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Deaf Footy Fans Claims AFL Discrimination

Deaf News: Deaf footy fans claims Australian Football League discrimination.

MELBOURNE, AU -- The Age: The email came from a woman in Adelaide. "You moron, are you stupid? Are you paying for the interpreter or is the taxpayer paying for it? There are bigger issues in the world then a f--king interpreter".

Ramas McRae smiles, and shrugs his broad shoulders.

The Deaf community advocate has become the target of abusive messages after his public push to get the Australian Football League to provide Auslan (Australian sign language) translation at the Grand Final.

But when you're born with a disability, you learn to grow a thick skin, the Hawthorn fan says, signing to me through an interpreter, Mark Quinn.

A Hawthorn fan, McRae asked the league to provide a translator for the entertainment and ceremonies during the Grand Final this year, including the anthem. But the AFL refused, saying the closed caption system on TV was appropriate.

So McRae has lodged a complaint with the Australian Human Rights Commission, claiming the AFL have discriminated against him on the basis of his disability, and also launched a change.org petition. He is supported by a range of groups, including Deaf Australia and Deaf Victoria.

With the AFL promoting awareness of the women's league, and LGBTI recognition through its Pride game, McRae wants it to extend this inclusion to Deaf people (at the cost of a few hundred dollars).

"The Deaf community, and Deaf football fans, have the right to be a visible part of this huge sporting event," McRae says. "As citizens, we also have the right to see the national anthem in our preferred language."

Closed captions often have a 30-second to one-minute time lag on them, and require a screen, which means people who are at the game will not be able to see them, he says. Auslan is a language with its own syntax and grammar, which is quite different to English.

Internationally, particularly in the United States, sign language is commonly used at sporting events, including at the grand finals of the National Football League and National Basketball Association.

"For Deaf Americans it's very normal. People are often quite surprised internationally that Australia lags so far behind."

Some sporting codes are keen on the idea. Melbourne Racing Club's head of racing, Jake Norton, contacted McRae after he heard about his request. The club would like to introduce interpreters at major race meets, he said.

The AFL believes an on-ground interpreter would not be seen by the crowd, because of the distance from the seating to the arena, a spokesman said in a statement.

And because the broadcast coverage moves around the crowd and arena – and rarely focuses on the announcer – an interpreter would not often be seen, he said.

Having an interpreter shown in a separate box in one corner of the television screen would still be difficult to see clearly, and would impact on the wider broadcast, he said.

The words of the anthem could be displayed on LED signage during the pre-game period, and the AFL is discussing this possibility, he said.

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