Gimme Gimme

A friend made an interesting point on Facebook this morning. She pointed out that Government supports such as the Auslan For Employment Scheme have led to a rapid increase in the price of Auslan Interpreting.  She was suggesting that if Auslan interpreting was recognised and covered under the much vaunted National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) then it would lead to ever increasing prices.  Paradoxically this will make interpreters even harder to source. This is an issue that we will have to confront if Deaf people succeed in getting Auslan interpreting on the agenda for the NDIS.  Namely that by getting Auslan interpreting recognised under the NDIS we will create more demand. Supply has to meet that demand and if it does not, the law of economics dictates that prices will rise. But this isn’t the only problem.

Now it won’t just be Auslan Interpreting. It is likely to include live remote captioning too. Hearing impaired people that do not sign will want to access live remote captioning for a variety of situations. Perhaps they will go to a wedding and want to access speeches and the ceremony. They will book live remote captioning. Suddenly it won’t just employment and education that uses live remote captioning but a whole range of social and everyday functions like the doctor for example. As far as I know Australia has three major suppliers of live remote captioning. Will they be able to cope with the rapid spike in demand?   As with Auslan interpreting, when demand outstrips supply prices will rise.

Then of course those people that want to access live remote captioning will want the technology that allows them to do so. NDIS funds are supposed to be very much self-directed.  You use your funds to purchase services and technology to meet your access requirements. To access live remote captioning laptops and audio devices will be required. For the Deaf that want Auslan interpreting this will also be the case. As the National Broadband Network becomes operational online interpreting through Skype is going to be more and more accessible. Deaf people will need laptops and audio devices to access online interpreting too.  Technology providers are gonna make a mint.

In Finland deaf people can apparently access funds that allow them to book interpreters for a trip down the pub so they can socialise with their mates. If we have self-directed NDIS funding how many of us will use it to book interpreters for social functions? Gone will be the days when Deaf people wanting to pick-up at the pub checked their pockets or hand bag for the trusty notepad and pen. Deaf guys are gonna be using interpreters to relay their pick-up lines.  The mind boggles.

Then of course we have hearing impaired people that need technology like listening devices for the TV.  Or they want improved hearing aids. Or their cochlear implant becomes out-dated and they want the latest 1000 frequencies model.  There are bluetooth devices that assist listening to your mobile phone or even your home phone. Previously unaffordable, NDIS funding will be used to buy these too.

It won’t just be the Deaf it will be the blind too. Anything from everyday mobility devices, computer hardware, computer software, house designs to improve their mobility about the house and even human aids like readers or mobility guides will be sourced with NDIS funds.

Where will it all end?  People with disabilities all over Australia are going to want, want and want. Will the NDIS be able to cope with the demand?  Will the system even be able to meet the demand as we all scramble to use our self-directed dollars? Will it give rise to, ”cowboy support”,  as unscrupulous people see the NDIS as a quick way to make a buck. Spare a thought for the people charged with developing the framework for a workable NDIS. It is going to be a nightmare.

People with disabilities in Australia are grossly underfunded. Priority has been, and in my view rightly so, to address the needs of those who rely on carers and who need support for everyday tasks such as hygiene, being fed and getting out of the house. That said other disability groups have rightly asked the question – What about me?

On Monday 30th April there is a rally for the NDIS. Around Australia rallies are being held where people with a disability are going to let the Government know just how important the NDIS is. Deaf people are being called to arms also. Deaf Victoria has been particularly vocal in calling people to arms. Others around Australia have been doing likewise, kudos to all who have been involved in the campaign for a Deaf presence at these rallies. It is Important that Deaf people are heard.

This is just the beginning. Establishing the operational framework for the NDIS is going to be an extremely complicated business. It may well be that Governments will say the deaf get enough already. They may say that the Auslan for Employment Scheme (AFE) is already providing. They may say that NABS is meeting needs. They will point out that AFE is flexible enough to be used for live remote captioning.  They will argue powerfully that our need for an interpreter at our sister’s wedding does not equate to being able to get a severely disabled person out of bed and fed in the morning.

I have no doubt there is going to have to be a lot of give and take. Deaf people are not going to get everything they want. There will be limits. In the early stages priority will be to those that have basic everyday needs just to live in their own homes and get out and about. That does not mean that people who are Deaf and hearing impaired will miss out but crying out ACCESS is not going to cut it. Now is the time to start thinking HOW and REALISTIC in terms of what the NDIS should provide.  The rallies on Monday 30th April are only just the beginning. Much needed as the NDIS is it’s going to be along hard road.


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