Hello Deaf and hard of hearing people of Australia. Did you wake up this morning and turn on your television? Perhaps you went to channel 9 or Channel 7 to watch their trash journalism. Or perhaps, like me, you went to ABC and watched the eloquent David Speers and his panel intelligently dissect the week in politics. Maybe you even watched cartoons with your kids. God knows, the cartoons have more substance than a lot of what is on television. Married At First Sight Fans, I am looking at you.
You know that you could sit there and watch television all day. You would find that nearly every show is captioned, bar the newer digital channels. That’s a far cry from yesteryear when we had just a few shows captioned. We stimulated our intellectual buds with such gems as Neighbours and Home and Away. The ABC was our point of call because they had more shows captioned than the other channels. I recall Channel 9 captioning 60 Minutes and then stopping because the Deaf and hard off hearing community complained that one story didn’t didn’t have captions when it should have. Rather than say sorry they just stopped captioning altogether. “Take that you ungrateful bastards..” is what Channel 9 seemed to be saying.
Have you been to the cinema and watched open caption movies. For a time our only option was a once a month showing if we were lucky and only in the city at one big cinema. Then we had the dreadful Captiview introduced to give us access. The bastard contraption was never charged, had drop outs, caused eyestrain and god help you if you were taller than six foot and needed to be comfortable in the cinema. But over time more open captioned movies have been reintroduced. If you are lucky to live in some regional areas you might even get more than one open captioned session a week. We still wish there were more – But open captions are back – We thought we had lost them forever.
And at work did you have interpreting provided or Live Remote Captioning? Did you use your Jobaccess provided iPad to view the captions or access an interpreter from Japan because all the Auslan interpreters in Australia were booked up? Did you use your NDIS funding to attend a wedding or meet with the Tradie doing your home renovations? Did you have access at University to attend lectures and tutorials? Did you know that there was a time that the only access at university you got was a buddy volunteer notetaker who you had to chase all over the campus for notes? You prayed to god that they didn’t drop out of the course otherwise you’d be fucked. That’s if you were not already.
Did you know that there was a time when none of the above were available? That Deaf and hard of hearing people couldn’t even access the phone? Jobs were limited. Isolation immense. Incomes low. Nearly all people who were Deaf worked in manual labor type jobs or in offices doing data entry. Did you know that in 1983, just 37 years ago, I was the first deaf person to complete his Matriculation at a unit for hearing impaired in South Australia? (That was their claim anyway.) It was not that long ago that if you were Deaf or hard of hearing your life choices were extremely limited. I mean in 1986 I broke my leg for the third time and had to hop to my neighbour to call an ambulance because I had no access to the phone. This was life for Deaf and hard of hearing people a little under 40 years ago.
But now we seemingly have endless choices. The NDIS, shit as it can be, has provided incredible access to people who are Deaf and hard of hearing that are eligible. Interpreting for trivia nights. 21st birthdays you don’t need to sit in a corner on your own anymore. Christmas, if you so wish and you can find an interpreter willing to give up their Christmas Day, you can have those dreaded hearing family get togethers interpreted. This access, these boundless opportunities, who do we have to thank for them?
Well, a large part of this access is because of our Deaf and hard of hearing Elders. They fought hard for us all so that we could have the access that we have today. I could give you a roll-call of the well known Deaf and hard of hearing advocates but I will not. Why? Well, because there are many Deaf or hard of hearing elders who worked hard at their own workplace, within their own communities, at their own places of study or simply by supporting campaigns like the campaign for better captioning. These Deaf and hard of hearing people were just as valuable to the cause as some of our better known advocates.
And you know what? Despite their battles, largely on our behalf, many of the Deaf and hard of hearing elders cannot access any of these supports. One must remember they gave go their time largely voluntarily. They have retired, JobAccess has passed them by. The time where they could have been at university they have missed because they were too busy fighting for our access. The tragedy of all of this really is that these elders, many of them are not eligible for the NDIS.
You see the cut of point for the NDIS is 65 years of age. If you were lucky enough to qualify for NDIS before you were 65 then you can take that support til death because the NDIS is supposed top be Cradle to the Grave. But over 65 you have nothing. Nothing at all. Perhaps a bit of interpreting through NABS for private medical but that’s it.
How shit is that? These people who have worked so hard so that we could have the access and opportunities that we have today have nothing. They have to try My Aged Care – Unless they are frail My Aged Care will tell them that they don’t qualify. Even if they do qualify My Aged Care won’t provide interpreters. They could under Community Participation programs but they won’t.
So currently the Deaf and hard of hearing Elders who we need to be so thankful to have nothing. But they are still fighting. They have set up their own Deaf Elder Network. They are lobbying to the Government. They are being interviewed on radio. They are campaigning for equal access. Will it ever stop for them? Are the younger Deaf and hard of hearing people campaigning for them and supporting them? Are our advocacy groups making a noise? I don’t see it. I just see the Elders fighting the good fight, a fight they have been fighting all their life.
It is wrong! we need to support them. I urge every one reading this to seek them out on Facebook and lend your support. I urge you to distribute this article so that people are aware of what is going on. If you have skills and time to support them put your hand up and help them with their campaign.
We owe it to them – They should be enjoying the fruits of their labour, not fighting til they hit the grave. Let’s all fight and get the Elders the support they richly deserve. They have earned it!