Andy Palmer: It’s not just wrong, it’s bad manners when subtitles go missing

Posted on March 20, 2013



There has been some interesting content on TV and online about the Deaf world recently. It’s just a shame not all of it has been accessible.

A couple of weeks ago, Channel 5’s ‘The Wright Stuff’ hosted a debate, which I took part in, about cochlear implants. The piece was well researched and took contributions from parents of deaf children on the pros and cons of cochlear implantation.

It was a very relevant and interesting debate for deaf people and deaf children to get involved in, but here’s the catch – it had no subtitles when broadcast live, and sadly no subtitles (or transcript) added to the online discussion.

Not long after that, the BBC reported a story about Mat Gilbert, a man that plays professional rugby for Bath but is also deaf. He’s a tremendous role model and the story should have been subtitled so that his inspirational words could be understood by the very people who would look to him for that insipiration the most: deaf children.

Unfortunately, the BBC don’t subtitle that kind of video (even though it would have been subtitled on local TV originally) leaving only hearing adults, and not deaf  children to be inspired.

Action on Hearing Loss and NDCS’s Ian Noon were on the case but got no reply-

— ActionOnHearingLoss (@ActionOnHearing) February 26, 2013

ryan giggs bbc man u deaf team no subtitles

And then this came to my attention this morning. An excellent story about how Ryan Giggs has been supporting Manchester United’s deaf team but alas, no subtitles on that video either so there so is no way the kids who have just joined our Peterborough Youth Deaf Team or any other deaf footballers can draw inspiration from this video either.

My son was impressed enough to see Ryan Giggs with a deaf team, but had no idea what he said. A scene that was probably replicated thousands of times across the UK this weekend.

It’s bad enough that the internet is being allowed by public service broadcasters to be used as an excuse to exclude deaf people from online video content, but its even worse when it seems that the content discusses deaf people but they are being prevented from finding out what’s being said about them.

If I were a broadcaster, basic manners would motivate me to provide subtitles or transcripts for content that discussed deafness.

Aside from being needlessly exclusive, its very, very rude. They’re talking about you .. not to you.

Andy volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events as well as working for a hearing loss charity. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP (all views expressed are his own).

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