Hearing people can be dense. They really can. Not all mind you, but so many of them are it is not funny. This hit home to me today, again, when a deaf friend sent me a text bemoaning the fact that a hearing person had once again tried to call him on his phone. This in itself is not unusual except that that the person that made the call heads a department of disability and inclusion at one of Australia’s most prominent universities. One would think such a person would be a bit savvy about how to communicate with people who are deaf. Apparently not.
Deaf people reading this will be face palming themselves. These voice calls are an all too common occurrence. It is a hangover from a world solely designed for people who are hearing and who think that the world is only for hearing people. Anyone not hearing is expected to somehow fit in with the norms of hearing folk. New fangled things like text, email or even live text chat are beyond many of these hearing people.
I mean how many times have we heard that Australian Hearing, of all organisations, have rung deaf clients to remind them of upcoming appointments. How many times have we heard of deaf people at hospitals who have missed their appointments because they did not hear their name called out. This despite telling the receptionist not to call out their name but to give a wave. Or how many times have we told trades people to text and not call when they are coming only to have them call your phone and not turn up because no one answered. Yup!
And at work you tell people you can’t talk on the phone so they insist on having teleconferences. You get left out of high level discussions because these hearing people can’t think of a better way to meet. You get left out of delegations because you were unable to participate and demonstrate your knowledge and expertise to the powers that be during these teleconferences. “Oh but Gary you were not part of our discussions.” – “Oh but Bosso how was I to be involved.” – ” Couldn’t you have booked that captioning thingy.” – “Oh but Bosso, we met every night for four weeks it would have cost 10 grand.” – “Oh but perhaps you could have just attended one or two?” – “Oh but Bosso how am I supposed to contribute, I don’t even know who is talking and by the time the captioner captions what has been said you are three sentences into the next topic.” And this is why so many deaf employees miss out on promotions and are not considered for high level tasks. Simply because hearing folk can’t step out of their hearing ways and design a process that is accessible to all.
And of course when you go to the doctor, the doctor is God and you must fit in with whatever means they choose to communicate to you with. You have rang the National Auslan Booking Service (NABS) to get an interpreter because you got sick today, and you cannot predict sickness. And NABS have not got back to you or their are no interpreters available at such short notice. So you rock up at the doctor with no interpreter. The doctor rolls their eyes as if to say, “You have come to me without an interpreter, how could you??” You tell the doctor, who is from Pakistan and impossible to lipread, that you cannot understand them and will that they will need to write. They, of course, refuse to do so and continue to talk. Five, six, seven, eight, nine tries later they eventually give up the ghost and write something – One word – FLU – then scribble you a script and send you on your way, but not before writing on piece of paper – BOOK AN INTERPRETER NEXT TIME.
Then of course the same doctor surgery, despite it being listed on your files that you are deaf, call you to tell you your test results have arrived and to come in for an appointment. You get a number listed on your mobile which you call back through the relay service. You point out to them during this call that the file says text or email only. They apologise and ask you to send a text to their mobile and they will text you back. You do so and never hear from them again. You could be about to die for all you know. But, hey you are deaf, no great loss. I still don’t know if anything is wrong with me. No news is good news I guess.
Then there is the prominent disability program providing support for people with a disability everywhere. For whatever reason they ring virtually every single person to let them know that they qualify for the program, even if they are deaf. You see they cannot be bothered with checking the records. So after calling a number several times to know avail they will send a letter asking the person to contact them. The consequence is that on the system the record reads – Could not contact – for virtually every deaf person that applies. Embarrassing!
But thankfully there are good news stories. Like St Kilda Football club who provide captions for deaf spectators on the screen. Like the Melbourne Theatre company that provide captioning. Like several Blockbuster Theatre shows that work with Auslan Stage Left to provide access to Auslan users who are theatre goers. Then there are my work mates who will sit down at the computer and transcribe for me when there are impromptu meetings, without being asked. There are good people, yes good people. But the dense ones are all too common – These are the people have mastered the art of being hearing – Audist to their boot straps!