I have come to realise, as a Deaf person all my life, the whole world is actually not all that accessible to the Deaf community. Fact is, a lot of things are unavailable to us.
The way companies/organisations do podcasts without thinking about text, without thinking about how they have made their podcasts inaccessible to a huge group of people! The Deaf community is a huge huge community. Not only podcasts, but also webinars that have no speech to text or automatic captioning feature!
Kudos to Youtube for making their video platform accessible to us by including an automatic closed captioning feature (that I WISH ALL users who upload videos would ACTIVATE – hey, the CC feature you don’t bother ticking actually does not automatically come up on screen, WE have the option to turn it on if you activate it during uploading videos!) so I WISH other platforms like the various webinar platforms, school course online platforms, facebook videos, IGTV, Twitch, etc would put the automatic captioning feature on their platforms to make it accessible! Vimeo has moved towards doing this, so kudos to them too.
You know, realistically we are excluded from many things, and as my experience and the experience of many other Deaf people go, a lot of people forget that Deaf people would like to be involved, learn new things, have more opportunities. Things like going to the cinema is not all that easy. Cinemas in Australia simply do not want to caption all movies because it “annoys other people” so they have special times just for captioning and when are those times usually? In the morning or afternoon! As if Deaf people don’t have jobs to go to or other commitments during the day! What about night time captioned screenings? European countries learnt to get used to and accept captioning so that Deaf people could enjoy movies alongside them. WHY can’t Australia do the same? Limited screenings, really? Deaf people want more inclusivity.
Other things Deaf people find is, people in general don’t want to learn sign, not even basic sign. A few people yes, but many no. Businesses make no effort to give their employees an opportunity to do a short Auslan course (Auslan – Australian Sign Language). I often go in to shops, and come out frustrated! I am not just a Deaf person that doesn’t mind. I DO mind. I do mind about service, I like good service, friendly service, understanding people. And also people are often scared to communicate with us, scared to give us a chance, or get all nervous. Why? We are not that scary, really.
Public transport is often a problem. There are screens on main stations, sure, but they don’t give enough information. Take the trams in Melbourne for example! They announce more detail but don’t show enough detail on screen for many of us to really understand which stop is where. Train station screens have gotten worse. Only showing the train line, time and not all the train station stops but announcing them! And hearing loops, really? Is that all they can do? Which leads me to the issue highlighted in my artwork at the top.
Have a think about the image above. The fact is I will never hear words ever. The hearing loop’s only purpose is to help those who are hearing impaired who would have already had all or some hearing before they lost most of their hearing. Deaf people who were born deaf (which many were) have never heard words and never ever will, not even with an aid. Why? Because the auditory memory we are all born with, babies with hearing grasp the words as they grow up so by the time they are 5, they already have a grasp of hearing words when the auditory memory disappears – so therefore, those who are Deaf never get the chance to use their auditory memory (unless they were implanted with the cochlear implant very early) and by the time they reach age 5, it is too late. Too late. Those like me who were not able to be implanted with the cochlear implant early in life because it was fairly new and babies were not allowed on the pilot program, missed that window. Not all parents today want to have their Deaf babies implanted with the cochlear so those younger generations miss out. However having said that, Deaf people do have the right not to have the cochlear implant and they want to be Deaf, and have the Deaf culture which is important.
So from all this, I WISH the communities would understand Deaf people will NEVER hear words clearly EVER. So I would like to see MORE text based detailed information everywhere for Deaf people, like braille is in most places for the blind.
Yes we Deaf community have a big Deaf culture, that is important to us. I feel it is not understood much outside the Deaf community or even in some cases respected.
Other thing is businesses, a lot of them, don’t want to move on with technology and make emails and SMS important, preferring to have contact by phone! Why? What for? What about Deaf people! Again not that inclusive.
I will say what also really annoys me is, forms we fill in online force us to enter a phone number! I don’t like that. A lot of Deaf people don’t. We don’t want to be called up because it is no good, it is a waste of time ringing us. Then what if it’s an important opportunity and we miss out? Then they decide to give it to someone else because they can’t get through to speak to us and they don’t want to email. Then that is not fair. The other issue with phone numbers is, many businesses when I have spoken to them about giving my phone number, they have said yes yes they will SMS me but then they go against that request and ring me repeatedly! That one really gets to me. It’s disrespect for us, for our needs, for our clear request to sms only, disrespect for our disability and almost like discrimination because they could not be bothered reading our accounts that would have said clearly to “SMS only as person is Deaf” and that there would have been another contact method, email, that they choose to ignore.
We are seeing such a shortage of Auslan interpreters these days. Why? Not enough people want to learn Auslan, and with the disability insurance scheme (which I am very grateful for) many more people are booking interpreters all the time now as they have that sort of access. But then inaccessibility leans to the other side of the scales in terms of not enough Auslan interpreters being available for something you might need or want to do, be an event, drs appointment, a workshop. Because the interpreters are booked out. The reality is, Auslan takes a few years to learn through TAFE and to acquire the status of qualified as an interpreter and people don’t want to take the time, but there are those who do and they are currently studying. Some however pull out half way. The thing I wish the most is that schools had made Auslan a requirement to learn from the 1950’s so that kids back then may be Auslan signers, even for basic signs. We have been held back for too long.
Another thing I must mention while on the subject of learning langauges is, I am annoyed that my early schoolings didn’t think I should have learnt Italian! That really got to me more recently because I realised I needed to learn Italian properly to converse with my relatives over in Italy. Yes I have google translate, thank god, but it would have been nice for me to know Italian BEFORE google translate was born. Then I would have been able to talk to my beautiful Nonna! But no, school decided I should not learn Italian because it was simply too hard for them! To me that is bollocks. Sorry. My Nonna passed away in 2006 without me ever having the real chance to converse with her. My mum luckily knew Italian and interpreted for us. I could learn Italian today and I am trying to but it is not as easy as it may have been in school.
So now I have listed out all the above inaccessibility issues – sorry about the rant but it needs to be said! It’s time to stand up and speak out loudly for all of us Deaf people!
The real fact is, our whole Earth here is not really all that accessible to the Deaf. At least not in my experience or of the many Deaf people I know.
Anyone who has not lived the experiences I have, will not truly understand so to try and argue their points would not work. I would hope they would just try and understand and gain insight from this written entry.
I will be doing more works on my developing art project on experiences as a Deaf person and my history, stories of my experiences. They’ll be compelling, interesting and insightful I hope.