Saturday, 17 December 2011

Deaf MPs

I really like this particular article which was gotten from the New Zealand Herald website....

The Green Party is celebrating the election of Mojo Mathers as their 14th MP after the counting of special votes increased the Green's share of the party vote and number of MPs to a record high.

The Green's share of the party vote increased from 10.62 percent on election night to 11.06 percent at the final count. In four of the last five elections, the Green Party has gained an extra seat in Parliament after the special votes were counted.

Ms Mathers said she was delighted at the result and was looking forward to the first day of Parliament on 20 December. Ms Mathers will be New Zealand's first deaf MP and the fifth in the world.

"There are many barriers to democratic participation for disabled people. I hope my presence in Parliament will result in improved accessibility and access to political information for everyone, including those with a hearing impairment."

Ms Mathers has a Masters with Distinction in conservation forestry, has worked as a parliamentary advisor for water issues and was a joint owner of a small business offering forestry management services.

The mother of three is also passionate about representing people with disabilities.

"The recent Human Rights Commission review of Human Rights identifies disabled people as the most disadvantaged minority in New Zealand. As a deaf person who lives and breathes green issues, I am a strong advocate for inclusion for everyone."

Green Party Co-leader Dr Russel Norman said the party had been happy growing to 13 MPs and was now ecstatic with 14.

"It's a proud day for the Greens. The 2011 election has delivered us an historic result that cements our place as the third party in New Zealand politics," said Dr Norman."The Greens are part of an international political movement that is in ascendency and our success in this election proves there is a desire for good green change to happen in this term of Parliament.

"We will work constructively in Parliament to advance our key issues of cleaning up our rivers, raising kids out of poverty and creating good green jobs, while also providing opposition leadership on issues such as assets sales, welfare reform and charter schools.

"We are very pleased with the outcome of the MMP referendum. Keeping MMP and proportional representation was important.

"We look forward to the review of MMP and hope it strengthens and further improves our voting system.  (

Photo from the Tvnz website

My brief research to find out more deaf MPs around the world took me to a BBC article of November 1999 on Lord Ashley who was UK's first totally deaf MP. Here it is:

"Lord Ashley is perhaps the worst adversary any government would want to face when trying to drive through unpopular changes to disability benefits.
The former Labour MP commands enormous cross-party and public respect for his vigorous campaigning for disabled rights and his inspirational personal struggle to overcome the effects of deafness.
Probably the most famous deaf person in the UK, he lost his hearing in 1968 but continued to serve as an MP until 1992 when he was made a life baron.
Such is his reputation that his condemnation of the most controversial measures in the Welfare Reform and Pensions Bill carries great moral authority.
Ministers may privately cringe when the 75-year-old peer declares the legislation would not only cause great hardship but also break the moral contract between government and people.
Just as embarrassing for them, his campaign against the Bill in the Lords forced the legislation back to the Commons on Wednesday - prompting a second major backbench revolt against the proposals.
Now with the Bill set to return to a hostile House of Lords, Lord Ashley insists that it is ministers who will "blink first".
'Rebellious nature'
Such defiance is characteristic of a man who admits he has always had "a bit of a rebellious nature".
One of three children born to a poor couple in Widnes, Jack Ashley was only five when his father, a factory night-watchman, died.
"I was always very anxious to campaign on behalf of disadvantaged people. I feel an affinity with them," he once said.
Leaving school at 14 to work as a factory labourer, he became a shop steward six years later and was a local councillor at 23.
He studied at Oxford on a scholarship. Another scholarship then took him to Cambridge, where he caused waves by being the first president of the union who refused to wear evening dress during debates.
In 1951 he unsuccessfully stood for Parliament as the Labour candidate for Finitely. 

After that he worked as a producer for the BBC, making documentaries and political programmes before entering the House as MP for Stoke-on-Trent in 1966.
Overcoming deafness
A ministerial career was predicted until at age 45 he became deaf.
His best-selling autobiography records how his hearing slipped away to nothing after something went wrong following a routine ear operation.
Lord Ashley famously recalled that the last voice he heard was that of the late rugby commentator Eddie Waring.
After initially fearing he would have to give up politics, he decided to battle on and learned to lip read aided by his wife, Pauline.
Other MPs, including political foes such as former Tory prime minister Edward Heath, helped him to take part in Commons debates by turning towards him so he could get a clear view of their mouths.
Others helped him to modulate his speaking voice which he could no longer hear.
Tory MP Neil Marten, sitting on the opposite bench, would put his hands on his head to indicate that his Labour opponent was speaking too high and on his knees to show that he was too low.
But that was where the cross-party co-operation ended. Lord Ashley established himself as an MP who was combative and outspoken in his fight against a wide range of social injustices. His terrier-like attacks on Tory ministers earned him the nickname "that bloody Jack Ashley" long before Lady Thatcher became known as TBW.

"Early on when I first lost my hearing, I think people were a little fearful about attacking me. But as I re-established my confidence, that soon fell away," he recalled.
Despite his pride in his working class roots - he founded the Cloth Caps Club for proletarian MPs - he was always on the right of the Labour Party.
As he became increasingly famous as passionate advocate for disabled rights, he became president of the Royal National Institute for the Deaf.
His celebrity grew even further in 1993 when his hearing was partially restored by a cochlea implant, an electronic device which stimulates the nerves in the inner ear.

Lord Ashley spoke of his delight of at last being able to hear his grandson even though all human voices sounded like "a croaking dalek with laryngitis"    (  

Courtesy: Disabilitynow

Some things jumped out at me from the last article: '....moral contract between government and people', '... Other MPs, including political foes.... helped him to take part in Commons debates by turning towards him so he could get a clear view of their mouths. Others helped him to modulate his speaking voice which he could no longer hear. Tory MP Neil Marten, sitting on the opposite bench, would put his hands on his head to indicate that his Labour opponent was speaking too high and on his knees to show that he was too low....'.

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