The Myth of Choice and Control

The National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) is on track to put choice and control squarely in the hands of people with disability, their families and carers.

The NDIS was expressly created to replace a fragmented service system that gave people with disability little choice, and to move away from the decades-old practice of providing block funding directly to service providers.

Participant choice and control has always been, and will remain, central to the delivery of the NDIS. Funding is provided to people with disability, who can then choose how best to use those funds on the supports and services that will help them to meet their needs and goals.

(Taken from “Pricing update and more support for participant choice and control, NDIS Website)

Take a look at this line from the last paragraph of the above, “Participant choice and control has always been, and will remain, central to the delivery of the NDIS.” I am here to tell you that this is almost a myth. Certainly, now that people with a disability do not have to beg to big organisations receiving block funding for support, choice is a lot better. But I am not sure choice and control as people with a disability see it and choice and control as the NDIA see it are the same thing. In fact, I think they are worlds apart.

Yesterday I was engaged in a discussion on the NDIS Grassroots Page. The page has in excess of 53 000 members. Some of them are service providers and indeed executives of the NDIA. They kind of spy on people with a disability to see what they are saying. When I worked within the NDIS environment the administrators would sometimes tell me to be careful of what I was saying. “Gary ….”, they would warn me, “ Be careful the NDIA watch this page and we need you within.”

But anyway, the discussion yesterday centred around a guy that wanted meal delivery. He simply wanted some independence to have well cooked and healthy meals delivered to his home. He is, apparently, supported through the NDIA Complex Planners unit. This suggests he has some high support needs. Most likely he can’t shop or cook on his own. He wanted meal delivery but was refused.

The reason being that he had high support worker hours. The Complex Planner deemed that the support worker could do all of the participants shopping and cooking and that was enough. I sure hope his support worker is a good cook and knows how to handle food properly. Point being is that, if you follow what has been said above, the man should be able to make a choice as to how to use his funding … The NDIA say – “Funding is provided to people with disability, who can then choose how best to use those funds on the supports and services that will help them to meet their needs and goals.”

Ok the man says he wants healthy home delivered food, and thats his goal. It is certainly reasonable and necessary because he can neither shop independently nor cook. His support worker could help to heat up the delivered food and provide support for feeding if needed. A perfectly reasonable request. “NO!” says the Complex Planner because his support worker can shop and cook for him. But this is not what the person wants. He wants healthy, cooked and delivered meals. He would still pay for the food but would use NDIS funds for preparation and delivery.

This is how he wants to use his funding but Complex Planner has said no because, and I quote, “Healthy food is a health responsibility.”  Apparently, also, the planner sought advise from the NDIA Technical Advise Team (TAT) who deemed it a reasonable request but the planner overruled them. Choice and control?  Clearly it is anything but.

And you know I reckon the Complex Planner has support within the NDIA for this hard nosed decision. You can hear them clapping from here. “Oh well done ..” they are probably saying, “Its all about value for money …”  One’s health, one’s choice, one’s desires – Nah, doesn’t come into it. The participant is rightly frustrated and angry. His independence, dignity and ability to make his own decisions has been taken away from him. It is wrong.

Recently there has been much discussion about NDIS Ministers comments that NDIS funding should not be used to meet a participant sexual needs. The Minister sought to sensationalise things by publicly stating that NDIS funding was not going to be used for prostitutes on his watch. That wonderful example off a human being, Pauline Hanson, jumped on the  bandwagon supporting him. The gist of it was that they wanted to pass legislation to prevent any NDIS funding being used to meet a participants needs around sex and pleasure.

There are many participants who, for whatever reason, cannot meet their needs for sex and pleasure. This can be physical, might be related to mobility needs or it could even be related to behavioural, communication and social needs. Like all human beings, people with a disability have desires and needs around sex. This could be help to have sex or modified aids. Definitely reasonable and necessary and certainly meets the NDIS mantra of an “Ordinary Life.”

But Minister Robert is having none of this. He is besides himself that a person with a disability might want intimacy, pleasure or just good old fashioned sex. GOD FORBID – And apparently thats a large part of his ire, that this conflicts with his religious beliefs. Choice and control?  Whose choice and whose control? Seems like yet another non-disabled person deciding what fits the mantra!

There are way too many people that work within the NDIS environment that see themselves as gatekeepers. They don’t see themselves as enablers. An enabler looks at the legislation and says, “How can I use this legislation so that the person with a disability can achieve their goals?” The gatekeeper does the opposite and says, “How can I save the tax payer some money …” Or worse, like Minister Robert, they try to impose their own moral standards on others.

Sadly there are too few of the former and too many of the latter within the NDIS. Choice and control is largely a myth. This is why parents have to give up work because the NDIS decides that after school care have to provide disability support for kids with a disability. Or they say it’s a parental responsibility. After school care is largely run by private contractors with no clue about disability meaning kids with a disability are often not be supported properly. The fact that after school care can contribute to  social, communication and physical development of the child never seems to come into consideration.

Deaf people cant choose to study with private providers who have no extra funding for disability support. Why? because the NDIS says that disability support for study is a state responsibility. This ruling conveniently forgets that this only relates to state funded courses and not private organisations. This means the Deaf students choice and control of what they want to study and where is severely limited. I have three people who I am assisting currently who wish to study MBA or computer courses with private providers but cannot because the NDIS refuses to acknowledge that private providers do not receive support from State Governments for disability support.

Let’s not get started on Independent Assessments where people with a disability must use a professional appointed by the NDIS and not the professionals that have worked with them and know their issues over many years.

Choice and Control?? It exists in pockets of the NDIS and its probably better now than it was before the NDIS, but largely it is a myth. Choice and control is just that. It should not be limited, as it is now, by the moral views and assumptions of people within the NDIS who are mostly non-disabled. Ableism at its worst!

Innate Abelism

Ableism is defined simply in the dictionary as – “Discrimination in favour of able-bodied people” Sadly, I am often guilty of it too. I try my best to not be ableist but sometimes I fail spectacularly. This happened yesterday in a kind of reverse ableist way. There was an article about deaf cooking. In this article the author outlined a number of perils for the deaf cook. Most of them involved not hearing things. So you don’t hear the oven alarm and you burn the roast. You dont hear the microwave so your food stays in there all day cos you forgot you put it there. You don’t hear the sizzle in the pan so you burn your food because the oil was too hot and so on. You can read the article HERE

I rolled my eyes at this and fired off a cynical Facebook post. I posted the article with a sarcastic header “Woe is me” Cynically, I belittled the author because, paradoxically, I found her views ableist. To me anyway. You see whilst there are dangers in cooking, many deaf people have developed our own little life skills to deal with the dangers. Sometimes this is setting our watches so we get a vibrating alert. For me I check oil temperature with a cube of bread. You chuck a little cube in and watch it fry golden brown. You can tell this way, simply by the time it takes, whether the oil is too hot or not.

But anyway, this insensitive attempt at humour generated some interesting comments and reminded me that although I have learnt these skills and adjustments, not everyone has. For many it is a real issue and concern that causes them a great deal of anxiety. There were people that worried about things burning, boiling over, blowing up and so on. There were tales of pots and cookware that needed replacing because of other issues like ADHD where distractions led to lack of attention. Of course what I learnt from this is that everyone has a different deaf experience in life and have developed different skills. Indeed this experience can be different depending on when a person has acquired their hearing loss. I realised that I was being an ableist arsehole .. So to all of you that were offended by my post, I apologise.

My reaction was a defensive response to hearing people that believe hearing is everything. That if you cant hear that you are a danger to yourself and others. Indeed many policies exist that discriminate against deaf people based on hearing. In South Australia a deaf teacher of the deaf was once told she could only teach with a hearing person present lest she she didn’t hear a child in danger. Again in South Australia there is a law, and it still exists I believe, that deaf people cant be truck drivers. It is these ableist attitudes, based on imagined hearing superiority, that led to my response – That said it is not an excuse to be ableist and this innate ableism in me is something that I must constantly check.

But my ableism didn’t stop there. Indeed Friday was a day of faux pas for me. It started with this meme that was posted by a disabled friend of mine.

I jokingly told my friend that he had just upset a whole lot of the Deaf community. I then posted the meme asking what the PC Police would think of this. In my defence I think PC police are important. I am often pulled up by them for making ableist comments, sexist comments and so on. It’s important that they do so because thats how I learn. I am not perfect but I try to do the right thing.

I’ll be honest. I found the meme funny. It’s just the moment in time that the photo was taken. Of course its mid signing and we have no way of knowing what she was actually signing … But in that moment of time — It raised a chuckle in me. However, I should know better because such memes are a trigger for many Deaf people. Many Deaf people were oppressed and denied sign language. Usually because hearing people believed sign languages to be inferior. Apart from this there are others that take great pride in their sign languages and are constantly exposed to ridicule. I should know better. So again I apologise for allowing my innate ableism to get the better of me.

So Friday was a definite F for me. I am an experienced campaigner and I should be more aware and sensitive. Without reservation, I apologise to all I offended.

While we are on abelism let’s get stuck into Stuart Robert. Minister Robert is our erstwhile Minister for the NDIS. He took offence recently to the fact that the courts ruled that the NDIS had a role to play in allowing people with a disability to be active sexually and get support for issues around sex and intimate needs. You can read  Mr Robert’s response HERE 

Minister Robert is beside himself that people with a disability would like to have sex, would like to enjoy pleasures of sex, would like to express their sexuality or would like to be intimate with another. Ignorantly he says that people with a disability are welcome to do whatever they like, as long as they pay for it themselves. That delight of a person, Pauline Hanson, supports him and is on her high horse too. They both want the legislation changed so that issues around sex, sexuality and intimacy cannot be paid for under the NDIS.

To these two ignorant people the sexual needs of people with a disability are all about paying prostitutes. The reference to prostitutes is a cynical ploy to shock and narrow the focus of the debate to be all about paid sex. That is not to say that prostitutes do not have a place in assisting people with a disability to enjoy and experience sexual intimacy, but the prostitutes are among a whole range of sex workers and they are not all part of a seedy unlawful profession that the likes of Robert and Hanson want to portray.

The correct term to use is sex workers. This can include sex therapist, sexologist and specialist that can design aids and activities in a way that allows people with a disability to enjoy and experience sexual intimacy. Sex workers also can include professionals that assist  people with a disability for the purpose of having children of their own. These valuable and necessary professionals have all been labelled by Robert and Hanson as “Prostitutes”

For whatever reason, Robert and Hanson fail to realise that there are many reasons why people with a disability find it difficult to engage in intimacy and sexual activity. This can be related to lack of mobility, lack of limbs, coordination and so on. Adjustments and supports are often needed and are a cost of disability. This is precisely why the NDIS was established, to meet the cost of disability. The NDIS will pay for adjustments to allow people to drive cars, get around their home and so on … But for some reason adjustments and support around sex are considered taboo by many.

The attitudes of Robert and Hanson are the worst kind of ableism. They seek to control and deny through the power that they hold. They, and people of their ilk, especially if they employed within the NDIS, need to be held to account.

But for me, to all those I offended through my innate ableism, I am sorry and I thank you for pulling me up on it. I, especially, should know better!

Sorry -Now What? Part 2

Deaf Can Do have written a second letter to the Deaf Community. This was in response to their apology that was issued just before Invasion Day, January 26th. In this letter the boss, Heidi Limareff, offered a little more explanation and provided a little more history. Like the first letter, I have no doubt that Ms Limareff is sincere. Perhaps there is a bit of guilt associated with this as she was part of the organisation that made these earlier decisions. The more cynical among us believe that this series of apologies is related to the fact that Deaf Can Do, having lost the trust of the Deaf Community, have lost much of the business associated with Deaf community. If you missed The Rebuttal’s first response to the apology you can read it HERE

Ms Limareff reiterates in the second letter that the old Townsend House “Saved” the Deaf Society when it came calling for help back in 2007. She reinforces the fact that had Townsend House not provided support then, the Deaf Society would likely have closed. Ms Limareff highlights that since that time the introduction of the NDIS has meant that organisations like Deaf Can Do receive little to no Government funding. Instead, they are expected to be part of the “Market”.  In short they “Sell” their services.

We deaf people are the primary purchasers. Mostly through the NDIS. We can purchase interpreting, technology, counselling, Auslan lessons for our families and friends so we can communicate better and so on. Some of us have Auslan for Employment money from Jobaccess. We buy interpreting and some of us use it to buy the technology that helps us to do our job. 

This market is fairly lucrative. It is also competitive. Auslan interpreting is particularly competitive. There are a number of companies that offer Auslan interpreters throughout Australia. Deaf Can Do has to compete with these companies. Some of these companies try to shore up the market by insisting that interpreters work only for them and sign contracts as such. There are rumours that some service agreements that these companies have with consumers insist that Deaf people book only with them. Suffice to say, such practices go against the principles of the NDIS, particularly the principle of Choice and Control. 

But I digress. Deaf Can do have to compete. They also now have to compete with Deaf run businesses that offer many NDIS services including interpreters, support coordination, counselling, technology and the like. All these things are part of Deaf Can Do’s core services. If they do not have the trust of the Deaf Community they cannot make money and sustain Deaf Can Do. Perhaps there is some truth in the cynics view that these apologies are a way of restoring trust and getting more Deaf people to use Deaf Can Do’s services.

I notice an interesting thing in the second letter from Ms Limareff. It does not, anywhere, suggest that the Can Do Group actually inherited the property at 262 for next to nothing. Sure, they committed some capital to saving the Deaf Society but they essentially inherited this prime real estate on South Terrace for nothing. Ms Limareff states that they have invested $500 000 in the Deaf Can Do services. Thanks, but considering that when the Can Do Group sold 262 they made over $3 million, thats a pretty good profit. I have heard that 262 sold for $3.7 million, others have said it was $3.1 million. Either way, we would all be rubbing our hands in glee if a $3 million plus asset landed plum in our lap. As I see it, the Can Do Group have done pretty well out of it.

Ms Limareff tells us that the old 262 building, now known as 261, is on the market for $4 million. Astounding considering that the building and all the land around it sold for under $4 million initially. Many members of the Deaf community have been imploring the Can Do group to buy it back for them. Ms Limareff correctly points out that this would not be a viable financial investment because there is much work that needs doing on the building to make it safe for people to inhabit.

But let’s be honest. The Deaf Community lost an asset that today, with the land, would be worth many millions of dollars. They lost it because an organisation saw the Deaf community as something that needed saving with services and support, rather than as thriving community that requires autonomy. In short, they had a welfare mentality. This mentality made them think that they were there FOR the Deaf community and that without them the Deaf Community would collapse. It is this welfare mentality that I wish to challenge. Particularly given that these people employed by the Can Do Group owe their jobs, food on their table, ability to pay their mortgage etc – to the very community and consumers that they have serve.

Numerous times Ms Limareff has described the need for a Community Centre for the Deaf community as a “Place to meet”. Yes, that would be lovely, but the Community Centre is more than that. Handled properly it can become a Hub. It could be come a business centre where Deaf people, and I dare say Deaf business, could thrive. What we need is a vision of a Deaf community in this century.  What does it need? It is more than just a place to meet.

Imagine having a Centre where Deaf Community members could go to access interpreters. Perhaps freelance interpreters could book booths where deaf people could come in and access them. The interpreter would hire the booths for the day and Deaf community members and Deaf business could come in and purchase the services of these interpreters via their NDIS funds or Auslan for Employment funds. Deaf business could have meetings with hearing clients through these interpreters. They could also book a room and access interpreters from anywhere in Australia through state of the art video conferencing facilities.

Perhaps within that Hub there are other Deaf businesses as well. A Deaf Cafe. A Deaf personal trainer. Perhaps a Deaf psychologists here, or even interstate, can offer services to South Australian Deaf clients. Interstate business could do this through the state of the art video conferencing. Qualified Deaf people could offer Auslan classes to the public at this Hub. Maybe we have a Deaf yoga instructor that hires an area for regular yoga groups that Deaf community members pay for through the NDIS because it provides Auslan access. Perhaps Deaf masseurs can set up there or even Deaf Physiotherapist could consult.  Why not aim high and make this centre not just a meeting place, but a thriving business Hub that the Deaf community can be proud of. Believe me, right here and now, these Deaf professionals exist and more.

The Can Do Group are not poor, they are quite wealthy. I dare say if they saw fit to give back to the Deaf community what they took away, minus $500 000 they say they invested, that the Deaf community could aim for full autonomy. With support, innovation and perhaps some seeding grants from the Government, maybe this is feasible. 

Let’s move away from this tired old meeting place and welfare model.  Let’s aim high. An apology is great but think of all the things that are possible. The Deaf community is full of brilliant people. It’s time to let them regain their power and autonomy by giving back what was taken away.

 

Sorry – Now What?

“The time has now come for the nation to turn a new page in Australia’s history by righting the wrongs of the past and so moving forward with confidence to the future.

We apologise for the laws and policies of successive Parliaments and governments that have inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss on these our fellow Australians.

We apologise especially for the removal of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children from their families, their communities and their country.

For the pain, suffering and hurt of these Stolen Generations, their descendants and for their families left behind, we say sorry.

To the mothers and the fathers, the brothers and the sisters, for the breaking up of families and communities, we say sorry.

And for the indignity and degradation thus inflicted on a proud people and a proud culture, we say sorry.”

Kevin Rudd Sorry Speech, 2007

The apology to Australia’s First Nations People from then Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, was met with much fanfare. Particularly so because the previous Prime Minister, John Howard, had refused to offer one. Howard feared that if he were to offer an apology to the owners of the land, the First Nations People, that it would open up the floodgates to litigation.

It didn’t do that. But neither did it change things much. Our First Nation People are still among the most poor in the nation, if not the world. A large number are still the victims of any number of health, social, educational and financial issues. In short, although Rudd’s apology was sincere, it led to little change. In fact, with the introduction of the Cashless Welfare Card and the disbanding of the Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC), it could be argued that First Nations People are as powerless as ever.

It is a stark reminder that actions speak louder than words and that the rhetoric has not been matched by effective action.

Interestingly, the day before Invasion Day, I read an apology from the Can Do Group to the South Australian Deaf community. The Can Do Group manage Deaf Can Do.  For those that do not know, Deaf Can Do are the services that were previously provided by the Royal South Australian Deaf Society. The Society were previously based at the hallowed grounds of 262 South Terrace, Adelaide, affectionately known to the Deaf Community as 262. Anyway, the apology was offered by Heidi Limareff, Group Chief Executive, Can Do Group. You can see an Auslan version of the apology by clicking here – AUSLAN APOLOGY

” I have spent a lot of time listening and have heard the pain and sadness caused by many South Australian institutions in the past, including experiences with the Royal South Australian Deaf Society.

While some people took me through the history of the Deaf Society from the very early days, most people’s focus was on three of more recent events:

  • –  First, the merge between Townsend House and The Royal South Australian Deaf Society in early 2007.
  • –  Second, the loss of membership.
  • –  And, third, the sale of 262 South Terrace in 2014.  

I have worked for the Deaf Society for nearly 16 years now so I experienced these events first hand. I know the communication to the community was poor and I also understand that the community consultation about these changes was not very effective or collaborative. I am very sorry for this. Our Board and leadership are very sorry. We are sorry for the impact on individuals and the community of these events. 

We are sorry there was poor communication before and during the sale, and we are sorry that we did not consult properly with the community. We are sorry for the hurt, the sadness, and the fracturing of the community. And we are sorry for the feeling of loss so many of you have experienced through losing your cultural home and sense of place.” 

Heidi Limareff, Group Chief Executive

I have no doubt that the apology from Ms Limareff is authentic and sincere. I have no doubt that she empathises and feels the pain of the Community. Like with the Rudd apology, I hope that the actions that follow from the Can Do Group meet the rhetoric. I hope that these sincere words from Ms Limareff do just not end up in cyber space, well meaning words that are not matched by the actions.

Many people reading this will not know much of the history of 262. The building at 262 South Terrace was purchased way back in the 1920’s. I understand that the Deaf community were active in its purchase. They held raffles, visited pubs  and raised the capital that led to the purchase of 262. The purchase occurred because the original premises of the Deaf Society became too small. As the Community grew so did its need for a larger base and cultural home. The building at 262 was purchased largely through the hard work and dedication of the Deaf Community. In short it largely belonged to the Deaf community.

Over the years the Royal South Australian Deaf Society was mostly controlled by hearing people. There were Deaf people on the Board of course, but they were always in the minority. It is a truism to say that hearing people controlled the Deaf society and its finances. In the late 1990’s the South Australian Government changed how it funded Disability Groups. This meant that a large proportion of the funding it provided to the Deaf Society was cut. The Deaf Society struggled and in an effort to survive sold off most of its assets until, it seems, the only asset left was 262!

In 2007 the Deaf Society was close to broke and asked the Can Do Group, (then known as Townsend House), to help them out. Townsend House came to the rescue and took over the administration of the Deaf Society. I remember seeing the agreement that was written at the time and writing here at the Rebuttal that effectively Townsend House now controlled the Deaf Society and 262. If they saw fit, I argued, they could sell 262 and probably would.

The CEO and President of the Deaf Society of the day attacked me relentlessly. They accused me of fear mongering and letting fiction get in the way of the truth. They even promised, if memory serves me correctly, to never sell the building. We all know now where the fiction was.

In 2014 the building, 262, was sold. Before that the Deaf community of South Australia protested loudly and held rallies to save the building, all to no avail. I wrote an article about this at the time suggesting that the Deaf community had been Cast Out Like Squatters – Click on the title to read.

Inevitably the building was sold. Can Do offered the Deaf community a home in Modbury. The details of the agreement I do not know. I understand that despite the efforts of many dedicated volunteers the headquarters in Modbury have not brought the community together. The Deaf community in South Australia has become, like other states that lost their community centres, increasingly fragmented and divided. The community still grieves for its soul and centre that existed at 262. It is not an exaggeration to suggest that the sale of 262 ripped the heart out of the South Australian Deaf community. Not unlike the sale of Jolimont in Victoria or Stanmore in NSW, lessons that hearing administrators of Deaf societies continue to not heed.

So here we are now. The Can Do Group has offered an apology for selling the building that was the Heart of the Deaf community. A building that, in my view, it had no right to sell. It inherited the building for nothing and it seems it wished to recoup the money it had invested in saving the Deaf Society, whatever the social and emotional cost this would cause the South Australian Deaf Community.

I welcome the apology from Ms Limareff. I have no doubt that she and the Can Do group are sincere. She has promised to continue to consult and involve the Deaf community in decisions moving forward. I welcome this also. However, like with the Rudd apology, I hope that this sincere apology does not end up in the annals of Deaf history as mere words – Let the actions that follow meet the rhetoric.

Merry Xmas

Just about everyone hates 2020. It’s just been a crap year for most of us. The ruddy virus has played havoc all over the world. Deaths, lockdowns, panic and fear have been at the forefront of all of our lives. I have sometimes hated 2020 too. It separated me from my family for six months for a start. But it’s not all been bad. in fact 2020, in many ways, was the resurrection of Gary.

If I look back, 2019 was my Annus Horriblis. It was a year that I went into a deep depression. It was a reactive depression to things happening at work. I was bullied and I was gaslighted. I was treated with awful disrespect. It took me many sessions with my psychologist to accept this and to stop blaming myself. It wasn’t just me  who suffered, it was also many of my workmates. As their senior I sought to protect them as much as possible. In the end it became too much and I broke down.

A toxic workplace is the worst place to be. When your manager abuses you its awful. When you sit in meetings listening to your leadership team put down the people they are supposed to be leading it is demoralising. Hearing a fellow leader screaming about a work colleague being a liar and unprofessional is not a nice place to be. She screamed, “I dont care if she hates me, she is a liar, she is unprofessional, I just dont care what she thinks of me.” Hearing your manager call. people weak, lazy, childish, incompetent and so on on a daily bases is demoralising. Hearing a leadership team member telling you that a struggling colleague, ” …brought it on themselves.” and having colleagues coming to you in tears because of abusive phone calls from the manager is no way to work.

Last week a former colleague was chatting to me on Messenger. She had been on the phone to one of the workers that had copped it in this toxic workplace. The worker told my former colleague that if I had not been there protecting them and supporting them that they would not be of this world today. That is how bad it was. It was a sobering reminder of that awful time and just how terribly toxic the workplace was. No one should have to work in that sort of environment.

At the end of 2019 I got a new job. It took me back to a role that I know well. Advocacy, education, employment and creating positive change. It is a role that I strive in.It was helped by having wonderfully supportive colleagues who always had my back. It is helped by having colleagues who respect your knowledge and seek your advice and expertise. It is helped by kindness and having a workplace that puts people first and supports them to the hilt. I am thankful for them because they helped me heal and rediscover myself.

What a year it was. The virus hit and suddenly everything went online. Meetings by Zoom. Meetings by Teams. Suddenly people with disabilities were at the forefront as we all frantically scrambled to ensure that online learning platforms were accessible for them as much as possible. I was very proud to be part of a group of colleagues that set up a series of meetings with disability practitioners around Australia, and even New Zealand. In these meetings we discussed challenges and needs in regard to disability access. We supported each other and exchanged information. We promoted and practiced mindfulness so that all of us could cope with the numerous stresses and changes that had hit us all. I was particularly proud to have sent the initial email that started the initiative …. then all my colleagues came on board and together we coordinated a response. I have to say it was one of the most rewarding moments of my long career.

It’s been a busy year. I worked with colleagues from the University of Tasmania and Griffith University to put on a webinar about setting up accessible online learning for Deaf and hard of hearing students. From this we developed a Guide that captured these learnings so that they are not lost. This is now in the process of being distributed all over Australia.

I worked with colleagues from all over Australia to develop a survey and response to the DDA Education Standards Review. We also developed an online survey to identify issues and successes of online learning. This was targeted at students with a disability to ensure that they are heard. We were thrilled that nearly 700 students responded to that survey from all over Australia. We are now in the process of analysing the responses and developing a report to capture the learnings so that these learnings are not lost and everyone can benefit from them.

I presented at the Pathways conference at the end this year. I was part of a brilliant team that presented on issues around supporting people with a disability from Multicultural and refugee backgrounds in tertiary education. I have been working with colleagues and the NDIA to promote better use of NDIA plans to assist people wth a disability succeed in  tertiary education and employment. It has been a huge year.

In all of this we all adapted too going online. Zoom meetings, as hearing colleagues know, are exhausting. When you have five or six back to back you are just about ready to drop. Being deaf and having to take part in these online meetings, often with ten or more people from all over Australia, is no easy feat. It was all possible because my colleagues were supporting and adaptable. It was all about respect and working together. They restored my faith in myself and humans. They helped to heal me. I cannot thank them enough.

One of the downsides of 2020 was being separated from family and friends because of lockdowns and border closures. But you know what? It just makes you appreciate them all the more. It reminds you of the important things in life. Family, love, respect, kindness and friendship. If you have that, you do not need a lot else. I am reunited with family now and I have been able to catch up with many dear friends. Despite the hardships of the lockdowns and border closures it has only made me appreciate these things all the more.

2020 will not be a year we will not forget in a hurry. It has been the remaking of me. To my family, friends and colleagues allover Australia who helped me rediscover myself, I say thank you – You saved me!

Much love to you all and Merry Xmas!!

 

 

 

 

An Open Letter To LAC and Delegates – A Lesson in Deafness

Dear Delegates and LACs.  …… 

You all have a very hard job. It’s an important job.  The lives and opportunities of people with a disability are very much in your hands. It is a role I once did. A role which I was very privileged to have done, both as a Senior LAC and also a Senior Planner. I sometimes made mistakes, we all do, but mostly I think I got it right. Do you know why? Because I did my homework. I based decisions on facts. What I didn’t know I researched. I made sure I had a good pool of information about specific disabilities so as to be able to ask the right questions. I was guided by the participant because the information that they provided was the essential key to developing a quality plan. (Yes reports and evidence were crucial but secondary to the information that the participant provided to me.)

That’s how it should be done.  One of the key principles of the NDIS is control. CHOICE AND CONTROL!!! Thats why I was always guided by the participant. But not just that, I would also assist participants to explore their needs. Using a simple problem solving approach taught to me in social work school, I assisted participants to look at their needs from every angle. In this way we sometimes identified needs that a participant had never thought of.

You know the key to being able to help participants in this way was to research. They other key was to use the resources available to me through the NDIS intranet. I used subject matter experts too. I would consult with them about assistive technology or some specific issues around a disability that I did not understand. One of the great things about the NDIS is that it has heaps of information like this.  Sometimes it can be difficult to find but the NDIS have developed some really good information. A good LAC or delegate will take the time to find it!

Now, I have been out of the NDIS sector for over a year. But not really. You see, weekly someone contacts me, mostly deaf people because someone has screwed up their plan. Some poor soul contacted me last week because a delegate and LAC had some how decided that a plan of $1000 was her lot. A person with a cochlear implant. A person with English language issues. A person that uses Auslan to communicate. $1000. Let that sink in.

Earlier in the year I had a 55 year old be told to do speech therapy because if she spoke better interaction would be better. She could get herself a tablet and use Voice recognition to help her communicate. $5000 or so she got. Bizarrely $1425 of that was for a plan manager. She isn’t the only one. I have had at least three come to me where plan management makes up 25% or more of the total budget they receive. Ridiculous.

Tonight, yet again, I had a Deaf person contact me because a delegate has decided that her so called poor English language skills are the responsibility the Education Department and have nothing to do with her deafness. Not disability specific they say.

I read the email that she received and let out a little scream. Why? Because I know within Melbourne NDIS, where this person is from, there are several delegates who are Deaf and subject matter experts who could have explained why English language difficulties are the result of deafness and are, in fact, disability specific. But the delegate couldn’t be bothered to consult these experts. The delegate had formed an opinion, an opinion based on total ignorance. An opinion developed simply because they could not be arsed to do their homework!! Please, just get another job if you cannot be arsed to do your job properly.

Now for the lesson!!

The earlier hearing loss occurs in a child’s life, the more serious the effects on the child’s development. Similarly, the earlier the problem is identified and intervention begun, the less serious the ultimate impact.

There are four major ways in which hearing loss affects children:

  1. It causes delay in the development of receptive and expressive communication skills (speech and language).
  2. The language deficit causes learning problems that result in reduced academic achievement.
  3. Communication difficulties often lead to social isolation and poor self-concept.
  4. It may have an impact on vocational choices.

https://www.readingrockets.org/article/effects-hearing-loss-development

This is just one article on the topic. Let me tell you – Many deaf children still have language deprivation that impacts on their life right through to adulthood. Many never achieve the level of literacy of their hearing peers. They struggle to understand written English, fill-in forms and deal with adult concepts. It impacts on their learning and can also severely impact on their ability to develop relationships, get qualifications, hold down a job and so on. Not all, but many. It’s a known fact – You just have to Google it, articles abound.

Now language for young children is developed through interaction with family and the environment. Chomsky had a theory of a Language Acquisition Device (LAD) in the human brain that assisted humans to develop language. The LAD is most responsive up until the age of five. After that it apparently becomes less responsive and language can be harder to acquire.

Language is conveyed through either speech or signs – Language is a mass of concepts that we learn through interaction. Concepts like love, hate, want, need, pain, give, take, care etc etc. We learn these concepts though interaction .. We express them through language — So speech and signs convey these learnings equally well for others to see or hear what we are thinking.

To learn language, particularly in a hearing world, you have to “overhear” You hear your parents talk, you hear you siblings talk, you hear the radio, the TV, the people on the bus, your friends at Kinder and so on. Like a sponge the young brain takes this in and develops language. Its not formal – Its just a natural process and young kids pick it up and develop language as we know it.

If you are deaf and in a hearing family you miss out a lot of that. Your communication needs an ideal environment. It needs no noise in the background, lips need to be seen and so on. For deaf kids overhearing is difficult. Deaf kids don’t hear something on TV and ask ” Mum, Dad – why doesn’t ScoMo like China?”  “Mum, Dad – Meg had a baby with Harry and they ran away from England- Why?”  Believe it or not, this interaction with the environment leads to learning of language concepts, vocabulary etc etc so that kids are ready for school –

For the deaf kid it can be an uphill struggle. Some do not get access to sign language and some come from broken homes. Some have families that don’t understand everything the deaf child is missing. So what happens is that deaf kids become isolated and have delayed language, limited  vocabulary and an extreme difficulties to interact with the people in their environment. This means that learning the written form of a spoken language that they have had little access to becomes extremely difficult. Many struggle and achieve only third grade literacy levels.

The below is an interesting little tidbit-

“Specifically, the report found that literacy scores in both oral and signing deaf children were lower than expected for their age. Scores were also lower in the signing group compared to the oral group, with 48% of the oral group and 82% of the signing children reading below age level, although signing children with two deaf parents scored at the same level as the oral deaf group. Scores for spelling were better in both oral and signing groups, but were still below average. In both groups, language skills were particularly weak.”   https://www.hearingreview.com/hearing-products/implants-bone-conduction/cochlear-implants/many-deaf-children-reading-difficulties-british-study-finds

The whole issue is infinitely more complex than I can cover here. There are many factors to consider such as age of onset, whether parents are hearing or deaf, access to appropriate technology, success of cochlear implants, social economic backgrounds and so on. But lets be clear, the acquisition of spoken language is hard for Deaf kids. Some are severely impacted so that they never gain high literacy levels. This impacts on every aspect of their life as adults.

Let’s also be clear that the literacy issue is not something that the Education Department is solely responsible for. It is not because the child failed – It’s because they are deaf and this prevented them obtaining literacy at the same level as their hearing peers. As adults they may struggle with forms, they may struggle with reading, they sometimes need help to understand written English, they sometimes need it broken down to more simple concepts or translated into Auslan … It is because they’re DEAF and they need support to deal with everyday interaction that involves complex English or spoken language concepts that are conveyed through  writing – IT IS ABSOLUTELY DISABILITY SPECIFIC AND AN NDIS RESPONSIBILITY. It is not something that is easily fixed and the responsibility of the so called MAINSTREAM!!

You cant always fix it by sending them back to school or literacy classes at TAFE. For some it is just not fixable – THEY NEED SUPPORT!

My plea to LACS and Delegates is this –

  1. Understand the above and make decisions accordingly.
  2. Stop telling Deaf participants that have literacy issues and that literacy issues are a mainstream responsibility – By doing so you make them feel like a failure.
  3. ABOVE ALL – do your homework, use the subject matter experts and make decisions based on FACT and not your ill considered opinion that has been formulated from your own ignorance.

To the NDIA I say – Train your staff and LACs on these important issues – The decisions that they are making are beyond a joke!

Poor Wee Fockers

Trigger warning – Massive cynicism – A friend of mine put up a post on Facebook. She was asking peoples views on reverse discrimination. This is where people from disadvantaged groups are often favoured over others so as to create opportunities for them in employment or education. Apparently some non-disabled folk take umbrage to this type of discrimination. They claim it discriminates against non-disabled people. I am going to be rather undiplomatic and say – POOR WEE FOCKERS!!

And really, I mean it. I really have no patience for these non-disabled people who think that by creating employment opportunities or education opportunities for people with a disability, it is unfair because these non-disabled are overlooked. It astonishes me.

For many years now there have been various policies of Affirmative Action. In the 70’s there was a strong push to create opportunities for women, particularly in management positions. It needed to be done because men had dominated the playing field for so long there was no way that many women could compete. Particularly in the 70s where many people still believed that a woman’s place was in the home.

I am sure there were many men at that time who asked, “What about me?” – I guess the same principle applies to them. – Poor wee fockers!!!

It is a truism that there is no such thing as equal opportunity in our world. We like to think there is, but there is not. A whole host of things come into play – Disability, wealth, gender, Aboriginality, socio economic background and so on. Some people, and this is true, are born with silver spoons in their mouth. A bit like like Donald Trump – ” I had it hard, my dad only gave me a million dollars.”

But it is true, by virtue of birth people have advantage. That is not to say that people don’t work up from the slums and become successful, it is just a fact that it is a lot harder for them to do so. This is why we have a concept of equity, because equal opportunity is really a Utopian idea that doesn’t exist and probably never will.

Equity is very different from equal opportunity. Equity takes into consideration all of the barriers that people of disadvantaged background have. For example many Universities have policies that aim to increase representation of students from postcodes that are known to have a high representation of people from low socio-economic backgrounds. They offer scholarships and programs targeted at these postcodes. Student Equity representatives create awareness and encourage people from these postcodes to consider University education.

Other programs target women to increase their representation in trades. This is in traditionally male dominated trades like mechanics, building or carpentry. TAFE and the Government recognise that women are under-represented in these areas and are often pushed in to “traditional” women’s work like nursing, teaching and so on. The reverse is true in teaching where they need more male teachers.

There are also many programs that target people from Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander backgrounds. The disadvantage that these people have can be horrendous. So employment, education and leadership opportunities are created for them to try and assist them out of the awful disadvantage that they as a people and culture face everyday.

Likewise, there are programs aimed at people with a disability. But the problem with many these programs for people with a disability is that they aim just to get people in a job or into study and little else. So if Johnny with IQ of 165 is stocking shelves, then that’s just dandy.

Ok, I exaggerate, but only a little. I know for a fact that many people that have a disability and are working within organisations that support people with a disability, have been in the same job for many years, with no promotion.

Often these disability organisations will hold these people up as beacon of light. “Look at us…”, they will say, “We have five people with a disability working for us, and one on the Board.” While neglecting to point out that they employ over 500 people and every person in a leadership and management role is a non-disabled person. And that Board member, the solitary disability representative among a Board of twenty.

This is no exaggeration, this is the reality. Certainly, in the Deaf sector it is improving with several Deaf CEOs in the role now, but still the control is very much with hearing people on Boards and still the majority of hearing people are in management and leadership roles.

And you will hear the excuses. “OH!.. But it needs to be merit based ..” or “Oh!, But we need have the right skills and experience…” or “Oh!, But the person we chose had 35 years of experience and none of the disabled people who applied could match that.” And the list goes on.

It will stay that way forever unless proactive policy and recruitment policies are not initiated. It will stay that way unless proactive policies are not initiated to promote people with a disability into leadership and management roles. It will stay that way if people expect people with disability to compete on experience alone, knowing full well the disadvantage they have and the lack of opportunities offered to them.

I am sorry, but you non-disabled people who think you are discriminated against by reverse discrimination really need to understand the concept of equity and disadvantage. Equity policy has helped to even the playing field, but as yet it’s nowhere near even. For god sake, women are still paid less than men for doing the same work!!!

So to those non-disabled that think providing opportunities and creating leadership roles for people with a disability who have the ability to do these roles is discriminating against them, I say to you … “FOCK OFF”

 

Square Peg in What Hole ..??

A friend of mine got rejected for a job with a Local Area Coordinator (LAC) Partner. For those that do not know there are many LAC partners throughout Australia. I worked for one, the Brotherhood of St Laurence. Here in South Australia, where I now reside, we have Feros, Anglicare and Mission Australia. They employ LACs to gather information and formulate recommendations for NDIS plans that NDIA delegates then either approve or slash and approve in a much more watered down format.

Anyway, my friend was quite surprised. She has been around for a long time. She has worked with all disabilities. She has even sat on Government advisory committees and been in high-level management roles. She has formulated and implemented budgets. Negotiated outcomes and been an outstanding advocate for all people with a disability for close on 28 years.

After working at this high level for many years she decided that she would like to get back to her roots. She wanted to work directly with people who have a disability. Fed up with dealing with policy and whatnot she just wanted to use her considerable knowledge to ensure people with disabilities got the best possible NDIS plan that they could. Hell, she has a disability too and her own NDIS plan. Yeah, she knew her shit.

She was rejected for the role. Possibly, we theorised, because she was over qualified. It happens. She sought feedback from the LAC partner and this is what they said,

” You undoubtly process the skills and knowledge that are required. However, we have decided to diversify the LAC role and target people from a financial and banking background. In this instance you have not been successful for the role.”

Now, here we have the biggest disability program in Australia. We have a person who is one of the most knowledgable people about disability in Australia. The person has a disability, has lived their whole life with a disability and even has their own NDIS plan. Rejected for an LAC role because they are seeking people with a financial and banking background. Let that sink in.

Now the LAC role is an immensely specialised role. It needs a knowledge of disability. It needs an understanding of the barriers confronted by people with a disability. It requires an understanding of disability legislation, including NDIS legislation. The LAC has to not only articulate the participants needs in a way that will get them the best plan possible, but also must negotiate with delegates to explain finer details of plans so that the delegate approves a plan that meets the needs of the participant.

It isn’t rocket science. But what it does need is a solid foundation and knowledge of people with a disability and the barriers that they confront everyday. It requires an understanding of access, care, mobility, communication and behaviour issues. It is a very specialised field.

It is impossible for a LAC to know the needs of every person with a disability. However, a solid foundation and understanding of the many complex issues that are confronted by people with a disability is absolutely needed.

So when I read the reason that my friend was rejected for the LAC position, namely that they were seeking financial people and bankers, I said two words, and loudly – FUCK ME!

I make no apology for my language in fact my words were actually … FUCK ME – OH MY GOD – FUCK ME – THATS FUCKING RIDICULOUS!!

Let’s be clear, there are probably bankers and finance people who have a disability and get it. Good for them, congratulations if you won a LAC position. There are probably people from these backgrounds who may have a child with a disability, a sibling or a partner. Great! Welcome to the LAC fold. No arguments from me.

BUT! – to systemically target people from a finance and banking background because it will diversify the workforce – Well that, in my humble opinion, is just fucking batshit crazy! (Apologies, for the lack of political correctness in that last sentence.)

Let me put it another way. Let’s say a plumbing business wanted to employ a plumber and In their infinite wisdom they decided that they wanted to diversify their workforce. “I know”, said the genius plumbing business manager. “Ill target Doctors” The reasoning is simple, doctors have transferable skills, they know how your pipes work.

Bizarre? Of course it is. Perhaps there is a doctor out there that understands plumbing, knows how to install a water heater, knows how to find a leaky pipe and wants to change jobs. Cool, if thats the case. But in reality, how many doctors process the skills to be a plumber? I am betting it is close to zero.

Thats how I feel about targeting finance people and bankers for a very specialised disability role. A role that requires intensive knowledge. and understanding of all things disability. It requires an extreme level of empathy and a fair bit of passion to do the job to the level needed.

Sure, there are some finance/banker types that may have this knowledge. BUT! – you target that knowledge, and not the fact that they are bankers and finance people.

It’s ridiculous, pathetic and I am angry – As everyone should be!! FUCK ME!

Just SAY IT!!!

Its happening again. There is a debate going on about whether we should use the word disability. There are still those Ableist that hate the word disability. “It says they are less able.” Say those able-bods that struggle with the word. What they are really saying is – “I’d hate to be like that ….Let’s try make them like us as much as possible.”

And so they begin the quest to find a nicer way to tell people they are disabled. Differently abled. People of varying abilities. Sight challenged, height challenged. hearing challenged etc. People of varying needs. It goes on and on.

I have written about this often. I am going to keep this short and sweet. I am going to be blunt and tell people that struggle with the word disability to get over it and just say it …And here is why.

As a lad I lost my hearing around the ages of 8 and 10. My earliest memory is attending an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist with my dad. The specialist recommended hearing aids. I remember my parents struggling with this, as many parents do. Accepting your child has a “deficit” is a difficult thing.

I remember my mum stating vehemently that I didn’t need them. My parents might have been a bit in denial – Not wanting to accept the inevitable. It is a difficult thing for a parent. They accepted it later but at the start they struggled. Of course, as an impressionable kid, the message that I processed was that deaf was a bad, bad thing.

When I attended doctor appointments in those days, I was really not there. I could hear enough in those early times. You listen to the doctor say directly to your parents, as if you are not in the room – “If we get him aided quickly he can live a normal life …” The message – Deaf isn’t normal – hearing is – Get fixed. Being ignored by the doctor fosters a great sense of powerlessness

Next comes a kind of acceptance from your parents that hearing aids are needed. This is where it gets interesting. The professionals will say things like – “The aids are so small no one will ever know.” “They are the same colour as your skin people cant see them” You can grow your hair long, people wont know you have them” The message? Deafness must be hidden, no-one must know!

What does this do to ones mentality? Well for a start it destroys your self esteem. “He’s only hard of hearing, he does very well really” “He speaks so well, you wouldn’t know he was deaf.” “Such a strapping lad, you’d never know he had some kind of disability like deafness.”

All these are well meaning comments, but what they tell you is that being deaf is not a good thing. Being seen like everyone else is. Avoidance of the word, avoidance of the fact – it all serves to reinforce a point of view that being deaf is bad, deny it, hide it and don’t talk about it at any cost.

This destroys you as a young person. Instead of just seeing deafness as a completely normal human condition and treating it as such, the message is – The less you look deaf, the better you are.

And so I spent all my adolescent years practically denying the fact I was deaf. Fed these messages by hearing society that I should hide my deafness, particularly by professionals, that’s what I tried to do.

I started to deliberately lose hearing aids. I would refuse to wear them. I started pretending that I could understand when I could not. Of the latter, kids knew this and they would always try to trip me up, “Are you a poof?” they would ask, hoping to trip me up. (No offence to the LGBTIQA community, I wouldn’t care if I was.) – I had a whole host of little tricks designed to convince myself that I wasn’t deaf.

But I was deaf. And I knew people knew and that burned. So I stopped going to school. If I was at school I sat in a corner by myself. Believe it or not, I was even caned for consistently forgetting my hearing aids and lying about it. That really reinforced a view in myself that deaf was bad and I hated being deaf.

It took a very long time, well into my twenties, before I really was Ok in my deaf skin. But it didn’t need to be that way. Largely I blame those professionals, well meaning as they were, for their negative attitude towards deafness and the language that they used. It was and is very damaging.

Still they are doing it. Looking for a better way to say disability. Trying to come up with a term that softens the blow. It doesn’t, it simply reinforces the fact that disability is seen as a negative thing. If people talk about it negatively constantly and refuse to say the word disability, the consequence on the young person with a disability is negative feelings about disability and themselves. This I know.

I know wheelchair users who told me me that as children they suffered great pain at efforts to make them walk upright. The paradox is that the easiest and most sensible thing was to become a wheelchair user. The painful therapy, the painful surgery and the weird looks they got from people as they struggled to walk – It dug deep into their soul.

Later, when they decide being a wheelchair user is the best and most sensible thing, they felt a great sense of failure and even feelings of having let people down, particularly their parents. Thats what this be “be normal” attitude does – a hell of a lot of damage.

To those professionals and those non-disabled who are struggling with the word disability I advise – Just say it, move on, get over it and change your attitude- Disability isn’t a dirty word.

Undastud!!

Hello.  It’s late at night. I am writing this on my iPad. It will be short. Likely, errors will be many. Doesn’t matter cos I am sure, you the reader, will understand everything.

It is International Week of Deaf People. Today my Facebook feed has constantly reminded me that it is International Sign Language Day. I have watched countless videos of Deaf people signing. Some beautifully. Some with minor errors. Some in what can only be described as Signs in English order. It did not matter. Message was received and understood. Success!

A few days ago my nose went out of joint. Someone was complaining that people were not pronouncing Covid properly. Apparently, some were not saying COHVID … they were saying COVID as it is pronounced in Coffin or Coffee. Shocking and wrong. Talk properly people.

This pissed me off no end. I just saw this as the most revolting piece of ableism. You see, I knew that the world over deaf people were pronouncing it wrongly.   Apparently, it is correct to pronounce it Covid as in OH … COHVID.  Some Scallywags have been pronouncing it Coffid, as it sounds in coffee. Probably, somewhere, people were also pronouncing it Cowvid, like as in cow.

I know deaf people will be pronouncing it one of the three. Not having heard it pronounced properly they will have taken a punt and picked one of the three options. Likely, a fair few picked the wrong option. Hear the snorts and chuckles as they do so.

This is common amongst deaf people. I have a Friend who I tease mercilessly because she pronounced Karaoke as Kakarowkey … I also constantly mispronounce words. English is a bastard of a language. … Often words are not pronounced how they look. This is because of the weird rules of English and the bizarre use of silent letters.

Psychology, as an example, is a word with silent letters … we say Sighkology … but if you have never heard the word, phonetically you might say – Pisskology. Or as a deaf friend constantly said to me, despite constant corrections .. fissakology.

This is the lot of Deaf people who have read widely but not heard words, they mispronounce words regularly. I do a fair bit of public speaking. I warn my audience that they will hear me mispronounce words that I have read but never heard. I encourage them to stop me if a word s so badly mispronounced that they do not understand me. It has not happened yet. I know from the odd looks of the audience when I have got it wrong. Occasionally Some kind Auslan interpreters will take me aside after my talks and give me impromptu speech therapy sessions.

I get signs wrong too. My Auslan is ok, but I regularly butcher Auslan, unintentionally mind you. Nevertheless, people forgive me. Why? Simply because I have communicated a message to them and they have understood.

This is the key. Communication is about being understood. If this happens with a few wrongly formed signs or mispronounced words, so be it. As long as the message was understood.

Yet, far too many throw scorn upon those that mis-form a sign or mispronounce a word, even though they have fully understood the message. For some unknown reason people feel that it is ok to humiliate people who form signs or speak words incorrectly. Even though the message that they have been trying to convey has been understood in all its entirety.

Bottom line is, if you understood the message communication happened successfully and that is all that matters. By all means ask the Deaf person if they would like some feedback about their speech or signing and assist if it is requested. However, let’s never ridicule people for pronouncing words wrongly or forming signs wrongly. Especially if the message was communicated clearly and understood.

Get off your ableist high horse people and read this below… it explains it better than I ever could.

DEAF TALK….