Tuesday, October 25, 2011

AFA's Letter to Telstra Protesting Dimity Dornan's Audist Statements & Practices

23 October 2011

David Thodey
CEO Telstra Corporation
Locked Bag 5639
Melbourne VIC 3001

Dear Mr. Thodey,
We condemn your organization’s recent award to Dimity Dornan as Telstra’s Queensland Business Woman of the Year and write to express our expectation that your organization will withdraw this award in addition to issuing a formal apology. 

The statements made by Dimity Dornan in Sydney Morning Herald upon receipt of this award clearly demonstrate that she is not the person who would promote the Telstra Awards in a manner worthy of an organization of integrity.  It is an outrage that an individual who works with Deaf people and looks upon their life situation as akin to one suffering from polio. In fact, for many Deaf people that which causes the greatest suffering in our lives is exactly the attitude expressed by your Business woman of the Year—the practice of audism.

Audism is attitudes and practices based on the assumption that behaving in the ways of those who speak and hear is desired and best. It produces a system of privilege, thus resulting in stigma, bias, discrimination, and prejudice—in overt or covert ways—against Deaf culture, the signed languages of Deaf people, and Deaf people of all walks of life.

Other quotes by D. Dornan over the years show a consistent pattern of audism (http://www.abc.net.au/stateline/qld/content/2006/s1611325.htm) and (http://the-rebuttal.com/?p=1475):

“A functionally deaf child needs to learn about the world through vision whereas a functionally hard of hearing child learns everything about the world through hearing and fits very nicely in a hearing society and becomes a very strong contributor to that society and therefore is very economically sound.

“Hearing loss, as we know, is the most common disability in newborn babies, worldwide, and it’s often diagnosed too late for optimal treatment. And in addition to this sad fact, there are presently only enough trained, uh, listening and speaking professionals to effectively treat 8% of all the children and adults, uh, worldwide with hearing loss. The good news is, today we stand where polio was 20 years ago. Through a combination of newborn hearing screening and most important point, the, our wonderful cochlear implants and digital hearing aids and early auditory verbal intervention we now have the potential to decimate the very serious consequences of hearing loss globally.

In addition, D. Dornan’s business practices are suspect.  Many auditory-Verbal Centres promote therapies which do not allow Deaf children to sign.  Denial of a fully accessible language is the violation of a human right for Deaf children according to international bodies such as the United Nations (see Articles  21, 24, and 30 of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, pages 211 and 227 of the  World Report on Disability of the World Bank/World Health Organization).  Even these organizations which mention Deaf people under the umbrella of disability, acknowledge the importance of the linguistic and cultural rights of Deaf people.

Such denial of human rights becomes a concern of Deaf people throughout the world.  Although we are an American grassroots organization committed to combating audism, we know that audism anywhere harms Deaf people everywhere.  Because of this, we must speak out.

The Business Woman of the Year Award  appears to be an honorable and a prestigious award celebrating women of exceptional achievement. Your website notes that qualified candidates must demonstrate “integrity” and possess “a balanced approach.”  Dimity Dornan’s comments as well as her business practices neither show her as a person of integrity nor one who has a “balanced approach” to dealing with the people she believes she serves.

Your award celebrates the achievement of women in a world where sexism hopefully is no longer tolerated.  We ask that you take a stand to show that you will not tolerate audism and ableism-- by withdrawing D. Dornan’s Award and issuing an apology for the audist comments made by your award winner. 

Let Freedom Roll!

Audism Free America

Karen James
Commonwealth Bank

Mark Steyn
Hudson Australia/New Zealand

Michelle Sherwood/Danielle Horan
Executive General Manager Strategic Marketing
Sensis Pty Ltd/White Pages

Chris Carr
Managing Director
Nokia Australia and New Zealand

Jackie Frank
Publisher/ Editor
marie claire--Australia