The recent posts from Paul Bartlett and the article and The Strange Deaf and HI Sector in Australia have generated some fascinating comments. The interesting thing has been the attitude towards the British RNID by many Deaf people. It really has so many similarities with Australia it is uncanny. You can imagine CEOs in respective Australian and British organisations reading this and thinking that it is just Tall Poppy Syndrome. That because they are successful people want to knock them down. Indeed I once heard a CEO respond to critics by saying that the criticism was not valid and that it was just Tall Poppy Syndrome. And in doing so dismiss his critics as insubstantial.
In an effort to understand the situation in Britain I decided to do some research into their biggest organisation RNID – Which I presume stands for Royal Institute of the Deaf but have since been told by a wag that it stands for Really Not Interested In Deaf. It gives one an idea of the hostility that some Deaf people feel towards RNID. In my research I came accross a fascinating Blog, Fintan Ramblings that has revealing article about RNID, at least from a Deaf perspective.
It seems the RNID have set themselves up as the Say SO organisation for the Deaf. Apparently according to the Finnan Blog they have promoted themselves as the centre of expertise in British Sign Language (BSL). This is despite being led by hearing people that can’t sign. When the British government recognised BSL as an official language there was a certain amount of funding available to educate the public about BSL. No doubt this included BSL tuition. Deaf groups, led by Deaf people – who naturally own the language- were keen to get this funding to raise awareness in the general public. They even asked the RNID that they (RNID) not apply for this funding as it would be better off controlled by Deaf people. RNID apparently ignored this request and competed for the funding against the Deaf led groups.
As much as one million pounds was up for grabs, approx Australian $2, 247, 552.16 (Don’t you just love online currency converters.) Quite rightly the very people that owned the language wanted to be the people that controlled the funding that was targeted to promote that language. Typically and disrespectfully their request was ignored by a rich and arrogant organisation, in this case RNID.
Fintan is very vocal about this issue. Here is a selection of direct quotes from the Blog.
“We don’t want to see ‘Deaf Pounds’ going straight into the pockets of the RNID’s fat cats.”
“SLOW TO ADVOCATE FOR POSITIVE CHANGE BUT QUICK TO TAKE RESOURCES AWAY FROM THE PEOPLE.”
And my very favourite:
“Their Chief Executive is hearing which sends a clear message to Deaf People and the wider world that they (deaf people) are not capable of running their organisation. Deaf people say that they are ready and willing to take over the organisation and work with the disability movement for concrete change. If they seriously want to advise the government on employing deaf people they could start with themselves.”
The big beef that the Deaf community have with RNID is that they apparently showed no interest in the campaign to officially recognise BSL as a language. It is alleged that they offered little or no support to the Deaf community to lobby for the recognition of BSL. YET, when it became apparent that there was money in it RNID were all over the topic and promoted themselves as the experts in BSL. They showed no respect and no support for the views of the Deaf community. To my Australian readers I bet this all sounds very familiar.
Remember the Deaflympics in Melbourne in 2005. Lobbied for and achieved by Deaf people. Funding obtained from Federal and State level by Deaf people. In the end who headed the organising committees. Hearing people at both CEO and Chair level. What did this show? It showed that hearing people had no faith in Deaf people to organise the show themselves. Hmmmmm, perhaps RNID were advising them.
How many Deaf people do we have running Deaf organisations in Australia? … Just 1, not including Deaf Australia. They cant even give this guy the title of CEO, he is a “General Manager” Who won the recent position for Deputy CEO that allegedly offered $150 000 in salary? Not a Deaf person I can tell you. Do they have faith in Deaf people to run these organisations.? Well their actions clearly say no. Doesn’t this all sound so familiar? It could be RNID!
What about the recent tender in Queensland to provide Auslan teaching to Queensland schools. For those that don’t know the Queensland Government offered $30 million over the next 5 years to introduce Auslan to their schools. Deaf Australia won the tender and thankfully so. But who were they competing against? I will let you guess, suffice to say that in this case it was not RNID. That Deaf Australia won the tender is good news for Deaf people because it shows faith in having Deaf run Deaf organisations control what they own, in this case Auslan. That they had to compete against organisations that already have enough money and for something that is rightfully theirs is mind boggling. Deaf Dollars for Deaf people not the fat cats – Sound familiar! It could be RNID.
“We call on the RNID to get our of out lives.”
Fintan is aggressive and angry. Judging by some recent responses to articles on here there are many in Britain who feel the same. Yet RNID continues to ignore and disregard the views of Deaf people. In Australia we have a very similar situation but our Deaf community is passive. It does not speak out and challenge our organisations in the same way as the British Deaf community do RNID. Perhaps we need to be more vocal, perhaps we need to stand up and be counted. If we don’t and end up with policy like the Auslan for Employment Scheme, a blatant attempt to get Interpreting dollars rather than support the needs of Deaf people, we only have ourselves to blame.
Stand up and be counted or suffer the consequences. And oh! By the way, there are certain people that are Deaf in Deaf advocacy that try to wear two hats .. I am all for partnerships but advocates need to be impartial, if you cant do that because your boss is on the other side, make a choice! It can only be one or the other!