Say Hello to Carly Findlay
Here at Deaf Services, we have long been impressed by the work of writer, speaker and appearance activist Carly Findlay and her dedication to access and inclusion for Australians with disabilities and chronic illnesses.
When we saw Carly committing to making all the book events for her new memoir, Say Hello, as accessible as possible, we decided to donate Auslan interpreting services for her Brisbane and Sydney book launches. We caught up with Carly to chat about her life, her philosophy and why accessibility just makes good business sense!
Can you explain what led you to write Say Hello?
I had been writing on my blog and for the media for years, and saw writing a memoir as the next logical step. I started writing down ideas, got an agent, and we pitched to publishers. I live with a rare, severe skin condition called Ichthyosis, and identify as a proud disabled woman. When I was growing up, I didn't know anyone with ichthyosis, and there certainly wasn't a book by a person with the condition—only medical textbooks and a parent memoir. I needed to write the book Little Carly needed.
Image: Carly as a young girl.
You’ve talked about not identifying as disabled or chronically ill until you were somewhat older, an experience shared by some Deaf and hard of hearing people. Why do you think you waited until your mid-twenties to embrace these aspects of yourself?
It was in my mid-twenties that I started mentoring young people with chronic illnesses and disability. I saw that we shared similar experiences—missing out on school and work due to illness, seeing lots of medical specialists, feeling isolated, having multiple diagnoses, taking lots of medications and encountering discriminatory barriers. I realised then that yes, ichthyosis was in fact more severe than I credited it. I also began writing about my own health more, and got to know myself through writing. It was because of these things that I gave myself to embrace the labels and identity of chronically ill and disabled.
Video: Carly on ABC News Breakfast
You’ve made a concerted effort to make not only your book events but also your general communication as accessible as possible What has that process been like?
It has been an educative process to make my book tour accessible. I have provided accessibility advice to my publisher, booksellers and venues, and made sure all my book events are as inclusive as possible, especially for wheelchair users and also Deaf and hard of hearing people. Accessibility shows everyone is welcome, which makes good business sense. I don't want to exclude my audience.
I am so grateful to Deaf Services for supporting my Sydney and Brisbane book launches by providing Auslan interpreting and promoting the events to the Deaf and hard of hearing communities.
Image: Carly at her Sydney book launch, with Annabel Crabb and an interpreter from Auslan Connections
You've written about some interesting challenges you've faced while writing your memoir, especially from people telling you how you should be presenting yourself and your activism. How did you deal with this?
It has been a tricky time. I don’t claim or want to speak for everyone. I am not an expert in all things disability; I can only speak to my own experiences. I have felt really hurt from some of the fallout around my success. I think some people believe that we are not allowed to have personal achievements, that disability rights work must only be done to benefit the whole community.
It’s my aim to reach the mainstream through my work. I want to influence the way the public sees facial difference and disability, and I think this can be done through the media, and with the marginalised community. But it should be disability led, so we can have a sense of autonomy and agency over our stories and lives. I think that disabled and Deaf people are fighting for a voice in the mainstream. We are rarely invited, and often when we are, it’s tokenism. So I think that there’s a fear that they won’t get a chance to speak, which is a valid concern. But I also believe that being present and visible in the mainstream opens up opportunities for many more people.
What advice would you give to young people growing up with a disability today?
Connect with other people in the community—social media is great for doing this.
Know that disability doesn't have to be a bad thing—it can be identity, pride and culture.
Tell your own story in your own way—if you want to.
Find out where to buy Carly's memoir, Say Hello, here.
You can join the waitlist for tickets to Carly's Brisbane launch on 21 March here.
Carly is seeking submissions from Deaf and hard of hearing Australians to an upcoming anthology of writing called Growing Up Disabled in Australia. Find out more here.