Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Deaf Girly's five New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year peeps.

Wow, 2019! That means I am now in the 11th year of blogging here on DeafinitelyGirly.com.

When I started out, it was a bit of a therapy for me. It was a place I could have a rant about things, and when I look back, it's amazing to see how much of what I was ranting about has now changed.

The subtitles on BBC iPlayer are mostly flawless now. Back when I started ranting about iPlayer, they were practically non existent.

I no longer have to make horrifically stressful calls to utility companies or phone providers as much of it can either be sorted via live online chat, Twitter or if absolutely necessary, the NGT app on my phone.

But while all these things are marvelous, now is not the time to be complacent and I'm going into  2019 with a renewed vigour for change. It's not that I haven't been campaigning for it. More just not writing about it on here.

So in no particular order, here are my five missions for 2019 and beyond:

1. Continue the Subtitled Cinema campaign with Deafie Blogger

Last year, Deafie Blogger invited me to join forces with her and Michelle Hedley to try and get more open captioned showings of films in cinemas around the UK. Deafie Blogger had already set up a hugely successful petition by this point - sign if here - and it's already had more than 11,000 signatures.

Her determination saw us have two meetings with the UK Cinema Association, including one with representatives from the big UK cinema chains. And we are hoping that now the conversation channels are open, that we will find some way of increasing the open caption availability at UK cinemas - at more reasonable times. 

And if we manage that, then what we need is your support. To go to as many as possible. To tweet about them, share awareness and get D/deaf people back into the UK cinemas. Currently, that's not that possible seeing as there are only a small number of subtitled films and these are quite often not at 'work-friendly' times.

2. Look into getting new hearing aids

Now, don't get me wrong, I love my hearing aids, but they are now quite old. I've had them for more than six years and in modern technology terms that's quite a long time. The last time I got hearing aids, my life changed dramatically. I got promoted at work - twice - and this gave me the confidence to eventually quit my job and write a book. Which then gave me the confidence to go back and do something on my terms, which turned into an even better opportunity, which then meant when a fantastically mind-blowing challenging role came up, I thought 'Yep, I'm going after that!' and I got it. 

These hearing aids have enhanced my world in a way I never thought was possible. After spending my entire twenties not wearing hearing aids, my thirties were a revelation. But let's be clear... putting on hearing aids is not like putting on glasses. They don't make the world perfect. But they make it a lot more understandable. And if there's new hearing aids out there that could do even more, then I want to try them.

3. Sort out my book

Four years ago, I wrote a book. And then, as new job opportunities came along, I put it to one side to focus on building my career. It's still there at the side, but this is the year I am going to do what needs to be done to sort it out. You see, I've had some amazing advice on it. And it's advice I agree about. I just need to make time to prioritise sitting down and starting the edits, the rewrites, the plot changes and structure - NOT MUCH THEN - and perhaps my deaf romantic fiction character will make it beyond my laptop screen. The good news is, that no one has said my writing is crap. Just that the structure needs work. So that's something!

4. Catch up with new technology

Just as I want to see what new technology is out there in terms of hearing aids, I also think I am due for a refresher on what amazing technology is out there in general for D/deaf people. From apps for my phone to things around the home, I'm going on a mission to get up-to-date on deaf tech and make my life easier. Please let me know what you recommend via Twitter or email.

5. Blog more

Yep, 2019 is the year that I am going to reconnect with DeafinitelyGirly.com. Not the daily blogs I did when I first started out 11 years ago, but perhaps four a month to keep you up to date on the things I am passionate about. In the last two years, while I was off getting married and living abroad, I've kind of lost the time to write about what's going on in the world of Deaf Girly, which is a shame, because so much of it was new challenges and discoveries for me as a deaf person. So there will be a retrospective series, while I bring you up to date. And it'll give me a chance to tell you about the time I...

Happy New Year peeps

DG
xx




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

DGx

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.


Deaf Girly's five New Year's Resolutions

Happy New Year peeps. Wow, 2019! That means I am now in the 11th year of blogging here on DeafinitelyGirly.com. When I started out, it w...