Volunteers Needed

Digital Literacy Foundation needs Auslan speaking tech mate

Michael Robinson of Katoomba was born profoundly deaf and is now desperately seeking an Auslan speaking tech mate.

Because of his disability, everything takes longer for Mr Robinson. He missed out on NDIS funding because by the time he was able to make himself understood he was no longer eligible – and needed the age pension instead.

And as he struggled with limited funds, he had to battle through bushfires, floods and pandemic without a phone.

“Michael was unable to contact services or find out if they were closed,” his community caseworker, Ruth Myers, said. “It became a very stressful time for Michael, who was already isolated and cut off from the hearing world.”

The 67-year-old former support worker and translator (he used a mobile phone for messaging co-workers and clients) stopped work after a workplace accident several years ago.

Ms Myers said because he struggled to pay for a phone he stopped using technology.

Mr Robinson told the Gazette “technology changes so quickly that the hearing world forgets that hearing impaired people, without the support, continue to be invisible while those who can hear still have the same expectations on us”.

It’s also a potentially life-threatening challenge for Mr Robinson.

“Michael was unable to call for an ambulance himself when suffering great pain and infection of overdue dental work … Michael was unaware of how to make contact without the use of technology and living with his disability,” Ms Myers said.

“Not being able to find someone has meant that Michael’s independence is still a gap for him and makes it difficult to continue to engage with the services he needs, such as his MyAged Care provider.”

Enter Jaye Gaff, a Digital Literacy Foundation spokesperson who has been given the tricky task to find a volunteer tech mate match for Mr Robinson and has appealed to the Blue Mountains Gazette for help.

‘Tech mates’ are digital mentors that provide one-on-one support to help people learn about technology and use it confidently and safely, Ms Gaff said.

“Everything is going online and without the skills to use technology, people are becoming more and more excluded from the modern world and all it has to offer.”

The role is the first of its kind that Ms Gaff has had to find, but she stresses “you don’t need to be a tech wiz, just have a basic understanding of technology skills and some patience”.

The volunteer will either be an Auslan speaker or able to work with a profoundly deaf learner and an interpreter. It’s a case of someone having to be with him to help do basic things like – send an email, surf the web or change a password on a device, viewing bills online and should not take more than about an hour a week.

“Typically, our learners are seniors or those from disadvantaged backgrounds or with learning difficulties. You could be asked to help with their phone, laptop or tablet. “

Digital Literacy Foundation provides training and guidance and links with other volunteers to help with customer relationship experience.

“He has been waiting for a few months now and we’d love to be able to connect him with someone so he can learn how to use his laptop.”

Digital Literacy Foundation runs free digital mentoring session in Katoomba. The role can be found here. Up-to-date COVID vaccinations and a police check are essential.

Ms Myers, who works at the Central Tablelands and Blue Mountains Community Legal Centre, a free service that offers advice and advocacy for legal and tenancy matters, said she would love to see her client be able to engage more with the world.

“Michael loves goldfish and plants. The use of technology would open up the world of learning and ability to engage with others to increase his interests, knowledge.”

Article Ref:  Lewis, B. C., C 2022, ‘Digital Literacy Foundation needs Auslan speaking tech mate’, Blue Mountains Gazette, 11 November, p. https://www.bluemountainsgazette.com.au/story/7920871/cut-off-from-the-hearing-world-desperately-seeking-an-auslan-speaking-tech-mate/