A year or so ago at a meeting on the challenge of global hearing loss, one of my fellow presenters, Catharine McMahon, head of the Department of Linguistics at MacQuarie University in Sydney Australia, said something that has stuck with me:
“The challenge of disability should become society’s challenge. Change the environment, not the Individual:
- “Rather than focus on the individual as having a problem and expecting the individual to address the problem, it is society’s role to reduce the overall disability through accessibility of spoken information and communication.”
The most direct form of accessibility for the deaf and hard of hearing is captioning. “Captions are the wheelchair ramp for the deaf,” as the author Arlene Romoff wrote.
A timely essay in the New York Times, by Sara Novic, an instructor in Deaf Studies at Stockton University in New Jersey, addressed accessibility.
In Don’t Fear A Deafer Planet, she wrote:
“Closed captioning is an inexpensive and widely available technology. Since listening and speech-reading is largely dependent on context and atmospheric conditions — for example, whether there is background noise — even those of the projected 2.5 billion people experiencing mild degrees of hearing loss are likely to benefit from captioned material. Still, content on many websites, video applications and social media platforms remains uncaptioned. Even theaters often choose to forgo open captions, instead employing retrofitted “solutions” that overcomplicate and underperform.”
The New York City Council is currently considering INT. 2020, an ordinance that would require cinemas to show open-captioned movies on a regular basis. Not all the time, as Novic is proposing – that’s too big a hurdle right now. But open-captioned screenings of every movie showing at a particular theater every day. You can support the bill by emailing or calling N.Y. City Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s legislative director: Jeffrey Baker, 212 482-5457. Or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can also sign a change.org petition in favor of open-captioned movies, at Movie Theaters — Captions (Subtitles) are Healthier for Everyone.
For more about living with hearing loss, read my books “Smart Hearing: Strategies, Skills and Resources for Living Better With Hearing Loss” and “Shouting Won’t Help: Why I and 50 Million Other Americans Can’t Hear You.” Both are available as ebook and paperback on Amazon.com.