Written on 22.05.2015
I have been Deaf for almost seven months now. Still, Finland refuses to provide an interpreter. It would seem that becoming a citizen of Finland has taken away any rights I have for Deaf interpretation (Speech-to-Text) in English.
Today I penned a letter to the President of Finland, the Prime Minister of Finland and the Minister of Social Affairs and Health, asking for them to intervene. Although I am doubtful that it will help, I am forever hopeful that they will step up and do what is right in allowing a Deaf Finnish citizen to be provided with a Speech-to-Text interpreter at official meetings and appointments.
My email to the President et al:
Dear President Niinistö
I write to you, begging your assistance. I am Australian born Finnish citizen who became profoundly Deaf on 23.11.2014. I have been tested many times at TAYS (Tampere) hospital and have had no hearing at all since November last year.
I have applied many times to KELA for an interpreter (Speech to Text), which was provided to me at the hospital during the four months of hearing tests, however, now that the hearing tests are over, I have no more access to any interpreter. My mother-in-law has had to take much time from work to attend all formal meetings with me and to act as my interpreter, but now she can no longer assist as she will put her job at risk. My anoppi even bought a special computer so that she can type to me what is being said at the formal meetings – all at her own expense to try and help me because KELA refuse to help.
I had perfect hearing until 2007 when I received serious head injury from assault of former spouse in Australia. When I moved to Finland in 2010, I was Hard of Hearing, with just 10% hearing in one ear and zero hearing in other ear. I studied and learned Finnish language for five years in total, since my husband is Finnish, and I passed YKI-testi reading, writing, speaking in very basic Finnish but failed in hearing due to Deafness. With todistus from my omalääkäri, I was able to apply and I became a citizen this year.
I have applied to KELA many times for Speech to Text interpreter (in English) but always they tell me no. They say the law is on their side and they will only provide interpreter to type, sign or speak Finnish or Swedish. Since I am now a citizen, I have lost all of my rights to an interpreter. After being rejected yet again for interpreter last month, my family and I went to KELA last week. I asked them specifically not to speak. They are just to be there as witnesses. They are there only to observe. I was the customer and again, I had no interpreter. I needed KELA to see how very difficult it is for Deaf and hearing to have a meeting when there is no interpreter.
When we went into KELA, I asked them to please advise to me why they refuse to provide me with an interpreter, regardless of my Deafness. The woman started to talk to my husband, who ignored her. I asked her please to write on paper for me because I am today a Deaf customer and I need an interpreter. She wrote in English on the paper that she does not know why. The KELA officer then started to talk to my anoppi, who ignored her. I again asked her to please talk to me as I am the customer. She then picked up phone and rang to another KELA officer to come. When second KELA officer came, I explained to her that I have been begging for interpreter (Speech to Text) in English for six months and KELA always says no.
When I first became Deaf, KELA demanded 4,000€ payment to attend Helsinki Deaf school. My husband is unemployed and I am sickness benefit because of Deafness and Social Office knew there is no way we can attend ANY school for that amount of money. Since I needed to be able to communicate with my husband, we sought help and were given free sign language lessons from Dr Bill Vicars of Sacramento State University online. Sign language was ASL and my husband and I now communicate well with sign. But we are not asking for ASL interpreter. We are asking Speech to Text interpreter. I explained all of this to both KELA staff members.
Both of the KELA staff started again to talk to my husband and anoppi. My husband and anoppi ignored them and I was talking to the KELA staff to please talk to me when they are talking, since I am the customer. KELA staff ignored me and kept talking to my husband and anoppi, who were both getting quite angry at KELA. Since KELA staff completely ignored my talking, I tapped desk twice (what Deaf people do to get somebody’s attention) and immediately, both KELA staff stormed out of the office. One staff then returned and told us to get out or they call police. Call police on a Deaf person for asking and begging for interpreter so she can communicate?
Finland always tells the world that they are leaders in Deafness, Hearing, equal rights… and yet a Deaf citizen of Finland has lost all rights to an interpreter? To me, this is very sad and does not add up.
Had I known that Finland would immediately discriminate against me being Deaf as soon as I became a citizen, I would not have applied for citizenship. For years, I blogged to the world how wonderful this country was. Millions have fallen in love with Finland because of my words, and yet now I am a citizen of Finland and I have never felt more alone.
For almost seven months, the only person I can communicate with is my husband (ASL sign language) and my anoppi (on paper in English). I have tried with KELA (with help of Kuurojen Liitto, Social Office and Kuuro-sokea companies) but KELA still demand answer is no.
Please, Mr President, I beg of you to intervene. Becoming Deaf at 43 years old is very scary. Learning new language (ASL) after learning basic Finnish is also very scary. But living in a world that forbids a Deaf woman to have an interpreter (and the alternative is going back to Australia to be killed by former spouse) is absolutely terrifying. Please help me.
Minä puhun vain vähän suomenkieltä, mutta tarvitsen tulkki englantia nyt koska se on minun äidenkieli. Ole hyvä, voitteko auttaa minua? Minä tunnen niin yksin joka päivä.
From the government that I didn’t vote for with very good reason:
The response I received told me it is none of his business. I need to apply to KELA.
Now it is in the hands of my lawyer.