Second Class?

My friend Alison reminded me today that deaf people, indeed many minority groups, often settle for being labeled as second class. Doing the rounds at the moment is an article that promotes captioned spectacles. Deaf people wear these spectacles while watching movies in the cinema. The captions for the movie are transmitted to the spectacles so that the watcher sees the captions in the spectacles while being able to focus on the movie. You can read this article by clicking HERE.

Many deaf people have commented that it is a wonderful innovation, and indeed it is. Many who are dissatisfied with the current Captiview system asked why this was not considered for Australia. Well I recall in the early discussions on Captiview one prominent advocate, who is the CEO of his organisation, commented that he had tried the spectacles and that he did not like them and said that in his view Captiview was far superior. I remember emailing him to remind him that it was his job to lay out the possibilities and that DEAF people should make up their own mind as to which was most suitable without bias and comment from anyone.  About this time a few of the more sensible advocates suggested a trial of different systems to see which was preferred but the said advocate and the Cinemas wanted Captiview and that was it. They were not going to consider any trial, we either accepted Captiview and that was that. Why? It is anyone’s guess. Possibly they thought a trial would be too costly and cumbersome. Possibly, and a scenario that I think is more likely,  is that some people had a vested interest in introducing Captiview. I would love to be an investigative journalist and really look into it but for now one can but speculate.  This is just one example  of DEAF people being treated as second class.  Deaf people must DO as they are TOLD by those, presumably, IN THE KNOW.

Alison’s ARTICLE touches on this theme. She quite rightly points out that we deserve better than to be shoved in to off peak times and be made to ADAPT. Why must it always be us. Indeed what harm do open captions do to anyone? They dont really distort the picture. After a time people will just get used to them in a similar way as they got used to wearing seat-belts argues Alison. But deaf people have to go into cinemas, ask for the spectacles and then wear them, all the time bringing attention to themselves. Why cant they just walk into the cinema and watch a movie the same as any one else? Why must we always ADJUST why cant it be other people? Is there any proof that open captions will stop people going to the movies? My three kids, all hearing, automatically switch the captions on even though they don’t need them. Ask them why and they will tell you that it doesn’t feel right without them. In short they have become conditioned to them. Open captions, points out Alison, cost nothing and more than likely wont impact on attendance but FEAR that they will means that Cinema bosses are willing to fork out millions when in all likelihood it might be cheaper just to introduce more open captions. But we are less important for some reason. Why should this be so? It’s a compelling argument. Read the article, Alison puts the argument far better than I can.

This theme of second class citizens seems to be the flavour of the moment. Recently I had a bit of a run in with Cathy. This isn’t new because Cathy and I agree on very little but have remained friends nonetheless. Cathy recently complained to Channel 9 because they screwed up the captioning on the popular The Block TV show.  After complaining to Channel 9 they saw fit to send Cathy a DVD of the episode they had messed up with captions. Cathy, while finding this amusing, thought that it was great progress because years ago Channel 9 would not even have bothered to respond. This is true but Gavin saw it from a different angle. Gavin had recently been on a study tour oversees and had seen just how superior that captioning was in America and Britain. Gavin argued that if Channel 9 were serious they would be looking into the quality of their captioning, finding out what went wrong and implementing solutions. Which is what they would do if their normal broadcasting to the general public broke down. Gavin argued that the sending of the DVD was nothing but a tokenistic gesture and was, in fact, Channel 9’s way of avoiding the issue. In short it was a PR stunt. I supported Gavin as I felt that it showed that the real needs of deaf people were being by-passed. Cathy was quite affronted, she felt we should be praising Channel 9 for their response and generally seeing things in a more positive light. Gavin and I argued that if we praise them they will think sending DVD will solve the issue and take the easy way out. Grant and Karen came out in support of Cathy and in the end we just agreed to disagree but it was a fascinating discussion. Were Channel 9 treating Cathy in a lesser way than others by sending the DVD and not making a commitment to improve quality of captioning? Or were they showing they recognised that access was important? My view is the former but Cathy’s is the latter. You be the judge.

More recently a friend sent me a fascinating email. My friend was being nominated to a committee by one of our advocacy groups. They nominated her with conditions. One of the conditions was that she, at all times, represent the views of the organisation that nominated her and not the CONSUMERS. In black and white the email laid out that the consumers views were irrelevant to the organisations views and that only the organisations views were to be presented. So we have reached a stage where consumer views mean nothing. We have reached a stage where a gang of five or six now control everything that is to be presented to the Government.  If consumers have a differing view then, well, sod them! Again deaf people are second class citizens with no input whatsoever … It’s a case of put  up or shut up … We know best -Bizarre!!

After reading Alison’s article I wonder if we, too often, accept second best? I wonder if we contribute to a mentality in society where we are GRATEFUL for all the help that we are given? Should we not change this around and remind people that they have much to be GRATEFUL for as well because of us and that the reward is reciprocal. Our value as human beings goes beyond the feel good stories in the news paper, we are  a vital cog in the economy providing valuable jobs and we contribute billions of dollars. Second class citizens? At the moment we probably are and will remain so if we continue to accept second best.


Ramblings – Gary Kerridge

Did you hear about that lovely hearing CEO?  She has just come in to work in the Deaf sector. She is such a lovely lady, and very clever too. It’s amazing with no knowledge of deafness and an obvious handicap of having a hearing mentality that she has managed understand deafness so quickly. Despite everything she is doing a wonderful job, and she got that job not because she was hearing, but because she was the best person for the job. Inspiring indeed.

Now let’s write this in a different way.

Did you hear about the new Deaf CEO. She got the job as CEO of the World Deaf Society. Despite her obvious handicap of deafness she has overcome this to get the job. Not because she was deaf, but because she was the best person for the job. She is so very clever too. She has managed to understand the role of a CEO and carry out the job wonderfully despite being deaf. Inspiring indeed.

Now hands up who found the introductory paragraph offensive? Who felt that I was mean for taking the piss? Who felt it was patronising? Who felt that it was fair? Who cringed knowing who I am talking about? Now all these questions apply for paragraph 2 as well but there is one additional question who found paragraph 2 more acceptable than the introductory paragraph? Truth be known is that both are patronising twaddle. BUT the second, which has been paraphrased, was actually written in an official publication about none other than Colin Allen, incoming president of the World Federation of the Deaf and Director of Services at the NSW Deaf Society. I am sure, in fact I know, I was not the only person that cringed when I read it.

This is a difficult piece to write because I know the CEO in question meant well, and here I am patronising the patroniser. Indeed the CEO has demonstrated a willingness to really listen to her Deaf community and involve them in the decision making process of her organisation. Much of this is because of the tireless work of Deaf community advocates who, entirely of their own bat, constantly remind the organisation about just who they are serving. But nonetheless she listens, which is a great thing.

However, her comments about Mr Allen, who is not just clever but close to genius and an absolute legend of the Deaf community, are to put it mildly, off and very patronising. But she clearly did not want this to be the case. She was trying to offer praise but went about it in the wrong way. I am also aware that this article may cause her some offence, I apologise for this as I write this only to create debate and discussion and I hope she takes it this way.

It is more concerning to me that she writes of Mr Allen getting his job because he was the best person for the job and not just because he was deaf. I am sure many, like me will have also cringed at having Mr Allen being described as having overcome his deafness. Mr Allen has not overcome his deafness but has sought to tell everyone he is DEAF and VIABLE as a DEAF person and has achieved everything because he is a DEAF person, not despite of it.

As an advocate these sorts of comments also worry me because it shows a lack of understanding of equity. People love to preach equality. They love to preach merit but these principles are not equity. Equity is about levelling the playing field. Now it is simply a fact of life that opportunities for deaf people are not as abundant as they are for the general populace. They have to overcome prejudice and compete with people who have, by weight of opportunities, received many more opportunities and thus are more experienced.

What this means is that sometimes you have to CREATE opportunities for deaf people that level out the playing field. This does not mean that you give them a job just because they are deaf, they must have the skills to do the job. BUT one needs to realise that a deaf person coming through the system, competing against a manager that has had 25 years of experience in umpteen management positions is automatically disadvantaged for two reasons;

1)      The hearing managers have not had to overcome as many barriers to get where they are. ( Although I  acknowledge that many may have overcome barriers such as poverty, distance, gender imbalance and so on. So I may be over generalising here.)

2)      Opportunities for the deaf in management have only become more prevalent in the last 10 years or so through the rapid development of technology and growth in the interpreting industry. This means many deaf people simply do not have the same experience.

So somehow to level the playing field you develop policy that uses affirmative action to provide greater opportunities to deaf applicants. This isn’t patronising, it’s just sound policy. It’s not a new idea either. It’s been used for years, particularly with woman to encourage them into management roles and reduce the pay disparity between men and women. It is also used regularly with Aboriginal Programs to promote Aboriginal people into management roles and employment.

Deaf sector organisations will tell you that they employ deaf people and they do, and some at the very top too, but it is not enough. They need active policies to get more deaf people to the very top of the management pile. Not because they are DEAF, but because they are good enough and they need to be demonstrating more value and recognition of the very people that they SERVE. If they don’t how do they expect the rest of society to follow?

It’s been an extremely frustrating year. Every week, virtually, I receive emails from deaf people who are blatantly discriminated against. They can’t get interpreters for their graduation dinners, access will not be provided to parent teacher interviews, a deaf athlete with amazing abilities is told that the only way he can get support is to enter Athletes with Disabilities events and more recently Marnie Kerridge wrote of the situation about the aspiring teacher of the deaf that had additional assessment requirements placed on her. For nearly all of these I have managed to get the organisations involved to change their decisions by gently reminding them of their obligations under the DDA. Despite this it is still frustrating that this type of discrimination is still occurring. But some cases are more problematic.

The case of the athlete is particularly frustrating. Here is a young man with immense ability that wants to compete against able bodied athletes because he CAN. Athletes with Disabilities are elite athletes.  The way that an amputee runs or swims requires a specific technique, a different strategy, adjustment for use of different muscles and so on. It’s not wonderful that they are competing “despite of”, its wonderful because the skill required is awesome. They are elite athletes.

Deaf athletes are different. In most senses they compete in the same way as mainstream athletes. Sometimes there are slight adjustments like flags or strobe lights but apart from this the skills and techniques they use are generally not different to the mainstream. It is patronising to the extreme to Athletes With Disabilities and deaf athletes, to lump them all in one basket. They are not competing “despite off”, they are competing because they have SKILL and ability and they should never be lumped into one basket simply because they have disabilities.

So that is my Rant. I apologise for offence caused to the CEO in question. She certainly did not set out to upset anyone. Unwittingly she raised a few eyebrows and hopefully by discussing these issues in a public forum like The Rebuttal we can encourage debate and change. Controversy is not all bad and as Lyman Beecher, advocate against slavery, once said- “No great advance has been made in science, politics, or religion without controversy.” And on that note feel free to REBUTT me on anything I have said .. Debate is good.


It's a Scandal – By Marnie Kerridge

I don’t want to be put on a pedestal.  I just want to be reasonably successful and live a normal life with all the conveniences to make it so.

Althea Gibson 

(Tennis player Althea Gibson (1927-2003) became the first African American to compete in the U.S. Nationals. The next year she became the first African American to play at Wimbledon, England.)

It is always a case of one step forward, two steps back isn’t it? Well maybe not always, but it certainly feels that way sometimes. We have the rollout of new cinema technology. The one step forward is that we get increased cinema access time and will be at the forefront of deaf/hearing impaired /vision impaired cinema access worldwide when this happens. The two steps back is that the technology being used is not perfect, has many critics and the powers that be have chosen to not involve the community to get their feedback and support.  Don’t be fooled by Deafness Forum’s latest email promising to pass on all our concerns. It is just a tokenistic ploy to keep us quiet.

And then, The Rebuttal heard a story from a person studying to become a teacher of the deaf. This person is currently working as a Student Support Officer at a Deaf Facility, working closely with deaf students and their staff. This inspired the idea of further study to become a teacher of the deaf. In a community where there are teachers who cannot sign well, she had a valuable contribution to make. It is true she cannot speak well but she is a confident and skilful communicator. It is true that there are some typical deaf grammatical errors in her written English skills but her language and expressive skills are excellent.  On the flipside of the coin you could argue that it is also true that many hearing teachers can speak and write English well but their expressive and receptive skills in sign language are totally inadequate. Yet these same teachers are still allowed to work in a signing environment with deaf kids.

Let’s consider the discrimination our aspiring deaf teacher of the deaf is facing because of perceived ‘defects’. Teaching rounds are an integral part of a student teacher’s study and development. It can be tricky for the deaf student teacher as their rounds need to be done at regular schools with hearing students. Usually there is a way around it. Some have used interpreters to be their voice and ears. Others have used extensive lip-reading and oral skills. Transparent negotiations occur between the deaf student teacher and the assessors/ lecturers. Modifications are made. The actual assessment of lesson plans, appropriate teaching methods, control of the classroom, strategies remain the same as they are with hearing student teachers. The only modification is having support to deliver a lesson.

The lecturers of our aspiring deaf teacher of the deaf did all the above. However, later and without consultation, they also gave her extra assessments where they tested her ability to cope and communicate in a hearing classroom. This extra assessment came as a complete surprise to her. This is a clear case of direct discrimination as she is being required to do an assessment because she is deaf that is not a requirement for hearing students.  It seems that her teaching skills were less significant than her ability to communicate in a mainstream classroom. One can only assume from this example that the powers that be believe that English and hearing are obviously the most important requirements for teaching!

Some may think this is a fair decision to make but we believe it is blatant and uncalled for discrimination. If the aim is to become a teacher of the deaf, why make this pathway more difficult? Our aspiring deaf teacher of the deaf eventually would have been in a school setting where she was an equal with her students’ communication needs. What recourse was there if she had “failed” her extra and unfair assessment? Why not work with her to ensure she has strategies and skills to manage a hearing classroom, rather than deliberately presenting obstacles?

As it was, she passed with flying colours and that was when the lecturers told her about the extra assessment. The worst part of it was that they patronisingly thought they were doing her a favour! Was this the end of her troubles? Not by a long shot!

Teaching rounds occurred in a mainstream school with a deaf facility. She was able to teach a combined class of deaf and hearing students, and the hearing students had developed communication skills to communicate with the deaf. It was an ideal setting. Her report was excellent. The co-ordinator of the Deaf Facility, however, felt it necessary to note that she would have trouble finding work because she couldn’t speak clearly enough and this would disadvantage the deaf students who had cochlear implants. A COORDINATOR NO LESS!! Isn’t it comforting that a person in such power has such a bright outlook on the career prospects of the deaf – NOT!

Obviously, all deaf kids are not equal. The co-ordinator is correct in stating that the kids with cochlear implants need appropriate speaking models. It is also correct to say that the signing kids require appropriate signing models. A fact he managed to conveniently overlook.  In the past, even when this co-ordinator had a Deaf teacher of the deaf who could speak and sign fluently, he did not employ her as a classroom teacher. This Deaf teacher has taught close to 400 hearing students in a school! The worse problem she has is finding adequate funding to use for interpreters at all school based meetings and Professional Development and that is an Education Department issue. So obviously, there is a perceived bias over the facts the ears don’t work – never mind the qualifications and skills of the deaf person.

So our deaf teacher who is studying and soon to complete her Masters in Deaf Education has been beaten to the post by two other hearing students studying the same course. Both jobs involve Auslan. Neither can sign, one assumes the students will be made to SPEAK to support the teacher rather than the teacher SIGN PROPERLY to support them. Maybe the students should get a support teachers wage!

The bias is appalling. Our ears don’t work. We can’t communicate the same way as hearing teachers. We are expensive. It is all too hard. Just get teachers who can sign a little bit and are fantastic speech and listening models instead like we have been doing for the past many years. And we wonder why deaf education has not improved?!

We need both types of workers – hearing and deaf. We need to cater for all the educational, linguistic and auditory needs of the deaf students and by doing this we balance our workforce. Deaf students need deaf teachers too. They need to see other deaf teachers who maybe are not perfect in English or can’t speak that well too and know that like them, they can achieve.  THEY NEED INSPIRING DEAF ROLE MODELS. Not patronising, “You speak so beautifully”, hearing teachers that value normalisation above all.

The odds are stacked against us with discrimination at university, within Deaf Facilities and the Education Department.  It is always one step forward and two steps back.  No, in fact, we are just going backwards, there are no forward steps. We deaf people can become AND ARE effective teachers of the deaf.  We remind those hearing teachers of the deaf who are discriminating that YOU ARE BREAKING THE LAW. One hopes that very soon someone will make a complaint under the Disability Discrimination Act to the Australian Human Rights Commission. It has to happen. It is a scandal and it’s time it ended!


Are you fed up? You can bet your bottom dollar we are. Back in 2006 when we started The Rebuttal our very first article spoke of using affirmative action to get deaf people into management roles at our deaf sector organisations. Deaf facilities at schools are Deaf sector organisations.

Now fast forward to 2011 and we have a Coordinator at a deaf facility finding barriers to employ a deaf teacher of the deaf.  Apparently a brain, good motivation and ability are all secondary to good speech.

It is not just the Coordinator that is the problem. The University that is training the deaf person to be a teacher of the deaf is implementing barriers. They are implementing barriers by insisting that the deaf person have a special assessment to show that they can communicate with hearing people. That the deaf woman has been communicating successfully with hearing people all her life seems to have passed them by.

There are strong words that we could use for these people but to do so would be counter productive. What we at The Rebuttal want to do is to remind these people that they are DISCRIMINATING against deaf people by making ASSUMPTIONS as to what deaf people can and cannot do. We want to remind them, because they obviously have not kept up with legislative changes, that DISCRIMINATION is against the law.

It is discrimination to prejudge the abilities of a person with a disability and require conditions that they would not expect of people without disabilities. There may be situations where safety issues require different types of conditions (eg blind people driving) but this situation that Marnie Kerridge has described is not one of them.

It is frustrating. It is 2011 not 1911. Even in 1911 these attitudes would have been appalling. It’s time for these people to get out of their ivory towers and WAKE UP!

We heard of a situation recently where an immensely qualified deaf person was sacked because of a break down in relationships with their manager. Their appears to be much anger involved but the senior HEARING managers at the organisation saw fit to place the blame for the break down in the relationship squarely on the deaf person’s shoulders. We cannot go into details but why is the fault placed squarely with the DEAF person! There is something very wrong here.

We at The Rebuttal are tired of deaf people being taken for mugs. The Captiview captions device situation is a point in case. Some deaf people have seen fit to raise a number of issues about Captiview. It spoils viewing quality, children find it difficult to use, it requires intense concentration making it hard to relax. These are some of the many issues people have raised.

The response? We quote from a Deafness Forum response to us and its members, “We have recently received a small number of complaints about the change-over in some cinemas from open captions…….as well as many positive comments.” Deafness Forum then went on to explain why Captiview had been introduced but NO WHERE were the concerns raised by deaf consumers answered.

Deaf people asked for a trial and instead had a system that clearly is far from pleasing imposed on them. Tell us any other market of 3 to 4 million that would have a product imposed on them that they might not want? A prudent business would at least do its market research before investing in a product. But deaf people have to PUT UP OR SHUT UP. It’s a disgrace.


Agent Phillip Deb – The World as They See Us.

Jack Bauer was saving the world again. He was hunched over a ledge at the top of a 200 story apartment. He was dressed totally in black and with the mandatory black beanie. An automatic machine gun was slung over his left shoulder. His gun and his trusty binoculars were all that stood between survival and annihilation of the entire world. From his restrained position on the ledge he could see Manhattan. It was a beautiful sight, neon lights flashed endlessly and Liberty raised her arm up high reminding Jack exactly why he was there.

Jack raised his binoculars to his eyes. He focused them on the window where his Russian nemesis, Rudolph Shutyah, was talking with the beautiful double agent, Dawn French. She was wired and Jack listened intently. Dawn’s job was to find out where the button was hidden. One press of that button and the Earth would be destroyed. Jack listened with his eyes narrowed into slits as he strained to hear them, but no sound came through. The wire had failed. Jack broke into a cold sweat, he had just thirty minutes the save the world! HE NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT THEY WERE SAYING.

Jack whipped out his Blackberry. In a split second Jack had sent a text to Agent Philip Deb. It had to be a text because Deb was deaf. Phillip Deb was also an astonishing lip-reader. His accuracy was 99.5% in nearly every language of the world. It would have been a 100% but Phillip found it impossible to lip-read Indian accents.

Within minutes Phillip was on the ledge with Jack.  Jack spoke to Phillip soundlessly; extremely handy when one did not want to be detected. Phillip lip-read Jack with ease. Jack told Phillip to focus the binoculars on the window and tell Jack what Shutyah and French are saying.  HE NEEDED TO KNOW THE LOCATION OF THAT BUTTON. Jack looked at Phillip in awe; he was the last hope for the world.  Jack handed the binoculars to Phillip. As he did so he placed his free hand gently on Phillips shoulder. “Go do your stuff” he mouthed, “ Save the world.” …… Jack had a tear in his eye; it was wonderful that someone like Phillip could save the world!

I apologise for such drivel. The sad thing is that deafness is so often portrayed unrealistically like this in the movies and on television. Not always, but often. Just for fun I thought I would take a trip down memory lane and examine some famous DEAF characters on TV and the Movies.

Who can ever forget VJ.  VJ is of course the off-spring of Vinny and Leah. Vinny has long since departed Home and Away and can now be found running around naked in the True Blood series. But anyway VJ was born deaf. OH NO! And of course he had to be fixed. Not just once BUT TWICE! Firstly VJ was given a COCHLEAR IMPLANT. Wasn’t that a tearjerker when they brought him home from hospital and he could hear EVERYTHING! One can imagine after having written in the cochlear implant scenario that the writers were shocked to discover that to make it realistic VJ would have to actually wear a Cochlear Implant for the rest of his natural life in the series. No matter, they fixed him again! They sent him off to America where some miracle Doctor restored his hearing. So good were the Doctors in America that VJ didn’t need a Cochlear Implant ever again. HE WAS CURED! I want the name of that Doctor!

Not all portrayals of deafness are so bad though. Some are actually quite good. The first movie I ever saw on deafness was the Miracle Worker, which was the story of Helen Keller and her teacher Anne Sullivan. Some may think this movie is over the top, and it is, but it had a powerful message about institutionalisation of people with disabilities. The scenes that show institutions as dark, creepy, rat infested places full of cruel support people have remained in my psyche until this day. Apart from that it was an interesting recount of Helen Keller’s childhood. But even in this movie there are scenes that make many of us cringe.  The scene at the end where Keller runs her hands under a flowing tap and utters WWWAAA – WWWEEEEER, after not having spoken for five years, is a point in case. Why?  Because one can imagine watchers the world over getting all teary because she SPOKE!  That will be the message that they take away, that speech is everything, communication is secondary. It’s the wrong message entirely.

The beautiful and deaf Marlee Matlin always portrays deafness in a positive light. Most famous for her role in Children of a Lesser God, Matlin’s characters are all high achieving movers and shakers. We all loved her in Reasonable Doubts where she played a lawyer, even if the series was typical American clap-trap. You can forgive this because Matlin, as a Lawyer, shows the world that the sky is the limit for deaf people. I googled Reasonable Doubts and loved the fact that the interpreter in the series was described as “her faithful translator.” As if interpreters are some kind of guide dog that follow you around wherever you go.

While Matlin’s most famous movie, Children of a Lesser God, rightly received much acclaim it is still a movie that I am not entirely comfortable with.  I might be in the minority here but for me too much of the movie painted a picture of Deaf people and hearing values. Take the scene where Matlin dances and moves sensually as she feels the music. Isn’t this sending a message that Deaf people can enjoy music just like HEARING people? Or where the teacher prepares the deaf students for a musical performance “BOOOMMMER –RAAANG __ RAAAAANNNG – RANNNNNGG.” was what they were singing or something like that.  Again one can imagine less informed watchers taking away a message along the lines of , “Isn’t that lovely, deaf people can enjoy music too.”  Could the movie not have given more emphasis to what Deaf culture really is and how Deaf people experience it?. To the credit of the movie it does explore conflict between hearing and deaf values.  It also challenges some traditional hearing perceptions of deafness. Perhaps I am just being a wee bit too cynical but I was not entirely comfortable with some of the messages that came from the movie.

And there is one of my all time favourite movies, Mr Holland’s Opus.  Holland is the music teacher who is devastated to discover his child is deaf.  I am ashamed to say that this movie turns me into a blubber puss every time.  It is the scene in the kitchen that sets me off. Cole is in the Kitchen with his mother.  He is trying to point out that he wants a drink of something. Problem is that his mother cant work out what he wants. Cole cant make himself understood and his mother tries guessing what he wants.  The mother lacks the ability to clarify with Cole what he wants, she can’t sign and he can’t lip-read. Cole lets fly with an almighty tantrum because he can’t make himself understood and his mother breaks down in a blubbering mess. Having worked with families of deaf kids I know that this scene is all too common in the real world. Every time I watch it I end up weepy, much to my wife’s disgust. Don’t get me started about the scene where Mr Holland signs a song to Cole that he has specially written for him. “BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL BEAUTIFUL COOOOLLLLE’. By that time I am a complete mess. LOOK I know the movie is rubbish but it hits a chord in me ALL RIGHT! I am not made of stone. (Tongue firmly in cheek ;-D)

My all time favourite deaf character is David in Four Weddings and a Funeral. David is great because he is not portrayed as a poor soul or an inspiring character. He is just David with a quirky sense of humour and with deep wisdom. I love the fact that David and Charles, played by Hugh Grant, have private conversations in sign language about people that might be standing right next to them. I love it at the end when Charles is just about to get married and David gets up and reminds him where his heart truly lies leading to Charles jilting the bride. David is everything you want to be as a deaf person – smart, quirky, friendly and funny … He is just David!

I started this article in a rather cynical mood intending to lambast the establishment for its unrealistic portrayal of deafness in movies and on TV. Surprisingly I have discovered that it is not all that bad. But still one wishes there could be more characters like David. Not poor souls in a constant state of drama. Just every day characters living life deaf and having a jolly good time of it.

Oh yes, Agent Phillip Deb. What’s happening with Agent Phillip you say?  Does he save the world? Does he lip-read Shutyah and French and discover the location of the BUTTON? Dunno! I’ll sleep on it.  😀











A Response From Deafness Forum

This is a response from Deafness Forum. They claim many people think Captiview is great and only a few people have complained. Let us know if you agree or not will will forward your responses to Deafness Forum. We commend Deafness Forum for their effort to communicate with the community, Its been lacking of late. We hope that this continues.

We have recently received a small number of complaints about the change-over in some cinemas from open captions (OC) to closed captions (CC).  We have passed these on to FaHCSIA, as they are collecting all feedback for the Accessible Cinema Advisory Group (ACAG).  FaHCSIA tell us they have also received some similar complaints;  as well as many positive comments.

For many years, consumer advocate groups, such as Deafness Forum and Deaf Australia, have been pushing for the day when all films, on every screen, of every cinema, are captioned.  This goal is now possible.

Major changes are happening in the film industry:

 1.     Firstly, the major cinema chains are changing over from 35mm film to digital video

Many cinemas, which now use 35mm film, will be changing before the end of 2014.  Screens in cinemas will be converted from analogue to digital technology. 


2.     Secondly, the major movie house (eg in Hollywood ) have also agreed to provide all new (digital) films with ‘data packages’ (accessible features).  

The major cinema chains in Australia have agreed to use these data packages, and technology such as the CaptiView system, to deliver accessible film.  (That is, close captioned movies for patrons with hearing loss;  and also audio description for those with vision loss.)   

  The cinema chains have agreed to keep playing open captions (in the cinemas where they are now showing) during the roll-out.  That is, they will not cancel any captioned sessions, as this would be discriminatory to people with hearing loss.

  These changes together mean that, eventually, closed captions (part of the digital ‘data packages’) will gradually replace the open captions of the old 35mm film.   

This is very much the same as the move from VHS video tape to DVDs.   Or the change-over from analogue TV to digital TV after 2013, our old analogue TV sets will no longer work;  and we will all need either a digital TV set, or a set-top box.

So, in cinemas, for example:

  Open captions ……                                               


will be replaced by closed captions ……  (in this case, via CaptiView)


For several reasons, there were unfortunate delays in the original plan for the roll-out over last summer.  Some of these were outside the control of the ‘Big Four’ movie chains:

·        new contracts with the major movie houses; 

·        lack supplies of the equipment for the digital technology; 

·        lack of supplies of the CaptiView system itself.

However, the cinema chains have assured the Accessible Cinema Advisory Group (ACAG) that the 2014 timetable will be met.Screens in theatres which now show open captioned movies will be changing to the closed captions system. This means that Hoyts, Village Cinemas, Events Cinemas and Reading Cinemas will be rolling out closed captions in their cinemas around Australia in the next few years. 


This will greatly improve the choice of films, and the number of screening times, available to patrons with hearing loss.  For example, Hoyts this week announced eight new digital screens in five cinemas with (closed) captioning:

·        Chatswood Westfield, Sydney – 1 screen

·        Chatswood Mandarin, Sydney – 2 screens

·        Warrawong on the NSW south coast – 1 screen

·        Belconnen, ACT – 2 screens

·        Woden, ACT – 2 screens


Session information for captioned movies will continue to be given on each cinema’s webpage on FaHCSIA’s Your Local Cinema website. Simply select your state and follow the links.

The current device used to deliver the new closed captions is the CaptiView technology.   

While most of the feedback we have had on the CaptiView has been positive, there have been some criticisms.  There have been some “teething problems” reported – for example:

·        not being able to book a unit

·        not having enough units for a large group

·        staff not as well-briefed as they should be

·        lack of a ‘How To’ guide, or staff assistance, for patrons on using the device

·        getting the position of the device right for easy viewing

·        the colour of the captioned text

·        the type of ‘deposit’ requested for the loan of the CaptiView unit.

The ACAG now has two groups working on all these issues.  This work should soon improve the amount and quality of information to patrons.  It should also help with booking the device, and making sure that cinema staff are well-trained to assist patrons with the units.

We know that the CaptiView system is new, and not familiar to patrons.  CaptiView is the technology that can deliver closed captions for patrons at the cinemas;  this device is compatible with the new digital rollout in cinemas.  The quality and ease of use of the device should improve over time;  however, the feedback we have from most patrons right now is that it works, and it does deliver captions. 

I do hope this information helps to clarify some of the issues in our sector. 

We welcome your feedback and suggestions for improvement, and will continue to work hard to ensure your cinema experience is as entertaining as possible.



Kris Newton