Which of the following statements best describes you?
• I’m a person with disability
• I’m a disability advocate and/or work for a disability peak association or service provider

Question 1:
During the first stage of consultations we heard that the vision and the six outcome areas under the current Strategy are still the right ones. Do you have any comments on the vision and outcome areas being proposed for the new Strategy?

I believe that an inclusive society requires ongoing education of the general public in order to inform their attitudes towards those with disability.

If the overarching goal is to have people with disabilities become truly included and equal members of the community, then strategy should be focused on improving the wider community in which they are going to live, work and participate in i.e. the people and services around them, not just the disability space and supports available to them.

There are often plenty of tools and supports available but those who are in charge of providing those supports, may not be aware or feel that it’s their responsibility to provide them.

There are also discrepancies in the awareness of what people with disabilities actually need i.e. there is often a blanket assumption that all deaf/hard of hearing people require Auslan interpreters when vast majority are oral and may require subtitles/live captioning instead.

Question 2:
What do you think about the guiding principles proposed here?

1. Has the policy/program designer listened to and understood the concerns of those whose voices may not be as loud as others? Has the designer understood who the real priority populations are with each disability i.e. not just the ones who have a strong media/public presence.

2. Does the design actually work in reality?

3. Is the design addressing the actual complexities of the situation or trying to shoehorn or combine things into an existing framework?

4. Is the design more for improving the disability space or the actual connection between the disability and mainstream space?

Question 3:
What is your view on the proposal for the new Strategy to have a stronger emphasis on improving community attitudes across all outcome areas?

I agree with the caveat that it’s not just attitudes that need to be improved but also the misinformed assumptions that need to be corrected.

People may be much more positive, welcoming and willing to help those with disabilities but they may do so with blanket assumptions of what they think that person with disability needs i.e. assuming that a person who is profoundly deaf, wears cochlear implants, and communicates orally, will require an Auslan interpreter or louder volumes on audio playback or doesn’t need help because they can speak and listen with their cochlear implant.

Question 4:
How do you think that clearly outlining what each government is responsible for could make it easier for people with disability to access the supports and services they need?

I’m not sure that it will as responsibilities can be outlined but not fulfilled.

How will governments be compelled to follow through on their responsibilities?

People with disabilities want to access and use supports and services, not fight for them, they’ve already got enough on their plate.

Question 5:
How do you think the Strategy should represent the role that the non-government sector plays in improving outcomes for people with disability?

The strategy should guide non-government organisations to take internal stock of their own employees to really see how they can better provide for those who may or may not be willing to speak up about their own disabilities, major or minor, for fear of being perceived as incompetent or an economic burden on the company if they were to ask for additional resources to do their job.

Question 6:
What kind of information on the Strategy’s progress should governments make available to the public and how often should this information be made available?

Real-time reporting and regular reviewing and action-taking needs to occur at least 2-3 times a year. There is too much lag in between current reporting, reviewing and taking action.

Question 7:
What do you think of the proposal to have Targeted Action Plans that focus on making improvements in specific areas within a defined period of time (for example within one, two or three years)?

Targeted Action Plans are good provided they actually achieve their targets!

There should be live captioning and subtitles on all public transport systems, all major sporting events, all cultural events as they will benefit not just deaf/hard of hearing people but everybody.

Focus on strategies that highlight the invisibility of deafness and how commonplace it actually is, this will in turn highlight the importance of good communication and etiquette, particularly as to bridge the divide between the multicultural populations in Australia.

Question 8:
How could the proposed Engagement Plan ensure people with disability, and the disability community, are involved in the delivery and monitoring of the next Strategy?

Ensure that it’s not just the peak bodies in each disability sector that are involved but also the smaller disability organisations such as Hear For You that service particular segments of that disability population.

Hear For You is the only organisation in Australia that provides mentoring for deaf/hard of hearing teenagers who communicate via speech and come from the mainstream population. They are the ones who are building tomorrow’s deaf/hard of hearing leaders.

Whilst ensuring all organisations have been given a chance to contribute, give them the opportunity to lead their chosen initiatives in the public eye and with equal time. The overall responsibility is on the governments to ensure those initiatives are properly developed with the agreement of each organisation tasked with leading that initiative. It’s one thing to consult them but another to discard the recommendations in the final proposal.

Question 9:
Is there anything else you would like to share about the ideas and proposals in the position paper?

Please do not work off existing assumptions of the disability space.

For example, it is critical to understand that the vast majority of deaf/hard of hearing people are oral, use hearing aids and/or cochlear implants and do not use sign language. This is true globally.

Due to the invisibility of this population for various reasons such as:

1. They may already be performing at a high level socially, academically, sporting-wise or in the workplace and do not want to draw attention to their hearing for fear of misconceptions or having to deal with educating people all the time

2. They are too busy in their daily lives with family and work commitments to be able to band together and effectively advocate for their needs

3. Their needs may not be deemed as pertinent or important as others i.e. live captioning, subtitles compared to sign language interpreters

4. The prevailing culture of ‘I’ll be fine’ has been created both in response to and because of people wanting to appear normal and not wanting to ‘rock the boat’ in their formative childhood and teenage years which means by the time they reach young adulthood and are starting to speak out, momentum has been lost.

5. They may not classify themselves as deaf because they don’t use sign language or don’t want to be perceived as lesser or because they don’t feel confident speaking up about their experiences about being deaf/hard of hearing when both the general public and the signing Deaf community don’t deem them as ‘deaf’ enough.

Understanding this invisible, silent majority is fundamental to generating proper outcomes and reporting that truly reflect the state of people with disabilities in Australia.