Seeking the Dream

Martin-Luther-King-Jr.-Art-13It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.  But 100 years later the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later the life of the Negro is still badly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the corner of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.

Martin Luther-King

This week marks the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. Of course the speech centred on the situation of the American Negro of the time. King spoke of the Negro living in poverty. He spoke of the Negro lacking opportunity. Mostly and tellingly he said, “America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.” [1]

King could be talking about the lot of people with a disability in Australia. Disability access for Australians is a joke. This rich country that is Australia persists year after year in dealing people with a disability a cheque for funds that is clearly insufficient. I claimed $6 000 in July for the Auslan for Employment Scheme. It’s now the end of August. It is all gone! I just thank god I don’t need a wheelchair. I could be waiting up to four years for one. Sure the NDIS is supposed to be changing all that but that is a long way off.

The lot of people with a disability in Australia is just crap! Crap captioning, why our rich pay TV franchise isn’t forced to provide close to 100% is beyond me. Crap education, still we have people out there who get little or no support for their disability, particularly school age kids. Crap recreation, how much of our recreation is actually accessible for people with a disability? Crap housing, how many houses are affordable and designed so that people with a disability can live in them? Crap infrastructure, how many buildings, footpaths and roads are still inaccessible? And no, the NDIS wont fix all these problems.

Said King, “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds  in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.” It is time for this country to stop making excuses. It is time to use some of its vast riches to improve the lot of people with a disability. Not slowly and incrementally, but fast, dramatically and now.

There is absolutely no excuse that people with a disability live in poverty because this mean and backward country will not provide. There is absolutely no excuse that people with a disability have to constantly beg and ask for things on a daily basis. There is absolutely no reason that almost daily I have to justify to other organisations why they have a duty to share the cost of accessibility and not place the burden on a few.

Fifty years ago King knew this. Sure he was speaking about racial issues but his words ring true for anyone who is discriminated against for any reason. “We have come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy.”

Two weeks ago in Adelaide a deaf teacher of the deaf lost a court case so that she could only work with special conditions. She was treated like an outcast and a leper. She was portrayed as someone that was a risk and different. Bugger the fact that deaf people are working all over the world as teachers without issue. This is 2013 and Australia is allowed to do this! Over in Perth a wheelchair using friend has been forced to pee in a bucket because her employer won’t provide an accessible toilet EVEN THOUGH THEY HAVE RECEIVED FUNDING FOR IT! Are you proud to be living in a country that does this to its citizens?

A friend had this to say on Facebook today about the lived experience of a wheelchair user  in Australia, “…  you will experience discrimination on a daily basis – at least a daily basis. 90% of art galleries will become inaccessible to you, and most small businesses and restaurants. Friends won’t always invite you out, because there are steps. You’ll routinely be discriminated against in work and education and travel and accommodation and even via legislation like the Migration Act or Defence Force, legally. And because you’re consequently segregated and isolated, people don’t have a chance to understand who you are. That means when charities and politicians portray you as an object of pity and charity, they don’t have a chance to understand that isn’t true.  There is so, so much more. It would be unbelievable if someone told you this, but they don’t. Outrage upon outrage. ‘There is no toilet for you to piss in at work. If you couldn’t communicate, your mother could kill you and get off with a $1000 fine and a suspended sentence. You won’t be able to catch a plane if there are two other wheelchair users on it……”

 King had a dream for Negro people but he may well have been talking about all people who need equality, I  have a dream today . . . I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain be made low. The rough places wild be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight.” That’s all people with a disability dream of – A field that is plain and level for us all.

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

[1] In is speech King used the term Negro. The use of the term Negro, particularly by a white person like myself, can be seen as a mark of disrespect. I use the term only to paraphrase King and mean no disrespect.

The Jokes On Us!

jokerIn Melbourne this morning people who are Deaf or hard of hearing may have had a fancy to go to the movies. Of course those of us who can tolerate CaptiView, which number about two, are hardy souls. A friend of mine is one of those tolerant souls. She decided to check the websites to see which movies are captioned and which are not. Of course we know that it is unlikely that anything will be advertised as captioned, such is the incompetence of the cinemas. Nevertheless my friend checked hoping that some semblance of sanity had settled upon the world. To her surprise she found three movies with captions that were showing. But wait there is more!

Of course we know that when the Accessible Cinema Roll-Out was announced we were promised unheralded access to the movies. We should have known better. As always, people who are Deaf or hard of hearing are taken for mugs. Arguably cinema access  is worse than it was before the Accessible Cinema Roll-Out. My friend wanted to see a movie with captions, being deaf and all. She had a choice of movies that focused on – One Direction, Metallica and Robbie Williams. WTF comes to mind.

The irony that the accessible movies that are available to us deafies this weekend are all about music cannot be lost on anyone. Sure, I get that there are many deafies that enjoy music but for the majority of us, for obvious reasons, movies focusing on music would not be our first choice,. The sad thing is that this does not surprise me. People who are Deaf or hard of hearing in Australia are being treated like a joke. This is particularly so in South Australia.

I woke this morning to find a letter from the delightful CEO from Townsend House posted on Facebook. The CEO is without doubt persona-non-grata among the Deaf community in South Australia. This is understandable, particularly when she brands the people trying to save the beautiful 262 building as liars. Says Ms Curran of the many hundreds, possibly over a thousand, people who have lent their support to the Save 262 Campaign.  ….”Some people from DSRSA (Deaf Sports Recreation South Australia) and the Deaf community have behaved badly and told lies …”

Ms Curran went on to imply that because, some people had behaved badly and told lies, the efforts of Townsend House to try to lease the clubroom back for them from the prospective buyer fell through. Apparently the prospective buyers saw the Deaf community as rabble-rousers and wanted nothing to do with them. So effectively the loss of 262 for the Deaf community is now the Deaf communities fault. Last I looked the save 262 petition was touching on 1000 signatures. Shame on you, the 1000, you have lost 262 for the Deaf community – How could you? Yes, I jest.

Where did it all go wrong? If you want to know what promises were made to the Deaf community when the Townsend House and Deaf Society joined forces watch this video.

Having been promised that there were definitely no plans to sell 262 and having been promised utopia the Deaf community find themselves sold up the creek without a paddle. And for their pain they get labeled liars too.

Ms Curran claims that the Deaf Society was in such a bad way in 2006 that 262 was almost sold. Yet my friend found that in the 2006 Annual General Meeting minutes from the Royal South Australian Deaf Society, held on Friday 27th October 2006 at 7pm, the Treasurer’s report says “gross revenue has increased by ½ million”, and that “The Societies [sic] Balance sheet is strong”.

There are certainly lies happening but they are not coming from the Deaf community. What is worse, when Deaf community members ask perfectly legitimate questions or make perfectly legitimate comments on the Townsend House Facebook page, these questions and comments are being deleted. The authors of the comments or questions are then unceremoniously blocked.  Another example of Deaf people being treated like a joke.

Still in South Australia a Deaf teacher of the Deaf has been told she is risk. This is a long sorry saga but the gist of it is that a young Deaf woman graduated as a teacher of the Deaf. She, of course, fulfilled all the requirements of her course including prac-teaching. After she graduated she went to register as a teacher. To cut a long story short the Teachers Registration Board in South Australia told her she could work as a teacher but only if she was supervised at all times.

Quite rightly the young woman was having none of this. She appealed. She pointed out that having conditions on her registration that required her to be supervised at all times was unfair and limited her employment prospects. She pointed out that by having conditions and a flag on her Teacher Registration this made it more difficult for her to obtain work. More importantly she claimed that there were already several teachers of the deaf who were Deaf or hard of hearing working in South Australia. These people had no such conditions applied to them. So why her?

She had to front the Teacher Registration Board as part of her appeal. The Teachers Registration Board refused to budge. They insisted that the conditions had to remain. The young woman would not accept this and took the Teachers Registration Board to court for discrimination. To the surprise of no one, except the Teacher Registration Board,  she won. Commonsense, it seemed, was going to prevail. But no – The Teachers Registration Board appealed and the decision was reversed.

I have no words to describe the stupidity of the Teachers Registration Board. I have no words to describe the stupidity of the judge that reversed the decision. Deaf people and hard of hearing people the world over are working as teachers, nurses and even doctors. They work as lawyers too. They work as tradesmen, chefs and social workers. The world is their oyster. They do so competently and without restrictions.

All I can say is show me evidence of the risk. I can certainly show you evidence that there is none. The evidence is out there in the community where 100’s of people who are Deaf or hard of hearing are working as teachers successfully everyday and without restriction. Yet some know nothing judge has decided that this one Deaf person is a risk and therefore can only teach with restrictions. The judge has made this decision based on not one shred of evidence.

In making this decision the judge has put the future of all teachers who are Deaf or hard of hearing on the line. Now all teachers who are Deaf or hard of hearing in South Australia have to declare their deafness and declare all their support needs to the Teachers Registration Board. They are then at the mercy of the Teachers Registration Board to have restrictions placed on them as the Board sees fit.

And all this because some know nothing judge has made a decision that goes against all the evidence available to him/her. The decision has been made without a shred of evidence to show that teachers who are Deaf or hard of hearing are any sort of risk at all. How is that fair? The law, as they say, is an ass!

Yep, people who are Deaf or hard of hearing in Australia are being treated like a joke and it is no laughing matter!



The very word ‘secrecy‘ is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.

John F. Kennedy

I absolutely love this quote. I especially love it because it is coming from a politician held in such  esteem as J F Kennedy. Old J F may have had his faults, who doesn’t, but what he said here is right on the ball.

I have worked in the Disability Sector and Deaf Sector for coming up 25 years. The fact that a lot of what we do is shrouded in secrecy has always been a cause of much frustration to me. Now there are times when secrecy is needed. For example when you are negotiating a contract and there are competing interests. It would not be fair to announce how much one person is bidding over another. BUT – for the most part secrecy is the cause of more problems than it is worth.

I am going to write very briefly here about the 262. I will tell you that secrecy and the lack of open communication with the South Australian Deaf community about what is going on with the sale of 262 is the cause of much friction. At the very least the South Australian Deaf community and its representatives needed to be kept fully up to date with anything that is related to 262 and its sale. Secrecy is largely what has led to a breakdown in the relationship between Townsend House and the Deaf community.

Nine times out of ten underhand secret behaviour that is excused with statements such as “commercial and in confidence” will come back to bite you on the bum. And so it was with Townsend House and their lack of openness with the Deaf community. What happened? Well someone left a flyer hanging around that divulged the interest of Healing Life Ministries to buy 262. By perchance a Deaf community member came across the flyer. It later turned out that negotiations had been going on for quite some time. Once the Deaf community found out that they had been kept in the dark, any chance of repairing the relationship between Townsend House and the Deaf community was probably gone forever. Secrecy will do that.

One of the silliest cases of secrecy I can remember involved something as simple as engraving information on a medal. This happened at the Australian Deaf Games. One of the Deaf community members, who was organising a sport at the Games, found out that medals were being organised but nothing was to be engraved on them. I was part of the decision that endorsed that. The argument was that engraving would be an additional cost that was not needed. It was a way of keeping cost to a minimum.

Anyway the Deaf community member in question thought engraving what the event was and some other relevant information would add value and sentiment when winning a medal, which is fair enough. He wanted to know what the cost differential was between engraving and not engraving . To my mind it was a really simple request. If you are going to make a decision you own it and explain it. If people don’t like your reasoning you at least can say that you were open and honest and move on. But in this case the Deaf community member was basically told to mind his own business – the official response? Well such information about the pricing of the medals was, “commercial and in confidence.”

Now I am a lone voice on the committee here. I believe that such a response served no purpose except to create mistrust. It made us organisers look like a “secret society” . Really the Deaf community member had a right to know. After all he was volunteering his time to organise his sport and coughing up good money to participate.

The problem with secrecy, particularly at a political level, is that it is abused. Certainly secrecy has a place. For example, if you out individuals who have expressed certain views in the process of making decisions there is a danger that they can be abused and ostracised. In such cases one needs to be discreet. Such dangers can be avoided if people stick to the issues. Decisions are made mostly with the best of intentions. If you have done nothing wrong there is nothing to hide.

A good example unnecessary secrecy is where Deaf Sports Australia chose Geelong over Wodonga as the host city for the last Australian Deaf Games. Wodonga was chosen by the selection committee after an exhaustive process which involved consultation with Deaf sports representatives. I was a member of the host city selection panel.

The Deaf Sports Australia Board took the view that holding the Games at Wodonga had some inherent risks. They felt it was more prudent to host the games at Geelong. It is absolutely the Deaf Sports Australia Board’s right to do that. As Directors they are the people liable for any losses. Personally I felt that the risks were minimal and that there were several tangible benefits in holding the Games at Wodonga. The Board thought otherwise. I respect that.

What I do not respect is that the reasons for choosing Geelong, and the fact that Wodonga was the preferred choice of the selection committee, were not made public. I believe that if Deaf Sports Australia had divulged what had happened behind closed doors and their reasoning for their decision they would have garnered immense respect. I know many will disagree with me but I think ownership and transparency of decision-making is a much undervalued trait.

People who are following the CaptiView saga will note that there is a posting at the Action on Cinema Access Facebook page. The posting is a copy of the original letter sent out by Bill Shorten to our cinema access representatives. The letter was sent soon after the Accessible Cinema Advisory Group was formed by the Government to guide the Accessible Cinema Roll-Out. This was in 2010.

What the letter clearly states is that decisions regarding the Accessible Cinema Roll-Out needed to be guided with clear input from consumers. In the letter, that is signed by Bill Shorten, it says,  “.. given the emerging nature of platforms such as ‘Captiview’, implementation will require ongoing consumer input to establish acceptability” This last quote, to me anyway, seems to be clearly saying that any technology that is introduced needs to have a clear endorsement of the consumer. Arguably CaptiView has never received that.

Indeed said one advocate, who has been heavily involved in the captioning lobby for many years, “ .. shame we weren’t given access to this earlier in the process.”  I absolutely agree because this letter could have been the deal breaker. But for whatever reason it was kept secret. The rest, as they say, is history.

Perhaps we need to heed the advice of Elia Kazan who said,

Whatever hysteria exists is inflamed by mystery, suspicion and secrecy. Hard and exact facts will cool it.

Townsend House, in particular, should take note.


numptyDid you know that NUMPTY is actually a word?  My friend Peter has forever called me a numpty. I always thought it was an endearing term he gave me because I beat him at golf all the time. In fact NUMPTY is an official word recognized by the BBC on their page KEEPING UP WITH ENGLISH. It is defined as such – “N-U-M-P-T-Y. Numpty. Gentle word. Very gentle word. It feels to me like ‘silly billy’ or ‘you novice!’ It means somebody who displays a lack of knowledge or a lack of awareness.” Well I have had numpties up to here this week! In fact so fed up am I of the numpties that I have decided to out a few.

It started this morning with K – I AM A NUMPTY – RUDD. Announcing that Western Australia had finally signed up for the much-vaunted NDIS he said, “There are unique features to the WA scheme but I think it will be good for everybody, particularly those suffering with disabilities.” Of course Mr Rudd is the same numpty that patted a disabled woman on the head. Well HE has done it again. Well Numpty Rudd I would just like to point out that people with a disability do not suffer from a disability. In fact for the most part we all live jolly good lives. We are poor, certainly, because Australia wont cough up the money it can afford to ensure we are fully included members of Australian society. This is largely because Australia’s disability policy is written by numpties. BUT we do not suffer. We suffer from ignorant and patronizing attitudes but generally not from our disability. Let me say this clearly – YOU NUMPTY.

This week I was told by a colleague that the cost associated with my communication needs, albeit interpreting, was entirely my responsibility. My colleague is a nice fellow but his boss is clearly a numpty. My colleague was organizing a meeting to see how we could all work together to improve local employment outcomes for people with a disability. Knowing that I have two decades of experience, largely within the employment sector, he asked if I could share my wisdom.

“Sure”, I said, “ .. Just book the interpreters and I am there.” My colleague was quite happy to do so. He checked with his manager who said no. His manager said cos it was work my employer was responsible and therefore my employer has to pay. I pointed out that the meeting was:

1)    Organized by THEM

2)    Outside the boundaries of my region

3)    That they were getting my considerable knowledge for FREE.

4)    That under the DDA that they had certain obligations before saying no to a person which include CONSULTING to identify REASONABLE ADJUSTMENTS.

5)    That they were a DISABILITY PROGRAM and ACCESS is their business!!!

I also pointed out that if a person in a wheelchair comes along that they would most certainly find an accessible building that has a ramp and that all their new buildings are required to have access for people in wheelchairs and that the said ramps were paid for by them, not the person in a wheelchair. Said I, “Now lets be realistic, a person with a wheelchair is not expected to carry a ramp under their arms or pay for their own ramps are they?”  Why then I asked, “ Am I expected to pay for the interpreters for a meeting that you are organizing for your region, as part of your program and when I am providing my considerable knowledge for free?”  My colleague, credit to him, knew that I was entirely correct. He said that he would get back to his manager. The said manager is still dilly-dallying. All I can say to the manager is YOU NUMPTY! For crying out loud, it’s a program that focuses on improving ACCESS. Practice what you preach! NUMPTY, NUMPTY NUMPTY!

The queen, king and champion of all numpties are the glorious management of Townsend House. They, of course, are responsible for the rather pathetic and ineffective services of Deaf Can Do. The services are irrelevant to the Deaf community, duplicated elsewhere and running at a heavy loss. The solution? Well it is to sell the beautiful and historical home of the South Australian Deaf community at 262, turf the Deaf community out on the street and then channel the money into the services of Deaf Can Do. Deaf Can Do services will then eat up all them profits from 262 and the Deaf community will be left with nothing. Numptiness at its best! (OK! I know that they said that they would find a new home for the Deaf community but, given their track record, don’t hold your breath.)

Too add insult to injury the numpties went and spent $11 000 to send their senior management team to Sydney for a business conference. Having told the Deaf community that the financial situation was so dire that they had to sell 262 they sent themselves off on a Junket. It was a two day Junket that cost them $11 000. Meanwhile the South Australian Deaf community is holding a candlelight vigil in front of 262 to show just how much the building means to them. Around the clock people are volunteering their time to attend the vigil in all weather. So what do the management do. Do they pay respect? Do they acknowledge the heartache and pain that their decisions are causing the Deaf community? No! They spend $11 000 on a two day junket while expecting us to believe that they are going broke! NUMPTIES!

But wait there is more. These same people want to become a service provider that people who are deaf or parents who have deaf children can tap into. They want to sell themselves as an EXPERT to provide early intervention services and get paid for it from NDIS funds. Here is what they are providing:

1)    Individual Speech therapy.

2)    Individual occupational therapy.

3)    Group occupational therapy.

4)    Early intervention, home, medical or centre visits.

5)    Early intervention groups.

6)    Technology support and training.

7)    Fund management.

This is an advertisement for CanDo4Kids which is part of the services that Townsend House provide. CanDo4Kids is the key service provider for deaf kids in South Australia. What is missing? Well there is no Auslan language development. This truly shows the respect that Townsend House have for the Deaf community and of their understanding of the power of sign language in a deaf child’s development. I suggest that if you are seeking services in South Australia for your deaf kids, seek it elsewhere. Surely this has to be the final insult!

Numpties – complete and utter!