Making deaf children matter

Musings and blogs from a deaf campaigner

Posts Tagged ‘subtitles’

Review of 2009 for deaf children… and predictions for 2010

Posted by Ian Noon on January 8, 2010

Well, we’re already a week into the new decade / ice age, but for my first blog post of 2010, I’d like to look back at some of the highlights / lowlights of NDCS campaigns in 2009.

The big one has to the campaign victory on acoustics, which dominated most of our campaigning activity from the past year. It was great to see all of our work, including a parliamentary event, briefings to MPs and mentions in parliamentary debates, reports on how lots of local authorities didn’t have a clue about the quality of acoustics in their new schools, all make a difference. The Government announcement in October that it would take action to require testing in new schools was a delicious moment which will make a big difference to the quality of education for deaf children.

Although it was quite a long time ago, the announcement back in January last year that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) would recommend cochlear implants as an option in one or both ears for all severely / profoundly deaf children was another biggie for deaf children. It follows lots of concerted and co-ordinated lobbying by NDCS and other deaf charities. A year on, nearly all local health bodies seem to be doing a good job with getting on with implementing the recommendations.

And although the dust hasn’t really settled on it yet, the Lamb inquiry into the special educational needs system offers the promise of lots of significant changes for deaf children and their parents. Laws are being changed as we speak by the Government to implement some of its recommendations.

For me, personally, the highlight is supporting and watch deaf young people campaigning in action for NDCS, whether at party conferences or our parliamentary events. It’s always good to see parliamentarians walk away realising what deaf children can achieve, providing they’re given the right support. It was also great to see Louis Kissaun, a deaf young star, on Shameless, the Channel 4 programme, this year.


The continuing failure by the BBC to provide access to its online news content continues to be depressing, especially on news stories that feature deaf children and young people. Quite a few people clearly seemed to have skipped class the day they were covering disability awareness training at the BBC.

And the continuing problems with Phonak Naida hearing aids are also a bit of a worry, though it’s good to see that the powers that be are working hard on this problem as we speak.

Predictions for 2010?

Apparently, there’s going to be a general election in a few months. Whatever the result, there are going to be a lot of new faces in Parliament and lots of new ideas for how schools and hospitals should be run. NDCS will be busy getting to grips with the new political landscape and making sure deaf children are high on the agenda.

It also looks as if we’re going to be doing a lot more campaign work around audiology services this year. More to follow on this, but a range of issues are cropping up, for example, on the training of audiologists. NDCS will be on alert making sure deaf children get the audiology services they need.

Here’s hoping it’s a good new year for deaf children and NDCS campaigns. Please do keep sending in your comments, thoughts and any stories about how deaf children in your area are doing. We’ll do our best to respond and incorporate into our campaign work. Happy new year!

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BBC news online still failing deaf children

Posted by Ian Noon on December 11, 2009

I decided to conduct a little scientific experiment today. It was very illuminating. But depressing. If you want to try out my experiment, repeat the following steps.

1) Take what is probably the most famous online news website in the world – BBC news online – and insert the word ‘deaf’ into the search engine at the top of the page.

2) On the right hand side column, look for a box on ‘news and sport clips’ and view results for all of the recent online news videos or radio stories about deaf people.

3) See how many of these online clips feature any kind of access for deaf people.

4) Ask colleagues to put on their goggles and observe for your eruptions of fury. From a safe distance, obviously.

The results of my experiment? Well, of the first ten clips that came up:

* Nine were video clips and one was a radio clip.

* Only 2 of the videos had subtitles. A third had signed interpretation but no subtitles (which isn’t much use to deaf people who don’t sign)

* None of the clips, including the radio clip, had any kind of transcript or anything more than a cursory summary of the story.

* Four of the stories featured deaf children, of which two featured NDCS. None of these stories were subtitled or signed.

For an organisation that is paid for the public, including deaf people who don’t get any kind of discount for their TV license, and who have a remit to serve the public, this is pretty outrageous. What makes it worse for me is that I now feel pretty disempowered to be unable to comment on a story that is about deafness and features deaf children. The deaf children in the video clips won’t have a clue what is being said about them.

It’s not as if the technology isn’t there, as google have now proved.

Earlier in the year, I wrote to the BBC about this and was given some assurances that all of the above would soon be a thing of the past. So, as well as disempowered, I now feel like a complete muppet too for believing this.

I feel a very stroppy letter coming on. I’ll let you know how I get on.

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Enjoying 3D subtitles at the cinema

Posted by Ian Noon on December 4, 2009

Image courtesy of

I had a very exciting night out on Tuesday when I popped down to Greenwich to see the first ever film to be subtitled AND be in 3D!

Apparently, getting subtitled in a 3D film poses a whole range of technological challenges that it’s not been possible to fix until now. I’ve even been told that if the subtitles appeared wrong, people will throw up – without it even being a recent Eddie Murphy ‘comedy’ film. A quick glance at the screen without my 3D glasses revealed why – the subtitles have to be printed on the screen in overlapping text (and thereby impossible to read) in order to be viewable clearly in 3D.

The film that gets the honour of being the first ever 3D subtitled film is Disney’s A Christmas Carol so a big hats off to Disney. I felt obliged to go and see the film having provided a quote for a Disney press release welcoming it, but I’m pleased to say it was a very enjoyable film and the 3D effects were, as I believe the kids say, cool. When it was snowing on screen, it almost felt as it was snowing inside the cinema. That said, I remain of the firm belief that the Muppets Christmas Carol is the definitive film version of the Dickens classic.

It’s great news for deaf children and young people, who might otherwise have missed out on the opportunity to see the latest 3D films along with their hearing friends. The hope is that even more 3D films will be subtitled. I’m told that the up and coming big film, Avator will also be in subtitles and 3D.

My only gripe – and it’s not meant to detract from the achievement – is that virtually all of the showings of the film in London were either on a Sunday and Tuesday. Luckily, I was free on the Tuesday, but I did find myself grumbling “Bah! Humbug!” at the lack of choice over when I could see the film.

But in the meantime, well done to Disney for a real Christmassy treat!

PS You can find out where A Christmas Carol is showing in your area with subtitles by going to the ever helpful website.

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Google takes gigantic leap on access to online videos

Posted by Ian Noon on November 26, 2009

Sometimes you come across a piece of news for deaf children and young people so good that it takes a while for it to sink in. That was the case for me when I found out that Google has developed speech recognition software that has the potential to ensure more online videos on most of its websites will now be subtitled. Including Youtube videos.

Personally, if you’d asked me a week ago about universal online subtitles, I would have said it’s a great idea, but probably technologically impossible. Well, thanks to deaf leadership at Google, I’ve pretty much been shown to be a complete Luddite.

The importance for deaf children and young people? Well, to give one example, listen into a playground conversation and I bet many children will be talking about the latest youtube craze or embarassment. Now deaf children and young people can be involved in those playground chats.

Hopefully, everyone who uploads videos will make use of the new software. And that all other providers of online subtitles will take note and follow suit quickly. I am particularly thinking of BBC news online and their continuing abject failure to caption stories featuring deaf children, despite assurances to the contrary…

As it uses speech recognition software, there are bound to be some painful (and amusing) typos. But it still a massive step forward. If there was an award for most promising and exciting technological development for deaf people in 2009, this would have to be one of the contenders. Maybe the 21st century is about to arrive for deaf children and young people after all?

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New survey on TV subtitles: have your say

Posted by Ian Noon on November 4, 2009

Image courtesy of RNID

When I ask deaf young people what their pet peeves are, invariably they mention the quality of subtitles on TV. So I was pretty pleased to see that RNID have commissioned some research to look at what people think about subtitles. And they’re currently asking deaf people to feed in their views to help with their future campaign work on this. It includes some interesting questions about whether it’s more important to have speed or quality when it comes to live subtitles. Where do you stand on the trade off?

I’ve filled it in and taken the opportunity to have my annual whinge about subtitles on the X Factor… Why not have your say and help make a difference?

And if you feel really outraged about particular programmes with rubbish subtitles, there’s some information on NDCS’s website about how to complain to individual broadcasters. Go on, make a fuss, you know you want to…

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

Posted by Ian Noon on September 2, 2009

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?

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Greenwich youngsters win campaign victory on cinema access

Posted by Ian Noon on August 24, 2009

Odeon GreenwichI heard a nice little story last week about how a group of deaf young people in south London decided to do something useful over the holidays and take action on one of my personal bugbears – lack of access to the cinema at convenient times.

The young people from Shooters Hill College and one of my colleagues from NDCS got together with the manager of Greenwich Odeon cinema to say how fed up they were that subtitled films were only being shown at rubbish times. And the result? They managed to win an agreement to a trial of more weekend screenings with occasional later screenings too. The trial will kick off in the week beginning the 5th September and you’ll be able to see times by going to the Odeon website or Your Local

A great result and well done to the young people involved. I’m looking forward to seeing the outcome of the review of the pilot in November. Hopefully a model for other groups of deaf children around the UK to folllow?

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Cinema access website one step closer to winning top award

Posted by Ian Noon on August 7, 2009

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that Your Local had been nominated as Best Arts Project for the National Lottery Awards. Well, they’ve gone one better and made it to the finals!

Wowzers. If you want them to go one step even further and win the thing, then you need to get voting. You can vote online (click on ‘Best Arts Project’) or you can vote over the phone. The number is 0844 686 8020, it costs only 5p from a BT line and it’s an automated line so you can hold the line for 15 seconds without saying anything and it’ll be fine. It would be fantastic if they win…

I wasn’t allowed to talk about it before but the reason I was doing a TV interview a while back was for a feature encouraging people to vote for Your Local You can see the video here but be warned that there are no subtitles. It leaves me in the slightly odd position of not being entirely sure of what I’m saying. I’ve had words with them by email and hopefully it will be sorted soon. Fortunately, I’m too pleased that they’ve made it to the final to be absolutely furious about it.

Anyhow, get voting! Votes must be in by noon on the 14th August.

UPDATE (12/8/09): You can now see the video with subtitles here.

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Facing the cameras on subtitled cinema

Posted by Ian Noon on July 23, 2009

Yesterday, I did something I’ve never done before – a media interview to camera. I have now recovered enough to recount my experiences.

It wasn’t actually that bad in the end. It was for Your Local website and I was asked a few questions about how the website had helped me as a deaf person. I explained how as a deaf child I felt left out and excluded when my hearing friends would go to see films and I couldn’t because there would be no subtitles. I almost slipped in an anecdote about how I didn’t have a clue what had happened to Bambi’s Mum when I went to see Bambi as a six year old. And I spoke about how Your Local is a fantastic resource.

Before the interview, I also got to practice my acting skills when I was asked to be filmed in the cinema pretending to enjoy a film. I will expect nothing less than an Oscar after doing my best faces for ‘highly amused’ and ‘overwhelmed by the drama’.

All in all, an interesting experience and I picked up some media techniques. Inevitably, I thought of lots of things to say afterwards that I should have said. I also managed to stumble over my words at one point when I said “myself and other deaf children”. But, hopefully, it will all be positive effort in helping to promote Your Local and it’s importance for deaf children. And hopefully NDCS too, after I cheekily wore my purple NDCS t-shirt during the interview.

A production company is putting together the material and will be sending it out to various programmes – so I’m not sure sure when it will be screened or if my piece will make the final cut – but will let you know.

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Cinema access website up for top award

Posted by Ian Noon on June 30, 2009

Fresh from winning a People’s Choice award, Dean Rhodes-Brandon, the pioneer behind Your Local website are up for yet another award. This is one is a National Lottery Award for Best Arts Project.

It would be great if they win. So if you want to help make it happen, you can vote online and / or you can call 0844 686 8020. It costs around 5p from a BT phone line and it’s an automated phone line, so you can hang up after 10 seconds without saying anything.

Votes must be in by the 10th July. So get voting!

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