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.