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Jacob's Story


NEWSREEL: Schooldays, according to some authorities, are the happiest days of our lives, and certainly these children look happy enough.

But this school is different from other schools.

All the pupils are deaf.

To this school in Sydney come children from all over New South Wales to learn how to overcome their handicap.

For if the deaf child never learns to speak, he will never communicate satisfactorily with anyone.

If it were me having to lip-read like that, I wouldn't be able to cope, I would only capture 30% of the conversation.

If a deaf child can't access spoken language well enough to acquire it, clearly it's very important they have another way to access language, for many deaf people sign language meets that need.

In the 1970s and early '80s many deaf people couldn't go past Yr. 10.

Almost all had menial jobs, manual trade work.

It was rare for deaf people to enter university.

So, there were many limitations.

At that time deaf people could not fully communicate with their teachers therefore they didn't have full access to educational content because their communication with their teachers was not clear.

When I was preparing to transition into high school, I wanted to go with my group of friends to McKillop Catholic College.

This group that were going to the Catholic College, some of them were my hearing friends, they could sign.

We went to the High School and had a meeting about the model of support they could provide through the Catholic Education Office.

They offered a note-taker, buddy system and technology but were not willing to provide an interpreter - damn it!

That became an instant barrier for me.

My parents just wanted the best education for me.

An interpreter was a must.

Sign language is fully accessable because it's visual.

It's a way for deaf people to grasp how language works.

To do all the more important things like initiate communication, exchange meaning, see other people talking in order to receive incidental information

From all of those important things which language gives you; It's all available through sign language.

My parents decided to go to court to fight for access to interpreters so that deaf children could access the education system.

WOMAN: In a landmark case, the parents of a profoundly deaf Canberra schoolboy are suing

It's an action that will test the newly established Disability Discrimination Act, or DDA.

I remember reading about the Jacob Clarke

case in the newspapers and thinking at the time it will be interesting to see how the court will decide this because at the time the D.D.A. was fairly new and I wondered how they might apply it.

It was the first time something like this had been taken to that level so I was interested to see how it would work out.

We started in 1999 and finished in 2004 so over a period of 5 years we fought.

It was a hard slog but with the support of people, family, parents there was a lot of encouragment for us to win the case.

The D.D.A. law is about people with disabilities, including myself being able to gain employment, access and a whole range of things.

Depending on what type of disability discrimination you're facing you can challenge them, make trouble for them. People need to understand that the D.D.A. is law! It's a really serious issue and people need to understand that discriminating against people with disabilities -- myself or the deaf community -- can have a huge impact.

As an example, my court case had a huge impact because access to Auslan is important.

It's important to be able to communicate without barriers. That's what the D.D.A. is about.

Now I work for the Australian Public Service after an apprenticeship of 6 years.

I graduated from TAFE and went to university for a couple of years.

Now I'm having a break and doing software engineering.