Love film but hate lack of online access for deaf people?

I got an email the other day at work about Lovefilm and the lack of subtitles for deaf people who sign up to their online film streaming service. A father of a deaf daughter was angry that she wasn’t able to watch any films online with subtitles. It quickly became apparent via Twitter that this wasn’t an isolated issue and that loads of other similar companies are equally poor. Another example of access failing to keep pace with technology and incredibly frustrating.

I would say that Lovefilm and other companies that fail to provide full access to deaf people are acting unlawfully under the Equality Act 2010. Their defence? Lovefilm would probably use the get-out clause that it would be an “unreasonable burden” on them to provide access. Ultimately, someone would have to take Lovefilm to court so that a judge could decide who was right.

In the meantime, there are a few things that can be done to make a fuss about this.

1) Complain. If your beef is with Lovefilm, you can contact them via their website. You could ask them to justify why they don’t provide access and whether they think they are acting lawfully under the Equality Act 2010. Other companies should have a “contact us” page on their website tucked away somewhere. If lots of people complain, this will start to get noticed internally.

2) You could also raise with the Equality and Human Rights Commission – who can look into companies that are not complying with the Equality Act.

3) Ofcom are responsible for regulating telecommunication companies and setting access requirements. For example, they require mainstream TV companies to provide a certain level of access according to their size. Currently, they don’t (I think) regulate online TV or media access. But you should certainly feel free to tell them you think they should.

4) Finally, tell the Government to sort it. The relevant Ministry is the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. A new Communications Bill is expected soon-ish and this offers an opportunity to get the law changed on things like online access, if enough people say it’s needed.

Be really interested to hear any other nightmare stories or how others have got on when making complaints like this. Or of any solutions that people have stumbled across.

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Celebrity DJ calls subtitled films at cinema “daft”

Today gave me a whopping reminder of the power of Twitter in campaigns when “celebrity” DJ, Sara Cox managed to unite the deaf community in anger at some fairly idiotic tweets last night.

It’s a hard life being Sara. She’s goes to the cinema on a date and then, shock horror of horrors, finds the film is showing with SUBTITLES! Frankly, I would tweeted in amazement that she managed to chance upon a film that was accessible to deaf people. Instead, she describes this on Twitter as “daft”. A few people point out that actually the subtitles are there to help deaf people access films. She dismisses them with what I can only describe as a naughty Northern swear word. A huge outcry later, still going the last time I looked on Twitter, said offensive tweets were deleted and an apology issued. Apparently, she thought the subtitles were for foreigners. Daft, indeed (here’s a screengrab of her nonsense – courtesy of @Deaf on Twitter) and the story has been picked up in a couple of news outlets including the Telegraph.

Is this enough? She’s said she’s mortified at the offence caused, should we tweeters get some perspective and all move onto something else? Maybe. But I’m still pretty annoyed and disappointed by the whole thing.

Subtitled films are few and far inbetween. Deaf people can’t just turn up to watch a subtitled film. We have to plan our social lives around the few showings around and then sit with our fingers crossed through some rubbish adverts in the hope that the man in the projector box doesn’t screw up the subtitles. Deaf journalist, Charlie Swinbourne, hit the nail on the head in his article for the Guardian a while back. Deaf children and grown ups need more access, not less.

As has been powerfully pointed out by fellow deaf tweeters, thanks to an ill-informed tweet, a celebrity, with lots of followers who seem rather keen and willing to defend her views, has now helped make it legitimate and OK to complain about access for deaf people and made it harder for deaf campaigners to persuade cinema to show more subtitled films. A lot of valuable work, potentially undone. Very frustrating indeed.

I’m sure Sara is genuine in her apology. But the damage has been done and there are no naughty Northern swear words that can take it back.

Funding for deaf access to cinema to be cut?

Image courtesy of http://www.ukfilmcouncil.com

I spotted last week that the UK Film Council are doing a consultation on their future priorities, and I’m glad I did.

There’s no mention of access to the cinema for deaf children and adults in it. For a moment, I suddenly thought that we now live in a world where deaf children and young people can go and see any film they like with subtitles at any time whenever they like . But then I saw the pigs flying by the window and I realised I hadn’t missed an important memo somewhere. We don’t live in such a world and cinema access for deaf people, whilst much better than it used to be, could still be a lot better. So it’s pretty depressing to read that it’s not a priority for the UK Film Council.

And it’s get worse. There’s no mention of funding for existing initiatives that aim to widen access. As I understand it, existing UK Film Council funding for the award-winning one-stop shop YourLocalCinema.com website is being cut. If I didn’t have access to the YourLocalCinema.com website, it would be a lot harder for me to work out what subtitled films are showing where. I probably wouldn’t bother in the end. On top of that, capital funding to allow cinemas to buy equipment to show subtitles is also being cut. In fact, according to the consultation, only around 0.5% of the UK Film Council’s future expenditure will go towards “diversity and inclusion”, and there is no mention of anything of direct benefit to deaf children and young people. Nada.

I know I’m not alone when I say there is insufficient choice of subtitled films at convenient times at local cinemas. A lot of cinemas seem to think that deaf children’s schools are quite relaxed about them bunking off to watch a film judging by the times they schedule some subtitled films. Instead of making cuts, shouldn’t the UK Film Council should be looking at ways to widen access, by funding research into on-demand technology for subtitled films?

The consultation closes tomorrow so if you’d like to respond to their online survey, you need to be very quick. NDCS’s response can be dowloaded from here.

Be good to hear your thoughts. Are you surprised / disappointed that the UK Film Council are not making access to the cinema for deaf children and adults a priority? Leave a comment below to say what you think.

Whatever happened to… Film 4 outdoor screenings at Somerset House?

Image courtesy of www.wonderlandmagazine.com
Image courtesy of http://www.wonderlandmagazine.com

Those with a long memory will remember from two years ago when NDCS campaigns made a fuss about the lack of subtitles in the outdoor screenings for the prestigious Film 4 outdoor screenings at Somerset House. This followed a complaint to NDCS by a deaf young girl and her parents. So whatever happened next?

Well, sadly, not a huge amount. We met with Channel 4 earlier in the year who explained that they’ve still not been able to find a way to show films with subtitles. Part of the problem is apparently that Film 4 show lots of ancient films for which a subtitled version has never been made. A bigger problem is the perception by the organisers that hearing members of the audience will complain and make a fuss. How far this assumption has been tested remains unclear.

A small step of progress was made this year when it was agreed that a pilot would be done involving a palantypist in a separate area of the audience for deaf people. RNID have been involved in this pilot and I’m waiting to hear the results of it. The hope is that a palantypist will be available in future on request to any deaf young people who want one.

It’s not ideal, far from, and we still want to see full access. However, with our attention focused on our Sounds good? campaign for better acoustics, we didn’t have the capacity to make a huge fuss about it this year. But it remains an issue that we’ll be continuing to keep an eye out for…

What are your thoughts on the matter and the way forward?