Consulting

Deafblind Victoria has a wealth of expertise that comes from the lived experience of deafblindess. DBV has advised organisations about deafblind access on a range of topics, including braille resources, public transport, urban planning, websites, training and public events.

DBV also provides peer support and peer mentoring for deafblind people, which can be funded through individual NDIS packages. As someone’s vision and hearing impairments progress, they often need advice and support from others who have been through it, as they transition to tactile communication and develop a positive identity as a DeafBlind person.

Contact DBV for if you would like any of the services described above.

Submission to the Inquiry into Social Inclusion – Victorian Government

Background: For over 30 years the Victorian deafblind community has been working tirelessly to lobby for the support people who are deafblind require to ensure real community and social inclusion along with trying to improve the quality of self-advocacy and advocate for the rights of people who are deafblind.

In 2007 some concerned members of the deafblind community felt it was vital to setup a Self Advocacy group for Victorians who are deafblind so our voices could be heard, we felt people who are deafblind are too often unseen and unheard; we are a community without a voice.

What is Social Inclusion for people who are deafblind?

Deafblind Victorians believe there needs to be a real commitment to the provision of a range of supports to ensure genuine inclusion for people who are deafblind. This support includes: Having access to information in appropriate formats is vital to ensure social inclusion. Without access to information, people who are deafblind are unaware of many of the basics in life: what’s going on in the news, what services we might be entitled to, our rights, access to arts, leisure and cultural events and opportunities that the rest of the community are aware of and can participate in.

Communication access, including accessible technology is vital for people who are deafblind to obtain information to be aware what is around them and to be able to talk to people who do not know the language of Auslan sign language. Having access to highly trained and experienced qualified Auslan interpreters and tactile interpreters is imperative for our inclusion in the community so that we can exercise our basic human rights as equal members of the community. For people who are deafblind accessing Auslan interpreters and tactile interpreters is the same as a person who is in a wheel chair and requires a ramp to enter a building. Without a ramp a person in a wheelchair is not able to enter the building. In our case if we do not have access to Auslan tactile interpreter/guides, we are excluded from society. In other words our ramp to communication and to inclusion in the community is our interpreters who make it possible for us to be included in society. Without the appropriate funding to have this type of support will leave us all out in the cold.

Sighted guide interpreters are also needed to ensure we are able to participate fully in life, including taking part in functions such as family events, recreation etc. Guides help us to not be excluded from the community and to be able to move around freely. People who are deafblind are human beings too; we are not able move around freely without sighted guide interpreters. Currently we have to depend on a mixture of friends, family and paid support workers who are not always available due to lack of funding. This is an occupational health and safety issue to be able to walk around the community safely. Without paid sighted support guides people who are deafblind have little or no social inclusion.

Understanding the support needs of people with differing levels of impairment for example people with small fields of vision may require audio versions of printed material and note takers and people with differing levels of hearing impairment may need to lip read and also enhance their understanding through interpreting body language.

Currently many people who are deafblind have little or no access to many of the supports outlined above. The situation for many people who are deafblind is dire; people languishing and isolated in inappropriate accommodation such as nursing homes, isolation in group homes and our own homes; cobbling together supports to just manage the tasks of day to day living, shopping, cleaning, bill paying, those things the rest of the community take for granted, leaving us with little or no support for any kind of community interaction. This is the reality for many people who are deafblind, a reality that has a negative impact on people’s mental health, a reality that leaves people who are deafblind more vulnerable to isolation, depression and other serious mental illnesses than the rest of the community.

If the government and the community are committed to breaking down the barriers of isolation and providing access for people who are deafblind they must ensure adequate funding for Auslan interpreters, tactile interpreters and guides, adequate funding for appropriate accommodation and other supports and ensure people who are deafblind have the same access to information as the rest of the community. This would help the deafblind community to be included in the community in a real, not token, way.

In conclusion people who are deafblind need access to information, communication professionals, interpreters and guides, appropriate accommodation and support options to be able to SEE AND HEAR the mysterious DARK world round us, to participate fully in life. This is real SOCIAL INCLUSION for people who are deafblind. Deafblind Victorians has enclosed with this submission a DVD which will help you understand about the needs of the deafblind community; what we want is to enjoy everyday life: our choices, our rights, our dreams.

Yours sincerely, Heather Lawson, Trudy Ryall and Michelle Stevens DeafBlind Victorians

For more information, please feel free to contact us at deafblindadvocacy@gmail.com