The stare (and vonlenska)

Paul is the author of ‘Neither-nor: A young Australian’s experience of deafness’ (Gallaudet University Press). His research and writings have focused on the social participation and the potential maximisation of people who are deaf. This fictional story is not about cochlear implants, mainstreaming, or the need for Sign Language. It’s about the senseless cruelty experienced by people who are deaf throughout their lives.

She didn’t want to go to school today. Julia, 14, sat at the front of the classroom as students pooled into the room. She did not want to be alone, again. Julia saw Tex and Sam talking at the desk opposite her. Seeing Tex flamed her passion for him.

What are they talking about? Basketball? A computer war game? If only she knew. Any snippet of information could be a source of conversation that she could have with Tex. But she dreaded what he may say, or that she would bumble through the conversation. Many fantastic daydreams had dazzled her imagination. How cool would I be if I was Tex’s girlfriend? She had daydreamed of them laughing, hugging, looking into each other’s eyes, taking long walks on weekends, and meeting each other’s families. If this happened, she believed, the other girls would want to be her friend. If not, they would at least respect me. Other girls liked him too.

Tex glanced toward Julia. She blinked. He’s looking at me! She turned towards the whiteboard. Unbearable! Scribbled blue inked words made no sense. I’m a freak. Her blood iced. Her hands were cold. Julia did not notice Tex’s kind smile. He liked her. She was not ‘the deaf girl’ to him. Her cochlear implants melted invisible when he thought of her strength of character: a special ‘it’ factor. That she had Icelandic blood charged her mystique. But he did not know how nor had found the opportunity to talk with her.

Best look busy, Julia told herself. Removing her laptop from a zipped bag, she flipped open the computer and pressed the start button. Noise tensed her ears. Classroom chatter, laptops chiming, and a highly excitable squeal from laughing girls electrified her implants. Her pocket contained a plastic instrument for her implants’ volume control. Pressing the sound down, she then massaged tight muscles behind flesh-colored horn-like apparatuses that hung over each her ears. Her cochlear implants do not completely restore hearing but improve sound quality. This is why Julia had an ‘accent’ typical of people who are deaf: her voice, which she sometimes struggled to master, was caused by her less-than-perfect hearing.

Her side seat remained empty. Impatient, she turned. Most of her class had arrived. Many students chatted in small groups and some thumbed their mobile phones. Please sit next to me, someone, please. Then she thought, What will I say if someone sits next to me? A bitter taste stung her tongue. Don’t smile too much if someone does sit next to me, be cool. At the back of the classroom, the cool clique’ – Sophie, Olivia and Jo – were talking, affecting their haughty airs and twiddling their hair flanks with their manicured fingers. I’m alone, have been alone, and will be alone.

Miss Hale, the teacher, entered the room with a lumbering gait. The breeze of this tall bird-like woman’s entrance sapped the children’s joy. The class came to attention when she announced the beginning of today’s World History lesson. Julia required her teacher to wear an FM microphone for better speech recognition. It transmitted clarity of voice and removed background noise. Julia missed the introduction. Miss Hale’s FM device lay on the classroom’s front desk. Had she forgotten? Or didn’t want to wear it?

Matthew walked into the room. The class jeered. He found the only free chair – beside Julia. Matthew’s body odour was pungent. She was conscious that she, too, was a misfit. Miss Hale glared at Matthew, “Why are you late?” He looked down. Julia could not understand his mumbling, but Miss Hale seemed strangely pleased.

Poets have suggested that a person’s appearance presents their soul. Miss Hale was an unremarkable person. Dyed a toxic dark shade of red, her wiry long hair contrasted grey wrinkled skin bereft of life’s sun. Bland and shapeless, her clothes were of a fashion that never was fashionable. That she was a teacher was astonishing. Living life by dead rules, her soul was starved. She had never truly loved nor genuinely loved in return. This horrible disability – an ugliness of soul – bristled when she was calm and spat nasty venom when roused.

Julia wanted to remind Miss Hale to attach her FM device – as she had done almost every lesson. Scared of inviting attention, or to make Miss Hale uncomfortable, she placed her unused receiver FM device in her laptop bag. Doing without her best means of hearing, Julia focused strongly on Miss Hale:

“Today’s lesson (vonlenska) will learn (vonlenska) the file is (vonlenska). Open this.”

“Vonlenska” is an Icelandic term that describes some indecipherable melodic lyrics sung by Sigur Rós – a band from that Arctic island nation. The singing sounds like a ‘true’ language but isn’t. Spoken language is often vonlenska to the deaf: they usually hear the person’s voice and also see their body language. Despite obvious rhythm, the spoken message’s meaning is often indistinct.

A mix of imperfect hearing and lacking the mastery of speech-reading worsens the problem. A master speech-reader can correctly understand whole conversations by linking the speaker’s lips and facial expression with audio information received through less-than-perfect hearing. For them, vonlenska occurs less frequently. Julia’s young brain was developing the sophisticated wiring that will reduce vonlenska for her. But consistent ease of these unique perceptive powers, like any mastery of expert skill, would require much more practice.

Obeying instruction, students plucked DVD-ROMs from their bags then placed them in their laptops. Which one? Julia looked cautiously at Matthew’s computer. He stank, but she focused. If I miss this I’ll have no idea what to do. Matthew’s DVD-ROM title appeared on the screen. Julia quickly took note. Fishing her bag she found the disk to load into her computer. Then her peripheral vision registered that the class had stopped. Sensing dread, these moments usually meant that she was the reason. Julia looked up; her muscles jarred inwards. Miss Hale stood over her:

“Sorry Miss, I did not hear.”
“That’s an excuse. Now you must read (vonlenska).

Mystified as to what had happened, and watching the teacher talk, Julia told herself Vonlenska – the melody and rhythm of spoken language without definite clarity. More vonlenska, then the teacher demanded: “Will you do that for me?” Julia was unsure:

“You want me to read for the class?”
“No. I just told you.”

Relief, but she remained uncertain. The teacher huffed. “Matthew, show her.” Knowing her reaction was watched, and that judgments would be made, pressurised the situation for Julia. She felt incompetent, but had learnt strategies for acts of scorn. She focused on her task and ignored Miss Hale. Non-responsiveness often worked best. First, the aggressor had no fuel for more ridicule. And second, she kept her composure without getting upset.

Events then nearly always continued without further incident. Matthew gestured Julia to scroll down the page and then pointed at the paragraph that the class was reading. Seeing Julia was on her way, the teacher walked away. At last, Julia was in sync with the class – which settled her nerves. The topic interested her too: London’s bombing in the Second World War. Reading was her favourite class activity.

Words were just words. Sentences communicated messages that made perfect sense. There were no distractions. Absorbed for ten minutes, Julia realised Miss Hale was talking to the class. (She had missed: “Stop reading please”). More vonlenska. She understood some distinct words, but not a coherent message.

Oh no! She realised that her right implant’s battery was dying fast. Fresh batteries were in her laptop bag. But getting a battery meant fumbling with her ear in front of the whole class. She worried needlessly. Most students would be too self-absorbed to notice her. Yet, feeling anxious, Julia did nothing of her need. So, she watched the tall bird-like troll speak. More vonlenska.

Having braved the damning quiet of her implant, the strain of listening began to hurt. Her left ear’s ‘live’ implant was imbalanced by her right ear’s deadening hearing. Julia’s percentage of speech retention was therefore reduced considerably. But, she had the gist of something about America. What’s America got to do with it? (She had missed: “America was not involved in the second world war in 1940”). Suddenly, Miss Hale asked Julia, “Can you please read (vonlenska).”

“You want me to read out aloud?”
“That’s what I just said Julia.”

Twice she had been asked to vocalise printed words in her whole school life. Both times Julia stuttered her way through the readings. Attuned teachers knew not to demand such a difficult task of the child who was yet to master the written word and also her own voice. Julia’s body tensed. The teacher’s voice was lost. (She said “Show her Matthew”).  Julia saw Matthew point to the words on the screen – her task. She steeled herself then tried her best:

“The Blitz …” (she began), “was the sustained strategic bom-bing …” (Deaf to the sniggers behind her, she kept reading aloud) “…of Britain by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.” (Her heated armpits dripped cold sweat. The class was charged with a strange expectancy. She continued) “After 76 nights of sustained bom-bing…” Laughter erupted at her second phonetic pronunciation.

Miss Hale seemed very pleased by her class’s favour. Matthew kept his head down, smiled a little, but dared not look to his right side. Julia looked around the class quizzically. I’m funny? Infectious laughter doubled. Strange? Only Tex did not laugh. Miss Hale loomed over Julia, and carefully said,

“We don’t say bom-bers, Julia. We say bommers. So, instead of saying bom-bing,”

She sneered;

“What do we say?”

A third wave of laughter collapsed onto the bewildered child. Miss Hale’s shoulder’s swaggered pride. Our Julia’s heart hurt. Hot humiliation blurred her thoughts. But what happened next was most unexpected. Julia looked her assailant in the eye, kept still, and did not answer the question. Childish laughter quieted. Julia kept the woman’s eye. Miss Hale twitched as if hit by a thought. Her glare dissolved. Bloodless frothed lips itched to repeat the question, but broke as a soundless whimper. Telepathically, the young fighter dared the teacher to remain strong. Julia’s clean eyes squinted slightly – an unrelenting silent act with a definite message: You have had your fun. Now you will stop.

The teacher’s grey eyes shriveled. She staggered a little and quickly turned away. Denied her fix, the power tripper was tripped by her own force. Very pale and with her back to the class, the sadist’s downcast eyes darted as if scared of the child’s stare. Julia felt a strange exhilaration. She dared not smile, but savoured her triumph. Tex’s heart pulsed with keen feeling for Julia. You go girl! Respect!

The teacher then lashed out, “Laptops off!” No one moved. “I said laptops off!” Sensing threat, the students quickly obeyed. Miss Hale ducked her head and her pursed lips quivered. She walked to the television. Her hands wobbled when placing a DVD in the machine. Julia’s joy dissolved. Not again! She dreaded ‘TV time’. There would be no subtitles of the spoken dialogue for her to read. With her new-found confidence, she thought Am I being punished? But familiar self-conscious pangs did not sting. She snuck her hand down to retrieve a packet of batteries from her bag. For the first time she was doing what she needed to do for herself.  She was unbothered by inserting a live battery into her implant. Whoah! Cool free feeling of hearing returning to her right ear. Sweet relief!

The white words ‘London, September 7 1940’ appeared on the screen. Black and white footage of marching German soldiers, rushing tanks, and then soaring planes gave the impression of invasion. A map of Europe showed flags and moving red arrows. With effort, Julia allowed the visuals to stir her imagination. Footage of thundering flashes were followed by an untouched white church clear amongst the smoking ruin. (She missed “Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, St. Paul’s cathedral was a symbol of the British spirit – defiant”). Older people were interviewed. Their names, useless information, appeared on the coloured screen.

Tex read Julia’s unease. Seeing the unused FM device on the table near the whiteboard, he thought to place it at the television so Julia could hear. But, the boy sensed Miss Hale’s absurd loathing nearby. She sat cross armed and sulking outside Julia’s sight. Perhaps the coward had wished a crestfallen teary girl. Instead, a deaf girl four decades younger had revealed her as pathetic. Unaware that respect is earned, she schemed to punish the child. There was enough hatred in this woman to supply any known army on any given day.

Julia tried to speech-read the two-dimensional faces on the television; saw the phrase ‘The glass, the glass is what we feared’. Glass? Without reference to the topic, she could not know that many deaths were caused by bombs and the glass from exploding windows. When will this video finish?

Buildings collapsed into streets as grey haunting images. How much longer will I have to sit through this? Subtitles would have made clear this video’s spoken dialogue. Without, her concentration waned until boredom numbed her mind. Julia wished she could read, but her laptop was closed. Reading profusely helped her to recover what she missed in class. Twenty tedious minutes later, the video’s closing credits signaled an end. Thank God!

Miss Hale detailed the class’ homework. Julia did not understand, so she looked to Matthew with a questioning shrug. Although an outcast, he appreciated helping her and passed his diary to copy. She thanked him. Reading his notes saved her another conversation with Miss Hale.

Julia rode the school bus home. She preferred the longest seat at the back where she could see everyone in front of her, but the cool clique’ sat there. Damn! One empty seat was midway down the aisle. Seated there, she hoped the others were not talking or sniggering about her. Our heroine then cleared the frost on the window with her mitt. The land’s snow blanket reminded her of Iceland. To quiet her fear, her mind’s musical ear played Sigur Ros’ ‘Sæglópur’ sung in Icelandic.

Her intuition was again true. Thankfully, she saw and heard nothing of the cruelty. Olivia, the cool posse’s leader, saw Tex – ‘the hottest guy’ – was within earshot. Sensing a chance to win him, she announced to her friends,

“How stupid was Julia today? She’s so dumb! Who says bom-beers?”

Jo then impersonated Julia’s deeper toned ‘deaf’ voice, “Like, huh? What? Umm, I’m a spaz!” She then used mock sign language with her hands. Snickers became giggles. Sophie ducked down playfully, placed a finger to her lips. “Shhhh!” All came down with fake fright. Jo asked, “What?” Olivia mocked. “She might hear!” Jo cut in “She’s deaf, duh! -She’s looking out the window and has no idea!” The three girls bounced up clapping with glee. And each hoped Tex would join them, but his ears burned and his jaw clenched.

“She sits with Matthew! Urggh! He stinks!” Sophie’s needless cackle electrified the others. Olivia straightened her shoulders, waited for laughter to reside, before injecting more poison, “Do you think she will ever have a boyfriend? I mean, like, you know, have sex, or get married, and stuff?” Olivia and Jo were quiet, looked quickly at each other with smiles trapping laughter. Sophie dipped her eyebrow for theatrical effect, “Maybe Julia and Matthew will … you know…” Pause, then her punch line: “have smelly deaf babies?!”

Jo was giddy beyond restraint, “Smelly deaf babies! Oh, that’s so funny!” Tex had heard enough. “Stop!” Astonished, the girls saw a fuming boy standing in the aisle. “Did you see Miss Hale’s hatred today?” Hatred is a strong word. “Can you imagine being Julia?” No answer. The girl bullies had never before had their behaviour questioned. “My older brother has Down’s Syndrome. And he has to put up with bitching like yours.” Sophie attempted giggling but saw that Olivia was shocked. But Jo started firing stock ammunition of the bimbo vocabulary: “Chill, Tex!” He retaliated, “What is your ambition in life?” Sophie recoiled, “You’re being weird,”

He didn’t relent, “To be airheads? To be Paris Hilton? Like, totally stupid?” Sophie attempted intimidation, “You are so intense!” But he mocked their ‘cool to be dumb’ airs with flippant airiness, “Like, huh, whatever, duh?” Jo sniped: “So, what are you going to do about it Ein-stone?” Tex calmly asked, “Who is Ein-stone?” Clueless Jo fired back, “The guy who invented time, dumb ass!” Seeing her friend’s strength, Sophie added more fire, “Yeah, he’s, like, the cleverest-est guy ever.” Watchful and wary, Olivia heard the mispronunciations, but agreed, “Totally. He is totally.”

Tex corrected them, “His name was Ein-stein, not Ein-stone. And he didn’t invent time, but the theory of relativity – how time can be bent by speed.” The three bimbos replied, “Huh?” Tex mimicked Miss Hale, “So, instead of saying cleverest-est’, what do we say?” Stunned silence. And his patronising tone ended with one devastating point, “You should be ashamed of yourselves!”

The bus slowed to halt. Julia stepped onto a firm field of ice. She knew nothing of her champion’s grace. A seafarer alive, she had returned home. “How was your day Julia?” asked her mother. “It was okay,” was her daughter’s usual reply. Her mother smiled, and then kissed her forehead.

“What did you learn?”
“Something about a war.”

For Julia the war had just begun……

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CODAs

CODAS. Children of Deaf Adults. There are deaf CODAS and hearing CODAS. Some can sign, some cannot. Some love having deaf parents. Some struggle while others may simply hate it. CODAS are a special and tough bunch.

My three boys are CODAS. They do not fully appreciate how they are part of a large network of CODAs worldwide. Only recently have I begun talking about it. I explain to them that just as the Deaf community share many experiences and history that binds them together, so do CODAS. To them, they are just the Kerridge boys who love soccer, PlayStation games and their AFL. Oh, and that they have deaf parents. It is an afterthought for them, most of the time.

Afterthought or not, they do have their fair share of issues being CODAs.  A thing like going to the movies with their parents is not possible. We cannot access the local cinema due to lack of captions. Taking part in their school assemblies and soccer presentations is difficult without interpreters. They are aware that we cannot fully be a part of the experience although we all try our best.

The good times are plentiful though. We are like any other family. We have our fights, our laughs, our tears, our hugs. The boys have enjoyed experiencing the Australian Deaf Games. They have been part of a wider and rich fabric that is the Deaf community and met many wonderful people this way. They have met international Deaf people. They have seen a community at work and their mother and father working within that community to keep it existing vibrant and alive. They have an appreciation of the struggles and reward that come with being deaf. They co-exist easily in both the deaf and hearing communities. They really do have the best of both worlds.

But recently I saw the ugly side of being a CODA. I saw my 14 year old son reduced to tears. I saw the confused and hurt look on my 12 year old child’s face. My youngest son aged 10 slumped his shoulders in a defensive stance and scowled. My two youngest boys’ soccer coach had deliberately targeted my three boys to say offensive things about us, their parents, knowing full well we were deaf and could not defend ourselves if we did not hear him. He also counted on his position of authority to keep the boys from standing up to him.

It hit home to me. Life for kids who have deaf parents must be bloody hard work sometimes. It must hurt like hell hearing comments made by others about their parents. Comments made deliberately in the knowledge that their parents can’t hear them. But they never think of the kids and what they hear. Or do they? Perhaps it is a deliberate knife in the back for the kids.

People just say things without thinking. They may think it is just a joke but when CODAs hear these comments it can be shattering.

“Bloody deaf people”.

“Can’t talk properly.”

“Hope you don’t play soccer like your father.”

“Stupid family – always late for soccer.” (When in fact we had been the fourth family out of a possible ten or twelve families to arrive).

Comments made in the vicinity of my children. Comments made deliberately towards my children. Comments designed to maim and hurt. Comments made when neither of us were there, or were looking away. These are acts of a true coward. Bullies are often cowards. The coach was and is a bully.

How often do our kids try to protect us? How often does this happen? I hope that it is far and few between but it must happen more than we think sometimes. What of schoolyard taunts? There are comments that demonstrate people’s misunderstandings and lack of compassion. CODAs hear it all and many bear it silently. We tell the boys to share anything they hear with us. It is not their burden. We show them that we have thick skin and shrug off the taunts.

We try to lead by example. Sometimes though, a more proactive and aggressive approach is called for. We confronted the soccer coach and asked him to direct his comments to us at all times. He was definitely uncomfortable. It was not a pleasant experience and some angry and choice words were said by me and by my husband. It was not our finest hour but we defended our children. We defended our CODAs and asked that they be allowed to be children and not a target for the coach’s dislike of us and ignorance of our deafness.

Go to your kids. Hug them. Love them. Know that they have bad times. Know that people out there can be cruel. Show them that you will stand up for them. Remind them that for every idiot out there, there are ten wonderful people they will meet. Make sure they don’t see being a CODA a burden, but a life experience that has its bumps in the road. A life that is mostly positive. Most of all, show them that they are not alone.

Editorial

I know many CODAs. Many are good friends. Many I know through interpreting for me. Others through connections to deaf sport. Some are children of my Deaf friends.

My children are CODAs. Gary and I have worked hard to try and minimise any responsibility they might feel in having deaf parents. We have heard from others how they had to interpret for their parents growing up, how they grew up too soon, how they shouldered more responsibility.

In the age of the NRS and access to qualified interpreters, mobile text messaging amongst other things, there just is not any reason to subject our children to being our communicators. Despite our best efforts sometimes, we do fall into that trap. The phone rings and it is not a text based call. The boys have to answer it.

I might be talking to someone at the shop and not understand a particular phrase. Sometimes the boys step in. It is not ideal and we try to minimise it. They should be children and not taking on any extra responsibility just because we are deaf.

I have always known that by being Deaf, my kids will receive their fair share of discrimination and teasing. When I was teaching at my boys’ primary school as a Teacher of the Deaf and Auslan LOTE teacher, the students would mock my signing and speech at times. I would shrug it off and encourage my boys to do the same. Such hurtful and ignorant behaviour I would expect from children but not from adults.

Unfortunately such an event did happen and from an adult. This is an incident that hit close to home for me. Many Deaf/deaf parents will share my pain. Many CODAs will nod their heads and perhaps add to our experiences. Straddling the divide between the Deaf and hearing worlds is never easy, especially when some people are just downright ignorant and unpleasant about it.

On a more positive note however, CODAs are working together in Australia and overseas to recognise the uniqueness of their group and heritage. In Australia, the CODA Australia organisation has been organising the KODA camp. A camp in Sydney was held with much success for kids between 10 to 16 years old. Each of those kids were CODAs.

Just imagine how fantastic it is for these CODAs to meet each other. More importantly, they meet older role models. People who are CODAs themselves and can identify with the kids with the similiarites in their lives.

We all know how important it is for Deaf kids to meet other Deaf role models so they can get an idea of how their lives and hopes can pan out. It is no different for CODAS. Some of their experiences are different from their regular hearing peers. Some things they cannot explain or share with their friends. This is where knowing older CODAs and having role models is beneficial. They know they are not alone and that others, like my boys did, have experienced hurtful taunts and comments.

The Queensland camp is being held on the 24th to 26th June. The Victorian Camp is from the 1st to 3rd July. Get your child involved if he or she is a CODA. Check out CODA Australia’s website on:

http://www.codaaustralia.com/index.php/koda-camps-2011

Even if you can’t make the camps, try and keep in touch with this website and any events that your child might enjoy. After my children’s experiences, I am very aware how important CODAs will be and are to their lives. Some experiences they simply cannot share with non-CODAs and their Deaf parents.

 

I mentioned before that I am a CODA (Child of Deaf Adults). I was born a CODA, I’ll die a CODA, and the life I’ve lived in between has been largely defined by the fact that I am a CODA.

And I LOVE it!

http://gerbsrandomthoughts.blogspot.com/2007/10/wouldnt-you-like-to-be-coda-too.html

 

A Cynics Guide to Deafness

“Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth.” Lillian Hellman

Dear old Lillian got it right first time. Unfortunately for the Cynic they are often shouted down as being kill joys. Indeed sometimes this is exactly what the cynic is. BUT someone has to do it so that people don’t just smell the roses but actually think a little more deeply about the issues and the motivation behind them. Being the resident Cynic I present you the CYNICS GUIDE TO DEAFNESS.

Deaf sport has taken a hammering hasn’t it. The Deaf Winter Olympics in some very cold spot in Europe were canceled. One of the organisers apparently ran off with all the money leaving everything in a shambles. The organiser was later caught fleeing to the border. Just how he managed to fool everyone that the Games were going ahead, even though he had stolen all this money, is anyone’s guess. Poor Deaf Sports Australia had sent not one but two reps to the Games and were likely to make a substantial loss, all for nothing. Just quite why an organisation that is not overly rich felt the need to send two reps is not quite clear. One would think that with all the technology at our disposal these days that meetings could be attended by Video Conferencing. Support could be offered by email. It is not like Deaf sport in Australia has money to throw away. Granted the circumstances were exceptional but a little prudence with vital funds would not go astray. The President felt the need to make a video for members explaining the situation, good on him for that, but lets hope a hard lesson has been learned.

Still on Deaf sport – Deaflympics left right and centre have been canceled right up until 2017. Athens has gone to pot because it can’t find Government funding. No surprise considering the whole of Greece is bankrupt. Apparently Vancouver Deafllympics (winter one assumes) has been canceled because they can’t find anyone who wants to organise it and there is no government funding forthcoming. Indeed Vancouver apparently bid and won the hosting rights without the backing of the Canadian Deaf Sports Association (or whatever they are called.) One wonders how they managed to slip this one under the radar of the World Deaf sporting body. It tends to suggest a lack of due diligence. While the World Deaf sports body scrambles to sort out the mess we all just look on in bewilderment. At a time when Deaf sport is struggling for credibility and the Paralympics is getting the vast bulk of funding it is not a good look.

Over in Italy the Italian Government  wants to label Italian Sign Language as a language of mime and gesture, ignoring all research that points out that sign language is a LANGUAGE and processed in the language parts of our brains. The World Deaf Community is up in arms about this. As one they have united and protested outside Italian Embassies around the world. Videos have been placed on Facebook calling the World Deaf Community to arms. Fittingly they have responded as one. We gotta support our Deaf brethren around the world. In Iceland the Icelandic government has just recognised Icelandic Sign Language as one of its official languages. As one the World Deaf Community has applauded Iceland for its decision. Yet closer to home it is a different story!

If the campaign for recognition of Italian Sign Language is anything to go by the message is that solidarity rocks. Yet in Australia when Deafness Forum Australia released a discussion paper aimed at exploring Auslan as an Official Language cow poo hit the fan. Deaf Australia tried to censor Deafness Forum for releasing the discussion paper … Not because they disagreed but because Deaf Australia felt that Deafness Forum were encroaching on their turf. For world issues we unite as one, yet closer to home it turns into a turf war. So bitter did the dispute become that the then Parliamentary Secretary for Disability, Bill Shorten, ordered the two peak bodies into mediation. The mediation seems to have achieved nothing if the lack  of a representative from Deafness Forum at the recent, and brilliant, Deaf Australia conference is anything to go by. Official line from Deafness Forum is that they had a scheduled Board meeting on at the same time. Just what they were doing scheduling a Board meeting at the same time as a major Australian Deaf conference is anyones guess. Sorry, but not good enough and a totally appalling look for the Deaf sector in Australia.

Are you deaf and subscribe to Foxtel or Austar? Are you satisfied with the level of captioning provided? Does it get up your nose that you must subscribe to crap when all you want is movies and sport and most of the crap is not captioned? Just yesterday I was looking at News and Documentaries for Austar and for a whole two hour period there were no captions on any of those channels. Does it bug you that Foxtel and Austar advertise a show as captioned and then when you turn it on in anticipation it is not? Or you turn on a show that is not advertised as captioned, just to have a look, and it is? Or a repeat of a show is not captioned when you know that previously it was? Or the reception is impacted by the weather. Or captions are double, meaning captions obscure the captions you want to read. Do you roll your eyes when Ai media promote Foxtel and Austar shows that THEY are paid to caption when all of this bad service is happening? Well we have had enough and as a result we are unsubscribing and we suggest you do too. Foxtel and Austar have treated us like mugs for too long. We pay and we expect access… If they provide only 25% access then we should only pay 25% subscription. Fat hope of that happening we can tell you. Unsubscribe now we say .. vote with your feet. Yes we have already complained to AHRC who did basically Eff all … next step the courts … Cant afford that so we will take our money elsewhere. If I was Ai Media I would take my business elsewhere too!

And on a positive note, before we go, we would like to thank Alex Jones for all his work for the Deafness Sector over the last five years or so. Alex did much to raise the profile of deafness issues and for that he should be congratulated. He is a controversial figure because many claimed he has conflicts of interest through his business and advocacy roles. He probably did at times but you don’t get something for nuth’n these days. Alex is soon to be a daddy for the second time …. Congratulations and we wish him well in his retirement as President of Deafness Forum.

Thats all folks – until the cynic in me rises again!!!