I am a cranky disability advocate today. It’s good that I am cranky. Crap happens to people with a disability in Australia every day. I often say to myself that when I stop being angry about this crap then it’s time for me to give it away. Well I am still angry so I guess retirement will have to wait. God damn it!
This morning I woke up to discover that Jetstar had, again, treated someone with a disability with disdain. It seems that there was a woman who has cerebral palsy who couldn’t get access to a standard aisle wheelchair. So to get off the plane the woman’s sister had to carry her some considerable distance. It seems no one from Jetstar offered to help as the woman lumped 40 kgs of dead weight human over her shoulder and set of for the terminal. Of course this is my rough interpretation of what happened because I had to access a Channel 9 Youtube video without captions and the voice generated ones are near impossible to decipher. Nice one Channel 9!
So that started my morning. I was calmed somewhat with some funny Facebook memes about every ones favourite object of abuse, Tony Abbott. Tony, if you recall, threatened to shirtfront Russia’s President Putin. In response Putin has sent his navy full bore towards Australia. Talk about boys toys. The memes came thick and fast. The gist of them was “Well you did say you were gonna stop the boats!” hahahahha … My humour was short lived.
My wife dropped me off at my destination. I was to have training about disability strategies for employment. It included digital access which is one of my key areas of expertise. I arrived at the venue which is disability friendly, or so they say. I am guided to the training room, which is upstairs, and has no lift. Kind of odd for disability training, but that’s the world we live in. I am early by thirty minutes, a rarity. I help myself to the instant coffee and settle down to catch up on emails while I wait.
Training starts at 9 am. I get out my phone. There is a message for me sent at 8.30. The message is to let me know that my interpreters for the day have been cancelled because one was sick. EEEEEEEEK … its now 8.50. And I am just about to commence training and my interpreters are not coming. I send a message to the booking agency and ask why they didn’t contact me before cancelling. As a deaf professional I have a wealth of contacts, and I pointed this out to them. I told them that I would have liked the opportunity to work with them to at least try to find a replacement interpreter.
They simply replied that OHS meant that they could not let the other interpreter work alone. I am, of course, sympathetic to their predicament but I am furious that my needs as a professional have been disregarded. What if this was a job interview? What if I was the person providing the training? What if I was advocating for someone? There are a whole host of scenarios that come into play. None of them seem to have been considered.
Ok I get it that we have to protect interpreters. I have seen the damage that RSI has done to many. BUT what about protecting me and other deaf professionals? What about working with me to resolve the problem? I imagine that they were told early in the morning that the interpreter was sick and could not make it. Why not contact me there and then to let me know so that I can begin to see what options that I have? None of this happened and I was left in the lurch. Deaf people need protecting too! But that’s seemingly how things work in this country – The person with a disability is thought of LAST! This is wrong!
I have to point out here that the booking agency was not Auslan Services. In fact I contacted Auslan Services once told of the cancellation. They went into overdrive to help me. Alas it was too late. What really bugs me is that, just with my own contacts, I found someone to replace the sick interpreter. BUT the stupid agency had cancelled everything! If only they had contacted me earlier. Yes I’m pissed and calling the agency stupid is probably harsh, but that’s how I feel!
And it wasn’t the first time that something like this had happened this week. In my work I get invited to a whole host of disability things. I try to attend as many as I can that are relevant to my work. One such function was organised by a professional body that works extensively with people with a disability. Oh I wish I could name them, but alas lawyers are rich enough already.
Anyway, this body was putting on a wonderful seminar that focused on organising specific support for disability. There were wonderful topics within it and I simply had to attend. There was an online registration form which I dutifully filled in. It asked if I had any access needs. Cool! I stated the need for Auslan interpreters. I was looking forward to this seminar.
No less than ten minutes later I received an email thanking me for my registration. By golly this mob were efficient I thought. And that is where my joy ended! Just after thanking me for my registration there was this ….
“… We note that you have requested Auslan interpreters. As we are an unfunded professional body can you please ask your manager to cover the cost of interpreting?”
They are certainly unfunded but the professionals that they represent come from some of the wealthiest organisations you can imagine. $50 from each of them would have covered the cost with enough for a bottle of expensive whiskey after. I pointed this out to them, rather more diplomatically. I pointed out that I requsted Auslan interpreters in good faith because the registration form asked me what access needs I had. I suggested that if they all pooled funds that the cost could be met easily. I also pointed out that my $6 000 Auslan for Employment grant didn’t go very far. I pointed out that my employer already supported me above the call of duty. “Let’s discuss a pooling arrangement” I said. The reply that I got … What reply? I am still waiting.
Let me just remind all these organisations and professionals that work in the disability field that they are there for people with a disability. We are not there for them! They get paid a healthy salary and while I understand shit happens and things go wrong, at least show us the courtesy of early and proper communication. As a professional who happens be to deaf I worked bloody hard to get the access that I have today! There is a simple dictum that business live by – It is simply that the customer is always right – the customer comes first. While I and other professionals who have a disability are happy to compromise, and always do, there is a limit. Don’t treat me and others like a nothing – We are the very reason that you exist. GET IT TOGETHER!
With apologies to the many wonderful disability professional, both disabled and non-disabled, you know who you are and you certainly do not deserve to be the subject of this rant!