I 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!