Carrie – from the Archives

Again in the context of the Ai Media debate we bring you an oldie. These are the issues that we need to consider in the context of the debate.

Carrie is six years old. She is sitting at the dinner table with her family. She looks down at her Brussels sprout with absolute loathing. She isn’t going to eat it unless it’s forced down her throat.

She gazes around at her family members who are all in conversation. Mum is in an animated discussion with her sister. Dad is typically silent, fork in mouth, while he watches Sally do her job as principal on Home and Away. Her two brothers, Aden and Finlay, are discussing something loudly and obviously not agreeing. She looks at her brothers and uses the universal sign for “What’s up?” Palms facing upwards, elbows bent and a shrug of the shoulders. Finlay, with over-exaggerated lip movements, replies, “Tell you later,” while clumsily signing, “Tell you over”.

Carrie sighs and toys with the idea of trying to find out what the others are talking about. In the end she decides not to. She knows that the response from other family members will be the same as Finlay’s “tell you later.” She looks back down at her Brussels sprout. It suddenly becomes more appealing.

Carrie’s mother, Katie, watches her out of the corner of her eye. Like most mothers she can sense when something is not quite right with her children. She knows that Carrie is often isolated within the family at times like this when they are all chatting avidly. She is at loss as to what to do.

The family lives in a rural area. Services are few and far between. Just that day Katie had been in a meeting with her daughter’s school. She was trying to find some money to pay someone to teach her family Auslan. Katie felt that this, at least in part, would help make the family more inclusive for Carrie. She was handballed from one organisation to another and no-one seemed to want to take any responsibility. The family had learnt some rudimentary signs from a book and CD-Rom and Carrie had taken to signing like a fish to water.

She likes her doll. She and her doll can communicate without problems. She wishes her life could be just the same.

Dinner over, the family retreats into the lounge room. Usually Carrie will sit on her father’s lap. She just likes his man smell and rough beard. The two of them cannot really communicate well. Bob, the dad, is impossible to lip-read and cannot find time in the day from work to learn to sign. This night Carrie does not sit on Bob’s lap. She finds a doll and sits on her own near the heater. She thinks of her day at school. She likes her doll. She and her doll can communicate without problems. She wishes her life could be just the same.

Carrie is mainstreamed into the local school. She communicates as best she can with her FM system. She has no support apart from her visiting teacher who comes every fortnight to offer advice to her teachers and 45 minutes of learning support to her. This morning she had been in class. The teacher had been reading a book. Carrie did not understand a lot of it but she loved the pictures. The story, this morning, involved an animal, or rather a hybrid of animals. The teacher showed a picture that was part wombat, part crocodile and part kangaroo. A Womcrocroo, the teacher had said it was.

Carrie understood none of this but she loved the picture. As soon as the teacher showed it to the class Carrie was on her feet pointing animatedly. She wanted to know what it was. The teacher told Carrie to sit down and that she would explain it to her later. Carrie was disappointed. She felt humiliated, frustrated and angry all at the same time. She let out a little scream of frustration. The teacher made her sit outside.

This memory is vivid in Carrie’s mind as she plays with her doll by the heater. She adds Ted and a few of her brothers’ Power Ranger toys to her play. The doll is the teacher and in Carrie’s perfect world everyone in the class can communicate. She asks and answers questions and she is an active member of her fantasy class. She smiles for the first time that day. In the background she catches a glimpse of her mother in deep discussion with her father. Her mother is crying again.

She is angry that support is so sporadic in rural areas. Organisations from the city constantly haggle about time and money.

Bob does not know what to do. He rarely has time to attend appointments about Carrie’s needs. The appointments are always in the day and the responsibility for them falls almost solely to his wife. She works part-time and he works long hours. His wife is crying. She is telling him about her latest appointment. She wants support to get the family communicating with Carrie.

She is frustrated at having to constantly justify herself to the people that have the money for support. She is angry that support is so sporadic in rural areas. Organisations from the city constantly haggle about time and money. She speaks of Auslan, isolation and language acquisition.

Half of this Bob does not really understand. Instead he listens and lets her vent. He wishes that there was more that he could do. He bemoans the fact that family support is so bloody family unfriendly. Why can’t they offer support at a time when all the family can take part? The appointments to meet support people are usually at 10 in the morning. At this time he is at work and the kids are at school. Pointless, really!

Carrie watches her mum cry. Although she does not know what her parents are talking about she knows they are talking about her. She has no words for how this makes her feel, but she feels anxious and worried. She does not quite understand why she has upset her mother so.

Her two brothers and her sister listen to their mother and father discussing Carrie AGAIN! They are resentful in some ways. Carrie always appears to be the centre of attention. They sometimes wonder if they exist at all. Carrie goes to bed. It has not been a good day at all.

It’s morning. The family are sitting at the breakfast table. Carrie’s mother is in deep discussion with her sister. Dad is typically silent, spoon in mouth and admiring the attractiveness of Mel on Sunrise . Aden and Finlay are discussing something loudly and still not agreeing. For Carrie the whole scene is strangely familiar. She looks at her doll sitting on the table and wonders what the day has in store for her …..

David – From the Archives

In the context of the debate over captioning, sign language or both that has arisen from the publicity surrounding Ai Media and classroom captioning we bring you and older edition of The Rebuttal. We ask readers to consider David’s situation and where captioning and signing would fit into David’s life, particularly in terms of classroom and social interactions. This article touches on many of the issues raised by Rebekah Rose-Mundy.

David walked into his classroom and sat down. Around him there was a bustle of chatter. Richard and Adrian had their heads locked closely together in an obvious conspiracy. Debra and Meg whispered and giggled as they gossiped over the latest school yard romance. David watched everyone in animated chatter. He understood none of it. His head was filled with the noise of the class room. Screeching chairs, tapping pencils and a cacophony of mingling but indecipherable voices. The teacher entered the room and there was silence. A final screech of chairs and a tap of pens on desks, the class came to attention and the lesson was underway.

Today’s lesson was Australian History. Mr Isterling had forgotten to attach the FM microphone again. David had dutifully placed it on his desk. All it required was for David to put his hand up and ask Mr Isterling to attach it. But, hell, David has to ask him to do it nearly every lesson. He couldn’t be bothered today. It always meant he had to speak and bring attention to himself. David was very conscious of his deaf voice. Every time he spoke he sensed his class mates whispering around him. He was sure that they were whispering about him. No! David would leave things as they were.

Mr Isterling spoke, “Today’s lesson …will …learn …… turn to page ….pa….” Dutifully the class opened their books and turned to the correct page. David furtively looked over Peter’s shoulder to see which page he was reading. Peter, knowing that David was unsure which part he had to read, pointed to the paragraph they were supposed to be reading. The paragraph was quite interesting. It was about the development of the Australian larrikin trait. Reading was always David’s favourite part of a lesson. He understood most of what was on the page, interaction was minimal. It was just David and the book.

He would not know what to answer. He would look stupid. He dug his nails into the palms of his hands.

David was engrossed until Peter gently nudged him. Mr Isterling was talking again. David had not heard him. He realised his battery had gone flat. There were batteries in his pencil case. All it required was for David to insert the battery into his hearing aid. But this would mean that David would have to fumble with his ear in what he considered an uncool way. He was sure that when he did so everyone in the class stared at him in fascination. Apart from the odd glance they didn’t really, but David’s anxiety was very real.

Without the benefit of his hearing aid David had to rely totally on lip-reading. With his hearing aid he could hear some things and his lip-reading helped him to understand some of what he heard. At best David understood about 30% of what his teacher said. Without his hearing aid this percentage was drastically reduced. Without the benefit of his hearing aid, coupled with Mr Isterling’s bushy beard, he understood nothing. David found himself developing a cold sweat. He was sure the teacher was going to ask him a question. He would not know what to answer. He would look stupid. He dug his nails into the palms of his hands.

Suddenly the class erupted into laughter. Paul, the class clown, had made a joke. Even Mr Isterling chuckled and Mr Isterling was not known for his sense of humour. Peter, next to David, was beside himself with mirth. David looked around the class and smiled. He laughed too. He did not know why, but the laughter was infectious. Anyway, he didn’t want it to seem as if he had not got the joke.

Mr Isterling put on a video. It was about the Great Depression. Phar Lap and Donald Bradman figured prominently. Derelict men sat on the streets. Old people were interviewed about their experiences of the Depression. Manning Clark had a lot to say. David knew he was Manning Clark because his name flashed up on the screen. David realised that this was the author of the book that they had been reading. In fact the only parts of the video that David had understood were the names of the people that flashed up on the screen. Captions would have helped but the video was not captioned. David made as much sense as he could of the video over the next 30 minutes.

Mr Isterling explained the evening homework to the class. David did not understand a word of it. He looked to Peter with a questioning shrug. Peter wrote down for him what they had to do. David was thankful for this because communication with Mr Isterling was nigh on impossible. David usually made up for what he missed in class by reading profusely. This was really his only learning. He received no benefit from classroom discussions or from Mr Isterling.

His deafness set him apart from his school mates and he hated it. This fear of interaction and unwanted attention was his constant companion.

On the bus going home from school David sat by himself. He liked to sit at the very back of the bus so he could see everyone in front of him. If he could not get a seat at the back he found himself anxiously looking around. He feared that someone would be talking to him and he would not know. He wondered if they were staring at him, talking about him or making fun of him. Being a teenager he felt a strong desire to fit in. His deafness set him apart from his school mates and he hated it. This fear of interaction and unwanted attention was his constant companion.

David arrived home from school. “How was your day?”, asked his mother. David answered as he usually did, “Good” His mother smiled. “Teenagers”, she thought to herself, “ are such a surly lot..” David headed to his room and threw his bag in the corner. He lay down on the bed and covered his face with his arms. He was knackered…

Rebekah Rose-Mundy's response to Tony Abraham's Letter to the SMH

Thank you Tony for your response I am pleased to see you are still seeing ‘Sign Language’ is still viable for many deaf children thank you. This is important to me to know that. However I still have questions that are not answered.

How can a deaf child find out what a word means? It a one way communication, how does the deaf child have the chance to ask a question? Even with a 7 second delay and for the deaf child to absorb the information, consider a question, type in the question? (I am not sure how the 2 way communication fit in?) and it will take total about 30-40 seconds? I am assuming. Students unable to hear the question, does the teacher rephrase the question or just give the answer?  This will disrupt the class or you will provide Ai Live awareness training to the whole class? The whole school?

I think it wonderful to see a business is becoming successful and that there are a few deaf people within the business as well who are in the management level of the business. Why aren’t they saying something? Why didn’t they inform the deaf community? Why didn’t they reply instead of you, Tony?

Another thing, why wasn’t the option of Ai-Live and Interpreting is the ideal choice for signing deaf children promote in all of the public media? My biggest concern is that because my children are bi-lingual they have access to both spoken English and sign language. The Department of Education will say to me ‘Your son can use speech, can hear well with hearing aids and is able to read English so Ai-Live is the access we will give. Your son does not need an interpreter’ when I would love to provide both Ai-Live and interpreter for my children BUT is the Department of Education going to accept that? Probably not because they can see a cheaper solution and therefore do not have the concept of understanding of deaf children and their needs

Captions to complement not replace sign language.

Tony Abrahams, CEO of Ai media has written this letter to the editor of the Sydney Morning Herald. We print it here as a follow up to the Opinion piece submitted by Rebekah Rose-Mundy. There is also a Facebook page where people can debate and share their views. join in the debate on http://http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Access-Inclusion/208255599219
 

The debate about captions versus sign language is a good one to have.

Kate Matairavula (Letters, July 24) points to a critical situation where Auslan (Australian Sign Language) is a fantastic method of communication; namely, face-to-face conversations between Auslan users. Ai-Live is designed for a very different, but equally critical, setting.

Ai-Live is designed to meet the specific educational needs of deaf and hearing impaired students in mainstream classrooms; providing direct access to spoken English via word-accurate English captions – without the need for sign language as an intermediate step. Today’s Aussie deaf kids need solid English literacy to ensure their employment options are maximised in an inclusive and broadband-enabled labour market.

With Ai-Live, for the first time, deaf students and parents now have a choice between using captioning and Auslan interpreting at school. People will no doubt make informed choices about how and when they use different communication options based on what works in each situation.

Lest anyone fear that captions will kill Auslan, our experience at Ai-Media suggests quite the reverse. Having deaf colleagues in the workplace or at school is one of the best motivators for others to learn Auslan (with the Auslan tutor on the iPhone, this has never been easier). The top two signs at work are “coffee” and “lunch”.

Can we all agree that achieving the genuine inclusion of deaf and hearing impaired people in society demands better than a one-size-fits-all approach to communication?

Tony Abrahams
CEO, Access Innovation Media
Macquarie Park

Opinion – by Rebekah Rose-Mundy

AI Media have been in the news recently. They have been on The New Inventors show on ABC and have been promoted widely through numerous newspaper articles. They have been promoting their new system of classroom captioning to much aclaim. Rebekah Rose -Mundy challenges the assumption that the AI  Media classroom captioning is the new and cheaper alternative to Auslan interpreters. We thank Rebekah for having the courage to submit her strong  and challenging views.

I wonder what are your thoughts on Ai Media? They are saying Ai Media (live captioning) costs about $40,000 a year and interpreters cost about $100,000 a year. They are saying it cheaper and better for deaf children to be educated by using Ai Media instead of interpreters.

It was recently shown on ABC and it was published in the Sydney Morning Herald. Time and technology had changed so much in the past 10 years and I agree with you we are forgetting what we used to have whilst now we are ‘whinging’ about not enough access or if it not the right type of access.

However about this type of technology, it is amazing how live captioning is now becoming a ‘must have’ for deaf people, I applaud such technology and I am proud to have access to this technology BUT I have to say there is a place and time it should not be used. This is my opinion, I feel sadden about the ‘loud’ marketing of Ai Media and misinforming about Interpreters used in schools.

Remember when we all were young (I am one of those people in your generation) we didn’t have interpreters we had hearing welfare people who could sign. They would trot along with us to appointments and fingerspell/sign for us. Over time, interpreters became more professional and almost everything we have interpreters that is the most amazing access for deaf people. We are now training more and more people and we have courses to make them more fluent in sign and today I cannot live without an interpreter.

Till now, Ai Media is saying out loud ‘Schools can save money on interpreters by using Ai Media instead and deaf children will access to a better education by improving literacy skills’. Yes I am furious because I have 4 children and 3 of them are deaf. One is already in a deaf non signing program and when he is ready to start mainstream I aim for him to have an interpreter for assembly, sports, excursions, and eventually become his full time interpreter.

We all know how much it is a battle to argue with the Department of Education about our children needing full time support in the classroom while they say ‘only can give 10 hours a week support each child’ and what happens to the remaining 20 hours?

I have asked a few questions. Where does interpreters fit in? How will a deaf child ask the teacher or their peers a question? How can the deaf child ask the laptop please wait so he/she can look up in the dictionary for the meaning of a word not known? How can the deaf child ask for clarification when he/she see a word that have many concepts? How can the deaf child learn emotion intelligent through a lap top? Why do we want to isolate the deaf child more by cutting off all means of communication? And yet to learn their answer of my questions.

I am concerned and I am trying not to jump hoops I am disappointed to see the moral of the company is about business and not the deaf community. I am disappointed to learn there was no consultant among the deaf community about Ai Media. I am concerned that deaf children will miss out so much on natural communication and self worthiness.

Should I be called a ‘whinger’ because of my personal opinion of Ai Media or should I be allow to speak out because I am a deaf mother of deaf children whom I want them to succeed in education by using interpreters instead of live captioning.

A Dance Event For All The Five Senses

Sencity is a multi-sensory, multi-faceted, special and unique event that brings deaf, hard of hearing and hearing people together.

Sencity started in Holland in 2003, and had many successful events in Europe and Africa, with the Deaf communities there. Now, Sencity has come to Australia.

Deaf people do not hear the melody of the music in the same way that Hearing people do, but we know that music can be experienced through their other senses – touch, sight, smell and taste. That is what Sencity is all about, music through all the five senses.

It will feature sign singers, music interpreters, aroma-jockeys, video-jockeys and food jockeys. The highlight is the vibrating dance floor. These will enhance the stimulation of the senses. This will let everyone experience Sencity in their own way – party with your senses.

Sencity is also hoping to bring Signmark, Deaf rapper, to perform.

The event is being co-hosted by The Deaf Club Sydney and Skyway Foundation, and it will be held at It is at Home Nightclub in Darling Harbour: Tenancy 101 Cockle Bay Wharf, Sydney, NSW, Australia

This is a unique event not to be missed!

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TICKETS WILL GO ON SALE AT THE DEAF CLUB:

$17.00 AUD per ticket to be sold at The Deaf Club, (Club Burwood or Parramatta RSL, Sydney, Australia) until 26th August 2010.$25.00 AUD at the door, Home Night Club on 27th August 2010.
Or visit this site: http://sencity.fundbreak.com.au

And remember:

NO TICKET
NO ID
Means – No Admittance to night club!!

For more information about Sencity, visit the website:

Sencity’s Youtube Channel:

Join these Facebook groups to keep up to date:

Signmark

From Whence We Came

Someone reminded me today that it was 41 years since man landed on the moon. I was 5 years old then. I remember sitting outside in the garden and looking up at the moon. As I stared intensely I could not understand why I couldn’t see them up there. Surely Armstrong and co would be visible? Perhaps they were on the other side. Who knows? Back then I was also hearing, but probably just starting to become deaf.

Today it kind of hit me that should I have been older and deaf back then and I was to see the advances that have occurred in access for deaf people today, I would be awestruck. Like the little boy that sat in the garden wondering how man got all the way to the moon I would marvel at the advances of humankind in providing access to the deaf. Who would have thought, back in 1969, that one day you would turn on your computer, press a button and be able to sign to your friends on a screen, a screen very much like the screen that beamed us the first moon landing?

I remember as a 13 year old, having been deaf for just a few years, needing to get my mother to call my friends on the phone. “Mum”, I would ask, “…can you call Phil and get him to meet me over the oval for a game of cricket?” Phil would sometimes call my mum too and ask if I would meet him or invite me away to his family’s beach shack. That’s the way it was back then.

Then came the 1980s and the wonderful Telephone Typewriter (TTY). Can you believe that back then a TTY was about $700? But through a TTY we could at least phone friends if they also had a TTY. It was access to the phone and by golly were we happy with that! I could never afford a TTY but when I could get access to one I would phone everyone that I knew who had one! I probably drove them insane but it sure beat having to ask your mum to do it for you. I cringe remembering how fast I typed back then.

In the 90s came the Relay Service. Blow me down, I could even phone for a pizza. The first time I did it from Adelaide I ended up in Annerley in Queensland. Some of us will remember that when you called the 13 numbers in the early days of the Relay Service, you would end up at a pizza shop in Queensland because that is where the Relay Service was based. Frustrating as it was, we didn’t care – we had ACCESS.

When I started work I had to grab John or Barbara to make calls for me. Occasionally Kirsty at reception, who I dated for 5 years, would help out. Back then, as deaf people, we all were limited in what we could do. Applying for jobs was a nightmare because we always had the issue of phone communication. We all dreaded the inevitable interview question, “ How will you cope with the phone?” The standard answer back then was that we would “trade” phone work for other work with colleagues. It wasn’t very convincing.

The Relay Service simply opened up the world to deaf people. And now most of us rarely use it. Emails come directly to our phone, instant messenger keeps us in contact with everyone and SMS still sends us all broke. But WOAAAAHHHH!!!!! Compare that to the 80s and 70s and you will see that what we have now is simply awesome. Hell, in a bar in England in the 80s, a girl shoved her phone number in my back pocket – I had to get my cousin to ring her and pretend he was ME! That’s how it was back then!

And then of course there were the movies. As a six year old I was not yet deaf. I remember going into town with my nine year old sister to watch Bambi. In the queue that day were two deaf boys. They were from the South Australian Oral School. I remember this because they wore their blue caps with pride. Their mother had managed to get a device or something from the counter that would help them hear the movie. She waved it in their faces saying “YOU WILL BE ABLE TO HEAR!!” I remember thinking how dorky they looked in their caps.

Last week Bill Shorten, the Australian Human Rights Commission, Media Access Australia, Action on Cinema Access, the Cinemas, the man up the road and his pet budgerigar all announced the new cinema captioning arrangements for deaf people (as well as audio description for the blind.) In  five years we will move from having access to 105 screening out of 40 000 at select cinemas to be able to access over 800 screenings at nearly all cinemas operated by the so called Big Four.

Now since becoming deaf at ten years old I have seen countless movies at the cinema but understood few. Imagine back in 1977, when Star Wars first came out, being in a situation where movies would actually be captioned for the deaf!! Imagine being able to access such classics as Grease, Jaws and Close Encounters of the Third Kind without having to constantly ask your mum questions like, “What did Richard Dreyfus say when the shark bit him in half?” We would have been in Utopia.

Back then we would not have even dreamt that we would have captioned TV. Blimey, now we have something like 75% of TV shows captioned. Soon we will have captions at nearly all cinemas. And of course we are still not happy. Captions through CaptiView suck because it makes us stand out in a crowd or is too finicky. Or live captioning obscures the ball when you’re watching the World Cup. How sucky is that? Well go back to 1977 and you will find that it’s actually not very sucky at all! In fact it’s frigging awesome!

I mean look what digital TV has done for deaf people. I am not sure that many of us know but it means that virtually every TV will be able to show captions. No longer do we have to seek out a special TV that has Teletext. No longer do we have to pay an extra $300 or so just so that we can access captioned TV. How good is that?

Technically we don’t even have to buy a TTY anymore. Nearly everything that we need to be able to use the phone is at our finger tips on the computer. We can access the Relay Service on our computer. Captioned telephony allows us to speak on the phone, any phone really, while sitting at our computer. If you have an Iphone you can use captioned telephony anywhere. The ABC IView allows us to watch television programs that we have missed by putting them  online and with captions. Amazingly all of these advances have really only come about in the last 20 years.

For sure it is a better world. Sometimes we need to celebrate what we have achieved. Sometimes we are so focused on getting MORE that we forget just how far that we have come. That does not mean that we stop fighting for more and better access. It just means that we need to look back and be content, celebrate and be thankful. Keep up the good fight, for sure, but remember to look back  and feel pride in the victories we have all won.