FRUSTRATING!!!

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!

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17 thoughts on “FRUSTRATING!!!

  1. At least now we know that this putrid crap is worldwide, as it runs rampantly here in the states as well. And aye, people need to realize if the entire deaf and hard of hearing communities would unite, we would get ourselves much further. Unfortunately, I am sensing that I would see a flying pig before I see that happen, but that won’t stop me from hoping and striving for full unity.

  2. hahaha,

    I’ve been down this lane before, and to be frank with you, the Australian Government solicitor would throw the book at you. It has been 3 years since I have lived in Australia I moved to the (USA), much better over here. for once/all, the DDA is outdated and has a rusty shelving life. Indeed, you would wonder why, this kind of behaviour is occuring, it’s because of people like me and you who do not voice our concerns at belconnen Dr in Canberra. You can write all you like, the only bickering you will get is laughs. My suggestion, just move on and deal with the problems we face and then, perhaps, you would want to major in this theory idea and hope to God you would get elected to the ‘green chairs and a 6 digit sum’ to hear your everyday concerns.

    Australia is a great place to live, but if you have a disability forget it!! The Hawke/Keating/Howard Government wanted to put you out of your misery. Let’s hope Ruddyboy can hear the people via the walls of parliament. Then, you will see ‘we are young and free’ of our anthem being portrayed as a young and ‘standard knowledge’ nation. I’d prefer ‘applied knowledge’, to stamp out discrimination and force awareness rather than education.

    haha… When????

  3. I actually don’t think it has anything to do with a few sensitive souls not wanting to stand out. I’m not sure about yourself but I went to a demonstration of RWC and needless to say, I was left unimpressed.

    RWC still relies on the fact that the film in question has to have captions embedded in it before it can be shown with captions. The same rule applies for open captioned films.

    The only real difference that I could tell from RWC to open captioning is that RWC is more cumbersome, and if I remember correctly, potentially more expensive in the long run.

    My biggest question is.. are there any stats on the percentage of people who despise open captioning and does that number really justify the need to hide captions from the public eye?

  4. “@MM, professonial moaning? You ought to be a millionaire by now ”

    I should complain about that…. 🙂 Of course there are professional moaners, they call them ‘deaf awareness’ systems….or deaf charities….

  5. TT .. It is a matter of taste. I have never used RWC but I know of several satisfied users. The issues are having as many movies captioned as possible and open captions is a hinderance to that in manyways, regardless of costs. Possibly having more people in the cinema for RWC sessioned means additional costs for the system are negated. All questions that need answering rather than just dropping the idea all together. Your view and others should all be considered as part of the final solution. My issue is the idea was dismissed without proper cconsideration of various issues and on the say so of few. Thanks for your bit 🙂

  6. I refer to the extraction of your article here:

    “…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. ”

    Would you please explain the “It required the intervention of Deaf Australia”. I cannot accept that as there are many reasons as to why DA acted. I’ve seen what’s in the behind and how the Deaf Australia organisation intervened the “bun fight” of between DCD and NAB.

    I had received answers from a number of certain persons. My view of their answers and based on what I have seen in the recent “emotional” forum is a disgrace!

  7. Timothy, they helped to set up the forum so that people could understand the issues and also for people to express concerns. Whether it was a success I dont know, you seem to think not. But the situation was such that Deaf Australia became involved. As I understand it was because Deaf Australia SA were compromised having board members on Deaf Can Do Board and some who were employed by Deaf Can Do meaning that Deaf Australia SA could not be impartial.

    If this is wrong feel free to comment on what you think was the real situation.

  8. I have no problem towards to the organisations of DA, NAB and DCD. It was the group of people who have started it. I understand it is not in the interest of the consumer. But it’s the people who are behind one of the organisations that triggered the “bun fight” problem occurred between the organisations. They may be the committee or member or the employee or the employer or the person(s) who has/have a strong influence over the Deaf people. I cannot name the group of people. But you have to ask them (the source), questions them until you get the bottom of it.

  9. Hi Gary,
    Just coming back to the discrimination laws, I don’t agree they are a “putrid bag of nothing”. I’d say they have opened things right up. I remember reading somewhere years ago that the difference between the DDA here and the discrimination laws in America, is that in the US those laws look after individuals. In comparison, the DDA here is designed to not only aid the individual but to break down systemic barriers so that the gains that person makes in making a complaint, filter through to the whole system. I think they do that – the whole captioning debate was kickstarted by one Dr from Perth, if I am remembering correctly. Although it isn’t perfect, is still a step forward that the rest of us need to keep supporting. I do agree there is insufficient consultation with deaf people in general on this issue.

    I was really heartened to read you mention in passing about a woman pushing for more captioning on DVDs and your own wife plugging away at whatever she has been fighting for. I just finished off another complaint recently and was feeling the same as both these women – that I was probably the only one complaining, and that maybe it is pointless to keep going with it, so it is good to read these things.

    I’d like to see some changes to the confidentiality arrangements that seem to be standard around DDA complaints now, in which you agree not to discuss what happened at the conciliation or what the outcome was. I agree that “what is said in the room , stays in the room” but I think there should be some way of deaf people being able to access information about what complaints have been made without identifying the parties involved. Possibly there is if things proceed to court but I think a lot of complaints are probably resolved at conciliation, as all of mine have been. I think people would find it encouraging.

    I don’t think the problem with the present system is in individuals having to make complaints, though certainly it does take a lot of energy and a bit of attitude to do it. I think the difficulties arise because that individual is isolated when they make a complaint. Isolation and uncertainty make it hard to mentally prepare for the conciliation. Afterwards there is often no opportunity to debrief because of the confidentiality agreement you have been asked to sign. The whole issue is buried and I question why this is happening when the aim of the DDA is to break down systemic barriers ? How can systems change if nobody, but especially deaf people, knows what is being fought for and therefore what the boundaries are in terms of what deaf people will settle for or accept? I think deaf people should be pushing for a change to the system so that information about all these individual struggles can be published or shared at some level.

  10. “I don’t think the problem with the present system is in individuals having to make complaints, though certainly it does take a lot of energy and a bit of attitude to do it. I think the difficulties arise because that individual is isolated when they make a complaint. Isolation and uncertainty make it hard to mentally prepare for the conciliation.”

    I think Garry is right here. The only people really pushing for things are isolated deaf individuals, and there is no unity of approach at all, because the groups ‘representi8ng’ them no longer reflect grass roots at all, they are just ‘providors’ of services, want to do that and use campaigns to raise profile for that. There is no ‘deaf voice’ as scuh, and as such, the complaints/concerns and the people that raise them, get isolated and written off, at the rim, on the cusp, in the wilderness, whatever….

    The real problem is almost apathy amongst deaf, here I make no bones about the fact I think many deaf in the UK won’t get off their arse for anything, their only ‘unity’ is attacking those that do. Laws do nothing because they insert ‘reasonable’ into the eqiuation, which is a huge loophole they exploit. Freedom of choice is another barrier, the lobbiests such as they are do no tagree on a common approach, we aint gonna get ANYWHERE.

    If the deaf cannot be shamed into asking for their own access,then what hope is there ?

  11. Karen

    Ill stick by what i say but you have some valid points. The complaint process in my eyes is just crazy. If someone murders me, does someone have to complain about it before it becomes illegal? There is a clear guide on what is and isnt permissable. Simplistic example I know.

    Complaining requires people to be savvy, articulate and more than often well financed. It requires them to have a good grasp of the law and be able to self advocate. Sure there are agencies that help with it but someone has to find the courage to come forward first. Whether this is isolation or the fault of the law is irrelevant .. It just does not work well. It doesnt work well because if a resolution cant be found at councilliation level then it’s put your house on line and pray the judge agrees. This is unfair.

    I dont take the view of MM either that we are all just lazy. I take the view it is very difficult and we sometimes just cannot find the time. Some people make a hobby of making complaints through the DDA others would not know where to start. It offers them no protection. I am aware that when a complaint really works it sets a precedent .. Stott and the TTY access come to mind BUT my view is that a law should not be based on 1)REASONABLE (as MM said) and 2) complaining.

    Cheers and good to see your view up here.

  12. Deaf find more than enough time to sit at facebook talking nonsense. They could join deaf groups for a start ! For some deaf it is hard to make a self representation but that is why you elect representatives who are more ‘articulate’ or outgoing, to do that, but they aren’t even doing that. I think they are totally apathetic in many parts and have given up the fight. If you want something real bad you fight for it… there are more than enough means for deaf to do this today, than there was years ago. Let’s stop making excuses for the majority who just canot be bothered… but will take anything others can get for them.

    • MM .. we know .. its your patrticular chip that you carry 😀 .. suffice to say I think you are too harsh ;-D

  13. Yes I can understand what both of you are saying but how does change happen if individuals aren’t the catalyst? individuals? Probably deaf organisations or the legal profession but neither of you seem to think they are much chop either ! These organisations are only as effective as the individuals within them and therefore probably just as flawed as individuals unless they have taken the time to consult deaf people properly and represent their views.

    I think many individuals give their power away. It is part of human nature to want to believe in people who appear to have all the answers and to let them decide for us. It is certainly how democracy works yet how well does democracy work for individuals if you aren’t in the mainstream ?

    The DDA gives individuals back the power to challenge a whole system. As I said in my earlier post, I don’t think the individual complaint kickstarting things is the problem. It is the isolation that people feel if they complain and , as you point out Gary – that many individuals don’t feel confident enough to challenge a system that has kept them on the outer through their growing up years to a point where complaining seems futile. While people are thinking like this, progress is going to be slow. I don’t agree with you MM about apathy. I was chatting to my sister recently about how we would have gotten on if we had grown up deaf, instead of becoming deaf later and we don’t think we would have succeeded to the level that a lot of other deaf people have. We are in awe of the attitudes and achievements of the deaf people we know. Apathy isn’t a word I would use, I think it is more resilience and having a good life in spite of the obstacles.

    Where change needs to happen is in addressing the powerlessness that many deaf people seem to feel. I think many deaf people would be surprised at what they can achieve if they ever do put their hands up. This is where access to information about what is happening already would help. It would reduce feelings of isolation for people who are complaining and be encouraging for others.

    Also, last comment, there is great support here in Victoria through the Disability Discrimination Legal Service (DDLS). They work on a No Win, No Fee basis so that takes the risk out of going to court if people cant resolve their complaint at the conciliation stage.

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