A few months ago, TEDx Canberra had an open mic night. This is my talk presented on that night…
TedX talks affect change via words, whether by increments or by revolution.
I want to change the world.
In 2005 I started work as a Community Health Worker for the Department of Health in South Australia.
I couldn’t sit ergonomically at the computer so two managers humiliated me in the workplace and in a staff meeting. They refused disability access verbally and in email.
The internal investigator guaranteed natural justice but later he admitted to selecting evidence.
He excluded some of my testimony, he excluded inconvenient evidence, and he excluded a medical report from an ophthalmologist.
A non-medical manager working for the Department of Health found that I don’t have the disability that was diagnosed when I was 6 months old.
His report said I didn’t need disability access and he denied that I had asked for access.
He disempowered me by discarding my words.
The Equal Opportunity Commission in South Australia found that it was my fault that the Department of Health refused disability access because I didn’t ask enough times.
After 6 more years of doors slamming in my face, I applied to RMIT for a degree in writing and editing.
I declared my disability in my application.
The interviewers began by telling me I was not going to get in to the program.
I showed them google analytics for my website.
At the end of the interview, they told me they’d see me next year.
In February 2013 RMIT refused standard student access to the library.
RMIT refused to listen to me and closed every complaint.
My non-disabled partner talked to IT and IT listened but RMIT still refused large print photocopies for classroom learning materials.
I sat in classrooms and watched other students engage with learning materials I couldn’t read.
At a staff meeting, the manager of the disability liaison unit, while sitting in his wheelchair, said he would prevent disability access because I’d asked too many times.
Two weeks later, RMIT sent this letter of reprimand [holds up original letter] — in enormous print — while still refusing to provide large print photocopies for class materials.
Months later, the appeal committee offered me disability access or an appeal.
Later the program manager said there was a loophole in the agreement and industry standards wouldn’t allow disability access so RMIT wouldn’t give me access for learning.
After I applied to the Australian Human Rights Commission RMIT provided disability access.
Words are keys with potential to break down barriers.
Words took me from career-destroying discrimination to completing a degree.
Nothing repays the years I’ve lost or the career I’ve lost due to discrimination.
But I am rebuilding my life in spite of discrimination because I am armed with words.
People assume feminism and anti-discrimination legislation has created equity; they couldn’t be further from the truth.
Discard my words and you disempower me.
Hear my words and change the world.