The Gypsie in Me!!

I am a zealot! My life is so meaningless, so pathetic, so without action that I need to read the newspapers in every detail to add meaning to my life. You see to be entertained and to go to the movies, I check the newspapers religiously.  My family are not enough. My work is just a drag, my love life can be put on hold because THERE IS A CAPTIONED MOVIE ON SOMEWHERE …. ANY WHERE … and I simply MUST see it.

GASSSSSPPPP a French movie made in 1873 is on at the Cinema in Gympie on Friday at 5.30am. If I leave Ballarat in an hour I will just make it. I pack the kids clothes. I send the wife to fill up the car and get munchies for the journey, I ring Ellen to come and feed the dogs and the cats while we are gone. We are leaving in an hour. I simply must get there on time or my life will be a cesspool of nothing and not worth living.

I am having an anxiety attack. If I don’t leave soon I will miss the first five minutes of the movie. I need to plan my journey. Thank god for Wotif. Sydney overnight for just $475 for all the family is a steal. If I set off early next morning I will make Brisbane and my friend Bobbie will look after us overnight … and then its just 8 hours or so til Gympie … It can be done. My wife and kids are just as excited I can tell you. The poor dogs are looking sad though. They are fed up of us just leaving them at a whim to chase captioned movies all over the countryside. God my life is so good its unbelievable!!!

No I havn’t gone stark raving mad. You see this is apparently what people like me or people who have disabilities do to access the movies.  Mark Sarfaty, who is CEO of the Independent Cinema Association of Australia, believes this is exactly what people with a disability do. Apparently we just seek out movies that we can access, like we have noting better to do, and travel to wherever they may be screened. You think I am joking? Well check out what he had to say about us and accessible movies:

“People with disabilities will find a screening, schedule it, and travel – just as film enthusiasts do to chase minority films”. (Screen Hub, 4 December 2009).

We are zealots you see .. completely obsessed and stark raving mad!

Please email Mr Sarfaty and let him know how grateful you are that he is sharing his wisdom.

Mark can be emailed on:

I am positive he will be happy to hear from you all !!

TOOOOO Heavvvvy!!!

It has been a really heavy week this week. An all out war has erupted between Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum. On this Forum it got personal and nasty, even silly. Basically it was a territorial argument. Two bodies wanting the same thing and one wanting to be the body that says it rather than the other, quite farcical really. BUT enough heaviness. It’s time to LTFU … and yes the F is an obscenity. This opposed to HTFU. Deafness isn’t all heavy and nasty. In fact it can often be quite funny so I am going to LTFU and have a little giggle.

Yesterday I was in Brisbane having breakfast. I was staying at a hotel and I love hotel breakfasts. Bacon, poached eggs, fruit and NESCAFE coffee … the Nescafe was a bit of a downer. Nevertheless it was a yummy breakfast. In the restaurant they had a large rear projection television. Kochie and Mel were on. I am a fan and I wanted to know what they were talking about today. There were no captions though. BUT I spotted a digital set top box on the top of the TV AND the remote was there. Being the assertive guy that I am, I wandered over to click on the captions on the remote. As I picked up the remote I spotted the waiter out of the corner of my eye. She was clearly telling me to leave the TV alone. I, of course, ignored her.

Of course I didn’t hear what she was saying but I imagine it was something along the lines of  “PUT THAT DOWN”  Anyway I found the captions and turned them on. I turned round to the waiter who was giving me deathly and dirty looks.  She was side on so could not see the TV screen. Anyway I beamed her a lovely smile  and beckoned her over to have a look. She took one look at the captions and moved to turn them off. Apparently she thought something was wrong with the screen. I imagine she said something like, “I WILL TRY TO FIX THAT BUT PLEASE ASK NEXT TIME. ” But anyway I took the time to educate her about captioning and how to turn them on. She looked at me, still unimpressed, but thankfully left the captions on.  As I left the restaurant for a taxi to the airport I thought to let her know how to turn the captions off ..  but didn’t.  Hopefully they will still be on this morning and I hope the waiter didn’t stress too much trying to work out how to turn them off.

I love the mistakes that hearing people make about deafness. You know the people that ask the deaf if they use braille and the like. One time I had an argument with a training provider who would not provide me with interpreters for his training. I pointed out to him that if he was going to provide training he had to make sure I could participate. After all, my work was paying him good money for me to be involved. For about a week we argued about who was responsible. ( all by email) He would not budge. His argument was a classic; “LOOK!” he typed in bold, thinking dramatics would have effect, “ When a guy in a wheelchair does my training he brings his own wheelchair, therefore you should bring your own interpreter.” I emailed back asking if he thought I should take the interpreter to the grave as well – the joke went right over his head. He replied, “I am sure their will be people at your funeral that will appreciate it.” Or perhaps the joke was on me?

Many years ago I actually went to University. It’s such a distant memory now. Spending most of my time in the University bar most likely is responsible for University being nothing but a haze now. I used to go to University with massive hang-overs. They were often so bad I would put my hearing aids in my pocket so as to avoid any unnecessary noise. I often took a short cut across the University car-park.

One cold morning I sauntered across the University car-park. I was wearing the mandatory overcoat of the University student,  purchased from the Salvos for $5.00. My hearing aids were deep in the pockets. As I sauntered, trying hard to ignore the pounding in my head, a car pulled in in front of me. A lady got out and proceeded to hurl abuse my way.  It was very clear that she had been driving behind me and I was in the way. She probably had been honking her horn but I was oblivious to it all. She called me an “Idiot” among other things. Screamed at me to pay attention to what was happening around me, called me arrogant and a few other choice words that I was unable to lipread.

Anyway I was having none of this. I looked at her directly narrowing my eyes to slits. I reached slowly into my pockets. She looked at my eyes and she looked at my hands reaching into my pocket, she looked mildly frightened. Slowly and deliberately I took my aids out of my pocket and slipped them into my ears, making a play of switching them on and adjusting the volume. Once all was to my liking I asked if she could repeat what she had said. She went bright red.  I expected her to apologise. Instead she called my an, “Irresponsible arse-hole.” and stormed off. Nevertheless it was a very sagtisfying moment and perked me up no end.

Sometimes I think we take ourselves far far to seriously. As the war rages between Deaf Australia and Deafness Forum I urge you all to look on the bright side of life. The bickering and the pure petty mindedness of events this week has left a sour taste in many of our mouths. BUT we are supposed to LTFU and LTFU we will. I end this jolly little piece with the immortal words of Eric Idle from  Always look on the Bright Side of Life:

Some things in life are bad,
They can really make you mad,
Other things just make you swear and curse.
When you're chewing on life's gristle
Don't grumble, give a whistle.
And this'll help things turn out for the best.
Always look on the bright side of life, (whistle)
Always look on the bright side of life, (whistle)
If life seems jolly rotten,
There's something you've forgotten,
And that's to laugh and smile and dance and sing.
When you're feeling in the dumps,
Don't be silly chumps.
Just purse your lips and whistle, that's the thing.
Always look on the bright side of life. (whistle)
Come on...

Collaborate or Die! By Gary Kerridge

What I am about to write, I probably should not. I am a Board member of Deafness Forum Australia. Protocol dictates that I should not comment on this issue. However, I am so saddened and frustrated by what has occurred I feel that I must comment. In commenting I wish to make it very clear. These views are my own. They do not represent those of Deafness Forum Australia. For any embarrassment I am about to cause them I apologise now. I am prepared to accept any consequences that come my way.

Members and organisations that serve the Deaf community received a media release from Deaf Australia yesterday.  In no uncertain terms they requested that Deafness Forum Australia butt out. Deafness Forum Australia had released a policy paper supporting and arguing for Australia to recognise Auslan (Australian Sign Language) as one of Australia’s official languages. One would have thought that Deaf Australia would have been supportive of such an idea. To be fair, they are, but they feel that Deafness Forum Australia should not comment on anything to do with Auslan. This, they feel, is the sole domain of Deaf Australia.

Australia currently recognises Auslan as a community language but not an official one. Currently Australia has a national language, which is English, but in recognition of its cultural diversity does not acknowledge English as an official language, in fact it has no official languages. There is a lot of debate occurring about what should and should not be an official language in Australia. The benefits of Auslan, or any language, as an official language is that it provides it with legal status. In terms of education, access to employment or even the courts this, potentially, could provide better access for Auslan using Australians. Auslan is currently recognised as the language of the Deaf community. While this is powerful it does not offer the same legal status as recognition as an official language, potentially, can

As Australia is debating the issue of official languages, it currently has none, Deafness Forum have decided to strategically open discussion about the need for Australia to consider Auslan as an official language. That is what it is at the moment – a discussion in which Deafness Forum Australia have invited Deaf people and the organisations that represent it to contribute to so that while the debate on official languages is under consideration in Australia,  Auslan is at the forefront.

It is all quite complicated. Alex Jones, the president of Deafness Forum Australia has developed a comprehensive discussion paper for the Deaf community and its representatives to consider. I had a role in making suggested changes but the work is mainly that of Alex and he should get full credit.  This paper, a valuable contribution to the official languages debate, has been distributed widely for discussion.

It is about here that Deaf Australia jumped in. Yesterday they sent out a media release. The release requested that Deafness Forum Australia withdraw the discussion paper. Why? Because. in their words, the discussion is already out there. Deaf Australia claim that they already have a policy paper on their website that requests, The Australian Government and state governments to abolish any remaining obstacles to the use of Auslan as the primary and everyday language of Deaf people, e.g., as a language of education’

Deaf Australia recognise that they have never considered or presented a case for the recognition of Auslan as an official language but they feel anything that they have presented previously suggests pretty much the same thing. In short Deaf Australia has told Deafness Forum that comment on Auslan is the sole domain of Deaf Australia alone.

Deaf Australia, in there media release, make the astonishing claim that Deafness Forum are being disrespectful of them by releasing a discussion paper that focuses on recognition of Auslan as an official language. They claim that they were not consulted. That Deafness Forum has so few Deaf members that it has no right to comment on Auslan at all.

Let me make one thing clear. Deafness Forum have, on numerous occasions, tried to collaborate with Deaf Australia on issues relevant to Auslan and have been told in no uncertain terms NO! Deafness Forum, as part of their funding contract with the Federal Government, must represent issues relevant to Deaf people. The discussion paper on Auslan as an official language  has to be submitted to the Government AND before submitting it they have sought feedback from Deaf people and Deaf organizations.

The major author of the paper, Alex Jones, is an Auslan user, has a child who is an Auslan user AND the mother of his child is an Auslan user. Alex has chosen to represent this discussion paper through Deafness Forum and has extensive contacts with the Deaf community. It is entirely within his rights to advocate as he sees fit and through whatever organization he chooses. It is not Deafness Forum who is being disrespectful. It is Deaf Australia!

 I recognize that Deaf Australia are the primary organisation that represents Auslan in Australia. I recognize the work of people like Colin Allan,  Robert Adam. Dot Shaw and the like who worked so hard to have Auslan promoted, taught and recognized. This discussion paper released by Deafness Form recognizes this work, supports it and gives Deaf Australia a platform to continue to lobby for the legal representation of Auslan.

How much easier it would have been for Deaf Australia to be politically smart. Why could they not have welcomed the Deafness Forum discussion paper. The smart response would have been to congratulate Deafness Forum on their discussion paper, point out the previous work and recognition that was achieved by Deaf Australia in the past in relation to Auslan and invite Deafness Forum to work collaboratively on the issue. They could even have respectfully requested that Deafness Forum allow Deaf Australia to lead the discussion from now on.

If they felt aggrieved at being left out of the loop, what is wrong with a simple private email stating the fact. Did they really need to send out this ridiculous press release? The press release only succeeded in making Deaf Australia look like an organization that wishes to go it alone, an organization with no political smarts and one that is either unwilling or unable to collaborate with others.

The parliamentary Secretary for Disability, Bill Shorten, has stated on several occasions this year that the Government is fed up with the disability sector. In fact I believe he described it as a “Rabble”. He has expressed his frustration that disability advocacy organisations are constantly sending conflicting messages to the Government and as such it is often easier for the Government to ignore them completely. Here was an issue, Auslan as an official language, that Deaf Australia could have used and built on to keep it firmly under the Governments noses. It had an opportunity to build and support the energy created by the discussion paper. In doing so it could have demonstrated the spirit of collaboration that the government is seeking.  The message that Bill Shorten is really giving disability advocacy representatives is – collaborate or DIE.

Instead of collaboration Deaf Australia have acted like a petulant child. A child that has spat the dummy, taken his ball and gone to a corner to play on their own. If I were a member of Deaf Australia, which I am not – and the media release reminded me why,  I would be questioning the leaders of Deaf Australia in a big way. The narrow mindedness shown in this instant, the lack of political smarts and the astounding lack of vision is just unbelievable.

I am all for Deaf Australia owning and leading debate on Auslan and Deaf community issues. With this discussion paper they had an opportunity to grasp something that would help them in their objectives. Instead they have created more friction and come out of the whole sorry saga looking like an organisation that has yet to move with the times. At the next Deaf Australia AGM I hope its members ask some tough questions of its leadership. The simple fact of the matter is that Deaf Australia needs to collaborate and mature or end up on the scrap heap!

The Age of Sincerity

Has anyone ever seen the Monty Python Movie – the Life of Brian? There is one sketch that pokes fun at authority and, to a lesser degree, disability. Pontius Pilate is trying to pacify the masses. He has offered to set one of their peers free from prison to show that he is a “Fweind”of the masses. Pontius unfortunately can not pronounce the letter R. The masses find it hilarious and take every opportunity to make fun of it.  “To pwove our fwiendship“…says Pontius, “We will welease one of our wong-doers! Who shall I welease?”  A wag in the crown responds, “..Welease Woger”and this sends the crowd into hysterics of laughter. Pontius misses the joke and responds, “Vewy well, I shall… Welease… Woger!”As it turns out, there is no Woger so the crowd urge Pontius to, “Welease Woderwick” instead.  Pontius  still missing the joke  agrees to, “Welease Woderwick” and thus the whole farce continues.  Yesterday I reveived a letter from Parliamentary Secretary for Disability Bill Shorten. For some reason the letter reminded me strongly of this scene from the Life of Brian. It is all to do with sincerity. Something the crowd clearly thought Pontius lacked. This is the reason that they saw fit to poke fun at his speech impediment.

After a long day yesterday I came home and my wife passed on a letter to me from Bill Shorten. The letter was in response to the captioning campaign that is happening at the moment. Bill had received a postcard from me promoting the campaign. He saw fit to acknowledge me with a letter that pointed out the government was in support of media access, that the matter was before the Australian Human Rights Commission and that I could find information about it at the web link blah blah blah. The problem is that I had not sent Bill a postcard. Which got me questioning his sincerity. The letter was jointly signed by Senator Conroy who is the minister responsible for the media and digital economy.

I mentioned to my wife that I had not sent a postcard. She looked at me with a sly grin and said  she had sent one on my behalf, “.. I hope you do not mind”she said. My wife had sent a postcard in her name too. And on the exact same day, at the exact same address, she had received the exact same letter from Bill. Now I guess her cunniningness to get as many postcards posted as she could to badger the politicians lacked sincerity too and so we should not be surprised that the response should be a mass mail out by Bill that was equal in its lack of sincerity. The cynic in me believes that Bill’s response was a political manoeuvre to try and fool us that he actually had read each and every postcard. Like Pontius, Bill was trying to appease the masses.

I fancy that we could have sent a postcard signed by Woger Wabbit or by Woderwick Wobbles and Bill would have sent the exact same letter, to the exact same address to the esteemed Woger and Woderwick. The whole process and lack of sincerity of the response left me feeling very, very cold. I understand what Bill was trying to do and if he had not responded it would have looked bad. But in all honesty Bill was just going through the motions, as politicians do, to try and demonstrate he had his finger on the pulse.  Like Pontius he only succeeded in making himself, and Senator Conroy, a laughing stock seemingly lacking in sincerity. (In my eyes anyway)

I am aware that Bill has been in touch with the organisers of the Captioning Campaign. I believe he has stated that he does not want to influence the Australian Human Rights Commissions decision on the exemption application for the Cinemas.  This is because the AHRC is supposed to be independent of the government in its decision making process. It remains to be seen whether Bill will speak out should the AHRC support the cinemas. Realistically he cannot. His argument for remaining silent now will be equally relevant once the AHRC have passed down their decision. If the AHRC do support the Cinemas you can bet Bill’s response will be something like this, ” The AHRC is an independent body that must make its decisions independent of the Government. Although I understand the frustrations of Deaf, hearing impaired and vision impaired Australians we must support the AHRC decision. ”  If I am right you have to wonder whether Bill was sincere in his approach to the campaign organisers. Sure I understand he is stuck between a rock and a hard place, but  it still  just leaves me feeling cold.

One thing that I do know, after having worked in the disability area for over 20 years, is that it often lacks sincerity. The leaders of the sector are too often wrapped up in playing political games than they are in serving the people they are paid to serve. It is often cloak and dagger. I have sat on various Boards of different organisations. Often decisions are made that impact on the whole future and history of the stakeholders like the Deaf community. Often Boards have to make decisions about how best to cash in on an organisations assets. As  a Board member I always say that if we are thinking of disposing of assets or changing structures in a big way then the first people we must consult are the Deaf community. Very rarely have I been successful in making this happen.

A host of excuses will be put forward for not consulting. “It is confidential.” they will say. “If word gets out it may effect the sale price”, they will argue. “If the government hears they will block us” they reason.   Often what happens is that the Deaf community are the last to know and when they do hear, decisions are almost done and dusted.  Of course it will be argued that the decision had the community’s best interest at heart, that the community will be grateful in the long term and so on. Again these arguments lack sincerity. Worse they show very little respect for the Deaf community at large.

Call me naive but I believe that if you involve the Deaf community in these important business decisions from the start., that if you provide them with the reasons for decisions, the alternatives and point out the risks involved the community will understand the process and more than likely support it. Too often the community hear when things are past stopping and when their input can only be minimal. Is it any wonder that they get angry. Do not tell me that the community only speak up when something happens that they do not like. Do not tell me that they are generally apathetic and do not want to be involved. This is rubbish! They are more than often completely left out of the whole decision making process so is it any wonder when they get angry.

The decision of our peak bodies to support the Cinemas in their application for exemption to DDA complaints is a prime example of the community not being adequately informed and where decisions have been thrust on them at the last minute. The response of the South Australian Deaf community when they found out that decisions about their spiritual home were about to be made without their input is another  example of the community being left in the cold. In the nineties, (or was it the eighties?) the Victorian Deaf community erupted when they heard that the historical Victorian College for the Deaf might be closed. This anger happens because the community, by and large, are not to respected or involved in the decision making processes.

Instead self-appointed guardians with their WE KNOW WHATS BEST attitudes try to push things under the communities noses. Surely by now we should have learnt from past mistakes. A little bit of sincerity and respect can go along way! To the community I say – BE AWARE – because decisions are being made right under your noses whether you like them or not. That building or that school you have love and treasure might not be there tomorrow.

Annabel's Story

Every now and again we receive a response to The Rebuttal that reminds us how important it is that we continue to speak out and confront our audience.  Sometimes you will agree with us and sometimes you will not. But the following response reminds us of why we must never remain silent and why we must MAINTAIN THE RAGE!

With thanks to Annabel for taking the time to respond to our article ‘You’re Aving a Lean’ We urge you to copy and paste this response to as many people as you can! To Annabel, can we just say – You are the reason we exist!

Hi Gary,

Read your article in the Rebuttal about the Cinemas and wholly agree – we must Maintain the Rage – although in my case its a rage way past being a rage – a weariness that comes with experiencing too many broken promises.  I’m 3 years off  60 and only a few times (I can count on one hand) have I been to the cinema with my children. The last time was ‘The English Patient’ and I’d read the book beforehand so I knew the script.  My husband is almost too scared to go to the movies with me in case the film isn’t captioned – a few times he’s been the one to walk out when I’ve been prepared to stay on simply so that he could enjoy the movie.  He says there’s no pleasure in it when he knows I’m falling asleep beside him.  My kids say they spent their childhoods (1980’s) watching French movies on DVD and learnt to read that way so now captions don’t faze them.  Even then it was hard to find suitable movies with captions which a family could share.
I sent a submission by email as requested to the Australian Human Rights Commission which was a bit late and was meant to be about the other cinemas (Hoyts etc), and not Dendy (in Canberra Dendy shows the films) so now it is called  ‘a complaint’ and I am expected to meet with Dendy Cinemas and resolve this complaint as an individual…’d think the HRC would have enough oomph to deal with the issue for me on my behalf, or thats what I thought I paid taxes for.
Dendy advertise Captions as if its a great amazing new thing they are doing and when I first saw their advertising cards on the counter I was naturally excited, until I did a website check and found that the films that were captioned were the kind I wouldn’t bother to see….soapies and American chick flicks, put on at strange times, Wednesday at 10 am, Monday night late, times I can’t share with my family or my husband who keeps normal working hours.
This week ‘Alice in Wonderland’ is captioned on Monday night at a reasonable 7 pm….whee. Thats a huge change this week as usually week by week there is nothing closed captioned….The one time Dendy advertised ‘2012’ the movie as captioned on a Friday night it wasn’t, so my husband and I  came back the next night as the cinema manager told us this time it would definitely be captioned.  Again it wasn’t – so we walked out and demanded to see the manager and our money back.  He offered us the same movie CC that following Monday night at 10 pm!!  We went along and I advised my Auslan instructor at TAFE who knew many Deaf in Canberra that a movie was on that was CC.  We thought Dendy were trying to keep their bargain and we had to support them despite the late hour.  At the movie there were about 20+ youngsters watching and none appeared Deaf (no sign of Auslan), so there was obviously a hearing market even at that late hour. I think most of the Deaf in Canberra had to go to work the next morning which was why that time wasn’t taken advantage of.
If you’re anything like me with a Uni degree and some intelligence you also want a chance to see the serious films…The Single Man, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Last Station, The Hurt Locker, thats just what’s on this week at Dendy, but chances are zero that these will be captioned and so you wait for the DVD. I’ve watched the website for over a year and Dendy only caption one film a month. This is misleading advertising at its best!
I went to see ‘A Hurt Locker’ by myself last week, as I was desperate to get out and feel normal, but as I couldn’t hear the dialogue I came away feeling cheated. I’d paid full price even though the guy at the counter knew I was deaf.  At least he did try to advise me – he said there was nothing on with CC which is better than some attendants who promise CC or partial CC when there’s none!  At least the sound-vibration effects were good and kept me awake.
I’m not asking for equality – that is a joke – the Deaf/Hard of Hearing and Sight impaired will never be equal – not as long as our economic system demands profits and bigger turnovers ….but surely if producers are already making CC or Audio supported films – why can’t the cinemas order them as well as the normal film.  How much difference is the extra rental cost of CC to the cinema??
Cinemas can advertise CC movies in less popular times or times when popular movies attract fewer customers.  I’m prepared to pay a bit more and have a less equal choice of times just to get some choice at all.


A Day in Hospital

Being a parent with a kid in hospital is generally a harrowing experience. When you are deaf it can be doubly so. Certainly if you know Auslan you can get access to interpreters which is a great help, but anyone will tell you getting an interpreter to a hospital, particularly at short notice and with  the appropriate skills required, is very difficult.  I also wonder what happens when you are unable you sign and when you rely only on lipreading and residual hearing.  The lack of communication and obvious seriousness of having a sick child in hospital can make the whole experience scary indeed.

Weekly my middle son must attend hospital for an infusion of an enzyme. This has been happening for over a year now.  He must rock up at 8 in the morning and is there for the better part of the day. Ideally my wife and I could request that an interpreter sit with us all day so that we can make sure we know what is happening. Although we are both very assertive, even we know what a strain on resources that would be and so have decided to make do.

Just before Christmas last year our  son had a reaction. He began to struggle with breathing and required shots of adrenalin to restore things to normal. Of course the  Doctors did not really have time to stop and make sure we could understand everything that was happening. They just had to kick into action and restore our son’s functioning to normal. In such situations there is a flurry of communication. It is impossible to know all that is  going on even if you are hearing but it is far worse if you are deaf. While the doctors and nurses are communicating with each other and responding to the crisis all the deaf parents can do, in this case us, is sit back and watch, not knowing anything that is happening. It is very frightening and frustrating.

After this episode our son had to  go on a course of steroids and pre-meds. As parents you have to make sure you have all the instructions and doses correct. Get it wrong and it is your child’s health, even their life, that is at risk. My wife and I are lucky that we have strong literacy and English skills. We can make sure everything is written down so that we get things right. However not all people are able to use written English for this purpose. There are people with literacy issues, people from culturally diverse backgrounds and people that perhaps lack the intellectual capacity to understand  what is required. Doctors are often in a hurry, speak using complex jargon or have a shocking bedside manner. There is  a lot to be desired about how they communicate.

Then you have  the bedside consults. All the doctors come around the bed and start discussing your child’s condition. Of course you have no idea what they are all saying. They check blood pressure, prod and probe, stroke their chins, pull their ear lobes, mutter in agreement and nod seriously. The consult may last  for 15 to 20 minutes. The deaf parent sits in the background wondering what is going on. Has something changed? Has it got worse? Will treatment change? All of these questions run through the parents head but the answers are not forthcoming. Once the consult is  over the head Doctor gives you a reassuring smile, a thumbs up and leaves with his/her entourage. The deaf parent is none the wiser, except to know that things are generally OK.

Next to nothing provided by the hospital is accessible. They have these flash big screen digital televisions on the walls – state of the art stuff.  On none of them  can you get captions. If you are a deaf parent or a deaf patient access is nil and boredom excruciating. They have DVDs  that they show from a central loading point. It’s easy to put the captions on – just in case there are deaf people in the ward. But they never do. Not a thought is given to access.

And then of course you have the hospital volunteers. Lovely valuable people. The life and soul of the hospitals without question.  But nearly all of them impossible to lipread. They come in with their well meaning and slightly paternalistic smiles and want to sit down and chat with you  to help you through the day. Don’t get m wrong,  I really appreciate what they  are doing but the effort to communicate with them, coupled with boredom and the difficulties communicating with Doctors makes me want to run and hide. In fact I often do. I see them come through the door and I say to my son, “EEEEEEK the volunteers, I’ll be back soon!” I  run for coffee and venture back half an hour later, slowly creeping into the ward, lest the volunteers are still there.

Hospital is not just about getting better. It is one large experience. There  is much that can be done to make it better. Perhaps when we have won the battles,  that seem trivial in comparison, like captions at the Cinema and on DVDs, we as advocates might like to focus on a bigger issue such as access to the health system for the deaf. Not just interpreting – but the whole system. While I have been active in the Cinema Access Campaign I do wonder if our priorities are wrong. As the saying goes, “…There are bigger fish to fry”

You're 'Aving a Lean

IMG_0769Did you know that on the same day that the big four cinemas responded to questions asked of them in relation to their application for exemption to Disability Discrimination Complaints Hoyts released their profit figures? Last year Hoyts generated box office takings of $1.1billion dollars. Revenue for Hoyts from this turnover was $400 million.

Here in Australia the Cinema Industry is bucking world trends. It’s profits are increasing. Yet still they think that providing .03% access for deaf and vision impaired customers is good enough. As my cockney grandfather would say – YOU’RE ‘AVING A LEAN (You have to be joking.)

In defending their application for exemption the cinema industry went as far as saying that the lack of growth in cinema access was our fault. Yes! Apparently they provide the access but we don’t go to the movies. Average attendance is 12. This apparently shows a lack of demand on our part.

Forget the fact that we only have one movie to choose from. Forget the fact we have limited times to choose from and only at certain cinemas. Forget the fact that we might not even like the movie that is captioned. Forget the fact that we may have to travel considerable distance to get to the one cinema where the film is showing and at considerable expense. Forget the fact that if you are not deaf or vision impaired you can attend multiple sessions at multiple venues. It’s our fault because we cannot plan our lives around the access the Cinemas are willing to provide. OUR FAULT! Bad us! YOU’RE ‘AVING A LEAN!

And if it is not our fault, it’s everyone else’s fault. It’s our advocacy organisations’ fault because they advised and agreed with the cinema Industry that .03% was progress. They agreed that spending .00125% of the cinema industry’s profits to make a venue accessible is generous and fair. It’s the advocacy organisations’ fault that this is happening because it was from the advice of the advocates that the Cinema Industry developed their proposal. The cinema industry will have you believe that they offered what they did because it was the advice that they had received. YOU’RE ‘AVING A LEAN!

And then, of course, 3 to 4 million Australians who have a hearing loss and a probable 5 million associates do not represent a significant market worth investing in. Yet Hoyts show no less than 16 Bollywood movies a week at selected cinemas throughout Australia and at multiple time slots. The Indian population of Australia numbers just 239 000. (Source: Living in Australia.)

They even advertise three Asian movies that are shown in Melbourne and Sydney. These movies are marketed extensively on their website. Yet nowhere on the Hoyts website do they encourage the deaf to attend captioned sessions even though the market is tenfold bigger. Yes they are most definitely ‘AVING A LEAN.

The Cinemas waxed lyrical about how they were losing their market share. They claim that home theatres and video pirates are making people stay at home to watch movies. They say that this is costing them $18.2 billion a year worldwide. Yet statistics show that the average Australian attended the cinema almost four times last year. A total of 80 million tickets were sold in Australia. That ranked Australia 13th in the world in terms of attendance. Per capita Australia fared even better. They ranked fifth in the world. A drop in attendance – what drop in attendance? A drop in profits? – not bloody likely. They are ‘AVING A BLOODY LEAN I tell ya!

The Cinemas are really fond of spouting figures. It’s going to cost them $500 000 to make 35 cinemas accessible. Let me see now – 80 million attendees spending an average of around 20 bucks every time they go to the movies (food, drinks etc),that’s $1.6 billion. $500 000 is such a small figure in comparison that it’s laughable. If they are so worried about the cost why not put a levy on tickets? If they charged 20 cents per ticket to cover access costs they would get an extra $16 million to subsidize the access needs. YET they cry poor – MUUUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHAHA … if they lean any more the Tower of Pisa will fall over!

In all of their calculations they have not even put forward a figure as to the profit they will get if they provide REAL access for the deaf and vision impaired people of Australia. They have no market analysis, nothing! Yet they are willing to invest in 3D technology. Technology that is largely obsolete for all but a few special movies like Avatar. What is more, 3D movies are largely considered to be little more than a fad. The need to wear cardboard glasses puts people off after the novelty has worn off. 3D movies are considered a risky venture yet cinemas all the world over are prepared to invest billions in this technology. (source:

In the same breath the cinema industry in Australia will tell you that $500 000 is a sign of their undying commitment to providing access. In their response to the Australian Human Rights Commissions questions they reiterated their commitment on nearly every page! MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA – OH DEAR! OH DEAR! I have tears in my eyes and not just from all this mirth.

In the article “How Con Artists Work” by Ed Grabionowski he defines a con-artist as a person who gets our money through deception. As a person who convinces us we are onto something good while making all the profit themselves. A con-artist preys on the weak, the lonely and those in need. The only thing more important than the CON to the con-artist,says Grabionowski, is perfecting, “…a total lack of conscience.” And so it seems this is exactly what the cinema industry are doing now.

Don’t be fooled by their spin. They are out to commit as little money to the cause as they possibly can. They are immensely profitable but are trying to make us all think otherwise. Like the best of con-men they are trying to convince you they are sincere. The reality is closer to my grandfather’s favourite phrase and in his memory I have to ask of the cinemas; ARE YOU ‘AVING A LEAN?

Daring Derings Gone PII: Stephen Dering Writes

The following post is a reply from Stephen Dering, in response to our earlier article Daring Derings Gone. Since our comments close after a set period of time, to prevent spam, we decided to post Stephen’s response as a stand alone article.

There are a lot of rumours going around in relation to the company I set up 4 years ago. Because of a number of legal processes, we have not been in a position to respond to these rumours and put these right until those processes have completed.

In October 2009 we started a number of new contracts where referrals are to come from Jobcentre Plus – we cannot refer people directly onto programme. By Feb 2010 only 7% of the actual referrals were coming in that was expected. This is common to all companies in the same sector, we are not the only ones affected – every other organisation has a similar experience of low referral levels.

Therefore we had to undertake a review of which services are viable and which are not and to focus on those which are viable. In our market sector we receive fees for job outcomes achieved. No job outcomes = no fees therefore in some areas it is not viable to operate.

Unlike charitable organisations we do not get grants or legacies to deliver services. We have to make a profit.

We have therefore made some changes to remove or suspend the non-profitable elements and to focus on the areas that are profitable. That means in some areas like Melbourne, we have handed our service over to another provider who has the resources to carry on the work. In Cheshire we have terminated the service where the volume of customers was too small to be viable. In Brisbane we have entered into a joint agreement with partner organisation Interwork to deliver employment services together.

In many areas such as Birmingham, Derby, London, South East, Northern Ireland and France, our services are not affected at all and we continue to exceed expectations in the level of job outcomes. For example, we started delivering Employment Services for the first time in Devon & Cornwall in December and are delivering job outcomes that exceed contract requirements. In 2009 we worked with over 1,000 people and supported 244 into work. So far in 2010 we are on course to achieve a similar level of people into work through a tighter, more focused team working in areas which are the most viable.

Our Operations Manager is indeed leaving us at the end of March – however, she is going to Remark to manage a new service in April that is going to compliment the services that Dering provide by providing support in the workplace once Dering has supported a person into work. Therefore this is something that we welcome and look forward to working with her on.

Stephen Dering
Chief Executive
Dering Employment Services

It's All happening in Deafness

There is never a dull moment in deafness and at the moment, here in Australia, it is all happening. First we had the Cinema Captioning Campaign and a nationwide protest. Then we had the shock demise of Dering Employment, the British company that raised the hopes of everyone and fell apart in Australia  like a Flake chocolate bar. And then we had the likely demise of the grand concept of Deaf Services Australia with the joint CEO of Deaf Children Australia and Deaf Services Queensland resigning, although he remains at Deaf Children Australia. It is like a book you can not put down. Each day is like a page from a book and each page brings forward more excitement. Lord Byron wasn’t wrong when he said “The truth is stranger than fiction.”

Much has been written of the Dering and the captioning campaign in The Rebuttal lately. In the excitement of these two events the resignation of the Deaf Services Queensland CEO and its implications has slipped very much under the radar. A few years ago Deaf Services Queensland, then known as the Queensland Deaf Society, were in a bad way. Deaf Children Australia were branching out on an ambitious strategy to provide services all over Australia. Queensland was being targeted. As luck would have it Deaf Children Australia’s ambitions coincided with the old Queensland Deaf Societies problems. Somehow a partnership was struck and the Deaf Children Australia CEO became the joint CEO of both organisations.

Depending on who you believe, the Queensland Deaf Society were on the brink of extinction. They had massive debts. The new CEO tackled the problems head on. Over a period of years a number of sensible business decisions were made. Links with government were improved. Financially the ship was righted and the Queensland Deaf Society were saved. Hip Hip Hooray!

As luck would have it the Queensland Deaf Society problems coincided with the ambitions of Deaf Children Australia to establish Deaf Services Australia. It was almost a case of the strong  taking advantage of the weak. By establishing a partnership with Queensland Deaf Society the Deaf Services Australia concept had a platform to build on. Let’s not kid ourselves. Deaf Children Australia, with its concept of Deaf Services Australia, did not assists the Queensland Deaf Society out of the goodness of its heart. In many ways it was a bloodless coupe, the first step in achieving the dream of a Deaf Services Australia.

But what is, or was, the concept of Deaf Services Australia?  It was simply to have the deaf services organisations, the Deaf Societies, branded and operating under one banner. The idea is that as one organisation, with one fundraising and marketing structure and with a combined political strategy, Deaf Services Australia would have greater marketing and political power. In theory it is a great concept. Indeed Vision Australia and even The Guide Dogs Association have a similar strategy. However the Deaf Services Australia concept had a number of flaws.

Firstly it assumed that under one brand and one name that fundraising and marketing would be more successful. Again in theory this is good. But the reality is that deafness has never been a strong performer in fundraising. Research has shown that if you ask the public who they are most likely to give to in terms of fundraising, deafness consistently finishes at the bottom of the league table. Unlike blindness, physical disabilities or even the homeless, causes which are visual and where it can easily be shown how the fundraising  dollar makes a difference, deafness and its impact is hard to understand. Fundraisers consistently fail to show how the fundraising dollar will make a difference to deafness in a way that makes the general public respond with the level of donations required. The concept of one brand, one name, one market is admirable but it failed to address the public perceptions of deafness and show value for the dollar given.

The Deaf Services Australia concept also failed to take on board the political landscape of deafness.  Deaf societies in Australia are funded at a state level.  Having a National Deaf Society is all well and good but each Deaf society relies on funding from the State Governments. Different states fund to different levels. Unless you address the discrepancy of funding from state to state the concept of a national organisation for deafness cannot work.  Can you imagine the uproar if NSW was getting ten times the funding per consumer compared to Tasmania. Consumers would rightly be demanding equal services .. without equal services the concept of as national organisation is a farce.

There is then the case of Deaf Children Australia (DCA). DCA is a relatively wealthy organisation. It has the capacity to support deaf children in Victoria to a very high level. The Deaf Services Australia concept originated from DCA. What this meant was that seeding funding for the concept of Deaf Services Australia came from DCA finances. What this also meant is that funds that could be used well to service a smaller client base were being spread thinly to service a national concept that had not yet been shown to be viable. What is more, DCA were seemingly propping up organisations that were financially in the poo such as Queensland Deaf Society and later the Western Australian Deaf Society. The dilemma was  to either service the smaller market of Victoria well or try and service all of Australia in the hope that the Deaf Services Australia concept would take off. The risk was high.

Then there was the small matter of four state Deaf societies just not wanting to be involved. The NSW and Victorian Deaf Societies were simply not interested.  I know not of Tasmania.  The South Australia Deaf Society merged with Townsend House who in turn had no intention of joining the umbrella of Deaf Services Australia either. I know not of the reasons behind the reluctance to join but suspect it was a combination of mistrust, ego and, more likely, simply realising the concept of  Deaf Services Australia was not viable.  Without these four organisations the Deaf Services Australia empire could not be complete. It was dead in the water before it started.

Some six or so years after the concept of Deaf Services Australia started with the partnership between the Queensland Deaf Society and Deaf Children Australia the concept appears to be dead. The Queensland Deaf Society, now known as Deaf Services Queensland, has appointed its own interim CEO. It has made all the right noises about continuing the “partnership” with DCA but the reality is that Deaf Services Queensland is going it alone. How much money was wasted on the concept I do not know. Flights for staff, flights for the Board, accommodation, people hours, marketing etc etc … many thousands of dollars, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, would have been spent on the concept. And to what gain? Well the Queensland Deaf Society survived and the Western Australian Deaf Society received a boost but did anything really change. For all the money that was spent the answer is quite simply no!

What next in the deafness area. Well rumour just in is that a certain organisation is trying to restructure how it pays interpreters in such a way that interpreters will be paid less. We hope its not true but there is never a dull moment in deafness so nothing will surprise us. Watch this space.

It's All In The Numbers – By Dean Barton-Smith

Nearly 110 years ago, a small group of people got together to discuss certain matters of their lives with particular regard to their rights. Their discussions revealed a disturbing picture and they came to the conclusion that something was very wrong with their situation. They then spent the next 20 plus years writing, talking, lobbying and eventually (after much frustration) protesting publicly. They went as far as chaining themselves to a fence in order to get their message across. What were they protesting about? The right for women to vote!

Almost 20 years ago, a small group of people got together to discuss certain matters of their lives with particular regard to communication. As they discussed and compared the picture of their lives to those of like people overseas, they concluded that something was very wrong with their situation. They then spent a number of years writing, talking, lobbying and eventually (after much frustration) protesting publicly and nationally. They went as far as buzzing thousands of people across Australia with a TTY. What were they protesting about? The right for Deaf, hearing impaired and speech impaired Australians to have access to the telephone.

20 years later it was a different type of situation. People attending the cinema concluded that although what was on the screen looked just fine, not knowing what was happening on the screen was unacceptable. Like the pioneers before them, they discussed and compared their lives with those of like people in similar countries and decided something was very wrong. From their discussions a protest eventuated on Saturday13th February at 11.00am (local time). Protests were held all over Australia in front of selected cinemas. The protests had a clear message, that Deaf and hearing impaired Australians wanted access to “All Films, All Cinemas, All Sessions.” And they want it “NOW!”

The cinema industry’s refusal to provide full access impacts on approximately 4 million Deaf and hearing impaired Australians. If you consider that for each one of these 4 million who are directly impacted, it also affects their family and friends who would like to attend the cinema with them. If one friend and one family member from these four million people are affected, then this is a further 8 million Australians potentially affected.

The protest strategically targeted inaccessible cinemas across the country. Over 450 people attended these protests. They were waving creative and colourful banners that vented their frustrations at being denied access to the cinema. Whether it was a banner, a T-Shirt or simply a verbal testimonial, their passion and desire for change was clear for all to see.

At the Melbourne protest, over 20 people came forward and spoke publicly to the gathered protesters. They shared personal stories of frustration, disappointment, sadness and expressed their anger at the violation of their human rights. Many of these stories came from parents, children and friends of the affected. It was clear that it was not just the Deaf , hearing impaired and visually impaired protesters who were affected. It is not an exaggeration to say that 8 to 10 million Australians could be directly and indirectly affected by the lack of access to cinemas.

One hopes that the marketing people, shareholders and directors attached to the cinema franchises are beginning to realise the revenue that they are missing. If 8 million people pay $15 a ticket to attend just one movie a year, this is $120 million of box office takings missed out on annually. Yet the cinemas cry foul, citing unjustifiable hardship. What hardship, when they have missed out on a potential $700 million profit in the 6 or so years that they have been negotiating with our advocates such as Deaf Australia?

It is difficult to understand the cinema industry’s protestations. The cost to make a cinema accessible is .00125% of the total box office taken in a year. This is mere ‘petty cash’ in the corporate world. Any shareholder of any business that would miss out on a potential $700 million in profits would demand the resignation of their bosses. Yet still the cinema industry cannot see the big picture.

It has been 20 years since a large scale national protest such as this one has been seen. It took an enormous amount of work to bring it all together. There were hundreds of emails, and postings on Facebook. There were countless number of text messages and phone calls. High profile people were contacted for support as well as the media. Numerous meetings were held and people travelled hundreds of kilometres to attend. Yet despite the mounting evidence and overwhelming voice that screamed for change there were doubters and naysayers. How wrong the doubters were.

At the campaign the Channels 2, 7, 9 news crews arrived to record the event for the national news. Channel 2 made the campaign a national news item that was over 2 minutes in duration. This news item received saturation coverage all over the country. Local and state newspapers conducted interviews and there were even radio interviews. There were messages of support from leading ex-politicians, entertainment icons, community leaders and MPs.

So successful was the campaign that rural and outer suburban areas wanted to organise their own campaigns. Interest was expressed in areas as diverse as Ballarat, Parramatta, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton and Darwin. In fact there is a strong call for further nationwide protests. Several organisations that were at first uncertain and seemingly unwilling, are now fully backing the campaign. Emails are still coming in commending the campaign from as far as away as New Zealand and the UK. The sentiments expressed are usually along the lines of “Onya Aussies!!”

Federal Ministers and relevant advisors are continuously receiving email and hard-copy letters and postcards asking them to support the campaign against the cinemas. With this year being an election year it is essential that the energy generated by the campaign is flamed and maintained. We need to let the MPs know that OUR VOTE COUNTS!

The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) will very soon announce its decision to either accept or reject the Cinemas’ request for a DDA complaints exemption. At the time of writing, the cinemas have yet to respond to any of the questions that AHRC compiled from the 450 submission made against this exemption. The question remains – Just what will the cinemas do? What are they thinking? Will they demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility? Will they listen to their current and future market? Or will they just ignore us all?

It remains to be seen. At the current time we understand this campaign has generated around 250 discrimination complaints to the AHRC in regard to cinema accessibility. Will the AHRC show us all that they have some teeth or will they once again bow to corporate pressure?

We have possibly 10 million Australians directly affected by the lack of cinema accessibility. The AHRC has received 450 formal submissions rejecting the exemption submission. 250 individuals have lodged a formal complaint against the cinemas. Can the message be any louder or clearer than this? Will they take heed, not just for us, but for the future generations to come?

Just as the women of today look back and say thanks to those women who chained themselves to walls all those years ago for the right to vote, may the future generations look back on what we have done and say “Thank you for making my life that much better, not just for me, but for everyone around me.”

 One, who earns leadership of the masses by working ceaselessly for people’s welfare finally realizes that he has been rewarded with many added advantages.

Atharva Veda