Disability and deafness is such a combative sector. We are constantly on alert. We spend all our lives fighting for access. We tend to come out fighting at the slightest hint that this hard earned access might be taken away.

Sometimes the things we have to deal with daily are just bizarre. So bizarre that they make you want to throw in the towel. But somehow we just keep fighting. I do not know how.

A friend contacted me last week. She wanted to debrief.  She works in a disability organisation. They have regular meetings for which they book her interpreters.

One of the great things about interpreters is greeting them before the job, sharing a bit of gossip and having a laugh. Of course we also bring them up to speed with the job they are about to do.

It is almost like the water cooler for hearing people. In offices they say that people gather around the water cooler. At the water cooler they gossip, debrief, arrange dates, invite people to parties and generally just talk about the world.

For the deaf person this essential socialisation that is part of a normal and healthy workplace does not happen in the same way. Especially if they are the one deaf person in the team.

So what they often do, and I am no exception, is spend time chatting with interpreters. It’s their time when they are not struggling to lipread. It’s a time where they can just converse easily and naturally.

It is limited compared to what hearing colleagues can do. Hearing colleagues chat across the floor. They chat at smokos, in the lunch room and of course at the fabled water cooler. All day long.

There is much you learn from these chats. It contributes to team morale. You learn what other people are doing. More efficient ways to work. Changes in process. All sorts of things that are relevant and valuable to work. For the deaf worker, isolated in this hearing environment, it can be a hard slog.

So back to my friend. She does what we all do. She chats to the interpreters, She shares some of her frustrations at work. Laughs at bad jokes. Catches up with Deaf community gossip and so on. It is a fun relaxing part of the work day that generally only comes around when interpreters are present.

Imagine her shock when her boss approached her to tell her someone had complained. Apparently someone in the office complained that when she was chatting to interpreters in reception that she was a distraction. A distraction to the office and customers.

Apparently this one time when she can talk freely she is wasting time. She spends too long chatting and not working.  Bugger the fact that hearing colleagues chat all day long and waste countless hours. This one time she can converse freely she is a time waster.

To add insult to injury the boss agreed. Told her that if she must chat to the interpreters to find a private booth so that she didn’t distract others.

This, my friends, is a true story. It happened this week in Australia. We have such a long way to go. Which leads me to my final words.

OMFG .. .

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