Welcome to 2018! Utopia for Dissaaabiiillllattteeeee!

Welcome to 2018. This is supposed to be a wonderful time for people with disabilities. We have the NDIS  and access for people who are deaf has never been better. We have nearly 100% captioning on TV, interpreters or captioning at work and slowly we are getting more open captioning at the cinema. It’s a wonderful time. Awareness abounds. The worlds changed for the better – Or has it?

Let’s come up with some random dates.  1988, 1991, 1993, 2010, 2017, 2018.  I will tell you random stories. You be the judge as to whether the world has really changed.

And in this year – A student went to TAFE. This deaf student wanted to do a course by correspondence. She met with the course coordinator. An interpreter was present. They discussed her needs as a deaf student. Presumably they listed  all of the barriers and came up with a number of solutions. This Auslan using deaf student needed some adjustments to be able to do the course. She went away from the meeting excited, cos her enrollment was accepted. She waited  for the first installment of the program. Instructions were to arrive by mail. Mail dutifully arrived and contained a box of six audio recordings. The student was naturally confused and went back to the coordinator to ask why she had received the audio recordings. “Oh”,  said the coordinator, ” .. But I thought if you turned the volume up high you would be able to hear them.”  And yes this is a true story, and no I don’t know what drug of choice the coordinator was on.  CAN YOU GUESS THE YEAR?

And in this year – Yours truly wanted to attend a disability employment conference. And it was an expensive one at that. I naturally requested Auslan interpreters for the conference. This was some four months in advance. The organisers were happy to oblige.

Job done I thought nothing more of it. A week before the conference the organisers got back to me and stated that they could not get me any interpreters  and that they were very sorry. I called the booking agency and found out that there were interpreters galore available.

My employer said not to worry, that they would pay. I refused to let this happen. I insisted that the organisers were responsible and that at the prices that they were charging they could afford it. So I called them back, told them that I had actually found interpreters and booked them for them and reminded them of their obligations under the DDA.

They called back and said they were happy to give me a free rego if my employer covered the cost of the interpreters. This made no sense as the fee the conference was nearly triple what the cost of interpreters would be for the day. The organisers would have been even more out of pocket. I pointed this out and they said, and remember this was a conference on disability, ” If we pay for you we set a precedent and have to pay for all people like you.” ( Or words to that effect.)

So what I did next was to email them again and CC all their sponsors and keynote speakers, who I actually knew either professionally or personally. My boss was shocked. She said that would not work. I told her to sit at my desk in the morning and that there would be an email from them offering to pay all interpreting fees. Nine am next morning boss and I sat together and opened up my emails. There was nothing at nine am but at nine am and 35 seconds an email popped up from the organisers. And guess what? They offered to pay and offered me a grovelling apology. Another true story that makes you wonder why some people work at all in the disability sector.  CAN YOU GUESS THE YEAR?

And in this year – My favourite part of my work is supporting clients. I have done many jobs and in this job I was helping a young deaf lad to get a plumbing apprenticeship. We were going through a group training scheme and we were meeting the manager. The sticking point was the aptitude test.

My client, like many deaf people who were denied access to proper language development, had problems with written English. He was very smart and very capable but questions written in more abstract English could be a problem. We were arguing that a test conducted in English would not give a true indication of his abilities. We were arguing that we needed to do the test differently to provide my client with an equitable opportunity. In other words,  reasonable adjustments were required.

The manager was having nothing of it. All had to be done on merit he said. Deaf people couldn’t be plumbers he said. They could maybe be electricians. He himself was apparently an electrician. Electricians were generally accepting people he said. Plumbers, on the other hand, were a strange breed. There was no way a deaf person could be a plumber said the manager; ” .. Imagine when they are digging holes and they are digging in different holes, how on earth will the communicate with each other.”  Uh huh! That’s what he said.   You may pick your jaw off the floor now.  CAN YOU GUESS THE YEAR??

And in this year – A deaf student attends a social work class with their interpreter. It is for interview techniques.  At the end of the class the student and their interpreter are asked to attend a meeting with the lecturer. “Who is this?”, said the lecturer pointing at the interpreter.  Student explains that this is the interpreter who is there to help them understand whats going on. “Not in my class!”,  said the lecturer.  ” The interpreter is distracting the other students and, besides, when you work as a social worker you cannot reasonably expect an interpreter to follow you around everywhere. If I had known I would not have accepted you into this course!” 

I know it is beyond belief. But then and again a social worker once asked me if I needed a lift back to the office. ” Cheaper than a taxi.” she said. “It must be hard on you not being able to drive.” Perhaps, like plumbers, we should say that social workers, as a group, are a funny breed. I should know, I am one. CAN YOU GUESS THE YEAR?

And in this year – A client has an intellectual and physical disability. She has numerous physical disabilities that cause difficulties transferring, eating, toileting and walking anything but short distances. All of this is noted on the system. There are several Occupational Therapist reports and physiotherapist reports that provide evidence of the various needs of the client. A number of supports have been requested including some help to modify the home to make it safe and improve her mobility around the home.

All the support around her physical disabilities is denied because, “it only says in the system that she has am intellectual disability.” Therefore, apparently,  she does not have any other needs.  Even though reports abounded in the system with the evidence, the powers that be would still not change their minds. Get angry about this. I certainly did.  CAN YOU GUESS THE YEAR?

And in this year – Did you hear the one about the Deaf guy needing interpreting support so that he could communicate better with his hearing mates and friends at parties, weddings, funerals etc. Denied cos you know, parties, weddings and funerals are not considered everyday events.  Liberties I guess they are. So deaf people just sit at home and watch TV and mind their own business.

Or hearing aids denied cos not considered necessary and too expensive.

Or Auslan training denied cos they have hearing aids and they should not be greedy – choose one or the other – You either choose to hear or you don’t, you see.

CAN YOU GUESS THE YEAR? I am pretty sure on the last one you will be able to guess without problems.

And so in this year of 2018 you gotta ask – Are we really all that much more enlightened????


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