Well, I finally did get my motorbike licence, but not without its share of dramas.
A kick in the gut
A couple of weeks after the previously mentioned incident, my brother came over to talk about the Perth City Legal website I was developing for his partner Denise, who is a lawyer. While he was there, I opened a letter from the DPI and was totally gobsmacked. I started to read it out loud to Neil and Graeme but couldn’t finish more than a sentence or two as I was too upset.
It basically said that unless I had a medical within 30 days, to ascertain that I was fit to drive, my drivers licence (car and all!) would be revoked. Even if I got the medical certificate, they could still at their pleasure revoke the licence. This was because — get this — I “suffer from cochlear implants”.
Graeme took the letter off me and huffed and puffed about it. He is a hearing aid wearer, and realised that the implications were far and wide for all hearing impaired people Australia-wide. He took it home with him to give to Denise. Denise is a personal injury lawyer but nevertheless has a lot of experience in advocacy.
I explained the situation to a cochlear implant email list to which I belong, and someone (thanks Naomi!) sent me a PDF of the standards adopted by traffic licencing centres Australia-wide.
There is no standard for hearing.
That’s right. You can be deaf as a doorpost and (unless you’re a commercial driver) according to the national standards, it doesn’t matter a jot.
However, the DPI required me to get a doctor to assess me against non-existent standards to determine whether or not I was fit to drive.
My audiologist and surgeon both said there were no issues with deaf people driving. Quite the opposite — studies my audiologist has done demonstrate that deaf people are more visually aware, and being visually aware is the important thing when driving.
Denise said I had a good case, even though the “discretionary powers of the Director General [of the DPI] are wide”, and she wrote to them.
But that’s not all…
In the meantime, I went for my motorbike test and failed. (Those wretched figure-Os!)
I was unable to re-book the test for some obscure reason, and was told to phone on the next working day. (It was Friday, so that meant Monday.) Neil phoned for me as I still avoid the phone like the plague, and they told him I couldn’t re-book until I’d had a medical to prove I was ok to drive.
What???? I still had time for that…
Neil was most unhappy and let them know. He’s a great person to have on your side. :-D No one he spoke to had a clue what cochlear implants were. In their infinite wisdom, they apparently had decided it was some kind of disease.
They told him that if I was deaf, I could get a licence — no problem. But because I suffer from cochlear implants, I can’t.
Neil told them that in that case, his advice to me was to go to the licensing centre and take out my speech processors, and say, “I’m deaf!” (Which I am — totally — without the speech processors in.)
He spent quite some time trying to get some sense out of these people. At one point, the woman he was talking to said, ok she’d remove the requirement for a medical certificate, but leave a condition on my licence that I must wear a hearing aid when driving.
Neil said, “No you will not. She doesn’t wear a hearing aid. She can’t wear a hearing aid!” Around and around.
Until he said he would sue for discrimination and other stuff, and right away they backed off.
How pathetic is that? They knew they didn’t know what they were talking about, didn’t have a leg to stand on, but were sticking to their guns anyway for the sake of petty bureaucracy. But, because they knew they were in the wrong, they backed down at the first threat of legal trouble.
Boo, DPI. Boo.
It’s all good — kinda!
Still, I have my motorbike licence now, and next step is to get myself the Vespa of my dreams!