Houston We Have a Problem

 

This is one of the most famous misquotes of all time. In the movie Apollo 13 James Lovell is reporting back to base. There is a technical problem and Lovell utters the immortal line “Houston we have a problem…” In actual fact Lovell said, “Ok Houston, We’ve had a problem here … “ But for dramatic effect the writers of the movie changed this and as a result the line is now humorously used to begin description of any variety of problems. In the case of us deafies it is “Houston we have a problem, no one listens to us …”

This article is about cinema captioning and indeed HOUSTON WE DO HAVE A PROBLEM because many DEAF PEOPLE THINK THE NEW CAPTIVIEW SYSTEM IS CRAP. Captiview is the system that the Big Four Cinemas have introduced to provide captioning in cinemas. I confess, I have not yet used it, but I have heard enough negative reviews to be very reluctant to cough up my hard earned money to access it.

To understand what I am talking about we need to journey back a little bit. Regular readers of The Rebuttal will remember the famous campaign to throw out the Big Four Cinemas’ application for exemption to disability discrimination complaints under the Disability Discrimination Act. In return the Big Four were offering a pathetic increase in captioning access that amounted to something like .125% of all screenings that they put on.  Australian cinemas have over 40 000 screenings of various movies per week. Deaf people get access to ONE of these movies once a week if they are lucky and almost exclusively in capital cities. The Big Four Cinemas’ proposed that they would increase this to maybe three a week. Deaf people, the paying customer, said go jump – we want more.

Nearly  500 people placed online submissions to the Australian Human Rights Commission website. Nearly all of these opposed the Big Four Cinemas’ application for exemption. There were blind and vision impaired people who also opposed it. Part of what the Big Four Cinemas were offering also included Audio Description. It was a big sacrifice for some blind people to oppose the application for exemption because at that time they received absolutely no access at all.

The simple message that the paying deaf customer gave to the Big Four Cinemas was, “we want more, take us seriously.” Our advocates at the time were up in arms. They urged us all to accept what was on offer. If we didn’t, they argued, we might end up with nothing. Indeed our advocates Deafness Forum Australia and Deaf Australia and Media Access Australia actually submitted online to the AHRC that the offer for exemption should be accepted. This was a kick in the face to the many hundreds of individuals and ORGANISATIONS that made it very clear that they did not want to accept what was on offer.

Just who were our advocates representing? Were they representing us or were they representing themselves? How Deaf Australia can look its member organisations like VCOD and QAD in the eye after these organisations told them that they opposed what was on offer and yet still Deaf Australia went ahead and endorsed the Big Four Cinemas’ exemption application is beyond me. To this day the response of our advocates is still the most incredibly dumb thing I have ever witnessed in over 20 years in the Disability sector. To rub salt into the wound Media Access Australia actually congratulated the Big Four Cinemas’ on their application for exemption to the DDA.  The response of our advocates was either incredibly dumb or they were leaned on in a big way by the powers that be.

In the end the Australian Human Rights Commission, to the surprise of our advocates, threw out the Big Four Cinemas’ application for exemption to DDA complaints. The AHRC basically told the Big Four Cinemas that what was on offer was an insult and that millions of Deaf and hearing impaired Australians, as well as Blind and vision impaired, deserved better. It was pointed out the Australian Cinemas were among the most profitable in the world AND THAT THEY COULD DO BETTER.

Almost immediately the Big Four Cinemas came back with a new proposal. After nearly eight years of baulking and avoiding access they suddenly turned around and said “we have the solution!”.They advocated the introduction of a captioning device known as Captiview.  This is basically a box device that you set up at your seat and Captions are beamed to the device. The system , I believe, did not allow for the transmission of Audio Description for the blind so a separate system needed to be in place.

The Cinemas put forward a plan to 2014 and they cited that this would solve everyone’s problem even though they had yet to consult with the community. They proposed that Captiview would be rolled out en-masse providing dramatic increase in access. The twist here is that there appears to be a hidden trade off in that Open Captions would no longer be provided. True to their form they adopted the Fawlty Towers approach, “Don’t mention the war” and in this instance “Don’t mention Open Captions” throughout their proposal.

Hang on! Houston We Have a Problem! Many Deaf people preferred open captions and the Captiview was not yet proven. Many people were sceptical and urged that the device be trialled as an option rather than introducing it en-masse. The argument was that if the device proved not suitable feedback from a trial would indicate whether the device was suitable or not.

BUT NO! The Cinemas, and indeed the Government, notably Bill Shorten, were keen to get the system out there. For Bill Shorten it was a public relations coup. He had actively intervened to assist get the original application for exemption thrown out. ( Although he will never admit this  because the AHRC are supposed to be beyond influence.) Indeed there are whispers that the AHRC were leaned on to make the decision that they did. Deaf and hearing impaired people, the paying customer, said LETS SEE CAPTIVIEW FIRST, the Big Four Cinemas insisted that Captiview was the answer.

WAIT said us ….. No said our advocates. Our advocates insisted that if we did not accept what was on offer that we stood to lose everything. (Where had we heard that before?) And the mad rush to introduce Captiview began. Deadlines were set up, promises were made and of course none of them were kept. Technical problems, health issues and plain stupidity meant that the introduction of Captiview and much vaunted increase in access happened at a trickle so that basically nearly a year on we are not really all that better off.

Early reviews of Captiview were promising. Media Access Australia was among the first to offer a review. Strangely they sent a hearing member of staff to review it. The hearing member of staff, to the surprise of no one, gave it the thumbs up. Truth be known, reviews of Captiview are, at best, mixed. The word lackey springs to mind when discussing MAA.

If you want an unbiased appraisal of Captiview you need to look no further than Facebook. My wife has used the system and found it to be, “not the best, but ok.” Another friend, Jas, found that with attention to detail, finding the right seats and proper placement that Captiview was manageable. Others have been far less flattering. Houston We Have a Problem, too many paying customers are not satisfied.

Consider Ryan’s appraisal of Captiview –

its a useless ineffective technology that just disadvantages the people its supposedly for.”

Kylie didn’t like it either saying that,

“.it’s hard, you can’t focus on both at the same time. It’s one or the other and can be straining on your poor eyeballs”

More damning was Tam who pulled no punches,

They only have 4 Captiview at Forest Hill. I have used it twice & will never use it again. It’s a useless device esp for deaf children.” ( Forest Hill actually have 6)

Tam wasn’t finished’

“It’s no laughing matter… This is serious as we are going backwards in regards to technology for movies. I’ve already put my complaint in. Obviously I’m not being heard… We need more ppl to give feedback. What is the steering group ‘doing about it?”

Mike had little positive to say either,

“..its hard work trying to read the captions. You miss half the captions while watching movie. It’s actually hard work rather than enjoying yourself and relaxing. I couldn’t handle it.”

Indeed the system uses what was termed as 1980’s calculator font and many felt that this detracted from the enjoyment of the movie. But worse, and Houston are you listening, the Captiview introduction has arguably decreased access not increased it.

Why? Well because there are a limited amount of devices available. Now if Deaf people call their friends, say 20 of them, and say let’s go see Harry Potter, and twenty turn up at Forest Hill to see the session … Only six devices are available. What happens to the other 14 people? Do they all huddle around the 6 devices straining to see the captions?

HOUSTON WE HAVE A HUGE PROBLEM! Because all of these issues were raised before Captiview was introduced. Typically the people that PAY, in other words US, were ignored.  All in the interest of progress!

Now what I see the danger of happening here is that Deaf and hearing impaired people will switch off in droves. Attendance will be low and the Big Four Cinemas’ are going to say “Well we did our bit but nobody came.” Everything will be wound back. Access will continue to be minimal and it will be OUR FAULT because we did not want to pay to use an ineffective device! Any improvements in Captiview technology later will pass us by.

So what do we all do? Do we accept and adapt or continue to remind the Big Four Cinemas’ and our advocates that as the paying customers we want a say? Whether we are paying membership to our advocacy organisations or paying to see a movie the age old adage is that THE CUSTOMER IS ALWAYS RIGHT. Not in our case it seems. We are all just a pain in the butt. We are all a bunch of whingers who do not appreciate anything. According to them that is the case anyway. HOUSTON WE HAVE A PROBLEM – The ears that are deaf are not ours!

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14 thoughts on “Houston We Have a Problem

  1. I’d stick my neck out and suggest titled cinema is so poorly supported by deaf people as to make the access not worth fighting for. I can only compare with British cinema access and the overwhelming view is why bother ? We’ve had ‘audiences’ here of 3 and less, you tell me THAT is worth fighting for ? I know about ‘rights’ and I know a lost cause when I see one. It is an shame for the very very few that WANT this access and have managed to get a system installed, but the end game is use, we have to go to the cinema at 11 am in the morning, or attend empty cinemas except for whoever deaf turns up, and very few do. They’ve had deaf cinema with titles and NO deaf have turned up here. Like here you are let down by your own sector, if they cannot make effort why would anyone else ? It’s not whinging or whining, the suggestion is an entire community of deafies want this access, the reality is less they don’t then turn up to utilise it, berate the lazy deaf who demand all and use little. It is not ‘whiners’ fault they are saying it as it is. Concentrate on access people will use.

    • Oh tosh MM. Why should the deaf have to go at god awful times. Lack of choice and poor scheduling will contribute to lack of attendance. As paying customers, and a significant market, they desetve better. The deaf dont let anyone down, rather they are let down. They are not a charity case tey are good business and shoukd he treated as such. Especially a market the size of tye UK.

  2. I was relating the facts here. There is NO demand for titled cinema (Despite the false sense of indignation via Sara Cox most who complained nver attend titled cinema !). I would be envious if there was some sort of mass demand for titled cinema down under, but the proof is in the attendance pudding, not in rights. It does our case no good to demand things we aren’t going to use. Perhaps you can supply attendance figures ?

    • There is no demand because it is inaccessable!

      If it is inaccessable, then there is minimal or no attendance!!

      Not hard to work out!

  3. Yes MM but you are again missing the point(s) .. lets lay them out:

    1) When you put titled Cinema on at ungodly hours people are at work, university, asleep etc etc
    2) When there is little choice as to what to watch people will not attend. If you despise Harry Potter and Transformers 3 … well you are not going to watch.
    3) In Australia there are only a few Cinemas that provide captioning, once a week and often only in the city. Deaf people dont have the option of just heading down to the local Cinema. They have to travel, fit in with ungodly hours and either like or lump what the powers that be will caption.

    The factors are many …. Its simplistic to say there is no demand .. The demand is there, but like any sensible business you plan the supply to meet the demand not supply and tell the demand take this or leave it. simple economics. I think you will find that when captions are provided at more accessible times, attendance is higher. That’s my experience in Australia anyway.

    • The demand is insufficient to make it viable, so I do take the point. There are so many variables. My area has locally only 20 deaf people, and no local cinema ! at any given time less than 2 or 3 would attend an cinema, they would have to travel to do that as well, like you say it would depend on the film being shown and/or if friends went with them. I know many deaf people here who have NOT attended any cinema showing in many many years, they rent/buy the video later, OK it’s not ‘access’ as we understand it, but it is from the mainstream view an matter or practicality, and the fact deaf here are NOT supportive of alternative showings or, suggesting they would IF titles were provided. We just cannot FIND enough deaf people to get any consensus, online doesn’t count. Technology will solve it, when deaf can watch the film the same time as hearing but able to view captions on their own. This is how the ‘888’ option in the UK developed without tan ability to turn them OFF by hearing we wouldn’t have that access now. We’re an minority we can’t act as if we are the majority.

      • What I do believe MM is that you design a product for a market. If the product doesn’t meet market expectations the market turns off. In this case with captions the Cinemas simply are not meeting the market need. they are providing a half baked product that the market find substandard hence they switch off. It’s not marketed either, I speak only from an Australian point of view, but if you want to sell something you provide a top quality product and you market it well. Neither of these things happen. In Britain I suspect captions are provided to meet discrimination legislation. The bare minimum is provided. Marketing is probably minimal too. Hence poor turn out, When Cinemas stop seeing the Deaf customer as a welfare burden and realise the market they will reap the benefits. It needs a shift in mentality. The very fact that the Deaf prefer DVDs at this moment is not because its better viewing but its because of the variety and choice DVD provides. Now if the Cinemas could match this I suspect the turn out would change dramatically.

  4. i agree that we need to show more awareness in the community around accessibility and our rights to such services and the need to have cinema’s be inclusive of patrons who pay the same money as everyone else which is expensive in terms to overseas cinema costs, for me as a humble country girl, to travel to melbourne is a 5 hr trip costing me $ 70 in petrol, park my car for $ $30 days to watch a move costing $ 15 and god help me if i want to buy a drink and popcorn ($10.00) so all up for me to have access i have to travel return trip of 5 hrs to the nearest captioned cinema spend to watch a movie for 2and a bit hours for $125.00 just for me..so how is that accessible. you say we don’t access it, well it has to be affordable for starters and if they don’t have them in regions for all cinema goers then we have to travel, i certainly don’t see hearing patrons having to travel for their access. i went locally to a cinema and asked if it was accessible, the assistant told me yes, ” just sit up the back next to the speakers” i agree that i should not have my rights dictated by people who assume deaf want to see movies during the day, do they assume we don’t work? that there are limited seats so that means deaf don’t have deaf friends?..there is a lot more than just the accessibility its the awareness of deaf community as a whole and the affordability to many who wish to go to the movies like everyone else regardless of where they live.

    • Hear hear Jody – I have the same issue being a regional citizen. And regional cinemas are deliberately dragging their feet on this issue too!

  5. Yes. It’s been very disappointing that the rollout hasn’t been has good as hoped.
    But I strongly disagree that CaptiView is “crap”. Whilst you’re never going to please everyone, I think I’ve caught enough CaptiView sessions at Robina (120km each way from where I live) to add some insight into this debate.

    The main issue still is that as a Deaf man you can’t just check what’s playing and then trot down to the cinema. Even at CaptiView screens there is usually a limited choice and this will always result in an inferior accessibility solution until the same choices are afforded to Deaf and people with a hearing loss.

    For example, I missed out on seeing Bridesmaids precisely due to this very lack of choice, and I have now settled back into a familiar routine of waiting until it comes out on DVD or iTunes.

    But whinging about this isn’t going to change anything.

    Rather I suggest a direct action strategy is probably likely to be much more effective and there are a number of exemptions in Australia’s copyright legislation which could be leveraged to achieve better outcomes for those who are Deaf or have a hearing loss.

    For example, I recently came across an inaccessible website for Seinfeld at:

    jerry
    So how about it? I’ve seen little evidence that our advocacy groups are prepared to take on this fight with real enthusiasm, so how about it Rebuttal readers? Are you ready to take the fight up to the cinemas?

  6. Yes. It’s been very disappointing that the rollout hasn’t been has good as hoped.
    But I strongly disagree that CaptiView is “crap”. Whilst you’re never going to please everyone, I think I’ve caught enough CaptiView sessions at Robina (120km each way from where I live) to add some insight into this debate.

    The main issue still is that as a Deaf man you can’t just check what’s playing and then trot down to the cinema. Even at CaptiView screens there is usually a limited choice and this will always result in an inferior accessibility solution until the same choices are afforded to Deaf and people with a hearing loss.

    For example, I missed out on seeing Bridesmaids precisely due to this very lack of choice, and I have now settled back into a familiar routine of waiting until it comes out on DVD or iTunes.

    But whinging about this isn’t going to change anything.

    Rather I suggest a direct action strategy is probably likely to be much more effective and there are a number of exemptions in Australia’s copyright legislation which could be leveraged to achieve better outcomes for those who are Deaf or have a hearing loss.

    For example, I recently came across an inaccessible website for Seinfeld at:

    jerryseinfeld.com

    Rather than try the usual route of trying to ask people (who you are unlikely to get a response from), I took a direct action approach and created my own accessible version of the site:

    accessibleseinfeld.com

    I think we need to see more of this advocacy approach.

    So how about it? I’ve seen little evidence that our advocacy groups are prepared to take on this fight with real enthusiasm, so how about it Rebuttal readers? Are you ready to take the fight up directly to the cinemas?

    • Good to hear from you Michael. In retrospect the line that Deaf people think Captiview is Crap was a bit of a throwaway. I should have said LOADS of Deaf people think its Crap, and they do. Honestly, you are one of the few I have heard who feel its an ok product. Not the only one, but definitely the minority.

      Now in terms of getting the deaf together to campaign I think our advocates may have knocked the stuffing out of them. At the start of all this Deaf people campaigned, they submitted to the AHRC, they had protests outside Cinemas, they had meetings to plan strategy. There was energy everywhere. They played a huge part in swaying the AHRC I am sure. And what happened? Our advocates told all these people they were wrong. Organisations like Arts Access Victoria, who supported the deaf protesters were pressured to toe the line. The many hundreds of protesters were basically told by the organisations that are supposed to represent the deaf that they did not know what they were talking about. When Captiview was introduced many deaf asked for a trial. What happened? Our advocates again ignored them and pushed everything through and the result is many unhappy deaf people.

      The comments that I placed in the article were random comments that people had put when one person put a status on Facebook asking who would like to go with her to Harry Potter with Captiview .. This was just last week. My favourite, that I didnt print, was “Id rather wash my hair…” or words to that effect. While I accept there are some that find Captiview ok, it would seem that there are a significant number that dont.We are lumped with it. We asked to trial we were ignored.

      Since writing the article it has also become clear that people have complained to members of the Captioning roll out group, I know I am one, and received not one response back. I thought it was just me. Apparently not.

      Now given this background, trust is an issue. Deaf people are wondering if giving up their time is worth it when so many are dismissed because their views do not match the gang of five or six that make decisions on deaf peoples behalf in our advocacy organisations.

      It is a shambles and it will take a lot to rebuild the trust. Whether they will want to go it alone given the way they were treated, well I wouldn’t blame them if they have had enough. The Cinemas are getting just what they wanted.

  7. Even if you win this universal access I suggest deaf won’t take it up, I”m a realist. Deaf are lazy apathetic and it’s just a dedicated few fighting these things. Too much armchair campaigning, post an e-mail whatever none of these things actually work. As you say the UK is an area where deaf made great inroads for access (Mostly older deaf NOT young they can’t be bothered), however cinema access was an case where we saw there wasn’t the will to pursue this option, personally I believe VRS is another.

    Online access has zeroed any number getting out of an chair to do anything and put feet to street, or bums on seats… except to party, the UK’s largest deaf/HI charity is holding an ‘air guitar’ contest, that’s about the level of UK campaigning these days. We got it all what else is there ?

    • MM, it must be hard being so miserable. 😀 Your not a realist you’re a pessimist. Imagine if all thought like you. We wold have no captions on TV,DVDs or anywhere. No interpreters at Uni. No Govt covering the cost for communication at work. No disability discrimination e would have given up years ago. Young Deaf are interested. I work with them. They have energy and drive and they inspire me. They ask me questions all the time. They have a thirst to learn. I dont know what world you’re living in but its certainly not mine.

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