WA Deaf Society Inc. Two Hands
Frequently Asked Questions

Click on the question and you will be directed to the answer.
If the link does not work, please scroll down to the question/answer.

  1. What is Auslan?
  2. Where do I go to learn Auslan?
  3. What are the statisitics of Deaf population?
  4. How do Deaf people get their Drivers Licence?
  5. What to do if you have been refused an interpreter?
  6. What is the difference between Auslan, Makaton & Signed English?
  7. What is the National Relay Service (NRS)?
  8. Where do I go to have my hearing aids/implant fixed?
  9. What is lip-reading and where do I learn lip-reading?
  10. How do I get subtitles/captions on my TV?
  11. What is a digital set top box?
  12. What technology is available for the Deaf?
  13. Government assistance for technology?
  14. What are hearing dogs?
  15. Where are the Schools for the Deaf?
  16. I provide a service, how to make it accessible?
  17. Can I learn Auslan and then teach it?

1. What is Auslan?

Auslan (Australian Sign Language) was officially recognised as a language by the Australian Federal Government in 1987.

Auslan is based on two-handed signs and incorporates two-handed alphabet (fingerspelling).

Auslan is a visual language using signs to create meaning via the hands, orientation, location, movement and expression (HOLME). Signs are related to concepts not words.

There are registered Auslan Intepreters by NAATI (National Accrediation Authority of Translators and Interpreters) which is the regulatory body for interpreting and translating. This was first incorporated in 1982 by NAATI and this gave a legitimate meaning to Auslan as a language.

The first Auslan dictionary was first published in 1989 and now there are various resources to choose from ranging from dictionaries, websites, interactive CD's and video/DVD programs. Visit the National Auslan Signbank it is a rich source of information and signs. Registration is required for full access to the Auslan Signbank database, at no cost.

2. Where do I go to learn Auslan?

There are a number of courses available teaching Auslan as a second language, from an elective language offered in some schools to a 2 year full time diploma or part-time certificate II at TAFE.

In WA, the main provider of Auslan classes is TAFE, this varies in other Australian states.

The Auslan & Deaf Studies Centre is based in Leederville campus of the CMC TAFE. There are options of part time or full time classes and every year, and a module will run for a semester.
(Pre-requisites vary for each unit).

Also available are specialised yearly courses such as Para-professional or Professional Interpreting courses. Please contact the Auslan & Deaf Studies Centre at Leederville. Midland, Bunbury and Albany TAFE provide Auslan classes. For more details about courses provided and what the specialised year long course is for the subsequent year.

Please contact your local TAFE. Some TAFE's will consider adding Auslan classes to the courses provided if there is sufficient demand from interested parties.

3. What are the statistics of Deaf population?

Statistics have been released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In 1993 there were 93,600 people in WA with some form of hearing loss and 1,200 people use Auslan in WA as their main mode of communication.

In the 2001 Census, people were asked the language used at home. There was no option to identify Auslan users and most people marked English. The majority of Deaf and hard of hearing people communicate with their families in English and communicate with their friends and some family members using Auslan.

90% of Deaf babies with hearing loss are born to hearing families, so therefore this is a significant number that impacts on the statistics.

Contact the Australian Bureau of Statistics for updated information.

4. How do Deaf people get their Drivers Licence?

Deaf and hard of hearing people go through the same process as anyone in Australia to obtain a drivers licence. They do not have any exemptions or exclusions, and are required to pass every stage of the testing process. However there is an opportunity for Deaf people to access the written tests in their preferred language which is via an Auslan interpreter this is known as the 'oral test'. Each state has different regulations and testing process, please check with the WA Department of Licensing for further information.

5. What to do if you have been refused an interpreter?

In WA if you have been refused an Auslan interpreter in government departments or affiliated departments, this is against the WA Language Services Policy where it states that all state government departments are required to provide access to the service.

For public hospitals and medical services they are required by law to provide access. They have their own booking systems.

The WA Deaf Society advocates for the right to have preferred interpreter that is qualified and it is customary to notify the Deaf person of the interpreter is prior to the appointment, allowing Deaf people to be able to freely make and cancel appointments without difficulty.

If you have been refused an interpreter and feel that you have been discrimated against, please contact or arrange to see one of the Community Services staff and they will assist you in resolving the issue.

Go to Sign Language Communications for further information.

6. What is the difference between Auslan, Makaton and Signed English?

Auslan is a true language, recognised by the Australian Government in 1987 in the Languages Policy. Auslan has it's own structure and grammar with five lingusitc aspects of HOLME - Handshape, Orientation, Location, Movement and Expression.

Makaton is a method of key-word signing for people with intellectual disabilities, autism and other aspects of limited communciation. Makaton borrows the signs from Auslan, it is not a language because it does not contain structure and grammar.

Signed English is a sign system which was established to match word-for-word to the spoken English language. Signed English is entirely different from Auslan, however it borrows many signs from Auslan and this is where some confusion occurs between the two. Signed English is English, it is a manually coded English, therefore it is English delivered in a different format and is mainly used in education settings.

7. What is the National Relay Service (NRS)?

The National Relay Service (NRS) is a 24 hour, 7 days Australia-wide telephone service, it is available to anyone at the cost of a standard phone call. If you are Deaf or hard of hearing or speech impaired and you use a TTY or computer with internet connection, you can contact anyone via telephone through the NRS.

When you call the NRS, a Relay Officer (RO) will assist with your call. A Deaf person with a TTY, will type and read the converstation via a keyboard and screen. The RO will become "your voice" and read out loud your converstation to the other person, the RO will listen to response from the hearing person and type it back for you to read.

Specially trained Relay Officers (RO) professionally relay conversations between two parties. Conversations can be relayed in a variety of ways: from text to voice, voice to text, or even use your own voice to converse and read back the return conversation on the screen (this is called VCO or Voice Carry Over). Of course strict confidentiality of all calls is guaranteed.

For further information visit the National Relay Service site and follow the prompts to the National Relay Service information pages.

8. Where do I go to have my hearing aids/implant fixed?

It is preferable that you are to go back to where you obtained your hearing aids or cochlear implants from. They will be the most suited people to conduct repairs on your hearing aids or cochlear implants.

Contact Australian Hearing, a Government agency who provides repairs, replacement moulds at an annual membership rate. You need to be a Centrelink concession or Veterans Card holder.

There are many private audiologists and hearing aid suppliers. To find your local agent contact Yellow Pages. Costs for repairs vary from business to business.

9. What is lip-reading and where do I learn lip-reading?

Lipreading is something that has to be learnt, it is not simple as riding a bike. It is not a natural instinct, and can be complicated. It is known that in an ordinary sentence, only 30% of the sentence can be understood and 80% is guesswork.

Lipreading requires persistence, patience and practice. It takes time to learn the skill and may take years to master, some people pick it up quickly and become competent.

There are many words in speech that sound different but look the same from the lip pattern such as mind-bind, job-shop etc. It also depends on the person’s speech & mouth movements as one can be a mumbler, has thin lips or has obstructions blocking a clear view of the mouth such as a beard or long moustache.

It is important to remember when communicating with a Deaf or hard of person and they are lipreading you:

  • Don’t exaggerate your speech
  • Speak normally (not slowly or fast)
  • Don’t shout
  • Make eye contact with the Deaf or hard of hearing person
  • Keep your hands or any obstruction away from the face
  • Be aware of lighting in certain areas
  • If a sentence is not understood for the first time, do not repeat – modify the sentence.

Better Hearing Australia (WA) conducts classes for lipreading.

10. How do I get subtitles/captions on my TV?

Closed Captions are hidden, and you require a special function that sometimes comes with the TV set you purchase, this is known as Teletext.

If you are buying a new TV set, ensure that it has the built in function of Teletext. Ask the salesperson if you are unsure. Most TV's contain the built in function and this does not/should not incur an additional cost.

To enable the captions to appear the page number required is 8 0 1.

Most Teletext TV’s are not suitable for recording subtitles onto video tapes.

Today’s technology that is rapidly progressing and people are now moving onto PVR (Personal Video Recorder) with hard drive capacity. These change how things are done significantly, and recording captions are now different.

Visit the Australian Caption Centre for more details about Closed Captions and equipment use.

11. What is a digital set top box?

A digital standard set-top box (STB) is needed for receiving digital TV broadcasts because the vast majority of TV sets do not yet have such a tuner.

Digital TV provides better reception, picture quality and other benefits.

In Australia, the process of switching from analogue broadcasts to digital broadcasts commenced in 2001 and will be completed in 2008. There will be a need to purchase a new integrated digital TV or a STB (set top box) to go with your current set.

There are two different set top boxes – standard or high definition. The difference between the two of them is technical – high definition provides better picture quality with a higher number of lines in the display resolution.

Many digital STBs have teletext closed captioning display capabilities - with these STBs, a TV connected to them doesn't also need to be able to decode teletext closed captions, as the feature is provided by the STB. This also allows for recording captions via the STB.

Please refer to the Australian Caption Centre website for equipment advice or visit superstores and ask the retailer for advice.

12. What technology is available for the Deaf?

There is a growing number of technological devices that not only Deaf people use but the wider community as well. The specific technological devices that Deaf people is now limited to a few products that are considered effective and most suitable for the needs of the Deaf consumer.

For example:

  • Telephone Typewriter (TTY) will always be around for Deaf people to use for two way converstation via telephones.
  • Teletext - provides captioning - however current technology has the function built in and is now common in general households but not used if one isnt Deaf or hard of hearing or prefer captioning to loud volume levels.
  • Visual Signals - This is a wide group of visual signals such as doorlight, baby cry alarm, visual smoke alarm, visual signal alert (telephone) and many more.
  • Bed Alarms - There are two different sort of alarms - one is visual with light flashing or a shaker - shakes under pillow or under mattress.

Other technological devices that Deaf and hard of hearing people may use everyday:

  • Mobile Phones - SMS
  • Computers - Email, webcam, internet etc
  • Video conferencing/ Video Phones
  • Fax machines
  • GPS

For further technological information - please visit the following websites

Word of Mouth Technologies

13. Government assistance for technology?

Currently there are no subsidies for technological device purchases.

However there is some GST exemptions on some certain devices. Please check with the supplier for further information.

If you are a concession card holder Australian Hearing Services provide hearing aids or other listening equipment at an annual membership rate.

14. What are hearing dogs?

Hearing Dogs are specially trained dogs for the Deaf or hard of hearing. Hearing Dogs are trained in sound awareness, alerting the Deaf owner of any noises such as alarms, door knocks, mobile phone beeps, baby crying etc.

In Australia the Lions Hearing Dogs is based in Adelaide is the main supplier of Hearing Dogs in Australia.

The Hearing Dogs are trained in simple sign language as well as verbal commands. Hearing Dogs are accredited professional working dogs which are legally accepted as 'guide' dogs in Australia. For further information visit Lions Hearing Dogs.

15. Where are the schools for the Deaf?

In Australia there are only a few Schools for the Deaf. The Victorian College for the Deaf in Prahran, Victoria and Thomas Pattison School in North Rocks, New South Wales.

Schools with Deaf units in WA are located at:

  • Mosman Park School for Deaf Children is based at the Mosman Park Primary School. The unit allows for Deaf children to be mainstreamed within the school but yet receives support from Teachers of the Deaf, Deaf role models etc.
  • Shenton College – A Deaf unit is based within the school and has one of the largest numbers of Deaf pupils in secondary school. Most of the Deaf students are mainstreamed with support such as interpreters, Teacher of the Deaf etc.
  • Other schools with Deaf units are Melville Senior High School, John Forrest Senior High School, Belmont City College, Warnbro Community High School and a few others.
  • (WA Institute of Deaf Education) WAIDE provide a Visiting Teacher program for those who are in schools without Deaf units and ensures that the Deaf or hard of hearing students continues to receive support where needed.

For more information about schools with Deaf units or Deaf Education in Western Australia, contact WAIDE

16. I provide a service, how to make it accessible?

There are many avenues that you can ensure that you are to provide a fully accessible service:

  • Face to face customer contacts - Deafness Awareness Training may be suitable.
  • Telephone/Internet information - Provision of TTY access, or online enquiries that are effective and quick.
  • Quality/Quantity of information readily available.
  • Location/Event accessible.

17. Can I learn Auslan and then teach it?

Auslan is a complex and rich language with cultural and linguistic aspects. To simply learn it and teach it is not recommended as it will distort and destabilise the genuinity of the language.