Audism & Resilience

The world is hearing-centric, which means the majority relies on sounds and speech.  Now, there are approximately 70 million deaf and hard of hearing people around the world. Approximately 90% of deaf and hard of hearing people are born to hearing parents. The majority of these parents have never met a deaf or hard of hearing person before, which means they’re thrown a new curveball when their baby is diagnosed with a hearing loss. Understandably so, they panic. They do not have a lived experience as a deaf/hard of hearing person. Medical professionals are not exactly helpful in this matter; instead, they tell the parents that cochlear implants will allow their deaf child to be normal and to be able to speak, and that sign language should not be encouraged as it would hinder their language development.

That, my friends, is the beginning of audism a deaf/hard of hearing person will experience from Day One on this planet.

Alex Jones of Ai-Media eloquently explains the meaning of audism in his vlog (it’s captioned if you don’t know Auslan):

I’ve experienced audism from the moment I was diagnosed with bilateral profound deafness, although the earliest memory of audism I experienced was probably at the age of 4 or 5. I’ve lost count of how many times my mum, siblings and relatives have said “I’ll tell you later” when I asked them what they were talking about. So. Many. Times. It’s incredibly frustrating; I’m sure I’ve thrown a tantrum or 3 because of my frustrations at being excluded.

A couple of years ago, I was having dinner with my paternal relatives and my aunty noticed that I was quiet, so she asked me why. I said that if I asked and I would get the same response I had gotten from many other people. I was surprised when she said “Just fucking butt in. It’s what we do. We don’t want to leave you out, so tell us to interpret for you”. Ever since then, when I catch up with them, I butt in like there’s no tomorrow and I’m now the last person to finish my dinner. It’s great, but there’s few times I feel like I’ve butted in too many times, but they have told me not to worry. To this day, I still don’t know how they encouraged me to butt in, but apparently it’s a Beaver trait to do so 😉

However, my entire family have been incredible. They’ve all learnt sign language so I am able to communicate with them. Despite being able to sign with my fam bam, I still experience audism — especially if a big family thing is happening. There’s so much talking, and I don’t bother butting in. It’s a good type of audism, if I have to say, but it does get frustrating after so long.

After 18 odd years of spending Christmas with family members, I made the decision that I would spend the festive season with like-minded people, especially if they are as fluent in Auslan as I am. As a kid, Christmas was all about presents, homemade waterslides, backyard cricket, food, cousins, and naps. It’s a lot different now. I love spending Christmas with my friends — I find I have a lot more fun and that I enjoy Christmas more as an adult.

Professionals have challenged my mum’s decision to allow me to sign. They all told her that signing would hinder my language development, as they would for many other parents of deaf children. They tried to push her into sending me to a private speech therapist. She gave them two same excuses: “I don’t have a driver’s license, and speech therapy lessons are way out of my budget” over and over until they stopped asking. I received speech therapy at school, but it was very limited and I was taken out of class for at least 2 hours per week to focus on developing my speech skills. I’ll be honest here — my speech skills aren’t on par, but I’m happy with what I have.

 

Audism often occurs at school – mainly outside the classroom. Many deaf children who prefer Auslan are unable to participate in extracurricular activities such as debating competitions because their school have constantly said they do not have the funds to provide an interpreter. God knows how many opportunities I’ve missed out on because of this. I was invited to be a part of the school debate team when I was in Year 11, but I had to pull out because the school said they couldn’t afford to get an interpreter. This was rather disappointing, as you can imagine.

However, deaf/hard of hearing kids will be able to participate in their chosen extracurricular activities outside school hours with funds from the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) paying for Auslan interpreters. This will change lives of so many deaf/hard of hearing children across Australia.

Audism mainly occurs because people do not have the lived experience as a deaf/hard of hearing person. They don’t understand what it’s like to be deaf. They don’t understand what it’s like living in a hearing-centric world. They don’t understand what it’s like encountering barriers on a daily basis.

Parents of deaf children are often faced with thousands of questions, and they think they’re doing the right in the best interests of their child, which is understandable. But…they need to keep an open mind. They need to be prepared for the day that their deaf child begins to explore their identity. They need to be prepared for the day their deaf child decides they want to embrace sign language after growing up orally.

The best thing you can do for your deaf child is to interact with other deaf people. Listen to our stories. Heed our advice based on our experiences from navigating through life as a deaf person. Allow us to become role models for your deaf child. Keep an open mind. Give your deaf child all options on the table.

Most importantly, teach your deaf child resilience so they can navigate through an audist and hearing-centric world. Resilience allows us to become empowered and to be able to advocate for ourselves. Think of resilience as a superpower — they will be able to use that to break down numerous barriers for the rest of their lives.

I think I’ve said enough for now…I could go on and on all day, but I’ll save you from reading a novel 😉

Over and out,

Sherrie x

UNI2016: Access Denied

As a bushy-tailed first year Arts student at the University of Western Sydney (now Western Sydney University), I was excited to begin this journey. I initially thought this would be an easy ride. Alas, I was in for a rude wake-up call.

To cut a long story short, the DLO failed to book interpreters for the entire semester, as they missed my email confirming my timetable. Their system wasn’t working, as the class registrations opened TWO weeks before the semester began. This didn’t leave them with sufficient time to book interpreters, as other universities would be doing the same. This happened again the next semester, but with a new DLO as she had never worked with Deaf/HoH students and she realised the system wasn’t working. With my feedback and advice, she took it upon herself to notify the Head DLO (or whatever it is called) and pushed for changes to the system.

After two semesters of teething problems, the Disability Support Centre at UWS took the plunge and changed their system. Under the new system, Deaf/HoH students were to send through their preferred timetable for the upcoming semester to their assigned DLO. The DLO then sends the timetable to the relevant faculty/school so they can manually enrol the Deaf/HoH student. Once the timetable is confirmed by the faculty, the DLO is notified and immediately books interpreters for the entire semester. This system has worked rather well since then for both the University and Deaf/HoH students. 

Now, you may be wondering why I’m telling you this.

In this day and age, universities are expected to meet the needs of their Deaf/HoH students and provide them with Auslan interpreters, trained note-takers and/or live captioning.

Unfortunately, this hasn’t been the case. It astounds me that this is still happening. In freaking 2016.

Deaf/HoH students who are going to university for the first time should not be put under stress doing extra work due to lack of accessibility to online lectures and videos uploaded onto BlackBoard/LMS/Cloud/whatever the system is called. They should not have to make noise in order to have their needs met so they can successfully complete each unit to be able to graduate later on.

I gave the Equity & Diversity unit ample time to book interpreters, and organise for videos and podcasts to be captioned and transcribed. I began Semester 1 to discover all videos and podcasts hadn’t been captioned or transcribed. It’s now Week 3 and the E&D has only admitted to their mistake and started getting all videos and podcasts captioned/transcribed. One unit has been completed, but I still don’t have access to the other two units. Today, I find out the videos I need to watch for my assessments are not captioned. I am unable to complete my weekly assessments on time because I cannot watch anything without captions. I am falling behind, and it’s causing me a lot of unnecessary stress. It’s made me feel doubtful about continuing studying to become an audiologist, but I’ve decided to continue regardless of the troubles I am experiencing this semester. I am not giving up. I am going to continue fighting for full access for myself and other Deaf/HoH students at university. ~ Sophie.

This isn’t new.

This has been happening to a couple of students for a number of years.

Most of the time, it happens to students who begin their first semester in the course they’ve enrolled in.

I first started university in Brisbane, studying Agricultural Science at the University of Queensland. Encouraged and supported by my family, I tried to be as proactive as possible, letting the university know well in advance that I intended to enrol, and that I would need to have interpreting and notetaking for all classes. When I finally did start, it was a shambles! Interpreters had only been booked the week before, as a result I had 8 different interpreters in the first week! All wonderful but a big confusion and adjustment for me to get to know a new interpreter’s signing style each lecture. Lecturers had not been made aware of how to work with interpreters, and there was no note taker provided. They arranged for another student to give notes to the disability office to type up and pass onto me. This resulted in a 4 week delay in receiving them, and I soon fell behind in classes. These stresses added to an already difficult time leaving home, moving states and adjusting to college life! After a while, I couldn’t cope and dropped out. Looking back, this experience might have been a big exacerbating factor in my fluctuating mental wellbeing. ~ Sigrid.

It’s also happening in TAFEs across Australia. They’re usually the worst culprits when it comes to providing accessibility to deaf and hard of hearing students – due to state government funding, apparently.

My academic pursuits started at TAFE around 2 years ago when I undertook Certificate III in Information Technology – Networking, and it was a big hassle to get support services to bring in an interpreter and I had to regularly go in the office before my course started to remind them that I needed an interpreter. Their initial excuses ranged from not having enough interpreters on the Sunshine Coast and interpreters not being willing to travel to Brisbane. However, that wasn’t the case. There are a number of interpreters on the Sunshine Coast, but because TAFE was only willing to pay around $20 an hour, there weren’t many takers because that was way below the normal rate an interpreter usually charges in Queensland. Eventually they finally got an interpreter, but were only willing to pay to have an interpreter in for a portion of the class which meant I had to make do without one for half of the day. At first, this arrangement wasn’t too bad because most of the instructions were already written and I’m pretty decent communicating one on one if I have questions after class. ~Anonymous.

Why are we still hearing about deaf and hard of hearing students having access issues at universities and TAFEs?

There has been quite a few positive experiences, however.

I’ve had experience at several universities and the best for support for Deaf and HoH has to be Charles Sturt University. CSU has several campuses and a fantastic online distant education program. I have completed a Grad Diploma in Psychology online through CSU. They are very flexible, and with residential schools (compulsory with some of my subjects), they provided level 3 interpreters from Sydney AND real time captioning PLUS notetakers. No questions asked, no hassle. no debate, no arguments. Disability support people are great. Transcriptions of EVERYTHING, including text websites and all lectures are fast and delivered quickly and efficiently via the Internet. Everything I needed was supplied without a problem. ~Lynn.

It’s so good to see positive stories like Lynn’s. I’ve had a similar experience at Deakin, and they’re absolutely brilliant. Deakin also endeavours to caption ALL videos for subjects a deaf & hard of hearing student is enrolled in.

We mustn’t give up, especially when we’re finally on the way to achieving our dream career. We must educate our lecturers, unit coordinators, tutors, and most importantly, our disability liaison officers to make sure that we have full access to the course we’re studying, be it on-campus and/or off-campus, and how to work with deaf & hard of hearing students and Auslan interpreters.

Don’t give up. Be a crusader.

S xo

 

 

 

DEAF CEO NOW!

DISCLAIMER: These are my opinions and my opinions only. In no way do I represent any organisations within the Deaf community.

In 1988, a large group of Gallaudet students rallied for a Deaf President to be elected because they thought it was time after many years of hearing presidents representing the university. The Board of Trustees ignored them, and elected a hearing person to be the university president. This decision was not acceptable for the student body; they delivered four demands to the Board, and organised a large rally that shut down the campus for an entire week. The Deaf community came to Washington, DC to participate. Senators gave their support for the notion of a Deaf President for Gallaudet University. Marlee Matlin was interviewed by ABC Nightline. Numerous media outlets picked up on the decision, although the Washington Post gave constant updates.

In the end, the Board gave in to the demands and Elizabeth Zinser resigned as the President. I. King Jordan was elected as Gallaudet’s first Deaf President, which he served for eighteen years.

This election was known as Deaf President Now! – a Deaf social movement. It changed the lives of the American Deaf community forever. It was a stepping-stone to the establishment of the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990.

In Australia, the time has come for such a social movement like DPN.

Deaf Children Australia is currently in the progress of selecting a new CEO. The thing is, they’ve never had a Deaf CEO.

It’s an organisation that strives to improve the lives of families with deaf and hard of hearing children. Yet it’s quite a hearing-centric organisation. The majority of staff there are hearing, and (apparently) not fluent in Auslan. They do not understand the issues we face throughout our lives.

Deaf Children Australia.

Ironic, isn’t it? The word ‘Deaf’ is the first word you see/hear when people talk about the said organisation. Yet, it’s primarily run by hearing people.

Deaf people have often found that their opinions are neither valued nor encouraged in decisions affecting their welfare (Jankowski, 1997).

This is the case with DCA. They do not value opinions from their Deaf staff and clients. They don’t connect with the Deaf community from a grassroots approach.

Simply put, DCA is not a Deaf-friendly organisation.

It’s high time for change.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” (African Proverb)

As a hearing parent of a Deaf child, I am so grateful and fortunate to have the Deaf community provide for my daughter in the areas that I simply cannot. Having Deaf role models that she can identify with, that she recognises are like her is just one of the ways the Deaf community acts as the village. My daughter and all Deaf children need more Deaf role models. They need role models from all walks of life, working in a multitude of areas and levels of responsibility. They desperately need Deaf role models in positions of leadership. Why? It shows them that it is possible; despite all the barriers they may have already faced in everyday life. It shows them that it IS possible.

Mai Bryant-Kelly.

To start with, they must select a Deaf person as a CEO.

If a Deaf person were selected for the CEO position, they would do an amazing job. They would give DCA the change it desperately needs. They would take DCA to new places. They would ensure that DCA reconnects with the Deaf community in Australia. Essentially, a Deaf CEO would provide a vision in align with the Deaf community.

Slowly, yet timely, Deaf organisations in Australia are recognising the need for a Deaf CEO. They’ve also recognised the need for Deaf people in high-level leadership positions.

A fantastic example from Jankowski (1997) about why it’s important to have Deaf people in power:

By declaring that Deaf people had more experience in being Deaf than did hearing people, Smith placed Deaf people in a position superior to hearing people. In so doing, he reversed the structural hierarchy, thus granting power to Deaf people.

Reversing the structural hierarchy will only work in Deaf organisations such as Deaf Children Australia. A number of Deaf organisations in Australia and around the world have adopted this approach, so why can’t DCA do the same?

Let’s get together and tell Deaf Children Australia that it’s time they elected a Deaf person as their new CEO. Tell them that it’s time for change.

Most importantly, if you are a parent of a Deaf child/ren or a young Deaf person, you are their stakeholder and this means you hold the power to tell DCA that change needs to happen, starting with appointing a Deaf CEO. There is no better time than now.

Deaf CEO Now!

Reference:

Jankowski, Katherine A. (1997). Deaf Empowerment: Emergence, Struggle, & Rhetoric. Gallaudet University Press: Washington, D.C.

F&*king Telstra!

Carl Barron: “I reckon Telstra should change their name to f**king Telstra cause every time you mention Telstra to someone they say “Ah, f**king Telstra”… Imagine if they did change their name. Call up and they say ‘Hello it’s F***ing Telstra. How can we p*** you off today? Ah, just do what you do every bloody day!”

There are two things that are absolutely guaranteed in life – death, and “f**king Telstra.”

My long suffering fiancé James and I, along with our four kids, moved into a newly built house in September 2015. If anyone has built a house, you would know it’s riddled with stress and lots of things go wrong. Particularly when all your doors don’t work, and the front door is installed upside down. Needless to say, our first month saw us with lots of red and frowny faces.

As any Deaf person knows, the telephone is always a…problem. Well, it shouldn’t be so much a problem now, thanks to text messaging, emails, smartphones, the SMS relay service, and the National Relay Service app. Life can be pretty cruisy once we have access to all of this.

However, our comedy of errors house – no surprises – does not have access to any telephone cables. Our house was built on a newly subdivided block and there were no cables run underneath. So when I rang Telstra to move my WiFi service from my old house to my new house, they told me there would be *ahem* delays.

In September, they sent me a letter to my new house, but it was addressed to my mum**. I’m 33 years old. I’m pretty sure mum was celebrating her freedom from wiping my bottom and dealing with my ‘stuff’ many years ago.

Anyway, this letter advised me that due to the delays, they were going to provide me with an emergency landline because they couldn’t get services to my house any time soon. So I rang them up and explained that an emergency phone line would not be any use because James and I are Deaf. What we need is data. I was told at the time the delay was only a month or so away. The Telstra guy I spoke to – Ricky – asked if I was interested in buying a WiFi dongle for $100, and I was to give them the receipt so the could reimburse me, and use that instead for the time being.

Me: If it’s only a month or so away, why can’t you just put $100 extra credit on my bills to cover the excess data charges to save me from buying equipment I don’t need.

Ricky: Ok, I’ll put $100 per month on your bill to cover both your and James’ excess data charges instead.

Me: Per month? $100 per month?

Ricky: Yep, $50 for each of your phones to cover the excess data charges… the changes are about a month away anyway.

Me: Ok, no worries, and please remove the landline and WiFi charges you are charging me now, because there are no services.

Ricky: Yep, I’ll do that today and you will see it tomorrow on your bill.

That was in September 2015. It is now February 2016, and nothing has happened.

From then onwards, Telstra started calling my phone. When I had time, I would go to work and return the call on my computer. I explained that I am Deaf, James is also Deaf and we couldn’t answer the phone.

Telstra: Ohh ok, I’m making  a note on your account now. We were calling to let you know the works have been delayed another month, and we noticed you haven’t paid your bill.

Me: Yes, ok, I spoke to Ricky, and he said he would update my bill and then I will pay it. You are charging me for a landline I don’t have, WiFi I don’t have and you haven’t put the credit onto my bill yet.

Telstra: Ohh ok, I’ll get Ricky to call you back to discuss.

Me: You can’t call me remember?

Telstra: Ohh that’s right, I’ll leave a note for him. If you want, you can call him direct, heres his number XXXX-XXXX.

So I called Ricky on his direct line, and the answering machine message said “Hi this is Ricky, I’m not able to come to the phone now, please leave your name and number and I’ll call you back” so I left a message with instructions to text me. Nothing ever happened. The phone kept ringing every night.

Sick of my phone ringing, my 9 year old boy Alex said to me “Mum, can I just answer the phone? Just let me answer it and tell them you are deaf.” So I gave in – just to see what would happen. Alex was awesome. He said very politely:

Excuse me, but my mum can’t come to the phone because she can’t hear on the phone. She is deaf, you will need to email or text her… no… no but she can’t hear… yes she’s here… no but she can’t come to the phone, she’s Deaf. You need text message or email her… Ok bye”

Alex told me that they said they would email or text me now. Of course, no text or no email.

I repeated the above process – no joke – every single month until I finally had enough and made a complaint to the Telecommunications Ombudsman. I filled in the online complaint form and was sent a letter saying:

“Your complaint has been placed in a queue, a case manager will be assigned when one becomes available. In the meantime, please continue to try to resolve this with your service provider”

Despite countless emails and calls to both the TIO and Telstra, nothing happened.

Finally in January 2016, I lost it. I went on a massive rant on Telstras Facebook, peppered with a lot of shouty words such as

HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TO TELL YOU

WE… ARE.. DEAF!!!

No less than four different Telstra reps monitoring the Facebook page apologised profusely and said they would get it followed up. I got an email from a complaints case manager saying:

“I apologize about this… I wasn’t made aware you are Deaf”

Umm.. what??!

Even Alex got frustrated. After getting this email, we received four more phone calls, and on the last call, Alex, bless his gorgeous heart, picked up the phone and said:

Alex: Now, listen here you drongo! My mum is deaf! How many times do I have to tell you! This is the second time you have called tonight, and I told you before that my mum is deaf, text her!!

Telstra guy: No it’s not. It’s the first time you have told me.

Alex: It’s not!! We are telling you all the time!!

Telstra guy: Can you please put your mum on the phone.

Alex: *hangs up the phone* Geez Mum, there’s no point! They aren’t listening!

Me: *crying laughing* Alex, what exactly is a drongo??

Poor boy. Already getting a large life lesson out of Telstra.

Meanwhile, while I was dealing with this, James was getting madder and madder. Anyone who knows James, knows that he is the type to storm into a shop and do a “Kerry Packer” reenactment. He had been telling me from day one to “Go. Into. The. STORE!” with gritted teeth. So I gave in and did that, and went to the Telstra store at Chirnside Park.

I sat there for 1.5 hours. I explained the story to four different people. I became so tired; they had strong accents, it’s a noisy store, it was a real struggle to understand them and I could feel a migraine coming on. They rang the ombudsman because they were stumped at what to do. They basically sent one person out to tell me:

Telstra: We are going to photocopy everything and investigate and let you know the outcome.

Me: How long will this take?

Telstra: Ahh, about two weeks. Then we will call you back to let you know the outcome.

Me: You realize you need to text me?

Telstra: Oh. That’s right. Just write your number here.

I left the store feeling dejected. I have never felt so crap about being Deaf in my whole life. It never bothered me before then – at all –  however, a simple tiny thing about a stupid phone/internet contract just became all too hard.

Over the weekend I saw my family. My stepdad is the king of the “…f**king Telstra…” thing, he hates them and had had so many issues with them (and no he’s not Deaf either!). I talked about it with him and immediately snapped out of my self-pity and said to myself “No.. f**k this. I’m not in the wrong, they are. It’s not too hard, I could fix this myself if given half the chance. It’s not my fault.”

So. No I haven’t resolved it yet. My next step is to take my complaint to the office of the CEO of Telstra. If I haven’t heard back from them in a reasonable timeframe, and if they don’t do anything about it, then I’m going to abandon my contract and wait for them to take me to court. It’s a risk, yes, but I’ve exhausted every option known and there’s no avenue I haven’t explored yet. I have more than enough proof that I have tried everything and to no avail. It if takes little old me to make a risky change, then so be it!

** Note: Over half of the letters and emails I have received to date has been addressed to my mum, despite many many requests to change it. I found out later, apparently because I listed my mum as a person that can call and get information on my behalf, she now has full authority over my account, and I’m just a leasee of it!

 

Surviving in today’s society

Community development has changed significantly in the last decade, and many community and activist organisations have changed to reflect this. However, it becomes a vague matter for marginalised groups where there are community organisations focused on the community development of these marginalised groups.

The Deaf community is a marginalised group, and there are many community organisations that provide services and advocacy for deaf community members. The question is: will they survive in the current context with the concepts of empowerment and participation?

There is a vast difference between various organisations within the Deaf community in how they approach community development, especially how they connect with the Deaf community.

There are two approaches in community development; top-down and bottom-up. Top-down approach is where decisions are made at the top and requires very little community participation. When decisions are made using this approach, the community is expected to implement it. If this approach is used in community development, the strengths, resources, skills and expertise of the community are usually ignored.

This can cause issues for the community, as they will feel ‘disconnected’ from their community organisation, which has been reflected with a couple of organisations and their relationship with the Deaf community. In the last few years, the Deaf community has begun feeling ‘disconnected’ from a number of organisations, thus they have lost trust in their preferred organisation; this was shown in declining membership numbers and lack of participation.

Power lies in the grassroots; however this has been forgotten as the top-down approach is constantly used in regards to making decisions for the community. Bottom-up approach is also known as grassroots development – we will use grassroots instead of bottom-up approach. A number of organisations effectively use this approach in order to work with the grassroots members within the Deaf community, and are committed to ensuring they have access to basic human rights, as this commitment is required to empower ordinary people so they can have real options for their future.

Deaf people are the ones who have experience living as a deaf person in the dominant society that consists of people who can hear. The grassroots development approach is also based on the argument that people who are affected by decisions about their future should be empowered to effectively control or influence decisions through collective action.

In 2012, Deaf Victoria submitted an inquiry into the provision of Auslan interpreters in Victorian public hospitals because they were receiving numerous complaints from deaf people across the state about public hospitals failing to provide Auslan interpreters when requested for their medical appointments. This is an excellent example of the grassroots development based on a group of people influencing decisions through collective action with the support of a community organisation.

Deaf people are often left powerless when it comes to decision-making, as they are often rendered marginal through their inability to hear. This is also considered audism, which is the belief that those with the ability to hear are superior or “normal” (Callis, 2015). Using the grassroots development approach is also an effective way to combat audism within the mainstream society.

Discrimination occurs when the needs of deaf people are ignored by others such as access to information in sign language and/or live captioning, provision of captions for films and television programs, access to education and other basic human rights. This happens often if the top-down approach is used in regards to making decisions for the deaf community. However, segregation also occurs within the deaf community where members are separated into two groups — ‘elites’ and ‘grassroots’.

Padden (2008) said that the difference between ‘elite’ and ‘grassroots’ varies in Deaf communities around the world. Based on discussions with fellow Deaf colleagues, the Australian deaf community sees ‘elites’ as these deaf people who are university educated; are members of a deaf family; hold professional jobs; and are leaders in the community, whereas ‘grassroot deaf’ are these who are deemed average people; do not hold a leadership role within the community; did not seek further education beyond high school, and are from hearing families. However, it is important to note that the deaf community in Australia is not too concerned about the segregation of ‘elites’ and ‘grassroots’ but there is the issue of the ‘tall poppy syndrome’.

Tall poppy syndrome is rife in the Australian culture, but even so in the Australian deaf community. Deaf people, who achieve something they have worked so hard for, or are well on their way to success, are often cut down by other deaf people in higher places. This kind of issue does not empower deaf people, especially these at grassroots level.

We often forget that we are humans who are productive, social and creative beings and we enter relationships with other humans in order to produce our world (Marx, 1977). Essentially, Deaf community organisations need to establish a strong rapport with the deaf community so they can support us to realise our fullest potential as equal citizens.

Empowerment is crucial for the deaf community because deaf people need to be empowered to be able to make decisions for themselves, as the concept of empowerment aims to increase the power of marginalised people. Community organisations have a social responsibility to empower their members, and we need to commit to the collective empowerment of ordinary people — that is grassroots — and to transform social structures, relations and processes. Essentially, Deaf community organisations need to give power to the deaf community so they can take matters into their own hands whilst being supported by these organisations.

Dr. Liisa Kauppinen (2015) stated that deaf people are a part of the human diversity and that we have a social responsibility to apply the CRPD to our everyday lives so we can live as equal citizens. This is where community organisations come in so they can advocate for our right to be included in the society as equal citizens. Diversity is an important part of community development as it takes place in a range of groups, and third sector organisations have a commitment to human rights and empowering marginalised people (Kenny, 2011).

Deaf community organisations have a social responsibility to strengthen the human diversity within the deaf community and in the dominant society. According to Kenny (2011), community development encourages a diversity of views, lifestyles and cultures. This is important because the deaf community is diverse, especially having Auslan recognised as the language of the Australian deaf community.

Holcomb (2013) said that the diversity of the Deaf community is so much more than just various racial, religious, ethnic, and economic backgrounds. Diversity in the Deaf community makes it possible for academicians and community development practitioners to approach the Deaf experience in terms of Deaf culture and sign language (Holcomb, 2013). Deaf community organisations need to embrace the diversity of the Deaf community and to welcome people who are hard of hearing, parents of deaf children, educators, and sign language interpreters.

Participation is vital in community development especially with marginalised communities. In the Deaf community, participation is essential especially using the bottom-up approach. However, this can become problematic when people are consulted or information about a decision but has little or no power to affect it (Ife, 2013).

A strong response from the community can be expected if they are not consulted about changes to their community organisation/s. It is essential to hold community consultations with the whole community, rather than just members, so they can make decisions based on a grassroots approach, rather than using the top-down approach.

Ife (2013) says that community organisations should seriously attempt to encourage and develop community participation to overcome skepticism. The majority of the deaf community is skeptical of a number of Deaf community organisations nowadays, so they need to look at ways to overcome this — perhaps start with using the grassroots approach and establishing a rapport with the entire deaf community, rather than taking all the power and making decisions for them. This will not be achieved overnight, as it will take time as Ife (2013) said it is a slow and developmental process and requires sustainability.

There is a number of fantastic Deaf community organisations and they have done so much for the Deaf community. However, they will not survive in today’s society if they use the top-down approach, especially if they fail to establish a good & strong rapport with the Deaf community.

The bottom-up, or rather, a grassroots approach would allow the Deaf community organisations to survive in the current society – especially whilst representing Deaf people on all levels (national, state and local). Listen to the Deaf community and find out what they want, and effectively use advocacy tools to ensure Deaf people have access to basic human rights so they can participate in the society as equal citizens. Empowerment and participation are essential for the survival of Deaf community organisations, especially so they can connect with the deaf community at grassroots level. After all, Deaf community organisations are the organisations of the Deaf community.

References

Callis, L. Deaf Discrimination: The Fight For Equality Continues. Published on 18th July 2015 in The Huffington Post. Retrieved on 23rd August 2015 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lydia-l-callis/deaf-discrimination-the-f_b_7790204.html?ir=Australia

Holcomb, T. 2013. Introduction to American Deaf Culture. New York: Oxford University Press.

Ife, J. 2013. Community Development in an Uncertain World. Melbourne: Cambridge University Press.

Kauppenin, L. 2015. Deaf People: An Important Part of Human Diversity. Presented at the XVII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf on 28th July 2915. Istanbul, Turkey.

Kenny, S. 2011. Developing Communities for the Future. 4th edition. Melbourne: Cengage Learning Australia.

Padden, C. 2008. The decline of deaf clubs in the United States: A treatise on the problem of place. In H-D. Bauman (Ed.), Open your eyes: Deaf studies talking (pp.169-176). Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Inspirations in Istanbul – Day 3 cont’d

Continuing from Day 2 & plenary speakers of Day 3…

The Linguistic-Cultural Rights in Deaf Education and the Sign Language Act in Finland – Jaana Aaltonen (Finland).

Finnish Sign Language Act was approved by the Finnish Parliament in March 2015. However, Finnish Sign Language has been recognised as a natural language and the language of the Deaf community in Finland since 1995.

Jaana Aaltonen, alongside with Pirkko Selin Grönlund and Päivi Rainò, carried out a national survey to collect information and statistics about sign language users and deaf pupils in schools across Finland, and the pedagogic arrangements of sign language in Finnish schools.

The findings were:

Aaltonen said that the number of children using sign language in schools is decreasing at an alarming rate. She hopes that the new Finnish Sign Act (2015) will increase the number of children using sign language in schools. She showed a list of recommendations/solutions based on findings from the national survey:

  • To promote linguistic rights in basic education and the implementation of it; especially pupils who use Finnish-Swedish sign language.
  • More guidance for local schools and also more further training for teachers. The responsibility of local Deaf clubs has not been discussed yet.
  • More Deaf signers to teacher jobs. More learning materials and a pedagogical reform are needed.
  • More qualitative research is needed.

The main purpose of Finnish Sign Language Act (2015) is to promote the realisation of the linguistic rights of signers. Aaltonen also stressed on the importance of promoting opportunities of signers to use their language and to receive information in their own language.

 

 

 

Facebook is also used for academic networking and support, as Cuculick has found during her research. Academics also use Facebook to support each other.

 

 

                 

First Signs, a brilliant initiative established by Deaf Aotearoa, provides families, who have deaf and hard of hearing children, with opportunities to include NZSL as an additional language in their home. Bensley et al said that the initative also encourages families to become bimodal, and connects them with deaf professionals and the Deaf community in New Zealand.

NZSL@SCHOOL – a joint initative between the Ministry of Education and two Deaf schools in New Zealand:

 

   

 

 

 

Inspirations in Istanbul – Days 2.5 (cont’d) & 3.

Continuing on from Day 2 in previous post

Access Denied: The Marginalisation of the Deaf Prisoner – Linda Dornay, Tracey Steiner & Stephen Nicholson (VicDeaf)

Australia finally takes the stage with Linda, Tracey and Stephen from VicDeaf!!

Tracey opened the presentation by presenting a fact: 2 in 10 of Australia has a hearing loss, whereas 9 in 10 of Indigenous Australians has a hearing loss. The inspiration behind the presentation is there is a lack of research on the population of prisoners who are Deaf or HoH in Australia. Apparently this is the same issue in other countries…

Linda then took over from Tracey and shared about the experience of a typical Deaf prisoner. Communication barriers are often the strife between deaf prisoners and law enforcement officers. Police usually use high-level English while giving cautions; many deaf people do not understand and they do not have appropriate English skills to be able to cope with the police and prison process. Linda mentioned that the reading age for most deaf prisoners is around 6 years old.

Continue Reading Inspirations in Istanbul – Days 2.5 (cont’d) & 3.

Inspirations in Istanbul – Days 1 & 2.5

Since learning of the World Federation of the Deaf and their World Congresses at the timid age of 14, I had made it my life mission to go to a Congress.

15 years, 21+ hours of travelling, an overnight trip to Gallipoli and 2 days of exploring Istanbul later…

I had finally made it to the XVII World Congress of the World Federation of the Deaf!

Continue Reading Inspirations in Istanbul – Days 1 & 2.5

Battle of Sign Bilingualism – Part 1.

DISCLAIMER: Everything Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling.

September 11, 1880.

The Second International Congress on Education of the Deaf had finally come to a close, yet everyone was waiting on Voldemort to deliver his closing remarks. What he was to say next would change Deaf education and the Deaf community forever.

Voldemort stood tall and proud on the stage with educators looking at him in awe. He cleared his throat.

“Gentlemen and ladies, I am proud of what has transpired out of this Congress. We have become better educators and we aspire to make our deaf and dumb students become normal and inclusive of our society. Sign language should not be used. Sign language should be banned from schools and homes. Sign language will make deaf people dumber. If we want our deaf and dumb students to flourish and become full members of our society, we have to teach them to speak. Oralism is the only method that will succeed. Are you in?”

Continue Reading Battle of Sign Bilingualism – Part 1.

Developing our brain through language

Whilst browsing Facebook this morning, I came across this poster:

 

I frowned. I did not know how I truly felt about this.

As you are aware that I have nothing against cochlear implants. I’ve always seen them as powerful hearing aids. Like the poster said, they will allow the implantee to whisper secrets with their friends, enjoy music and listen to their teachers.

Continue Reading Developing our brain through language