We follow, and advocate for, a range of issues affecting the deafness sector. The following are the current issues we are supporting and monitoring.
Life-threatening danger to children posed by button batteries
Severe health complications can develop within two hours if a young child was to swallow a coin lithium battery, such as those used in hearing aids and a range of other products.
If it isn’t removed quickly, they could die within 24 hours.
Most instances happened where children removed the battery from a device or the battery was left lying around.
Nearly 10 percent of injuries to children under the age of four involved batteries linked with hearing aids.
We call on our members, other advocates, and professional and industry associations in the hearing health sector to champion the message to the community.
Willing to Work: National inquiry into employment discrimination against older Australians and Australians with disability
The ‘Willing to Work’ inquiry, conducted by the Age and Disability Discrimination Commission looked at obstacles faced by, and discrimination against, older persons and persons with disabilities in taking part in the workforce
We highlighted that taking into account Australia’s looming workforce challenges, it was critical that all people with disability and businesses be placed at the centre of a new employment framework to make sure that people with disability were not left behind.
We made the point that the Australian public service is not the leader and example it could and should be.
We explained that people who want to take part in the work force and have hearing loss or are Deaf face challenges that are unfamiliar to most of their hearing peers. For some, the barriers start at or before they start looking for work and, for many, they become more acute during the selection process or at work. A loss of hearing can also lead people to exit the labour force sooner than they would like to, and before they’d planned to retire. As a result, there is a hidden loss to national productivity. The problem may be worse than currently understood. There is, we believe, a significant under-reporting of disability among people who are hearing impaired or have a chronic disorder of the ear.
The Government’s Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) was established to "…help people with disability and mental health conditions by providing financial assistance to purchase a range of work related modifications and services for people who are about to start a job or who are currently working, as well as those who require assistance to find and prepare for work." It’s an excellent program. It can continue to improve the return on tax-payer investment by keeping in step with changing workplace needs. Below are our recommendations to meet these challenges.
A generic EAF assessment for people with a disability before they start or look for employment. Their ‘passport’ would provide access to the EAF and any workplace-specific modifications could then be more easily accessed as add-ons or via a short form application process. For example, in the case of a person who is hearing impaired or Deaf, the generic EAF assessment could cover standard communication related modifications and so on, with any specific requirements for a workplace to be accessed separately as and when needed.
The EAF needs to be more flexible and able to meet people’s other work-related needs. For example, more emphasis needs to be placed on supporting the needs of employees at informal and social functions within their workplace. These are often crucial to forming productive networks with colleagues and accessing career progression opportunities.
The EAF needs to be expanded to become accessible to people who are hearing impaired or Deaf who wish to do volunteer or community work as a way of improving their skills and experience and making them more employable in the future.
Tailored to suit the need
Providing increased EAF support and funding for applicants who are promoted to management positions to make sure that there are no caps that restrict career advancement opportunities.
More sensory disability awareness training provided to EAF consultants, so they fully understand and appreciate the barriers faced by people who are hearing impaired or Deaf.
A national, ongoing strategy to promote greater awareness by employers of the entitlements of employees under the EAF program.
An up-to-date knowledge bank of the main examples of EAF workplace modifications.
An up-to-date survey undertaken of employers and employees that will lead to published data on the level of public awareness of the EAF and its functions.
Tax advantages for employers who supplement an EAF entitlement from company funds to make sure employees don’t miss out on meetings, training and other opportunities that hearing colleagues have.
National Practice Standards for Audiology
The Office of Hearing Services (part of the federal Health Department) is developing national practice standards in audiology.
The process is supported by an audiology expert reference group. We are a member of the reference group.
The objective of the group is for the voluntary standards to reflect nationally agreed practice expectations of those working in the hearing services sector. The standards will:
be applicable to all professions involved in hearing services in Australia
cover all client populations and practitioner types
be up-to-date, evidence based and relevant to the needs of all key stakeholders in the hearing services sector including clients, practitioners, families, carers and funders
be endorsed and owned by the hearing sector
be measurable by third parties if required.
On-demand, real time captions and interpreters in government service centres
We have advocated since early 2012 the need for on-demand captions and Auslan interpreting services to improve customers’ interactions at Australian Government service shopfronts, such as Centrelink, Medicare and NDIS offices.
The current communication arrangements in most government shopfronts are inconsistent, time-consuming for all involved, and the source of tension and misunderstandings for customers and staff. People with hearing devices rely on hearing loops, but these are not always present, may not function properly or are not switched on. People whose preferred communication is Auslan need access to interpreters via video links.
Our objective is that all government shopfronts should have designated facilities that provide equal communication access.
Inclusion in education
All children in Australia have the right to an inclusive education. However, there are many barriers in the experiences of children and families. Teaching and literacy is vital for children with reduced hearing acuity and those whose native language is Auslan.
Literacy is the ability to read, write and to apply critical thinking skills to the written word. Some students with disability have positive education experiences with good academic and social outcomes, but this is by far the exception.
The extent of disadvantage that students with disability contend with in the current education system is profound. A typical school experience for students with disability involves discrimination, limited or no funding for support and resources, poorly trained staff, a systemic culture of low expectations, exclusion and bullying
Despite the high value and strong evidence linking educational attainment and improved life outcomes, students with hearing disability are frequently denied education opportunities.