Friday, 6 December 2019

Deaf Girly and the things that go beep

Things that go beep fascinate me.

Mainly because I’ve never heard beeps. Not even when I was younger and less deaf.

When I found out I was deaf at 10, beeps and birds singing were two sounds I discovered existed but couldn’t hear. Even with hearing aids - not that I ever wore them back then. After all, 1990s hearing aids were definitely not on my list of favourite things.

Anyway so yes, things go beep. Who knew? Which is why I ask often ask the marvellous hearing and indeed hard of hearing or D/deaf peeps Twitter what goes beep so I can add to my list of things I didn’t know about.

 I’ve discovered hair straighteners go beep when they reach optimum temperature, tube barrier card touch points beep when you place your Oyster card on them, dishwashers and washing machines beep when they finish the wash, cars beep if you get out of them and leave your headlights on, and fire alarms beep when they have a low battery.

Yesterday, my ma came to stay. As I was in the kitchen making tea, she came in to tell me that something was beeping in my flat. And she thought it was a fire alarm sounding that it had low batteries.

I, of course, could not hear it, and my mum, who is also quite deaf, was having a hard time working out which of the three alarms - one smoke, two carbon monoxide - in the flat was the repeat-beep offender.

She stood in the hall and listened as hard as she could before giving up and going to find our lovely neighbour who hearing. Together we all stood in the hall, staring in turn at the three different boxes, with me keeping the other two company as I really had no clue there even was a beep, while every 60 seconds, they struggled to work out where it was coming from.

Eventually they both decided it was the smoke alarm. So off to Sainsbury’s my mum went to buy a new battery, and then we changed it. Hurrah we thought, that’s the end of that until my mum gave a a frustrated scream. The beep was still there.

We searched high and low. I searched the biscuit cupboard and it was basically dinner time by then and I was hungry. We were all stumped.

Until I suddenly remembered that in a box on the shelf by the door was a Nest Smoke Alarm that I’d bought for our old flat and hoped would be a great help to the girl who didn’t hear beeps should the building catch fire. It talks to you instead and also sends you text messages to let you know the building is on fire.

Except if never really worked brilliantly and in the new flat, I’d shoved it in a box and forgotten about it. And there it was, beeping forlornly (allegedly), letting me know it needed new batteries.

Highly embarrassed, my ma and I  thanked my lovely neighbour and she headed back to her flat. And we then pulled all 8(!) of the AA batteries out of the Nest alarm. It stopped beeping. Hurrah!

But it got me thinking about all the things that go beep that I cannot hear and wondering whether companies couldn’t just create a range of beep frequencies to choose from so that there was at least a small chance of trying to hear it.

If I could change the frequency of things that go beep in my flat, I would give them all a low beep, like a sad clown car. Or if I could make them say ‘beep beep’ like FJM does when he’s home and something like the microwave goes off when I’m cooking. Wouldn’t that be aces?

It also got me wondering, if my ma hadn’t been staying, how long the beeping would have gone on for. And when I lived alone for three years, how many things went beep in my flat without me knowing about them.

In the meantime I’m refreshing my usual question of ‘what goes beep?’ as I really am fascinated to know. Head to Twitter and @ me your answers please.

Have a lovely weekend peeps DG x

Friday, 2 August 2019

Deaf Girly does Sky News

This time last week,  I had just experienced my first ever TV appearance. On Sky News. And I loved it.

So how did a deaf anonymous blogger end up on Sky News with her face in full view?

Well, it's because of subtitles and how important they are.

Since I first started my blog way back in 2008, I've been fighting for better subtitles. Back in the day when iPlayer didn't have good ones, and then the iPlayer app didn't have any at all. And cinemas had even less than they have now. And most museums had never considered adding words to their videos.

When there was an opportunity to ask for better accessibility, I have always done so. And I will continue to do so.

More recently this has meant I've been supporting Deafie Blogger with her subtitled cinema petition and campaign. As I wrote in my earlier blog here, we've had meetings and there have been developments but we are nowhere near where we'd like to be yet.

Which is why I put out that tweet, which went viral and had an amazing response from hearing people telling me why they used subtitles. And then The Guardian wrote about it and finally, I got a lovely DM asking me to be on Sky News.

My initial gut reaction response was 'No way! I can't possibly do that.' but then I thought about it for a day and realised that wasn't about whether I could or couldn't do it. I quite simply had to. Face those fears of putting my face out there. Of making an idiot of myself on live TV and just go for it.

So I said 'Yes!'

And so, a car came to collect me and took me to the Sky Studios in West London. I was whisked into make-up where I met Rosie Fletcher - a film critic - who was going to chat alongside me. And as we were saying hello, my phone buzzed. Sky News had tagged me in a tweet saying: "Should cinema subtitles be mandatory? More than 70,000 people have a liked a post by deaf campaigner @DeafGirly who says they change lives."

Tweet from Sky News saying 'Should cinema subtitles be mandatory?'

"Ermagerd, mandatory?! I never said cinema subtitles should be mandatory," I squeaked to FJM who was say beside me. But I guess, if you don't put out something like that, then there's no argument right? And sure enough the anti-subtitles tweets came in thick and fast.

But it gave me just enough time to make sure they I knew what I was going to say in my opening comment on the programme: "Cinema subtitles should not be mandatory - but we should have more."

Going into the Sunrise studio was amazing. We had our microphones clipped on, sat in our chairs and met the lovely presenters - Stephen and Gillian. They immediately put me at ease and before I knew it the cameras were rolling and Stephen had asked me a question.

If you watch my body language and can hear my voice in that opening sentence from me, you will notice how utterly terrified I was, but somehow I took a deep breath and kept going. And I hope I got my point across OK.

Here's the full interview recorded from my rents' TV with pretty shonky subtitles... I am working on getting a better version as well.

 I also hope that things like this continue to raise the importance of subtitles. Be it closed or open. Be it on devices or on screen. The more people we get thinking about subtitles, the more chance there is that we'll get more of them in more places.

If you want to support our quest for more subtitles at the cinema, there's Deafie Blogger's petition and more about it both on my blog... and on Deafie Blogger's website.

Want to know when there are subtitled film screenings on near you? Head over to Your Local Cinema to find out. Attend them, show the cinemas there is a demand for them. And next time you're at your local cinema, don't forget to tell them you'd like more subtitled showings. 

Happy Friday peeps and thanks as ever for all your support.


Thursday, 25 July 2019

Deaf Girly and the viral tweet

Back in May, during Deaf Awareness Week, I put out the following tweet:

Subtitles aren't just for deaf people. Lots of my hearing friends use them, too. If you're hearing and find yourself using subtitles on Netflix and TV and would quite like them at the cinema, please retweet to help normalise their presence! Big thanks #DeafAwarenessWeek

and then went to lunch with ma and thought very little about it, until part of the way through eating my cheese and ham crepe, my phone started going stark raving mad and the tweet took off.

At first it was mainly my followers who were commenting and showing their support of subtitles but gradually, as the evening and indeed weeks that followed wore on, people from all over the world retweeted and commented on my little tweet and shared the reasons why they used subtitles.

And the majority did not use subtitles because they were D/deaf.

Then the tweet really took off - and two months later, it's still being liked and shared... and the stats speak for themselves.

People love subtitles

The responses will stay with me forever. Most of them positive. Some of them made me emotional. Some of them made me laugh out loud. But an awful lot just had me nodding my head and feeling like I'd found a group of people and a voice that said 'Subtitles are not a problem for me. I use them and like them and would happily see more of them.'

I had people who relied on them because English was their second language, people who had noisy kids and needed subtitles to follow the TV over the racket. I had people who were noisy eaters and couldn't hear and eat at the same time. People who had ADHD and auditory processing disorders who said subtitles were a lifeline. And people with ADHD who said the exact opposite. And one girl who liked subtitles coz she was often too stoned to follow Netflix otherwise...

I also had people who said they weren't massive fans of subtitles at the cinema but would tolerate them if it meant that people like me could go more.

Basically the overwhelming sentiment from the 70,000+ people who retweeted or liked my tweet was positive. Subtitles need to be normalised.

Normalising subtitles at UK Cinemas

For me, one of the most important places to start is UK cinemas. You see, at present the number of subtitled showings at UK cinemas are very small. My local cinema for example shows close to 800 movies a week and only 2 or 3 of those have subtitles and they'll be on a Tuesday or Sunday. Some cinemas show no subtitled movies.

Deafie Blogger has long been campaigning for more subtitles in UK cinemas and I've been helping out a bit. We've had some meetings with the lovely peeps at the UK Cinema Association - who have an excellent selection of biscuits I might add - and representatives from the big chains. 

We put forward our case for more subtitles and they went away to see what they could do. And the result was a very small increase in subtitled movies being shown at some of the larger cinemas as a trial.

But as I tried to access these extra showings, I soon realised that I don't live in an area where I can really benefit from this and even then the increase is so small, it's hardly noticeable. And the thing is, unless these showings are well attended, we run the risk of the cinemas assuming there is no demand and reducing the showings again.

I do understand that cinemas are businesses and they have targets and wotnot, but I still feel like there has to be a better solution than a tiny increase of showings in a select amount of cinemas.

Proving there is a demand for subtitles

As my tweet shows, there is demand for subtitles - not just at the cinema but across video media - YouTube, streaming, Instagram, Twitter... the list goes on. 

What there isn't - especially in the case of UK cinema - is awareness. Many hearing people do not know that subtitled movie showings are even an option available to them. And many deaf people have given up even looking at what movies are subtitled anymore as they are never at a good time and there are so few showings.

We've hit something of an impasse.

One of the other things that became overwhelmingly apparent from the responses to my tweet was that open captions are the only really viable solution. Many Americans told me that while they used closed captioned devices in the USA for the cinema, these were often unreliable, unavailable, out of sync, not working properly, distracting as in a completely different place to the screen, and just not the solution they wanted.

I am scared that this solution will be rolled out in the UK when in fact, we just need to put more subtitles on the big screen and see what happens. 

These showings need to be well advertised to avoid anybody who 'hates' subtitles accidentally attending one and making a complaint. 

Because what is so maddening is that deaf people complain all the time about the lack of subtitles in UK cinemas, about the fact they often don't work or they're in smaller screens so sell out on popular movies and very little changes.

Then, one hearing person complains about accidentally attending a subtitled movie when they could have attended 700 other screenings at that cinema and that's the argument against adding more screenings cemented.

If the response to my tweet is right, I truly believe many people will be more than happy with the increase in subtitled cinema.

But what can we do?

For me, it's about keeping the conversation going, which is why I spoke to The Guardian about the importance of subtitles and why I am still so thrilled when every day my phone pings with notifications that my little tweet is still out there, being interacted with in a very positive way.

It's also about showing UK cinemas that there is a demand. Whether that's asking every hearing person you know to start asking for more subtitled showings, to start attending the subtitled showings that aren't in the middle of the afternoon on a Tuesday when most of us are at work, and to start saying, 'WE WANT SUBTITLES' and joining people like me and Deafie Blogger in trying to make our worlds that little bit more accessible.

You can sign Deafie Blogger's petition for more subtitled cinema here. You can read her latest blogs. And if you haven't already, please like and comment on my little tweet and help propel it through the Twittersphere to gather evidence that subtitles should be available more.

I can't thank those who support our quest for more subtitles - particularly at the cinema - enough. If that's you, then virtual high fives all around. And if that could be you, then thank you in advance.

And keep your eyes peeled for more. Deafie Blogger and I - and the rest of the amazing bunch of people on Twitter campaigning for more accessibility - are not giving up. 

Happy Thursday peeps



Deaf Girly and the things that go beep

Things that go beep fascinate me. Mainly because I’ve never heard beeps. Not even when I was younger and less deaf. When I found out I w...