Sometimes I think we are making progress in this world. I think things are better. There are more opportunities. There is access and immediate communication. The government is funding some great stuff. We have the NDIS which has a long way to go but it is world leading. Given time it can and should be the best thing for people with a disability in Australia. Admittedly we are a long way from there yet. It’s a start though and we need to be patient. I tell myself and others, always, Rome was not built in a day.
And then I have days like today when I realise disability rights are a constant one step forward several hundred backwards. So often it seems like we are getting nowhere.
For example a disabled friend who does not have an NDIS package yet was trying to book supports to attend an event. The service organisation appeared quite happy to assist, given my friend did not have an NDIS package. The bubble was burst, however, when the organisation asked my friend if there were any other people with a disability attending the event who had NDIS funding and if my friend could let the service organisation know who they were. Presumably so that these people could pay for the supports my friend required. I mean – What the fuck? Not only is this unethical but it is a gross breach of confidentiality. Worse, its demeaning to my friend!
But worse was to come. Another friend posted an article to me. The article was about Australia’s Disability Discriminateasmuchasyoulike ACT. Yes our famous DDA. The article was published at the People with a Disability Australia website, It basically said what we all know, that our DDA is rubbish. If you want to read the article the link is at the end of this Blog. What got me was that a seemingly intelligent judge could rule what he did.
It seems that there was a case where a person with a disability took a training organisation to the task. There is a college, you see, that teaches people about skin and other what nots to do with skin. This is the Australasian College of Dermatologists. I can only assume that some poor blighter with a disability wanted to attend the college and was refused access supports that would enable them to study.
Like any tertiary learning institute the fees are astronomical. A masters course in dermatology at the college will set you back $18 000. If you are going to fork out that kind of money one would hope that you would get full access. Well it appears not if you have a disability. Our hero seems to have asked for support through reasonable adjustments. The college seems to have dug in its heels and refused to provide the necessary support.
For its obstinateness the college got taken to court for discrimination. The college, as is usually the case, won. The poor person with a disability missed out again, to the surprise of no one.
The article does not say what disability was involved. Nor does it state what the person with a disability was asking for in terms of access. All we know is that the person lost their case. Some bright as a knob judge decided that the college was under no obligation to provide any reasonable adjustments UNLESS – Now don’t laugh, this is serious – Unless the person with a disability could prove that the college had refused them reasonable supports because of their disability. BECAUSE OF THEIR DISABILITY. Let that sink in for the moment.
So let’s say Gazzles, deaf as a post, wants to study dermatology. He gets accepted and goes to the college and says – ” I want captioning so I can access the course.” This is an entirely reasonable request. But the college says no. Not providing. “Why?” asks Gazzles. The college looks Gazzles in the eye and says – “Because we don’t want to.”
“Not fair” says Gazzles. “I need it so I can know whats being said.” And the college replies, “Sorry, don’t want to.”
Discrimination I hear you all crying. Not according to the supremely intelligent Judge. The onus is on Gazzles to prove that the college didn’t provide the captioning because he was deaf. The dialogue might go something like this:
Gazzles: “Judge they are discriminating against me because they won’t provide me access to the course even though I met the criteria and I can pay.”
Judge: ” Well you skin experts, what do you have to say to that? Did you discriminate against Gazzles?”
Skin Experts: “Nope”
Judge: ” It doesn’t look good from where I am standing, why cant you provide Gazzles with support?”
Skin Experts: ” Well cos we don’t provide captions to anyone, We don’t do it. It’s not our policy.”
Judge: ” Are you sure you are not refusing because Gazzles is Deaf?”
Skin Experts: “Quite sure – Providing captions is simply not something that we do.”
Judge: ” Gazzles, they say they are not refusing support to you because they simply don’t provide Captioning to anyone. What say you?”
Gazzles: “Judge, its obvious, it’s because I am deaf and they don’t want to pay.”
Judge: “Is that what they said to you? Do you have that in writing?”
Gazzles: ” Well, No.”
Judge: ” So you have no concrete proof support was refused because you are deaf?”
Gazzles: ” Well no, but its obvious isn’t it?”
Judge: “Not without any proof, no. Case dismissed!”
Ridiculous isn’t it – But this is exactly what has just happened. A court ruled that if the person with a disability cannot prove that support was refused because of their disability they are – In the Queens English – Fucked!
And that is our DDA. Pathetic, useless and totally only worth the paper that it is written on. It is shocking. It is time to fix this mess now before Australia becomes the laughing stock of the world in terms of disability rights.
I mean even our Disability Commissioner makes the point in the Sydney Morning Herald on February 3rd. The Commish had this to say:
” Progress has been incredibly slow,” Mr McEwin said. “A lot of politicians have assumed, ‘Oh we’re great we’ve got the NDIS, we don’t need to do that much more.’ But we’ve got the issue of guardianship laws, the issues of physical access, and the issue of young people missing out on educational opportunities or not getting a job.”
There you have it. Straight from the horses mouth. Human Rights for Australians with a disability are a mess. We need to fix this now. Let’s start with that useless DDA! And if we can’t commit to that we may well just sod off!
And that article – Am I being overly dramatic? Well read it and you be the judge, click on the link below: