Poor Wee Fockers

Trigger warning – Massive cynicism – A friend of mine put up a post on Facebook. She was asking peoples views on reverse discrimination. This is where people from disadvantaged groups are often favoured over others so as to create opportunities for them in employment or education. Apparently some non-disabled folk take umbrage to this type of discrimination. They claim it discriminates against non-disabled people. I am going to be rather undiplomatic and say – POOR WEE FOCKERS!!

And really, I mean it. I really have no patience for these non-disabled people who think that by creating employment opportunities or education opportunities for people with a disability, it is unfair because these non-disabled are overlooked. It astonishes me.

For many years now there have been various policies of Affirmative Action. In the 70’s there was a strong push to create opportunities for women, particularly in management positions. It needed to be done because men had dominated the playing field for so long there was no way that many women could compete. Particularly in the 70s where many people still believed that a woman’s place was in the home.

I am sure there were many men at that time who asked, “What about me?” – I guess the same principle applies to them. – Poor wee fockers!!!

It is a truism that there is no such thing as equal opportunity in our world. We like to think there is, but there is not. A whole host of things come into play – Disability, wealth, gender, Aboriginality, socio economic background and so on. Some people, and this is true, are born with silver spoons in their mouth. A bit like like Donald Trump – ” I had it hard, my dad only gave me a million dollars.”

But it is true, by virtue of birth people have advantage. That is not to say that people don’t work up from the slums and become successful, it is just a fact that it is a lot harder for them to do so. This is why we have a concept of equity, because equal opportunity is really a Utopian idea that doesn’t exist and probably never will.

Equity is very different from equal opportunity. Equity takes into consideration all of the barriers that people of disadvantaged background have. For example many Universities have policies that aim to increase representation of students from postcodes that are known to have a high representation of people from low socio-economic backgrounds. They offer scholarships and programs targeted at these postcodes. Student Equity representatives create awareness and encourage people from these postcodes to consider University education.

Other programs target women to increase their representation in trades. This is in traditionally male dominated trades like mechanics, building or carpentry. TAFE and the Government recognise that women are under-represented in these areas and are often pushed in to “traditional” women’s work like nursing, teaching and so on. The reverse is true in teaching where they need more male teachers.

There are also many programs that target people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. The disadvantage that these people have can be horrendous. So employment, education and leadership opportunities are created for them to try and assist them out of the awful disadvantage that they as a people and culture face everyday.

Likewise, there are programs aimed at people with a disability. But the problem with many these programs for people with a disability is that they aim just to get people in a job or into study and little else. So if Johnny with IQ of 165 is stocking shelves, then that’s just dandy.

Ok, I exaggerate, but only a little. I know for a fact that many people that have a disability and are working within organisations that support people with a disability, have been in the same job for many years, with no promotion.

Often these disability organisations will hold these people up as beacon of light. “Look at us…”, they will say, “We have five people with a disability working for us, and one on the Board.” While neglecting to point out that they employ over 500 people and every person in a leadership and management role is a non-disabled person. And that Board member, the solitary disability representative among a Board of twenty.

This is no exaggeration, this is the reality. Certainly, in the Deaf sector it is improving with several Deaf CEOs in the role now, but still the control is very much with hearing people on Boards and still the majority of hearing people are in management and leadership roles.

And you will hear the excuses. “OH!.. But it needs to be merit based ..” or “Oh!, But we need have the right skills and experience…” or “Oh!, But the person we chose had 35 years of experience and none of the disabled people who applied could match that.” And the list goes on.

It will stay that way forever unless proactive policy and recruitment policies are not initiated. It will stay that way unless proactive policies are not initiated to promote people with a disability into leadership and management roles. It will stay that way if people expect people with disability to compete on experience alone, knowing full well the disadvantage they have and the lack of opportunities offered to them.

I am sorry, but you non-disabled people who think you are discriminated against by reverse discrimination really need to understand the concept of equity and disadvantage. Equity policy has helped to even the playing field, but as yet it’s nowhere near even. For god sake, women are still paid less than men for doing the same work!!!

So to those non-disabled that think providing opportunities and creating leadership roles for people with a disability who have the ability to do these roles is discriminating against them, I say to you … “FOCK OFF”


Square Peg in What Hole ..??

A friend of mine got rejected for a job with a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Partner. For those that do not know there are many LAC partners throughout Australia. I worked for one, the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Here in South Australia, where I now reside, we have Feros, Anglicare and Mission Australia. They employ LACs to gather information and formulate recommendations for NDIS plans that NDIA delegates then either approve or slash and approve in a much more watered down format.

Anyway, my friend was quite surprised. She has been around for a long time. She has worked with all disabilities. She has even sat on Government advisory committees and been in high-level management roles. She has formulated and implemented budgets. Negotiated outcomes and been an outstanding advocate for all people with a disability for close on 28 years.

After working at this high level for many years she decided that she would like to get back to her roots. She wanted to work directly with people who have a disability. Fed up with dealing with policy and whatnot she just wanted to use her considerable knowledge to ensure people with disabilities got the best possible NDIS plan that they could. Hell, she has a disability too and her own NDIS plan. Yeah, she knew her shit.

She was rejected for the role. Possibly, we theorised, because she was over qualified. It happens. She sought feedback from the LAC partner and this is what they said,

” You undoubtly process the skills and knowledge that are required. However, we have decided to diversify the LAC role and target people from a financial and banking background. In this instance you have not been successful for the role.”

Now, here we have the biggest disability program in Australia. We have a person who is one of the most knowledgable people about disability in Australia. The person has a disability, has lived their whole life with a disability and even has their own NDIS plan. Rejected for an LAC role because they are seeking people with a financial and banking background. Let that sink in.

Now the LAC role is an immensely specialised role. It needs a knowledge of disability. It needs an understanding of the barriers confronted by people with a disability. It requires an understanding of disability legislation, including NDIS legislation. The LAC has to not only articulate the participants needs in a way that will get them the best plan possible, but also must negotiate with delegates to explain finer details of plans so that the delegate approves a plan that meets the needs of the participant.

It isn’t rocket science. But what it does need is a solid foundation and knowledge of people with a disability and the barriers that they confront everyday. It requires an understanding of access, care, mobility, communication and behaviour issues. It is a very specialised field.

It is impossible for a LAC to know the needs of every person with a disability. However, a solid foundation and understanding of the many complex issues that are confronted by people with a disability is absolutely needed.

So when I read the reason that my friend was rejected for the LAC position, namely that they were seeking financial people and bankers, I said two words, and loudly – FUCK ME!

I make no apology for my language in fact my words were actually … FUCK ME – OH MY GOD – FUCK ME – THATS FUCKING RIDICULOUS!!

Let’s be clear, there are probably bankers and finance people who have a disability and get it. Good for them, congratulations if you won a LAC position. There are probably people from these backgrounds who may have a child with a disability, a sibling or a partner. Great! Welcome to the LAC fold. No arguments from me.

BUT! – to systemically target people from a finance and banking background because it will diversify the workforce – Well that, in my humble opinion, is just fucking batshit crazy! (Apologies, for the lack of political correctness in that last sentence.)

Let me put it another way. Let’s say a plumbing business wanted to employ a plumber and In their infinite wisdom they decided that they wanted to diversify their workforce. “I know”, said the genius plumbing business manager. “Ill target Doctors” The reasoning is simple, doctors have transferable skills, they know how your pipes work.

Bizarre? Of course it is. Perhaps there is a doctor out there that understands plumbing, knows how to install a water heater, knows how to find a leaky pipe and wants to change jobs. Cool, if thats the case. But in reality, how many doctors process the skills to be a plumber? I am betting it is close to zero.

Thats how I feel about targeting finance people and bankers for a very specialised disability role. A role that requires intensive knowledge. and understanding of all things disability. It requires an extreme level of empathy and a fair bit of passion to do the job to the level needed.

Sure, there are some finance/banker types that may have this knowledge. BUT! – you target that knowledge, and not the fact that they are bankers and finance people.

It’s ridiculous, pathetic and I am angry – As everyone should be!! FUCK ME!

Just SAY IT!!!

Its happening again. There is a debate going on about whether we should use the word disability. There are still those Ableist that hate the word disability. “It says they are less able.” Say those able-bods that struggle with the word. What they are really saying is – “I’d hate to be like that ….Let’s try make them like us as much as possible.”

And so they begin the quest to find a nicer way to tell people they are disabled. Differently abled. People of varying abilities. Sight challenged, height challenged. hearing challenged etc. People of varying needs. It goes on and on.

I have written about this often. I am going to keep this short and sweet. I am going to be blunt and tell people that struggle with the word disability to get over it and just say it …And here is why.

As a lad I lost my hearing around the ages of 8 and 10. My earliest memory is attending an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist with my dad. The specialist recommended hearing aids. I remember my parents struggling with this, as many parents do. Accepting your child has a “deficit” is a difficult thing.

I remember my mum stating vehemently that I didn’t need them. My parents might have been a bit in denial – Not wanting to accept the inevitable. It is a difficult thing for a parent. They accepted it later but at the start they struggled. Of course, as an impressionable kid, the message that I processed was that deaf was a bad, bad thing.

When I attended doctor appointments in those days, I was really not there. I could hear enough in those early times. You listen to the doctor say directly to your parents, as if you are not in the room – “If we get him aided quickly he can live a normal life …” The message – Deaf isn’t normal – hearing is – Get fixed. Being ignored by the doctor fosters a great sense of powerlessness

Next comes a kind of acceptance from your parents that hearing aids are needed. This is where it gets interesting. The professionals will say things like – “The aids are so small no one will ever know.” “They are the same colour as your skin people cant see them” You can grow your hair long, people wont know you have them” The message? Deafness must be hidden, no-one must know!

What does this do to ones mentality? Well for a start it destroys your self esteem. “He’s only hard of hearing, he does very well really” “He speaks so well, you wouldn’t know he was deaf.” “Such a strapping lad, you’d never know he had some kind of disability like deafness.”

All these are well meaning comments, but what they tell you is that being deaf is not a good thing. Being seen like everyone else is. Avoidance of the word, avoidance of the fact – it all serves to reinforce a point of view that being deaf is bad, deny it, hide it and don’t talk about it at any cost.

This destroys you as a young person. Instead of just seeing deafness as a completely normal human condition and treating it as such, the message is – The less you look deaf, the better you are.

And so I spent all my adolescent years practically denying the fact I was deaf. Fed these messages by hearing society that I should hide my deafness, particularly by professionals, that’s what I tried to do.

I started to deliberately lose hearing aids. I would refuse to wear them. I started pretending that I could understand when I could not. Of the latter, kids knew this and they would always try to trip me up, “Are you a poof?” they would ask, hoping to trip me up. (No offence to the LGBTIQA community, I wouldn’t care if I was.) – I had a whole host of little tricks designed to convince myself that I wasn’t deaf.

But I was deaf. And I knew people knew and that burned. So I stopped going to school. If I was at school I sat in a corner by myself. Believe it or not, I was even caned for consistently forgetting my hearing aids and lying about it. That really reinforced a view in myself that deaf was bad and I hated being deaf.

It took a very long time, well into my twenties, before I really was Ok in my deaf skin. But it didn’t need to be that way. Largely I blame those professionals, well meaning as they were, for their negative attitude towards deafness and the language that they used. It was and is very damaging.

Still they are doing it. Looking for a better way to say disability. Trying to come up with a term that softens the blow. It doesn’t, it simply reinforces the fact that disability is seen as a negative thing. If people talk about it negatively constantly and refuse to say the word disability, the consequence on the young person with a disability is negative feelings about disability and themselves. This I know.

I know wheelchair users who told me me that as children they suffered great pain at efforts to make them walk upright. The paradox is that the easiest and most sensible thing was to become a wheelchair user. The painful therapy, the painful surgery and the weird looks they got from people as they struggled to walk – It dug deep into their soul.

Later, when they decide being a wheelchair user is the best and most sensible thing, they felt a great sense of failure and even feelings of having let people down, particularly their parents. Thats what this be “be normal” attitude does – a hell of a lot of damage.

To those professionals and those non-disabled who are struggling with the word disability I advise – Just say it, move on, get over it and change your attitude- Disability isn’t a dirty word.