By Vanessa Vlajkovic
Let’s start with a question – do all of you reading this magazine take your eyes and your ears for granted? The answer for 99 percent of you, is probably yes. But what about the remaining 1 percent? This 1 percent will tell you that you should never take anything for granted in life, because you can lose something almost as quickly as you got it.
For the purpose of this article, we are going to look at the future of the Deaf and Deafblind communities – this covers a lot of ground, and more than likely is way too broad a topic to be completely understood. However, with some information and a little personal experience thrown into the mix, you’ll hopefully come out the other end feeling a bit more educated on the subject.
To give some perspective, and while I won’t go into detail, I have never known what it’s like to have perfect vision. On the other hand, I could hear normally up to the age of seven; after this, my hearing was mostly stable for the better part of 10 years. Today though, I communicate with sign language as I was re-diagnosed a few years ago with a new condition that hearing aids couldn’t fix.
Anyway, this is not about me. I merely want you to get a feel of who is behind this article in order to make sense of what I’m saying. To some, I’m sure the issues faced by people like myself may seem trivial; however, I’m here to tell you that it’s as important as anything else you can think of that needs improving.
There are a billion different forms of discrimination in this world and inaccessibility is right up there at the top of the list. At least there are laws such as the Racial Discrimination Act that will stop someone from misbehaving because there’s a legal argument to support a court case. Unfortunately, the Disability Discrimination Act does not seem to be having the same desired effect on the community.
An example: every time I sit on an aeroplane, I am forced to watch an interpreter next to me as the safety instructions are explained. Yes people, I have to bring an interpreter, but why? The simple answer: airlines don’t bother to provide accessible versions of this information – as far as they are concerned, deaf people don’t need to know what to do if there is an emergency. No sign language or Braille means we, the disadvantaged, cannot live the independent lives we are entitled to. It’s pretty ridiculous hey? And it can be changed, but it NEEDS to be fought for. The future of these people is not looking too bright at the moment because organisations are refusing to provide us with the essentials.
I’m going to skip the second example of Braille menus because I will run out of space – nonetheless, keep in mind I don’t have the liberty to read any old restaurant menu.
As you can see from the above, the Deaf and Deafblind population are suffering unnecessarily due to the ignorance of society.
These are only two of the challenges faced by myself and my fellow Deafblindies. There are many more, but the bottom line is: if change isn’t made, and made soon, we are setting up our next generations for failure.
We are putting obstacles in their way that shouldn’t be there, barriers to an equal life that they don’t deserve. If I have to go through it, fine. But I’ll be damned if those after me are subjected to the same mistreatment.
It’s the twenty first century, we should be embarrassed that things like this even exist – it would have been excusable 100 years ago, but now? With all the advances in technology that are happening, it’s highly disappointing that some groups of humans are having to live below average.