Friday, 20 December 2019

Success for Subtitled Cinema

Today is a very thankful Friday. Why? Because I am able to report on an amazing development in our quest for subtitled cinema.

It's a local one... but it gives me hope that change will eventually come.

So let's start at the beginning shall we?

As you know, I've been helping Deafie Blogger with her fantastic subtitled cinema campaign for a while now.  We've had some progress, which you can read about here. My subtitled cinema tweet went viral which you can read about here. And I even went on Sky News to talk about it, which you can watch here.

If you look very carefully at my appearance on Sky News, you might have noticed that I was in fact, 8 months pregnant. And that means that recently I've had my hands full with the arrival of FFB. He is now three months old and absolutely marvellous.

Anyway, with motherhood now a major feature of my life, I thought that my cinema-going days were behind me for a time so I began to stop tracking what subtitled films were showing in my area.

Since having FFB, I've become part of a wonderful group of women thanks to my NCT classes and we meet up regularly. And when one of them suggested we go to parent and baby movie screamings, my heart sank a little bit as I know that they wouldn't be subtitled. I checked out the website, and they weren't.

So I dropped the cinema an email and asked them whether they would consider subtitling the parent and baby showings because after all, the subtitles might be helpful for the tired hearing parents in the noisy cinema, too.

And guess what? They came straight back to me and said, yes this was something they had considered in the past and that they would put out a survey and if it was largely positive, then they would consider a trial period.

Well guess what? When asked, 90% of people came back in favour of subtitled parent and baby screeenings.

90%

And so, the cinema decided to trial subtitled parent and baby screenings for the whole of December and January. One film a week! Which, when it's only a one-screen cinema is pretty bloody brilliant eh?

And on Wednesday, I went to my first ever subtitled screening with a three month old baby in tow. I went to see Last Christmas and I loved it. It was feel good and Christmassy and I liked the plot twist but mostly I loved that I was doing something that hearing people take for granted. Going to the cinema.

FFB's review of Last Christmas however was mixed. He slept through the first half, ate a bit and then stared at the very pregnant lady behind us for the last bit. But at no point did he scream, which was very reassuring. And the best bit for me is that because I cannot really hear babies crying, the cinema was brilliantly quiet for me regardless of what mayhem was going on around me.

At the end of the film we were handed feedback sheets where you could let the cinema know what you thought of the subtitles and I really hope that most people gave positive feedback. I asked at the box office on the way out and the lovely person there said that largely people said yes they liked them and the people that had said no said they would tolerate them if they knew there was a deaf person in the audience.

Which I will take as a win.

And while this is a very small local win - and only really useful to you if you are a deaf mama in West London, what I find incredibly bolstering is that a cinema was willing to listen and try something. They didn't just say, 'Oh no, we cannot do that as hearing people will complain.' They were open to trying subtitles.

I really hope the trial continues after January but in case if doesn't  I plan to go to as many of the films as possible. I plan to get a small taste of what it's like to be a regular cinema goer. And I plan to make memories with FFB of going to the cinema with him, in case it's something I never really get to do again.

And what was this amazing cinema called?

Watermans Art Centre in Brentford. Despite not being a huge cinema, they also do regular subtitled showings that aren't filled with screaming babies. And they have lots of other great things going on, too.

Go and show them some love on Twitter. Go and let them know that they are wonderful for being willing to give subtitled cinema a go where it's not usually done. Go use their example as a shining beacon of hope of a cinema who asks hearing people if they mind subtitles and finds that 90% have no issue with them.

And then keep telling the big cinemas this information. Keeping telling them that one hearing person complaining has the potential to ruin cinema for an entire country of deaf people. The potential to ruin date nights, social trips with friends and in my case the chance to spend time with the women who really understand what my life is like right now. The women who support me at 3am when FFB thinks it's time to play or when I just need a hug in the middle of the cafe when he's projectiled down me and is screaming the place down.

Watermans gave me the chance to spend time with those women and watch a movie. And for that I will be forever grateful.

Happy Friday peeps and keep the Subtitled Cinema campaign going wherever you are.

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.

DG
x


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

DG

xx

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Deaf Girly's Deaf Awareness Week wishes

It's Deaf Awareness Week this week - it officially started yesterday but it was a Bank Holiday and I was having a largely tech-free day of wandering around London getting some fresh air.

But here I am today, raring to go.

This year is a little different for me. This year, I've made the decision to collaborate with a brilliant company on something very important - so look out for this content on my Twitter feed throughout coming days.

So there won't be much extra activity on here... but what I will leave you with is my list of Deaf Awareness Week wishes... if I really could have anything!

1 More subtitles... everywhere

It's no secret that Deafie Blogger and I have been working hard behind the scenes to try and get more subtitles at the cinema at better times and more movies - especially new releases. The steps to achieving this are small right now but we hope when the time comes, with the full support of the D/deaf and Hearing community, we'll be able to show that there is a demand for subtitled cinema and that hearing people are willing to attend them, too. We will keep you posted and when we yell 'CHAAAAARGE!' please promise you will, right into your local cinema to show it and us support. And please sign Deafie Blogger's petition if you haven't already.

It's not just the cinema though - I wish for subtitles across all streaming services such as NOWTV and ITV player. I wish for the ability to autocaption videos on Instagram and Twitter, without having to run them through an app first... although I am still mightily impressed by this latest development.

I wish for everyone who needs subtitles to be able to have them - at museums, doctors' surgeries, appointments, conferences, the theatre, talks, in education.

2 More accessibility everywhere

Plain and simple. I wish the world was more accessible for D/deaf people. I want the people in charge of health care, travel, employment, education, all public services - the list goes on - to take some time to look at how they can make all of this easier to access for us. 

Sure most of us have learnt ways to hack the systems - I have FJM who is my ears even from 4,000 miles away, I have apps, I have customer services people on Twitter who I can reach out to, but it still doesn't change the fact that I am currently overpaying on my flat's contents insurance because the only way to negotiate it was on the phone and I couldn't do that and, at that exact moment in time, I didn't have the energy to 'hack the system' and find a way to do it. After all, hearing people don't have to do that. Why should I?

3 More awareness everywhere

A lot of the time I find my life is made difficult not because people are mean but because they simply don't know what the right thing to do is. Many people have never met someone with a hearing loss before and as no one size fits all with deafness, even if they had, chances are what helped that person might not always help me. I have always made it my policy to be as open as possible to helping people understand not just the generic ways of how to make life easier for D/deaf people but also to help them understand the quirks of my own hearing loss and how that means, they cannot group us together under one big label. We are all different.

My wish is that we continue to raise that awareness for people who are less comfortable or able to state their needs, which is why I'm going to be sharing all the deaf awareness tips I find this week on my social channels. There are some brilliant campaigns going on - so don't forget to have a google and check them out.

4 More employment opportunities everywhere

As a deaf person, I can count on one hand the number of times I've missed out on a job because of my deafness. But all three times, weirdly, the people chose to tell me straight out that it was because I was deaf. These jobs were not jobs where hearing was compulsory. But these people had made up their minds - a hearing person would be more efficient. I was out of the running.

The last time this happened, for a crappy little job, at a crappy little company, I took the time to write them a letter explaining why 'THAT WAS NOT ACCEPTABLE' and while I never got a reply, I hope that realising how close they came to a call from my lawyer, has made them approach who they employ slightly differently. In all honesty, probably not.

Right now, I am in an amazing job with the most insanely supportive boss. I have video calls with people from all over the world. I have had colleagues drive to Walmart in the hour before our scheduled call to buy a web cam because their laptop one is playing up. I can honestly say that this company I work for now sees my talent first.

And that's what I wish for everyone. I have no idea how we get there but these are wishes right? And sometimes wishes do come true.

5 More support everywhere

I am pretty lucky that on a personal level and indeed through Twitter and Instagram, I have an amazingly supportive network of people. People who, in the 11 years since I started blogging have been there through some insanely challenging times, picked me up off the floor, carried me for a bit when I've not felt like carrying myself.

Deafness can be incredibly isolating. It can be scary, frustrating, it can affect your mental health. 

I wish that there is more support for anyone who needs it, however they need it. I appreciate it won't be easy, but I will do whatever I can to help. Because, as my friend and campaigner Deafie Blogger says, 'Deaf people can achieve anything they dream of, given the right support.' and she's right!

Happy Deaf Awareness Week peeps. And if I bump into a genie in a lamp, I'll tell him these five wishes. But in the meantime, please know, that I personally will be doing all I can to make them come true.

DG
x

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




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