imagesCAL4QCHEDo you know what the Deaf sector is guilty of? The Deaf sector is guilty of accepting mediocrity.  Now it’s not just the Deaf sector, one could argue that it is the whole of society. But if you want to hold up a sector that is benchmarking the acceptance of mediocrity then the deaf sector is it!

 “When small men attempt great enterprises, they always end by reducing them to the level of their mediocrity.” – Napoleon Bonaparte …. Bonaparte may well have been describing many of the leaders that make up our Deaf sector organisations. Whether it is our services organisations, our advocates or even our educators, mediocrity seems to exist in epidemic proportions.

Let’s look at education. I have worked as a social worker for nearly a quarter of a century. It seems that mediocrity is a bastion that defines deaf education. I have lost count of the many times I have heard that little Johnny, “.. is doing ever so well.” Little Johnny would be ten years old and reading at the level of a six year old. The word I hate most is that AWFUL, AWFUL word – coping. Talk to a teacher and oft is the time you will hear, “Oh but Shelley is coping so well.” Coping in this case is usually more than a few wrungs below her peers. But she is coping so that’s alright then isn’t it? Of course it is not. Demand the best, our deaf kids deserve it.

I will never forget working at a High school in Alice Springs. I worked with two deaf Aboriginal girls there who were barely literate. One of them was very capable and I pushed very hard to improve her numeracy skills. This is a near 18 year old that could not understand even basic fractions. But we were winning. No matter that she sometimes chucked tantrums, she was making progress.

You see the school had, until then, when the going got tough just sent her to the back of the classroom to paint pictures. One day while keeping the girl to the task my supervisor walked in. The girl burst into tears. “What’s going on?” asked my supervisor. I explained that I was just pushing the girl hard because she was making great progress. “What for?” said my supervisor, “You are wasting your time. All she will do is stay home, cook and have babies.” For one of the few times in my life I was lost for words!

What of some of our key service providers? We have almost got to a point where human contact with clients is shunned. God forbid that we provide family support in the home where we can achieve real outcomes. Instead we set up websites, print endless booklets, or we make yet another CD or DVD to inspire!

I accept that there is a place for these kinds of resources but we are now swamped with them. Little Carly is struggling at home and at school. “Here go to this website and learn some important strategies.” Or, “Read this pamphlet there are some great tips..” Or, “Ring this 1800 number, there is someone waiting to talk you through it ….” Of course no one is ever there or it is always engaged.

Do you know why we produce endless CDs and DVDs? Do you know why we spend so much time developing websites? Do you know why we set up hotlines? Because it’s cheaper than providing a real person. Sure I get it that money is in short supply but we have reached a point where we have just given up and accept what are, in reality, often mediocre and faceless solutions. We need to fight for real services provided by real people. As one client told me, “I get so many pamphlets, DVDs and booklets I just throw them away, they’re next to useless.”

But what really defines mediocrity is CaptiView., that awful device that the cinemas introduced to provide the deaf with access to the cinemas. What is worse this device was introduced with the full backing of our Deaf sector advocates. No matter that feedback was coming thick and fast that CaptiView is awful and spoils the viewing pleasure. No matter that complaints abounded about headaches and eye strain. No matter that the deaf were screaming out for captions on the screen. Our advocates formally accepted and backed CaptiView as the best technology going.

Did you know that a government representative told a parent who complained about CaptiView that, “ .. she should be grateful for it.”  How many times have you heard our advocates implore us to, “ .. give CaptiView a go” ? Even after people who had used CaptiView multiple times told our Deaf sector representatives that they still hated it. How many times were the deaf sector told to, “.. Accept CaptiView because to not do so would be divisive and we might lose everything we have gained.”? How many times have we heard the old furphy, “ .. At least we have more choice of movies, so be grateful.” Truth be known is that CaptiView is the absolute pits of mediocrity! That we are being urged to accept it is mind boggling.

The website Lift Big Eat Big[1] makes a salient point when it claims that, “We now live in a society where doing the bare minimum required to keep your heart beating is supposed to earn you a pat on the back and a sugar-free cupcake.” This is exactly what is happening in the deafness sector. We are being urged to accept worse than second best and it must stop.

And typically stopping the rot falls with us. We who have no resources and no money have to take up the fight. Let this fight to end the acceptance of mediocrity start this weekend at the Action on Cinema Access campaign. On Saturday 16th February Action On Cinema Access (Who have no funds whatsoever) have organised a protest. This protest will be held outside Greater Union Cinemas at 131 Russell Street Melbourne. They have done this entirely on the back of volunteers and have official permission from the Council to hold the protest.

Come along and wear yellow on the day. Show your solidarity. The end  of the acceptance of mediocrity starts with YOU!



Still Unhappy with captioned cinema Access now?

Government and Deaf/disability peaks not listening to you?

Cinemas still ignoring your RIGHT to enjoy a movie?



Saturday February 16th 2013

11.30am for a 12.00 noon start.

Wear Yellow and/or Black

For more information email: or Facebook the Action On Cinema Access Page