Clueless …..

(For an Auslan translation of this article, please scroll to the bottom.)

Kruger and Dunning wrote an academic paper in 2008 about people who think they are way more clever than they actually are. These people do all that they can to convince you of such, no matter how obviously not clever that they are.  Kruger et al told a story of a man that robbed a bank in broad daylight. He made no effort to hide himself. He just had normal clothes, wore no mask, walked in, presumably threatened the teller with a gun and walked out with his ill gotten gains.

Less than 24 hours later he was arrested. His actions had all been caught on the surveillance cameras. Televisions across the nation broadcasted the man’s misdeed. He was mortified when caught and asked how they knew it was him. The police explained that he had been caught on camera. “No way!!!” exclaimed our brazen robber, “I wore the juice!” Apparently he had been told that if he smothered his face with lemon juice, he would be rendered invisible to the cameras.

Kruger et al point out that …

“…in many domains in life, success and satisfaction depend on knowledge, wisdom, or savvy in knowing which rules to follow and which strategies to pursue. This is true not only for committing crimes, but also for many tasks in the social and intellectual domains. “

Perhaps I am being mean but what they have just described are behaviours of many hearing people towards Deaf and hard of hearing people every day. Some of the behaviour is just so ridiculous, it is beyond comprehension.

The above mentioned article was sent to me by a friend. My friend is deaf ( not culturally hence the small d). He is a scholar and has a Phd. He deals with any number of “hearing professionals” everyday. The bane of his life is Hearing Australia. This organisation is Australia’s biggest provider of hearing aids. They have literally millions of Deaf and hard of hearing people on their books and have been around since time began. One would think they would know a thing or two about deafness – right?

The esteemed Hearing Australia have one major fault. They don’t know how to communicate with their customers. You see, they insist on calling them on the phone for appointments. They do this insistently. My scholar friend got a bit fed up with this and decided to do something about it. He complained and asked that they please only communicate with him through text. They apparently promised that in future they would.

And they did. Seemingly, we should all go and celebrate another win for our never ending need to advocate – right?  WRONG!  The esteemed Hearing Australia sent my friend a letter. Basically the letter screamed IT’S CHECK UP TIME. Then, they asked my friend to please ring them for an appointment and provided the number for him to do so. ( I am hoping by now the lemon juice story is starting to hit home to the reader.)

My friend was rightfully pissed off. He wrote back and  told them a few home truths –

“…..We are people who experience a severe disability. Power trips and dehumanising behaviours from your staff is unnecessary and traumatic for some. In my case, the voice telephone has been a constant barrier and source of great difficulty. That it causes me and others anxiety should be no surprise.

Constantly emphasising the telephone is thus perceived as taunting, belittling, and bullying. Especially given my repeated requests to stop and use accessible communication.”
I really could not have said it better. To add insult to injury, Hearing Australia failed to recognise my friend’s hard earned title of Dr. The computer had printed his title correctly, eg Dr So and So. The clerk, presumably thinking that it was not possible for one of their clients to have such and important title, scribbled out the Dr and wrote in Mr. True story.
My own battles have been with the banking industry recently. One would think that an industry so well versed in customer service would understand that they need diverse communication strategies to deal with the needs of their diverse client base. One such professional caused me to miss out on a house that I bid for. He was too slow to complete the finance application, and then emailed me the following … “… I apologise, but as you know it is very difficult to communicate expediently with  you because of your disability …” I pointed out that it took but a few moments to read and respond to an email and that the difficulty was with him, and not me.
More recently I have been dealing with a new finance broker to explore ways to refinance and restructure our home loan. I completed an online form and put in notes that they were not to call me. Email or text only I implored. They, of course, called me, several times. Not getting a response they finally twigged and sent me a text. “We are trying to call you, please call us back” 
Naturally I text back and say I am deaf, please text me or email. They were happy to do this. They sent me a link to an online fact finder program where you enter your financial details. I dutifully completed this and it took me to a page where I had to chose a time where one of their representatives could call me about the information that I had just submitted.
I thought to myself that they would have a note that says don’t call and to email etc – I knew full well that this was probably not going to happen. What can I say? I am an optimist. I submitted my information and hoped to god that they would not call me. Go ahead, laugh at me. Suffice to say that eventually they stopped calling and are now corresponding totally by email. But fuck, it was exhausting to get to that point.
Spare a thought for my friend who fought to have an interpreter at her meeting with the bank, and eventually brought her own, paid for through her NDIS money. Only to be told that they didn’t trust her interpreter to interpret accurately the legal information. They questioned whether the interpreter that she had brought with her was qualified enough. They told her that they had booked their own interpreter who would join the meeting online. They beamed up the interpreter who was based in New Zealand and used New Zealand Sign Language. A different language from Auslan. My friend stormed out and has since found a new bank to deal with her issues. It is really unbelievable.
This brings us to our recent articles that have protested about the treatment of Auslan and the Deaf community by organisations that should know better. These organisations continue to give Auslan and the Deaf community minimal exposure and recognition. You can read my last angry post on the subject here – HANDS ARE BURNING
To the credit of the organisation concerned, they have apologised unreservedly –
On behalf of Townsend House, I apologise unreservedly for the disrespect that you and/or any other Deaf (or hearing, or Hard of Hearing) individual has experienced due to the Can:Do 4Kids marketing campaign at Colonnades. I assure you that this was unintentional and I understand that despite this, pain and disrespect has been felt. For that I am sorry. I will work with our entire team at Can:Do to learn from this incident.
Last week we launched a new ad for Board directors, it can be found under positions.
As mentioned in my last video we are always open to direct feedback and I encourage members of the Deaf community to join our Deaf Directions Roundtable to provide direct feedback the organisation, including the Board.
Heidi Limareff
I very much appreciate the apology and the sincerity behind it. It is a refreshing change from organisations that constantly gloss over their errors. True, what occurred should not have happened, but by recognising the errors, they can begin to correct them. I thank Heidi Limareff, the Chief Executive, for submitting the apology. It took a lot of gumption to do so.
But still it was another step and another complaint that we Deaf and hard of hearing people must make every day. It is part of our never ending quest for equal rights and equal recognition. It is exhausting. Advocacy fatigue is a real thing. The apology from the Can Do group makes it worthwhile. However, if the apology is not met by appropriate action it all becomes worthless again.
Here is hoping that their actions will speak louder than their words because I for one, am exhausted!
FOOTNOTE:  I  am well aware that there is a National Relay Service. I use it when I must. However, I prefer to communicate without a third person where possible. Apart from that the NRS is sometimes not reliable and can be prone to drop outs and longish wait times. Furthermore, we are now must register for the service by April 20th otherwise we cannot use it. Another daft and incomprehensible requirement thought up by the clueless…

With thanks to Marnie Kerridge for the Auslan translation of this video. Marnie is a professional theatre consultant and has worked on Auslan translations for mega stage performances of shows like Les Miserables and Billy Elliot. happy Auslan Day to all our readers and watchers for April 13th.



butt.mp4 from Marnie Kerridge on Vimeo.

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