Stephanie McDermid: After success in my John Lewis subtitling campaign, I’m taking on LOVEFiLM. Join the fight!

Posted on November 27, 2013

Nothing infuriates me more than access being denied to me – and as a deafened person with mobility problems, I’m infuriated pretty often!

Being a media and retail devotee, I couldn’t wait for this year’s Christmas TV advertising campaigns.

There had been so much hype surrounding the John Lewis ‘The Bear and Hare’ advert, I couldn’t wait to see it.  After settling down to watch the X Factor, I eagerly awaited the advert during the break.

The subtitles came on – but just the name of the song, singer and songwriter! Although the animation and story was beautiful, part of the sentiment was lost because I couldn’t access Keane’s lyrics.

Hare and Bear

The stars of the John Lewis advert

I emailed John Lewis and also took to Facebook and Twitter to express my disappointment and to ask for this to be changed.

This got picked up pretty quickly by like-minded people and also by Action on Hearing Loss. John Lewis responded pretty quickly –amazingly so, and as if by magic, the advertisement was fully subtitled in a matter of days.

I can’t put into words how happy this made me feel. It might seem a trivial thing, but when it comes to equality, nothing is too small!

With encouragement, I decided to look at other ways people who are deaf or have a hearing loss don’t receive the same service as other people from mass media providers.

I turned my attention to LOVEFiLM.

I’d been a customer for several years but had been disappointed several times when an eagerly awaited DVD arrived that didn’t carry subtitles.

Although in this case, the lack of subtitles isn’t LOVEFiLM’s fault, they do not consistently label their rentals as subtitled or not, meaning that deaf and hard of hearing customers have to cross their fingers and hope for the best when the DVD drops through the letter box.

According to them, this is the distributor’s fault, not theirs – despite the fact that other companies provide accurate subtitling information in their listings.

Of course, there is also the issue of movie streaming and LOVEFiLM not making any of this content accessible.

As with other companies not providing access, the response you get varies from “looking into it” and “technical difficulties” to a blunt “no plans at all” or being totally ignored. This frustrating dialogue goes on for months, if not years.

LovefilmNetflix has shown this can be done. Other companies need to see the demand and the business sense it makes to include deaf and hard of hearing consumers.

I signed up to and made my feelings well known via a petition, as well as launching a pretty full-on campaign on Facebook and Twitter!

So far, we’ve had excellent support and at the time of writing, we are on our way to 1000 signatures in just under a week.

At the time of writing, LOVEFiLM refuses to even acknowledge us. I know that they’re not the only company to dismiss deaf customers and this is why we need more people to get involved.

My hearing family, friends and other people supporting the campaign are genuinely interested, shocked and disgusted at the way people with hearing loss are treated by companies.

It has been an eye opener – not just for them, but me too. Let’s harness this support and take the big organisations on and make life better for everyone. My petition can be found here:

Over her lifetime, Stephanie has been hearing, hard of hearing and profoundly deaf. She has been a CI user for the last 5 years and a post graduate student and trainee counsellor.  She is also Mum to an active 3 year old. Follow her on Twitter here @sjmcdermid

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