Listen up, NDIA people and LACs. This is your Saturday morning sermon. There are some within who are embarrassing the good LAC and delegates who work in the NDIS space. This article is targeted at you! There are many people, planners and LACs who are excellent at their jobs. They understand disability. They understand the legislation and they assist participants to develop excellent plans. This article is not about them and I thank those good ones for the effort they make every day, there are many.
Sadly, there is a lot of dross within as well and they undermine the efforts of these skilled and dedicated workers. So, in support of those skilled and dedicated professionals I present you this week’s Rebuttal. This Rebuttal is designed to educate the ones that consistently make the NDIS look pathetic, which it largely is not.
It started with a friend. A friend has a review coming up. She has a new LAC, which is not uncommon as staff turnover is high. She politely requested that the new LAC outline their experience of Deaf people and the Deaf community so that she could provide some constructive feedback to the LAC. The LAC in question had sent her an email that I can only describe as condescending.
This seems to have offended the LAC somewhat. It seems that the LAC in question emailed their colleagues expressing umbrage at having to outline their experience. There seems to have been a round of emails amongst those colleagues. Unbeknown to the LAC in question these emails were also sent to my friend in error – There is one line that stood out – “My qualifications? Should I send her a freaking list”
So, my friend shared this response on Facebook and asked how she should respond. My suggestion to her was to respond using the word “freaking” intermittently throughout the response. But I jest, this sort of attitude towards people with a disability by NDIS planners and LACs needs to be called and weeded out.
Suffice to say the LAC did indeed send a list of their qualifications to my friend. Extensive as they were, none of them suggested that the LAC understood anything about Deaf people or the Deaf community. This is what my friend had queried in the first place.
I will say this, if you go to the doctor, you look on their wall to see what their qualifications are. These are usually proudly displayed on the wall along with any other specialties that the Doctor may have. This inspires some confidence from the patient to the doctor. It is, therefore, entirely understandable that a person with a disability wants to know if the planner or LAC understands their disability and needs.
This is part of why the disability community is so against the independent assessments. Mainly that the assessor chosen may not understand their disability. The assessor chosen may not understand their needs and as is possibly unable to carry out a proper assessment.
It is something that the Government is failing understand. The Government is falsely trying to convince us that independent assessments will lead to a fairer system. We all know that independent assessments are the Government strategy to wrest control from people with a disability. We all know the major aim of the assessments is to make drastic and unnecessary financial cuts to the NDIS.
But I digress. If you thought that what happened to my friend above was bad, read this response to a Deaf person. The response below was an explanation for drastically cutting their Auslan interpreter budget. This was also posted on a Facebook discussion page.
“NDIS funding of an Auslan interpreter / Video Remote Interpreting (VRI) is for where formal language is required, such as legal, financial or medical appointments. For adult participants, it is the responsibility of family to acquire appropriate language skills to facilitate communication with the family member. Community organisations have a legal responsibility to provide accessible activities, and may be supported by local councils, state government, or other community sources, to provide inclusive activities.”
I profess, it is a well written and officious explanation. At first glance it looks like it was taken straight from the NDIS handbook. It is not something That I ever saw when I worked there but the NDIS is a rapidly evolving beast. It would not have surprised me if this suddenly became law.
The problem is that it is all bullshit. I took the liberty to check with former NDIS colleagues, some who are directors in the NDIA to see if this was, in fact, new policy. It isn’t. It is just waffle that the delegate or LAC has made up to justify their decision. And here begins the sermon to the ignorant LAC and delegates within the NDIS who come up with this sort of crap.
- Auslan is a language. A rich and diverse language. It is not something you learn quickly at the corner shop. It is an expensive language to learn and rightly so. One of the more isolating things about being Deaf is that people close to you who are hearing cannot communicate well with you.
A valid and extremely powerful way to tackle the isolation experienced by people who are Deaf, who have hearing partners and friends that they have met in life, is to facilitate the learning of Auslan among them. It is a cost of disability. By facilitating the communication among family and peers it potentially reduces isolation, loneliness and subsequent mental health issues that can arise from such. Potentially it can increase independence and participation. As such it fits well within the NDIS remit.
However, even though assisting close friends and family members to develop some proficiency in Auslan will help to tackle some of the social isolation issues, it does not make them interpreters. Nor should they be unless they’re qualified.
Having them develop proficiency in Auslan does not negate the need to provide Auslan interpreters for social events like parties, funerals, weddings and the like. Auslan interpreting for Deaf participants are NOT just for the formal and legal needs of the participant – It is to address the social and economic participation needs of the Deaf participant.
- It is true that community organisations have a responsibility to provide access. However, there are many that lack the financial means to do so. They receive no funds from Councils or State governments to make their events/programs accessible. So, the local community hall putting on an art course, hosted by a volunteer, has no funds for interpreting. The local volunteer organisation that provides meals for the homeless has no funds for an interpreter, They are, therefore, unable to provide access to training for the Deaf volunteer and so on. Deaf people have a right to participate in these things with full access. (After all, the NDIS is based on human rights principles, isn’t it???)
Provision of interpreting funds is to increase and broaden the types of community events the Deaf person can partake in. In this way it assists them to be active in the community both socially and economically. Check your section 34 of the NDIS ACT and you will see these are prominent aims of the ACT.
State and Council Governments provide access for events that they fund and organise, it is true. However, they don’t fund any of the examples I have given above.
I repeat to all LACs and delegates who do not do so, please read, digest and understand section 34 of the NDIS Act. It is your bible. Furthermore, there are operational guidelines that focus on what the NDIS will provide for participants who have communication needs. Read them, you will find them enlightening.
And finally, within the NDIA there are some wonderful Subject Matter Experts who you can consult who have an in-depth knowledge of Deaf people and the Deaf community. Please make the effort to consult them so that you get it right. And no, I don’t care if taking the time to do your job properly impacts on your KPIs. A quality plan will save time and money in the long run – Try it!
That is all!