I think at 53 I am becoming more cynical and more insular. You know for 45 of the 53 years I have been deaf. You put up with a lot of shit when you are deaf. Not just deaf but if you have a disability of any type. People are either over the top in trying to meet your needs or they just exclude you all together.
Yes, I have had religious people come up and bless me when they have seen me signing with friends. I’ve had literally hundreds of people come up to me and sign Hi! This is either with an exaggerated wave or they finger spell it. The worst is the American alphabet H and I. With a broad grin people come up and do that awful wrist flick with a H and an I.
Is it entirely wrong for me to want to punch them in the face when they do this to me? OK, it’s a little bit wrong but believe me it’s very irritating. I swear it’s part of the reason a night or even week at home with Netflix is so much better than this kind of human interaction.
If you think that I sound old and bitter you are probably right. But you know there is a campaign that is aimed at making people with a disability feel more included called Just Say Hi! There are heaps of videos just like the one below. For a laugh turn on the automated captions, it’s the only access deaf people have to this video. How do you make deaf people feel included? Just make videos like this with no or second rate access!
“Instead it came across as go seek them out and say HI! No one does that in real life. EVER!
Many people with a disability hate this campaign because they think it is really patronising and it is. Because, you know, we just walk up to complete strangers and say Hi every day. I want to make more Muslim friends so I go out and find Muslim people and say Hi! I don’t know many Aboriginal people either so I am gonna go to Redfern and mingle and say Hi to every Aboriginal person I see. It is completely normal isn’t it? No it isn’t. It is daft and patronising.
That is not to say you ignore people with a disability. It is to say you just talk to them when you meet them in life. Perhaps at a party. Perhaps at work. Perhaps in a bar because they are with your group of friends. You say Hi when you have common interests and you have a genuine interest in people.
I am sure this is what the designers of this campaign had in mind. They were trying to say treat people with a disability like any other. Instead it came across as go seek them out and say HI! No one does that in real life. EVER!
But why were people with a disability so upset about this campaign? I’ll tell you why.
It’s because it gives non- disabled people a license to use people with a disability as a tool to make themselves FEEL GOOD. John with CP over there .. HIIIIIIIII! I’ve done my good deed for today.
Stella Young hated these kind of campaigns. She despaired getting on a train or going into a bar because some well meaning person would come over and say something like -“Hi, it’s great to see you out and about.” Inevitably someone will come over and think they are being kind by taking an interest in you. “What happened to you?” they enquire.
Sadly this is often what well meaning campaigns like JUST SAY HI do. They just give people a license to satisfy their curiosity and do their good deed for the day.
“It is a truism that it is nearly always up to the person with a disability to lead the way.
Inclusion is never easy. It is a truism that it is nearly always up to the person with a disability to lead the way. They have to explain their needs and make endless requests for the environment to be adapted. This is because the needs of people with a disability are rarely considered in the design of things.
In my current job I spent some time teaching and informing my workmates as to what needed to happen for me to be included. I was very strong in letting them know that when they are chatting I often miss out on what is going on. Often what they are talking about is relevant to work and I need to know.
To their credit they’re terrific and when they’re chatting on the floor they will, often without me asking, just let me know what they are talking about. Even if they’re talking about what they did on the weekend. They do it naturally and easily and it makes me feel very included.
And that is the key – Do it naturally and easily. It cannot be false and it cannot be forced. It especially cannot be orchestrated by well meaning campaigns like JUST SAY HI!
I dare say if the designers of such campaigns took the time to ask us people with a disability what we thought before diving headlong into such campaigns they could have saved themselves a lot of pain and bother. Mostly they could have saved US, the people with a disability, the pain and bother.
Nevertheless, the struggles of non-disabled people to make us disabled’s feel included can be the stuff of much hilarity. Watch the video below and if you want to have an awareness campaign that works – Follow the format! Enjoy.