Demanding Quality

Many years ago Australians with a disability and Deaf people had to be grateful for what they received. Traditionally Australia, and indeed the world, looked after people with a disability through charity, and in many ways still do. This is no more so than in the Deaf area where the Deaf societies, and indeed even our advocacy organisations, are registered charities. If you are active in the deaf sector you will receive a constant stream of emails requesting that you buy lottery tickets or support the noble cause of Charity X. You can still find organisations that will pay deaf people a pittance to rattle tins on corners and even door knock to raise money. The attitude seems to be raise money any which way and bugger the consequences. The Rebuttal has written about fundraising before and caused great controversy in doing so. You may want to revisit that article, The Slums of Mumbaih  at  http://the-rebuttal.com/?p=490

This charity mentality in Australia keeps people with disabilities and the deaf in the dark ages. It keeps us in the dark ages because when people give, it is common courtesy that one must show gratitude. Someone pops a coin in your tin-can, you give it a rattle, beam a smile and thank them profusely. Don’t get me wrong I think it’s great that people are willing to help but the thing is that charity is giving, as John Howard was often fond of saying, to the less fortunate. The paradox is that giving brings out the best in us but in terms of the disability and Deaf sector this giving to “the less fortunate.” mentality often does more harm than good. In fact I would go as far as saying it is one of the biggest barriers for progress for the disabled and the Deaf.

The Rebuttal has spoken often of the “Disability Economy”. Thousands of Australians rely on the disabled for their income. The CEO of your local, humble and caring charity takes home his flash car because of us. The case workers, the support workers, the audiologist, the speech therapist, the physiotherapist, the doctors and the innovators that come up with ground breaking technology all live off the disabled. Without us thousands will be out of a job and millions, nae billions, of dollars will go missing from the economy. Last year Cochlear announced a record $377 million profit. Sales were up 8%, revenue increased 17%. Good on them. But dare call us a charity when a tiny proportion of us are creating that much money for the economy. Hearing aids, hearing aid batteries, listening devices, Auslan interpreters, captioning (just ask AI Media who got a $1.7 million grant from the federal Government recently!) .. it goes on and on … We are goldmine make no mistake. Yes, The Rebuttal has discussed this before but still it astounds us how much deaf people alone contribute to the economy simply by existing!

The smart business people know that we are a substantial market. Cochlear doesn’t go about telling people that we need to be grateful to them for making a device that for many has opened up the world. They simply promote their device in a positive way. They give back through sponsorship of events and conferences too. Or AI Media doesn’t make itself out as a company that SAVES deaf people through access. It is simply out there, in your face, letting you know it has a service. And it ain’t free they are doing very well financially thank you very much! They too give back through sponsorship. The Captioning Studio is the new kid on the block. They too are constantly in your face. By all accounts they are a far superior service too and this is shown by the number of awards they are winning. What these companies have in common is that they are GRATEFUL to us …Cos hell they are getting rich on out account. Good on them for that too, it is what free enterprise is all about.

The point of all this is that we have substantial market power and the smart business tap into it. The dumb ones, and there are many, continue with their welfarish mentality. They continue to promote the idea that they are HELPING us and we need to be grateful. Never is this more obvious than with companies that have to PROVIDE to meet our needs. And who might these people be apart from the obvious well let’s out a few, namely the Big Four Cinemas, free to air TV and Pay TV.

Of course to them they see us as a burden. A cost! Because they have to pay extra for our captioning and they don’t want too. You have a market here of three to four million. You don’t just have deaf people but you have their families and friends too and this expands the market even further. When deaf people get access to movies and shows they watch with their families, not in isolation. You can count the number of times I have watched a movie with my lads at the Cinema on one hand because simply there is no choice.

Pay TV, namely  Foxtel and Austar are among the worst offenders. In 2011 Foxtel increased its profits by 15%. They are more profitable than free to air TV yet they provide the most appalling access to captioning. When they do provide it the quality is deplorable. Why? When potentially if they provided better access they could increase their market share even more? If they were smart they would INVEST in more captioning to attract more paying customers. But what do they do when one complains and asks for more? They give you free Lifestyle Food and Sport to shut you up!

Recently free to air have again requested an exemption to increasing captioning through the Australian Human Rights Commission. Why? They are increasingly under threat from Pay TV. You would think they would want to increase their market share. What better way than by increasing captioning access? But no! They continue to see us as a cost burden! PFFFFFFTTTTTT

The Big Four Cinemas are the worst. They want to force on us a technology called Captiview. A technology that is so basic, so prehistoric it has been described as a bendy armed alien with 1980’s font.  Early trends have seen Captiview being widely condemned. There are some that say its tolerable whilst there are many who absolutely deplore the technology. Captiview is being forced upon us because it appears to be the cheapest technology going and not, as we were led to believe, the best technology going.

Australians with a hearing loss who access movies through Captions are being told that Open Captioning is out because it’s not compatible with new digital technology that is being introduced by the cinemas. Yet information has recently come to light that this appears to be a furphy. Further there are seemingly better technology options around like Rear Window Captioning and captioning goggles.

We are told that Open Captioning is off putting to hearing watchers. Recently I tested this by putting captions on the Student Lounge TV at the university where I work. Six months later no one has turned them off. In Sydney and overseas captions on TV are permanent fixtures in waiting areas at airports. Has anyone complained? Does anyone really know if open captions are not liked by the majority of hearing patrons?  Has market research been carried out? Or is it all just an assumption???

Scarily the negative feedback to Captiview being witnessed in Australia appears to be matched in the USA. I recently subscribed to an online captioning group CACC. There are some that find Captiview “OK” and will tolerate it for access but there are MANY that complain of the discomfort it causes, the lack of access if you have vision impairments, the strain it causes from constantly refocussing … All these very same comments have been expressed in the short time Captiview has been in Australia. These trends appear to be ignored.

Alarmingly our advocates are telling us to tone down our negative comments. To be more positive or “we might end up with nothing”  But we are a market, a substantial market not something the Cinemas are “helping”. Invested in properly we will generate profit. But give us a sub-standard product and we will vote with our feet by not attending. I have no problem with people trialling Captiview and providing feedback but the Cinemas are rushing head on to install Captiview everywhere. I say put a brake on it, trial other technology too, get proper market feedback and then invest in system that everyone is comfortable with.  Common sense? Well as one witty scribe said, “the problem with common sense is that it’s not particularly common.”

WE ARE A MARKET! We have a right to demand quality! We pay and we want access and comfort on par with our hearing peers.  We have to realise this and promote this message to the hilt! We cost nothing but, hell, we make money for Australia and lots of it!

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