A Question of Priorities – By Julie Phillips, Disability Advocate. (Hearing)

Why pick on the Deaf?

If anyone is surprised about the cuts to the Kangan Batman Auslan Course, I would have to ask – why?

If I was in government, or any other service provision, and had to make a choice between cutting something for hearing people and cutting something for deaf people, I would cut services to the deaf. Why? Because I can.

Its 2012.

Do deaf children have the right to Auslan as the language of instruction in schools? No.

Do deaf children have the right to a qualified interpreter, or an interpreter in every class they have? No. (But at least we have the new Deaf Education Institute which has given some nice jobs to hearing people)

If a deaf person is living in a government funded Community Residential Unit or Supported Accommodation Service do they have the right to signing staff? No.

If there is a deaf staff member in an accommodation facility, do they have the right to interpreters for training? No.

Do deaf people have the right to decide whether they need an interpreter in a hospital situation or not? No.

This has been going on for years, but what has anyone done about it apart from complaining amongst themselves? Not much.

So why wouldn’t hearing people choose to slug deaf people one more time? 

There is a reason that in other countries the rights of deaf people are far ahead of those in Australia. Because they demand them.

The most excited I have seen deaf people get in the last few years is when the cinemas were trying to get an exemption from the Disability Discrimination Act. The years of hopeless access to the cinema before that, didn’t seem to bother anyone that much. While it’s been great to see a lot of work get put into the cinema issue, I would have thought that the rights of deaf children to an education would be higher on the agenda. The lack of an interpreter in a hospital situation could mean death – a bit more important than open captioning.

Government and hearing people in general have got away, and are getting away, with so much oppression of deaf people, why wouldn’t they feel they can keep on going?

I suggest we all have a good think about why it is that some things have not changed for 20 years for the deaf community, and what we should be doing about it. If government knew that every time deaf people’s rights were trampled on there would be a huge reaction – not just once, but ongoing until things changed, they would not feel so comfortable about continuing to oppress them.  There needs to be some organised responses to all these things.  What do you think?

Julie Phillips

Disability Advocate




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