probably not the best place to air this opinion he probably isn’t too far off the mark.

Take for example the  bun fight that happened between Deaf Can Do and the National Auslan Booking Service this year in South Australia. It required the intervention of Deaf Australia. Traditionally, although it seems to be improving, Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum have not been the best of buddies and continue to eye each other with a degree of mistrust. More recently there was an alleged disagreement between two organisations where one took a significant bequest from another deafness organisation because the bequester had not realised there had been a change in the targeted organisations name. This latter example apparently ended up in court.

A few years ago there was also the bizarre situation of a Government funded organisation virtually stealing the business name of another. The established service was known as Hearing Solutions while the new service called itself  Hearing Loss Solutions. When approached about the similarities in the names the new service could not or would not see how consumers might be confused. In a bizarre twist the new service offered virtually the same service as the established one and the two service providers were located no more than five minutes apart in the CBD.  Our deafness sector is often its own worse enemy.

It seems all we can do in the deafness area is complain …and I am well aware this is exactly what I am doing now, just in case you wish to point this out to me.  When we are not complaining amongst ourselves we have to complain about discrimination because this is the only way to make Australia’s discrimination laws work. At a recent meeting one hearing impaired woman said that she dare not make any more complaints because she had so many in the pipeline. This was in regard to a complaint about captions on DVDs. My own wife feels that she sticks out like a sore thumb at work because the only way to improve access is to constantly complain about the lack of it. It wears you down in the end.

But that’s the lot of the Deaf  and people with a disability in Australia.  If they feel they are being discriminated against they have to first complain to the Australian Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Commission will then attempt to resolve the complaint.  If they cannot, the next option is the courts. Usually everything just stops there because there are few willing to risk their house on losing a court case even when it is clear they are being discriminated against.

Australia’s discrimination law does not tell you what you must do or not do in terms of discrimination .. it just says discrimination is illegal. Other laws say dont kill or dont steal or go to jail. Australia’s disability discrimmination laws just say dont discriminate unless it’s within reason! If an individual feels they are discriminated against they have to make a complaint. Then it’s in the lap of the gods .. they have to hope that the powers that be agree with them. And if they don’t then they have to risk tens and thousand of dollars on a court case that they might still lose. It’s crazy.

We Deaf people and our organisations often don’t help ourselves either. We often cant even agree what it is we will complain about or how we will complain. Take  the captioned cinema campaign. It’s been going on for years. Apparently one person has decreed that Rear Window Captioning is not wanted because some Deaf people don’t like to stand out in a cinema as the ones using the technology. For those that don’t know, RWC is technology that allows the watcher to view captions on a device that is attached to the seat in front of them. The alternative is to have open captions for all. The benefit of RWC is that not everyone has to watch the captions meaning the general public are not inconvenienced.  RWC potentially could mean that all movies could be captioned rather than just a select few put aside for Deaf people. So because one or two don’t like the idea of RWC the whole campaign to consider cinema captioning through RWC was, allegedly, dropped.  I would have thought captioning  any which way is what people would want but apparently, because a few sensitive souls don’t want to stand out, we all have to make do.

Feel like screaming? You’re not the only one! Join me its therapeutic. Suffice to say there has to be a better way than this!

Staying Positive

bikiesIt is twenty years now since I started working at the Deaf Society in Adelaide. In those twenty years I have seen a  few things. I had a drug crazed client throw up on my shoe and scream at  me that the Aliens were coming through the roof to get him. I have had clients kill themselves by burning down their house. I have assisted  clients into work and families to understand and accept and communicate with their deaf kids. It is funny because some years later a few old clients have sought me out on Facebook, just to say hello and thank me. It’s always moving to know you have had some sort of impact and assisted a family or a person to achieve something in life. The positives keep you motivated. And just as well because the negatives are often hard to bear.

Generally in my work people work well together. Most of us strive for positive outcomes. Sometimes we succeed and sometimes we do not. Sometimes we are dealing with controversial and difficult situations. I once witnessed a deaf child using signs that could be interpreted as disclosure of sexual abuse.  He was using signs that suggested that he had witnessed or experienced penetration. He was an otherwise happy child. His parents were lovely but rough around the edges. Under the law any sign of sexual abuse must be reported to the authorities. The child may have seen his parents having sex or watched a pornographic movie, this is still classified as reportable. You make such reports with a heavy heart because you know that the report you are about to make will turn the child’s family life upside down. It is sometimes hard to remain positive.  

I was looking back on my work life on the weekend. Primarily because I heard a tale that was among the most appalling I have heard in my 20 years. Allegedly an organisation was left a vast sum of money by an ex-client. The client left this money to the organisation as a way of saying thank you and enabling the organisation to continue to support others as they had them. Unfortunately the client used the wrong business name in his or her will. An old name that was now owned by another organisation. Allegedly the other organisation claimed the money for themselves which was against the spirit of the bequest. It seems that this is not the first time that this has happened either. If true this is one of the more appalling situations I have ever heard about in my time. Not quite the worst but right up there.

Back in the Nineties I worked as a Case Manager for people who had physical disabilities. My primary role was to assess the care they required to live independently in their own homes. It was often simply organising for them to have someone come in and clean the house or cook meals. It was sometimes more complex requiring transport, intensive care, transition from hospital to home and training in the use of assistive devices.  Mostly the solutions were very simple to implement – all they needed was money – something that is not always forthcoming.

I had one client who was a Bikie. A huge mountain of a man. He had tattoos over the best part of his body and the mandatory beard and earrings. He was from the Northern Territory. He had come off his bike there and his injuries led him to being a quadriplegic. In the Nineties the Territory lacked the facilities he required for his rehabilitation. He was sent to Adelaide for treatment. He later received a compensation payout and bought a home in Adelaide to be close to his rehab provider.

Over a period of time he became home-sick. He wanted to return home to be near family and friends. He asked me for assistance in arranging this. In Adelaide he lived in his own home. A carer came in in the mornings to help him out of bed, bathe him, prepare his meals for the day and so on. He naturally needed all of this arranged if he was to move back to the Territory. It seems a fairly straight forward request … But money was involved .. and money is something that many support organisations either take at will and give out very sparingly.  Human dignity is expensive. Money must be retained and dignity goes the way of the scrapheap!

I was determined to assist my client. I did some research and found out the relevant authorities to contact in the Territory. I called them and explained the situation. They point-blank said they did not have the funds to care for my client. If my client was to return to the Territory he would have had to live in a nursing home. There was no funding for him to live independently in his own home. They suggested that if the funding he had in Adelaide could be transferred then they could budget for my clients needs the following year and he would be able to live as he had in Adelaide.

Here it gets distasteful. I approached my organisation with the view of seeing if funds could be transferred. We are, after all , one nation. The money had already been budgeted for my client anyway. I reasoned that any other person could just pack up and move as they pleased. My client should have the same right.  Of course, because money is involved and money has a value far greater than life in the eyes of  many, the answer was NO! My client was understandably devastated. Both South Australian and Territory officials refused to deal.

But the client and I, we fought the authorities tooth and nail. So hard did we fight that my boss actually took me aside to remind me, and this is true, that the client was secondary and my primary focus was to protect the organisation and the Government Minister in question. I recall my reply to him was something along the lines of,  “@#$# that!”  My client paid me the ultimate compliment, he said to me, “.. Gary, why is a guy like you working for a bunch of c**ts like this?”  I offer no apologies for the language. He was a Bikie after all and what he said to me remains the the most profound compliment that any client has ever given me. 

Unfortunately before we could progress anything my client died. He developed a pressure sore which became infected. My last vision of this wonderful character was lying on his back asleep in hospital in full view of everyone. Just a sheet draped over his groin. His dignity and privacy not even considered. It was and is the most shameful way I have ever seen anyone treated.

So when I am depressed, when I hear of organisations swindling another, when I hear of clients going without while the bosses indulge I go back to the question of my client, ” … Gary why is a guy like you working for a bunch of c**ts like this?”  I never answered him. But the answer is clear .. Because if we don’t who will?  Besides as old clients on Facebook remind me, positive outcomes do occur. It isn’t all bad but sometimes it’s very hard to stay positive!

The Age of Big Business


HandShake_Business_EditedNot long ago a friend asked me how I prevent myself banging my head on the walls. He was explaining to  me how frustrated he was with the progress of change, with how access, Deaf organisations and committees seem to too slowly evolve or improve. I pointed out to him that change in Australia had indeed happened. Not at the same pace as the rest of the world but it had happened; and quite rapidly at that. For example not long ago we were able to watch only a few television shows with captions. Nearly all of these were Australian soap or artsy British shows. What is the figure now? I think it’s around 80%.

 Just over 20 years ago the University of South Australia would not pay for interpreters for my course. They relied on buddy systems to support students with a disability. Indeed on the second day of my social work training I had to get up in front of the class and declare that I was deaf, that I needed help with notes and ask for volunteers. I had to do this because the disability liaison officer of the day hadn’t done it for me as he had promised.

 I recently was appointed to the National Vocational Education and Training Equity Council advising the Deputy Prime Minister. I attended a forum in Tasmania that looked at skills training for Tasmanian equity groups. They were talking about the lack of funding to support people with additional needs. They were discussing how hard it was to find interpreters to meet the needs of Deaf students. Although this sounds bad one needs to remember that not that long ago the concept of paying for interpreters did not exist. It is indeed a huge shift to move from not even contemplating paying for interpreters and from using buddies to bemoaning the fact that there are not enough interpreters available. That is the new challenge, not funding interpreters but investing in the training of interpreters to meet the demand. To me, having come from an age where there was no chance of getting funding for interpreters, this is a positive thing. I mean, blimey; we now have interpreting through the internet as well. The change has been huge. Interpreting is now a multi-million dollar business.

We also have captioning. A few years ago the University of Melbourne introduced Live Remote Captioning for hearing impaired and Deaf students. Live Remote Captioning utilises the internet and phone to provide live captioning for students to access lectures. For those deaf people who prefer information in English this has been a godsend. The provision ofcaptioning and interpreting for students at university or TAFE is a far cry from the days when Deaf and hearing impaired students had to follow their appointed buddy around and look over the buddies shoulder as the buddy frantically took notes just to be able to follow lectures. Indeed my wife, in her final years of school, relied on her mother and sisters to take notes for her. This sort of thing would not even be considered today. The few companies that offer Live Remote Captioning are reaping ahealthy profit as well. The Deaf are good business.

I am part of the committee that is selecting the city to host the 2012 Australian Deaf Games n Victoria. In years gone by the Deaf community set up committees and organised the Games in the appointed capital city. Usually a few dedicated souls were responsible for organising things and they always did a marvellous job.Source: Bagshaw,Whole of life Approach)  The “NEEDY” are not welfare cases they are BIG BUSINESS. They create employment, demand, and MONEY. This is a cold hard fact. WE HAVE ECONOMIC POWER! How many reading this rely on us for their job?

In recent years the Australian Deaf Games have struggled. Costs have spiralled. Insurance liability, economic down-turns or simply the lack of committed volunteers are just some of the reasons that it has been difficult to sustain the Games. Indeed there were many who claimed the Games were not sustainable.

The Australian Deaf Games have now become a big business. Cities in Victoria have been asked to tender for the right to host the Games. Economic arguments have been developed as to how the Games will financially benefit the cities that bid to host the games. Cities throughout Victoria have put up their hands to host the games. Some have offered cash incentives of tens and thousands of dollars to hold the Games in their city. Apart from cash they have offered in-kind support such as transport or the free use of venues. No longer are the Deaf charity cases – they are BIG BUSINESS, something to be invested in. AND all of this has been driven by Deaf people! We don’t want charity nor do we expect it. We create opportunities, employment and money. We are BIG BUSINESS!!

The CEOs that send out the pitying fundraising drivel that lands painfully in our letter boxes need to take note. We have a lot to thank of people like The Rebuttal’s Dean Barton-Smith and the other Deaf people who secured the multi-million dollar funding for the Melbourne 2005 Deaflympics. They showed us the way and have not got anywhere near the praise that they deserved.

The people that lobbied to secure funding for the M2005 Deaflympics produced research that showed that the Games were likely to create $28 million in turnover for the Victorian economy. The Victorian Government provided $4 million in funding which was matched by the Federal Government. The economic benefits for Victoria were, in all liklihood, in excess of the predicted $28 million.

The Victorian Deaf community of the time played an enormous role in securing the M2005 Deaflympics for Australia and Victoria. Indeed they played an even larger role in securing the millions in funding to host the games. How much of the $28 million was returned to them for their efforts? A paltry $200 000. A puny return indeed. Deaf Sports Australia and to a lesser degree Deaf Sport Recreation Victoria, of which I am President, need to take some responsibility for this. Our leaders were asleep at the wheel. We must learn from this costly mistake and in the future ensure we get a fair return for the benefits that the wider community reap from our activities.

 Aside from the Deaf it has been suggested that by investing properly in people with a disability, by making them active participants in work, study and play that the economy would reap $46 billion. So yes we have come a long way and the new buzz word in meeting our needs is INVESTMENT. You don’t help and support people such as the Deaf you invest in them. By investing in the “NEEDY” such as us, lots of people benefit. It’s no longer heart warming to provide access through things such as captioning, interpreting or hosting things like the Australian Deaf Games – It is pure and simple – BIG BUSINESS!. Deaf organisations that continue to push the WELFARE and SOB STORY basket should take note. Deaf and hearing impaired people have come of age we are ready to take control. WE demand RESPECT!