All I want for Xmas!!

It’s one week til Xmas. Most of us are all in a frantic rush to pull stuff together. Presents, food, Xmas day arrangements, organising holidays and the like. Many of us at work are in a frantic rush to beat our deadlines and get all our work finished so we can relax over the break. Some of us, sadly, are going through hard times and Xmas just magnifies these problems threefold. It’s not all fun and games for everyone.

Me? I’ve long done getting excited about presents. I much rather see things happening for the good of all. Real change to a world that excludes. I just want a world that everyone can fit into seamlessly. Farfetched? Probably, but one can only wish. So here it is, what I want for Xmas!

First of all can we fix the trains, trams and buses and make them all accessible. Can we make it so that people in wheelchairs, with dicky knees, with mobility needs, who have prams or are simply recovering from injury can get on them? It’s not a big ask. It’s 2018 and you can charge your phone wirelessly but can’t do something as simple as get on a bus.

Or can we make it so that deaf people can get on a train and end up where they want to go. This morning, again, my train got re-routed. I have no idea why. Visual display said that the next stop was Parliament as it should have been. It went to Flinders instead. Panic and mayhem ensued cos I was gonna be late for my bacon and egg sanger. But it could have been a job interview or an important work meet and I would not have known. In this day and age where Netflix can caption everything we can’t even make train announcements accessible. Weird hey?

And over in Queensland they built these flash new trains for the Commonwealth Games. Eight out of nine of them were not accessible for people with a disability. Not sure how that happened. Probably because in their excitement to build trains for the Commonwealth Games they forgot. At the last minute they realised their whoopsie and applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission for an exemption to disability dicrimination laws. They were denied and rightly so.

How can this happen in 2018. How can it happen in the middle of an NDIS roll out where accessible infrastructure is so important to the success of the scheme. Governments, surely, must lead the way. And it happened because a Newman Liberal Government apparently ordered the trains on the cheap.

So to save money people with a disability had to miss out. People with a disability had just one train out of nine of which they could get on to go to the Commonwealth Games. And you know the Queensland Government were at risk of lawsuits from people with a disability. But you know the Disability Discrimination Act is so crap I daresay no one bothered.

It’s not a big ask. My biggest wish for Xmas is that Australia gets it right. All the time and every time. That it designs things with disability inclusion at the forefront of design. Not as an afterthought when they realise that those steps that they built to get on the train might be a problem.

Oh and be my Xmas angel and fix the bloody DDA … Useless piece of paper that it is.

Here in Australia The Rebuttal mostly focuses on Deaf, deaf, hearing impaired, hard of hearing, implantees, the hearing challenged, those with lesser hearing, the partially deafened, the later hearing lossed, the cloth eared the deaf as a posts and those that can hear Eff all.

And you know we are still debating about which label is most appropriate. Of all the terms that I have just listed the only one that is really different from the others is Deaf, with a capital D. This is the term that signifies that a person is a member of the Deaf community. These people use Auslan and are part of the rich fabric that is the Deaf community. Deaf is their identity and who they are. That I respect.

The other terms simply refer to people that cannot hear, or can hear just a bit, or can hear quite a lot with aids or implants. It’s all about the hearing and the lack of it. Here we are today in 2018 still debating about which term to use. In fact for the trillionth time a survey has gone out asking people with a hearing loss what term they want to be known by.

The Government has asked Deafness Forum to conduct a survey to find out what people with a hearing loss want to be known by. The survey starts by asking you to choose one of the following:

  • You don’t have a hearing aid device. Do you rely on information being provided in writing such as hand writing, captions, transcripts, software that converts speech to text, lip-reading, avoiding noisy surroundings, or a combination of some or all of these communication techniques?
  • Do you use assistive technology (hearing aid or implant)?
  • Do you use assistive technology, and also use lip-reading
  • Do you communicate using assistive technology, and also using sign language?
  • Do you communicate in Australian sign language, supported by assistive technology?
  • Do you communicate in Auslan only?

I had a giggle over the questions. I just kind of figured that they were written in a rush, or by someone with no clue and with absolutely no quality checking. But anyway, if you know how Australian Sign Language is different from Auslan let me know. I know Auslan doesn’t mean Australian Sign Language, it is the name of the language but I am at loss as to what Australian Sign Language is or what sign language is again. Nowhere do I see the term Auslan interpreter either … Let’s just leave that there. But if you want to do the survey the link is below.

I want for Xmas is that we stop this stupid debate. Its been going on for ever.  Just let people choose whatever they want to be called. I want for Xmas for our Deaf sector to bind together and focus on issues that matter.

You know like solving the interpreter crisis, training more captioners, improving education, supporting families of deaf kids, open captioning at cinemas, theatre to be accessible to Auslan users and those that don’t use Auslan equally. These are really, really important things. Solve these things and all my Xmases will have come at once and you can call me whatever you like.

Put simply I have just one Xmas wish and that is that all people with a disability anywhere are included and get equal access everywhere.!!

Merry Xmas everyone.

The State of Inclusion (Not)

Congratulations Dan Andrews on your Danslide. As you said it was a victory for fair minded people. A rejection of fear, a rejection of misogyny and a rejection of a heap of isms including those starting with race and sex. It’s goodbye to right wing extremism. I for one am rapt.

Dan was a happy man. He told the world that Victoria was a progressive state. The best in the nation he said. Indeed under his stewardship things have happened. Metro Tunnel, airport trains, getting rid of train crossings, free TAFE and an apology to the LGBTI community for the years of discrimination and abuse. Dan and his team make things happen and that’s why they were voted back in power.

But – As progressive as Dan and his team have been they seem to have forgotten disability in all of their policy. There seems to be a train of thought that the NDIS will fix it. No longer do Governments need to think deeply about disability. This hugely expensive and evolving NDIS will fix it. I am sorry it won’t. Not on its own anyway.

Did you know that around Victoria the very slow progress to make public transport accessible is continuing at snail pace? In no time at all we can build a tunnel to the airport and fix the railways crossing issue. Meanwhile most people with a physical disability, and after many years of campaigning, struggle to use public transport.

Wheelchair users still have to wait for someone to let down a ramp so that they can get on a train. Most tram stops are inaccessible. Accessible trams are no good if you can’t get on them. Where stops are accessible they are sometimes still served by inaccessible trams. Public announcements at train stations still happen and deaf people are left in limbo. Come on Dan you want to be progressive? Then fix this mess. Successive governments have failed to do so. Be the one that does.

Tonight my wife is going to an awards night for my son’s school. My son is a bit of a clever chap. He won an award or six, including the prestigious Caltex Award. He goes up tonight to receive his medal. My wife, who is deaf, has to follow the night by using transcripts of speeches because there are no funds for interpreters.

A week ago we both attended his Valedictory. As school captain he was giving a speech. He was also being acknowledged as the schools top student. At this evening the school, from its own budget, paid for one interpreter. My wife and I coughed up some money to cover the travel costs of the interpreter. It was a four hour night and only one interpreter could be afforded.

Of course we looked after him. We gave him breaks and had him only interpret essential parts of the awards. Because he was only interpreter we had to allow him time to recover and social chitchat with others was kept to a minimum. In short we both got only the essentials of the night and were unable to be fully enjoy it.

Why? Well because the Education Department has outsourced all funds for interpreting to Language Loop. The conditions of the contract appear to be very strict and there are only limited circumstances where Auslan interpreters, (or any language interpreters), can be used such as parent teacher nights. Meanwhile deaf parents are unable to be fully involved in the celebration of their child’s schooling. All because the schools do not have enough funding for interpreters and the Education Department refuses to cough up.

This is not an NDIS responsibility. Education, and all to do with it, is the responsibility of the Education Department, including access to such important events as Valedictories and awards nights. At any rate many deaf people do not have an NDIS plan. Even if they did NDIS is not supposed to be used for Education Department endorsed events.

In short the Government, yes the one that Dan leads, needs to fund the access. Especially if it wants to be known, as Dan proudly proclaims, the most progressive Government in the nation. It’s a disgrace that deaf parents are missing out or being made, as we did, to contribute towards some of the cost. Oh, and while Dan and his team are fixing that, don’t forget the shocking state of TAFE where deaf students are going with only partial access to their TAFE education.

Moving away from Dan for a moment, let’s focus a bit on Bill. Well Bill is going to be Prime Minister very soon. I would much rather Tanya but it is what it is. When he does come on board, as one of the architect of the NDIS, he needs get his Government to fund infrastructure so that all buildings, transport and services are fully accessible? Not the current mishmash of hit and miss.

And please fix the National Relay Service. Does anyone honestly think that Deaf Professionals can be productive while waiting 20 minutes or more for a relay officer to answer? It is not good enough and it is a real kick in the guts for those that fought so hard for telecommunications access for the deaf. In this day and age of technology there is no excuse for this type of access to go backwards.

Dan, congratulations. I think you and your team are doing a great job. Get to work Dan. Make Victoria the State of Inclusion. There is much to be done. Are you up to the challenge?