Monday, November 29, 2010

Report: New Zealand needs to overhaul services for deaf community

From TV NZ:

A new report claims the social services that support New Zealand's 10,000 strong deaf community are failing to meet their needs.

The report - The Deaf Way - estimates 40% of deaf people have low literacy and social problems, which Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand says is entirely unnecessary.

The chief executive of lobby group Deaf Aotearoa, Rachel Noble, said the report highlights the failure by crucial mainstream agencies like police, Work and Income, and health and social services to effectively support and communicate with the deaf community.

"We're missing out on a lot of information, access to services, access to employment, education& deaf people are really visual people, so that information needs to be available in visual means including sign language, captions, things like that," said Noble.

The report also explains the disempowerment and isolation New Zealand's deaf community feels.

It notes that there aren't enough learning interpreters, and that access to them is restricted with long waiting times, and support systems are underfunded.

It also showed that families, schools, and even deaf children struggle to get free sign language training.

Technology has provided a "small revolution" for the deaf and the community is eagerly awaiting the local development of video interpreting.

While some people are advocating that Deaf Aotearoa should be a "one-stop shop" for deaf people to get all they need from one provider, the report argues that it is impossible for Deaf Aotearoa to meet all the needs of deaf people who want to live ordinary lives in New Zealand communities.

Deaf Aotearoa is being urged to improve communication within its own sector, focusing on a unified approach rather than having "organisational focus distracted by conflict".

Dr Judy McGregor of the Human Rights Commission said the report should prompt a major review of sign language.

"We have a large number of complaints about the quality, the availability and access to sign language in the community," said McGregor.

Deaf Aotearoa wants a dedicated multi-agency approach to tackle the problems.

Petition for ACC to cover noise injury

Meanwhile, the National Foundation for the Deaf is circulating a petition seeking support to overturn a law that sets a threshold for hearing damage before claimants can be covered by ACC.

The law, part of the Accident Compensation Act which came into force on July 1, means people with noise-damaged hearing must have a total loss of at least 6% before ACC will accept a claim and give rehabilitation. This means cases are not judged on the person's needs, the Foundation says.

"Noise usually attacks the high tones of our hearing which we use to understand conversations at work and at home," NFD chief executive Louise Carroll said.

"We have to lose a lot of hearing in those tones to reach a 6% total loss, and the impact on our lives can be serious," Carroll said.

"The NFD, along with the rest of the hearing disability sector, told the government the threshold was wrong and would create serious injustice, but the government ignored us all."

Carroll said the NFD wanted ACC to go back to judging each case on its merits, rather than according to a formula.

She said that while the average age of people lodging claims with ACC for noise-damaged hearing was 70 for men and 69 for women, the issue was not just one for older people.

"This affects everyone who works in a noisy environment," she said.

"The 6% threshold is just one of the hurdles people with noise injury now have to face, and it has to be changed."

The petition will be promoted by organisations in the hearing disability sector including audiologists and the Hearing Association.