Two months ago I embarked on my journey as the Senior Local Area Coordinator for the Whittlesea Region that has the responsibility of rolling out the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS). The NDIS is a huge program. There is so much to be learnt including legislation, processes, computer systems, line items, communication channels and so on. It’s difficult to describe just how big it all is, just take my word for it – IT’s HUGE!!! It’s so huge it is actually scary sometimes. It’s particularly scary for the person that wants to access NDIS and our job is to make that process as smooth as we possibly can. We do not always succeed, but early evaluations show that more than 95% of nearly 200 people that have accessed the scheme in our region are highly satisfied. I, and all of us in the job, are very proud of that.
As a deaf person I have to admit I had many anxieties about taking up the role. Chief among them were the issues of communication. Put simply there are lots of meetings, and I mean a lot. The NDIS is forever changing. Rules change at the drop of a hat. We all must be aware of these changes at very short notice. Meetings about changes are regular and often impromptu. Being such a huge scheme there are scenarios that we often must query. The NDIS head office is super responsive and when we receive responses these are communicated in the middle of the office floor. Naturally, as a Senior, it is vital that I am up to date with everything. It is impossible to have an interpreter with me all the time so I rely on my team mates a lot. Luckily for me they are brilliant. If an impromptu meeting is called any one of them, unasked, will sit next to me, open up Word on my computer and begin “captioning” the discussions. Without them, I would be lost.
And then there is the training. Naturally because the NDIS is so big there is a lot of training for us all in these early stages, particularly for the executive. My boss, quite often, will say to me that she wants me to attend training the next day or in a day or so. If you are deaf and require interpreting support you will know that this is a headache. Nevertheless, this is what I am dealing with. I either sink or I swim. Part of the swimming means that I need my interpreter or captioning providers to be on their toes and super responsive . This means I must be supremely organised and connected.
My preferred provider for interpreting is Auslan Services. For captioning it is Bradley Reporting (with apologies to Captioning Studio, who are equally brilliant.) The reason for this is that these two organisations have a supreme understanding of the demands of the deaf professional. Because they have this understanding they respond. Not only that, they want to make sure that the deaf professional has the absolute best access that can possibly be provided. I am connected with these services in different ways. I can email. I can text. I can use Facebook Messenger to get them. I can hop on Skype and find them there sometimes too. Nine times out of ten if I contact these providers I will get a response within half an hour as to what they can do. As a deaf professional this is what I need, it cannot be any other way.
In my fourth week of work I was sent on four days training at one days notice, 9 am to 5pm. Between these two services, within 24 hours, they had found a way to provide me with captioning and interpreting for the full four days. It was combination of live interpreters, live remote captioning and interpreters by Skype. It is naturally a logistical nightmare coordinating it all. It needs a service provider, a captioner and an interpreter who are flexible, responsive and empathetic. Luckily for me all these criteria were met. It is not easy.
Indeed with Bradley Reporting they have often had to find me captioning within a few hours. I will contact them at 10 am and ask if they have a captioner available at 1pm. This has happened at least three times and each time they have met the challenge. With the current demand for interpreting and captioning being so high this is no mean feat. Just think about it. They have a huge day of coordinating services for a huge number of clients. Bloody Gary calls at 10 am and says I need captioning in a few hours. On top of their already huge workload they manage to find time to organise this within an hour. Thats professionalism! As deaf professionals this is the type of professionalism we need! Nay, its what we must demand. It cannot be any other way.
We cannot dilly dally with crap systems. If there is a system for booking on your mobile phone it has to be super effective. If that system doesn’t work effectively it is the deaf professional that is disadvantaged. I can’t waste time with online booking systems that send you the wrong booking form. I cant waste time on a mobile phone booking system that freezes at a certain point. It must work, quickly and effectively. If it does not, I spew. My office know that when I mutter WTF under my breath that something has gone wrong. Its not uncommon for them to come over and ask if I am OK! The bulging eyes and red face must be a dead give away.
And we have a right to demand this. Interpreting and captioning is a multi-million dollar industry. For the deaf professional it is often the employer that is picking up the tab, and at great expense. We get $6000 from the Government, bahahahahahahahahah, mine was all gone within two weeks. By week four my boss got a combined bill for interpreting and captioning of $16 000. Now at week eight I am sure this has more than doubled. And my employer provides it with out flinching, without complaining. In the UK you can get up to something like $80 000 a year for interpreting in employment from the Government. It all depends upon the demands of the job. But here in Australia it is a paltry $6000. This is something for our new Disability Commissioner, who I am sure is using up interpreting and captioning dollars faster than he can say boo, to fight for. It has to change.
So here I am entering my third month. I have been inspired by the responsiveness off my team mates. Mostly I have been inspired by the professionalism and responsiveness of Auslan Services and Bradley Reporting. To be quite honest, without their professional and responsive services I am quite sure I would be out of a job and on the verge of a breakdown. Hats off to them.
Welcome to the brave new world of the deaf professional!!!