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!!!


One thought on “A Cynics Guide to Deafness

  1. Hi there all at the Rebuttal,

    I thank you for your cynical perspective of what is happening with the Deaf community at the moment. I like to look at a few things that you discuss.

    Deaf Sport, I recently sent out an EOI for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Deaf people who wish to attend the Deaf Australia Games in Geelong next January. I am now very cautious and very concerned that this might be “EGG” in my face if there is no fully transparent process for the Deaf community to know what is going on. to bring the mob down to Geelong from different parts of the country and especially the Torres Strait and Tiwi Islands is no easy feat or cheap. I would be thinking that such an event will need to show what they are doing, how they are going and let the community have a strong involvement in the way that the games will support local community deaf groups around the region. I am not aware ( as its not my place) to speak of the Deaf cultural groups of Vic and i support their views in relation to specific matters regarding access and equity. what i find lacking is that there is no – drive from community members to get up and ask the hard questions and make these Deaf organisation, services accountable for their duty to inform community. I also don’t see the leadership in community that use to be…. that such dedication and role modeling has fallen to a few and that the rest of the community has “assimilated” into the wider community ( and that’s ok too , it is of course a choice or sometimes just easier to do when you are taking a battering all the time for your rights).

    i know that the large number of Deaf Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people do not have access to such things like VRI, VRS, Ai-Media, Captioning on their choice of media. that such access rely on English. I can show that my English is very good, (from many years of hard work), but when I am on country there are so many languages being used and many gestures and signs being used there is no way any interpreter, relay officer , VRS, VRI interpreters can compare to that stream of accessible language.

    I would like to know what are the tokenistic views and how this tokenism has driven the community organisation to “substantively deny the access of such a large group. I can say that from my view point and those of many it is a sell-out. that for a community who wishes to embrace the diversity of its culture and the safe keeping of its language there is constant bickering about who is going to fund it!!! . sounds like the deaf community has already fallen on its deaf ears when talking to others who just don’t have faith in the way it is operating at present.
    I like to ensure that these are my views and some of this is from great conversations with a variety of people. i feel that we need to be inclusive and that we need to embrace the rich history, talent and leadership of the people out in the community doing a great job. I believe in the spirit of culture, ( being of the oldest culture in the world) that there are many valuable lessons to learn from our past. that to acknowledge our Elders ( such as the great John Lovett) who told me when i first arrived in Melbourne. be true to yourself, know your culture and help shape the way people think by being honest, kind and helpful all doing that with love and respect). I think that many of use who have listened to the way things are now, are overwhelmed , feel that they have no voice ….this is WRONG… we all have a voice, if we want ACTION and ACCOUNTABILITY then we need to ASK for it to be shown to us.

    Come on you mob… bring the spark, the life, the fun and the respect back to your community.

    I am not a cynic…. I am activist….. so i want to see the actions being taken up to show that we have the power to make the access to our standards, the leadership to be truthful, the responsibility to be shared and the respect given to those who have lead before us and those who we are mentoring to come after us….

    well there you go… said my 2 cents worth….

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