Deaf Scourge Comments Spark Outrage
14 October 2011 at 11:27 am
Claims of disability vilification have been leveled at Telstra's Queensland Businesswoman of the Year Dr Dimity Dornan after she called deafness “a scourge in our world”.
In her acceptance speech after being named Telstra's Queensland Businesswoman of the Year, Dr Dimity Dornan – an educator of disabled children and director of the Not for Profit organisation Hear and Say – said deafness is a scourge that can be eradicated and consigned to history, just like polio, according to the Brisbane Times.
The comments have angered deaf groups, with Deaf Victoria manager Melissa Lowrie telling The Age :
“The deaf community is angry and sees this as a form of cultural assimilation, similarly to what has happened, or attempted to happen, with the indigenous Australians. [Dr] Dornan feels she can 'cure' deafness and confine it to history, when she has not considered the whole picture of the culture, the language and the lives of many deaf and hard-of-hearing people.''
Specialised service provider Vic Deaf says:
"For deaf people the ratification by the Australian Government of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disability heralded a new age of opportunities for recognition of the language and culture of the Deaf Community. Unfortunately, the attitude shown by Dr Dornan in the devaluing of diversity sends a negative message to deaf people that they are “broken” and need to be fixed via technology"
Dr Dornan won the ward for her work in founding Hear and Say, an organisation that helps deaf children hear through early diagnosis, advanced hearing technology and therapy.
Hear and Say released a statement on its website that says paraphrasing by media at the event has lead to incorrect quotes attributed to Dr Dornan appearing in the media:
“In talking about current therapies to address hearing loss in children, she referred to the scourge of polio – which has since been eradicated in many parts of the world. Comments about these two conditions have unfortunately been combined, resulting in media stories referring to deafness as a “scourge”. This was not the message communicated at the award ceremony, nor the intended message of media interviews or reports.”
Telstra have removed the video of Dr Dornan’s speech from its website and from YouTube on the grounds that is may offend some groups in the community, The Age reports.
A Facebook Cause page called ‘Stop Deaf Cultural Genocide’ has been setup for people to protest against the comments, and has rapidly attracted over 600 supporters.