Ian Noon: Love film, but hate lack of online access for deaf people?

Posted on March 1, 2012



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.

I’d 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.

This article was originally posted on Ian Noon’s own blog, Musings from a deaf campaigner.

Ian Noon has been profoundly deaf since birth, giving him an interesting perspective “on what needs to change for deaf children and young people in the UK. It also means I have very questionable taste in music.” When he’s not stealing the biscuits in the office, he runs, does yoga and plans his next backpacking holiday. He works for a deaf charity but his views expressed on his blog and here, are his own.

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Posted in: ian noon, opinion