Real Heroes



I’m a neurotypical, supposedly. A neurotypical is defined as a person not displaying or characterized by autistic or other neurologically atypical patterns of thought or behaviour. Neurotypical seems, to me at least, to be one of those awful PC definitions that non-disabled people come up with to set them apart from other folk. Who knows?

In my work I work alongside people who might be considered the opposite of neurotypical, whatever that is.  I meet a lot of Autistic people. (No I am not going to call them people who are Autistic, thank you very much.) They are like snowflakes. No two are alike.

Our world seems to think that the way to “help” Autistic people is to make them as close to what neurotypicals are as possible. I have always felt really uncomfortable with this because it is the way of us so called neurotypicals that often causes Autistic people so much stress. I’ve often thought that what we need to do is try and understand how individual Autistic people are thinking, how their brain works, and then fit in with that. Rather than “fix them” so to speak.

I am no expert but what I do try to do is get an insight as to how Autistic people think. Particularly the ones who I know as friends and colleagues. So I watch, listen and ask. Or at least try to. Last week, just by chance, I got a real insight into the mind of an Autistic person.

Now this person is Disabled. Her whole identity is Disabled. I wouldn’t be game to call her anything else. She is a feisty woman, and quite scary. Loveable, but scary. But anyway part of her Disabled identity is that she is Autistic too. She, through her several million Facebook posts, gave me an insight into how her Autistic mind works.

It was harrowing to be honest. Because my friend is a highly energetic and effective disability activist. Of late she has been particularly active in the abuse and deaths of people with a disability space. She, along with many others, has been pushing hard to get the Royal Commission up to investigate the abuse and deaths of people with a disability. She even, at the last minute and at her expense, booked a flight from Perth to Canberra to be present at the reading of the Bill into this matter.

After this she posted on Facebook as to how this was impacting her and her Autistic mind. I think it is best told in her own words:

A politician asked me yesterday what I’d said.
‘Hooray fuck,’ I repeated. He laughed and told me he’s stealing that line.
It’s one of my favourite phrases. It describes things so perfectly – when things are entirely shit but there’s a glimmer of joy, or the reverse. Think people who are dying in horrible pain of incurable cancers who die quickly. Or when you get a Royal Commission but know you’re going to have to fight your arse off every step of the way. 
It’s how I feel about my autistic-brain, which neatly catalogues every single abuse case and Coroner’s inquest I have ever read into neat filing cabinets, ready to be recalled in a second. We were at DHS with the redress team today and talking about banking, capacity and safeguarding. 
You don’t need my vicarious trauma and you probably read about Janet Mackozdi. But there are fifty, a hundred stories like hers. Not all of them have been investigated. 
It’s a good thing, carting this around. It helps me be a better activist in this space and understand patterns and where there are common issues. It helps me explain issues, using stories. It’s also a horrible thing, carting this around. Because when politicians like Scott Morrison deny the need for a Royal Commission or dismiss family abuse, those stories, all the stories, come flooding in. 
All the dates. The places they died. The horrible little unforgotten details. They are the facts that keep me awake at night and refuse to be silenced. They are barely concealed secrets that roar, never whisper. 
If I had a different brain, I would sleep. Be still. Maybe garden. I don’t put things down lightly. But this is a good thing, because it means someone else may never need to pick it up again. 
I have a theory that this is why so many autistic folk have a difficult time with life. It’s that combination of rote memory and experienced or observed trauma, carried. It makes us very good at some things – it makes us often completely unable to deal with life as it’s presented to us.

Imagine that. All these facts stored in your brain in little filing cabinets. Just ready to be remembered and regurgitated at the slightest trigger. Imagine driving and hearing on the radio of yet another death or abuse case concerning people with a disability. TRIGGER – Bang – hundreds, perhaps even thousands, of gory details of disabled children abused, disabled people strangled, disabled people left to starve or rot in their own waste. Imagine at the slightest trigger all of this flooding your mind.

How would one cope? I would curl up in a ball and most likely cry Instead my friend gets angry and fights for the rights of these disabled people virtually every waking moment of her life.

And then when the Bill concerning these deaths and abuses of disabled people is read in parliament, imagine her feeling of disgust as Liberal politicians left the chamber. Imagine watching Julie Bishop, this most senior politician, walking out when it was time for this Bill to be read.

A Bill concerning 572 deaths of people with a disability in Victoria in the last decade. A bill concerning 1459 reported incidents and a further 141 deaths of people with disabilities in South Australia and NSW alone in I know not what time frame. These cases being just the tip of the iceberg.

Imagine this swirling in your mind and engulfing you as politicians show apathy and walk out. While Cormann gets freebies from his mates. While Hockey gets profits for himself and his mates through Government contracts. While half a billion dollars is wasted on a security company registered at a shack on Kangaroo Island that allegedly doesn’t even have electricity.

Imagine being told we support the Bill in principle but …. While money is handed out like confetti by inept and corrupt officials. Imagine that and then imagine what was going on in the brain of my friend as she witnessed this first hand.

She is still standing and she is still fighting. I know not how. That is what heroes are made of.


What Really Matters


Image shows person kneeling and bent over in shame. background has haunting mist.

Well that was a week in politics wasn’t it? Make that a fortnight. It’s been so shambolic I have lost track of time. First there was the Royal Commission into Banking. To the surprise of no one the big banks have been ripping us off. The Government, who were dragged kicking and screaming to have the commission, have done – Nothing.

Then there was the Asylum seekers who are on Manus island. They can now come to Australia if they are sick. Mind you it is only them. Any new asylum seekers who are sick who and who wind up here on a boat can go and die. They don’t matter. Of course the Government is now trying to scare us all silly that the floodgates are going to be open to terrorists  and rapist from the lands of brown people.

You see they lost the vote and are the first government to lose a vote in Parliament for 90 years. That being the case they threw their toys out of the pram. Then Pauline Hanson was  accused of sexual harassment and two guys had a fight outside her office. Blood ended up smeared all over her door. Let’s not mention Trump who is apparently fat and healthy. Inspiring stuff this, hey?

In the midst of all this something that really does matter was lost. That is the push for a Royal Commission into the Abuse of People with a Disability. Senator Jordan Steele has a bill that he wants passed in parliament so that there can be a commission to investigate this abuse.

The Government, those jolly people, played delaying tactics and had this bill left hanging because they thought they might yet lose another vote in parliament. Meanwhile, people with a disability are being abused and are dying all over Australia. The Government is doing what it does best, nothing. I don’t say this lightly, but the current Liberal Government is the most appalling and disgusting Government, ever, in Australia’s history.

Let’s look at the figures for the abuse of people with a disability that I can find. Credit here to disability activist, Samantha Connor. I will list a few below;

  • Feb 6 2019 – Carer sacked after being charged with indecently assaulting a teenage girl with a cognitive impairment while employed as a carer at a facility in Sydney’s southwest in July 2018.
  • Feb 2 2019 – Three teenage girls fiercely attack, beat and kick an eighteen year old intellectually disabled man in an act of hate crime.
  • Feb 2 2019 – The carer of a disabled teen faces court after being charged with torture and assault after allegedly strangling him with his own bib. He was aged seventeen at the time and required around the clock care.
  • Jan 31 2019 – FaCS respite centre worker is found guilty of assaulting an autistic boy by trying to force feed him. The man was heard aggressively ordering the boy to “eat”, saying “f…king spit it out and I will f..king open your mouth” and told him he would break his neck.
  • 11 January 2019 – Mentally ill man, Kenneth Francis Dunster, who was identified as a choking risk, chokes to death at the Millbrook Rise Rehabilitation Centre, New Norfolk in Tasmania.
  • 9 January 2019 – 62-year-old support worker charged with the aggravated sexual assault of a 38-year-old cognitively impaired woman in October 2018.

In all Connor lists 18 cases that have been heard in 2019. Note we are only half way through February, less than two months into the year. All over Australia similar incidents of abuse are happening to people with a disability. What does the Government do?  It plays delaying tactics in parliament to save its own skin. Meanwhile Senator Jordan Steele is  trying to get this enquiry legislated. But what do the Government care? Those bloody brown skin people are gonna come in their millions and kill us all. Yep, this is Australia today.

And this abuse of people with a disability is well known. It’s been well known for a long time. Successive Governments have chosen to ignore it. People with a disability are being killed, assaulted, raped and systematically abused. Again Connor brings this to our attention;

30 June 2018 – Victorian Disability Services Commissioner releases report saying that there is widespread abuse and neglect of disabled people in Victoria, including 570 deaths in residential care facilities in a decade. The deaths included physical restraint, accidental choking on food and other items, inadequate supervision and inappropriate access to medication.

If you want to read this sordid tale click on the link above. Let it sink in – 570 deaths in a decade, just in Victoria! Just for having a disability. The majority of these appear to be at facilities run by the Government.

And there are more. A mother injecting urine into her disabled daughter to make her sick. A 44 year old man charged with drowning a disabled teenager. Carer charged for killing a disabled person, praying over its body and beating it with a belt. Autistic boy locked in a dark room and forced to urinate in a bucket. Mother sends disabled daughter to an aged care facility and the poisons her. These sordid stories go on and on.

What is our Government doing? It’s trying to save its own skin and fear mongering about asylum seekers who, in most cases, are doing nothing more than trying to save their own lives.

There is hope. Perhaps next week the Government will get its head out of its own arse long enough to listen to Senator Steele’s bill for a Royal Commission into the Abuse of People with a Disability. I hope so. I am not holding my breath because inevitably humans disappoint inevitably .… This week taught me that much. But who knows, they may surprise us!





Oh Sod Off

Sometimes I think we are making progress in this world. I think things are better. There are more opportunities. There is access and immediate communication. The government is funding some great stuff. We have the NDIS which has a long way to go but it is world leading. Given time it can and should be the best thing for people with a disability in Australia. Admittedly we are a long way from there yet. It’s a start though and we need to be patient. I tell myself and others, always, Rome was not built in a day.

And then I have days like today when I realise disability rights are a constant one step forward several hundred backwards. So often it seems like we are getting nowhere.

For example a disabled friend who does not have an NDIS package yet was trying to book supports to attend an event. The service organisation appeared quite happy to assist, given my friend did not have an NDIS package. The bubble was burst, however, when the organisation asked my friend if there were any other people with a disability attending the event who had NDIS funding and if my friend could let the service organisation know who they were. Presumably so that these people could pay for the supports my friend required. I mean – What the fuck? Not only is this unethical but it is a gross breach of confidentiality. Worse, its demeaning to my friend!

But worse was to come. Another friend posted an article to me. The article was about Australia’s Disability Discriminateasmuchasyoulike ACT.  Yes our famous DDA. The article was published at the People with a Disability Australia website, It basically said what we all know, that our DDA is rubbish. If you want to read the article the link is at the end of this Blog. What got me was that a seemingly intelligent judge could rule what he did.

It seems that there was a case where a person with a disability took a training organisation to the task. There is a college, you see, that teaches people about skin and other what nots to do with skin. This is the Australasian College of Dermatologists. I can only assume that some poor blighter with a disability wanted to attend the college and was refused access supports that would enable them to study.

Like any tertiary learning institute the fees are astronomical. A masters course in dermatology at the college will set you back $18 000. If you are going to fork out that kind of money one would hope that you would get full access. Well it appears not if you have a disability. Our hero seems to have asked for support through reasonable adjustments. The college seems to have dug in its heels and refused to provide the  necessary support.

For its obstinateness the college got taken to court for discrimination. The college, as is usually the case, won. The poor person with a disability missed out again, to the surprise of no one.

The article does not say what disability was involved. Nor does it state what the person with a disability was asking for in terms of access. All we know is that the person lost their case. Some bright as a knob judge decided that the college was under no obligation to provide any reasonable adjustments UNLESS – Now don’t laugh, this is serious – Unless the person with a disability could prove that the college  had refused them reasonable supports because of their disability. BECAUSE OF THEIR DISABILITY. Let that sink in for the moment.

So let’s say Gazzles, deaf as a post, wants to study dermatology. He gets accepted and goes to the college and says – ” I want captioning so I can access the course.” This is an entirely reasonable request. But the college says no. Not providing. “Why?” asks Gazzles. The college looks Gazzles in the eye  and says – “Because we don’t want to.”

“Not fair” says Gazzles. “I need it so I can know whats being said.” And the college replies, “Sorry, don’t want to.”

Discrimination I hear you all crying. Not according to the supremely intelligent Judge. The onus is on Gazzles to prove that the college didn’t provide the captioning because he was deaf. The dialogue might go something like this:

Gazzles: “Judge they are discriminating against me because they won’t provide me access to the course even though I met the criteria and I can pay.”

Judge: ” Well you skin experts, what do you have to say to that? Did you discriminate  against Gazzles?”

Skin Experts: “Nope”

Judge: ” It doesn’t look good from where I am standing, why cant you provide Gazzles with support?”

Skin Experts: ” Well cos we don’t provide captions to anyone, We don’t do it. It’s not our policy.”

Judge: ” Are you sure you are not refusing because Gazzles is Deaf?”

Skin Experts: “Quite sure – Providing captions is simply not something that we do.”

Judge: ” Gazzles, they say they are not refusing support to you because they simply don’t provide Captioning to anyone. What say you?”

Gazzles: “Judge, its obvious, it’s because I am deaf and they don’t want to pay.”

Judge: “Is that what they said to you? Do you have that in writing?”

Gazzles: ” Well, No.”

Judge: ” So you have no concrete proof support was refused because you are deaf?”

Gazzles: ” Well no, but its obvious isn’t it?”

Judge: “Not without any proof, no. Case dismissed!”

Ridiculous isn’t it – But this is exactly what has just happened. A court ruled that if the person with a disability cannot prove that support was refused because of their disability they are – In the Queens English – Fucked!

And that is our DDA. Pathetic, useless and totally only worth the paper that it is written on. It is shocking. It is time to fix this mess now before Australia becomes the laughing stock of the world in terms of disability rights.

I mean even our Disability Commissioner makes the point in the Sydney Morning Herald on February 3rd. The Commish had this to say:

” Progress has been incredibly slow,” Mr McEwin said. “A lot of politicians have assumed, ‘Oh we’re great we’ve got the NDIS, we don’t need to do that much more.’ But we’ve got the issue of guardianship laws, the issues of physical access, and the issue of young people missing out on educational opportunities or not getting a job.”

There you have it. Straight from the horses mouth. Human Rights for Australians with a disability are a mess. We need to fix this now. Let’s start with that useless DDA! And if we can’t commit to that we may well just sod off!

And that article – Am I being overly dramatic? Well read it and you be the judge, click on the link below:


I am a Deaf Person (My Way)

barrierThere is a lovely article going around on Facebook at the moment called I Am a Deaf Person. I first read it and thought my friend had written it. It was a pretty neat piece. My friend is an Aussie Ocker. You know the football, cricket, meat pies and thongs sort of guy. I thought that was pretty random for him and liked the post. It soon became apparent that this was a sort of chain post and Deaf people the world over began to post it so that it was almost every second post on my newsfeed.

It’s a great piece really. It kind of makes people aware of the life that many Deaf people live. But it is probably over romantic and the reality, like everything, is really different. So here is my adaption of “I am a Deaf Person.” I am on a hiding to nothing here. (In bold is the original text of the spiel.)

I’m a Deaf person.

 I wake up every day, with a vibrating alarm or a bright light, which sometimes becomes unbearable. Yeah, and my alarm is a vibrating one on my mobile phone. It is under the pillow every night. On a restless night it falls out of bed and makes me late for work. Or my Deaf wife sets hers an hour earlier than mine and I am woken with a start an hour before I am supposed to be awake. And then I am late for work anyway because as I turn off the alarm on my phone I start looking at Facebook posts and lose track of time. Yes, I’m a Deaf person.

I watch TV, not with the sound but use closed captions. Yeah, and then Netflix came along and everything was captioned. I binge watched shows that I had never had access to. I kept forgetting to exercise and I have become a blob. My wife, my kids and I never talk any more because we are totally absorbed. You start to think how you survived all those years with no access to anything. The Deaf today have it sooooo easy. Yes, I’m a Deaf person.

In Transport or lunch break, alone with my friends, on Facebook, by phone, Facetime… my mobile is my salvation. Yet, still the bloody train station cannot find a way to tell me my train has changed platforms. While my head is absorbed in my phone I hop on the wrong train and end up going 30 kms North instead of 30 kms South. Yes, I’m a Deaf person.

I don’t hear the sound of wind, birds, rain, or melody, but what my ears can’t appreciate, my eyes see it. They are my most valuable asset. They are the window of my soul. And my hands are the bridge that connects me to the world, I use them to speak, to write, to understand me and express my thoughts, which are not so different from yours. We are the same, I just don’t regret that I could not hear and speak like you… Except my folks never let me sign until I was 18 and beyond their influence. It took me years to become fluent so that for a while I was just as isolated among Deaf people as I was hearing. But I got there in the end. Yes, I’m a Deaf person.

I don’t talk like you, but I’m not a stupid person. I can be wrong, a mistake is human, but if I’m wrong because I didn’t get it, and if I didn’t get it because we didn’t make any effort to explain to me or because I was badly explained, it doesn’t make me a fool. At work when you left me out of all those meetings. At soccer when the game was over, I just went home. At the family Xmas dinner when I sat in a corner alone. That was not because I was a snob it was because you forgot me and excluded me. Yes, I’m a Deaf person.

I can talk. Some can understand. Others… no. So, sometimes it’s hard to understand me, the same way the Chinese will realize it’s hard to understand. When it is noisy I cannot monitor my voice and you cannot hear me. When it is quiet I am not sure how loud I am and I am shouting. You tell me to speak up, you tell me to be quiet. No wonder I just shut up and avoid interaction all together. Yes, I’m a Deaf person.

I mean, my way, I mean, my way. But I do the same things you do: Study, work, travel, drive, drive, drive, play sports, get married, have children and be a parent… actually, I have a life, and I run it like you! Except you put up thousands of barriers and I have to work ten times as hard. I cannot go to the cinema because there a re no captions and Captiview is crap. I cannot just go to work and start work and make friends like you. I have to negotiate my needs. And then you complain about the cost and make me feel shit. And you call impromptu meetings and forget about me. You think I am ignoring you as I type away at my computer, blissfully ignorant. My way is an easy way but you refuse to acknowledge it and send me to the Highway. No wonder I am thankful to be sick sometimes and not have to go to work. Yes, I’m a Deaf person.

It does not need to be this way. But I am thankful that the world is becoming more accessible everyday. Slowly but surely!

I’m as Deaf as you can imagine.

You Gotta Get Out Of This Place!

getListen up you hearing people. I am deaf. I know what I as a deaf person need. I know fully my needs. In fact, I can properly advise what other people who are deaf might need. BUT, I would always advise you to ask them. My needs and theirs can be totally opposites. But either way I am telling you – YOU HEARING PEOPLE – I know best, we know best, they know best – the deaf of the world know what they need.– SO LISTEN UP

No! Voice recognition technology won’t be enough. So don’t ask me if it will. What you can ask me is – “What will help us to communicate? ” Note the use of the word “US” – because it is about you and me. It is not just my responsibility but yours as well. It’s a two way thing.

In fact the communication support, it’s mostly for you. You see I can communicate with you. I speak, you hear me and you receive my message. The difficulty is you communicating with me. You are so FRUSTRATING. You cannot make yourself understood. You, the hearing person, need the interpreter. You are so expensive, such a bloody burden.

Yeah, and you there. The guy with the BMW SUV. You there who is head of the organisation that supports me. I am your boss. Other people who are deaf are your boss. You see the organisation you work for exists only because of and for people who are like me. That car, that house and the fine SavPlonk you are drinking tonight, it is because of us! Remember that.

You know if you are working for an organisation that supports deaf people, or if you are part of an admin team at an organisation that supports people who are deaf – Then yes, I expect you to have at least the right attitude and skills to work with people who are deaf.

This means you include them. You don’t form this pool of hearos in the lunch room and leave the person who is deaf alone at the end of the table. You don’t ask Bertha to ask Debbie to ask me if I would like some more work. You find a way to ask me directly. If you are working with an organisation that has been set up for people who use Auslan – Adults or children – I expect you to learn to use Auslan – Yes you – The office person, the principal, the CEO who has been there for 20 years – YES I expect every single one of you to learn.

No, it isn’t a choice for you. It’s a must. No, I don’t choose not to hear. No, I can’t learn to hear better. No, I can’t learn to speak more clearly. No, I can’t learn to lip read better – BUT you, the hearing person, can certainly learn Auslan. Sure some of you will learn better than others, but all I ask is that you try to learn and then use what you know. If you don’t want to or believe you should not have to – Well find a new job – Yeah, fuck off basically.

You see I have a simple philosophy. I expect people that work in deafness to at least know something about the job they are doing. I don’t expect the accountant to know everything, but I expect the accountant to want to learn about the reasons a deaf organisation exists and know what the money is meant to acheive. I expect a person that works with people who are deaf to know how to work with them. I expect them to be fully savvy of the issues, the barriers the needs, the programs and so on. I expect them to be able to hit the ground running.

Would you employ someone in a bank that could not count? Or someone as a physiotherapist who did not know anatomy. Or a hairdresser with no experience or training in cutting hair? I don’t think so. Yet in the deaf sector it seems the norm that we can pluck someone out of nowhere, someone who might have been an accountant, fireman or farmer and let them work in this highly specialised area.

It is not uncommon to employ someone simply because they have a university degree and overlook a deaf person for a job in the sector. Hell, Josie completed her Bachelor of Arts and finished top of her class. She will do. Deaf Dave? Nah! 35 years living the life doesn’t count.

Don’t get me started on all the people who are deaf who have been cleaners for 20 years, who work at the very bottom of the pecking order, who are constantly overlooked for promotions. These people do the same baseline, bottom feeding jobs for many years – Because that’s called providing opportunities isn’t it? Hear me roar – And it is not with laughter.

Yes it is 2019 and this is still happening. If you are one of those responsible for maintaining this status quo – Heed the modified words of The Angels –

You gotta get out of this place
If it’s the last thing you ever do
You gotta get out of this place, you’re destroying our life
Don’t you know, don’t you know
Man, don’t you know, don’t you know, don’t you know (Expletives deleted.)

The Fall and Fall of the National Relay Service.

On my second day of my new job in 1995 the National Relay Service (NRS) commenced operations. I remember it well. I had been to Canberra for a holiday and as you do, you leave at 4pm in the afternoon for Adelaide when your job starts the next day in your little Suzuki Sierra. Cos every one travels 1000 odd kms in a ramshackle car, late in the afternoon and the day before they start a new job don’t they? At 1 am in the morning the little car shuddered to a halt. I had run out of petrol. Luckily for me someone drove over the horizon and stopped straight away. They drove me 30 kms to Pinaroo and back so I could fill up. Suffice to say I arrived back in Adelaide at 4.30 am, ready to commence my new job at 8.30 am the same day.

As one could imagine that first day at my new job was a bit of a blurr. At 3pm my boss kindly told me to go home and rest. I was happy to do so. I knew that the next day, with the commencement of the NRS, that the real work would begin. Indeed in hindsight it was only the NRS that had made this new job possible for me.

For those that are unaware the NRS commenced in 1995. It was an exciting time. Exciting because for the first time deaf people in Australia would be able to make phone calls on their TTY to anyone through a relay officer. Pizzas, taxis, friends, work and a host of other things were suddenly accessible to deaf people via the phone. EVERYDAY, 24 hours a day.

So I arrived at work that second day, very excited. I was going to be able to make a work call everyday and at anytime. No longer did I have to wait for the trial NRS to open. No longer did I have to ask a colleague to call. No longer did I have to book a time with the accountant slash interpreter to make a call. I now had unparalleled access 24/7.

That day I sat excitedly at my desk. I placed the handset on the TTY and dialled the NRS. I was making a call to a client to book a meeting at their home.

I waited for the NRS to answer but all I got was an engaged signal. I tried all day and I could not get through. It seems on this much vaunted first day of the NRS something failed. I know not what but the system crashed and noone could get through. The launch of the NRS was an absolute failure.

But it was just that first day. After that I made thousands of calls. I called clients, service providers, taxis, girlfriends, family, arranged travel – whatever!. It was bliss and so very exciting.

The NRS was a godsend for deaf people and we loved it. The great thing about the early NRS was that it was so community focused. It employed Deaf people, hard of hearing people and people with disabilities. It provided opportunities for people with a disability that no organisation had ever before, or possibly since, provided.

And the NRS was innovative. As technology improved it moved from the humble TTY to internet based services so that Auslan users could access the phone in their own language. It provided people with a hearing loss who could speak an opportunity to use their voice while a relay officer typed out what was being said at the other end. People with speech impairments could listen while a relay officer spoke what they typed. Overtime access was given to emergency services, SMS relay and eventually the NRS could be accessed via the internet. It was brilliant.

Over the years our need for the NRS has dimnishedd. Technology through mobile phones and the internet has provided people who are deaf with opportunities to arrange their life without the need for a third person.We can now buy cars without even speaking to anyone. Seek a car online, organise a loan online, couple of emails and presto, new car

We can arrange holidays via online platforms like Wotif. Chat to friends via Skype. Have realtime text chats through free messenger software. Facebook, Twitter and a host of other platforms provide us with communication access 24/7. Uber eats and Menulog allow us to order home delivery meals without speaking to anyone. As these innovations expand our need for the NRS lessens.

BUT – The NRS is still vital. We still need to make calls to people. Online innovations have their limits. For example a deaf person with depression and who is suicidal may still need to call Lifeline for help. Or text messages and emails may go unanswered and as deaf professionals we still need to make calls to clientele to arrange appointments or exchange information. We still have family who are not tech savvy and we need to call them to get in touch. Not every mechanic has an online booking service so we have to call to book in our car. We still need to call to book things for events like weddings or make a restaurant reservation.  Our cars still break down and we need to call roadside services.There are still Deaf people who struggle to express through English language and prefer to make calls through Auslan and the Video Relay Service (VRS). In short the humble NRS, even if we use it less, is still a vital cog in our lives.

Yet the Government seemingly wants to cut it back to a point where it is a part time service. They want to cut it back and encourage us to utilise all the wonderful innovations that I have just described. This is fine but it is not enough. We can, at anytime, require the NRS because all these wonderful innovations I have described are not foolproof. At work without the NRS many deaf professionals will not be able to function.

A sad development of the NRS in recent times is the wait. In years gone by the answer to calls was instantaneous. There were no long waits. Now it is common that we wait. We get the dreaded message – Waiting for a relay officer. This is the equivalent of being on hold at Telstra while waiting for a customer service officer. This wait can be a long time.

So many times in recent months I have needed information from a client for my work. I cannot wait for a response to an email I need it there and then. I need it to achieve my KPIs and to ensure there is no backlog in my enormous workload. Efficiency is everything. Waiting 20 minutes and sometimes more for a relay officer is not efficient. I dare say this current trend of waiting is placing the jobs of deaf people who must provide fast and efficient services at risk.

Then there are the calls that we make where we are placed on hold by a service. Hearing people have a choice. They can either hangup or wait. A few years ago I had a relay officer on hold for over two hours as I made an urgent call to the Department of Immigration. Today that would not be possible. Apparently deaf callers to the relay service are being told that they can only wait three minutes. Don’t believe me? See the picture below.



This is the trend of the current NRS. There is no focus on the deaf person. There is only focus on the bottom line, cutting corners and saving time. God knows the Government wants to limit the service so that it is no longer available 24/7. They say other options abound so use them.

This is naive. The car that breaks down, the sick deaf person or the deaf person with a mental health issue cant wait for a service to open. What are you expected to do if your car breaks down at 1am in the morning in the middle of nowhere? Wait for the NRS to open at 8am? What do you do if you are home alone and the NRS is shut, deaf and feeling suicidal? Go to bed and call lifeline at 8 am? Life does not wait. For these reasons and many others the NRS cannot be a service that is only available to us at the Governments whim simply because they want to save money.

Sadly the cutting back of services and complete lack of focus on the customer is the trend of the current NRS. Its founder fathers and mothers must look on and weep as they see what this magnificent service is now becoming.

This is the fall and fall of the NRS! Please stop it before someone loses their job or dies – It is a very real possibility!

All I want for Xmas!!

It’s one week til Xmas. Most of us are all in a frantic rush to pull stuff together. Presents, food, Xmas day arrangements, organising holidays and the like. Many of us at work are in a frantic rush to beat our deadlines and get all our work finished so we can relax over the break. Some of us, sadly, are going through hard times and Xmas just magnifies these problems threefold. It’s not all fun and games for everyone.

Me? I’ve long done getting excited about presents. I much rather see things happening for the good of all. Real change to a world that excludes. I just want a world that everyone can fit into seamlessly. Farfetched? Probably, but one can only wish. So here it is, what I want for Xmas!

First of all can we fix the trains, trams and buses and make them all accessible. Can we make it so that people in wheelchairs, with dicky knees, with mobility needs, who have prams or are simply recovering from injury can get on them? It’s not a big ask. It’s 2018 and you can charge your phone wirelessly but can’t do something as simple as get on a bus.

Or can we make it so that deaf people can get on a train and end up where they want to go. This morning, again, my train got re-routed. I have no idea why. Visual display said that the next stop was Parliament as it should have been. It went to Flinders instead. Panic and mayhem ensued cos I was gonna be late for my bacon and egg sanger. But it could have been a job interview or an important work meet and I would not have known. In this day and age where Netflix can caption everything we can’t even make train announcements accessible. Weird hey?

And over in Queensland they built these flash new trains for the Commonwealth Games. Eight out of nine of them were not accessible for people with a disability. Not sure how that happened. Probably because in their excitement to build trains for the Commonwealth Games they forgot. At the last minute they realised their whoopsie and applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission for an exemption to disability dicrimination laws. They were denied and rightly so.

How can this happen in 2018. How can it happen in the middle of an NDIS roll out where accessible infrastructure is so important to the success of the scheme. Governments, surely, must lead the way. And it happened because a Newman Liberal Government apparently ordered the trains on the cheap.

So to save money people with a disability had to miss out. People with a disability had just one train out of nine of which they could get on to go to the Commonwealth Games. And you know the Queensland Government were at risk of lawsuits from people with a disability. But you know the Disability Discrimination Act is so crap I daresay no one bothered.

It’s not a big ask. My biggest wish for Xmas is that Australia gets it right. All the time and every time. That it designs things with disability inclusion at the forefront of design. Not as an afterthought when they realise that those steps that they built to get on the train might be a problem.

Oh and be my Xmas angel and fix the bloody DDA … Useless piece of paper that it is.

Here in Australia The Rebuttal mostly focuses on Deaf, deaf, hearing impaired, hard of hearing, implantees, the hearing challenged, those with lesser hearing, the partially deafened, the later hearing lossed, the cloth eared the deaf as a posts and those that can hear Eff all.

And you know we are still debating about which label is most appropriate. Of all the terms that I have just listed the only one that is really different from the others is Deaf, with a capital D. This is the term that signifies that a person is a member of the Deaf community. These people use Auslan and are part of the rich fabric that is the Deaf community. Deaf is their identity and who they are. That I respect.

The other terms simply refer to people that cannot hear, or can hear just a bit, or can hear quite a lot with aids or implants. It’s all about the hearing and the lack of it. Here we are today in 2018 still debating about which term to use. In fact for the trillionth time a survey has gone out asking people with a hearing loss what term they want to be known by.

The Government has asked Deafness Forum to conduct a survey to find out what people with a hearing loss want to be known by. The survey starts by asking you to choose one of the following:

  • You don’t have a hearing aid device. Do you rely on information being provided in writing such as hand writing, captions, transcripts, software that converts speech to text, lip-reading, avoiding noisy surroundings, or a combination of some or all of these communication techniques?
  • Do you use assistive technology (hearing aid or implant)?
  • Do you use assistive technology, and also use lip-reading
  • Do you communicate using assistive technology, and also using sign language?
  • Do you communicate in Australian sign language, supported by assistive technology?
  • Do you communicate in Auslan only?

I had a giggle over the questions. I just kind of figured that they were written in a rush, or by someone with no clue and with absolutely no quality checking. But anyway, if you know how Australian Sign Language is different from Auslan let me know. I know Auslan doesn’t mean Australian Sign Language, it is the name of the language but I am at loss as to what Australian Sign Language is or what sign language is again. Nowhere do I see the term Auslan interpreter either … Let’s just leave that there. But if you want to do the survey the link is below.

I want for Xmas is that we stop this stupid debate. Its been going on for ever.  Just let people choose whatever they want to be called. I want for Xmas for our Deaf sector to bind together and focus on issues that matter.

You know like solving the interpreter crisis, training more captioners, improving education, supporting families of deaf kids, open captioning at cinemas, theatre to be accessible to Auslan users and those that don’t use Auslan equally. These are really, really important things. Solve these things and all my Xmases will have come at once and you can call me whatever you like.

Put simply I have just one Xmas wish and that is that all people with a disability anywhere are included and get equal access everywhere.!!

Merry Xmas everyone.