Australia’s Shame!

Graphic is an art work of a person with their head bowed in shame. Their hair hangs down and Deaths sickle is raised above their neck

I walked into the classroom and she flashed me a beaming smile. She finger spelt her name and showed me her sign name. Her signing was a bit rudimentary but easy enough to understand. She was at a school in remote Australia and I was her support. She was tall and graceful, even regal. There was an evident gentleness about her. I had just taken a break from full-time work so that my wife could further her career. I was the support person at the school and she was one of the first deaf Aboriginal people that I had ever supported.

Amanda sat with Carly, the other deaf Aboriginal person in the class. They sat together at the back. In the morning the schools home class got together. The class teacher would update the kids on the recent happenings, changes and events of the day. There was no interpreter. Being deaf myself meant that I could only pick up some of what was being said. I did my best to relay this to Amanda and Carly. They didn’t get much really.

At 9 o’clock it was time to go into classes. I expected to follow Amanda and Carly into the class but no. The classroom teacher came to me me and gave me the days lesson. I was to take Amanda and Carly into a room and teach them. I have half a teaching degree but I am not qualified. Nevertheless, I found myself as their teacher.

During the day no-one spoke to Amanda or Carly. Not the predominantly white students and not the all white teachers. Amanda and Carly sat together or sat with me. They gossiped and giggled as teenage girls do. The language of the two Aboriginal girls was delayed. Their conversations were very rudimentary. They would see a boy and girl together point, cover their mouths and giggle. Carly spoke often about her hometown. She would tell me several times a day where she was from. I from XXXXXXX, I back soon. Home, yes home, soon” (I have deliberately not said the name of the town so as to not identify who Carly really is.)

Carly hated school and it was her intent to go home. She had a rich benefactor who was head of a mining company. He apparently paid for her to attend the school. He paid her flights, accommodation and other costs. One day the man visited the school. The school made a big song and dance of the visit. They put on a morning tea for him. Carly was nervous and worried. When the man arrived she bowed her head and would not make eye contact. She followed the man into the room looking down at her feet. She would give him his tea and some food, never once looking at him. I found this really concerning and bizarre.

I am a white person so cannot really speak with any great expertise about the customs and culture of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander communities. At any rate across the various communities and nations the customs and culture will vary. I do know that averting the eyes in some Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander communities can be seen as a sign of respect.  The mining head was at least 60, Carly was 16. She used to tell us how she was going to marry him and have his babies.  I do not know what went on, but I do know I felt very uneasy about her relationship with this man.

I remember looking forward to my working day with Amanda and Carly. I would walk into the room their faces would light up. Amanda would sometimes bring me food from her home to try. Kangaroo tail and goanna. I found the Kangaroo tail incredibly tough to eat. As I gnawed at it Amanda giggled uncontrollably.

One day we were out on a sports trip. These trips usually involved Amanda, Carly and I sitting together. They never mingled and we would just chat until the event was over. I suppose people would say it was my role to facilitate interaction, but hell I am deaf too – there was not a hell of a lot that I could do. No one really cared about them anyway. We came back from the trip and Amanda’s family were gathered around a truck. Amanda ran off to see them. She came back wailing and crying. She held her head in her hands and rocked back and forward.

I asked her what was wrong. She just signed dead, dead, dead.  I asked her who had died and she did not know. She was just mimicking the behaviour of her family members. They could not really communicate with her either and Amanda had no idea who had died. Nevertheless, she mourned and grieved in support of her family.

I vividly recall teaching Amanda one day. I was trying to teach her basic fractions. I was using pie charts and unit cubes and trying to link portions to the fraction written on the blackboard. Amanda had a defensive mechanism that when things got hard she would cry. I tried to ignore this and keep her on task.

As I was teaching her the head of the visiting teacher service walked in and saw Amanda was frustrated. She beckoned Amanda and encouraged here to sit on her lap. She cradled Amanda’s head on her shoulder. She admonished me. Told me to stop. Told me that Amanda had no need to learn fractions because she would just live at home and raise children. I was told not to waste time on things that would not be needed. Amanda was 17 years old.

I worked with Amanda and Carly for only one year before leaving to take up another job. I never saw them in person again. From time to time an Aboriginal friend who supports Amanda would contact me to let me know how she was going. Amanda apparently remembered me fondly. I am glad that I at least had that positive impact on her.

About a year ago as I was getting out of the car, 17 years on from when I had last seen Amanda, my phone rang. The Aboriginal support person was calling me on FaceTime. I answered and the person was with Amanda. It was a beautiful surprise and I had a chat with Amanda. Her smile was as broad as ever. Her natural grace was still evident. I spoke with Amanda who told me she had been in jail, she was a bit frightened and my Aboriginal friend was helping her.

It transpired that Amanda had entered a community where she was not allowed according to the Lore. Of course Amanda would have likely not understood this. She had been confronted and in defending herself she had assaulted someone. I am not sure of all the details but I do know that it was considered severe enough to lead to her spending some time in jail.

I know that she had to go to court with very little support. She went to court with no understanding of the process nor the likely outcome of her court appearance. The end result was that she ended up in jail.

This is, apparently, not uncommon. Many Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people in jail are deaf or have disabilities. They go to court with little support or understanding of the process. Many are unable to explain their actions. They are unable to say, for example,  whether they acted in self defence. They are unable to explain that they have little or no understanding of the law or Lore. They have no defence and no support. Yet, they end up in jail.

Just recently I received an update about Amanda. She has been diagnosed with an acquired brain injury, probably as result of numerous head injuries from assaults. She also has Frontal Lobe Atrophy brought on by years of alcohol abuse going back to her childhood. She is losing her short term memory. She now has behavioural issues and will attack people she sees as a threat. I am told that she carries bricks in her bag as a means of defence because she trusts no-one. She has to go to court again with the threat of jail – despite all of her various disabilities.

This is a far cry from the gentle, graceful, regal young woman I once knew and for whom a smile was never far away. I am told she remembers me and sometimes asks about me. I hope she remembers me fondly and that the memory gives her some comfort in her current dreadful existence. I weep for her.

As for Carly,  she apparently lives on the streets in a remote outback town. In the last few months she has been raped 7 or 8 times. She never did marry the mining head, who quite possibly abused her too.

It is worth noting that despite being only 3% of the population Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people make up 29% of people in Australia’s jails. They are more likely to be fined and pulled over when they are driving and then end up in jail for not paying the fines. It has been said that 90% of Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people in jail also have a disability. Many of them deaf!

Amanda was one of them and maybe will be one of them again. How many more Aboriginal Torres Strait Islander people like Amanda are in or will end up in jail??  This is Australia’s shame!

Footnote:  Amanda and Carly are real people, their names have been changed to protect their identity.

Pissing off the disabled … Here is how!

Photo is of Stella Young. She isn sitting in her wheelchair cupping her chin with her hand. She is looking upwards very cheekily.

One Christmas I invited the neighbours over. Dave and Elsie were in their seventies and I thought they would be good company for my Mum and Dad who were visiting. Dave was a good bloke and he often helped me out with little handyman things around the house. We were discussing my deafness, as you do. I was trying to point out that my life is not tragic, nor sad, that I am not inspiring and that going to work, paying for a house and bringing up children was just what humans do. “Im just living”, I said, “…nothing special.”

I was trying to explain that people with a disability actually find it really awkward when people hold them up on a pedestal for doing ordinary things. I told the story of my mate Rob who is a wheelchair user. One day we were in Alice Springs at one of their more classy hotels. My work colleagues were having dinner. Dinner was upstairs. To our horror, in 2003, there were no lifts. Rob, being a wheelchair user, was stuck. He couldn’t get up the stairs. Boy was he pissed off. Rob was going to do dinner with us all whether the hotel liked it or not.

We all said to Rob not to worry. We would find somewhere else to go. Bad luck for the hotel, they would miss out on a table of 20 and all the profits that went with it. Rob was having none of this. He called over the manager and he said – “I am booked in for dinner, and dinner I am having. Get your staff to get me up those stairs.” I looked over at Dave as I was telling this story, I thought he was going to cry.

So Rob insisted he was getting up the stairs come hell or high-water. The manager looked aghast but he could see that Rob was serious. So the manager called in a couple of burly porters and got them to carry Rob up the stairs. No easy feat given it was an electronic wheelchair. But they did indeed. They picked up the wheelchair, Rob and all, and carried Rob up the stairs.

I was chuckling as I recalled the story but Dave, his wife and my parents looked horrified. I said to them, ” It’s a happy story, Dave got what he wanted and probably because of the the Hotel will now start seriously thinking about putting in a lift.” But Dave, Elsie and my parents just looked at me remorsefully. You could just hear them thinking how tragic Rob’s life was. I tried to break their mood. I tried to point out that Rob was just asserting his rights like any person would.  In the end I gave up.. I could see that nothing I could say would change their perspective.

Stella Young explains it best ….

Meme shows a quote from Stella Young – We’ve been sold this lie that disability makes you exceptional and its honestly doesn’t …I want to live in a world where we don’t have such low expectations of disabled people that we are congratulated for getting out of bed and remembering our own names in the morning.

In my clumsy way this is what I had been trying to point out to Dave, Elsie and my parents. That Rob wanting to have dinner with his mates was nothing exceptional. That he had to jump through hoops to do that was a pain in the arse but he was just doing what we would all do. I mean, if you went to a restaurant and you couldn’t open the door, you would bang on it and insist that some one open it. Thats all Rob did.

As I have become older I have become more cranky and less tolerant of Ablebods. I have got to a point where I sometimes want to scream at them. Just before I started writing this article I was at a caryard. A salesperson came up to me and started yabbering. I said to him that I was deaf and needed to lipread. Bless his cotton socks, he began to finger spell to me.

I said to him, ” Lucky I can finger spell otherwise I wouldn’t know what the fuck you were saying.” He kept finger spelling, slowly and painfully …… “I  H A V E. N O T. U S E D  I T  S I N C E. I  W A S. A T. H I G H. S C H O O L”   He was 60 if he was a day. This perspective of hearing people that if you are deaf therefore you must sign always befuddles me given that 98% or more of people with hearing loss cant sign at all. After 47 years I am getting less able to smile at them with gratitude and say thank you for trying. Even though I am well aware that they mean well.

It’s been a week for this sort of shit. Yesterday I was at a restaurant. I was with a deaf mate and I was signing to him. He cant sign very well but I am trying to help him get better. Anyway, the waitress came over to help us. She was lovely and said she could finger spell. I really wasn’t in the mood to watch her as I wanted to chat with my mate. Politely I told her I thought that was great. I told her she was welcome to come back later and try her finger spelling on us. Bless her cotton socks, she looked so excited.

So we had a lovely dinner overlooking Moanna Beach. We were just about ready to go and the lovely waiter comes back and finger spells, “.. H O W. W A S. Y O U R. D I N N E R.”  The Vino had mellowed me a little bit. I told her she was pretty good. I taught her how to sign it rather than spell it out. She said she would remember. We had a chat and she told us she was from Queensland and hoped we would come back so that she could practice some more. I mean she was just lovely, but when you must deal with this almost everyday you sometimes can be forgiven for not wanting to be someones inspiration and feel good story for the day.

And just the day before that it happened again. This time I was on the phone to the bank using the dreaded National Relay Service. I was trying to get the bank to email me rather than call me. The person at the other end was all confused. He didn’t know what to do and had to go and consult his manager. All I wanted was an email, but this is the life I lead. The guy comes back and asks this ….

“….Gary you have a partner, is she deaf as well? as we could speak to her and she could relay to you , sorry i mean sign language? “

Again that perspective that all us deafies sign … I was very patient .. Pointed out that my wife was indeed deaf … That I would prefer to deal with these things without having to have messages relayed and would like someone to email me … To their credit the bank did exactly this. Even though I got my way, the fact that I had to jump through hoops for this simple request made me want to throttle some one. But no, I smiled and was as nice as can be. As nice as a buzzy bee.

But spare a thought for my friend who had to deal with the below …..

” …My LAC suggested that while I’m waiting for approval for a visual fire alarm, I could ask my neighbour to keep an ear out (and give them a copy of my house keys) to let me know the fire alarm is going off in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping. Or my 8 week old baby (at the time) could cry and I could be woken up through the baby alarm. Lovely!”

I’ll just leave that right there. Imagine if you needed waking with a flashing light cos there is a fire and being told not to worry, your baby will cry if there is a fire, your baby cry alarm will go off and save you all.  Imagine that … Well, buzzy bee gets just a little less happy.

I tell the above stories because more than once this week when I recounted the stories I was told not to be an arsehole. It is true that I was sarcastic and that I was cynical, but I was also frustrated. I even got told off for being condescending in using the term “Bless your cotton socks”  I love the person that told me off  for this dearly. All I can say is that when you have a week of being patronised, talked down to and being the centre of everyones feel good story your patience wears a little thin.

I am always polite and friendly to all those people that try! ( God that sounds so condescending.) But fuck me, spend a day in my shoes, in the the shoes of the deaf or the shoes of any disabled person and you will understand why sometimes we just want to fade into the wood work.

Ill leave you with the words of the late and great Stella Young.

” ..From time to time, people pat me on the head. It happens on public transport, in the supermarket, in bars. It’s a common enough occurrence that it very rarely takes me completely by surprise.”

Yup, fuck yes – Every person that knows a little bit of sign and assumes the I won’t mind as they painfully show me what they can do, thats my equivalent of a pat on the head. As Stella said,  It doesn’t surprise us – but very often it pisses us off ..!!

Clueless …..

(For an Auslan translation of this article, please scroll to the bottom.)

Kruger and Dunning wrote an academic paper in 2008 about people who think they are way more clever than they actually are. These people do all that they can to convince you of such, no matter how obviously not clever that they are.  Kruger et al told a story of a man that robbed a bank in broad daylight. He made no effort to hide himself. He just had normal clothes, wore no mask, walked in, presumably threatened the teller with a gun and walked out with his ill gotten gains.

Less than 24 hours later he was arrested. His actions had all been caught on the surveillance cameras. Televisions across the nation broadcasted the man’s misdeed. He was mortified when caught and asked how they knew it was him. The police explained that he had been caught on camera. “No way!!!” exclaimed our brazen robber, “I wore the juice!” Apparently he had been told that if he smothered his face with lemon juice, he would be rendered invisible to the cameras.

Kruger et al point out that …

“…in many domains in life, success and satisfaction depend on knowledge, wisdom, or savvy in knowing which rules to follow and which strategies to pursue. This is true not only for committing crimes, but also for many tasks in the social and intellectual domains. “

Perhaps I am being mean but what they have just described are behaviours of many hearing people towards Deaf and hard of hearing people every day. Some of the behaviour is just so ridiculous, it is beyond comprehension.

The above mentioned article was sent to me by a friend. My friend is deaf ( not culturally hence the small d). He is a scholar and has a Phd. He deals with any number of “hearing professionals” everyday. The bane of his life is Hearing Australia. This organisation is Australia’s biggest provider of hearing aids. They have literally millions of Deaf and hard of hearing people on their books and have been around since time began. One would think they would know a thing or two about deafness – right?

The esteemed Hearing Australia have one major fault. They don’t know how to communicate with their customers. You see, they insist on calling them on the phone for appointments. They do this insistently. My scholar friend got a bit fed up with this and decided to do something about it. He complained and asked that they please only communicate with him through text. They apparently promised that in future they would.

And they did. Seemingly, we should all go and celebrate another win for our never ending need to advocate – right?  WRONG!  The esteemed Hearing Australia sent my friend a letter. Basically the letter screamed IT’S CHECK UP TIME. Then, they asked my friend to please ring them for an appointment and provided the number for him to do so. ( I am hoping by now the lemon juice story is starting to hit home to the reader.)

My friend was rightfully pissed off. He wrote back and  told them a few home truths –

“…..We are people who experience a severe disability. Power trips and dehumanising behaviours from your staff is unnecessary and traumatic for some. In my case, the voice telephone has been a constant barrier and source of great difficulty. That it causes me and others anxiety should be no surprise.

Constantly emphasising the telephone is thus perceived as taunting, belittling, and bullying. Especially given my repeated requests to stop and use accessible communication.”
 
I really could not have said it better. To add insult to injury, Hearing Australia failed to recognise my friend’s hard earned title of Dr. The computer had printed his title correctly, eg Dr So and So. The clerk, presumably thinking that it was not possible for one of their clients to have such and important title, scribbled out the Dr and wrote in Mr. True story.
 
My own battles have been with the banking industry recently. One would think that an industry so well versed in customer service would understand that they need diverse communication strategies to deal with the needs of their diverse client base. One such professional caused me to miss out on a house that I bid for. He was too slow to complete the finance application, and then emailed me the following … “… I apologise, but as you know it is very difficult to communicate expediently with  you because of your disability …” I pointed out that it took but a few moments to read and respond to an email and that the difficulty was with him, and not me.
 
More recently I have been dealing with a new finance broker to explore ways to refinance and restructure our home loan. I completed an online form and put in notes that they were not to call me. Email or text only I implored. They, of course, called me, several times. Not getting a response they finally twigged and sent me a text. “We are trying to call you, please call us back” 
 
Naturally I text back and say I am deaf, please text me or email. They were happy to do this. They sent me a link to an online fact finder program where you enter your financial details. I dutifully completed this and it took me to a page where I had to chose a time where one of their representatives could call me about the information that I had just submitted.
 
I thought to myself that they would have a note that says don’t call and to email etc – I knew full well that this was probably not going to happen. What can I say? I am an optimist. I submitted my information and hoped to god that they would not call me. Go ahead, laugh at me. Suffice to say that eventually they stopped calling and are now corresponding totally by email. But fuck, it was exhausting to get to that point.
 
Spare a thought for my friend who fought to have an interpreter at her meeting with the bank, and eventually brought her own, paid for through her NDIS money. Only to be told that they didn’t trust her interpreter to interpret accurately the legal information. They questioned whether the interpreter that she had brought with her was qualified enough. They told her that they had booked their own interpreter who would join the meeting online. They beamed up the interpreter who was based in New Zealand and used New Zealand Sign Language. A different language from Auslan. My friend stormed out and has since found a new bank to deal with her issues. It is really unbelievable.
 
This brings us to our recent articles that have protested about the treatment of Auslan and the Deaf community by organisations that should know better. These organisations continue to give Auslan and the Deaf community minimal exposure and recognition. You can read my last angry post on the subject here – HANDS ARE BURNING
 
To the credit of the organisation concerned, they have apologised unreservedly –
 
On behalf of Townsend House, I apologise unreservedly for the disrespect that you and/or any other Deaf (or hearing, or Hard of Hearing) individual has experienced due to the Can:Do 4Kids marketing campaign at Colonnades. I assure you that this was unintentional and I understand that despite this, pain and disrespect has been felt. For that I am sorry. I will work with our entire team at Can:Do to learn from this incident.
 
Last week we launched a new ad for Board directors, it can be found https://www.henderconsulting.com.au/ under positions.
As mentioned in my last video we are always open to direct feedback and I encourage members of the Deaf community to join our Deaf Directions Roundtable to provide direct feedback the organisation, including the Board.
 
Heidi Limareff
 
I very much appreciate the apology and the sincerity behind it. It is a refreshing change from organisations that constantly gloss over their errors. True, what occurred should not have happened, but by recognising the errors, they can begin to correct them. I thank Heidi Limareff, the Chief Executive, for submitting the apology. It took a lot of gumption to do so.
 
But still it was another step and another complaint that we Deaf and hard of hearing people must make every day. It is part of our never ending quest for equal rights and equal recognition. It is exhausting. Advocacy fatigue is a real thing. The apology from the Can Do group makes it worthwhile. However, if the apology is not met by appropriate action it all becomes worthless again.
 
Here is hoping that their actions will speak louder than their words because I for one, am exhausted!
 
FOOTNOTE:  I  am well aware that there is a National Relay Service. I use it when I must. However, I prefer to communicate without a third person where possible. Apart from that the NRS is sometimes not reliable and can be prone to drop outs and longish wait times. Furthermore, we are now must register for the service by April 20th otherwise we cannot use it. Another daft and incomprehensible requirement thought up by the clueless…
 
 
 

With thanks to Marnie Kerridge for the Auslan translation of this video. Marnie is a professional theatre consultant and has worked on Auslan translations for mega stage performances of shows like Les Miserables and Billy Elliot. happy Auslan Day to all our readers and watchers for April 13th.

 

 

butt.mp4 from Marnie Kerridge on Vimeo.

Hands Are Burning ….

(For readers that prefer Auslan, please scroll down for the brilliant Auslan translation provided by Gavin Rose-Mundy as a service to the Deaf community.)
The time has come
A fact’s a fact
It belongs to us
Please give it back
How can we dance
When our heads are turning
How do we sleep
While our hands are burning ….
(Adapted from Beds are Burning, Midnight Oil – Perhaps a new anthem for the Deaf community)
Peter Garrett from Midnight Oil is said to have written Beds Are Burning after touring the outback and seeing the appalling health and living conditions of the First Nations people. The line, “Let’s Give It Back”, says it all – It’s time to give back what was taken away. Sadly, since Garrett wrote the song, not a lot has changed. Arguably, as Australians’ continue to prosper, the rights and conditions of First Nation people have continued to decline.
In fact First Nation people make up the bulk of prison populations.  They experience debilitating health conditions at a 2.3 % higher rate than other people that live in Australia. Let’s not forget the continued erosion of their human rights through appalling Government policy, like the cashless welfare card that initially was directly targeted at them.
What is not often spoken about in all of this tragedy, is the erosion of First Nation peoples’ languages. In fact it was not until 2008, that the Australian Government did anything to attempt to preserve these rich languages. Consider this:
None of this was on my mind yesterday. I was spending some quality time with Marnie. We were in a food hall at Colonnades Shopping Centre. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to eat so I told Marnie to just get something and I would share hers. “What if I don’t want to share?” she jokingly asked. My reply was, “Then I will starve …”
Colonnades is the new home for Can Do for Kids. It’s a huge and brilliant complex that Can Do have set up. A lot of their therapy for kids happens there as well. They have multi-sensory rooms and a whole assortment of state of the art therapy facilities. So huge is the centre that it is hosted where the old Myer shopping complex used to be. Clearly the Can Do Group are not short of a dollar.
As we waited for our food Marnie pointed out to me that Can Do were advertising on the many television screens throughout the Centre. I watched as a mother explained that she was accessing Auslan. I paraphrase here what the mother said, ” .. We are using sign language because little Johnny can’t talk yet …”
I can see every Deaf person in Australia screaming WTF as they read this.  Or as my friend Becky exclaimed just the other day, “I’m Auslanless …” A clever take on the hearing phrase, “I am speechless ..”
I confess that the true impact of the mother’s words did not hit me straight away. Marnie pointed them out to me. For readers who have not yet grasped the implications of what the mother said, I will explain. Basically the mother is implying that Auslan is just a stop gap until their child can learn to speak. After that this hand flapping stuff wont be needed. Cos little Johnny will be able to speak, just like everyone.
I apologise to the mother if this is not what she meant, but it is certainly how it came across. What is more, organisations like the Can Do Group have form for this sort of stuff. One must not forget that Can Do also are now the host of the old Cora Barclay Centre who also have form.  Cora Barclay did put out that awful advertisement some years ago of the young man proclaiming in speech, after butchering sign language, “Now there is a better way …. “
Perhaps I am being harsh, but I don’t think so.  As I sat down to eat there was a flyer on the table. It seems that it was part of the Can Do Group’s blanket saturation of Colonnades that day. You can see the flyer below …
Can Do Group also host Deaf Can Do.  This service is what remains of the old and vibrant Royal South Australian Deaf Society. Part of the remit of the Can Do Group is to provide support to Deaf and hard of hearing kids and their families. This includes audiology, speech, language support and Auslan. Yes, Auslan.
If you look closely at the flyer there is no mention of disability at all.  There is no mention of Deaf, hard of hearing, blind, vision impaired, autism etc.  All of these groups are among the people who the Can Do Group supports. They will deny it until they are blue in the face but I am of the strong belief that this is a deliberate marketing ploy.
Disability and all of the various terms associated with it are seen as negative and to be avoided. They have a picture of a beautiful smiling kid. As “Normal” as normal can be. They do this because they think if they mention such terms associated with disability too often, it will scare parents away. Not only would this mean that the Can Do Group would not be able to support these children but the Can Do would also miss out on the lucrative money to be earned through these children’s NDIS packages.
Debatable, I know.  I encourage the reader to look even more closely at the flyer. Not only is there no reference to disability,  there is no reference to Auslan which is, supposedly, a core service of the Can Do Group …… BUT, loudly and clearly the flyer proclaims that Can Do for Kids offers Listening and Spoken Language support and a little bit further down – Audiology.  No Auslan though. An oversight? Possibly, but I don’t think so.
My view is that they have deliberately excluded Auslan because, consciously or unconsciously, they believe that Auslan is inferior and not worthy of promoting with such important services as listening, spoken language and  audiology.
To me this is the final insult. It seems at this present time that these hearing professionals are on a path to eliminate Auslan. In fact, it seems that they are hellbent on demoting the Deaf community to the bottom of the rung. It follows on from the appalling treatment of the Deaf community by NextSense, the old Royal Institute of Deaf Blind Children (RIDBC) They, of course, promoted their new brand without a single reference to the history of the Deaf community in establishing the organisation and without a single Auslan version of their promotional material. They did not correct this until they realised the palpable anger of the Deaf community. As an afterthought they apologised and started preparing some Auslan versions. It was disgusting.
I have had enough. The Deaf community have had enough. We should all be fed up of being neglected and forgotten by the very organisations that are supposed to serve us. In many cases, in fact most cases, the Deaf community were primarily responsible for the establishment of these organisations. Despite this, many of these hearing professionals continue to treat the Deaf community and Auslan like dirt. It must stop!
The Deaf community is a rich and vibrant community with a wonderful history. Auslan is one of the sign languages of the world. It needs to be preserved and respected. Deaf people need to be at the forefront of the services that these organisations provide to Deaf and hard of hearing people. We need to be included and consulted every step of the way.
It is my belief that the exclusion and continued non-reference to the Deaf community and Auslan by these organisations is a deliberate ploy. They see us as inferior and not worthy of a place at the table . The Chair of Can Do is hearing with a history of finance and services. The Vice Chair is is hearing and an academic in psychology and social work and Flinders University.  The directors are all hearing and include an accountant, someone from the Arts, a lawyer, and HR person from an Australian Disability Enterprise (Sheltered workshop). All of the paid leadership team are hearing. There are no Deaf community representatives. There is no-one that represents Auslan. What does that tell you???
It is time for the Deaf community to rise. No longer can we accept this disgusting treatment of the community and its language. It is time for the community and the language to be represented in the upper echelons of the Board and the leadership teams. It is time that the community were heard, properly represented and respected!
Rise now, be heard and be loud.  For if we do not, the Deaf community is at risk of losing its identity and its language!
ENOUGH! Our Hands are Burning!
FOOTNOTE: I wish to be clear that the ongoing treatment of First Nations people is horrendous. The racism, marginalisation, destruction of lands and erosion of First Nations peoples’ autonomy and culture is among the worst human tragedies imaginable. In making the comparison between loss of language and identity of the Deaf community, I, in no way, wish detract from the terrible treatment of First Nations people – I apologise if any offence is taken.
I wish to also acknowledge the brilliant Auslan translation that Gavin Rode-Mundy has provided of this written Blog. What Gavin has done is an example of the wonderful work that Deaf interpreters can provide. This translation is a professional translation and without Gavin’s kind donation of his services to provide an Auslan translation of the article, many Deaf people that read this article would not get access to this information in their language.
Such translations should be provided for all information that is provided by Organisations that support Deaf and hard of hearing people. They should be provided by all Government agencies for all information. Preferably this information should be translated by professionals like Gavin and with the remuneration that it deserves. The Rebuttal receives no income and in recognition of the importance of the information within this Blog Gavin has donated his services.
In solidarity I thank Gavin for this vital service to the community. I hope that the article and this translation will encourage the Deaf community to fight and protest against the continued disrespect that they are being subject to.

A Sorry Affair …

Image is of Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, eyes tightly shut and in obvious distress.

ScoMo is saying sorry a lot lately. He is saying sorry to the women of Australia. Sorry that they are being abused, raped, ignored and under-paid. He is even saying sorry for being sorry. He commented that women were lucky that they can protest cos if they lived somewhere else then they might be shot. He is sorry for having to consult with his wife to understand that abusing women is wrong. He is sorry that he had to think how he would have reacted if it were his daughter in Brittney Higgins shoes.

You see he lacks empathy of any sort. Empathy would have told him that abusing women in any form is wrong.” Im trying” he says – And he is sorry that if by trying to be sorry he offends anyone for the drivel that comes out of his mouth … Unsurprisingly, the women, and good proportion of men, have seen his apologies for what they are – Just a trite strategy of political survival.

You see “SORRY” has to be met with appropriate action. This is something that hearing people that serve Deaf people and people who are hard of hearing don’t seem to grasp. They do awful things to Deaf people and people who are hard of hearing, usually in the name of making money.

This group of motley hearing people drive forward in the name of the almighty dollar. Trampling on the very people that they are paid to serve. The very people that put food on their tables, pay for their expensive cars and their beachfront house. These people lack empathy and make horrendous decisions. When the people that they serve speak out, they apologise. Apologies that, as with ScoMo, are purely strategies for damage control and survival.

Let’s have a look at some of these sorry’s that have come from these organisations. Who remembers the Prawns??? My wife does,  believe me.

Image is of an attractive woman wearing prawns behind her ear. the prawns are supposed to represent hearing aids.

I wrote about the Raw Prawns in 2015. At the time Victorian Hearing had released an advertisement that depicited hearing aids as prawns.  In the advertisement an attractive female model is seen wearing prawns behind her ears. The advertisement  proclaimed that hearing aids can be ugly – OURS ARE INVISIBLE …. As a result Deaf people  and people who are hard of hearing protested at this gross negativity and insensitivity. This is what I said about the advertisement at the time –

” …The image is always one of deficit.  It is one of suffering. it is one of the victim. For whatever reason marketing people promote this idea of normalisation of disability as one where disability must never be acknowledged or seen … We have to be like them you see..”

To the credit of Victorian Hearing they saw the error of their ways. The owner publicly apologised. They were mortified that they had offended so many Deaf people and people who are hard of hearing. They immediately withdrew the advertisement. We all expected more empathy from an organisation that supposedly understands our needs. Alas!!

Many years ago there was an advertisement for the Cora Barclay Centre. The Centre is now under the Can Do Group – Formerly Townsend House. The advertisement went like this. Picture this 12 year old boy. He is staring sadly into the camera. He signs haltingly and terribly. He is clearly struggling. He can’t communicate easily and his pain and anguish is there for all to see.  The dialogue reminds us that for many years Deaf people communicated, just like this!

Suddenly, the camera cuts back to the boy. He is smiling and happy, he proclaims in what I was told was almost a sing song voice – “Now there is a better way …. ” The presumption is clear – Sign language bad – Speech good …. naturally the Deaf community were appalled and let the Cora Barclay Centre know. The Centre refused to remove the advertisement or apologise … This was absolutely the worst I have ever seen. One would hope that the Can Do Group have helped them to clean up their Act.

Then there was that bear. That bloody eyeless and earless bear that The old Royal Institute of Deaf and Blind Children (RIDBC) tried to use to raise funds and seemingly create awareness. I wrote about that awful bear in the last Rebuttal. Suffice to say shortly after printing that 2013 article the CEO of RIDBC apologised for the organisation being insensitive and having upset so many people. The campaign was apparently designed and implemented by an advertising group, basically free of charge. Nonetheless, the CEO said sorry and made sure all of the offending advertisements that featured the bear were removed.

More recently Deaf Can Do apologised for having sold the Deaf communities cultural home without the consent of the Deaf community. They did so despite strong protests from the Deaf community. In doing so they fragmented the South Australian Deaf community in such a way that it has never really recovered. The building at 262 South Terrace had been purchased and built on the back of Deaf community members. I am told the carpentry and fittings within the building, including the church, were lovingly completed by Deaf trades people.

But no matter, the building was sold anyway. It appears in recent times Deaf Can Do has seen the error of its ways. Their Executive Director has released a series of apologies for having sold the building. They have apologised for the hurt and damage that they have caused. They are now frantically trying to rebuild relationships with the Deaf community and are trying to involve the Deaf community in decisions moving forward.

Unsurprisingly, the Deaf community are very suspicious of this apology. Many see it as nothing more than a cynical ploy to attract Deaf people back to the organisation so that Deaf Can Do can make money from these individuals NDIS packages. Personally I think they are sincere.

I am told that the money that they made from the sale of 262 is being held in a trust and that Deaf Can Do want to fully involve the Deaf community in all decisions concerning the use of these funds moving forward. However, the damage has been done it will take some time to rebuild the trust that Deaf Can Do destroyed through its actions.

Today I saw yet another apology from the Royal Institute for Deaf Blind Children, now known as NextSense. Last week NextSense was launched. It took the Deaf community and other associated stakeholders by surprise. Seemingly, just like that, they wiped over 100 years of Deaf history. They launched the new brand and there were no Auslan versions explaining the brand change. We all know it happened because they are diversifying and want to tap into the enormous NDIS market for both children and adults.

The Deaf community and associated stakeholders were shocked and have been protesting loudly ever since at the shoddy treatment that they have received. So what happened? Having realised that they had largely ignored the Deaf community, who are largely responsible for the existence of the organisation anyway, having realised that they had aligned themselves with services that have traditionally rejected all use of Auslan and, I suspect, having realised that as a public relations tool the whole thing was a monumental cock up – NextSense apologised. You can see their apology at their Facebook page, because as far as I can see it is not on their website –

https://www.facebook.com/nextsenseau/videos/10158865950256893

So it is strike two for NextSense. I have little sympathy for them, given their form with that awful bear when they were then known as RIDBC. There is no way that they can excuse themselves for having left so many people in the dark when they launched the new brand. There is no way at all that they should have even thought to release the new brand without acknowledgement of the Deaf community or by producing alternate Auslan formats for their announcements.

But they did, and they are now apologising and frantically trying to add Auslan to all their announcements. Shoddy does not even begin to describe how disgracefully that they have treated the Deaf community. I, for one, am very skeptical of their apology. We all know the rebrand was about money and making as much of it as possible. Sure they need it to survive but treating the Deaf community as they have done is unforgivable.

So there you have it. A whole catalogue of Sorry’s .. Including a not sorry. Make of them what you will. For myself, I am increasingly cynical. These people should know better!!

The Invisible People

Graphic shows a yellow Teddy Bear sitting with building blocks in front of it. It has no eyes and no ears.

“I found myself staring at a bear. He had been posted on Facebook. He was a kind of sorry looking bear. He had no eyes and no ears and he had stubby little legs. He looked almost like a double amputee. The bear was sitting sorrowfully on a wooden floor, surrounded by wooden blocks and wooden toys. He is a bright yellow bear. He stands out from the toys that are reds, blues and greens. He looks so lonely and so sad. In the background on a blue wall were the words, “WE NEED YOUR HELP.”

Taken from I Saw a Bear, The Rebuttal, June 29th, 2013

One day back in 2013 I saw the eyeless and earless bear on Facebook as described above. I was taken aback. It was grotesque. Worse, not only was it on Facebook, it had been placed in the form of a billboard at my bus-stop. It was an awareness and fundraising campaign conducted by one of Australia’s oldest and long-standing charities, The Royal Institute of Deaf Blind Children, (RIDBC) The basic idea was that here was a deaf and blind bear. It was a very sad thing representing children who might be Deaf, hard of hearing, Blind, vision impaired or deafblind.  It’s tragic and we should give our money to save them. The reader will see the original advertisement in the graphic to their right.

I was outraged because the advertisement focused entirely on deficit and portrayed people who are Deaf, hard of hearing, Blind and vision impaired as sad sorry creatures that required saving. I was outraged because it did not even accurately portray what RIDBC do, mainly that they support children who are Deaf, hard of hearing, Blind, vision impaired or deafblind. Not just deafblind which is what the bear portrays. I was outraged because the whole premise of the advertisement was revolting. It was a cynical attempt to garner pity from an unsuspecting public.

I wrote the article on Friday, posted it on the Saturday morning. It created a bit of an outrage and by Sunday evening we had a response from RIDBC CEO – I have pasted it in full below …

Dear All,

As the Chief Executive of RIDBC the approval of the noted campaign rested with me. The ad has been concluded and all “Yellow Bears” will be removed today / tonight.

By way of explanation the ad was not designed to reflect a person who is deaf or blind but to associate “eyes and ears” with RIDBC a task that often proves difficult from a general community perspective. The fact that the comparison has been made, and, has caused distress is enough for immediate cessation of the probono campaign.

RIDBC is committed to giving children the best start in life through its high quality educational programs and services. I will ensure that same high quality approach is applied to our general community awareness campaigns and media activities.

Yours sincerely,

Chris Rehn

Mind you his promise that all “Yellow Bears will be removed today/tonight” did not quite occur. It took a couple of weeks for the offending bear to be removed from my bus route, which was in Melbourne by the way, such was the reach of the campaign. But credit where it was due, he did what he promised.

One would think that an organisation such as RIDBC would have learnt from this mistake. One would think that, moving forward, they would consult with their stakeholders and the Deaf community. One would think that if they were to embark on huge changes, having learnt from the Yellow Bear debacle, that they would push all stops out to make sure that they did it right into the future.

But this is hearing people and professionals we are talking about. It is hearing business people with dollar signs in front of their eye. Hearing professionals that lack knowledge of the issues and needs of the people that they are serving. This is people with hearing privilege who see themselves as saviours of us poor disabled creatures. Mind you, not all hearing people and professionals are like this, there are many champions out there. However, there are far too many who are stuck in their privilege and power.

So it came as no shock to me that RIDBC is no more. Perhaps I am being a little dramatic, in truth it has been rebranded. It’s now called NextSense. The problem is that it appears that very few of the people that are associated with or have been associated with RIDBC in the past appear to have known what was happening. They were aware that a rebranding was happening, but it seems, allegedly, very few of them – and this includes parents, ex students, current students and the Deaf community – were consulted in the process.

Let’s look at the name NextSense. As is typical of these organisations, they have rid their brand of any mention of disability. Like Expression Australia before them, I bet this decision was purely around money. You see, any reference to disability is seen as a negative thing. The view of marketers and business people, most who have no lived experience of disability, is that any reference to disability will turn people away. Such is the way of this money obsessed NDIS influenced world.

You see, they say that if they use the word Deaf, people with a lesser hearing loss will avoid them. If they use Blind people classified as “partially sighted” or vision impaired will not come to them. If they do not come to them they miss out on potentially millions of dollars. So what they do is avoid the terms deaf and blind, or in fact any term related to disability.

In doing so they only further marginalise disability. They reinforce the idea that disability is a bad and negative thing. They reinforce the idea that disability needs to be avoided at all costs and has no place in our society. Hide them, don’t mention them, avoid them and come up with cute branding like NextSense to attract them all and their NDIS dollars. Cynical am I? I suspect that what I have just said is very close to the truth.

What is worse is that in one stroke of a computer keyboard they have obliterated over a hundred years of history. The famous Thomas Pattison School, founded in 1860 by the Deaf man of the same name, has been rebranded. It’s now called, revoltingly, NextSense School Sign Bilingual program. It’s purpose, and I quote directly from the NextSense website:

“… is for children who use both Australian Sign Language (Auslan)and English in its written and spoken form.” 

Put aside the fact that Auslan does not stand for Australian Sign Language. Auslan is the name of the sign language that the Australian Deaf community own and is an integral part of their cultural identity. IT IS NOT AN ACRONYM!  Put aside the fact that there is no mention of Thomas Pattison and his legacy anywhere in the blurb, as far as I can see anyway. Put aside the fact that all this clearly shows that NextSense didn’t bother to consult nor include the Deaf community in any of these new branding developments. If they had, none of these school children errors would have been made. They didn’t consult, but they did insult the Deaf community in a very bad way. It seems that the yellow bear incident taught RIDBC nothing.

Apparently, in all of the media releases there are also no alternate formats, no Auslan versions for the Deaf community. Not on their website and not on their promotional Youtube video which was at least captioned, thankfully. Sadly there are actual videos on their website that are not captioned, poor form for an organisation that professes to be all inclusive.  I apologise if there are Auslan versions out there but for the life of me I could not find them.

It’s just another addition to the cock ups made by hearing privileged  professionals. This is just another insult to the Deaf community and all associated stakeholders including parents and past students be they Deaf, hard of hearing, Blind, vision impaired or deafblind.

Will they ever learn or will we forever be the Invisible People???

 

 

Below please find an Auslan translation brilliantly provided by Gavin Rose-Mundy – With sincere thanks!

Zoom and Away


You know we belong together,

You and I Zooming  together.
No matter where you are,
You’re my Zooming star

And from the very first moment I Zoomed you
Never felt such was such emotion
I’m Zooming again,
Just to know (Just to know)
We can zoom away again

Zoom and Away. (Apologies to all Home and Away fans)

The pandemic began just on a year ago and very soon after we we were all locked down. Suddenly, we were all working from home. Sadly, for many they no longer had a job. We, who worked in an office job, suddenly found ourselves having to learn how too use online platforms. The learning curve for everyone was steep.

For myself, it wasn’t quite so bad. I had recently found a new job and my contract stipulated that I worked from home. I had already had numerous meetings by Zoom. Indeed, I was interviewed over Zoom for the position. So for me it was a little bit par for the course, except that there was no variety. Pre-pandemic I could balance online meetings with face to face meetings with my networks. Once we were forced to work totally from home everything was fully online.

It was all very novel at first. We all laughed as my son walked shirtless in the background not knowing I was in a meeting. Cats walked cross keyboards. Dogs gave their tennis balls to their owners to throw mid meeting and barked. Pauses were common while parents had to deal with children. We received a unique insight into the inner workings of peoples homes.

Some tried to be professional by ensuring that they had props like bookshelves in the background. Others were less professional and would plump themselves down on the couch so that you could only see their face from the nose upwards on screen. Some got clever and worked out how to put virtual backgrounds on screen so that we got to see an assortment of landscapes, sunsets and art. One larrikin tethered himself up and had a meeting while he had a leisurely paddle in his kayak. Yes, the latter really happened. How we laughed.

It was interesting that many hearing people actually struggled with working online. They found it hard to gauge peoples emotions. Visual cues that they normally received with in-person meetings were harder to read. They seemed to find that online meetings made them incredibly tired. The term Zoom fatigue became common.

David Penberthy, writing in The Advertiser, had this to say about pandemic forced online meetings

“It’s not just the logistics of getting the damned thing up and running, which is then followed (once everyone’s on, that is) with the smallest of small talk where everyone makes stilted chat about how their day is coming along.

It’s the fact that you are stripped of all the natural visual cues you get when you are sitting directly opposite a person in real life. This means the process of having a group conversation is not only logistically challenging, it is completely exhausting.

I have two friends, one a public servant the other in the private sector, who habitually spend six or seven hours a day going from one online meeting to the next and expire at the end of the afternoon in a catatonic and square-eyed state.”  (Taken from -A year of video conferencing reinforces the supremacy of face-to-face conversation, The Advertiser, Februry 2021)

I can emphasis with some of what Penberthy writes, particularly the endless back to back meetings. Often you can have four or even five meetings on the trot. This is very different from the same number of face to face meetings. Face to Face you are often travelling or walking to different meeting places. Four or five face to face meetings in a day is still tiring but the breaks in between to mobilise yourself to get to a meeting can be refreshing. When you are having four five meetings back to back, in the same chair and in the same room it is incredibly draining.

It was just interesting to see how hearing people responded. Perhaps for the first time many of them had to adjust. They had to change their communication styles and overcome barriers that they had never had to confront before. We deafies have to do this every working day of our lives.  As a result, perhaps, we adapted a lot better and with less stress.

As a deaf person I personally found many benefits. In a weird way I found that I was actually engaging with my hearing colleagues better. You see deaf people are often left out of workplace natter. They don’t get access to water cooler conversations.. Colleagues often phone each other and bounce ideas and debrief. Deaf professionals don’t get a lot of access to this sort of stuff and can be very isolated in the workplace.

I found myself getting to know people better. I was more involved and more engaged. I am part of a national network of 31 people. Before Zoom my only communication with them was email, text and conferences. They all kept in touch over the phone but I was left out of this so I was often not savvy to many finer details. It is fair too say I was quite isolated within the network. Not now, on a daily basis I speak to many of them through Zoom and am fully up to date with views, politics trends and the like. That has been refreshing.

Access also is a lot better. I find colleagues who set up these meetings are more empathetic. Many of them will book captioning off their own bat. I often use the Live Transcribe app for these meetings. It’s quite accurate but it has its moments. Colleagues are acutely aware of this. Before meetings start they ensure it is working well. When it screws up and I need clarification they are always willing to stop and help. I find that via Zoom people tend to speak over each other less and that communication is  lot more succinct and to the point.

Face to face meetings are a lot more gregarious. People tend to talk over each other. Meetings are more fast paced. If you’re deaf it is harder to control people and get full access to the information. Very rarely over Zoom do I get asked by interpreters to tell people to slow down, not talk over each other and so on. For me, at least, it makes for more effective communication and I find things are more equal. It’s rare now that my captioner types “Everybody speaking at once.”

In a funny way the Deaf community even found lockdowns fun because of Zoom. They organised trivia nights, online dinners and the like. Being a visual platform meant that Zoom was heaven sent for them. Not too long ago, before the internet became good enough and Skype became common place, if a pandemic and lockdown had happened deaf people would have been well and truly royally screwed.

That is not to say that Zoom is perfect. Endless Zoom meetings are tiring. A balance between face to face and online meetings is desirable. One must be able to leave a room and a chair and be able to stare elsewhere than directly at a computer screen. Australia’s internet is still appalling, dropouts in video and audio are common place. As a deaf person it can be difficult to know who is speaking and know when to interrupt. Meetings need to be controlled well. Lots of gate closing and opening needs to happen.

The biggest thing is that full reliance on technology can be a recipe for disaster. If it fails, it fails spectacularly. That said Zoom has offered many opportunities for deaf people and has arguably made the workplace more inclusive.

For me using Live Transcribe has saved me heaps of money on captioning and interpreting. It’s allowed me to have impromptu meetings to discuss things without the need to search frantically for an interpreter and captioning. But Live Transcribe is a phonetic tool and sometimes it comes up with some hilarious bloopers. I will close this article with one of these.

Last week we were discussing the USEP program, University Specialist Employment Partnership. This program aims to assist graduates with a disability at university to find employment. A colleague was discussing how they were trying to find a USEP partner for the program. Somehow my Live Transcribe managed to hear this as, wait for it, “We are seeking a New Sex partner … ”  True story.

AHH technology, you gotta love it, but honestly – Where would deaf people be with out it. So for me it’s – Zoom and Away, with you each day!  (Again with sincere apologies to Home and Away fans.)

Spread the Love ..

A colleague once said to me that people with a disability who are strong activist are an angry mob. He said they should learn to calm down and work with the powers that be instead of upsetting them all the time. I know a number of hearing colleagues who work in the deaf sector who consider it negative for Deaf activist. and advocates to be constantly speaking out. They tell us that we should, “Spread the love”

Now, I should disclose here that I am a gnarly old disability advocate. I have been in the sector advocating for both deaf people and people with a disability for a very long time. I can be quite aggressive, often sarcastic and very often impatient. There is a reason for that.

Einstein once said that insanity was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. This, to me anyway, describes many ablebodied and hearing people. For many years we have told them ” Nothing about us with out us ..”  Yet still they go on their merry way making decisions for us and without us. If we get angry about this we are labeled all sorts of things – negative, stirrers, unappreciative, scare mongers, nasty etc … These labels are used to dismiss our concerns and banish us.

The NDIS is guilty of this. It is largely run by ablebodied people. Heaps of them from banking backgrounds who want the NDIS to act as an insurance scheme. They make decisions like insurance companies too. Decisions that are based purely on saving money. They call it sustainability of the scheme. Don’t be fooled by this namby pamby term … It’s all about saving money.

The NDIS most recent foray into upsetting the disability community is the establishment of independent assessments. This is the agencies attempt to provide people with a disability with what they call consistent decisions. The NDIS argue that with independent assessments they can ensure a consistent decision making process will happen and people with disability will get plans that are more relevant to their needs. By having independent assessments LACs can do what they were initially paid for, that is is to do community development and help participants to implement their plans. This instead of being tied to their desks trying to achieve impossible KPIs.

The NDIS, like many in the disability sector, engage in what I call reverse consultation. That is that they make a decision, with no intention of reversing that decision and then ask people with a disability what they think. In this case they developed the idea of independent assessments. They then asked people with a disability to take part in a”trial” so that they could refine and polish the idea for roll-out.

If you do not know, the basic idea of independent assessments is that the NDIS selects a pool of professionals to carry out the independent assessments. They pay them and use the assessments that they conduct to develop the NDIS plans. The independent assessors submit their assessment to the NDIS and NDIS planners use these assessments to develop a participants plan. I have not yet quite understood where people with a disability provide input to the process. Apart from, of course, taking part in the assessment.

When this idea was mooted the disability activist community hit the roof. They saw independent assessments as a way of the NDIS taking away the control of the planning process from people with a disability.  People with a disability objected to the NDIS selecting the professionals to do assessments instead of using the professionals who have supported and worked with them for many years.

The NDIS argue that the independent assessments will utilise past assessments from participants chosen professsionals in completing their assessments. But the disability community have been lukewarm in their response. They have largely refused to take part in the trial run. So difficult was it for the NDIS to find people with a disability to take part in the trials that they resorted to trying to manipulate these people to participate by offering them $150.

The point is that people with a disability have largely said “NO” – They don’t want this because they see the independent assessment process as nothing more than a dodgy attempt to take away their control and save the NDIS buckets of money. The views and the needs of people with a disability have been ignored and dismissed. Indeed independent assessments were rolled out with NO consultation, whatsoever, apart from asking for input after the event. (The NDIS will argue that they used the finding of the Tune report and that this is something that the Tune Report recommended.)

The result is an extremely angry disability community. And you know, the NDIS have absolutely no intention of listening to or considering input from people with a disability. Allegedly, they have already begun advertising for independent assessors. If true this shows that the the NDIS have absolutely no intention of considering the views and wants of the disability community. It will be the NDIS way or the highway!

The Minister for the NDIS is a particularly nasty piece of work. This is the same guy that used the media to label people with a disability as sexual deviants. People with a disability want to use their funds to help them experience sexual intimacy and pleasure. This meets all the NDIS benchmarks of an “Ordinary Life”.

Some have asked for funding to adapt sex aids or have have support to develop and implement ways in which they can experience and enjoy sex and intimacy. All of this has been labeled by the Minister as wasting NDIS money on prostitutes. In an interview with Leon Byner the Minister had this to say ..

“Well, the average Australian I speak to is aghast that we’d be paying billions of dollars for the services of prostitutes. Now, if people wish to use any services that are lawful in this country, they can do so with their own money. But you can’t bill it to the Commonwealth.”

A diplomatic way to criticise the Minister would be to call him ignorant. The reality is that he is just an absolute knob!

Yeah, I am angry, frustrated, aggressive, immature – you name it.  No, I am just fed up. Fed up of these ablebodied people with no clue controlling my life, without my input and then labelling me and my disabled/deaf colleagues negative for daring to challenge and speak out.

Feel the love?  Bet you can’t!!!

Thats When Good Neighbours ….

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
Just a friendly wave each morning
Helps to make a better day

Neighbours,
Need to get to know each other
Next door is only a footstep away

Neighbours,
Everybody needs good neighbours
With a little understanding
You can find the perfect blend

Nathan Borg is our newest Deaf celebrity. He has a character on the long running Australian TV series, Neighbours.   His character is Curtis Perkins. The Now website proclaims him as Australia’s first actor with a cochlear implant. I am not sure that is true but it makes good copy I guess. Congratulations to Nathan, getting on Neighbours is an awesome achievement. You can read more about Nathan HERE 

Nathan has had quite a journey by his own admission. He has been told by many professionals that he should hide his disability. He was even kicked out of an acting course and told to find another career. What Nathan is experiencing is typical audism and hearing privilege. Lucky for him, and us, he persevered.

Nathan actually called Neighbours and suggested that they have a deaf character. To the credit of the producers they brought into the idea and cast Nathan as the character, Curtis Perkins. This all occurred on International Day of Disability. Ironic one might think.

It is very clear to me that Nathan is a doer. Whats more he is the type of person that wants to use his profile to create awareness and opportunities for other people who are deaf. Indeed, all people with a disability.

So, for the first time the Neighbours theme song was signed in Auslan. Of course, it was signed by Nathan. Nathan is not a natural signer and he sought support to do it properly and accurately. You can be picky and say it needed more use of space, needed to be more visual, needed more expression. You might even say some of the signs were not right. All would be true. But I am not a pedant, I think he did a great job.

However, much to Nathan’s surprise, many in the Deaf community were not happy. In fact they’re quite angry. Why? Because they believed that Nathan used two hearing people to assist him to translate and learn the signs for the song. This has since been disputed by the hearing people concerned. They claim that they only encouraged Nathan to sign the song and engaged a Deaf person to help him.

The furore, I am told, has taken Nathan by surprise and he is quite upset about the response. I can fully understand that because all Nathan wanted to do was create awareness and opportunities. He has done that, but he has also unkowingly created a shit storm. He must be so confused.

Now, there have been people who have said that these members of the Deaf community have overreacted. There is a train of thought that says they should shut up and just celebrate this positive exposure. I don’t agree and I am glad that these people spoke up, even if it appears that their initial concerns might have been unfounded.

Let’s consider what has happened to Nathan. By his own admission he has been discriminated against. He has been made to feel ashamed of being deaf and told to cover it up. He has been denied opportunities in a world dominated by hearing people. He has had to put himself out there and create his own opportunities.

This is what Deaf people and people with disabilities confront each and everyday. To get ahead they must fight and fight hard. It is not easy. So when members of the Deaf community heard that two hearing people were allegedly consulted to translate the Neighbours theme into Auslan they were rightly angry. These Deaf people spoke out and they were attacked for doing so. They were told to calm down, not be negative and so on.

The reality is that the reaction of these member of the Deaf community is wholly understandable. An opportunity to work with the Neighbours team to translate the theme song to Auslan is heaven sent. It should have been done entirely by Deaf people. People that use and own the language everyday, many who have spent years learning the intricacies of the language, including at university.

It was an opportunity for Deaf people to own this space. Even if the initial information they received concerning the hearing consultants was allegedly wrong, they were rightly angry. Angry because, like Nathan, they have had to fight tooth and nail for these opportunities. To seemingly lose those opportunities to two hearing people would have hurt immensely.

I am told that the two hearing people only encouraged Nathan to sign the song.  They then introduced Nathan to a Deaf person to assist in the translation of the theme. Allegedly, this person has chosen not to be named. I am sure the two hearing people involved meant nothing but good. Perhaps they could have told the Deaf community of Nathan and encouraged the community to contact him. In this way the Deaf community and Deaf people would have been fully in control.

What this whole episode has shown is that Deaf people are frustrated at being constantly denied opportunities. They’re angry and rightly so. Their response to this debacle is a reaction to our audist world of hearing privilege. It is something that many hearing people have yet to grasp. So whether these Deaf people were right or wrong about who assisted Nathan is not the issue. Their reaction is a symptom of everything that is wrong in the world today.

But let me say this, Nathan is the innocent party in all of this. To Nathan I say sorry. Keep doing your thing because what you are doing is awesome.

As a footnote it is possible for Deaf and hearing to work well together but still put Deaf people in control – Watch this video – Kudos to James and Ryan for one of the best awareness videos that I have seen. Deaf person in control and made using a Deaf Consultant ….

Thats when good neighbours become good friends ….

How Deaf Interpreters do their job from Ryan Gook on Vimeo.

A Hearing Clusterfuck

Do hearing people really rule the world. You know those people that talk endlessly on their phones. Listen to music. Man (person) receptions. Look after our money. All of our politicians. Most of our CEOs etc.  Do they really rule the world? After the week I have had you can only ask – How the fuck?

I have never really been into hearing bashing. They are nice people, mostly. Indeed many of them are my friends. My children are hearing, sorry about that fellas! Hearing people try hard, they really do. Some are even helpful. But these last few weeks they have been an absolute clusterfuck.

You see I am buying a house with my Super funds. It is a bit of a dream home. I can retire in a few years and move in. I discovered that I have a very healthy Super fund so decided to self manage some of it. Buy the house of my dreams with Super. Have the rent accumulate for a few years  —- $25 000 a year rent … Nice little retirement addition. Meanwhile realestate increases in value. When I retire sell my current home. Cash goes to paying a small loan on the new house so I can get tax breaks. And a Nice little profit. Dreamy. But then those bloody hearing people got involved.

It started with the broker. Broker applying for a small loan for me for those tax breaks. Gets told to please email me. Asks me for some info – You know ID, Super statements, payslips and the like. I oblige and then Christmas comes, everything shuts down – All good.  

The new year comes. Finance approval is written into the contract. Must be settled by a certain date etc. It’s getting closer to the date. A little worried I emailed the broker, who knows I am deaf, asking if anything more is needed.  Next day he rings me on the phone. He passed University this guy, so I assume he has a smattering of ability. So this number comes up, I search it on Google (Cos I am a good problem solver like that) and woe and betide, it’s the broker.

I resist the urge to email him and call him a Wally. Instead I send him a nice email and say please don’t call I am deaf, please email as should be noted on file. So a day or so later he emails asking me for documents. Most I have already sent him. I remind him of this but send them again.

So, it looks good. Finance approval date is coming closer. Next day actually. And what happens? He rings me. This time I am a little less patient. I firmly, but still nicely, ask him to please email as calling is pointless. He emails me and asks me again for yet more documents, many I have already sent him.

This time I hit the roof. I point out that the finance date will lapse and it’s his fault. I point out he keeps ringing and he needs to email as he is wasting valuable time. I point out he already has most of the documents he has asked for and I ask why the hell he could not have asked for all the documents at the start, not in this pish posh, mish mash way. (Yes, I used those words.)

So, he emails back. Good fellow, he has finally learnt. He emails back and says sorry, and I quote, ” .. I am sure you can appreciate it is difficult to communicate effectively with a deaf person.” By this time my patience is fully exhausted. I tell him that I beg to differ and rather that it’s bloody difficult to communicate with hearing people who can’t take a few seconds to email a question. God grant me strength.

But anyway, we needed to ask for an extension. This needed to go through my conveyancer. My conveyancer has known me a few years having handled the purchase of my current house. So we need them to liaise with the vendor so that we can amend the contract.

Conveyancer, bless their cotton socks, rings me.  I go through the routine, Google the number and affirm that it’s the conveyancer. Politely, I remind the Conveyancer that I am deaf and it should be noted on the file. She emails back and apologises, “No one told me.” she says in her defence. I resist the temptation to email back and recommend that she, “Read the fucking files.” Instead I say, “Please note it on file so that this does not occur again.” Two days later she rings me, then emails me, “Sorry I forgot.”

And it should have ended there but it didn’t. You see the person responsible for organising the rollover to my self managed fund (Who communicates beautifully by email by the way) sent the Super fund the wrong form. So the Super fund, who also have on file that I am deaf, ring me  … No, I am not joking.

As it stands now, we are requesting a second extension because the broker took too long in getting the documents in. The vendor of the property I am purchasing is understandably antsy because they have their own property to settle.

Meanwhile, the people involved are fighting amongst themselves and blaming each other for the delays. As I type this my phone has just rung and this time Google tells me its the real estate agent. FUCK!

And these people run our world – We are doomed!!!