Human Rights Commission emails

At the time it became obvious that disabled and ill people were at a severe disadvantage in a court or hearing situation where no allowance had been made for their difficulties. In shock and reeling from anxiety and clinical depression I sent the following email. The reply (which I have yet to find and add to this diary) indicated that the authorities were aware of the harm and disadvantage towards the infirmed. They had been aware of it for centuries and it was just bad luck to be thus burdened. The safety net did not include anyone who actually might need it!

I believe I have a case for discrimination against a disabled person or many persons actually.

I hope you will forgive the method of supplying you with information but I am ill and in a great deal of pain and the best thing I see is to send you an outline of matters as they already exist. Because of that I am sending you a copy and paste from my personal journal. It is long and again I ask your forgiveness. My details are at the bottom. My thoughts as I do this are of similar painful processes many years ago as well as other vulnerable people who may be injured or even die as they face a process that is tiring and hostile even for the healthy. I look forward to hearing from you

So we went to court for the plea and to get another adjournment. This time the visit lasted from 9am until 3pm and left me sitting in a swirling ocean of pain.
On arrival, for those of us who are seeking or have legal aid, the process is to go to a table set up at the front of a waiting area and sign in. Then someone calls your name when they have processed the people who are before you. Just getting to court is a painful process for me.

My body has all of its organs damaged and multiple bone structures crippled in accidents and it is a huge ask to get up in the morning at a set time. Let me explain that. Disabled and ill bodies get ill and suffer pain according to their own schedule so although I get a lot done, I get it done on a timing that suits my body. Court is on a timing that suits the constant, ongoing, machine-like manner of post-industrial western countries and just churns on at its repetitive time. That means I may be fighting pain and intellectual instability to get the day started. Pain was the big one for me yesterday. The last few weeks have been busy and the damaged joints get progressively worse if they are not rested over days and even weeks. All the cases mean there have been quite tough loads on the body. The trip to Wyong on Friday to await the pleasure of a legal aid representative, then the long trip and walk on Monday to a legal aid clinic and now a day at court have left my body in the grip of brutal pain. The various other functions have followed as chronic fatigue has started to appear in the distance of my mental and physical processes and diabetes is making any healing slower. My hands even ache and the typing of this post requires me to set my teeth and push through disabling discomfort.

We sat through the morning and I, for my part, fought my body and struggled not to give in to the urge to yell for help, to demand assistance and to simply bloody-well cry. Into the afternoon we went and at times my head slumped and I was unable to talk. The ability to comprehend my surroundings flowed in and out at times. I could not keep my eyes open nor my head level. The pain in my neck and spine became excruciating. At some point around 11am we got in to speak to a solicitor. He knew nothing about me or the case and would not read anything of the health data I had organised being only concerned with the police report and my plea. He was told I was struggling and indeed at the moment we were talking to him I was barely able to form words or keep my eyes open so it must have been obvious that I was in some danger. I kept wishing for enough chest pain to justify calling an ambulance. The fact is that this process is damaging my health and my quality of life long after any court appearances and long after any regime of punishment should I lose. They will, of course, load any punishment on top of the agony I have already been through as though it does not exist. They would give me a discount for pleading guilty even if I am not but where the bloody hell is the discount for hour after hour of torture both in the court and in the life they have damaged after the court? I am being forced to place myself in a torture chamber and to keep smiling while the damage progresses for if my ability to smile fails I will be considered a bad character and my case will be prejudiced just like it always was all those years ago when I was dragged into court for self medicating. They joined the queue of people lined up to take a shot at the destruction of me!

Sometime in the morning I remember a call to Law Access and some comment about using the court registrar so I staggered in to an office in the direction of the front door and told a lady who met me at the counter. “I am desperately ill and in a lot of pain. I am disabled and my health is failing to the point where I may soon need medical support.” She looked very sad and handed me the business card of Law Access. Then she shrugged and looked as though she was terrified that I would say anything else. I left and went back to the seat of pain!

The court went to morning tea and I sat in that chair and my head rolled back and forward and my body cried for mercy and my eyes slid shut again and again. Will there be some recognition of the battle I fight to get to court and undergo their process. Where is the process for the disabled. By the time this is over I will have sucked up more pain than a lot of people who went through Abu Graib and nobody will even note it down apart from my community worker, or my mother who is frantic in her place in Queensland knowing that the physical can cause a stroke or other failures in someone as ill as I am! Then it was lunch. We went and got something to eat as I have diabetes and had to find some sugar for my system but I wanted to lay on the floor and fight the pain. Getting out of the place assisted me to recover so I was a little more capable but then we went back to the tortuous seats. We went into the court at 2pm and I was forcing myself to stay upright but my comprehension was slipping and fortunately nobody actually speaks to you much in there. We were out by three and I was able to sit on the soft seats of the car.

I had her pass the Art Supply Shop to see if the drawings were finished being framed. They were not.

I was still in a world of hurt but the fact is that all that hurt takes days, weeks, and if it gets really bad, even months to recover from and it would have been easier to get the things while I had access to a driver.

Now I have Legal Aid which is a big relief and they may even set a private solicitor to assist me. I pleaded not guilty in the court. The whole process now shifts to the police who will come back with their evidence in a case a few weeks from now. I was asked if I wanted to be there and as I was in so much pain and dreaded facing more too soon I said no but I am wondering if I need to see what the police provide and how they provide it.

Now I am suffering pain in those crushed bones and joint as well as the damaged spinal parts and I am exhausted. It hurts to type and as per the usual outcome of struggling over a day with that much pain I am emotionally twisted up and racing from mood swing to mood swing. I have to go and take some photographs today for a few pricing posters I offered to make for the little convenience store as I have already put it off days but that will be an unpleasant little trek! I am looking forward to seeing the place again but it’s gonna hurt!

So, right now I am calling law access to ask why I would be directed to them. I am speaking to a lovely lass who does not seem too happy to be asked the questions I am asking which include, why was I given their number, why is there not a better process and is there a discount for all this pain as well as a discount for pleading guilty. The first fact I have back is that the lass will not believe there is a discount for pleading guilty. Uh oh, I have destroyed her innocence!

She came back to me and within her resources there is no process which recognises vulnerable people and assists them to pass through the court day. That is what I thought and I actually asked somew assistant to our local state member that a few weeks back he denied it. No ramp and no allowance for people who are further damaged by the process itself. That has to change!

The reply came on the 01/05 2012 in the form of the following

Dear Stephen

I refer to your emails dated 19 April 2012, regarding court processes and the New South Wales Fire Brigade and your phone call today.

Court processes

You mentioned that you had to wait a long time to talk to Legal Aid at the court house. You say that you were in a lot of pain as a result of your disabilities.

The Commission can consider claims of disability discrimination in specified areas of public life, including goods and services. I have attached a fact sheet on this for your information.

It is open for you to lodge a complaint against a goods and service provider if you feel that it has not accommodated for your disability in a reasonable way.

Our complaint form can be found at http://www.humanrights.gov.au/complaints_information/online_form/index.html.

Please include the name of the respondent, the dates of the alleged events and how you feel that your disabilities could be reasonably accommodated for in the provision of the goods and service by the respondent.

Fire Brigade

You say that you were attacked by two Fire Brigade officers, following an altercation with your real estate agent.

As mentioned, the Commission can consider claims of disability discrimination in specified areas of public life, including employment, education, access to premises, goods services and facilities, accommodation, land, clubs and incorporated associations, sport and in the administration of Commonwealth laws and program.

It is not clear what relationship you have with the Fire Brigade and whether the alleged attack took place in an area specified in the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 (Cth) (DDA).

From the information you have provided, it is not clear that there was any relationship between you and the Fire Brigade that would relate to an area specified in the DDA and therefore it is not clear whether the Commission can consider your concerns as a complaint under our laws.

If you have not already done so, it would appear more appropriate for you to raise these concerns with the NSW Police (www.police.nsw.gov.au), who can consider claims of assault.

You may also wish to contact the NSW Ombudsman’s office (www.ombo.nsw.gov.au), who can consider claims relating to the administrative actions of NSW government bodies.

You can also seek advice from a specialist community legal centre, such as the Australian Centre for Disability Law regarding your options and the best way to approach the situation. Its website is http://disabilitylaw.org.au/.

Should you have any further queries, please advise by return email or call our Complaint Information Line on 1300 656 419

Human rights: everyone, everywhere, everyday

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