Category: Discrimination

What’s in a (doggy) name?

What’s in a (doggy) name?

Or why Qantas doesn’t need to know my handle

Hey peeps.

As you know, the Old Dude flies a lot. And of course, I tag along (we’re in Perth at the moment).

It’s cool. I wriggle in under the seat next to him, and there are always crumbs to clean up. I also get lots of admiration from the other passengers and airline staff, which of course I try not to notice. After all, I’m working and it’s not good for me to be distracted.

I wish they wouldn’t try to pat me and talk to me though. I’m trying to work dudes. Take a chill pill and let me do my job.

So, Qantas have introduced a new policy for assistance animals. And they want to know stuff which is — well — pretty in your face. Not the sort of stuff a young female dog likes to reveal.

First, they want to know where I was trained. I wonder if they ask the other passengers what school they went to. So, I tell them Guide Dogs NSW. And the Old Dude puts it in his Frequent Flyer profile — don’t want to have to answer this stuff every time we book. We have lives, you know.

Next they want my length. When you flew last, did they ask you how tall you are? No way. But 60cm goes in the profile — not including my beautiful tail of course.

Next they want my weight. Now come on. Personal as. And I’m a Labrador — you know we enjoy the odd snack or 30. And I see some pretty heavy dudes getting on those planes — not to mention the ones who are carrying a few extra kilos. Do they ask you your weight, or weigh your luggage? Come on Qantas, get a grip. Yet again we’ve chosen not to rock the boat — so we’ve put 30kg in the profile. Well that’s close enough, right. And it’s usually on the mark — unless I go for a big chew-out.

But then their last question for me crosses a line. They want to know my name. And I know what will happen if I tell them. They will put it in the flight manifest, and every flight attendant will think it’s ok to talk to me and distract me.

I’m trying to work dudes!

Well it’s not ok. I have a job to do. And if I don’t do it properly then the Old Dude is not safe. So, distraction, and using my name, is seriously uncool. I bet Qantas didn’t consult any dog handlers before they introduced this question.

But again, the Old Dude has come to the rescue with another one of his bright ideas. He has them occasionally, although don’t tell him that or it will go to his head.

We put his name, Graeme, down as mine. So, when those sneaky distractors think they’re talking to me they’ll just be talking to the hand. And he’ll answer them, which is the way it should be. Humans should talk to him, not to me. I’ve got work to do.

Job done. And I’ll just get on with my work. And the occasional crumb on the floor of course.

Tricked you, Qantas.

See ya peeps.

DOG BLOG … or FINDING A WAY: Hey! That’s My job

DOG BLOG … or FINDING A WAY: Hey! That’s My job

A journal of the life and travels of Graeme Innes from the perspective of his guide dog Arrow

Monday 16 November

Wow, the boss has finished writing that bloody book. I saw him boasting about it on Twitter. About time too. I’ve been doing far too much sitting around and sleeping on the balcony while he wrote that.

It must be huge – he’s been typing for days. Hope he gave me a starring role.

Oh well, at least he did a lot of work on it when we were down at Gerringong last week. I liked it there. Maureen talked him into taking me to the beach a bit and letting me off the lead. And then Rachel would just come and steal me and take me to the beach. I like being with the boss, but it’s all work work work.

At least with Rachel I get to have some fun. All work and no play makes Arrow a dull dog you know.

The book has caused me to think. I’ve decided to start blogging

– damned if I’m going to let the boss have all the profile. I’ll sneak it on to his blog site – probs he won’t notice. And if he does I’ll tell him it will help with book sales – that should get him off my case.

Tuesday 17 November

Oh my goodness! The boss is packing the bag. We just got back from the South Coast and it looks like we are on the road again.

I wonder how far we are going this time. Hope I get to ride in the back seat of the car so I can look out the window.

I watched very carefully. He’s just made up eleven dog dinners.

This could be a big one. And damn it, he didn’t drop a crumb – note to self, jostle his elbow more often.

Wednesday 18 November

I heard the zipping this morning after he and Maureen came back from their walk. He’s showered and dressed – nice suit today but no tie, probably means its meetings rather than speeches. I wish he’d just let me look at his calendar so that I knew what to expect. I wonder if Hey Siri works with barking or loud doggy panting. Might try that if he would ever leave me with the phone.

And we’re off (very excited tail wagging) It’s harness on so it’s a taxi. Damn I don’t get to look out the window. But I can sleep down here on the floor. Hope no-one runs into the back of our taxi like they did yesterday. That gave me a fright and I may have disgraced myself with the little expression of wind I let go. Don’t think they minded too much. Boris our cab driver was more concerned about looking at the back of his car. And the boss is used to my breaks of wind.

Oh I know this place. We’re at PwC. Some sort of meeting. The carpets are nice to lie on here, but the boss and those PwC people do talk a lot. Oh well.

And we’re off again. Another taxi. And it’s the airport. I love flying. Can spread out on the floor of the plane, get admiring smiles from flight attendants and passengers, and the carpet is just crumb heaven. Great.

We’re off to Melbourne. 720 km. I’m going to count them this time.

Another taxi, and a café. Meeting – cafés seem to be the boss’ meeting place of choice. More crumbs.

Now across the road and into the Treasury building. This must be important. Oh Department of Education bureaucrats – with some old friends amongst them from when the boss was Commissioner.

He’s talking to them about the Programme for Students with Disabilities. He’s quite articulate when he gets warmed up you know. I didn’t even snore.

Another taxi and the airport again. Wow, that security guy just pointed and said over there three times before he got it and used left and right. I must be invisible.

This time we’re off to Adelaide – another 650 km. That’s 1370 km for the day. Not bad, but I think tomorrow might beat it.

Does this guy ever stop? He’s dropped our bags at the hotel and now off to a late dinner with colleagues from tomorrow’s conference. Doesn’t he realise an old dog needs her beauty sleep?

Nice hotel though, good carpets. I hope he takes me for a walk in the morning.

Dealing with disability discrimination: Our destiny is in our hands

Presentation to Access Arts conference

Chatswood, 28 October 2014

Scarlet wanted to go to “the school in the bush” but was refused enrollment because her spinabifida meant that she sometimes used a wheelchair.

John wanted to go to the movies with his family, but the lack of captions meant that he did not know what people were saying, and he could not enjoy the soundscape.

Maurice just wanted to catch the bus, but the South Australian government was proposing to buy another fleet of buses which excluded him because of his mobility disability.

Bruce wanted to enjoy the olympic experience with his kids, but the lack of the ticket book in braille, or an accessible web site, meant that he could not.

Madeline and Stella had a passion for fashion, but their retail experience was restricted by the discriminatory policies of the clothing stores they wanted to attend.

And I just wanted to know where I was when travelling by train. 

These are six examples of Australians with disabilities who experienced discrimination. There are millions more. Elizabeth Hastings, the first Disability Discrimination Commissioner, correctly observed that Australians with disabilities swim in a sea of discrimination. It happens to us so often that we frequently don’t even notice.

I’m very pleased that Accessible Arts Australia have decided to feature this issue at this conference, and make a film of discrimination: the good, the bad and the ugly. Because, as Australians with disabilities, discrimination is a significant issue in our lives. The film will be on the Accessible Arts Australia web site soon.

As the promotional material for the conference says “experiences of discrimination can challenge us. They can be isolating, liberating, frustrating or empowering. How we respond to discrimination can have a profound impact, both on ourselves and the people around us.” Profound impact sets the bar for our response very high, but I can assure you – from my own life experience – that those words are true.

When the call went out for exhibits, AAA received messages of loneliness, humiliation and vulnerability, but also received stories of generosity, hope and humour. We see all of those in the film.

I was really pleased to be asked to speak at this exhibition. Perhaps that’s because I watched Missy Higgins play from this very stage several weeks ago. So I’m fan-girling – if an old bloke can fan-girl – about being on the same stage as her.

The request to speak arrived when I was still Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner. My time in that role ended in July of this year. And Senator George Brandis, the Attorney-General of Australia, chose not to appoint another full-time Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and not to have as the Commissioner a person with lived experience of disability. His actions just added another wave to that sea of discrimination, despite the fact that 40 % of discrimination complaints received by the Australian Human Rights Commission relate to disability, twice the total of the next largest ground of complaint. I note that he is appearing on QandA next Monday – perhaps this issue should be the subject of some questions to him.

Experiences of discrimination do challenge us. The film provides numerous examples. exhibiters were isolated by discrimination. Others were frustrated. But many were liberated. And many were empowered. I congratulate and thank all of you who shared your creativity around this issue. Arts is usually the catalyst for social change, and your work can act as incredibly valuable peer support, and as a call to action for many other people with disabilities. It shows us that we are not alone, and it encourages us all to challenge the discrimination we experience.

Because when we do challenge that discrimination, the results are often not only empowering and beneficial for us. The challenge not only affirms to us that we were discriminated against, that it hurt, and that we are fighting back. It can also benefit many other Australians with disabilities. Our response can have a profound impact.

Scarlet’s challenge to her school was rewarded with significant financial compensation, and the confirmation that Hills Grammar had broken the law. But the broader benefits were that publicity of her case showed this wrong to the Australian community, and now this school is welcoming children with disabilities.

John’s action on captions has led to the availability of cinema captioning and audio description on 230 cinema screens throughout Australia. We still have a long way to go, but many more of us than just John and his family have benefited.

Maurice’s complaint led to accessible buses being available on 50 to 60 % of bus routes in metropolitan Australia, with more to come.

Bruce’s complaint led to a large pay-out by Socog, and to web sites throughout Australia being more accessible to people who use screenreaders.

Madeline and Stella can now shop for clothes more easily, and their actions have led to an improved retail experience for everyone.

And when I catch a train I know where I am most of the time, as do millions of other Sydney train commuters.

The arts always lead cultural change, and all of the artistic and legal actions of which I have spoken have made a significant improvement to the environment for people with disabilities. So I congratulate you for that. But it’s not nearly enough – there is still much work to do before we can participate fully in the Australian community. So I encourage you to keep making those challenges – artistically and legally. And here are ten top tips from my experiences in this area –

  1. When discrimination occurs, write it down. Make notes of what took place, what was said, and your reactions to it. The more immediately you write it down, the more accurate will be your recollections, and the stronger will be your evidence.
  1. Lodge your complaint early. Don’t talk to the organisation first before taking your action. You are in a much better negotiating position if you offer to withdraw your complaint when they fix the discrimination.
  1. Make a public announcement when you lodge your complaint. This can be a media release, or just a post on your website, facebook or twitter. This reduces the chance of having to agree to a confidential settlement later on, as the matter is already in the public arena. It also gives your complaint more momentum.
  1. Get support for your actions from friends or colleagues, or others with disabilities. Don’t be on your own against a team of lawyers from the respondent.
  1. Don’t minimise the impact of the discrimination on you. You don’t have to “hang tough” about how you felt – you only have to “hang tough” about how you negotiate.
  1. Always claim compensation, and don’t negotiate it away. Respondents take discrimination seriously if they have to pay money.
  1. Remember that lodging a complaint does not mean you have to go to court or incur costs. Less than 1 % of discrimination complaints go to court, and the decision to go to court is yours and yours alone.
  1. Think through your negotiating position before you meet with the respondent. Just like gardening, it will be much easier to hold your ground if you have prepared your ground.
  1. It doesn’t matter if you cry during a conciliation conference. The impact of discrimination is deep and personal, and emotion running down your cheek has a powerful affect. It’s fine to cry – just keep talking while you’re crying.
  1. More than half the complaints lodged are successfully resolved. to quote that famous Rolling Stones lyric”You can’t always get what you want” but you will affirm yourself, and advance opportunities for others. To continue the quote “So if you try try try, you just might find, you can get what you need.”

Senator Brandis actions – taking away our Commissioner – have meant that our destiny is firmly in our hands. So I encourage all of you, artistically or legally, to challenge the discrimination which you experience. Don’t think that one individual action can’t make a difference – because the reality is that it is only the action of individuals which does make a difference. Your challenge to discrimination will affirm your view of the damage that it did to you, and make a better and more inclusive society for us all.

You Start Monday

For anyone who is unemployed, the words “You start on Monday” are very powerful. For someone like me, who is blind or vision impaired, these words have an even greater significance.

I walked out of Sydney University and the College Of Law with a glint of triumph in my eye. I had the qualifications required to do what I had wanted to do since I was fourteen – be a lawyer.

I spent the next twelve months at about thirty interviews for jobs I did not get. This was because employers did not believe that a blind person could operate as a lawyer, no matter how much I told them that I could. I never heard those words I longed for.

These misconceptions or myths among employers are still very common. Research indicates that we are four times as likely to be unemployed as a person who can see.

I finally took a job as a clerical assistant, the lowest level in the NSW public service. Part of my work involved answering the phone, and telling people the winning lotto numbers. 12

You really need a law degree for that! I was made redundant by an answering machine.

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Today is International White Cane Day, a day to celebrate the independence of people who are blind or vision impaired.

One of the ways in which that independence is achieved and maintained is having a job. But with one-third to half of us out of work, that independence is harder to maintain.

Let’s bust some of those employer myths.

We can access the majority of documents and programs used in a workplace, including emails. We use software which reads content on a computer screen out loud, magnification software that enlarges text on the screen, or a braille display. The government’s Australian Employment Assistance fund pays for such technology.

While technology gives us the independence to read and write, training with a provider like Guide Dogs gives us the skills to find our way around a workplace safely on our own. Such training also allows us to travel safely to and from work.

guiddog_shoppingmall

Employers have a duty of care to all employees to make the workplace safe. Simple things like ensuring hallways and pathways are obstacle free creates a safer workplace for all employees, including us.

We stay in jobs longer, take less sick leave, and make fewer workers compensation claims. Guide Dogs provides free work place appraisals to help employers to identify and provide solutions to potential risks and hazards.

We are very independent. Although we don’t drive, we use mobility aids like long canes or Guide Dogs.

MuQ5qBCblack-lab

We catch public transport, taxis (which are often subsidised), or travel by foot using a talking GPS.

You may not be sure that we can do the job. Talk to us about any concerns you may have. We can work together to find solutions.

Your attitude is the key. I finally found someone who gave me a chance to be a lawyer, and it changed my life.

Graeme Innes is the spokesperson for Guide Dog NSW ACT’s “have cane am able to work” campaign being launched today, International White Cane day. He is Australia’s former Disability Discrimination Commissioner, and the Chair of the Attitude Australia Foundation.

(This article was originally published in the Australian Financial review).

[tags unemployed, blind, blind or vision impaired, sydney university, college of law, lawyer, employer, employers, guide dogs, guide dogs nsw, nsw public service, lotto, answering machine, international white cane day, white cane, bust some myths, myths, software, braille disclay, employment assistance fund, training, trainer, travel, duty of care, work place appraisals, sick leave, workers compensation, public transport, taxis, gps]

Adopting The Bunny Approach

BUNNY

I wake in the morning – there’s an app for that.

I check the weather – there’s an app for that.

I look at Twitter – there’s an app for that.

I check my emails – there’s an app for that.

I send a text – there’s an app for that.

I navigate my environment to a place I have never visited;

I read a book or document;

I browse the web;

I listen to the cricket from overseas;

I operate my home music system;

I read blogs;

I listen to podcasts.

My life with my iPhone, it’s my favourite possession. But it only works if the apps are accessible.

It’s my life – one of the Twenty Years Twenty Stories with which I was involved at the Australian Human Rights Commission related to Geoff scott. He just wanted to make a TTY call when everyone else made phone calls. In those days phones were provided as part of the rental, but TTY’s were not. Telstra opposed Geoff in the human rights commission, but they are clearly a company who can change. They have adopted the bunny approach.

They now support the TTY scheme, but do lots of other things to support access to the telephone system – landline and mobile – and the internet for people with disabilities. 

The Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities, which I like to call the DisCo, promotes, through Australia’s international commitments, a new approach to and for people with disabilities. We are no longer to be viewed as objects of pity and charity. Rather, we are to be regarded as subjects and citizens, and as the bearers of rights, in the same way as other citizens.

The Disability Discrimination Act and equivalent legislation in each State and territory, provide a mechanism to lodge complaints if app developers do not make their app accessible.

This convention, and the legislation which supports it in most countries of the world, is only worth the paper it is written on if it is not put into practise.

We live in a society where the smartphone is playing a more and more important part in all of our lives. Those of us with disabilities must be able to use smartphones on an equal basis with others, in order to participate in society on an equal basis with others.

There are two ways in which this can be achieved. One is that people such as Geoff Scott and Bruce Maguire, who are prepared to lodge discrimination complaints, could lodge complaints against app developers who do not make their apps accessible. That is the stick to enforce the Convention.

But the easier way is the bunny approach. App developers can be proactive, and build their apps accessibly from the start. And in the same way as buildings are cheaper if built accessibly, rather than having to be modified, apps are cheaper if built accessibly rather than having to be modified. That’s the carrot.

Congratulations to all the app developers who have adopted the bunny approach, and who participated in Accan’s accessible apps competition. I regard you all as winners, for joining us in the journey towards a society which includes everyone, not just people without disabilities. Keep eating those carrots – I’m sure there is an app for carrot selection.

(Graeme Innes likes nothing better than eating a raw carrot, and is a devotee of Bugs Bunny.)

Five Minute Flicks: part four

You’ve gotta love a movie with an excellent story line which you can watch in five minutes! I have twenty of them for you. Here are the last five.

One of the activities I led whilst Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner was the production of Twenty Years: Twenty Stories, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Watch these stories with me, because they show how the actions of the main characters changed their lives, and the lives of thousands of other Australians with disabilities. I’ll give you my review, then you can watch the movie.

Rockwheelers:
A man’s struggle to take control of his life, and live it positively, is assisted by being accepted as a member of a sporting team. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-rockwheelers.html

A school in the bush:
Scarlet just wanted to go to school. But she needed all of her seven-year-old tenacity, and the support of her parents, to challenge the discrimination she experienced. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-school-in-the-bush.html

Building better lives:
Far too many Australians with high support needs are stuck in nursing homes. These stories show how better lives can be built. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-building-betterlives.html

Presumed guilty:
Marlon Noble is one of a small number of Australians who are in prison but never convicted of a crime. This law must change. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-presumed-guilty.html

Let me win:
Sekou loves to race, and all he asks for is an equal chance of winning.

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/transcript-let-me-win.html

These are the final movies in the series.

Which ones are your favourites? Comments are very welcome.

Five minute flicks part three

You’ve gotta love a movie with an excellent story line which you can watch in five minutes! I have twenty of them for you. Here are the second five.

One of the activities I led whilst Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner was the production of Twenty Years: Twenty Stories, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Watch these stories with me, because they show how the actions of the main characters changed their lives, and the lives of thousands of other Australians with disabilities. I’ll give you my review, then you can watch the movie.

Driving change:

Greg’s height prevented him from using most accessible taxis. So he checked the measurements, and found that they were not complying with the relevant standards. He drove change for himself, and hundreds of others. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-driving-change.html

A call for support:

Parenting duties should not continue into your seventies, but the system is letting down two adult sons with mental illness. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-call-for-support.html

Dee’s place:

A fantastic story of living life “just like my brothers” and the plans for getting to Gracelands. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-dees-place.html

A Grand entrance but not for all:

Two queenslanders buck the system so they can share the grand entrance with everyone else. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-grand-entrance.html

Graeme Innes v Railcorp:

All I wanted was for Sydney Trains to tell me the next station, just as their signs did for everyone else. Three years, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees later they do. http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-graeme-innes-railcorp.html

Tune in for more movies in future blogs. Or if you just can’t wait, watch them all now.

Which ones are your favourites? Comments are very welcome.

Flying solo

I had three diary malfunctions this week. None as spectacularly catastpophic as Jannet Jackson’s super-bowl experience some years ago, but only because they were in front of a much smaller audience.

The first related to a presentation I was due to give next week which I had completely forgotten. I received an email on Thursday reminding me of the time and place. Yes, I replied, I’m all prepared for that one, and scheduled a couple of hours during the weekend to pull it together.

The second related to the screening of a new film, for which I was an interested audience member, but luckily nothing more. I turned up two hours late. Woops!

The third was more embarrassing. I received a text at 2,40 PM asking if I was still available for the 2,30 coffee we had arranged. Unfortunately I was on the other side of the city in a different appointment. Super Woops! Several grovelling appologies and a promise to buy the coffee next time later I had regained a little self esteem. You are probably reading this, and I am still very embarrassed. This is not what I usually do.

I’m finding it difficult to nagivate both to and inside my new temporary office at the Australian Law Reform Commission. Whoever designed the MLC Centre in that octagonal shape, with a multi-entranced and noisy food court as the main access to the building, and no labels on lift buttons or announcements in lifts, wasn’t thinking about the challenges it presents to guide dog users.

It’s a little more of an issue booking my own travel, and doing all of those really important tasks which my Executive Assistants at the Commission seemed to do so imperturbably and efficiently.

And – inevitably – I’m experienceing a small dose of relevance deprivation syndrome since I finished my term as Disability Discrimination Commissioner.

All challenges of operating differently, and flying solo.

But then I went back to that well-known aphorism- it’s not the problem that’s the problem, it’s your attitude to the problem that’s the problem. And I considered the bigger picture.

Despite the view of the Attorney-General that disability discrimination was diminishing, so we only need a part-time Commissioner, not much has changed. There is still no jobs plan for people with disabilities.
We are still refused airline travel if we happen to be the third person who turns up for a flight using a wheelchair.
Gaols are still viewed as an appropriate accommodation option for people with intellectual and psycho-social disability. Fifi thinks its ok to fake a disability, and then laugh about it on radio. And there is still no audio description on the ABC.

To use Stephen King’s well-known phrase “same shit, different day.”

So I just need to get over the challenges of flying solo, and get on with what I promised myself I would do. Keep working to improve the quality of life of Australians with disabilities.
I’ll play a leadership role at the Law Reform Commission, assisting to complete the disability and capacity inquiry, and improve the decision-making processes for people with disabilities.
http://www.alrc.gov.au I’ll contribute, through the board of Life Without Barriers, to improving the quality of life of kids in out-of-home care, asylum seekers, Aboriginal people and people with disabilities. http://www.lifewithoutbarriers.org.au I’ll contribute through the board of the Attitude Foundation to changing the way people with disabilities are viewed in the media- because changing attitudes changes lives. http://www.attitude.org.au I’ll just do it from a different place. And learn to fly solo.

Ending the Blind Curfew

Last week Brisbane City Council advised that all audible traffic signals would operate 24 hours a day seven days a week, ending the curfew for people who are blind or have low vision in Brisbane which has applied for more than fifteen years. Previously, many signals were turned off at 9:30 at night, and back on at 6:30 in the morning.

I concgratulate Brisbane City Council for this decision. It is a triumph of committed people over bad policy.

I visited Brisbane to attend a conference several months ago. I was planning where I should have dinner, and someone commented that I would need to start dinner early, as I would have to be home by 9:30 at night. Being unused to having a curfew, I questioned this. It’s because the audible traffic signals are turned off at that time, I was told. I could not believe it!

As it happened, I was unusually well behaved at dinner that night, and I was home before 9:30. But the next morning I took my guide dog out for an early walk- prior to 6 AM. And as advised, there were no audible traffic signals to let me know when I could cross the road. I was a prisoner of the Brisbane City Council policy.

I did some research, and found that this policy had been in place for more than fifteen years. This was due to a councillor who had once been kept awake by similar signals in New Zealand. I knew, however, that the volume of such signals was controlled by a monitoring microphone, so that when traffic and other noise was quiet, as it often is in the middle of the night, the signals are quiet as well. So this equipment had not been working in New Zealand all of those years ago, or he had only had a small travel budget, and managed it by sleeping on the footpath next to the light pole.

I was so outraged that people who were blind or had low vision in Brisbane could be so disadvantaged by the ill-informed whim of a policy maker with insomnia that I talked to a journalist about it. She thought it would make an excellent story, and the rest – as they say – is history.

The media ran with the story, and I did interviews across the country. The policy was made to look silly, and – after further consultation by council with relevant disability organisations- it was changed.

This story made me think about the language I had used. What seemed to concern council most was that I had referred to the policy as a “blind curfew”. I did so because that is how I had regarded it. But the reaction this received demonstrated the importance of the language which we use.

The Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities seeks to shift the mind-set about us from objects of pity to subjects with rights, and from our disability being the barrier to the environment in which we live being the barrier. Thus, it was not that I could not see which prevented me from crossing the road, it was that there was no audible traffic signal to give me the same information which people who see received.

I was once counselled by a colleague for whom I have great respect not to refer to the policy – applied by most airlines in Australia – of only carrying two passengers who use wheelchairs as “wheelchair apartheid”. She was shocked by the use of apartheid in that way, because of its origin. Apartheid is the system of segregation or discrimination on grounds of race in force in South Africa from 1948-ia. It comes from the Afrikaans, and literally means separateness.

I thought very carefully about this advice, because I valued my colleague’s judgement highly. But I decided to continue to use the expression, because treating people with disabilities separately and differently is exactly what the “two wheelchair” policy does. This process confirmed the importance of describing such policies by their impact, and effectively “calling out” the policy-makers for what they had done to people with disabilities.

Perhaps it was the use of the term “blind curfew” which swayed the policy-makers, or caught their attention. I don’t know. But there is no doubt that good advocacy, and implementation of the disability convention, requires clarity on the barriers in our environment, and their effect.

What do you think? Should we describe such policies in this emotive way? Should we call a spade a spade?

Five Minute Flicks part two

You’ve gotta love a movie with an excellent story line which you can watch in five minutes! I have twenty of them for you. Here are the second five.

One of the activities I led whilst Australia’s Disability Discrimination Commissioner was the production of Twenty Years: Twenty Stories, to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act.

Watch these stories with me, because they show how the actions of the main characters changed their lives, and the lives of thousands of other Australians with disabilities. I’ll give you my review, then you can watch the movie.

Just The Ticket:

The excitement of the Sydney Olympic Games caught many people-
including Bruce. He wanted to share it with his kids, but the organising committee were not very accommodating.

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-just-the-ticket .html

Jacobs Story:

Jacob wanted to learn the way he knew best- using his first language. Not an unreasonable request- but his school didn’t think so.

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-jacobs-story.ht ml It’s My Life:

Geoff just wanted to make a phone call- his way. This is the story of how Geoff does things his way, and how organisations can change, and make that happen.

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-my-life-my-call .html

Hot Tutti:

Music is the winner here, and the members of Tutti enjoy the spoils.

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-hot-tutti.html

Access For All:

Maurice is a man who wants to do the ordinary things, like catching the bus, with everyone else. His determination wins through, for him and thousands of other Australians.

http://www.humanrights.gov.au/twentystories/video-access-for-all. html

Tune in for more movies in future blogs. Or if you just can’t wait, watch them all now.

Which ones are your favourites? Comments are very welcome.