Being unreasonable: Film4 and Somerset House’s outdoor screenings

As a deaf person, there are sometimes times when I wonder if I’m being completely unreasonable or just feel a bit awkward for asking that things are done slightly different for me to accommodate my deafness and allow me to do and enjoy things like everyone else. Like requesting that my hearing friends go somewhere that isn’t quite as noisy as the usual haunts for once. Or expecting my GP to remember that I lipread.

This feeling came back to me as a result of an ongoing saga with Film4. Film4 do a series of outdoor screenings at Somerset House in the summer. Somerset House is often described as one of the most prestigious venues in London which makes me wonder why half of the building seems to be given over to the Inland Revenue but I digress…

Last year, a member wrote to NDCS to complain that her 17 year old deaf daughter couldn’t go to any of the outdoor screenings that she wanted to because there were no subtitles for any of non-foreign language films. NDCS made a fuss on her behalf and Channel 4, which owns Film4promised they would look to make it more accessible this year.

And did they? Apparently not. Only the foreign language films are subtitled. After a whole year, Channel 4 have apparently been unable to find a solution.

I’m sure there are some very good reasons why this is difficult. It may involve spending money. It’s probably something to do with the venue. Deaf children and adults can enjoy access to films in other ways. Why bother going to this effort for a very small group of deaf children and adults who might benefit? It’s only a one-off event, a ‘niche’ event, hardly a big deal. In making a fuss, are deaf people being unreasonable?

I don’t think so. I find it hard believe that a solution could not have been found after 365 days to think about it. It may have been inconvenient or taken money away from the budget for Big Brother but what happened to being serious about providing access? Isn’t there a principle involved here? Deaf children and adults have the same right to access cultural events as everyone else – even if they are just one-off “niche” events. In failing to provide access, Channel 4 have sent a signal that the needs of deaf children and adults are unimportant, do not matter and should not be allowed to get in the way of running these cultural events, out of which Channel 4 is gaining valuable publicity and kudos. Channel 4 could have taken a lead. Instead, they’ve ruined whatever good story they had to tell on access for deaf children and people.

This is the 21st century and with the huge technological developments in place and greater awareness of the rights and needs of deaf children, I resent being made to feel unreasonable.


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