I was at training yesterday. The training focused on disability complaints. How to make them and how to deal with them. This is for when people with a disability are discriminated against, neglected or abused. Of course the training had the mandatory videos. There were two. The first was captioned which was great but the second wasn’t. The interpreter looked at me and rolled her eyes. It was a classic FFS moment. A key disability organisation that focuses on disability discrimination not providing access. I gave the interpreter a wry grin and shrugged my shoulders.
As I did so a colleague tapped me on the shoulder. Another colleague was trying to get my attention. The other colleague pointed at her phone, gesturing to me to check my own. She had sent me a message – It read as follows, all in capitals, “NO FUCKING CAPTIONING. ARE YOU KIDDING ME – SHOULD I COMPLAIN?!!” My Colleague is hearing and she was livid. I just smiled at her and shrugged my shoulders. Just another day, another incident of indirect discrimination in my life. Years ago I might have been really angry, but today I wasn’t. I wonder where all my anger went.
As the training continued the trainer pointed out that people don’t like complaining. She pointed out some of the reasons that people do not complain:
- Fear of retribution
- Not aware of rights
- Don’t want to be seen as a whinger
- Don’t know how
And the list went on.
The trainer continued and she pointed out that apparently less than 1 % of people with a disability complain. I put my hand up about here. I said to the trainer, – ” How ironic that so few people with a disability complain. How ironic is it that Australia’s disability law is built on a platform of complaining. How ironic is it that the only way that people with a disability can get assistance from the law is to complain. If less than 1% are complaining, how effective is that law? It’s totally ineffective and people with a disability get no protection whatsoever.”
The trainer admitted that this was the case. She went as far as saying that the strategies that are used to resolve complaints have been largely ineffective and needed to be strengthened. She pointed out that Victorian laws had been strengthened recently so that more could be done to address abuse and neglect. That’s great, I am glad abuse and neglect is being addressed. The point still remains that Australia’s disability law does not work. It is toothless. It is cack. It’s so pathetic that the platform of conciliation that it is built does not even mandate that the people discriminating have to come to the table and negotiate. If they choose to not come to the table the only avenue is court and at great expense. Is it any wonder that less than 1% of people with a disability complain? It was kind of depressing to hear her, a representative that handles disability complaints, tell everyone that complaining was largely a waste of time. But there you have it.
So a little later I went to a meeting that was a consultation about the needs of people who are Deaf and mental health. Basically the Mental Health Commission wanted to know how deaf people were engaging with the mental health support system, what was wrong with the current system and what could be done to improve it. It was a bit of a case of – Where do we start?
Of course there were not a lot of positives to say. My colleague, Melissa, pointed out that the way the system is structured and the constant barriers that we must confront every day was actually impacting on the mental health of deaf people. I put my hand up here to tell my tale of woe. Tales of woe are my specialty. This was my tale –
“Yesterday I was talking to an official at my work. I was text chatting by Skype trying to resolve an issue for a participant. Suddenly the official typed out – call me on 09816709. I typed back that I was deaf and that it was easier to continue the discussions via Skype text chat. The official did not respond. I prompted her several times. Are you still there I typed, hello – But to no avail, she was gone. I got one of my colleagues to call her. Apparently the official had rung my participant and resolved the matter with her. This was great except that she left me hanging and not knowing what was going on. I told my colleagues what had happened and they all encouraged me to complain. And I just said no – After 30 years I’m done complaining, I’m tired. I don’t expect this from a service that is Australia’s premier disability support system.
And you see a couple of weeks back I was going through depression and the psychologist who got my mental health plan rang me on my phone to set up an appointment. I just get this number showing on my mobile so I rang it through the relay service and it turned out to be the psychologist wanting to make an appointment. I pointed out to the psychologist that my file said text or email. He acknowledged that it did. He asked me to send him a text to which he would respond with a time to meet. So I hung up and sent him a text. I never heard from him again. I mean I was depressed and I could have killed myself – What would he care? My point is that these constant negative interactions with a world that won’t adjust make deaf people sick and depressed to a point that it is easier to actually not seek help and remain ill.”
All the consultant could do was shake his head ruefully. A little later he confessed to us all that deaf people have it worse than any one else. He confessed that the barriers that we face to access a system that should be helping us are the worst of everyone. Well, gee, thanks. If this wasn’t depressing enough my colleague, Melissa, asked him what the Commission would do with the information we had just provided. His answer, in a nutshell, was that he didn’t know.
And this is why I am tired of complaining. I have become so desensitised to this hearing world that constantly shuts me out that I have almost reached a point where I do not care anymore. I have reached a point where I am letting discrimination happen simply because responding to it all the time is making me ill. It’s not just me, it is nearly every deaf and marginalised person in Australia today that faces this. A friend said to me on the weekend that his father had said that the challenges that people with a disability face are good for them. It makes us a resilient mob apparently. Well I tell you what mate, I must be so resilient now that I am almost fucking bullet proof. Of course I am not, it takes its toll.