Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Subtitled Cinema: Daydreaming of a better deaf world

Sometimes, just sometimes, I allow myself the chance to daydream about all the things on my deaf wishlist coming true...

It's a bit like when you daydream about what you'd do if you won the lottery, only better but sadly less likely.

Top of my list is getting accessible cinema for all D/deaf people. That means something that ticks boxes for as many deaf people as possible. Not just the boxes of 'reasonable adjustments'.

So yesterday, I sat there daydreaming about what it would be like to be able to go and see any movie I liked, whenever I liked. I imagined impulsive evenings with friends, last minute dates with FJM, being up-to-date on the office chit chat when they talked about the latest film or awards nominations. I imagined all the snacks I would buy - coz let's face it, for me, it's all about the snacks.

And then, I remembered that it was Monday evening, the day before Tuesday, which is, in Vue's own words, 'One of the preferred days for deaf people to go to the cinema' so there might be movie on that following evening that London Aunt and I could spontaneously go to as we already had a date in the diary.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that the chosen subtitled movie at Vue Westfield White City was First Man - the movie about Neil Armstrong and his journey to the Moon. As a massive space geek - I am one of those people with the ISS app who stands outside hopefully in orange-skied London trying to spot it whizzing over - I was SO excited! It was on at 20:45 too, which would give us enough time to grab a drink and bite to eat first.

I texted London Aunt excitedly and then hit 'book tickets'. And guess what?There were no tickets available. Why? Well, that Vue only puts its subtitled showings on in the smallest 40-person cinemas... so naturally, when it's a film's opening week, these are going to sell out.

As one of my Twitter peeps said, half the seats were probably booked by hearing peeps who didn't notice the 'ST' by the listing and would probably wonder what the heck was going on when they realised they were at a read-along screening. I really hope that those people don't walk out.

What's more, there are 99 non subtitled showings of First Man at Vue Westfield White City this week... that's 99 that hearing poeple can go to. In the bigger screens.

The sad thing is that this Vue is renowned for only putting on one subtitled showing of each movie it has. So that was my chance to see First Man... and because it's sold out, my chance has gone.

When I tweeted about this last night, the support was incredible. Not just from my fellow D/deaf peeps, who totally get my frustration, but from hearing peeps, too:

Hearing peeps who would like subtitles because they can't hear mumbling actors (Do actors mumble? I can't hear even the ones who don't!).

Hearing peeps who have hard-of-hearing friends and would like to go to the cinema with them.

Hearing peeps who don't mind either way if every single film at the cinema was subtitled.

Hearing peeps who have partners whose first languages are not English and could do with subtitles to help them understand.

Hearing peeps who didn't even know that subtitled cinema existed because guess what? Cinema's hide it away like it's some dirty secret.

Hearing peeps who hear our cause and support it wholeheartedly.

Deafie Blogger and I had a great meeting with the UK Cinema Association during which they promised to open up the conversations between us and the cinema chains who insist that there is no market, that subtitled showings are not financially viable, that deaf people prefer going to the cinema on Sunday and Tuesdays, which is why there are only showings then, who insist that there's nothing wrong with putting the only subtitled showings on in the middle of the day during the working week.

And I welcome those conversations. Because right now, we have no choice, and it feels a bit like we have no voice. We are stating our case to people who are already converted and then it's falling on the deaf ears of those who really need to listen - except guess what? They're not deaf.

If you want to know what it's like to be deaf - at least my deaf - then remove choice from your life. Remove choice. Remove security. Remove access. And then spend every day fighting to get that choice back.

Remove it all and that's what it's like.

Sure, there are ways around it. And sure it's not the worst thing that can happen to someone. But it's happening. And it's exhausting.

I am exhausted of trying to explain why I am fighting for simple choices and changes that would enhance not just my deaf life but everyone else's, too.

UK cinemas please listen to us. Stop hiding subtitled screenings away like they're some dirty secret. Like you're ashamed. And support a community of people who really need you.

And if you'd like to help, then please sign Deafie Blogger's petition, here.

Big thanks and Happy Tuesday peeps


Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Deaf Girly and subitled Mamma Mia: Here we go again

Regular readers and my followers on Twitter will know that recently I've been talking a lot about the lack of subtitled showings available at UK cinemas.

And I am not alone in my rage or my quest to change this. But we are hitting brick walls.

Anyway, last night, I finally got to watch Mamma Mia 2 with subtitles at the cinema – Vue only provide subtitled movies on Tuesday and Sunday because apparently according to Vue, 'Our research showed deaf people prefer those days', which to me translates as

'The other days are important moneymakers for our hearing customers so we don't want to jeopardise this by showing films with subtitles.'

Of course, I might be wrong – but I have no way of confirming this, because Vue won't speak to us or offer any transparency on the issues around subtitles. And you see, for me most conflicts occur because of a miscommunication between two parties. So far our conflict is that Vue won't communicate with us at all.

But where was I?

Ah yes, dosed up to the eyeballs on Lemsip due to a sore throat bug I've had since Saturday and because I couldn't miss this only subtitled showing of this movie local to me, I headed to the cinema to watch Mamma Mia. I've learnt the hard way not to buy snacks at the cinema anymore – the number of times I have had to dump open nachos or popcorn because the subtitles have failed – so I had a bag of home snacks and rather reluctant (because Mamma Mia really isn't his thing) but super supportive FJM in tow.

He laughed at my excitement as we took our seats and we scoffed our Maltesers before the trailers had finished. Then, as the opening credits rolled, he squeezed my hand – an amazing acknowledgement of how special cinema trips are for the both of us.

And then, the subtitles didn't work.

At first I wondered whether it was simply that they weren't going to subtitle the singing but then the speaking happened and still no subtitles. And so calmly and quietly, I put down my chocolate-covered raisins and walked out of the cinema to find someone to ask what the fresh merry hell was going on.

I quickly found a manager who in all fairness dropped everything to sort the issue out. While I was there, a girl in her early twenties who was also wearing hearing aids, came out of the cinema and asked the same question as me.

'This happens all the time!' I said to her.

'Does it?' she asked, 'I hardly ever go to the cinema as there are so few subtitled shows!'

And we stood there rolling our eyes at the whole stupidity of the situation.

Eventually the guy came back and said he'd sorted it, but the lovely girl I was with hadn't followed. He didn't clock this, so I let her know and we walked back to the cinema.

'I am so glad you were with me,' she said as we waved goodbye to head up separate aisles. 'I would have been so nervous to do that on my own.'

'It was my pleasure' was my reply and I meant it.

But as I sat down I realised that while now, I will boldly assert my right to things when they are not right and ask for things and vocalise my needs, 15 years ago I would have also been nervous.

I wanted to give that girl a massive hug and tell her that she should never be nervous and that I will ALWAYS fight for her, me and any other deaf person who needs fighting for.

As I sat back down and the movie re-started with subtitles, I grinned at FJM as he mouthed 'I am so proud of you!' at me.

And I was proud of me, too.

But I am not there yet. Together with Deafie Blogger and a few other amazing people, we are trying to get to the bottom of the whole subtitled cinema conundrum. While we have theories about the lack of subtitles, we want to hear from the cinemas themselves and get transparent truthful answers about why they think it's OK to tick the accessibility boxes in pencil rather than with a flourish of pink Sharpie pen.

Why by showing one or two crappy movies a week at completely inappropriate times of day – Deaf people have jobs, you know – they feel they are doing enough for us.

I just want to understand.

When the world is made accessible to me as a deaf person, it gives it a third dimension. It gives it colour, vibrancy, and makes it such a nicer place to be.

Yesterday, walking out of the cinema with FJM, so full from all the snacks, eyes puffy from all the emotion – MAMMA MIA 2 IS THE MOST AMAZING MOVIE – I was walking on a cloud of happiness.

I'd had a date night with my husband at the cinema. It was wonderful. It was different to just watching Netflix at home. It means that I can now talk to my colleagues and friends about how brilliant Mamma Mia 2 is. It's helped me feel more included and happier.

That's what subtitled cinema gives me. Not just access to the latest movies, but a third dimension to my life.

And if that's not worth fighting for, I don't know what is.

Want to help us fight? Sign Deafie Blogger's petition here and tweet your hopes, wishes and frustration about subtitled cinema using the hashtag #subtitled cinema.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Deaf Girly: Finding the good in my deafness

Most regular readers of this blog will know that I'm pretty comfortable with my deafness in the workplace these days.

I've got a job I love, where I am fully supported by amazing colleagues and my manager. I am pretty comfortable about talking about my deafness, too. Demystifying it. Putting it out there. Challenging people to think about what it's like for me. And I've had amazingly positive responses.

All these things are incredible. 


One of the toughest things is that I cannot overcome the exhaustion. And the frustration of how much better I think I could be if I wasn't deaf.

So let's start with the exhaustion. It's hard to explain this kind of tiredness. After listening on a call for one hour and trying to lipread, I feel like someone has dunked my brain in treacle, put it on a spin cycle and then demanded it run 100 metres in a straight line. My arms are like lead weights. My eyes hurt. Speaking feels like I've had a tongue transplant. Tears are so dangerously close to the surface of my eyes that they could sprout at any second.

I cannot work out how to stop this tiredness. The exhaustion of my brain trying to piece together the few sounds I can hear and make intelligible sentences. My brain is fit. But even this is sometimes a marathon too far.

The thing is also, I want to be on these calls. They are fascinating, full of good chat, information, insight and I know that I can often add value to them. If I can just get through the exhaustion.

And then there's the frustration.

I know the cause of my exhaustion is my deafness. Ands this makes me so frustrated. Except logically, the cause of the exhaustion isn't my deafness. It's the listening.

The other day, I had to turn my camera off and mute the speaker to have a little cry not because I was upset, but because I was frustrated and cross. 

This job is so utterly perfect for me. It's an amazing balance of pure geekery and creativity. It uses all my core skills yet pushes me out of my comfort zone. I am learning every day. I mean, jobs like these don't come along very often, do they?

But just sometimes, I allow myself to sit and think about how much better I could be if I wasn't deaf...

And then I berate myself for thinking like this because this is exactly the discrimination I have spent a lot of my working life fighting. And if I'm thinking it myself, how am I meant to stop other people thinking it?

So last night I sat down and wrote down all the things that make me great at my job. Instead of thinking about the floundering conference calls or the exhaustion, I focussed on the amazing relationships I have built around the world, of the creative work out there that I've been part of, of the ideas I have that change how we do things.

The list was good. It far outweighed the 'You're deaf' list. And actually if I am honest, a lot of my strengths can somehow be related back to my deafness. 

For example, I am a massive self-teaching geek. Why? Because I never really heard at school. If I wanted to learn something, I had to sit down and teach myself. So now, when it comes to learning new things, I think I have strong advantage. My teacher is there, ready and waiting – in the part of my brain that doesn't get exhausted.

And I guess that's what I am thankful for. Deafness can be challenging, emotionally exhausting and downright frustrating at times, but it truly has made me me.

If I wasn't deaf, would I be so bloody determined to get where I want to go? Would I be so observant of body language and be able to read conversations as they are happening and spot the people who are unhappy or have feedback they can't express on projects? Would I take everything for granted?

I honestly don't know.

When I think back to the me, before I knew I was deaf, I was a different character. Before I went really deaf, I definitely didn't try as hard at things. I did indeed take success for granted.

So yeah, on this Thankful Friday, I am thankful for the fact that there are some amazingly good things about my deafness. And if you think about them long enough, they will always outweigh the bad.

Happy Friday peeps


Subtitled Cinema: Daydreaming of a better deaf world

Sometimes, just sometimes, I allow myself the chance to daydream about all the things on my deaf wishlist coming true... It's a bit li...