'Representing the Deafblind Community in Victoria'

Posts from the ‘advocacy’ category

Housing for Deafblind Victorians

What does an accessible home for Deafblind people look like? Do we rent, live in supported accommodation, share, or live alone? What barriers do we face to finding a safe place to live?

On 22.2.23, 10 staff from the Department of Treasury and Finance (DTF) Market Housing team attended an online workshop by Deafblind Victoria to learn the answers to these questions. Despite many technical difficulties, it was an interesting and worthwhile discussion.

Three Deafblind presenters from DBV shared personal experiences of housing, described the layout of an accessible home, and gave suggestions that could inform housing policy. We would love to see some guidelines developed for housing services, so other Deafblind people are better able to use them. These might include:

  • Give more time for the process, to get appropriate communication and supports in place, including interpreters (which are in short supply) and orientation and mobility specialists
  • Allow the Deafblind person to visit the house and try out routes to shops and public transport around the house before committing to it
  • Listen to the Deafblind person! They are the expert on their own needs.
  • Consider housing Deafblind people together in a villa, units or a block of flats, where support and community can be shared.

The personal stories of all three presenters shows that housing can be a very difficult issue for Deafblind people. One presenter experienced discrimination and applications were rejected because of her guide dog. Another said that she did not know what services existed and did not know where to get funding or specialised support. The third presenter described living in a house without any private outdoor area, being stuck at home for days between visits from a support worker and being unable to go outside for sun and fresh air. These experiences greatly affect our physical and mental health.

Other issues were covered, such as the arrangement of furniture: an open-plan layout might not suitable for someone moving around the house by touch, “trailing” along walls and orientating themselves from table corners. Living in rural areas can be especially isolating for Deafblind people, where services are scarce and terrain might be rough.

The workshop facilitator, Heather Lawson, sincerely thanked Patrice Vassiliou, an intern at the Department, who helped make the workshop happen. We look forward to continue working with you to improve outcomes for the Deafblind community.

Click for images

30 years of the Disability Discrimination Act – a Deafblind perspective

2022 marks the 30-year anniversary of the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (DDA). To commemorate this occasion, and to reflect on the successes and failures of the DDA, the City of Melbourne put on a forum at the Melbourne Town Hall on 24th Nov. This forum included a presentation by Heather Lawson from Deafblind Victoria on a panel discussion titled 1992 – 2022: What’s Changed?

Heather presented the history of Deafblind Victoria as a self-advocacy group run by Deafblind people, and the gap between grass-roots self-advocacy and laws and regulations. Despite experiencing discrimination almost every day, in all areas of life, Deafblind people are mostly unaware of the DDA and do not use it. We typically have low English literacy, little knowledge of the law, and lack of support to engage with legal processes. This can be addressed by building knowledge and confidence for Deafblind people to become self-advocates, by strengthening the Deafblind community as a place of mutual aid and support, and by including Deafblind people when developing laws and regulations. This other work can make the DDA more effective.

Click for video and transcript of presentation

ABC TV report: interpreter and commguide shortage

Last night, ABC TV news reported on the national shortage of Auslan interpreters and commguides. Heather Lawson was featured. DBV is glad that this issue is getting some coverage in the media. The Deafblind community in Victoria is really struggling at the moment, with very limited access to commguides. The situation has gotten worse over the last couple of years. Thanks to Meredith Bartlett and all who stepped in to support Heather’s access to this event, where the Victorian government announced funding for Auslan training. Gayle Tierney, the Victorian training minister, said that Victoria will add Auslan to the list of free TAFE courses. This is great news! See the 2 minute news segment, with a transcript below.

ABC TV News, Victoria, 16.5.2022
Click for transcript