A Sorry Affair …

Image is of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, eyes tightly shut and in obvious distress.

ScoMo is saying sorry a lot lately. He is saying sorry to the women of Australia. Sorry that they are being abused, raped, ignored and under-paid. He is even saying sorry for being sorry. He commented that women were lucky that they can protest cos if they lived somewhere else then they might be shot. He is sorry for having to consult with his wife to understand that abusing women is wrong. He is sorry that he had to think how he would have reacted if it were his daughter in Brittney Higgins shoes.

You see he lacks empathy of any sort. Empathy would have told him that abusing women in any form is wrong.” Im trying” he says – And he is sorry that if by trying to be sorry he offends anyone for the drivel that comes out of his mouth … Unsurprisingly, the women, and good proportion of men, have seen his apologies for what they are – Just a trite strategy of political survival.

You see “SORRY” has to be met with appropriate action. This is something that hearing people that serve Deaf people and people who are hard of hearing don’t seem to grasp. They do awful things to Deaf people and people who are hard of hearing, usually in the name of making money.

This group of motley hearing people drive forward in the name of the almighty dollar. Trampling on the very people that they are paid to serve. The very people that put food on their tables, pay for their expensive cars and their beachfront house. These people lack empathy and make horrendous decisions. When the people that they serve speak out, they apologise. Apologies that, as with ScoMo, are purely strategies for damage control and survival.

Let’s have a look at some of these sorry’s that have come from these organisations. Who remembers the Prawns??? My wife does,  believe me.

Image is of an attractive woman wearing prawns behind her ear. the prawns are supposed to represent hearing aids.

I wrote about the Raw Prawns in 2015. At the time Victorian Hearing had released an advertisement that depicited hearing aids as prawns.  In the advertisement an attractive female model is seen wearing prawns behind her ears. The advertisement  proclaimed that hearing aids can be ugly – OURS ARE INVISIBLE …. As a result Deaf people  and people who are hard of hearing protested at this gross negativity and insensitivity. This is what I said about the advertisement at the time –

” …The image is always one of deficit.  It is one of suffering. it is one of the victim. For whatever reason marketing people promote this idea of normalisation of disability as one where disability must never be acknowledged or seen … We have to be like them you see..”

To the credit of Victorian Hearing they saw the error of their ways. The owner publicly apologised. They were mortified that they had offended so many Deaf people and people who are hard of hearing. They immediately withdrew the advertisement. We all expected more empathy from an organisation that supposedly understands our needs. Alas!!

Many years ago there was an advertisement for the Cora Barclay Centre. The Centre is now under the Can Do Group – Formerly Townsend House. The advertisement went like this. Picture this 12 year old boy. He is staring sadly into the camera. He signs haltingly and terribly. He is clearly struggling. He can’t communicate easily and his pain and anguish is there for all to see.  The dialogue reminds us that for many years Deaf people communicated, just like this!

Suddenly, the camera cuts back to the boy. He is smiling and happy, he proclaims in what I was told was almost a sing song voice – “Now there is a better way …. ” The presumption is clear – Sign language bad – Speech good …. naturally the Deaf community were appalled and let the Cora Barclay Centre know. The Centre refused to remove the advertisement or apologise … This was absolutely the worst I have ever seen. One would hope that the Can Do Group have helped them to clean up their Act.

Then there was that bear. That bloody eyeless and earless bear that The old Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) tried to use to raise funds and seemingly create awareness. I wrote about that awful bear in the last Rebuttal. Suffice to say shortly after printing that 2013 article the CEO of RIDBC apologised for the organisation being insensitive and having upset so many people. The campaign was apparently designed and implemented by an advertising group, basically free of charge. Nonetheless, the CEO said sorry and made sure all of the offending advertisements that featured the bear were removed.

More recently Deaf Can Do apologised for having sold the Deaf communities cultural home without the consent of the Deaf community. They did so despite strong protests from the Deaf community. In doing so they fragmented the South Australian Deaf community in such a way that it has never really recovered. The building at 262 South Terrace had been purchased and built on the back of Deaf community members. I am told the carpentry and fittings within the building, including the church, were lovingly completed by Deaf trades people.

But no matter, the building was sold anyway. It appears in recent times Deaf Can Do has seen the error of its ways. Their Executive Director has released a series of apologies for having sold the building. They have apologised for the hurt and damage that they have caused. They are now frantically trying to rebuild relationships with the Deaf community and are trying to involve the Deaf community in decisions moving forward.

Unsurprisingly, the Deaf community are very suspicious of this apology. Many see it as nothing more than a cynical ploy to attract Deaf people back to the organisation so that Deaf Can Do can make money from these individuals NDIS packages. Personally I think they are sincere.

I am told that the money that they made from the sale of 262 is being held in a trust and that Deaf Can Do want to fully involve the Deaf community in all decisions concerning the use of these funds moving forward. However, the damage has been done it will take some time to rebuild the trust that Deaf Can Do destroyed through its actions.

Today I saw yet another apology from the Royal Institute for Deaf Blind Children, now known as NextSense. Last week NextSense was launched. It took the Deaf community and other associated stakeholders by surprise. Seemingly, just like that, they wiped over 100 years of Deaf history. They launched the new brand and there were no Auslan versions explaining the brand change. We all know it happened because they are diversifying and want to tap into the enormous NDIS market for both children and adults.

The Deaf community and associated stakeholders were shocked and have been protesting loudly ever since at the shoddy treatment that they have received. So what happened? Having realised that they had largely ignored the Deaf community, who are largely responsible for the existence of the organisation anyway, having realised that they had aligned themselves with services that have traditionally rejected all use of Auslan and, I suspect, having realised that as a public relations tool the whole thing was a monumental cock up – NextSense apologised. You can see their apology at their Facebook page, because as far as I can see it is not on their website –


So it is strike two for NextSense. I have little sympathy for them, given their form with that awful bear when they were then known as RIDBC. There is no way that they can excuse themselves for having left so many people in the dark when they launched the new brand. There is no way at all that they should have even thought to release the new brand without acknowledgement of the Deaf community or by producing alternate Auslan formats for their announcements.

But they did, and they are now apologising and frantically trying to add Auslan to all their announcements. Shoddy does not even begin to describe how disgracefully that they have treated the Deaf community. I, for one, am very skeptical of their apology. We all know the rebrand was about money and making as much of it as possible. Sure they need it to survive but treating the Deaf community as they have done is unforgivable.

So there you have it. A whole catalogue of Sorry’s .. Including a not sorry. Make of them what you will. For myself, I am increasingly cynical. These people should know better!!

The Invisible People

Graphic shows a yellow Teddy Bear sitting with building blocks in front of it. It has no eyes and no ears.

“I found myself staring at a bear. He had been posted on Facebook. He was a kind of sorry looking bear. He had no eyes and no ears and he had stubby little legs. He looked almost like a double amputee. The bear was sitting sorrowfully on a wooden floor, surrounded by wooden blocks and wooden toys. He is a bright yellow bear. He stands out from the toys that are reds, blues and greens. He looks so lonely and so sad. In the background on a blue wall were the words, “WE NEED YOUR HELP.”

Taken from I Saw a Bear, The Rebuttal, June 29th, 2013

One day back in 2013 I saw the eyeless and earless bear on Facebook as described above. I was taken aback. It was grotesque. Worse, not only was it on Facebook, it had been placed in the form of a billboard at my bus-stop. It was an awareness and fundraising campaign conducted by one of Australia’s oldest and long-standing charities, The Royal Institute of Deaf Blind Children, (RIDBC) The basic idea was that here was a deaf and blind bear. It was a very sad thing representing children who might be Deaf, hard of hearing, Blind, vision impaired or deafblind.  It’s tragic and we should give our money to save them. The reader will see the original advertisement in the graphic to their right.

I was outraged because the advertisement focused entirely on deficit and portrayed people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, Blind and vision impaired as sad sorry creatures that required saving. I was outraged because it did not even accurately portray what RIDBC do, mainly that they support children who are Deaf, hard of hearing, Blind, vision impaired or deafblind. Not just deafblind which is what the bear portrays. I was outraged because the whole premise of the advertisement was revolting. It was a cynical attempt to garner pity from an unsuspecting public.

I wrote the article on Friday, posted it on the Saturday morning. It created a bit of an outrage and by Sunday evening we had a response from RIDBC CEO – I have pasted it in full below …

Dear All,

As the Chief Executive of RIDBC the approval of the noted campaign rested with me. The ad has been concluded and all “Yellow Bears” will be removed today / tonight.

By way of explanation the ad was not designed to reflect a person who is deaf or blind but to associate “eyes and ears” with RIDBC a task that often proves difficult from a general community perspective. The fact that the comparison has been made, and, has caused distress is enough for immediate cessation of the probono campaign.

RIDBC is committed to giving children the best start in life through its high quality educational programs and services. I will ensure that same high quality approach is applied to our general community awareness campaigns and media activities.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Rehn

Mind you his promise that all “Yellow Bears will be removed today/tonight” did not quite occur. It took a couple of weeks for the offending bear to be removed from my bus route, which was in Melbourne by the way, such was the reach of the campaign. But credit where it was due, he did what he promised.

One would think that an organisation such as RIDBC would have learnt from this mistake. One would think that, moving forward, they would consult with their stakeholders and the Deaf community. One would think that if they were to embark on huge changes, having learnt from the Yellow Bear debacle, that they would push all stops out to make sure that they did it right into the future.

But this is hearing people and professionals we are talking about. It is hearing business people with dollar signs in front of their eye. Hearing professionals that lack knowledge of the issues and needs of the people that they are serving. This is people with hearing privilege who see themselves as saviours of us poor disabled creatures. Mind you, not all hearing people and professionals are like this, there are many champions out there. However, there are far too many who are stuck in their privilege and power.

So it came as no shock to me that RIDBC is no more. Perhaps I am being a little dramatic, in truth it has been rebranded. It’s now called NextSense. The problem is that it appears that very few of the people that are associated with or have been associated with RIDBC in the past appear to have known what was happening. They were aware that a rebranding was happening, but it seems, allegedly, very few of them – and this includes parents, ex students, current students and the Deaf community – were consulted in the process.

Let’s look at the name NextSense. As is typical of these organisations, they have rid their brand of any mention of disability. Like Expression Australia before them, I bet this decision was purely around money. You see, any reference to disability is seen as a negative thing. The view of marketers and business people, most who have no lived experience of disability, is that any reference to disability will turn people away. Such is the way of this money obsessed NDIS influenced world.

You see, they say that if they use the word Deaf, people with a lesser hearing loss will avoid them. If they use Blind people classified as “partially sighted” or vision impaired will not come to them. If they do not come to them they miss out on potentially millions of dollars. So what they do is avoid the terms deaf and blind, or in fact any term related to disability.

In doing so they only further marginalise disability. They reinforce the idea that disability is a bad and negative thing. They reinforce the idea that disability needs to be avoided at all costs and has no place in our society. Hide them, don’t mention them, avoid them and come up with cute branding like NextSense to attract them all and their NDIS dollars. Cynical am I? I suspect that what I have just said is very close to the truth.

What is worse is that in one stroke of a computer keyboard they have obliterated over a hundred years of history. The famous Thomas Pattison School, founded in 1860 by the Deaf man of the same name, has been rebranded. It’s now called, revoltingly, NextSense School Sign Bilingual program. It’s purpose, and I quote directly from the NextSense website:

“… is for children who use both Australian Sign Language (Auslan)and English in its written and spoken form.” 

Put aside the fact that Auslan does not stand for Australian Sign Language. Auslan is the name of the sign language that the Australian Deaf community own and is an integral part of their cultural identity. IT IS NOT AN ACRONYM!  Put aside the fact that there is no mention of Thomas Pattison and his legacy anywhere in the blurb, as far as I can see anyway. Put aside the fact that all this clearly shows that NextSense didn’t bother to consult nor include the Deaf community in any of these new branding developments. If they had, none of these school children errors would have been made. They didn’t consult, but they did insult the Deaf community in a very bad way. It seems that the yellow bear incident taught RIDBC nothing.

Apparently, in all of the media releases there are also no alternate formats, no Auslan versions for the Deaf community. Not on their website and not on their promotional Youtube video which was at least captioned, thankfully. Sadly there are actual videos on their website that are not captioned, poor form for an organisation that professes to be all inclusive.  I apologise if there are Auslan versions out there but for the life of me I could not find them.

It’s just another addition to the cock ups made by hearing privileged  professionals. This is just another insult to the Deaf community and all associated stakeholders including parents and past students be they Deaf, hard of hearing, Blind, vision impaired or deafblind.

Will they ever learn or will we forever be the Invisible People???



Below please find an Auslan translation brilliantly provided by Gavin Rose-Mundy – With sincere thanks!

Zoom and Away

You know we belong together,

You and I Zooming  together.
No matter where you are,
You’re my Zooming star

And from the very first moment I Zoomed you
Never felt such was such emotion
I’m Zooming again,
Just to know (Just to know)
We can zoom away again

Zoom and Away. (Apologies to all Home and Away fans)

The pandemic began just on a year ago and very soon after we we were all locked down. Suddenly, we were all working from home. Sadly, for many they no longer had a job. We, who worked in an office job, suddenly found ourselves having to learn how too use online platforms. The learning curve for everyone was steep.

For myself, it wasn’t quite so bad. I had recently found a new job and my contract stipulated that I worked from home. I had already had numerous meetings by Zoom. Indeed, I was interviewed over Zoom for the position. So for me it was a little bit par for the course, except that there was no variety. Pre-pandemic I could balance online meetings with face to face meetings with my networks. Once we were forced to work totally from home everything was fully online.

It was all very novel at first. We all laughed as my son walked shirtless in the background not knowing I was in a meeting. Cats walked cross keyboards. Dogs gave their tennis balls to their owners to throw mid meeting and barked. Pauses were common while parents had to deal with children. We received a unique insight into the inner workings of peoples homes.

Some tried to be professional by ensuring that they had props like bookshelves in the background. Others were less professional and would plump themselves down on the couch so that you could only see their face from the nose upwards on screen. Some got clever and worked out how to put virtual backgrounds on screen so that we got to see an assortment of landscapes, sunsets and art. One larrikin tethered himself up and had a meeting while he had a leisurely paddle in his kayak. Yes, the latter really happened. How we laughed.

It was interesting that many hearing people actually struggled with working online. They found it hard to gauge peoples emotions. Visual cues that they normally received with in-person meetings were harder to read. They seemed to find that online meetings made them incredibly tired. The term Zoom fatigue became common.

David Penberthy, writing in The Advertiser, had this to say about pandemic forced online meetings

“It’s not just the logistics of getting the damned thing up and running, which is then followed (once everyone’s on, that is) with the smallest of small talk where everyone makes stilted chat about how their day is coming along.

It’s the fact that you are stripped of all the natural visual cues you get when you are sitting directly opposite a person in real life. This means the process of having a group conversation is not only logistically challenging, it is completely exhausting.

I have two friends, one a public servant the other in the private sector, who habitually spend six or seven hours a day going from one online meeting to the next and expire at the end of the afternoon in a catatonic and square-eyed state.”  (Taken from -A year of video conferencing reinforces the supremacy of face-to-face conversation, The Advertiser, Februry 2021)

I can emphasis with some of what Penberthy writes, particularly the endless back to back meetings. Often you can have four or even five meetings on the trot. This is very different from the same number of face to face meetings. Face to Face you are often travelling or walking to different meeting places. Four or five face to face meetings in a day is still tiring but the breaks in between to mobilise yourself to get to a meeting can be refreshing. When you are having four five meetings back to back, in the same chair and in the same room it is incredibly draining.

It was just interesting to see how hearing people responded. Perhaps for the first time many of them had to adjust. They had to change their communication styles and overcome barriers that they had never had to confront before. We deafies have to do this every working day of our lives.  As a result, perhaps, we adapted a lot better and with less stress.

As a deaf person I personally found many benefits. In a weird way I found that I was actually engaging with my hearing colleagues better. You see deaf people are often left out of workplace natter. They don’t get access to water cooler conversations.. Colleagues often phone each other and bounce ideas and debrief. Deaf professionals don’t get a lot of access to this sort of stuff and can be very isolated in the workplace.

I found myself getting to know people better. I was more involved and more engaged. I am part of a national network of 31 people. Before Zoom my only communication with them was email, text and conferences. They all kept in touch over the phone but I was left out of this so I was often not savvy to many finer details. It is fair too say I was quite isolated within the network. Not now, on a daily basis I speak to many of them through Zoom and am fully up to date with views, politics trends and the like. That has been refreshing.

Access also is a lot better. I find colleagues who set up these meetings are more empathetic. Many of them will book captioning off their own bat. I often use the Live Transcribe app for these meetings. It’s quite accurate but it has its moments. Colleagues are acutely aware of this. Before meetings start they ensure it is working well. When it screws up and I need clarification they are always willing to stop and help. I find that via Zoom people tend to speak over each other less and that communication is  lot more succinct and to the point.

Face to face meetings are a lot more gregarious. People tend to talk over each other. Meetings are more fast paced. If you’re deaf it is harder to control people and get full access to the information. Very rarely over Zoom do I get asked by interpreters to tell people to slow down, not talk over each other and so on. For me, at least, it makes for more effective communication and I find things are more equal. It’s rare now that my captioner types “Everybody speaking at once.”

In a funny way the Deaf community even found lockdowns fun because of Zoom. They organised trivia nights, online dinners and the like. Being a visual platform meant that Zoom was heaven sent for them. Not too long ago, before the internet became good enough and Skype became common place, if a pandemic and lockdown had happened deaf people would have been well and truly royally screwed.

That is not to say that Zoom is perfect. Endless Zoom meetings are tiring. A balance between face to face and online meetings is desirable. One must be able to leave a room and a chair and be able to stare elsewhere than directly at a computer screen. Australia’s internet is still appalling, dropouts in video and audio are common place. As a deaf person it can be difficult to know who is speaking and know when to interrupt. Meetings need to be controlled well. Lots of gate closing and opening needs to happen.

The biggest thing is that full reliance on technology can be a recipe for disaster. If it fails, it fails spectacularly. That said Zoom has offered many opportunities for deaf people and has arguably made the workplace more inclusive.

For me using Live Transcribe has saved me heaps of money on captioning and interpreting. It’s allowed me to have impromptu meetings to discuss things without the need to search frantically for an interpreter and captioning. But Live Transcribe is a phonetic tool and sometimes it comes up with some hilarious bloopers. I will close this article with one of these.

Last week we were discussing the USEP program, University Specialist Employment Partnership. This program aims to assist graduates with a disability at university to find employment. A colleague was discussing how they were trying to find a USEP partner for the program. Somehow my Live Transcribe managed to hear this as, wait for it, “We are seeking a New Sex partner … ”  True story.

AHH technology, you gotta love it, but honestly – Where would deaf people be with out it. So for me it’s – Zoom and Away, with you each day!  (Again with sincere apologies to Home and Away fans.)

Spread the Love ..

A colleague once said to me that people with a disability who are strong activist are an angry mob. He said they should learn to calm down and work with the powers that be instead of upsetting them all the time. I know a number of hearing colleagues who work in the deaf sector who consider it negative for Deaf activist. and advocates to be constantly speaking out. They tell us that we should, “Spread the love”

Now, I should disclose here that I am a gnarly old disability advocate. I have been in the sector advocating for both deaf people and people with a disability for a very long time. I can be quite aggressive, often sarcastic and very often impatient. There is a reason for that.

Einstein once said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This, to me anyway, describes many ablebodied and hearing people. For many years we have told them ” Nothing about us with out us ..”  Yet still they go on their merry way making decisions for us and without us. If we get angry about this we are labeled all sorts of things – negative, stirrers, unappreciative, scare mongers, nasty etc … These labels are used to dismiss our concerns and banish us.

The NDIS is guilty of this. It is largely run by ablebodied people. Heaps of them from banking backgrounds who want the NDIS to act as an insurance scheme. They make decisions like insurance companies too. Decisions that are based purely on saving money. They call it sustainability of the scheme. Don’t be fooled by this namby pamby term … It’s all about saving money.

The NDIS most recent foray into upsetting the disability community is the establishment of independent assessments. This is the agencies attempt to provide people with a disability with what they call consistent decisions. The NDIS argue that with independent assessments they can ensure a consistent decision making process will happen and people with disability will get plans that are more relevant to their needs. By having independent assessments LACs can do what they were initially paid for, that is is to do community development and help participants to implement their plans. This instead of being tied to their desks trying to achieve impossible KPIs.

The NDIS, like many in the disability sector, engage in what I call reverse consultation. That is that they make a decision, with no intention of reversing that decision and then ask people with a disability what they think. In this case they developed the idea of independent assessments. They then asked people with a disability to take part in a”trial” so that they could refine and polish the idea for roll-out.

If you do not know, the basic idea of independent assessments is that the NDIS selects a pool of professionals to carry out the independent assessments. They pay them and use the assessments that they conduct to develop the NDIS plans. The independent assessors submit their assessment to the NDIS and NDIS planners use these assessments to develop a participants plan. I have not yet quite understood where people with a disability provide input to the process. Apart from, of course, taking part in the assessment.

When this idea was mooted the disability activist community hit the roof. They saw independent assessments as a way of the NDIS taking away the control of the planning process from people with a disability.  People with a disability objected to the NDIS selecting the professionals to do assessments instead of using the professionals who have supported and worked with them for many years.

The NDIS argue that the independent assessments will utilise past assessments from participants chosen professsionals in completing their assessments. But the disability community have been lukewarm in their response. They have largely refused to take part in the trial run. So difficult was it for the NDIS to find people with a disability to take part in the trials that they resorted to trying to manipulate these people to participate by offering them $150.

The point is that people with a disability have largely said “NO” – They don’t want this because they see the independent assessment process as nothing more than a dodgy attempt to take away their control and save the NDIS buckets of money. The views and the needs of people with a disability have been ignored and dismissed. Indeed independent assessments were rolled out with NO consultation, whatsoever, apart from asking for input after the event. (The NDIS will argue that they used the finding of the Tune report and that this is something that the Tune Report recommended.)

The result is an extremely angry disability community. And you know, the NDIS have absolutely no intention of listening to or considering input from people with a disability. Allegedly, they have already begun advertising for independent assessors. If true this shows that the the NDIS have absolutely no intention of considering the views and wants of the disability community. It will be the NDIS way or the highway!

The Minister for the NDIS is a particularly nasty piece of work. This is the same guy that used the media to label people with a disability as sexual deviants. People with a disability want to use their funds to help them experience sexual intimacy and pleasure. This meets all the NDIS benchmarks of an “Ordinary Life”.

Some have asked for funding to adapt sex aids or have have support to develop and implement ways in which they can experience and enjoy sex and intimacy. All of this has been labeled by the Minister as wasting NDIS money on prostitutes. In an interview with Leon Byner the Minister had this to say ..

“Well, the average Australian I speak to is aghast that we’d be paying billions of dollars for the services of prostitutes. Now, if people wish to use any services that are lawful in this country, they can do so with their own money. But you can’t bill it to the Commonwealth.”

A diplomatic way to criticise the Minister would be to call him ignorant. The reality is that he is just an absolute knob!

Yeah, I am angry, frustrated, aggressive, immature – you name it.  No, I am just fed up. Fed up of these ablebodied people with no clue controlling my life, without my input and then labelling me and my disabled/deaf colleagues negative for daring to challenge and speak out.

Feel the love?  Bet you can’t!!!

Thats When Good Neighbours ….

Everybody needs good neighbours
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day

Need to get to know each other
Next door is only a footstep away

Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend

Nathan Borg is our newest Deaf celebrity. He has a character on the long running Australian TV series, Neighbours.   His character is Curtis Perkins. The Now website proclaims him as Australia’s first actor with a cochlear implant. I am not sure that is true but it makes good copy I guess. Congratulations to Nathan, getting on Neighbours is an awesome achievement. You can read more about Nathan HERE 

Nathan has had quite a journey by his own admission. He has been told by many professionals that he should hide his disability. He was even kicked out of an acting course and told to find another career. What Nathan is experiencing is typical audism and hearing privilege. Lucky for him, and us, he persevered.

Nathan actually called Neighbours and suggested that they have a deaf character. To the credit of the producers they brought into the idea and cast Nathan as the character, Curtis Perkins. This all occurred on International Day of Disability. Ironic one might think.

It is very clear to me that Nathan is a doer. Whats more he is the type of person that wants to use his profile to create awareness and opportunities for other people who are deaf. Indeed, all people with a disability.

So, for the first time the Neighbours theme song was signed in Auslan. Of course, it was signed by Nathan. Nathan is not a natural signer and he sought support to do it properly and accurately. You can be picky and say it needed more use of space, needed to be more visual, needed more expression. You might even say some of the signs were not right. All would be true. But I am not a pedant, I think he did a great job.

However, much to Nathan’s surprise, many in the Deaf community were not happy. In fact they’re quite angry. Why? Because they believed that Nathan used two hearing people to assist him to translate and learn the signs for the song. This has since been disputed by the hearing people concerned. They claim that they only encouraged Nathan to sign the song and engaged a Deaf person to help him.

The furore, I am told, has taken Nathan by surprise and he is quite upset about the response. I can fully understand that because all Nathan wanted to do was create awareness and opportunities. He has done that, but he has also unkowingly created a shit storm. He must be so confused.

Now, there have been people who have said that these members of the Deaf community have overreacted. There is a train of thought that says they should shut up and just celebrate this positive exposure. I don’t agree and I am glad that these people spoke up, even if it appears that their initial concerns might have been unfounded.

Let’s consider what has happened to Nathan. By his own admission he has been discriminated against. He has been made to feel ashamed of being deaf and told to cover it up. He has been denied opportunities in a world dominated by hearing people. He has had to put himself out there and create his own opportunities.

This is what Deaf people and people with disabilities confront each and everyday. To get ahead they must fight and fight hard. It is not easy. So when members of the Deaf community heard that two hearing people were allegedly consulted to translate the Neighbours theme into Auslan they were rightly angry. These Deaf people spoke out and they were attacked for doing so. They were told to calm down, not be negative and so on.

The reality is that the reaction of these member of the Deaf community is wholly understandable. An opportunity to work with the Neighbours team to translate the theme song to Auslan is heaven sent. It should have been done entirely by Deaf people. People that use and own the language everyday, many who have spent years learning the intricacies of the language, including at university.

It was an opportunity for Deaf people to own this space. Even if the initial information they received concerning the hearing consultants was allegedly wrong, they were rightly angry. Angry because, like Nathan, they have had to fight tooth and nail for these opportunities. To seemingly lose those opportunities to two hearing people would have hurt immensely.

I am told that the two hearing people only encouraged Nathan to sign the song.  They then introduced Nathan to a Deaf person to assist in the translation of the theme. Allegedly, this person has chosen not to be named. I am sure the two hearing people involved meant nothing but good. Perhaps they could have told the Deaf community of Nathan and encouraged the community to contact him. In this way the Deaf community and Deaf people would have been fully in control.

What this whole episode has shown is that Deaf people are frustrated at being constantly denied opportunities. They’re angry and rightly so. Their response to this debacle is a reaction to our audist world of hearing privilege. It is something that many hearing people have yet to grasp. So whether these Deaf people were right or wrong about who assisted Nathan is not the issue. Their reaction is a symptom of everything that is wrong in the world today.

But let me say this, Nathan is the innocent party in all of this. To Nathan I say sorry. Keep doing your thing because what you are doing is awesome.

As a footnote it is possible for Deaf and hearing to work well together but still put Deaf people in control – Watch this video – Kudos to James and Ryan for one of the best awareness videos that I have seen. Deaf person in control and made using a Deaf Consultant ….

Thats when good neighbours become good friends ….

How Deaf Interpreters do their job from Ryan Gook on Vimeo.