Deaf Victoria condemns the use of “deaf mute” in the media

13 February 2015

Media Release

The use of “deaf mute” in the media

Deaf Victoria was saddened to hear of the untimely death of Mr Robbie Wright from a fall at his Ringwood apartment on 15 January 2015. Our deepest condolences go to Mr Wright’s family and friends and hope that your happy memories of him get you all through this sad time.

We also hope that the accused, Mr Warwick Toohey and Ms Georgia Fields are getting the support they need to access the justice system in its entirety.

We would like it noted that the media broadcasts about this issue states that the accused and the victim are “deaf and mute”. Deaf Victoria would like to emphasise that this term is not appropriate to be used to refer to these people and ask that all media reports are corrected to say “deaf Auslan users” or “deaf sign language users”.

The term “deaf and mute” is an outdated, offensive and presumptuous stereotype of a person’s ability to speak. The Deaf and hard of hearing people of Australia have argued against the use of this term for many years, Deaf and mute implies that the people cannot express themselves in any way. Dead Auslan users use sign language, facial expressions and body language to express themselves and communicate in the language of the Deaf Community.

All three of these people were Deaf Auslan users and we ask that the media correct their statements to reflect this, out of respect for Mr Wright and his family, as well as a courtesy to the accused.

Any further enquiries can be directed to Melissa Lowrie at melissa.lowrie@deafvictoria.org.au or 0431 476 721 (SMS only).

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