Deaf MP Told To Pay $30,000 For Her Own Workplace Adjustments

29 Feb 2012: People with disabilities have come a long way in society, especially since the days that they were more likely to be labelled ‘stupid’ and hidden away from the world. We are still making advances all the time. Even last November, in New Zealand, the first profoundly deaf woman was elected into parliament.

London-born Mojo Mathers, who was a Law Maker in New Zealand, successfully fought her way into parliament, but now it seems her triumph is short lived.

Mojo was born profoundly deaf, and requires a sign language interpreter to assist her in addressing the parliament. She has requested electronic note-taking, to assist her to participate in parliamentary meetings. Note-taking would require an extra staff member, at the cost of $30,000, to take notes, and send them through a laptop, to Mojo, on her desk in the debating chamber.

However, Mojo says that if New Zealand’s parliament television was equipped with captioning, there would be no need for a note taker.

During a recent parliamentary discussion, speaker, Lockwood Smith, expressed his concerns of the cost and thought it should come straight from Mojo’s own office budget, instead of the official parliamentary services budget.

Lockwood stated that modifications for physical disabilities, like wheelchair ramps, could be covered, but extra staff couldn’t.

Since this has all been made public, Lockwood admitted that he thought the discussion was confidential, and during a press conference, said that he wasn’t happy about it being publicised, as it has attracted all sorts of media attention.

A spokesperson from the National Foundation for the Deaf, has stated that the decision not to give funding for Mojo is ‘disgraceful and appalling’.

Even an opposition leader has come forward, offering to use his party’s staff budget, to cover the costs for Mojo, saying the decision is unthinkable and discriminative.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, John Key, has since announced that the government would have a look at the extra funding costs that are associated with Mojo’s request, if he is approached by Lockwood about it.

Following English and Maori, sign language is New Zealand’s next official language, so to say that a hearing impaired employee should have to pay for their own equipment is hard to swallow.

There are petitions running all over the internet, throughout the world, to support Mojo, and hopefully together, everyone can collectively change the way her situation is being dealt with.

I mean, if this were someone in a wheelchair, who couldn’t climb up 20 steps at their place of employment, and that person was told to pay for the installation of a ramp, no one would ever hear the end of it, so this shouldn’t be any different. I do acknowledge that employing a separate person for note-taking is different to a ramp, as in, people in the future will not benefit from it, but it shouldn’t matter, people with disabilities want inclusion, and if that’s what it takes, then so be it… I’m sure a few of the parliamentary big wigs could shave a tiny amount off their annual wages and they wouldn’t even notice it.

To view the original story from the Adelaide Now website, please click here: http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/news/world/first-deaf-lawmaker-in-new-zealand-parliament-told-to-pay-for-electronic-note-taking/story-e6frea8l-1226271179758

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