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…. 

 

 

 

 

Finding Joy

Last year when I lost Joy, I wrote about it.  Where’s Joy? The article was written when I was at my lowest. My wife was in America and my boys were out working. It was my birthday and I was all alone. I needed to make sense of this enormous black cloud that was hanging over me so I wrote. It was an awful time.

Where’s Joy? – It is about my journey with depression. My psychologist called it reactive depression triggered by a workplace incident. Indeed it was. I had a horrific boss. She was a bully. She was a gaslighter. Subtly and cruelly she would dig the knife in.

It was an awful time at work. I left on a secondment for six months. It was a successful time too. I was offered an 18 month contract. When I had left my previous workplace my manager had just started. I had my doubts about her then. Especially when she asked me if I would rather go back to my desk and work rather than work with her and a colleague on reports.

You see, she didn’t like to have to adapt her communication. It stifled her style. When she asked me this I must have given her daggers because she physically jumped backwards. In answer to her suggestion I rather coldly replied – “No, I would rather be here, thank you.”

The warning bells should have been acknowledged when she asked a colleague who was unsteady on their feet to move desks. Supposedly because they were an occupational health and safety hazard to others. But I left soon after. When I left, I left a happy workplace. I left a great group of colleagues who I enjoyed working with. Laughs were never far away. I was determined to come back after my six month secondment. Indeed, I even promised a few people that I would. The boss had only been there a few months at that time.

When I left I had my doubts. I didn’t think the manager had the disability smarts. But I try to see the good side of people. Perhaps over time she would learn. I should have known better.

I returned after six months to what I can only describe as a tense and unhappy workplace. I was horrified. At management meetings they spoke about my colleagues with disdain. They called them liars, lazy, unprofessional, trouble makers, not good enough and so on. I will never forget my senior colleague standing in front of me and proclaiming of one young colleague – ” … They hate me, they hate  but I don’t care. They re not good enough, they are lazy.”  It was not a pleasant place to be.

And that manager. She would talk about people who had moved on to other roles. She would talk about them like they were dirt. She would claim they were never good enough and that they would never be welcome back. It was really horrific and negative. On Mondays, when we had these meetings, I would break into a cold sweat. I hated those meetings.

We were performance managing a couple of people. I had them in the meeting room crying. Crying because the manager had phoned them and abused them. Crying because they feared for their futures and their families. Pleading with me to help. I helped as much as I could. I gave them tips on how to manage the situation. Advised them to record every conversation, get in touch with the union, never to go into meetings alone and so on. That is how bad it was.

With performance management, it is the manger that manages it. I would implement strategies. record outcomes, have follow up meetings and measure improvements. I was so concerned about how the manager was handling things that I contacted Human Resources expressing my concerns and sought guidance. I spoke to a colleague about how distressed one of the people who was being performance managed was. They responded – “…They had it coming ..”  This person was just about to lose his job, their future and perhaps even their house. No compassion – Just – THEY HAD IT COMING.

Finally I cracked with the manager, I got angry. I told her she wasn’t being fair and I had something to say. She tugged her ear lobe – at me, a deaf guy – and said – “Listen to me!” That was the last straw. I looked her straight in the eye, while pointedly tapping the table with my middle finger, and said, apparently very loudly – “No – I have listened to you for a long time, now you are going to listen to me.”

A little after that, after some horrendous gaslighting I broke down. I will never forget our last meeting when she mad me sit next to a window, and sat herself next to the door. She was implying I was a threat and would hurt her. I remember telling her she might want to leave the door open, just in case. She was subtle and cruel. I don’t hate many people, but by golly I hate her.

This all happened precisely a year ago last week. The trauma of the time came back to me. I was angry and teary and I was having flashbacks. You know, even when I left she did not let up. She would tell colleagues to unfriend me on Facebook. Warn them to be careful because management would not view them associating with me in good light. One former colleague contacted me recently apologising for not getting in touch. She said she had felt compromised, even a little brainwashed. It is not a time of my life that I look back on with any fondness.

And I hit rockbottom. At first I just wanted to give up and forget. I didn’t want the stress of a Workcover claim. I just wanted to move on. But I found a great counsellor. The counsellor reminded me of my value and what I had to offer. She helped me with my Workcover claim and it was approved. This was vindication to me that what I had experienced was real.

I remember saying to my counsellor that I had let everyone down. By quitting I had put my family at risk. We stood to lose everything. She was having none of it. She said that quitting, knowing the risks, was the bravest thing that I could do. “Gary.” she said, ” … you were bullied, the woman abused you, no-one has to put up with that.”

That was the start of my recovery. The counsellor gave me strategies to stop me ruminating. She said to find something to focus on. Just focus on it and think about it. Think about its shape and colour and where it came from. She told me to allow my mind just to get absorbed with the object. So I started macro-photography. Close ups of flowers, insects and objects. Every day I would take photos and post them on Facebook under the title of POSITIVITY.

Slowly and surely, with the help of Marnie, my boys, my friends and my counsellor I hauled myself out of the hole and began to look for Joy. Slowly and surely I began to feel her presence. She was there, I could feel it but I just could not allow myself to fully accept that she was back.

One day I was waiting to hear if I had been successful with a job that I had applied for. I was convinced that I had missed out. I could feel myself falling back into the hole. I grabbed my camera and I went for a walk. I walked some 200 metres from home and saw a a mother and father with their young child. They were looking up a tree and were very excited. I walked up to them and looked up, this is what I saw ….

There she was. This was Joy. I called her Froggy instead because it is a Tawny Frogmouth. But at that moment, that very moment, I knew I had found Joy again. I didn’t care if I didn’t get the job or not. I looked at Froggy and I sort of knew that this was a message, that everything was going to be OK. And it was, because when I got home my phone confirmed that I had got the job. I have not looked back since.

The pandemic is with us. It is horrible but I know one day it will pass. I am currently separated from my family. They in Victoria, me in South Australia. Borders are closed and we cannot see each other. But it will pass, we will once again be united. Whenever I doubt this I look at Joy in the guise of Froggy. She is now a poster that hangs over my bed.

Life is truly good, testing but good. I was reminded of this by new boss. My new boss  is the epitome of compassion and someone that values others. I knew I was finally back when she said this to me …. And I will end this here … It’s a year on and Joy has been with me for a while … All I can say is – WELCOME BACK, JOY and stay!

Gary you have achieved much since taking up the position. Your own lived experience of being Deaf has raised the consciousness of the staff to what it means to live with a disability. Your advocacy provides a role model for all staff. Our organisation is fortunate that your skill and expertise, both as a disability advocate and skilled practitioner, adds a depth to its profile that has not been there previously.

What a difference a year makes!

Having the Last Word

It’s been an interesting year to say the least. Covid-19 has impacted on us all at so many levels. We have all had to modify our behaviour. Social distancing and hygiene have been paramount. Many of us have been forced to work and study from home. This has brought with it many changes and challenges.

People in general have struggled. They have found the relentless succession of online meetings, training and other learning difficult. They have found connectivity an issue. They have found it hard to gauge emotions and vibes of communication because of the 2D nature and unfamiliarity of constant online communication. Distractions from children, family members and pets, at first an amusement, have become irritating and frustrating. It didn’t take long for the cracks to show.

But what if you have a disability. What if you are deaf and need captioning or interpreting? What if you are blind and cannot see what’s on screen? What if you are autistic and your carefully crafted routine and sensory management is disrupted? If the non-disabled found it hard – Spare a thought for people with a disability, the challenges have been immense.

I am deaf, I can only speak from my own experience.  I am some kind of glutton for punishment. I have actually enjoyed the challenge. I have particularly enjoyed the challenge of using Live Transcribe for nearly all my meetings. Live Transcribe, for those that do not know, is an android based app that provides automatic voice recognition captioning. I basically just place my Samsung tablet on a stand beside my computer and it picks up what people are talking about.

This has been my choice. It has saved heaps of money in captioning and interpreting. However, it is not for everyone. The captioning is surprisingly accurate but gets tripped up by phonetics. Hence, my friend Theresa becomes “the razor” – Razor is her name of choice now. Survey Monkey somehow came out as “Simply Mickey” – It is often hilarious, and I share the errors with my colleagues to their ongoing amusement.

But there is a thing with these online gatherings. I call them gatherings because this encompasses many things – Education, work meetings, Webinairs etc. The thing is, even when access is provided, inclusion is extremely hard. What this means is that the deaf person, and probably others with a disability too, always have the last word.

Having the last word is often seen as a sign of a narcist. For a narcist winning an argument is everything. They are not known to listen, rather they want only to be heard. I often wonder in this new online normal, if this is how non-disabled colleagues view us Deaf or disabled people when we pipe up at the last moment.

As a deaf person who must engage in online discussions several times a day, I have found that the only way to be heard sometimes is to wait for everyone to finish talking. You sometimes see the hint of frustration on colleagues faces at me repeating things that they thought had been resolved. On days when my energy is low, I just cannot be bothered and stay silent.

My responses in meetings can go something along these lines …

  • “ … I am sorry to come in late. I haven’t been able to get a word in because everyone is speaking so fast … ? “ (This is usually followed by lots of sorry Gary, Sorry Gary, Sorry Gary).”

 

  • (Waving frantically at screen.). “ …. Stop, stop, stop – I need to challenge Bob’s assumption that interpreters slow down discussions … “ – No one has ever actually said this, but the reader should get the gist of my frustrations.

 

  • ( Taking a note on my pad) …. “ …. I’m really sorry, Sue said something about 25 minutes ago that was really not correct, I need to take you back and discuss that again … “

 

  • Press raise the hand in Teams – Wait fifteen minutes before someone sees it – Forget what I wanted to say.

 

  • Chair asks if I have anything to add at the end of the meet because I have been very quiet .. “ … Several things actually, do we have an extra half an hour.” (Yes, the sarcasm is dripping -but the frustration is real.)

Couple this with the fact that we sometimes have connectivity issues, audio drop outs and the variable quality of both live and automatic captioning, it’s not always plain sailing. If you thought Zoom fatigue was a thing, be thankful you are not dealing with all of these other variables. I can tell you that at the end of a long day of Zoom meetings I am shot!

Of course, there are strategies that can help:

  • Everyone must speak one at a time.
  • Use the hand raising tool in the platform and police it strictly.
  • Use things like polls so that all can have a say.
  • Be aware that interpreters are pinned. When you share documents, the interpreters sometimes get unpinned. Provide deaf participant with some time to readjust (Just use chat feature and make sure everything is ok before proceeding.)
  • If captions drop out, connectivity interferes with access to interpreters or captioners etc – Stop the meeting. This may sound harsh but to continue is to undervalue the input of the deaf person.
  • Be a strict chair. Consider turn taking. For example, ask a question and provide people with a chance to respond equally, one at a time. Close gates on people that talk over others, stop the meeting when people are all talking at once. Open the gate for people that may struggle to get involved. All these things can help make a meeting more inclusive

I and other deaf people really don’t want to have the last word. We really want to contribute to the whole process. Often, I and other participants like me, have valuable ideas to contribute that can make processes and projects better and more efficient. For this to happen we all need to be fully involved so we and everyone can benefit. Inclusion should be the buzz word and it is very different from access!

Gotta go, Zoom is calling!

Kate


I worked in the NDIS as a Senior Local Area Coordinator and Senior Planner for almost four years. By and large I loved my time there. I loved meeting people with a disability and assisting them to develop the best possible plans that they could. People with a disability and their families were why I turned up every day. My colleagues, The LACs, were also a joy to work with. I loved mentoring them and assisting them to understand all things disability. The management, well I’ll say nothing because this is a positive post – But BOOOOO HISSS to many of them. That said, many of the management were brilliant too and bent over backwards to make things happen.

I believe in the NDIS. I think that when it gets it right, it’s brilliant. Sadly, outcomes upcan be very inconsistent. Skill and knowledge levels across the NDIS and LAC organisations are also extremely variable. This leads to many plans being a dogs breakfast. Even now, and I am not working in the field, I get contacted regularly by people with a disability for advice and assistance to develop or challenge their plans. I got myself a six pack from Bevo recently just to prepare him for his first NDIS meet. Call it a perk because I don’t get paid for it. Still, I get a great deal of satisfaction assisting these people as best I can.

Over the next couple of weeks I intend to share some stories of the good things that happen in the NDIS for participants with whom I worked. I was very privileged to have worked with them. I spent time in their homes sometimes They shared some of their most personal information with me. I was always struck by how humble they were. They always, without fail, met me half way with my communication needs. They often made me feel ten feet tall.

Today I want to talk about Kate. It is not her real name. Kate has a genetic condition that impacts on her muscle strength, coordination and cognitive abilities. She has a sister who has the same condition. She was my second ever NDIS participant. I rang her mother through the National Relay Service to set up an appointment. Mum suggested that we meet over Facebook Messenger so that we could type to each other without the need of a third person. I pointed out that this probably had some privacy issues around it. Mum didn’t care and that’s how we did the plan, through Facebook Messenger no less. (Mum’s choice mind you, so get back in your box all ye nae sayers.)

I absolutely loved the mum. She was cheeky and funny. She loved her daughters to death. We developed a plan for Kate that saw some support through a support worker so she could participate in swimming and other things. The rationale behind this was that having two children with a disability sometimes made it very hard for the parents to support them properly. This support was approved. Surprisingly, because NDIS are big on parental responsibility.

But you know what? Mum never used it. She said she felt awful at the thought of not being there for her daughter. She said it was her job and she didn’t want anyone else doing it. At review time she removed all external support for community participation and focused fully on capacity building. Speech, physiotherapy, occupational therapy and that sort of stuff. This is common. So many family members refuse support from an outside provider, simply because they see it as their role. No amount of persuasive argument about the need for a break sometimes could change their mind. I was always humbled by this attitude. That’s why I get so angry when people say that there is too much of a sense of entitlement in Australia today. It just isn’t the case most of the time.

But the big thing for Kate was a bike. Her family loved bike riding. she wanted to ride with them. She wanted a specially adapted bike so that she could pedal a bike despite her low muscle strength. I made a few enquiries and found a company that designed bikes just for that. To me this is what the NDIS is all about.  People in the NDIS love to wax lyrical about  “An Ordinary Life” – (No vomiting please!) What is more ordinary than a child riding a bike.

I discussed this with the NDIS. The person I discussed it with said NO! Bikes, they said, were parental responsibility. I argued that this was certainly the case but that most people didn’t have to pay $2 500 for their kid’s bike. I argued that it was surely the NDIS role to assist to pay for this extra cost to modify a bike. The NDIS person was having none of it.

As I do, I completely ignored the NDIS advice and put it in the plan. It was approved, subject to assessment and quote. This is where the long journey to get Kate a bike began. The assessment and quote were dutifully completed and submitted. But the NDIS refused to approve it. They said it was parental responsibility. A complete Cockwomble of a decision.

By the time of Kate’s first scheduled review I was no longer her LAC. Being a Senior LAC meant that the new LACs that were recruited took over some of my caseload. I remember just before Kate went to her new LAC her mum came in to the office to give me cake and Tim Tams. Kate was a really great kid. I was really sad that I hadn’t been able to get the bike over the line. I encouraged Kate’s mum to keep trying and put it in her new plan.

The second plan came and went and still the bike was not approved. There are people within the NDIS who are, frankly, heartless. They have no idea of the principles of the NDIS or of how the NDIS can facilitate community and family participation simply by approving simple things like a modified bike. It is absolutely the NDIS responsibility to fund these sorts of modifications. But no, they were adamant, it was parental responsibility.

So entering into the third plan mum decided she needed a more personable LAC and requested that I do the review. Of course, I was more than happy to do that. The previous LAC had done nothing wrong. She developed a great plan, added the bike again but it was refused.

I was determined to get that bike. Mum was happy to keep trying. She was just grateful for the therapy hours that she was getting. But that bike, I wasn’t giving up and neither was mum. I looked at the notes. And you know what? – The NDIS were saying that the bike was refused because it was parental responsibility AND that it had no therapeutic value to Kate. I was flabbergasted. Apart from confidence, fitness, coordination and muscle strength – no therapeutic value. How short-sighted could they be?

I set about getting therapist reports to show how bike riding was going to benefit Kate in so many ways. Build confidence, help with participation, build muscle strength etc. I told mum to get the physiotherapist to write a report outlining how the bike was going to help with coordination and maintain Kate’s muscle strength. My LAC colleagues insisted that it was not going to happen. They said the NDIS would not approve it. But they did. YES they did. You should have seen my fist pump when they did.

Kate and her mum had to jump through hoops and it only took three years to do it, but it happened! Shortly after the approval I started a six month stint with the NDIA as a Senior Planner. One day, on Christmas Eve no less, I received an email from Kate’s mum. Attached to the email was a photo of a proud Kate sitting on her bike. The smile on her face was priceless.

A little tear of joy escaped the corner of my eye, as it does now as I write this. Just a small thing that the NDIS can do to make a difference. An adapted bike. It is my favourite memory of my time in the NDIS. These are the things that I miss, just making that little difference in a persons life!

 

The Ogres of the Disability Sector!

    Image shows an Ogre, grey and with fangs and pointy ear. He is dressed in a business suit.

I have been in the disability sector for over 30 years. As a deaf professional I have pretty much seen it all. I have been lucky, most of my managers have been great. But, there is always someone, somewhere who screws things up. There are people that simply should not be anywhere near disability, or any group with a disadvantage for that matter. Yet, somehow they make it all the way to the very top. These are the Ogres of the Disability Sector.

I once was refused interpreters by an organisation that catered for disability.  They were doing a training course on counselling children with language issues. Counselling by play they called it. So I asked for interpreters and the boss of the training company told me that they would not provide. It was not financially viable they said. They offered me a free registration if I could arrange my own interpreting. I pointed out that the registration fee was actually more than what it would cost to pay for the interpreters. They still refused. Said the boss, ” Come on Gary. if people in wheelchairs bring their own wheelchair, surely you can bring your own interpreter?”  Yes, that happened. The old joke of burying their interpreter with the Deaf person when they die rings true.

I got a six month contract as a Senior Planner with the NDIA. I was approached by Hays Recruitment to ask if I would be interested. I was interviewed and won the contractor job on merit. I started work with the NDIA and did the mandatory training. To their credit, the NDIA arranged interpreting for this. After four weeks I commenced my job proper. Suddenly the NDIA would not provide interpreting. They argued that it was the job of Hays to pay for this because, technically, contractors are employed by them. Hays didn’t want to pay for the interpreters either. I even applied for interpreting via JobAccess and asked the NDIA to confirm my employment. They told me to get Hays to do it. This went on for eight weeks or so. In that time I, a Senior Planner, was sat at my desk waiting for the management of Hays and the NDIA to sign the form so that I could get interpreters or captioning to do the job.

Neither of them would sign it. So I couldn’t meet with clients. I was sat at my desk for eight weeks doing virtually nothing. I completed every item of the NDIA online training. I am sure I am still the only person in the world to have done so. Eventually the manager approached me and asked me to vet a few plans to make sure they met requirements. ” I have every confidence that you can do this, Gary”, said the manager. Well, I would bloody hope so given that I was a Senior Planner. I was livid and as the manager walked away I signed something non to complimentary to her back.

Eventually the NDIA offered me an 18 month contract so that I became their employee. To be fair, from then on they provided for all my needs. But still the episode left a foul taste in my mouth. How could management let this happen? How could the NDIA put me in the middle of toing and froing over the issue of access?  IT’S THE NDIA, surely disability should be a priority? But it wasn’t. I do not care who was responsible, management dealing with the biggest disability program in Australia needed to do better than this.

I also worked for a local council. My responsibility was access and inclusion. I had a heavy focus on making things like grant proposals requiring applicants to outline their disability access plan. I was determined to ensure the council emergency response considered disability needs. The latter included things like ensuring town hall type meetings were held in accessible buildings, that interpreters be provided, plain English versions developed, videos captioned and so on. I was really powerless and had to convince respective directors and managers to make these changes.

And you know they would promise the Earth and not deliver. Now, being deaf I don’t use the phone, I communicate by email or text. On a regular basis I would remind these people of their commitments and ask for action.

Do you know what happened? Not only did they not do as promised they refused to reply to emails. I brought this up with my manager. I said that they had stopped communicating and that they would not follow through with their commitments. They were basically giving the middle finger to disability access. I will never forget being told by the emergency services manager that disability was not their remit and that the neighbours were responsible to help and ensure their neighbours with a disability were supported. No, I do not jest, nor do I exaggerate.

My managers response to this was to tell me that when I had a meeting and an Auslan interpreter was present I should go around the building with the interpreter after the meeting and try and grab the offenders. I pointed out that this was not feasible because after meetings interpreters had other jobs to go to. She said she would write an article in the employee’s newsletter to let staff know I was deaf and make them aware of my needs. I got quite angry. I said, “NO! these people have to adjust too. They have to meet me half way. Not following through on promises and not responding to emails is simply unprofessional.” 

Naturally, nothing happened. Nothing changed. It was, of course, my fault. My manager tried to blame me. I asked what I was supposed to do if these offending people had simply stopped communicating and following through on their commitments. She basically accused me of exaggerating and lying. That was until forwarded her no fewer than 67 unanswered emails, just concerning ONE manager! It was a tough time and it made me quite ill.

Oh, and there was the lovely manager who asked me to go back to my desk and, “do more important things”, because they didn’t want to adjust their communication style. I was cramping their style you see. And then when I was challenging them on important staff issues they tugged their ear lobe and told me to listen. I probably didn’t help myself by telling them that I had listened to them for the last hour and a half and now it was their turn to listen to me. It should really come as no surprise that this same manager made a person with a physical disability move because they considered them an occupational health and safety risk. They might fall on someone you see. A real Ogre that one.

Before writing this I asked colleagues with a disability to share with me their own experiences. There were some shockers;

  • The deaf man told to get a mental health plan for reporting someone who secretly recorded a meeting with staff. Instead of acting on this appallingly unethical behaviour of the said staff member they turned it back on him, implied that he was the problem and that he should fix himself up through a psychologist.
  •  In the 90’s, the deaf person working for a deaf organisation who was questioned by the CEO about their need for interpreters because they had indicated in their interview that they were a good lipreader and mostly coped by lipreading.
  • The deaf professional told by her manager, who could barley finger spell, that her signing skills were not up to scratch. (This was very recent.)
  • The Deaf professional told to leave a planning session because the meeting would be fast paced and she would hold them up and not be able to follow.
  • The manager who asked a clinical staff member to look up some mental health information on a student, with out permission or consent. This was reported to HR who refused to act.
  • The manager who chased an in pain staff member to her car with an implied threat. Apparently, associating with certain people on social media would be bad for their prospects.

These anecdotes are but a fraction of what people have sent to me. A large percentage of them happened very recently and all were targeted at people with a disability.

I have long stated that people who work in the disability sector need to have experience in disability. They need to be culturally sensitive to the needs of people with a disability. Most importantly they need to demonstrate that they have the right attitude and knowledge. I have pushed this view often in the disability sector only to be told that disability can be taught and can be learnt on the job.

This is why we see within the NDIA an assortment of heavy handed bureaucrats. We see within LAC positions people who were previously policemen and even bank clerks and who get the job because they have people or IT skills. Bugger the fact that they have minimal knowledge of disability.  This is why many NDIS plans end up being a dogs breakfast. Too many people simply do not know what they are doing!

Yup there are Ogres working in management in the disability sector and they are doing enormous damage. Usually it is people with a disability who are targeted unfairly. There are simply not enough people with a disability in management roles and far too many ableist managers who do not know what they are doing. It is widespread and causing immense damage.

It is not just indirect discrimination, it is often outright abuse. Like the elephant in the room, the Ogres in the disability sector need to be addressed!

 

 

 

Infantalising the Deaf Community

The recent Rebuttal, What About Me, has caused some controversy. The article aimed to highlight some of the reasons that the Deaf community were frustrated with the media portrayals of Auslan. Many could relate to the article while many others saw the article as an attack on interpreters and the Deaf community establishment. It was neither of these things. So I thought to expand a little more on the themes in this article.

In recent times when interpreters have become prominent on the television, for whatever reason, the interpreter becomes a bit of a celebrity. During the Queensland floods the interpreter became Sign Man. The hearing populace had enormous fun taking the piss at what they saw his exaggerated facial expressions and movements. During the Bushfires the bearded fellow, who we all love, was everywhere. In Perth, the interpreter became the centre of everything. Interpreting for Fat Cat and teaching the Premier of Western Australia some impromptu Easter signs. It was a bit cringeworthy watching the Premier hop around like a bunny. The intent, however, was pure. Pity the poor interpreter who was forced to comply. She could not very well refuse with all eyes upon her.

Let’s be clear, I and the Deaf community, do not begrudge the interpreters the exposure they’re getting. They are a valuable resource and much needed by the Deaf and hearing communities alike. As many have pointed out, many of these interpreters have been part of the Deaf community all of their lives. Many have invested a great deal of time and money to become the very best interpreter that they can be. Studying to be an interpreter is not cheap.

We are all very aware of these things and are thankful that interpreters are there. They are the bridge between hearing and the Deaf communities. Interpreters ensure inclusion and equality. They ensure, and this is not said enough, that Australia can get the benefit of the many Deaf people who have skills and attributes to benefit Australia.

In years gone by Deaf people were encouraged to do trades or simple clerical jobs. They were not encouraged to become professionals. I became a cane furniture worker and a cabinet maker before I set on the path to become a teacher, which later changed to becoming a social worker. I wasn’t encouraged to consider anything beyond manual trades. Communication was thought to be too hard. Not being able too talk on the phone meant it was impossible, apparently, to be employed in professional areas.

That attitude was wrong then, and it is wrong now. Even more so today when there is a plethora of technology. If we really wanted, we probably would never have make another voice call ever again. Email, live text chat, messenger, Teams, Zoom, SMS etc arguably are all that we need. For example, the last three cars that I have bought were arranged entirely online. No phone calls required. I’ve just arranged a move to Adelaide entirely by email and online purchasing. Not one phone call was needed. I know this horrifies hearing people, not talking, but it’s possible.

But I digress; my point is that we have an enormous range of Deaf talent out there. Lawyers, social workers, bankers, nurses, doctors, mechanics, teachers, scientist, artist and so on and so on. Arguably, without interpreters Australia, indeed the world, would not receive the benefit of these talented people. Interpreters are there for Deaf and hearing alike. They bridge the gap, ensure inclusion and ensure the hearing world does not miss out on all of the diverse talent and skills that exist among Deaf people.

That said, interpreters are not heroes. Nor, I am sure, do they want to be. We would not all fall over without them. We would find a way to communicate. The relationship between interpreters and the users (Deaf and hearing) is reciprocal. In this sense, each person in the relationship is there for a reason.

In simple cold and hard business terms, without the deaf and hearing people in need of the interpreter, the interpreters would not have a job. They have a profession that provides them with an income, status and a means to pay their bills because there is a demand for it. I know interpreters are not just in it for the money, but let us be honest, if it didn’t pay, we would have fewer interpreters around.

It’s a not a job for kind hearted volunteers either. There are issues of life and death that interpreters deal with everyday. Issues of money. Issues of the legal system. Issues around personal relationships and so on. We need skilled and committed interpreters. That’s why we pay them good money, they do a tough and vital job. Sure, many do pro-bono work and that’s great. But the job that they do is intense and requires great skill. It is also very stressful, I do not envy them. Nor do I protest at them being paid a fair wage in line with their skills, it’s a vitally important job. I have no time for people who say that interpreters are paid too much, that is poppycock.

That’s why both Deaf and hearing people need interpreters. Doctors need interpreters so that Deaf people follow their advice and prescriptions properly and do not overdose. Banks need interpreters so that Deaf people understand their contracts. Counsellors need interpreters so that marriages are maintained and mental health services provided. Employers need interpreters so that they get the very best out of their Deaf employees and visa versa.

Deaf people need interpreters so that they are employed and can do a diverse range of jobs. Deaf people need interpreters so that they can be included and valued members of the wider community. It is a reciprocal and serious relationship that the three stakeholders have with each other. Reciprocal and equal.

The Deaf community want to be that equal partner in the relationship. They don’t want to just be seen as the helped. Deaf community members want to be seen and valued and not seen as those poor people that need to be saved by those super interpreters. They want to be taken seriously as individuals, contributors and professionals. This is why there are frustrated. ( I do not believe that there is one interpreter that sees themselves as a super interpreter. I speak here only of the themes portrayed through the media. This is not something that they have much control over.)

Arguably, the Deaf community are also being infantilised. Sure, I get it that there are Deaf kids that will love to see interpreters hopping around like bunnies, but when this is largely all that is portrayed on the mainstream media, along with the theme of being helped, the wider deaf community feel devalued, belittled and even further marginalised.

This is further compounded by the fact that there is always the AWWWWWW factor in play. It’s great that Emma, the yellow Wiggle, incorporates Auslan into her performances. But I can tell you my hearing colleagues, as one almost, say to me, ” …Isn’t that beautiful ..” They come and get me and they say “Gaz, have you seen this!! – It’s beautiful.” It’s either that or they ask me the signs for swear words.

When the Deaf community see hearing people speaking for them and owning their language, without much acknowledgement the Deaf community, they feel invisible. The ones protesting about the media portrayal of interpreters and the widespread attention given to people like Emma, the yellow Wiggle, just want to be taken seriously. They want Auslan to be taken seriously and to retain a semblance of ownership of Auslan. ( It is true, no-one really owns a language, but when Auslan is constantly infantilised and seen as a tool of help and not identity, it hurts.)

That is what the protest is about. It is really hard to speak up without being seen as taking potshots at interpreters. It is really hard to speak up without being seen as miserable bugger for protesting about Emma and her use of Auslan. But, there are some brave souls that have chosen to do so.

For their trouble many of them are being told to shut up. They are being told to stop being negative and to be more positive. Well, when you are marginalised and made invisible by well meaning media who portray you as needing help or when you have your language infantilised by well meaning hearing people who think they are doing you a favour, its a bit hard to be positive sometimes.

All these Deaf community members want is to be seen as equal and to be taken seriously. They also want Auslan to be taken seriously and not solely seen as a means of entertaining the hearing world. That isn’t too much to ask, is it?

What About Me!??

Gavin Balharie was interviewed by the Guardian in a brilliant piece that highlighted why Deaf people needed to be remembered in times of crisis. He told the story about being on holiday with his Deaf wife and young hearing daughter.  When the bushfires began to approach they had no idea what to do. He and his family didn’t know whether to stay or go. They could see and smell the fires but had no idea as to just how severe or dangerous that they were. Balharie became desperate and, “…recorded the local broadcast on his phone and managed to find a translator to send it to. When they got the video back 30 minutes later, they knew straight away they had to get out of there.”  It was only when he received the information in Auslan that he realised that kind of danger that they were in.

I believe that Gavin and his family eventually got back to Victoria safely, basically driving the opposite direction of the fires and coming home via Canberra. I could be wrong but the point is, but for his interpreter friend who provided a video transcript in Auslan of the recording, Gavin and his family would not have known what to do. They would have been in greater danger than they actually were.

If you are hearing you have any number of outlets to receive information. The car radio is one. Social media is another. You may be in the pub when the news comes on and you would hear it there. Shopping centres have televisions on as well. What this means is that a hearing person would be hard pressed to miss vital information. Not so if you are deaf.

This is part of the reason why members of the Deaf community, just your basic grassroots members mind you, set up the Facebook Page, Auslan Media Access. This was basically a page that aimed to highlight where announcements were not accessible. Members of the page would post on Facebook any announcements about the fires that were on television or social media. They would highlight where Auslan interpreters or captioning were not provided. They even made an impromptu video, Can You See the Interpreter, which you can see below.

Members of the Auslan Media Access page posted in droves. People emailed television stations and their government representatives. Slowly but surely interpreters began to appear on screen regularly. Sometimes they would be there but the camera man would not frame them in. In a relatively short space of time the media and governments got the message and interpreters became part of every Australians life for critical and important announcements. First for the bushfires and then for the COVID-19 situation.

It was a momentous achievement. It was achieved through skilful campaigning and very quickly. It even got to the point where broadcasts of the news on ABC would have Auslan translations as well. The people concerned with this brilliant advance in accessibility need to take a bow. That it was achieved in such a short space of time is without precedent.

Of course, with this increased exposure came with it a fascination about Auslan.  Mark McGowan, the premier of Western Australia, played it for all it was worth. He made an announcement about  how much he had relied on interpreters and posted it on his Facebook page. At Easter he got the interpreter to teach him some Easter signs. Watch it below:

The interpreter actually became a bit of a celebrity. I have a vague memory of her being filmed with Fat Cat, who apparently still exists over in Western Australia. So after years of relative obscurity suddenly Auslan was everywhere.

One would have thought that the Deaf community would rejoice! No they didn’t! Some of them actually got quite angry. They became angry because their language, the centre of their identity, suddenly became the subject of everyones fun. Suddenly, Deaf people became invisible. This is a paradox considering Auslan seemed to be virtually everywhere.

So instead of celebrating the brilliant achievement of getting Auslan Interpreters on television and social media for all critical government announcements, the Deaf community got angry! They are rightly asking, What About Me???

You see, suddenly Deaf people became objects of pity that needed help. The beauty, the validity and the cultural eminence of Auslan was rarely discussed. I am sorry, but in trying to bring attention to Auslan what happened was that it became belittled. It became a welfare object. Providing Auslan helped the poor Deaf people. Watch the video below. The title says it all.

I feel for the interpreter. She is saying all the right things. She acknowledges that Auslan is her first language and that of her Deaf parents. She is highlighting the critical need to access information. But the media turn it into a heart warming help story. This is achieved just by the title and the reporters painful attempt at the end to sign WASH YOUR HANDS. But the worst thing is that there is not a Deaf person in sight. They are the helped, out of mind and out of sight.

This is not the first time that this has happened. I recall that the interpreter who was prominent in the Queensland floods became a celebrity as well. He became known as Sign Man. I think the issue this time is that the Deaf community are feeling that they are being ignored, or worse turned into people that require saving. Everyone seems to be getting credit at their expense. This has become more frequent in recent times due to the exposure given to Auslan by the Yellow Wiggle and Deaf Australia ambassador Andy Dexterity. Some say the exposure is good, others say it is the wrong type of exposure and Deaf people should be the ones who people are remembering and not the hearing performers.

The Deaf community are taking particular offence at hearing people profiting and getting credit at their expense. They feel that these hearing people are profiting from the Deaf community with not much acknowledgement to Deaf people. In Dexterity’s case they feel that he has become a self appointed spokesperson and worse, the Auslan that he uses is often not grammatically correct. That he has given TED talks on the topic further rubs salt in the wound.

I won’t get into the linguistics of it all, but I certainly feel that Deaf people are becoming invisible. I certainly feel that the image being portrayed is that Deaf people are in need of help, and by giving this help they are being saved. The image that we are active and contributing members of our society is lost. That’s why I love the story by the Guardian about Gavin Balharie. It is a Deaf person, a Deaf professional, a clearly talented and skilled person who is Deaf and telling the story. It is positive and we need far more of this and less of interpreters bopping around like bunnies. ( With apologies to the said interpreter, I realise that she was probably placed on the spot.)

But, having said all of this I wish the Deaf people concerned could take a moment from being angry to breath and celebrate what they have just achieved. Through the work of some grassroots Deaf people who set up a Facebook Page and then actively coordinated a campaign to get interpreters on screen for important announcements, thousands are benefitting!

In a few short months virtually every announcement has an Auslan interpreter on screen and in frame. No longer do the media cut the interpreter off because they are a “distraction”. The need and importance of the interpreter has been understood, even if it often does not always feel this way.

That was and is a momentous achievement. Take time to celebrate that. You have all earned it!

Footnote: There are many that say interpreters are better and more easily understood than captioning. I digress. One must remember that 95% or more of people who are deaf  (Not Deaf) do not sign. Their need to access information is vitally important. That’s why televisions in public places need to have the captions turned on and all social media postings need to be captioned. These deaf people that do not sign also need to be safe. That the captioning is sometimes of questionable quality is something that also needs to be addressed. Auslan interpreters and captioning, they must go hand in hand.