November 2011.doc - Australian DeafBlind Council by jianglifang


           The Magazine of the Australian DeafBlind Council

No. 41                                                                              November, 2011
                                            In This Issue

1.    ADMINISTRATIVE OFFICER’S REPORT – Alisa Wills ...........................6
2.    FEATURE ARTICLE.................................................................................8
      DISCRIMINATION COMMISSIONER ....................................................12
      BENEFITS FROM MELBOURNE CUP ..................................................23
6.    DEAFBLIND STUDENT GRADUATES ..................................................30
      REGISTER .............................................................................................35
9.    ABLE AUSTRALIA – VICTORIA ............................................................36
10. LET'S CONNECT IN 2011 AND BEYOND.............................................39
    DENNIS WITCOMBE, DEAFBLIND INTERPRETER ............................40
12. FORSIGHT FOUNDATION – NSW ........................................................41
13. SENSES FOUNDATION – WESTERN AUSTRALIA .............................41
14. OLD IPHONES CAN CHANGE LIVES ...................................................43
16. NOTABLE QUOTE .................................................................................44
17. TECHNOLOGY ......................................................................................44
18. FROM MEDIA ACCESS AUSTRALIA ....................................................49
19. CONFERENCES ....................................................................................50
20. OFFICE BEARERS ................................................................................51
21. ABOUT BEACON ...................................................................................53
22. CALLFOR CONTRIBUTIONS ................................................................54


Need for a new breed of advocate?

Well known ADBC Vice President Steve Hardy sent in a copy of the
following powerful and provocative article on advocacy. It’s by Gary
Kerridge who has been a high profile advocate in the disability sector for
over two decades. Gary is a contributor to The Rebuttal, where this
piece originally appeared. The Rebuttal is an independent E-zine and
Blog founded by five deaf people in 2006. They believe that deaf people
and people with disabilities should be in control of the organisations that
represent them. He makes the point that the disability sector needs a big
reminder; nothing about us without us. Gary Kerridge thinks it's time for
disability advocates to forget the "softly, softly" approach to social
change and go hard, or go home. Is there a message in Gary’s article for
Australians who are deafblind?What do you think?We’d like to hear
from you if you have strong opinions about the points Gary makes..

Gary hits hard
Disability is as a human service policy and service provision area, says
Gary, is by and large, controlled by non-disabled people. Our needs are
represented largely by charity and welfare based organisations that are
headed largely by people without a disability. Recently he has been
campaigning about an upcoming disability employment conference, an
important gathering that will discuss the future of employment support
for people with a disability. Nowhere on the agenda says Gary, is there a
person with a disability or an organisation run by people with a disability
contributing to the discussion. Unless one includes Disability
Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes, who is blind, speaking
about the impact of employment for people with a disability, the whole
program is dominated by academics, Government bureaucrats and
people aiming to promote themselves as key disability employment
service providers. Nowhere have people with a disability been invited to
express how they feel about this service. Nowhere on the agenda are
personal experiences and stories about support provided by the service,
good or bad, given air-time. It's just a variety of bigwigs patting
themselves on the back.

To add insult to poor representation, the conference organisers recently
had the gall to tell him they would not provide him with interpreters after
initially promising that they would. Here we have a major conference
about disability that he is attending as professional development for his

work, and no access is being provided; all because they would make a
loss of $700 from his registration. This hardly seems like a huge cost,
given that the conference organisers will make many thousands of
dollars in profit from the disability market. Let's not forget they are also
breaking the law by refusing his access unless they were able to claim
unjustifiable hardship, which they clearly could not in this case. They did
try, though.

Now, says Gary, I am a person who is fortunate to be able to advocate
for myself. Not everyone can. This conference was about me; I wanted
access so I took control! This kind of advocacy is my bread and butter. I
know the legislation, and through my work in the disability sector I have
extensive networks. Accepted wisdom is that I should enter into a
dialogue with the conference organisers and remind them diplomatically
of their obligations. What is not accepted is that I should email the
conference organisers with a CC to all their keynote speakers, the
Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Human Rights
Commission, major Government departments, universities that use the
company to organise conferences and key disability advocates around
Australia. This is what I would call being a Dirty Advocate; bad to the

Accepted wisdom is that one should give the conference organisers an
opportunity to respond before letting the world know. I did this in reverse.
Why? Well, because experience tells me that negotiating with
organisations like this is a long drawn out affair. The conference
organisers chose to let me know that no interpreters would be provided
just one month before the conference, despite having guaranteed me
back in August that interpreters would be provided. They offered me a
full refund on my fee which I refused. Here lies the no-brainer; they
complained that they were losing $700 on my registration by providing
an interpreter, yet they were willing to give up the full $2099 registration
so that I wouldn't attend at all. Do the maths.

It was not me who was playing dirty; says Gary, it was them. They knew
very well that by telling me at such short notice that it was unlikely
anything would be resolved on time. But, I am the new breed of
advocate and I play as dirty as they do. Indeed it is the only way in
situations like this; hit hard and take no prisoners. In no time at all, key
speakers at the conference were contacting me and asking if they
should withdraw. Others contacted me and told me to stick to my guns
and not to waiver on my access request. In short, I had a wave of

What is amazing is that when the conference organisers emailed me,
there was internal communication further down in the email. I was
apparently "an angry gentleman". I had also taken the liberty of
contacting an interpreter supplier to make sure interpreters were
available. It was clear that there were and I let the conference organisers
know that the interpreter booking agency was "standing by" to take the
booking. I am sure this did not go down very well either.

What is even more amazing was that the CEO of the organisation was
clearly being encouraged to back down and provide interpreters, but he
chose to go against this advice. It was completely moronic for him to cry
poor over a $700 loss, but be willing to give up my full $2099
registration. As I said to my wife, he had a first class ticket to nowhere.
Eventually he backed down and agreed to provide an interpreter so that
I could attend the conference. It took only three emails. This is what I call
fighting fire with fire - it is not for the faint hearted.

Nothing about us without us
Gary continues: One of the most brilliant and creative advocacy
campaigns that I have seen was the recent one by Deaf Victoria to
encourage people to put AUSLAN down as their language of choice on
the Census. They were everywhere. In your face at every turn, urging
people to record Auslan on the Census. They were even a little bad too.
They created a video that they distributed far and wide, especially
through Facebook.

You see they used shock tactics and creative license to galvanise us all.
The video, brilliantly made, showed a series of worse case scenarios. At
the doctor - no interpreters, at work - no interpreters, at school - no
interpreters and so on. The message was - Let the Government know
about Auslan because if we do not, the Government will stop funding
Auslan interpreters and other services for Deaf people thinking that there
is no demand.

Of course this was a long term and worse case scenario. Most of us are
all intelligent enough to know that. Indeed these sort of tactics are
common in politics. Take Tony Abbott and the Liberal Party's television
advertising campaign about the Carbon Tax. If they are to be believed,
the Carbon Tax will send us all broke and put thousands on the dole.
Sad faced people with no money and no job are central to the
advertisement. Of course it is all shock tactics. Totally acceptable,
unless you're Deaf.Deaf Victoria, for their brilliant campaign, came under

fire from our "conservative advocates". They were told they were
misleading the Deaf community. That they would frighten people and
were asked to remove the videos. They refused, and good on them for
that. While certainly some would take the video literally most people are
intelligent enough to read between the lines. Deaf Victoria showed the
conservatives the proverbial middle finger. They showed creativity,
spunk and fight. Sure they were extreme but they were also brave and
confronting. We need more of it. Deaf Victoria - The new Deaf Australia I
say! Best of all, the Deaf Victoria campaign was by Deaf people for Deaf
people. It was Deaf people coming out and showing the community how
much they valued Auslan. It was an example of what Cannavan
described as centralised advocacy where those that matter were in
control. There is so little of this in our advocacy.

It's time for change
Our current advocacy groups are largely about sucking up, toeing the
line and not upsetting those people in ivory towers. Softly, softly is the
way it has been traditionally done. Sure diplomacy can work but in the
disability sector this sort of advocacy means that progress is painfully
slow. In some areas of disability, in the last 30 years people have taken
control of their lives, their needs and their policy. They direct it and are
involved at every turn.

Where is disability?Says Gary.“In the dark ages”. Controlled, directed
and promoted at every angle by people without disabilities. It is time to
take control. A new breed of advocate is needed - We need people with
fire in the belly, willing to fight tooth and nail for their rights. There is a
place for everything but what we lack are advocates willing to be BAD
TO THE BONE! ‘The times they are a changin'.Gary’s bottom line:
Those who are faint hearted must step aside.
Please write in and tell us what you think about the ideas
expressed in this article.

Best wishes; Your Editor


2011 has again been a busy and productive year for ADBC and it’s hard
to believe the year is coming to an end.

Once again ADBC’s News Sheet has gone out in January, April, July
and October. The News Sheet continues to be a great way to get
information to our members and we continue to receive positive
feedback about this.

A number of submissions and meetings were conducted throughout the
year and some examples are as follows:

      Carla Anderson, Meredith Prain and I met with Ingrid Kemp,
       Branch Manager, Disability Employment Services of the
       Department of Education, Employment and Workplace Relations
       (“DEEWR”) on 24th January. This was a very productive meeting
       and issues such as ongoing training, 1:1 human support, funding
       of interpreters were discussed with regard to the challenges faced
       by people who are Deafblind seeking employment. It’s certainly
       one thing to get a person who is Deafblind into employment but the
       real challenge is keeping them there. As a follow up to our
       meeting we also sent a letter re-iterating our discussions to the
       Minister Kate Ellis. Ingrid was pleased she came to meet with us
       as many disability organisations had not taken the opportunity to
       have some frank one on one discussion with DEEWR.

      Once the draft report for the National Disability Insurance Scheme
       (“NDIS”) was released in February. Alisa attended consultation
       forums on the proposed NDIS run by Australian Federation of
       Disability Organisations (in Adelaide) and Deafness Forum in

      ADBC also wrote a response to the NDIS draft report together with
       a joint submission with Deafness Forum, Blind Citizens Australia
       and Deaf Australia on behalf of people with a sensory disability.

          ADBC wrote a submission to the Department of Broadband,
          Communications and the Digital Economy into a Review of access
          to telecommunication services by people with disability, older
          Australians and people experiencing illness.

    ADBC wrote a submission to the Impairment Tables Review –
     Senate Community Affairs Committee Inquiry Submission.

    In November ADBC collaborated on a submission to the
     Department of Broadband, Communication and Digital Economy
     with the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network
     Access for people with disability to emergency calls from mobile

As previously mentioned in the News Sheet the Department of Ageing
has now determined after an extensive Inquiry into Hearing Health in
Australia that Hearing Services will now include people up to the age of
26 years from 1 January 2012. This includes hearing aides and
cochlear implants. It is disappointing that the age of eligibility has only
increased to 26 from 21 years not the 65 years as recommended by the
Inquiry and we have written to the Minister for Health & Ageing regarding
this. ADBC, along with other organisations in the hearing services area,
will continue to lobby government to include the large number of people
between 26-65 years of age.

All these submissions are available for viewing on our website at

ADBC are active members of Australian Blindness Forum, Deafness
Forum, Australian Federation of Disability Organisations and National
Disability Services Sensory Forum and we continue to develop strong
working relationships with these organisations.

The committee for 2010/11 Sven Topp President, Steven Hardy Vice
President, Sharon Barrey Grassick Secretary, Celestine Hare Treasurer
and Legal Officer, Carleeta Manser, Carla Anderson, Mike Steer and
Gail Staggs. My sincere thanks to all committee members especially to
Mike Steer for his hard work as Editor of Beacon.

ADBC’s AGM will be held on Monday 21st November, 2011 at 1pm.

I would also like to extend a thank you to the Royal Blind Society of
South Australia for their support including the printing of Beacon in
Braille and finally a very special thanks to Able Australia for their support
during 2011.

Please contact me on (03) 9882 8596, Monday, Tuesday, Friday
9.30am-2.30pm or if you have any further


          Bookshare: What It Offers People Who Are Deafblind

                         Liz Halperin, M.Ed., M.A.
                      Deaf-Blind Contact, Bookshare

                          Kristina King Cohen
                 Education Program Manager, Bookshare

     This useful article appeared in Deaf-Blind Perspectives, Spring 2011

Bookshare (BKS) is the world's largest fully accessible digital library for
individuals with print disabilities. Print disabilities include visual
impairments like blindness or low vision; physical disabilities that affect a
person's ability to read print, such as an inability to hold a book or turn
pages; and severe learning disabilities like dyslexia. Anyone who cannot
manage a typical print book might be considered print disabled and
qualify for access to print in special formats. Using BKS, individuals with
print disabilities can access books electronically and use a variety of
reading devices and other types of technology to read using formats that
are best for them (e.g., audio, braille, enlarged print).

Historically, the best-known sources of books for individuals with print
disabilities have been the National Library Service for the Blind and
Physically Handicapped (NLS) and Recordings for the Blind and
Dyslexic (RFB&D). NLS provides a wealth of books in braille and digital
audio formats. The audio format requires use of specialized digital book
players. RFB&D provides a large collection of audio books with human
narration. The main difference between these services and Bookshare is
that with Bookshare readers can access an ever-growing collection of
books including reference materials and textbooks in digital text, digital
braille, and audio formats, depending on their particular needs. These
formats and accessibility options are available through a variety of types
of software and devices (see below).

Since it began in 2002, Bookshare has become widely known and has
more than 135,000 members worldwide. It currently provides over
100,000 books in accessible formats, and the number is growing fast.

Through an award from the U.S. Department of Education's Office of
Special Education Programs, BKS provides free membership to students
with print disabilities in the U.S.A. and its territories. Students include
those in preschool through postsecondary and adult education
programs, regardless of age. Teachers have access to K–12 textbooks
through the National Instructional Materials Access Center (NIMAC), and
teachers and students in K–12, postsecondary, and adult education
environments are encouraged to send book requests. Deaf-Blind
students are accessing BKS more and more as outreach efforts expand.
Schools can sign up on behalf of qualified students who are Deaf-Blind,
or their parents can sign up for them.

Students are finding the books they need for their classes at Bookshare.
For example, Angela is a Deaf-Blind college student. She needed a
poetry anthology that her college had available ready for conversion to
braille, but when she got it, she found the book had not been formatted
for poetry. She downloaded the BKS copy instead, and found the poetry
formatted with ends of lines, blank lines between stanzas, punctuation,
and accents in place, as well as other features that are normally present
in a print copy. She was very relieved.

Qualified adults who are not students must join as individual paying
members. Most Deaf-Blind (DB) people who have used BKS in school or
college choose to convert to an individual paying membership. Individual
memberships cost $75 the first year: a $25 one-time set-up fee plus $50
annual membership. Another use of BKS is for DB adults to access
books that they can read to their children. The BKS outreach team is
currently making a concerted effort to reach the Deaf-Blind population.
There are many books, magazines, and newspapers—something of
interest to anyone regardless of English ability or etiology of deaf-

Many students who use BKS discover the joy of reading and request
books that are not yet in the BKS library. BKS tries to fill those requests
as quickly as possible, knowing that children's interests can be fleeting.
From the time BKS acquires a new book, conversion may take 2 weeks
or more depending on the difficulty of the book. The children and teens
collections are very large in all genres.

The combined Deaf and Deaf-Blind (DB) collection is growing. Teen and
transition-aged Deaf-Blind students are learning about their culture and
history through Bookshare. Many books about deaf-blindness that are
currently out of print are in the Bookshare collection. The easiest way to

see the combined Deaf and Deaf-Blind collection is to go to the home
page,, tab over to “Advanced Search,” then enter
the word “deaf” in the “synopsis” field. You don't have to be a member to
use the search functions or to download public domain books from

How Bookshare Works

Every single BKS book is available in Digital Accessible Information
System (DAISY) format and Braille Ready Format (BRF). DAISY is the
global digital talking book standard that is supported by many leading
libraries and by assistive technology software and hardware
manufacturers worldwide who create products for individuals with
disabilities. It provides the capability to distribute books digitally and
uses powerful indexing and bookmarking features that make it possible
to move easily and quickly from one part of a book to another. As a
format, DAISY supports delivery of books that include both digital text
and recorded human speech. It makes possible the adaptation of print
books in multiple ways. Readers can listen to books, enlarge print, and
read with braille notetakers and other assistive technology devices. The
media formats and technology used to read BKS books vary. Some
readers choose just one format, such as braille. Others combine a
variety of formats such as sound (through speakers, headphones, or
FM- or cochlear-implant patch cords) and large print or sound and
braille. Some very creative combinations are being used.

BKS offers two free DAISY readers for download from the BKS website:
Victor Reader Soft, (Bookshare edition) and Don Johnston
Read:OutLoud. A variety of mobile devices can also be used, such as
the Victor Reader Stream, the PLEXTALK Pocket, BookCourier, and
Book Port. Bookshare books can also be converted to MP3 format and
listened to on MP3 players. Reading software such as that on the free
readers from BKS, as well as that on other devices like Kurzweil 1000,
Kurzweil 3000, and OpenBook allows readers to manipulate font size
and colors. It highlights words as they are being read and provides other
types of reading assistance.

Text files can be processed through braille conversion programs, but
BKS has also already made the files available as a separately
downloadable Braille Ready File (BRF). These files can be downloaded
to a computer with a braille display and read there or transferred to any
current braille notetaker. (Note: the BrailleNotemPower used in

HumanWare's Deaf-Blind Communicator (DBC), can be used if its back
suite of programs is unlocked).

Another Bookshare accessibility feature is the new application called
Read2Go, which can be used on Apple's iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad.
Using Bluetooth technology, all of these devices can also be linked to a
compatible braille display. A cautionary note at this time is that not all
displays will work with the Apple products. A major advantage of the new
Read2Go app is that large print readers can use an iPad to set preferred
fonts and screen colors. The app offers larger font sizes than those
available with the basic iPad. Finally, large-print readers have a portable
solution! And don't forget, you can incorporate sound via earphones or
hearing aid or cochlear implant systems.


Bookshare offers individuals with print disabilities the ability to access
reading materials in formats that they can use independently for lifelong
success. The Bookshare collection continues to grow, and increasingly
publishers are giving Bookshare the right to make their books available
internationally as well as in the USA. Members in Canada, South Africa,
England, Australia, and India (just to name a few) may download titles.
In addition, BKS offers many books in Spanish.

To learn more about Bookshare, especially about what it offers adults,
please visit the website at The outreach group has
specialists who focus on parents, K–12 programs, universities, and
general adult members. And as noted above, Bookshare is currently
working hard to reach the Deaf-Blind population. If you attended the
2011 AADB Symposium in June, perhaps you stopped by the Bookshare
exhibit table?

Author contact information: Liz Halperin can be reached at and Kristina King Cohen at


                 Changing the disability rights climate

                2nd Annual National Disability Summit
                   Melbourne, 15 September 2011
       Graeme Innes AM, Disability Discrimination Commissioner

I acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we meet.

How many of you saw the recent story in the newspapers that this
summer the area of the Arctic covered by sea ice was a record low for
recent history? And that the scientists say we are on track for no Arctic
sea ice at all in 2030, for the first time in 125,000 years?

Why do I mention that? I'm not actually here to talk about climate
change, even though it raises serious human rights issues. Our
neighbours in the Pacific, and much of Asia, face displacement from
large areas, or even from whole countries, to an extent which looks likely
to make current refugee flows around the world and to Australia seem
very, very small stuff indeed. Within Australia itself, Torres Strait Islander
people, and some Aboriginal people, are already facing displacement
from their traditional lands, and loss of culture from rising sea levels.

Even closer to home, as a parent as well as a human rights practitioner,
my children have the right to a world that's fit for them into their future.

But why I mention the sea ice today is that, on many disability rights
issues, we're used to a glacial pace of change at best.

It's over 60 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights
declared human rights for everyone, without discrimination - but
somehow managed to miss mentioning disability. It's 30 years since the
International Year of Disabled Persons. It's already 20 years since the
start of drafting of Australia's Disability Discrimination Act.

We've spent decades so far trying to build a society that's fit for all of us
to live in. Chipping away at the ice - at the barriers that exclude men,
women and children with disability from full and equal participation in,
and contribution to, our society.

Certainly, we've seen progress. I'm pleased to have been part of
movement forward, in partnership with people with disability and
governments and industry, on issues like access to public transport, and
buildings, and information and communications. But it's painfully slow,
and patchy, and incomplete. Progress on the scales of geological time is
hardly what we should be aiming for, when we and our children live our
lives on the much shorter human timescale.

And on top of that, we see winters of discontent, where barriers
gradually build up again, in areas where we hoped the ice was clearing.
I'm thinking of things like people with disability continuing to have no
choice but to live in institutional environments, including the
disproportionate numbers in our prison populations. Things like disability
employment rates in the Australian Public Service - going backwards,
not forwards, over the last two decades. And this in a period where
technological developments ought to have been reducing, or eliminating,
many barriers. I won't repeat the details here, but there are recent
speeches I've given on these issues available on the Commission

Even in the area of technology, barriers keep building up. I'm thinking of
consumer appliances, which somehow manage to use digital displays
and controls, to produce a result which is less accessible than the
manual controls they replace. So that people are needlessly, and
expensively, deprived of years of independence and dignity, for the want
of a bit of programming, or a chip costing a few cents.

Years, in fact decades, go by in our work, and in the lives of people with
disability around Australia, with barriers still shutting people out and
shutting people in.

It's no secret: systemic change takes determined effort, and can take

But sometimes, a moment comes when glacial change actually happens
very fast. When the ice melts, and when huge chunks of ice shelf break
off, and fall into the sea. And at a moment like this, we can see a need to
respond quickly, to watch out for icebergs, and to look for what to do
about the changing climate.

I won't take the climate change comparison too much further today. It's
not my role as a statutory officer to get into partisan debate. And climate
change is obviously an area where, despite cross party recognition of

the problem, and shared emissions reduction targets between the major
parties, there is sharp disagreement on preferred solutions. And all this
is in the context of a persistent campaign, by some sections of the
media, that there isn't a problem at all, or that nothing should be done
about it anyway. Claims, for example, that carbon dioxide emitted can't
be measured because it's invisible, and weightless. I did like Malcolm
Turnbull's suggestion recently, that anyone making that claim should try
dropping a bag of dry ice on their foot, and see how weightless it feels.

But what's striking in the disability rights area, in contrast to many other
areas of public policy, is how much agreement has been achieved in
recent months, and how quickly: not only that there is a serious problem
that has to be addressed, but on what the way forward should be.

At last year's National Disability Summit we were still looking forward to
the Productivity Commission starting the public phase of its inquiry into a
National Disability Insurance Scheme.

Before that, we had the ground-breaking - or icebreaking -
recommendation for a NDIS initiated by Bruce Bonyhady at the 2020
summit. And the report of the Disability Investment Group
recommending an NDIS, and an early investment in a major disability
research and policy body. But as important as those developments
were, that was hardly even the tip of the iceberg compared to what has
come since.

As you know, the Productivity Commission delivered its final report on
31 July 2011, recommending a national disability insurance scheme,
involving close to doubling of current funding for disability services and
supports, and major shifts towards consumer choice.

Just 8 days later, the Prime Minister, the Assistant Treasurer, the
Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous
Affairs, and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disability were out in public
releasing the report, committing in principle to implementing it, and
allocating $10 million for initial processes to work towards
implementation. Almost immediately, support for the recommendations
came from the Opposition (both by its Leader and its disability
spokesman) and by most State and Territory Governments. And just 10
days after that, the Council of Australian Governments signed on- not to
every detail happening immediately, but to working in quite a short
period to having an NDIS in place.

Quite fast movement then, even in the human world, let alone in the
world of glaciers.

And leading up to the release of the report, and day after day in the
Federal Parliament since then, members from both sides, and the cross-
benches, support the implementation. I can't remember any other major
public policy initiative in the last 30 years with support like that.

How did this happen?

We should acknowledge first up the work of the Productivity
Commission, and the decision by government to ask them to conduct
this inquiry. This is a report with great weight - and I don't just mean the
two volume paper version.

I said to last year's National Disability Summit that we could expect
excellence from the Productivity Commission in this process, but that
doesn't mean the same thing as taking it for granted. The Productivity
Commission has done people with disability in Australia, and the nation,
a great service - in highlighting and analysing exclusion, and loss of
opportunities for people with disability, as major economic issues worth
significant investments to address.

I'm not saying the battle is won. But the tide is turning.

Some of you will recognise there some lines from a song which was
performed by Roger Waters and the Bleeding Hearts Band at a concert
over 20 years ago, to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall. One big
advantage of the inquiry into an NDIS being conducted by the
Productivity Commission, is that it isn’t an institution that could possibly
be dismissed as bleeding hearts. And through many years of work on
issues of microeconomic reform they have built up expertise and
credibility in tearing down walls.]

The Productivity Commission report provides strong analysis, supporting
the argument by a number of organisations, including my own, over the
years, that an NDIS would have overall economic benefits likely to
substantially exceed scheme costs, by facilitating greater economic and
social participation by people with disability, and families and carers.

The report also gives welcome emphasis to the point that limitation of
individuals' social participation, and life choices, is itself an economic
issue, even when it can't be measured directly in dollars. This is

consistent with the approach of Treasury, and the Australian Bureau of
Statistics, which both emphasise human wellbeing, rather than solely
GDP, as the appropriate measure of economic progress.

The report shows that thwarted potential, and limited life chances, for
people with disability don't need to be invisible to policy makers, and to
the wider Australian community, if we decide to look. And that social and
economic arrangements that exclude or restrict participation by people
with disability do have a weight, that is felt in people's lives - like a bag of
dry ice dropped on your foot - and that can, and should, be measured
and reduced.

For too long, people with disability in Australia, and their families, have
been paying for disability with social and economic exclusion, and lack
of choices. As a whole, Australia has been paying as well - both
economically and socially - by missing out on making the most of the
contribution that the millions of people with disability in this country have
to offer. Bill Shorten has said that this is as unjust, and unacceptable, as
putting a wall around one of our capital cities, and condemning everyone
inside to inferior life chances and outcomes.

The Productivity Commission has shown evidence that better equality in
economic participation for people with disability, could bring billions of
dollars of economic benefits, and that a society which effectively
includes all its members will be a more prosperous, as well as a fairer

The report does not neglect the human dimension of all this. There are
passages which describe starkly the injustice faced by people with
disability right now in Australia, and present an irresistible case to
change it. Here's one:

Mike has an annual income of $150,000, which he spends on basics of
life, but also holidays, a nice house and a car. In contrast, Mary, who
has a severe disability, has an annual income - after government
transfers - of $25,000, and she gets around half of her reasonable
personal care needs met.

Beyond the basics, she can't buy the things that Mike can. She is so
poor that she can't afford to top up her support needs to an adequate
level. She would need another $15 000 to do so. She can't get out much,
she needs a nappy because she can't get enough personal care, and
she endures discomfort and indignity.

Earlier this year I wrote a media piece saying that I was over seeing
claims on newspaper front pages about people who are on twice the
median income, in one of the most prosperous countries in the world,
still somehow being hard done by, and deserving of government
assistance, ahead of people in real need. And that people on $150,000
were in the sort of poverty trap that most people with disability could only
dream of. I decided to tone that down just a bit for publication. Maybe I
shouldn't have.

But fortunately, the Productivity Commission has been at least as severe
on this sort of thing as I wanted to be.

There are many people like Mike in Australia, and relatively few people
like Mary. Under the NDIS, 15 'Mikes' give up $1000 each … Mary now
has an income equivalent to around $40 000, and the 15 'Mikes' have
$149 000 each, only a very little lower than before. The loss in wellbeing
experienced by each Mike is low. The gain for Mary is high.

Of course, being able to present this sort of story, and analysis,
depended on listening to, and taking seriously, the experience of people
with disability and their families and organisations, and relaying that
experience to the public, and to decision makers. Also critical was the
extensive input from such a wide range of organisations. To mention just
one, the Business Council of Australia were clear in their support for an

Another key factor has been how clear and consistent the message from
people with disability, and their families and organisations, has been. I
pay particular tribute to the continuing work of the Every Australian
Counts campaign.

Some people expressed concerns about how far the language of
insurance and risk might imply a negative view of disability. But
overwhelmingly, it was recognised that support for an insurance
approach, rather than other possible responses, such as expanded
welfare schemes, would be a key factor in moving disability issues from
a welfare/charity model, to one based on rights and entitlements. And
also in ensuring that a scheme promotes access and participation in all
areas of life, rather than only providing an improved funding model for
segregated services and segregated lives.

Despite how many of us there actually are as people with disability in
Australia, disability has too often been strangely invisible in public
discussion. Media professionals tell us that nothing cuts through like real
human stories. And we've seen that in the media response to the report,
which has been overwhelmingly supportive, and calling for action faster
than proposed by the Productivity Commission.

I agree with the Productivity Commission that an NDIS is such a major
reform that it's important to get it right. But I am immensely encouraged
by the enthusiasm of some State leaders, and the government of
Victoria in particular, to move forward with large scale trials as early as

I'm also very encouraged by the decision by the federal government to
allocate $10million immediately to start work on the governance
arrangements for the NDIS. That sounds small compared to $6.5billion,
but it is a critical investment.

I repeat what I said to last year's Summit:

There's more to a social insurance scheme than payments to insured
individuals. Simply, there also has to be an insurer (or insurers). As well
as paying benefits to individuals, insurers do all sorts of other things to
manage risk. And these things, as it happens, look very similar to many
of the major mechanisms for social change provided in the obligations in
the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.…there are
substantial precedents for roles for insurers - even in private insurance,
but definitely in social insurance - as agents of social change through:

Awareness raising and attitudinal change
Research and development of new technologies
Promotion of standards and guidelines
Funding and promotion of access to necessary equipment, facilities,
information, services and supports
Individual and systemic advocacy including through the legal system.
On that last point, I note that the Productivity Commission recommended
against the scheme funding advocacy, because of issues of conflict of
interest when advocates want to challenge decisions within the scheme.
That's an issue which I'd like to discuss further as the implementation
process progresses.

But more broadly, the Productivity Commission clearly contemplates a
National Disability Insurance Authority having most of the sorts of social

change roles we argued for as part of accepting a social model of
disability, and as a major means of meeting Australia's obligations under
Article 4 and Article 8 of the Convention.

As the Productivity Commission points out, funding needed for these
sorts of roles is very, very small, when compared to the total or the
additional funding needed for support for individuals: a few tens of
millions of dollars compared to billions. Or just a few dollars from each of
us. It's barely small change in the context of an economy, with GDP
approaching two trillion dollars. But in the world of disability rights in
Australia right now, it would represent a huge difference.

For example, throughout my term as Disability Discrimination
Commissioner, I have also been at first, Human Rights Commissioner,
and more recently Race Discrimination Commissioner. With the very
welcome appointment this month of Victoria's Dr Helen Szoke as
Federal Race Discrimination Commissioner, I became the first full time
Disability Discrimination Commissioner Australia has had since Elizabeth
Hastings - another Victorian - completed her term almost 14 years ago.
But to support that role, I have two and a half staff, and after paying
them I have a project budget of about $30,000. You will see at once why
I'm looking forward to having a National Disability Insurance Authority to
work with, in pursuing the removal of barriers to participation and
opportunity, and full enjoyment of human rights, for people with disability
in Australia.

In the same way, I very much welcome the government's decision to
establish a National Mental Health Commission. A very significant
development from the draft to the final report is that the Productivity
Commission accepted that people with psychosocial disability should be
within scheme coverage, with issues of co-ordination with mental health
and related services being issues to manage, rather than leading to
exclusion of this group from the scheme. I hope the new Commission
give early priority to establishing close working relationships with the
NDIS, to ensure that the rights of people with psychosocial disability get
the maximum benefit from the scheme.

It's been argued, rightly, that the budget bottom line shouldn't be a
barrier to implementing the whole NDIS as soon as possible - because
of the urgent human needs involved, and because the economic benefits
will quickly outweigh additional fiscal costs.

Depending how the scheme is set up, it might even be possible to have
little or no upfront impact on the budget bottom line.

I don't mean there won't be substantial costs, of course there will have to
be. But my understanding is that when the Commonwealth allocates
additional funds to the Australian Rail Track Corporation, for example, it
does that by way of equity injection. Meaning that ownership of
additional equity for the Commonwealth shows up in the "assets"
column, to balance the amount in the "expenditure" column, instead of
the expenditure all coming off a budget surplus figure, or onto a deficit

This seems a fair enough approach. Long term investment in the
economic and social benefits of better connecting us all together, is
clearly different from current expenditure. And the same point would
apply whether we are talking equity in a corporation that pursues those
benefits by building and improving railway tracks; or a corporation that
invests in removing barriers to participation by people with disability.

In my organisation's submission to the Productivity Commission, we
noted that the "social change" roles of a National Disability Insurance
Authority do not appear closely dependent on other major elements of
scheme choice and design. Accordingly, we argued that establishment
of institutional arrangements to undertake these social change roles
should be an item for early implementation, and should not wait for
determination and commencement of other roles for the scheme. I
repeat that point here. I will pursue it further, both with governments and
with the advisory group which is being established.

I turn now to the relationship between the NDIS and the NDS. One of the
reasons I am keen for early establishment of what we might call the
"social change" division of a National Disability Insurance Agency, is
because of the role this could play in driving the implementation of the
National Disability Strategy.

It's already seven months since the NDS was endorsed by COAG. The
NDS declared a shared vision for an inclusive Australian society that
enables people with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.
The strategy points to economic, social and human rights imperatives for
the achievement of this vision.

Like my organisation, other social policy advocates within and outside
government are seeking to link social policy agendas to major economic

agendas. But for opportunity and participation for people with disability,
this linkage is not just a matter of "they would say that wouldn't they".
Rather, it's a linkage made in the highest level advice from the
government's professional economic advisers. As well as the
Productivity Commission, that includes the Departments of Treasury and
Finance, whose briefs to the incoming government after last year's
election both stressed equity and participation as essential to enhancing
economic performance and potential.

The NDS identified an NDIS as a potential major component of the NDS
in two of the six priority areas:

Economic security for people with disability and their families and
Personal and community support and participation for people with
I agree with that of course. But I see a National Disability Insurance
Authority as being an important driver for action under the NDS across
the board.

The same point applies to a Mental Health Commission, in ensuring that
all areas of the NDS address issues for people with psychosocial

These institutions could add immense value, and play critical roles by

providing the whole of government and whole of society view which is
hard to achieve for an agency or department working within a specific
area and level of government
providing additional channels for communication, and partnerships with
society, including people with disability, and their families, and with
Let me stay with communication and partnerships for a moment. In
recognition of the significance of the NDS as a framework for the
implementation of the Convention, and the recognition of an important
role for the Commission within the NDS itself, the Australian Human
Rights Commission has framed our own workplan for the foreseeable
future around the NDS.

The NDS, of course, requires that disability Ministers, and their
departments, co-ordinate development of detailed implementation plans
for each of the priority areas identified, and bring these back to COAG
early in 2012. The Commission doesn't believe, however, that it's

necessary to wait til the NDS implementation plans are finalised next
year to start taking action around the NDS.

As noted in the NDS itself, there are already a range of current relevant
commitments, and existing initiatives. The Commission is engaged in a
number of these, in partnership with relevant Commonwealth agencies,
with representatives of people with disability, and with States and
Territories and relevant industry bodies.

There are also a range of areas under the Strategy, with clear scope for
action, rather than needing to await further agreements at
intergovernmental level. With this in mind, we've commenced
discussions with a number of Federal ministers, and with their
departments, as well as some discussions with States, on specific

To keep people in other areas of government, and in disability
community organisations, in touch with what we're doing, and thinking,
we've re-commenced our regular "Disability Rights Update" newsletter
on the Commission website, together with continuing brief blog entries,
and even briefer tweets, on news and developments. Please take a look
at the September newsletter if you haven't already. And follow me on
twitter at Graemeinnes.

Two recent developments:

I'm excited by the commencement of the "Leaders for Tomorrow"
program, announced earlier this year. I'd urge everyone in disability
organisations to look at how they might benefit from ongoing rounds of
this program.
Any day now, we will announce commencement of the partnership
between FAHCSIA and the Commission to support participation by
disability leaders in international human rights processes.
Of course communication is a two way street. We set up our disability
rights blog last year, with the intent of making communication easier and
more effective. It's a bit disappointing that in response to most posts we
get offers for fake Viagra, rather than comments or questions on the
issues. We will keep trying of course - better communication, not the
Viagra! - and I'd welcome your suggestions.

Disability Ministers are due to take detailed implementation plans for the
NDS back to COAG early next year. I know there has been a lot of work
within and between governments, and I applaud that.

I don't think it's just me, though, that thinks that while titanic endeavours
are going on within government to advance disability rights agendas,
there are a few too many icebergs around.

I mean, that on many of the actions flagged in the NDS, we are not stuck
on the glacier any more, we are heading out to new destinations, and
that's exciting: but only one tenth of what is being considered seems to
be visible, with the rest going on below the surface.

I was pleased to be included in the initial briefing to disability advisory
bodies by the National Disability Strategy Development Officials Working
Group last month. We noted the urgency of involving representative
organisations of people with disability more directly, and of ensuring
improved information flows. So I'm looking forward to more discussion
through this Summit of what everyone is doing. Early 2012 is already
very close.

The Commission will contribute anything and everything it can to ensure
that we get the best results possible out of this stage of development of
the NDS, and I'm sure the same is true for everyone else in the sector.

Change in the disability rights climate is one sort of climate change that
we really do want to see happen. And it will only keep happening if we
humans keep working together to induce that change. So I look forward
to continuing to work together.


For the second year, CHARGE Syndrome Association of Australasia
was a recipient of funds raised from the annual auction, sweeps and
raffles held at the Melbourne Cup Luncheon at Royal Freshwater Bay
Yacht Club in Perth. Last year, nearly $15,000 was raised and
those funds have supported children with CHARGE and their families in
Australia and NZ in the following ways:

        Much needed respite for families
        Information packages to newly diagnosed families
        Family information-sharing forums, including childcare and
        Support for a family effected by NZ earthquakes

        Support to a family to attend World CHARGE Conference in USA
        Production of the 'Why I am Me' book about CHARGE
        Biennial Family Conferences, with subsidies for families and
         childcare activities
        Professional Days with key speakers in the field

This year we look enjoyed another successful Melbourne Cup Lunch

The 'Why I am Me' book about CHARGE is now available for purchase,
see website at and book link at

Sharon BarreyGrassick
Director, CHARGE Syndrome Association of Australasia


5.1 Australia’s National Disability Strategy (2010-2020)
The Strategy that has recently been affirmed by all levels of government
sets out a 10 year national plan for improving life for Australians with
disability, their families and carers. It draws on the results of extensive
consultation conducted in 2008-09 by the National People with
Disabilities and Carer Council and reported in Shut Out: The Experience
of People with Disabilities and their Families in Australia (2009). The
report is available at

The report confirms that people with disabilities in Australia want to bring
about a transformation of their lives. They want their human rights
recognised and realised. They want the things that everyone else in the
community takes for granted. They want somewhere to live, a job, better
health care, a good education, a chance to enjoy the company of friends
and family, to go to the footy and to go to the movies. They want the
chance to participate meaningfully in the life of the community. And they
are hopeful. They desire change and they want others in the community
to share their vision. They recognise that governments cannot work in
isolation and they want others to see the benefits of building more
inclusive communities (Shut Out, 2009).

The Commonwealth, State and Territory governments have developed
this Strategy in partnership under the auspices of the Council of

Australian Governments (COAG). The Australian Local Government
Association has assisted in the development of the Strategy and there
will be a strong role for local governments in its implementation. The
shared vision is for an inclusive Australian society that enables people
with disability to fulfil their potential as equal citizens.

The purpose of the National Disability Strategy is to:

•     establish a high level policy framework to give coherence to, and
      guide government activity across mainstream and disability-
      specific areas of public policy
•     drive improved performance of mainstream services in delivering
      outcomes for people with disability
•     give visibility to disability issues and ensure they are included in
      the development and implementation of all public policy that
      impacts on people with disability
•     provide national leadership toward greater inclusion of people with

A summary of the Strategy is available at

5.2 Individualised Funding for Disability Services
Disability services in Victoria have been undergoing major reform since
the early 1990s. A significant reform has been the development of
Individual Support Packages (ISPs). People with ISPs can manage the
funds themselves and choose the services and providers that best suit
them. At least 7800 Victorians have an ISP, accounting for 19% of the
Department of Human Services' (DHS) disability funds.

The audit found evidence of good outcomes for recipients and that all
stakeholders are enthusiastic about the results of ISPs and their ongoing
potential. However, benefits are not consistently delivered. Application
processes are burdensome, allocation decisions can lack consistency
and transparency, and DHS needs greater assurance that funds are
spent appropriately. DHS also needs to support and develop the new
marketplace in the disability services sector. Current departmental
activities and forward planning align with these directions
More information on the Report is available at:

5.3 National Disability Insurance Scheme
In February 2010 the Commonwealth Government commissioned an
Inquiry into a long-term care and support scheme for people with
disability in Australia. Government’s Productivity Commission found that
the current disability support arrangements are "inequitable,
underfunded, fragmented and inefficient and give people with disability
little choice". The report recommends a National Disability Insurance
Scheme (NDIS) to provide all Australians with insurance for the costs of
support if they or a family member acquire a disability, as well as no fault
insurance for anyone who suffers a catastrophic injury.

In its 18 month inquiry into the disability services system, the
Commission received over 1,000 submissions. While the Government
has yet to endorse its recommendations or commit the additional funding
required to implement the NDIS beyond an allocation of $10 million to
support a newly-established technical advisory group, it is hoped these
are the first steps toward an improvement in the provision of support
services to Australians with a disability. In the plan set out in the Report
the NDIS would be implemented in stages from mid-2014.and not fully
implemented until 2018-19.

5.4 Payroll tax rebates for businesses who hire employees with a
The NSW Government has introduced legislation to Parliament that will
give businesses a payroll tax rebate for hiring a person with a disability.
NSW Minister for Disability Services, Andrew Constance, said the
Payroll Tax Rebate Scheme (Disability Employment) Bill 2011 will
provide employers with a payroll tax rebate of up to $4,000 per

The rebate will apply to businesses who hire a new employee out of the
Transition to Work program and will be paid in two equal parts, after
three months and after six months from the hiring of a new employee.
To qualify for the rebate, the employee must have commenced
employment on or after 1 January 2012 and before 1 July 2016 and the
employee should work an average of at least 12 hours a week. The
employer must be liable for payroll tax, either during the period of
employment or in a financial year during which an eligible employee is
employed. The NSW Government has committed $2 million per annum
over the next five years for the scheme to apply from 1 January 2012

More information at:

5.5 A Better Start for Children with Disability
Under the Australian Government’s new Better Start for Children with
Disability (Better Start) initiative, children aged under six years who have
been diagnosed with moderate or greater sight or hearing impairments
including deafblindness, Down syndrome, cerebral palsy or Fragile X
syndrome will be able to register to access early intervention funding of
up to $12,000 (to a maximum of $6,000 per financial year).

From 1 July 2011, funding has been available for services such as
speech pathology, audiology, occupational therapy, physiotherapy,
psychology and orthoptics. Families will have until their child turns seven
to use the early intervention funding.
The Better Start initiative also includes a one-off payment of $2,000 for
eligible families living in outer regional and remote areas. As access to
services is limited for these families, this payment will assist with travel,
home visits and similar expenses. Eligible children can register for the
Better Start early intervention funding by contacting the Registration and
Information Service, managed by Carers Australia, from 1 July. A
number of new Medicare items are also being introduced as part of the
Better Start initiative. The new items will be available for children up to
the age of 15 provided their treatment and management plan is in place
before the age of 13. Families will be able to access the new Medicare
items from 1 July 2011. The Medicare component of the Better Start
initiative is being implemented by the Department of Health and Ageing
and further information will be available at and For further information about the Better Start
initiative, please visit

5.6 Hearing Services Program
The Commonwealth Government is providing an additional $47.7million
over 4 years to improve access to services in the national Hearing
Services Program. This additional funding will help cover increased take
up of such implantable technology as cochlear devices; and the age
level has been expanded to include adults between 21 and 25 years
inclusive to ensure those that are studying, training or establishing their
careers are assisted. For more information go

5.7 Encourage your Medicare Local to prioritise the health of
     people with disability
Nineteen Medicare Locals commenced operation around Australia on 1
July 2011, with the remaining 43 to be established by July 2012. These
organisations are a key component of the primary health care reforms
being implemented by the Australian Government and have the potential
to improve the health of people with disability.

Medicare Locals will assist in the coordination of primary health care
delivery in an area and are required to address local health care needs
and service gaps. They will work with general practitioners, nurses,
allied health professionals, Indigenous health organisations and Local
Hospital Networks to identify and respond to gaps in local services.
Importantly, they are also required to consult with local communities to
identify health priorities and will be accountable to those communities to
make sure services are effective and of high quality.

NDS will be contacting the Medicare Locals to highlight the compelling
evidence that people with disability have poorer health than the general
population and to request they prioritise this group within their work..

NDS urges members that assist people with disability to manage their
health to make contact with their Medicare Local to highlight the need to
improve health outcomes for people with disability. Early contact will
increase the likelihood that these issues are identified in the initial plans
for action.

The Medicare Locals now operating are:

      Western Sydney Medicare Local
      Hunter Urban Medicare Local
      New England Medicare Local
      Murrumbidgee Medicare Local
      Inner East Melbourne Medicare Local
      Barwon Medicare Local
      Inner North West Medicare Local
      Northern Melbourne Medicare Local
      Metro North Qld Medicare Local
      Gold Coast Medicare Local
      Metro South Qld Medicare Local
      Townsville-Mackay Medicare Local
      West Moreton-Oxley Medicare Local
      Central Adelaide and Hills Medicare Local

     Country North SA Medicare Local
     North West Metro WA Medicare Local
     Country South West WA Medicare Local
     Tasmania Medicare Local
     Australian Capital Territory Medicare Local

 Contact details for these organisationsare available on the Your Health
5.8 National Broadband Network and Household Assistance
    Scheme – Digital Switchover
The National Broadband Network (NBN) is public infrastructure that will
provide high-speed access to services such as the internet, electronic
home and business applications, e-health records, and research,
games, media and other services, to all premises in Australia.

The NBN is being built by NBN Co Limited – a wholly Government-
owned company, and most premises will be connected via fibre-optic
cable (93%) and the remaining in rural and remote areas will get fixed
wireless or satellite connections. The infrastructure is due to be
completely rolled out around Australia by 2020. Customers will still use
telco companies such as Telstra, Optus, iiNet and Primus and they will
connect users to the new equipment. Consumers will get a Network
Termination Device or “NBN box” inside their premises or in a few cases
on the outside wall. ACCAN (Australian Communications Consumer
Action Network) is a group that is strongly lobbying to ensure that issues
for people with a disability are included in the NBN.
ACCAN’s recommendation is that this is an important issue and that
deafblindcustomers think about their use of broadband services now
and in the future. In the initial roll-out, implementation of equipment is
free to all premises. Any specific equipment currently used, for
example, a Vocal Phone Dialer or telephone, will be connected in the
same way.
For more information visit

5.9 Household Assistance Scheme
Government’s Household Assistance Scheme (HAS) provides set top
boxes to people on lower incomes or on the Age Pension, the Disability
Support Pension or receiving a Carer Payment, who have a disability,
seniors and those living in remote areas to ensure they will have
uninterrupted access to television as the switchover from analog to
digital television progresses around Australia (this is happening
currently). The Government will provide recently developed set-top

boxes that can be used by blind and vision-impaired citizens to those
who need them. The Government will provide installation, in-home
demonstrations and access to a free hotline for 12 months after
installation of the set-top box.
For more information go to

5.10 Australian Films to be captioned and audio described.
Screen Australia has announced that as a condition of funding from 1
July 2011 it would require films to be delivered both captioned and audio
described. It is already an existing requirement for films to be captioned.

This initiative follows recommendations from the Federal Government’s
Media Access Review final report and provides some 600,000 blind or
vision impaired Australians access to an audio described feature film
experience in an effort to improve accessibility of Australian feature
films. Screen Australia CEO Ruth Harley said, “Better and more
equitable audience access to Australian films at a reasonable cost is a
benefit for the industry and community as a whole.”
The government is funding a national upgrade of cinemas to be caption
and audio description compliant by 2013. The new requirement for
Screen Australia–funded feature films to be both captioned and audio
described will mean that films are available in time for the completion of
this upgrade.


Blues enthusiast, Michelle Stevens, has been playing the piano since
before she was five. It aided the stress that accompanied studying a
Bachelor of Arts at La Trobe University in Melbourne, which could only
be undertaken part-time by the deafblind student. The following interview
with Michelle and university support staff has been extracted from the
university’s website:

Michelle Stevens:
Quite often people ask me what sort of enjoyment do I get out of the
piano? I suppose it is a great release from studying. Studying is not only
mentally exhausting at times, but studying also can provide interesting
challenges, and playing the piano is actually a great release for some of
the tensions that you sometimes fell during study.

Before taking on tertiary education, Michelle had to complete VCE
English and a Diploma of Deaf Studies in order to work with tactile
Auslan interpreters to access her lectures and tutorials.
Michelle Stevens:
Because primarily my communication is through tactile sign language, I
needed to have a very deep understanding of what it was like and to see
accurate signs during lectures and tutorials. Throughout her university
career, Michelle became increasingly interested in History and finally
chose it as her major.

Jennifer Ridden:
Well, Michelle was really keen to learn and so she was interested in
finding out about new things and thinking about things in a new way, and
that meant she was prepared to read or use her electronic equipment to
read through brail with the help of the Equality and Diversity unit and
through the help of the interpreters and really explore the ideas that
were being discussed in the subject. She got more and more excited as
the material in the course on riots and rebellions in the British Isles
developed and as that material opened up to her, and the excitement
was infectious. So we all enjoyed working with her because the more
excited she got, of course the more excited we got and that makes it a
terrific experience for everyone.

After six years of studying Michelle graduated on the Friday the 25th
March 2011. The emotional day was shared by friends family and staff
from La Trobe that all played a big roll in supporting her dream.

Jennifer Ridden:
She's put so much work into this degree and she's had so much
determination and energy to come to the completion of her degree and I
was so proud when she invited me to take part in it and to go onto the
stage in my gown to be part of her ceremony.

Sally Freeman:
The Equality and Diversity Centre are so proud of Michelle's graduation.
We've been working and supporting her over the last six years, and for a
student who's Deafblind undertaking studies at La Trobe, at University,
at any University involves a lot of resources, a lot of staff and it's been a
collective effort for her to progress academically so successfully.

Michelle Stevens:
Its really important that people with disabilities must become empowered
to make sure that they get the absolute most out of life as one could
possibly get, but I quite often think of this that my teacher said to me, "I
wouldn't amount to anything, I will always be stupid," and I remember at
Glenn College last year at my valedictory dinner, I remember giving a
talk to the other students, and I actually said, "I wish I could speak to that
same teacher now and show them how stupid I am now".
Whatever you do, do not believe people who say you can't do it, you can
succeed, as I said quite a few times before, you can succeed and if you
put the work in La Trobe will stop at nothing to get the work out of you
and to make you succeed.


This letter was sent to Productivity Commission on Wednesday 20th July
2011 Please have a read and learn what we have the effort in writing for
government to know what we are really need for our better lives.

Here is:

Inquiry into Disability Care and Support Productivity Commission GPO
Box 1428, Canberra City ACT 2601

Dear Sir / Madam

Below is a summary of a recent meeting and request from information
from the Victorian Deafblind Advocacy Group. We hope you can assist

Thank you
Heather Lawson
(on behalf of the VDBAG)

We are writing this letter on behalf of the Victorian Deafblind Community
to inform the Productivity Commission that we want our voices to be
heard. Our community experiences isolation, due to our special and
complex dual sensory disability of Deafblindness. We strongly believe
that we should have the same rights and responsibilities as other
disabled or non disabled groups in the community. We should have
the opportunity for our voices to be heard and to be seen.

The Victorian Deafblind Advocacy Committee organised a NDIS forum
on Wednesday 1st June 2011. The forum was well-attended by 17
deafblind participants, families and volunteers. We were supported by
Auslan Sign language and Deafblind Tactile interpreters along with staff
from Able Australia's deafblind services.

The discussion was excellent and many concerns and issues were
shared by the deafblind group, who all share the common experience of
living with the combined dual sensory disability of Deafness and
Blindness known as deafblindness. Each person has different support
needs with many who have little or no support at all. People who are
Deafblind are limited in their opportunity to get out into the community
and are too reliant on other people to help them. Many Deafblind
people are stuck at home too afraid to go out on their own without
appropriate support.

The participant's believe they should have the same rights and choices
access to services and support that meet their special needs.

This includes human support (eg; support people, guides, interpreters)
who have appropriate skills and the right method of communication;
appropriate service delivery and access from professionals and support
agencies; and accessible technology to improve our quality of life. We
want to advance our life so that we can have the same opportunities and
hopes as other people do. We want to live in the community with positive
support available to us.

This is why We believe the NDIS has the potential to finally allow
deafblind people to enjoy similar access and participation in life that
most other people take for granted. We very much support this initiative.

Finally, the group asked many questions that we would like to know what
NDIS will provide.

Could you please consider our questions included below. Thank you for
your time and consideration. We are looking forward to seeing NDIS
become a reality for ALL Australians.

Here are some issues raised at the forum:

     Will the NDIS cover 1:1 support to allow us to travel anywhere?

   Will the NDIS cover transport for recreation participation or to help
    with employment access?

   Will NDIS allow funds to have access for equipment being repaired
    (eg Braille displays damaged in a fall) ?

   How do we convince the PC that deafblind people have needs that
    are specific and very different to other disability groups ?

   Will deafblind people have access to an interpreter if they go to
    training course to learn braille, independent living skills, computer
    and social media skills?

   Will the NDIS allow funds for an emergency situations (due to
    changed circumstances at a short notice)?

   Will the person assessing a deafblind person be expert in
    deafblindness to correctly identify and correctly assess their

   Will the NDIS support a deafblind person's independent living so
    they can live in their home and request support

   Will the NDIS provide funds for deafblind people in aged care who
    have specialist needs that aren't funded by the aged care funding
    stream? For example one on one interpreter to fully participate in
    residential and community life, and guiding?


                     Sue Silveira, Research Fellow
                       RIDBC Renwick Centre

The Australian Childhood Vision Impairment Register (ACVIR) is hosted
by the Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children, and is supported by
the Senses Foundation, Vision Australia, Cando4 kids and Guide Dogs
NSW/ACT, QLD and Victoria, and Royal Guide Dogs Tasmania. It
began in late 2009 with the aim of collecting data on children living in
Australia with vision impairment. These data are then made available for
service planning and for research into eye and vision conditions.

2011 has been a busy year for ACVIR. Numbers have jumped to nearly
600 children and this allows a more accurate picture to be developed of
children with vision impairment living in Australia. Data have been
presented at seven conferences or meetings during 2011. Below is a
summary of the key findings to date:

Of our 600 registered children, about 60% are boys and 40% are girls.
Most children live in NSW. However, this is due to successful
recruitment in NSW rather than more children having vision impairment
in this state. NSW is closely followed by SA, again due to excellent
support from Cando4kids. 35% of registered children are aged 0-5years,
46% are 6-12 years and 19% are 13-18 years.

4% of registered children have been born overseas, most commonly in
England or New Zealand. Other children have been born in Fiji, Doha-
Qatar, Iraq, Kenya, Lebanon and Vietnam. 83% of families report the
main language spoken at home is English and the next most common
language is Arabic.

73% of registered children were suspected to have vision impairment by
the age of 6 months and this jumps to 79% by the age of 12 months.
After this, from 1-6 years a further 18% were suspected. The most
common time for registered children to be diagnosed with vision
impairment is by 12 months of age.

76% of registered children have someone else in their family with a
similar eye or vision condition.

85% of registered children were born at 37-42 weeks, 10% were born at
30-36 weeks, and 5% were born at 23-29 weeks. Being born early
corresponds with a low birth weight. 26% of registered children have had
an eye operation; the main reasons are turned eye or strabismus and
congenital cataract. 14 registered children use artificial eyes.

The 10 most common eye conditions are cortical vision impairment,
oculocutaneous albinism, nystagmus, optic nerve hypoplasia, coloboma,
high myopia, retinopathy of prematurity, optic atrophy, cone rod
dystrophy and Leber’s congenital amaurosis.

The Register now has online registration through a website called the VI
Family Network, located at This website
also has links to all support groups, and has a repository of low vision
resources and events that families across Australia may be interested in

Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to help recruit during
2011. Please let families know about the project so we can continue to
represent Australian children with vision impairment in an accurate way.
For more information contact:


The past year has been full of achievements for Able Australia
and the people we work with in Victoria, Tasmania and the Australian
Capital Territory. Our Tasmanian staff have had a busy year with the
launch of day services in Hobart and Launceston and the opening of our
new office in Hobart in May. This year also saw the extension of our
services into the Australian Capital Territory and we look forward to
continuing to grow our operations in 2012.

Christmas CD

The people Able Australia work with have collaborated with other
musicians and vocalists to produce a CD of carols they hope will bring
joy to others.

A diversion from the norm, this indie Christmas CD has a smooth flavour
and texture that takes you on a festive yet unique journey, which is well
worth the trip.

The nine track CD has some classics including Silent Night, Little
Drummer Boy and the First Noel. The CD is the brainchild of Able
Australia’s Fundraising Manager along with staff working in our music
therapy program, who spent the last six months making this CD with
external collaborators and music therapy clients. The CD Cover features
the artwork of a young man, Alex Sar, who accesses Able Australia’s
Deafblind Services. His painting was also featured in the recent ableart

The CD is available for purchase for $9.95 at participating Degani
Bakery Cafes across Melbourne as well as directly from Able Australia
by calling 1300 225 369 or visiting All
proceeds from the sale of Christmas Connections will be used to support
our ongoing work. We hope you enjoy these carols as much as the
collaborators enjoyed producing them.

If you don’t ask, then I suppose we will never know”
By Robbie Hendry
Christmas Connections Executive Producer
Able Australia Music Therapy Coordinator

Sometimes things start out simply. An off the cuff comment leads to an
idea – passion gives it breath and then sparks fly.

Building on Able Australia’s sense of creating and building community
connections, we started making a bunch of phone calls in an attempt to
get the ball rolling on a new idea - The Able Christmas CD was born.

Degani Café and Bakery were onboard immediately and their
wonderfully supportive Marketing Manager George Vasiliadis gave us
the vehicle that allowed us to present this CD to the public.

We started late in the year but were lucky to have some quality people
jump on board straight away.

On the musical front we can’t go past the amazingly talented Greg Hunt.
He was a driving force in the creation of the CD and whose production
skills were key to the success of this project. Greg is an amazingly
talented multi-instrumentalist and gave up months of his time to
rehearse with our Music Therapists.

We would also like to acknowledge Mark Stanley. As owner of Red
Room Studios, Mark provided the equipment for our live recordings as

well as his production skills. His patience throughout was very much
appreciated. Mark also helped us to make contact with some of the great
artists that feature on this CD.

Thank you also to Simon Imrei, a Triple J local unearthed act, who has a
mixture of styles and inspirations. Simon's music is crafted to deliver a
simple sound that jumps in your ears and stays there Simon's music
speaks honestly, without complexity, and gives listeners catchy pop
music to remember throughout the day. Simon was the first person who
agreed to contribute and we thank him for his commitment.

We would also like to thank Rob Melville, a musical aficionado and
educator with a long history of performing in acts internationally. Rob is
the in-house guitarist and musical arranger at Red Room Recording
Studio and joined the project without hesitation. We thank Rob for his

A special thanks also to Julie Buxton, a Melbourne based singer
songwriter. On this CD Julie came together with guitarist/composer
Robbie Melville and husband/producer Mark Stanley to offer their
rendition of the haunting, seven hundred year old carol “Hey Ho”. Julie’s
vocal performance gives this song great texture and we thank Julie
greatly for her support.

Michelle Stevens; thank you for playing such a wonderful piece for the
CD. You are an accomplished pianist and the song you chose ads such
great flavour to the project. Your partnership with Music therapist,
Christina Green, shows a commitment and passion to your music.

To the incredible Alex Sar. Your art work for the cover is amazing. It
epitomises a real Aussie Christmas - “Koala Claws” highlights your
wicked sense of humour and says it all! Alex and Michelle Stevens are
examples that deafblindness is no obstacle to expressing artistic and
musical creativity.

To the amazing members of the Able Music Therapy team, Chiara
Browne, Felicia Bartlett, Scott McPherson and Brodie Henry who
dedicated many months of their own time to rehearse and prepare for
this CD. There would be no album without the contribution of your talent
and support for the project.

To everyone at Able that has got behind this project (you know who you
are), who have put up with my CD obsession and got into the Christmas

spirit early (we have been singing these carols for months now), a
massive thank you!!

And finally, thanks must also go to the people who participate in Able
Music Therapy, some of whom you will hear singing on these carols…
you are the heart and soul of what we do.

We hope that through Music Therapy we can continue to bring music
into the lives of people living with disabilities, some with deafblindness,
encouraging them to engage and express themselves.

We at Able Australia wish everyone a very Merry and joyous Christmas
and we trust that the New Year is full of magic and adventure.


Ablephoto is a photographic competition for people with deafblindness
and the theme for this year’s competition was ‘Australia & Me’. An
exhibition of pictures was held from Friday 24 June to Sunday 26 June
at the BMW Edge Foyer, Federation Square, Melbourne to coincide with
the start of Deafblind Awareness Week. This year we had over forty
artworks from twenty-three artists on display.

Deafblind Awareness Family/Footy Open Day

Deafblind Awareness Family/Footy Open Day was held at Able Australia
in Camberwell in July. The event had a ‘Footy’ (Australian Rules
Football) theme so that everyone dressed in their favourite footy team
colours and prizes were awarded. There was also a Mini Expo of the
latest technology for people with deafblindness to experience, as well as
massage, painting, motorcycles, a handball target, jumping castles,
games and food tasting.

Able Australia held its Annual General Meeting on 24 October 2011 in
Melbourne. Staff from across Australia attended the event, which was
hosted by our Patron Peter Hitchener


Let's Connect is a project funded by V.V. Marshman Trustees aimed at
developing awareness, knowledge and skills of service providers in the
disability sector who are likely to work with people with deafblindness,
and to provide education and information to people with deafblindness

about assertive communication, their rights, and laws and processes
around human rights and equal opportunity. It has provided opportunities
for service providers and people with deafblindness to come together to
meet and learn from each others experiences.

1n 2011, training sessions were held in Perth in February at Senses
Foundation, in Darwin in June at Carers NT, and in Adelaide in October
at Kilparrin Teaching and Assessment School and Services. All the
sessions were well attended and the feedback from the sessions was
very positive. Unfortunately due to inadequate responses, no
assertiveness training for people with deafblindness was run in Darwin
or in Adelaide.

Planning is underway for a national meeting in Melbourne in March
immediately prior to the National Deafblind Camp. This meeting will see
representatives with deafblindness from each State where assertiveness
training has been run, coming together to plan a strategy for working
together at both State and National levles to improve the situation for
people with deafblindness in Australia. Further assertiveness training will
also be run at the National Deafblind Camp.


In October I attended the International Deafblind Conference in Sao
Paulo, Brazil. The Brazilians were fantastic hosts, very helpful and

With the support of Able Australia I was offered a poster session to talk
about Social-Haptic Communication which I researched in Finland last
year. The response was that of excitement and enthusiasm. These
techniques which have been formulated by Riitta Lahtinen and Russ
Palmer are innovative and cutting edge. I have put together a workshop
that I plan to present in each state of Australia so if you would like to
know more, please contact me on:-
1300 225 369
TTY 9882 6786

Forsight Foundation Coordinates seven community group homes
scattered throughout Sydney from its Group Home Support Centre in
North Rocks. It has a new website that can be accessed at:

Trish Wetton, CEO, and Forsight administration staff are currently
organising the planning committee for Australia’s 2013 National
Deafblindness Conference to be held in Sydney.


Western Australia’s Senses Foundation celebrated this year’s
International Deafblind Awareness Week by having their State Minister
for Disability Services, Hon Helen Morton open a new ‘sensory garden’
at one of their community houses in the southern suburb of Success.
The new facility is an outdoor area incorporating a sensory garden that
is tactile and functional, together with an appropriate recreational area
that meets resident needs. The garden was developed with generous
assistance from local Rotary Clubs, as well as the Gosnells branch of
Rotaract, who were presented with a Certificate of Appreciation at the
opening ceremony. The project took volunteers over a month to
complete, but transformed the outdoor area into a stimulating and
relaxing environment for the three young men in their 20s who are
permanent residents. It incorporates such hardscape elements as
paving, timber decking, mulch, gravel and ornamental stones, with a
trampoline to provide exercise and stimulation as well as a covered area
offering shade and temperature contrast. Plants were deliberately
selected with a variety of foliage, form, texture, scent and colour and a
water feature and wind chimes were included for additional sensory
input. Edible fruits, vegetables, herbs, and spices were also planted to
provide sensory and teaching opportunities about plants, cooking and

Senses to Provide Better Start Services for Children with a
We are excited to announce that Senses Foundation (Inc) will be
providing therapy services to children accessing the Australian
Government’s new Better Start for Children with Disability (Better Start)
initiative. Senses will be providing physiotherapy, occupational therapy
and speech pathology services to eligible children in Western Australia.
For further information please contact Kelly Gurr, Manager of Life Skills
& Family Services on
(08) 9473 5458 or For information about the
Better Start initiative, please visit, call
1800 989 530 or email

Senses Foundation in Brazil
Six Senses Foundation staff attended the 15thDeafblind International
World Conference being held in São Pauloin Brazil from Tuesday 27th
September to Saturday 1st October. Bronte Pyett and Elvira Edwards –
who also work within the Deafblind International Secretariat - attended
Deafblind International Management Committee and Council meetings
on Saturday, Sunday and Monday then Elvira attended the conference.
Senses presented four papers at the conference. Fiona Kemp
(Occupational Therapist) and Melanie Robartson (Speech Pathologist)
presented two papers “The Life Space Model: Understand Perceptions,
Identify Motivators, Enrich and Expand theWorld” and “Tech Heads:
Introducing Young Children Who Have Deafblindness to Technology”
Fiona Kemp presented “Do therapists have a role in the lives of people
with deafblindness??” Angela Wills (DeafblindConsultant) presented a
paper on “Communication and Beyond”

Senses Foundation in China
Senses Foundation’s Manager of Community Living will heading off to
China in October as a guest of the Zhejiang Provincial Disabled
Persons’ Federation. The WA Minister for Disability, the Honourable
Helen Morton approved the visit by five delegates, to Hangzhou to
attend part of the National Disability Sports meeting and visit the
facilities and services available to people with disabilities in the province.
The visit is supported by the West Australian Government and the
Zhejiang Provincial Disabled Persons’ Federation.

Curtin and Notre Dame Universities have been involved in two research
projects at Senses Foundation, one to develop a guide for deafblind

students entering adult education and the other to develop and sustain
healthy relationships for clients with Ushers Syndrome.


The release of the iPhone 4S sees people selling or storing old iPhones
but we are asking Australians to consider donating them instead. Old
iPhones can change the lives of people who are both deaf and blind.

People may think their iPhone is outdated, but deafblind people are
making do with much older technology that is difficult to adapt for their
needs. Mobile phones provide a vital connection to the outside world for
deafblind people who are often very isolated because of barriers to
communicating they face.

The iPhone is a particularly good phone for deafblind users because it
comes with in-built accessibility, such as speech output and the option to
increase text size. Deafblind users are also able to connect it with their
Braille readers and keyboards. The high cost of new technology means
many deafblind people can’t afford it, especially when you add the cost
of the adaptive technology required and the cost of mobile phone plans.

Any donations received will be directed to the deafblind people who
access our Ablelink centre. You can donate your iPhone in one of the
following ways:
•Drop it off at Ablelink – Level 3, Ross House, 247 Flinders Lane
•Drop it off at our Camberwell office at 616 Riversdale Road
•Post it to PO Box 1213, Camberwell Victoria 3124


A Western Australian man has been awarded a $425,000 ex-gratia
payment after
he spent 15 years in jail for a murder he did not commit.Darryl Beamish,
who is deaf and cannot speak, was convicted of murdering socialite
heiress Jillian Brewer in her Cottesloe unit in 1959. She was attacked
with a tomahawk and a pair of scissors.

Mr Beamish was convicted of wilful murder and sentenced to death,
which was

commuted to life imprisonment because of his disability. Despite a later
confession to the murder by Perth serial killer Eric Edgar Cook, Mr
Beamish's conviction was upheld. In 2005, after a lengthy campaign to
clear his name, the Court of Appeal
quashed his conviction on the basis that a "substantial miscarriage of
justice" had occurred. In a statement, the WA Attorney General Christian
Porter said ex gratia payments are not intended to fully compensate
individuals for loss or
detriment suffered.

"In this instance, the Government is satisfied that sufficiently
extraordinary circumstances exist to justify an ex gratia payment," he
said. "This payment is intended to express the State's sincerest regret
for what occurred and provide him with a measure of comfort and
financial security in his retirement."


“Instead of comparing our lot with that of those who are more fortunate
than we are, we should compare it with the lot of the great majority of
our fellow men. It then appears that we are among the privileged”. Helen



As technology has grown and evolved, much of the standard fare has
become able to support the requirements for use by people with
disabilities. Productslike the iPad and iPhone are a good example (with
built in magnification, voice over, voice recognition, magnifying glass
apps etc).

But the problem is that companies like Telstra, Optus and Vodafone only
offer such phones on fairly high priced plans and are often aimed at
power users who use the full functionality of the phone. I’ve forgotten
now how many times I have asked whether I can put my phone on a
plan that only uses SMS and a bit of internet traffic rather than having to
pay $80 a month for a plan I don’t use (often one with high call caps etc).

The BrailleNote as a Learning Tool.

               From: Ramona Mandy, Humanware Victoria

Leanne Nagel, a Visiting Teacher in Victoria, has recently written an
article for the Statewide Vision Resource Centre about the BrailleNote
as a learning tool. It gives an outline of some important ways that the BN
is making a difference for students and teachers in the school
environment. Teachers, students and parents in particular may like to
read it. It can be found at:

The Readit Wand

                         From Sam Taylor:
               Humanware Blindness Products Consultant

The Readit Wand is a portable camera to instantly read & magnify your
Its headline features include:

• Near instant and very accurate
• 6 powerful, instantly switchable text views including the unique
“Overlay” view – ideal for tables and diagrams
• Exceptionally powerful software
• Compact, stylish & lightweight
• Automatic multi-language switching
• Split screen compatible with ZoomText and SuperNova
• Save, load, import, export & bookmark your documents

Who is the Readit Wand for?
Readit Wand is for any vision-impaired or blind computer user, who
wants near instant, easy and accurate access to printed or electronic
format documents.

Just plug the lightweight camera into your PC or laptop and it instantly
translates any printed text into crystal clear speech. Letters, receipts,
bank statements, books, product packaging etc. are all read with ease.

Its pull out positioning guide also allows users with no vision at all to
perfectly place their documents.

Key Features

Read faster and more easily:
Automatic formatting and reading is used rather than an X/Y reading

Automatic multi-lingual speech output:
Readit Wand also reads your documents out loud to you with lifelike
voices and automatically changes voice depending on the language of
the document! The speech is ideal for blind users or to give low vision
users’ eyes a rest.

Six enhanced visualisations:
View your captured documents from x0.2 to x80 magnification in any
one of 6 visualisations. Text automatically flows from one line to the next
and can be read out at any time.

The 6 visualisations are:

1. Image – for photographs and hand written text
2. Overlay – Ideal for diagrams and tabular information; any document
   where the layout of the text is important to its meaning.
3. Column – most popular for reading long passages of text
4. Horizontal – a single line of text in a ticker tape style, which is
   perfect for users wanting to minimise the amount of text on screen.
5. Vertical – one word per line centred horizontally on the screen – this
   can be especially useful to certain Retinitis Pigmentosa (tunnel
   vision) users.
6. Word – one word at a time. This is good for learning the spelling of a
   word or for the largest magnification levels.

5 megapixel images: Extremely high resolution images guarantee the
best possible accuracy down to 6pt text.

Virtual X/Y Live View: For access to documents without capturing, just
place them under the Wand, and move the magnified real-time image
around with your mouse! It’s so much faster and easier than moving the

Document Storage: Capture entire text books in minutes then store &
organise them on your laptop! Readit Wand even remembers what page
you were on the last time you accessed a document.

Import and export documents: Import any document -PDF, Word, Email
etc& read it directly in Readit. Export your documents to Word, txt, RTF,
MP3. MP3 export is very useful as a revision aid.

Please note, MS Office and text format documents require that MS
Office be installed on the user’s computer.

Windows 7 Multi-Touch Support: Documents can be zoomed, navigated
& controlled even more intuitively. Tracking a cursor becomes a thing of
the past!
Text Highlighting: 4 different text highlighting options are available to
customise Readit to your exact requirements:
1. Rectangle
2. Underline
3. Inverse highlight
4. None
Easy Access Toolbar: An adjustable size and position toolbar with clear,
colourful icons gives instant access to all the basic controls.
Portability: At just 690 g (1.5 lbs) Readit Wand is small enough and light
enough to be taken with you anywhere.
Incredible document straightening abilities: Readit Wand’s advanced
software straightens extremely bent spines of books, tins of food and
even 3D perspective corrects objects.

Multi-screen support:
Readit Wand has built in support for multiple screens and features
dedicated keyboard support to control the Readit software directly from
within other applications.
This makes writing and editing documents that you’re reading simple!

Variable Line Spacing:
Users can easily adjust the space between lines of text to suit their

Included accessories / options
• Headphones with in-line volume control.
• USB extension cable.
• Capture mat (for users with very dark desk surfaces)
• Additional user licenses available (3 installs per user provided as
• Additional languages (see website for complete listing).
• All future version 2.x software upgrades included free of charge.

The Readit Wand is priced from A$2795.

If you require further information or wish to purchase/trial the Readit
Wand, please contact Sam at Email:



For cinema-buffs who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or vision impaired,
access is coming to a cinema near you!

Arts Access Victoria is pleased to announce the latest news on the
Cinema Access Implementation Plan and the exciting progress that is
underway as outlined in the Communiqué from the Accessible Cinema
Advisory Group (ACAG) here.
The Cinema Access Implementation Plan has been put forward by
Australia’s four major cinema groups (Hoyts; Village; Event/Greater
Union/Birch Carroll & Coyle; and Reading) with funding support from the
Australian Government.

The implementation of the accessible cinema plan will see Australia take
a leading role internationally in the delivery of new technologies for the
provision of captioning and audio-description. By December 2011, 50
cinema screens will be offering Captiview, leading to a grand total of 242
by 2014.We invite patrons to test out the cinemas using the new
technology and provide feedback to

The current list of cinemas with the new technology can be found at

For further updates on the Cinema Access Implementation Plan, please
check the Arts Access Victoria website at

Media Access Australia’s new accessible website

Media Access Australia has a new accessible website, merging the
Media Access Australia and Audio Description websites with a fresh new
look and feel.

In line with its mission, accessibility has been at the forefront of the new
website’s design, development and testing. The site has been built to
meet Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 level ‘AA’ using
the Drupal content management system. They’re also changing the way
we keep you up to date, replacing our newsletter system with a
customisable news alert system. You can now receive our latest updates

on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. You can choose what type of news
you want to receive, relating to access in television, DVD, education,
cinema and the arts, digital technology, online media, research and
policy or a combination of these. You can also choose whether you want
to receive information relating to the blind and vision impaired or the
Deaf and hearing impaired
New sections and features have been added to the new site, a key
source of news on media access developments and practical
information, resources and guides on accessible media.

Brand research showed confusion over the ‘New media’ section. You will
now find this content and much more in two new sections, ‘Digital
technology’and ‘Online media’. Digital technology contains information
on accessible mainstream devices and technologies that make your
computer accessible, for example, software and assistive technology
devices. The Online Media section focuses on the Internet itself, not on
the devices that may be used to access it. Here you’ll find information on
website accessibility and accessible media on the web, such as audio
and video material (e.g. captioned videos on YouTube and movies on
iTunes) and social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter).

The Education section of the new website has also seen a lot of new
content added, including information and resources specifically for
teachers for access and inclusion in the classroom. Please bear in mind
that a lot of content has been transferred over from the old sites and
some older content might not be 100% compliant. Over the coming
months they will be adding more features and content to the site.

The Your Local Cinema site remains unchanged, providing information
on accessible cinema locations, session times and cinema news. If you
have any difficulty using the site, or would like to provide feedback
please phone 02 9212 6242 or send them an email.


International Mobility Conference 2012, ‘Mobility through the Ages,
Up, Over and Down Under’ will be held in Palmerston North, New
Zealand on 13 to 17 February 2012. The call for abstracts opens in
February 2011 and closes 30 April 2011. To register your interest,
please see the conference website

The 28th Annual Pacific Rim International Conference on
Disabilities and Diversity is scheduled for March 26 & 27, 2012 at the
Hawaii Convention Center in Honolulu. Proposals are being accepted
beginning July 15th, 2011 in all formats.
Visit the thefacebook page:

The 2012 Association for Education &Rehabilitation of the Blind
and Visually Impaired (AER) International Conference will be held
July 18-22 at the Bellevue Hyatt, Bellevue, Washington. Contact: Ginger
Croce (877) 492-2708 (toll-free) Fax: (703) 671-6391


                         Office-bearers 2011-12

The ADBC committee consists of Sven Topp (President), Stephen Hardy
(Vice President), Carleeta Manser representing people with
deafblindness, Gail Staggs, parent representative; Carla Anderson, Mike
Steer (Beacon Editor), Elivra Edwards representing professionals and
organisational members, and Celestine Hare representing the
Secretariat(Legal Officer).

                   ADBC Website, Blog and Brochure

ADBC’s website is

ADBC Blog is at ADBC Blog

An ADBC information brochure is available. Please email or call (03) 9882 8596 if you wish to receive a

                            Email addresses

Anyone interested in receiving news about ADBC through email should
send a message to Alisa Wills at:
asking to be put on the list. The committee would like to tell people what
it is doing and it would also like you to send in your comments.

                            ADBC Contacts

                            Western Australia

Elvira Edwards                    


Gail Staggs                       

Stephen Hardy
(Vice President)                  


Mike Steer                        
(Beacon Editor)

Sven Topp
(ADBC President)                  



Celestine Hare     
(ADBC Legal Officer)

Carla Anderson     

                       ADBC Executive Officer

Alisa Wills                 


       Beacon is edited by Mike Steer (RIDBC) and published by
                    theAustralian DeafBlind Council
                              PO Box 1213
                   CamberwellVictoriaAustralia 3124
                   Telephone: Voice (03) 9882 8596
                         Fax (03) 9882 9210
      Office Hours: Monday, Tuesday & Thursday 9.30am-2.30pm
                         ABN 47 319 389 019

We would like to acknowledge the contribution of Royal Society
       for the Blind (SA) for printing Beacon in Braille

                    CALLFOR CONTRIBUTIONS

Reports, original manuscripts and news items are sought for the next
and subsequent issues of ADBC Beacon. The newsletter presents
articles and reports on:

A wide variety of issues and topics related to children, youth and
adults in Australia and overseas who are deafblind

It is intended that the newsletter will be a vehicle for informing interested
persons, including Australians who are deafblind, researchers,
educational administrators, Commonwealth and State personnel and
service providers, as well as others in our communities about issues
affecting people who are deafblind in Australia and overseas.

Authors can submit reports or articles by email, in print or on disk for
review at any time

Submissions should be sent to:
                  Mike Steer
                  RIDBC Renwick Centre
                  Royal Institute for Deaf and Blind Children
                  Private Bag 29
                  Parramatta NSW 2124
                  Fax: 02 9873 1614

                    Membership Form

Use this form to join ADBC. If you want to receive information in a
special way, please circle the one you want.

Email             Braille          Large Print


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I am (please tick):
     A person with vision-hearing impairment/deafblindness (free)
     A family support person or other (free)
     A professional person ($25)
     An organisation with turnover of less than $50,000 ($75)
     An organisation with turnover of $50,000 or more a year
     None of the above ie other ($10)
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of the form so that Beacon can be sent to you.

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Mail to:

PO Box 1213
Camberwell Vic 3124

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