As some of you may already know, I’m deaf. I use American Sign Language to communciate, as my main means of communciation. When I raid, I don’t use vent and instead rely on my addons to get around in raids. When I talk to people who don’t know sign language, I depend on good old pen and paper to chat with them. I use a hearing aid in my left ear, the only ear that has a little hearing left. My right ear is completely deaf- so deaf that not even hearing aids help. I’m telling you this because I want you to know how deaf I am. I identify myself as a Deaf person, culturally and otherwise.
I use closed captioning or subtitles whenever I can when I’m watching movies or playing games. It’s the only way for me to really understand what’s going on. It’s the only way for me to really enjoy movies and games.
Last night, I finally bought SW:TOR and were excited to play it when it finally finished downloading. When I was watching the opening cinematics, I saw that there were no subtitles. It makes me cringe whenever I see games without subtitles because that means I’m missing out on the dialogues in the cinematics. I was furious when I saw that there were no subtitles.
I am tired of seeing MMOs exclude people like me, who NEED subtitles in media in order to enjoy them. I looked around in the options for subtitles in the game and managed to turn them on, after asking people if there were an option to turn subtitles on. I was relieved to see that subtitles were now turned on, but it got me thinking. I’ve seen movies without closed captioning and subtitles even in this modern age. I’ve seen games without options for subtitles and that infuriates me to the point where I feel like I need to write about it.
You might think it isn’t a big deal, but it is a big deal for me and people who can’t hear. It is a big deal that we’re missing out on information and the same experiences you get to have. Bear with me here for a minute- imagine there’s a really cool movie or game you’ve been waiting for months until release. On release day, you rush to the store and buy it immediately. You load it up at home in anticipation and…. there’s no sound.
You realize you’ve just bought a silent movie and are very disappointed that you can’t hear what it’s saying. Or a game without subtitles, and you have no idea what NPCs are saying in it. You would feel pretty fucking disappointed- pardon my french. You put the game or movie aside, resigned that you’re going to have to return it to the store simply because you can’t understand it. There’s nothing you can do about it.
This is my plight when it comes to movies and games. I have Netflix because I love movies and some TV shows, but not all of them have subtitles. Netflix sucks in this way because there isn’t any option for me to search specifically for media that has subtitles. I have to look for movies and hope they have subtitles- if they don’t, I have to move on to the next movie blindly searching until I find one that has the option. I have to check movie cases to make sure they have english subtitles or closed captioning. For games, there isn’t a way for me to see if it has options for subtitles before I buy them because most companies don’t provide this information. This is what I have to deal with on a daily basis.
In movie theaters where I live, I use rearview captioning and it’s the best thing ever. I get a mirror stand that reflects the words that are being captioned on a marquee screen behind me. I can put the mirror in front of me to read the words as I watch the movie on the big screen in front of me. Unfortunately, not all movies have this option. Movie theaters usually only play new releases with RWC (rearview captioning) at select times, usually only a few days out of each month. I get a limited window of time if I want to see a movie, and even then, I have to hope it’s the movie that gets that option. 90% of the time, I end up not going because the movie I want to see doesn’t have the option or the time is inconvenient for me.
There have been lobbies for more permanent options for movie theaters to use captioning. But other people argue against it because it “bothers” them. It bothers hearing people that there are words cluttering up the screen. It bothers people that there are people who need this technology. It’s ugly. It’s inconvenient for them. It costs movie companies money for the equipment and that is exactly why only select movies are shown with this option at selected times that is convenient for them to run it.
This makes me so angry how many people just don’t care. It angers me that people don’t realize how hard it is for me when I have to deal with this. It makes me furious when I am told something isn’t available because people think it’s not necessary.
Another case in point- Video Relay services. In the past, we’ve had to rely on TTY’s, when we needed to call someone, we have to call relay services to interpret for us. We give our operators the number of the person to call, and they transmit their responses to us. VRS (video relay services) operate in similar ways, except that we use video cameras that’s hooked up to the internet. When we dial in the service number, we see actual American Sign Language interpreters on our screen and sign to them what number we want to call. The interpreter will then call the number and interpret the conversation for the duration of the call.
Currently, this service is available anywhere in the United States. But in Canada, this is on a case by case basis as there has been no official service set up for this. Telephone companies will not pay for this service because they believe we can instead use TTYs or our phones to text people instead. We cannot use this service in the United States because we are not american residents, and don’t pay taxes, therefore we don’t have access to this service. I personally don’t use this service because I can’t afford to buy a video relay camera, but I know a lot of people who use it.
Imagine if iphones were only available in the U.S., and you want to buy it because it’s a better way of calling people. But you are told you cannot have the new phone because your telephone company won’t buy them because it’s too expensive. You are told that your old phone and what other phones that are available is good enough for you. But they don’t have the touch screen or the technology that iphones offer. How is that fair to you? This is the best analogy I can come up with, so hopefully you can see my points that I’m trying to make.
Later this month, I have been booked as a videographer for a rally in my province, one among many across Canada lobbying for telephone companies to provide this service free of charge. Even though I personally don’t own one, I believe this is a right that we are being denied. Our right to communicate with people. Companies should not be telling us that this is a privilege. They have no right to decide that, when it is written in our constitution that we have that right for access to communication.
But for now… it’s a privilege for me and many other people that select movies have rear view captioning, and that some games have subtitles. It’s a privilege to be able to use video relay services. It’s a privilege to be able to use interpreters, who are paid by our government with our taxpayers’ money for essential events like classes in universities or interpreting at funerals or weddings. We don’t have access to those services 24/7, and only can use them when it’s convenient for governments and private corporations that sell movies and MMOs.
So, with this being a gaming website- I felt that it was important to bring this topic up, being a deaf gamer myself. If you ever see a game without the option for subtitles, I want you to tell me about it so I can write about it and bring it to the attention of the company that’s marketing the game. If you ever see a movie that does not have captioning or subtitles, tell me about it too. I want to bring as much attention to this issue and give as much support as I can to lobby groups that are fighting for the right to have options like these. I can’t do this alone.