Deaf Australia is always a hive of activity, busy with all sorts of tasks; working hard to make life better for Deaf people. Read more here about what we’ve been up to lately.
- Key Priority 1: Early intervention and education
National Summit on Early Intervention and Education for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Children, Canberra, 29 and 30 November 2012
The summit was a great success. We are now working with strategic planning company Grant Thornton on the report from the summit.
Early Intervention Working Group (Qld) and Qld Forum on Young Children with a Hearing Loss
I attended a meeting of the EIWG on 4 December 2012 and the QFYCHL on 26 February. Our involvement in these groups continues our work on building bridges with the early intervention industry and raising awareness of the importance of deaf children having access to both speech and Auslan from the time their deafness is identified.
Employment is not currently a key priority (because we don’t have the resources to do everything that needs doing) but when opportunities arise to advocate for employment, we do take them.
The Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, the Hon Bill Shorten MP, released a discussion paper about how to improve employment participation for people with disabilities. We set up a survey based on the questions asked in the paper and received some fantastic feedback from the community – thank you everyone. Based on this feedback, we sent in a submission paper on 15 February. The paper can be seen on our website www.deafau.org.au in the advocacy section.
Along with representatives from other peak disability organisations, I also attended a roundtable discussion with the Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations on this topic on 21 February.
- Key Priority 2: Access to communications
SMS emergency call service
We have been advocating for an SMS emergency call service for about eight years now and our efforts have finally succeeded. The Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy announced on 7 February that the new National Relay Service (NRS) contract will include an SMS emergency call service from 1 July 2013. We are delighted with this outcome, and we will be watching closely to see the service established.
Video Relay Service and Captioned telephony
We have also been advocating for many years for a Video Relay Service (VRS) and captioned telephony to be included in the NRS. The announcement on 7 February included that VRS and captioned telephony will be included from 1 July 2013. For information about the new and improved NRS go to Improved National Relay Service from 1 July 2013 (AUSLAN)
ACCAN Roundtable on accessible ICT procurement
I participated in a teleconference organised by ACCAN on 27 February to discuss a campaign and toolkit for lobbying governments to purchase accessible ICT (information and communication technology). This is an excellent idea and we congratulate ACCAN and the authors of the toolkit. Unfortunately our ability to participate in the campaign is very limited because we have no funding for communications related advocacy and we are already overloaded with work related to the funding we receive from FaHCSIA. However we will do our best to send out information about the campaign and to encourage everyone to get involved.
Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN) announced on 1 November 2012, the results of the board election at their AGM, and there were no persons with a disability elected. I sent an email to ACCAN asking about this, but I have still not received a reply from anyone at ACCAN. However, we have recently received a general information email advising that Dean Barton Smith has been co-opted to the ACCAN board. We congratulate Dean on this appointment. However, it is of serious concern to us that only one person on the board is a person with a disability and is only been co-opted, not elected. ACCAN is supposed to be representing the communications needs of deaf people and people with disabilities generally, about 30% of their membership is from the disability sector, and they are the only body that government now funds to do communications advocacy work. There is a view that the ACCAN constitution should mandate that at least 30% of its board should be people with disability.
- Key Priority 3: Access to information and media
AFDO, in alliance with other organisations has been conducting an NDIS engagement project since mid-2012, but we have had little opportunity to be involved and we have not had any funding to organise community engagement meetings specifically for Deaf people. So we organised for AFDO to hold an NDIS workshop during our early intervention and education summit on 29 November 2012 in Canberra. Although it was not the best time to do this as people were tired after a long and intense day, it was an opportunity for Deaf people and family members to at least have some input while some of us were together in Canberra. Our thanks to Leah Hobson of AFDO for travelling to Canberra to do this workshop.
In August last year we sent in a submission for funding from the Practical Design Fund for funds for a project to raise Deaf community awareness and understanding of the NDIS. We included ASLIA in our submission. Other organisations in the deaf sector also sent in submissions for projects. Successful applicants were announced in November 2012 and not one deaf sector submission was approved. In December Deaf Australia sent a letter to the Minister, the Hon Jenny Macklin MP and the Parliamentary Secretary, Senator the Hon Jan McLucas on behalf of the sector. This letter was co-signed by eight other organisations in the Deaf sector plus AFDO, and we thank them for their collaboration and support. We have not yet received a response.
However, late in February received an offer of $8,000 funding from FaHCSIA to help us with our NDIS engagement work and this is very much appreciated; while it is only a little, it will help. The funding documents and requirements for how we can use it have not yet been received but we should be able to organise some community information and engagement activities about the NDIS very soon.
I met with FaHCSIA on 28 November 2012 to discuss the draft NDIS Legislation before it was released for public comment in December.
Our President Ann Darwin and I attended an AFDO members meeting on 14 January 2013, about the NDIS legislation. From this meeting AFDS prepared a submission to the Senate Inquiry on the legislation. We provided comments and further information on the draft submission.
We also sent a small submission of our own to the Senate inquiry on 25 January. Our submission said that we support the AFDO submission and highlighted issues of particular concern to deaf people. You can see our submission on our website www.deafau.org.au in the advocacy section.
It seems government is consulting on the name for the new NDIS and at the end of January I was interviewed by a market research company contracted by FaHCSIA about my views on various names for the NDIS.
ACMA TV captioning quality standard
Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) is developing TV captioning quality standards. The standards are required by last year’s changes to the Broadcasting Services Act and need to be developed by 30 June 2013. ACMA has consulted with Deaf Australia and other stakeholders at a number of meetings over the past few years. There have been two basic issues of disagreement between consumer representatives and industry representatives: we want numeric measures in the quality standards, i.e., 98% (or 95% or something similar) accuracy and no more than 5 seconds time lag in the captions but the industry does not want any numeric measures.
ACMA released a discussion paper and the draft standard in December 2012 and we were extremely disappointed with it.
We liaised with Media Access Australia (MAA) and ACCAN on our responses to the draft standard (Deafness Forum was also invited but was unable to attend the teleconference) and we sent a submission to ACMA on 21 January 2013. Deaf Victoria, all state Deaf Societies/Services, Arts Access Victoria and Deaf Children Australia all agreed to have their names on the first page as organisations supporting our submission. We thank them all for their support.
Our submission also covered other issues not in the draft standard:
- How complaints to ACMA about captioning will be managed effectively. ACMA tends to take a long time to investigate complaints and we are concerned about this.
- How standards will be communicated to the community, stressing that they need to be communicated also in Auslan.
You can see our submission on our website www.deafau.org.au in the advocacy section.
ACAG (Accessible Cinema Advisory Group) will next meet on 15 March 2013.
Deaf Australia continues to work with ACAG to try to improve the situation for deaf people’s access to movies screened by the ‘big 4’ cinemas. However, we are concerned about the lack of progress in resolving many of the issues such as the poor service patrons are receiving from cinema staff and problems with the Captiview units not working. We are also exploring other strategies to get open captioning in cinemas, outside the ACAG process, such as working with the independent cinemas.
AHRC ’20 years, 20 stories’
The Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) is now 20 years old, and to celebrate this, the Australian Human Rights Commission has made a series of 20 videos telling the stories of 20 people who have used the DDA to fight for their rights. The Governor General led a celebration of this and launched the videos at a function at Admiralty House in Sydney on 1 March. Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, Minister for Disability Reform the Hon Jenny Macklin and Queensland Anti-Discrimination Commissioner Kevin Cocks all made presentations at the event. It was wonderful to catch up with so many fellow disability advocates and to remember the achievements over the years. Of course there is still a great deal to do, but we have made some progress. You can see the videos on the AHRC website at http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/videos.html#works-for-me
- Key Priority 4: Organisational stability and growth
The board met on 2 and 3 February in Brisbane. This was the first meeting for new board members Rachel Miers and Ida Rogers, and our President Ann Darwin gave them a warm welcome to the board. The first day of the meeting was devoted to governance training and action planning, led by past board member Kyle Miers and current board member Todd Wright.
National Disability Awards
Ann Darwin and I attended the National Disability Awards dinner in Canberra on 28 November 2012. Many deserving people won awards and we congratulate them all. We were especially excited to see The Captioning Studio and Australian Communication Exchange jointly win the award for Excellence in Improving Social Participation, and Michael Small jointly win with Samantha Jenkinson the Minister’s Award for Excellence in Disability Reform. Deaf Australia has a long history or working with ACE and also with Michael Small in his previous role at the Australian Human Rights Commission. Our congratulations to them.
The second 4Senses event was held on 9 February. At the first event the organisers learnt a lot about how to make it really accessible for deaf people and they put this experience into practice the second time around, resulting in an even better event this time. Numbers of hearing people attending were higher but there were less deaf people than at the first event. The volunteer organisers are very enthusiastic and committed to the 4Senses concept, but it is a huge amount of work for them so they will only continue to hold it if lots of deaf people attend. They hope to hold another 4Senses in mid-2013 so we will need to promote it widely and encourage everyone to come along and bring their friends.
We are starting 2013 with a new format for our newsletters – a blog. We hope that this will help make our information easier for you to access and more widely available, and easier for us to keep you up to date more quickly. In combination with the new blog we will send out monthly summaries. We would welcome your feedback on this new format.
Deaf Australia still has a small number of members who do not have Internet access or for some other reason still need to receive paper copies of the newsletter. For these people we will continue to send information in paper format.
The annual meeting of Deaf Australia’s board and state branch representatives was held in Canberra on 1 December 2012. We were very lucky to have WFD President Colin Allen lead a workshop on leadership and partnerships. Deaf Australia board member Todd Wright then led a workshop on governance. We hope these workshops will assist the states with their work.
Three QAD board members joined the Deaf Australia board for the board training day 2 February, focusing on governance and action planning. We hope to be able to do more training involving states to provide more support to them.
World Federation of the Deaf
WFD President Colin Allen made an engaging presentation at Deaf Australia’s AGM on 30 November 2012 and led a training workshop for our board and states on 1 December. We thank Colin for making time in his busy international schedule to be with us in Canberra and share his wide knowledge and experience.
The WFD Board has asked Deaf Australia to host a workshop for WFD Ordinary Members in Sydney on 16 October 2013, the afternoon before the WFD Conference begins. We have found a fabulous venue, a heritage room at the State Library of NSW and look forward to welcoming WFD and its delegates there.
In our November newsletter we included information about and a call for expressions of interest to attend the WFD junior camp in Rome this year but received none. Applications for the camp have now closed, but there may be a chance we can still send some so if you are interested please send your expression of interest to me urgently at email@example.com
Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO)
AFDO has been through a review by consultants appointed by FaHCSIA. I was interviewed as part of the review on 15 November 2012. The report of the review has now been received and Deaf Australia joined other AFDO members at two days of strategic planning for AFDO on 28 February and 1 March.
AFDO, in partnership with People with Disabilities Australia and others wrote the Australian Shadow report on Australia’s compliance with the UNCRPD (we had some input into it way back). To assist the group, I obtained quotes from three different organisations for the cost of translating the summary into Auslan. We hope the translation will be available soon.
Australian Federation of Deaf Societies (AFDS)
Our President Ann Darwin and I met with AFDS representatives in Canberra on 29 November 2012 and in Melbourne on 15 January 2013. We hope to organise a half day workshop for Deaf Australia and AFDS representatives to revisit roles and try to resolve long standing issues in a new and positive way.
Board members met with DF board members over breakfast in Canberra on 30 November 2012.
Ann Darwin and I met with ASLIA President Paul Heuston and Secretary Teresa Cumpston-Bird on 14 January and discussed a number of issues of mutual interest to Deaf Australia and ASLIA. We are currently working on developing a Memorandum of Understanding.
Deaf Children Australia
We met with DCA in November 2012 and January 2013 and discussed a number of issues, including preparations for the coming NDIS.
DCA’s SignUp Employment Service has won a contract to provide an employment service for deaf people in Brisbane. Deaf Australia has agreed to provide some office space for SignUp and they will be based in our office from 4 March. Two other DCA staff who work on DCA children’s and family programs will also be based at our Stafford office with the SignUp team. We welcome the DCA team to our office.
Vicdeaf has very generously offered to organise some WFD Youth Section activities in Melbourne while everyone is in Australia for the WFD Conference in October this year. Deaf Australia and Deaf Victoria will jointly host these activities with Vicdeaf’s support. A big thank you to Vicdeaf for their generosity.