Tag: cricket

The Sin Of Spin

Clarke and Dawes last Thursday synthesised the last few weeks of my life. If you value language and truth its worth meeting Mr Lars Torders. It’s on ABC iView. http//:::iview.abc.net.au/program/clarke

As a cricket tragic I never thought I’d describe spin as a sin. It’s not in the cricket world. But in the world where I work-
Australian human rights, politics and the media, the sin of spin has reached a new high for me.

Last week the Daily Telegraph (no link provided as I do not want to encourage you to read it) ranted. Surprise surprise you might say- isn’t this a daily event. This rant, which was actually a re-run from 2011 (originality runs out everywhere eventually) was about the huge increase in the number of people receiving the Disability Support Pension.

Rational analysis, however, shows that – when taken as a proportion of the Australian population – DSP numbers have not increased in the last decade, and dropped one percentage point in the last twelve months. Of course, as our population increases, the numbers on the DSP will increase- just as the number of tax-payers, employees, voters, or for that matter Daily Telegraph readers- will increase.

The Tele – in this same re-run rant – contrasted the so-called sins of these DSP recipients against the bravery of Australian soldiers, by use of the absolutely irrelevant fact that more Australians receive the DSP than had been wounded in wars. In the process, they slurred DSP recipients, and insulted many of our soldiers, who – as a result of their service- are currently in receipt of the DSP. But to not misrepresent the figures, and to take the feelings of those people into consideration would be to spoil a “good yarn.”

The Tele then went on to talk about how these DSP recipients lived in beach-side suburbs on the far north coast of NSW, trying to suggest enjoyment of “the good life”. If you can have a good life when you have a disability, and live on less than $20000 a year. They chose to ignore the fact that these places are some of the lowest socio-economic regions of NSW. And given that 45% of Australians with disabilities live in poverty according to OECD figures, its not surprising that they would live in areas where the costs of living are less.

But my favourite in the “let’s support our point with absolutely meaningless statistics” stakes was that NSW has the biggest number of DSP recipients. Well Hullo. NSW has the biggest population.

But life wouldn’t be too bad if the sin of spin confined itself to the pages of the Tele- everyone expects it there. But I have encountered it in a number of other places, which is far more concerning.

First, the Brisbane City Council. They impose a curfew on blind people by turning off the audio traffic signals at 9:30 at night, and back on at 6:30 in the morning. They don’t turn off the visual traffic information- just the audio. So anyone in Brisbane who is blind risks their safety if they venture out two and a half hours before Cinderella’s transport does a pumpkin imitation. They say that the noise of the signals disturbs the sleep of the good burghers of Brisbane. But in truth, if the noise-limiting controls are properly maintained on the audible traffic signals, they can’t be heard more than 2 or 3 meters away. Not too many of those good burghers hunker down for the night within a spit of the traffic light pole.

Then we had the Queensland judge who decided that a Deaf woman could not serve on a jury because she sought to use an Auslan interpreter. He said that not being able to hear, she would “only” receive the evidence through lip-reading or Auslan. This wouldn’t be good enough, and any way there was a problem with having a “thirteenth person” break the sanctity of the jury room. This could some how “corrupt” the jury process. In fact, studies done both at Macquarie University in Sydney, and Gallaudet university in the US, have found that Deaf people- using lip-reading and Auslan – have a better understanding of the evidence in criminal trials than do hearing jurors. So more spin to suit the negative assumptions made about people with disabilities.

But what pushed my credulity meter way into zone red were the explanations given in Senate Estimates this week of the governments decision to make a $400.000 annual saving by having one less Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission when my term ends on 4 July. Firstly it was asserted that this decision was not targeting the Disability Discrimination Commission position- even though it was known to government which position would become vacant first. Secondly, the position was not being abolished (technically correct, as this would require an amendment to the Disability Discrimination Act- although let’s start carefully monitoring all consequential amendment bills. Thirdly, the position was not being down-graded- it was going to be filled by one of the other Commissioners on a part-time basis, as well as doing their primary job.

The position is now full-time, filled by a person with lived experience of disability, and a detailed knowledge of the disability sector. In July it will become part-time, filled by a person without lived experience of disability, and who – whilst very knowledgeable in their own sector – will have little knowledge of the disability sector.

Check your dictionary of choice, and tell me that is not a down-grade. And while you’re doing that, keep one eye open for aeronautical Peppa.

All this spin, and who is disadvantaged. The four million Australians with disabilities, 45% of whom live in poverty, who are employed at a rate 30 % less than the general population, who have half the general pass rate at year 12, who disproportionately appear in the justice system as victims and offenders. Added to all of that, we experience the sin of being viewed in a negative and limiting way- we’re not even good enough to sit on a jury and judge our peers. And the spin exacerbates the sin.

So of course we don’t need a full-time Disability Discrimination Commissioner with lived experience of disability. I’ll just go back and watch more Clarke and Dawes on iView.

Captain Grumpy

Ex-Australian cricket captain Alan Border and I have something in common. No, it’s not the inate cricket ability that he had and I dream about. It’s that, sometimes, just doing your job, or living your life, as a person with a disability, can make you grumpy.

I’m sitting in an airport gate lounge, my guide dog beside me, drinking coffee, looking at twitter, and waiting for my flight to board.
“Hi, I’m Shane,” says the ground staffer as he approaches me, “We’re ready to board you now.”

I think “Why would I want to stop what I’m doing, not finish my coffee, and exchange this spacious plastic chair for a cramped airline seat ten minutes earlier than anyone else. I say “I’m happy to board with the rest of the passengers, thanks.”

“But you’re a “special” passenger,” he says. “We want to give you more time for you and your dog to settle in.”

I think “that’s code for: we want you on and out of the way before all of the others.” I say “Thank you, I don’t need any extra time.”

“But this is a legal requirement,” he says.

I think “that’s code for: I’m now going to try to bully you.”
I say “It’s actually not, and I’m very happy hear til the flight boards, thanks Shane.”

He sighs loudly, and says “Ok, all right.” and goes away.
I think: “that’s code for: what a Captain Grumpy. And I was just trying to help.”

An hour or so later-
“Sir, we’re landing in Hobart today, and there is no aerobridge. So if you just wait til last, I’ve booked the forklift to take you off the plane.”

“But it’s just my eyes that don’t work, not my legs.” I reply.

“Well, I was just trying to help,” is the unhappy response.
“And I appreciate your help, but perhaps you should have checked with me first.”

For some blind people, this decision may have been necessary, or appreciated. Just as some people with disabilities may need or want to board first. But why not ask if that’s what we want, rather than just assume. Because of the soft bigotry of low expectations.

It happens all the time-
People who use wheelchairs are regularly discussed – in their presence – as if they were luggage.
People with disabilities travelling with family members or friends are often not talked to at all- even when the question is about them. “Can he walk down the plane aisle, or will he need the chair,” said to the friend of a man using a wheelchair.

My wife has been scolded on one flight for “allowing me” to use the “wrong” (business class) toilet.

People with disabilities are often made to wait for long periods of time. Periods of time which most customers would just not tolerate.

Why do these things happen? Because many people in the community, and thus the airline industry, have a negative or limiting view of the capability of people with disabilities. And the customer service training of airline staff – and many other service industries – on disability issues is just not adequate.

I’m very happy, at any time, for someone to offer me assistance. I’m not happy, at most times, to have the decision made for me. That’s the critical difference.

We’ll go this longer way because there’s a lift- you won’t be able to use stairs; Your dog won’t be able to go on the escalators;
Just wait here and we’ll get someone to push your wheelchair;
We want to give you special treatment, so we’re taking you onto the aircraft first, and leaving you to get off last.

When people just assume that women will interrupt their career to have children, or won’t be interested in a more senior role, women rightly get annoyed.
When people do not give job applicants with non-anglo names an interview, those applicants rightly get annoyed.
But when people assume that if you have a disability you won’t be able to do something, we’re just supposed to smile and say “thank you for patronising me.”

So, if I’m being Captain Grumpy, perhaps consider your assumptions, rather than my manners.

Graeme Innes is a disability advocate and cricket tragic, and does a fair imitation of an Alan Border media interview if negative assumptions are made about him as a result of his disability.