I am having a bit of alone time in Adelaide. I had friends over for a few days and they left yesterday morning. They left me a wonderful Australian Whiskey to sup on, made in the Adelaide Hills, not far from here. As you do when you are alone, you channel hop on the TV. First, it was a bit of cooking, then over to the news, a browse through Stan before finally settling on Netflix. I found a rather depressing movie, Forgive Us Our Trespasses, about the persecution of disabled people in Nazi Germany.
Depressing topic. Nevertheless, I watched it. Thankfully it was only a short movie, 14 minutes long. I won’t go into details, lest the reader wants to watch it, but at the end it gave some harrowing statistics. The Nazis killed over 300 000 people with a disability and sterilised over 400, 000 more. The operation to rid Germany and the world of disabled people led to the development of the Gas Chambers. We all know the awful consequence of that.
Fourteen minutes later I was depressed and continued my hopping. I came across a movie, Marilyn’s Eyes. This explored mental health and how society treats it. The movie has been described as stereotypical and twee, as indeed it was, but it explored a number of very important themes about which we people with a disability are well aware.
It explored the lack of control of the person with a mental health issue. It explored how often they are browbeaten and ignored. It showed they are often denied basic rights such as a say in their treatment or things like access to their children. It explored the theme of people only seeing the disability and not the person’s innate value. And it was a love story. What more could you ask for?
Again, I won’t go into too much detail, lest the reader would like to watch and judge for themselves. I’m pretty sure it will make a huge number of them groan at the stereotypical way mental health is depicted. Nevertheless, there are important themes in this movie, none more important than the quote below:
“… They think they’re right because there are more of them …”
As an advocate I could be a very rich man if I got a dollar for every time I have said that. How often have people with a disability been browbeaten because the so called experts think that they know better? How often have we sat on Boards and Committees as the sole disabled person, only to have our views ignored and be outvoted? How often have we lost resources and money because there were more of them and we were outvoted? It is frustrating and it hurts.
To continue my theme of hopping, I awoke in the morning and began the social media hopping. First to Messenger to see if anyone loves me enough to say hello. Then to Facebook with its mismatch of interesting information and drivel. Finally, to twitter where I saw this from Sam Connor:
“Oh, hi people. If I am tied to a chair and left to die in my filth, without being taken to the toilet or leaving the house for two years. Then my domestic violence perpetrator will only get 6 and a half years for my torture and murder, even if they steal my shit, What a joke.”
Connor’s angry post is referring to Anne Marie Smith. A disabled person in Adelaide who suffered extreme neglect from her carer and care support agency which led to their death. Connor has described what happened in full detail above. It beggars belief. That the perpetrator got only six and a half years for this gross mistreatment of a human being is beyond my comprehension. And this happened HERE in Australia!!
Now, I don’t want to compare Australia to Nazi Germany, but the way Australia treats people with a disability is really appalling. They think they’re right because there are more of them … and it’s true. They use their numbers, they use their authority and they use their power to keep people with a disability firmly at the bottom of the pile. Worse, they show how much they value people with a disability with abhorrent jail sentences like the one described above! (The person could be out in five years with parole.)
You see, these people in power still see us as a burden. They do not want to value us the same way as they value others. They still, in this day and age, don’t want us here. Hell, there is still legal debate about whether it is ok to sterilise people with a disability. People still think it is ok to abort babies with Down Syndrome. They even want to eliminate deafness. The reader might have gathered by now, I am actually kind of angry.
And why wouldn’t I be? My friend, who has a heap of complex communication and disability needs, was denied Auslan because some planner and his boss decided that Auslan would harm her. They argued that an Auslan interpreter can only sign for an hour without stopping. (actually, true), therefore if she were to sign it would cause her fatigue and be bad for her health. It is all crap, they just didn’t want to pay for it.
I’m betting that they also have no clue that Auslan is a real language, not just a bit of hand flapping to aide communication. Do not get me started on the specially funded legal service that tried to deny her access to captioning for a meeting because it was their policy not to caption legal meetings. They think they’re right because there are more of them … Can you see the pattern? (As a footnote, my friend had her Auslan reinstated after a long and stressful AAT appeal.)
Or just this morning, during my Social Media hop, I came across a family who were denied a miniscule amount of money from the NDIS to purchase Auslan resources to help them and their child develop Auslan. They were told no, watch Sally and Possum on the ABC or borrow some books from the library. According to the NDIS, Auslan resources are just like books and therefore a parental responsibility. I kid you not. Such ignorance on the part of the planner is beyond my ability to understand …. They think they’re right because there are more of them … Aye!
And yet again, on a Facebook NDIS discussion page, some Deaf or hard of hearing person has been denied proper access to an NDIS planning meeting through either Auslan or captioning. Worse, they have even tried to make the person do it over the phone. Of course COVID has meant a lot of planning meetings are done over the phone. Not possible if you are Deaf. HELLO!! Are these people serious?
I know of a Deaf parent who was almost excluded from the planning process for their disabled child, because the LAC organisation would rather do a phone planning meeting with the hearing father. This is despite the woman being the primary carer who attends the majority appointments for their child. It’s all about those, the many, and making their job as easy, quick and cheap as possible. Bugger the disabled person!
Let me remind LACs and NDIS Planners, you have an Operational Guideline booklet on communication access, it’s available on your intranet. It clearly outlines what access you must provide and at your expense – READ IT … They think they’re right because there are more of them … I think I have made my point.
These examples are all about deaf people. But believe me it happens to others. The NDIA are hell-bent on cutting back plans and costs. Parents are losing therapy hours for their disabled children because it’s “parental responsibility”. Disabled people are experiencing long delays in receiving much needed technology because the NDIA only want to provide standard and often inadequate technology. Community participation support is withdrawn because the NDIA are saying that its the responsibility of informal supports. Anything to save money!
And you know why? It is because the value of people with a disability is only seen by the amount of money that is spent on them. What would we know? After all … They think they’re right because there are more of them …