It has been a difficult week. I am in no mood to mince words. People in the Deaf and Disability communities are hurting. Rather than easier, this world of ours is becoming more and more difficult to navigate. On one side of the coin a large proportion of the Disability community fear just leaving home. This is because of Covid and the Governments dropping of all restrictions. No masks, no isolation and so on. If you are fit and healthy, wonderful. You can get Covid and likely recover, no complications. But if you are elderly, have severe degenerative disability or are immuno-compromised, catching Covid can be a death sentence. Just simple things like mask wearing and isolating when you catch Covid can save lives. But nope, seemingly no one cares.
In the Australian Deaf community there have been two suicides within a week. I wont go into detail because people are hurting. However, once again it throws a light on mental health and deafness, indeed all disability. The National Library of Medicine suggests that the incidence of depression and anxiety in deaf people is 25% higher. A recent study of mental health episodes amongst people with a disability found that one third of all people with a disability in Australia experienced very high levels of psychological distress during the pandemic while only 8% of the general population did.
Why? Well, because our society is disabling people more than it needs to. The isolation, lack of employment, lack of accessibility and never ending barriers takes its toll. Indeed, there has been no improvement in the disability employment rate for 28 years. Dylan Alcott was on TV this morning pleading with employers to take on people with a disability. This in a time of labour shortages where employers cannot fill vacancies.
Sometimes when I see figures like this I feel like an imposter. I feel like 35 years as a disability advocate has been a complete waste. You want to just throw in the towel and crawl under a rock. That is until Sky News come up with headlines like this:
Now, at this point I have to say that what follows are the opinions of myself and no one else. They do not reflect the views of my employer, friends or family. Although I am pretty sure a good proportion of my friends and colleagues will be cheering me on.
I have a message for the author of this piece, Jonathon Lea. How dare you scream that the NDIS is a failure. What would you know? What would you understand about getting out into the community three or four times a week, where as in a past life you would be lucky to get out once a month? How dare you suggest the amputees who are getting prosthetics are part of a failure. Or the physically disabled who are getting bathroom renovations so that they can shower are part of a failure. Or the Deaf person who can get an interpreter for their brothers wedding is part of a failure. Or the person with speech difficulties who gets a communication device to communicate with others is part of a failure. How dare you suggest that all of these people are a burden. Sure, the NDIS is far from perfect and I am one of its biggest critics, BUT, to call it a failure is the height of ignorance.
And here we go again. The cost. It’s expensive! Those dastardly disabled are such burdens. Apparently the disabled are sending the country broke. $100 billion it will cost! Mr Lea, let me give you some advice; open your mind. If you bothered to do your research you would see that for every dollar spent on the NDIS, $2.21 is generated. It is creating whole industries out there mate. It creates jobs in the care industry, it creates jobs in the technology market, it creates jobs in innovation, it creates jobs for Auslan interpreters, it creates jobs for tradies who do the renovations and adjustments, it creates jobs for professionals and therapist. We could argue that the NDIS is an absolute pillar of the economy.
Do you know about the multiplier effect Mr Lea? Where when a person with a disability goes to the movies they take family and friends with them? Did you know on average one disabled person will bring four others with them to a cafe, a tourist venue, a winery and so on. Mr Lea, thousands upon thousands of businesses’ and employees owe their careers and incomes to people with a disability. Imagine if we go back to the dark ages and these disabled people were restricted to the odd outing here and there throughout the year. How dare you call them a burden and suggest that they are taking money from other areas where it is needed. You are an absolute ignoramus! Oh! You have no idea what I really want to call you!
But the worst of this is Mr Lea trying to show that he understands why a person with a disability needs intimacy by way of sex:
“Stephanie has cerebral palsy, a degenerative movement disorder which leaves her bound to a wheelchair and dependent on 24-hour carers who sleep in a spare room..
But once every few months she pays a male escort to visit, to do the sort of things consenting adults do, and maybe stay for the weekend.
Stephanie prefers not to say how much they cost, nor how she fudges her claim. Only that she does.
Sex isn’t supposed to be against the law. But it is, when taxpayers are footing the bill.’
And that’s what he said. He basically said Stephanie has no right to intimacy and that it is wrong that the tax payer should assist her to fulfil what others do most days. I don’t know Stephanie. It is possible that Stephanie has coordination issues to the point that she cannot use sex toys. Or it is possible that her coordination is such that self intimacy is beyond her. It’s possible that she asked for assistive technology through the NDIS to assist her with her intimate needs but this was denied.
But I don’t care. Stephanie has a right to human touch. Stephanie has a right to human interaction. So what if she pays a support person for this. After all, does not the NDIS proclaim it is the persons right to lead an “Ordinary Life.” Stephanie is a human being that has social and intimate needs. She is living in a world where people with disabilities are victims of sexual abuse. She is living in a world where she possibly does not fit into societies warped sense of “attractive”. She is probably very lonely, isolated and in need of human company and intimacy. And Mr Lea shows his empathy by saying this – Sex isn’t supposed to be against the law. But it is, when taxpayers are footing the bill.’ I read this and felt physically sick!
I am tired. I am sad. I see my Deaf and Disabled community struggling every day. I see it impacting on their health as they struggle to fit in with this increasingly non-disabled world. It’s making them sick. It’s sometimes making them kill themselves. And then Mr Lea comes along and suggests that Stephanie is a criminal for wanting and needing intimacy, in his words, “Every few months.” Yes, here and there, where it can be had! Would you like to live such a life Mr Lea?
Mr Lea, you and Sky are a disgrace for printing such inhumane and demoralizing crap! You are SCUM!
THAT IS ALL!