ATVOD report shows broadcasters are failing ‘on-demand’ users

The new ATVOD report out today shows that 96% of Sky TV’s on-demand services have no subtitles.  Well that stinks!  No wonder we all get so annoyed when we have to pay full price for our Sky subscription but can’t access most of it online because we can’t hear the dialogue.

And just to show that feeble excuses about ‘technical difficulties’ won’t be accepted – contrast the results against the BBC who have 98% of their on-demand services fully accessible with subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.  Well done BBC!

Action on Hearing Loss are supporting people with hearing loss and asking them to complain to broadcasters direct so please help them out.  Get emailing, tweeting and shouting loudly about how unfair this is.  If the BBC can do it, then so can everyone else!  http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/access-to-television/subtitles-are-playing-catch-up-on-video-on-demand-services.aspx

Read the full ATVOD report here http://www.atvod.co.uk/news-consultations/news-consultationsnews/atvod-report-reveals-vod-services-becoming-more-accessible-and-calls-for-further-progress-to-be-made

Where did the subtitles go?

One of the most infuriating things about watching TV or on-demand films/content is that so many programmes aren’t subtitled.  I was really looking forward to watching “The Vikings” on the History Channel but, guess what, no subtitles!  It’s really unfair that the majority of people can watch whatever they like but that hard-of-hearing or deaf/blind people have to put up with being treated like second class citizens.  Why should I have to wait for months until the DVD comes out even though I’m still paying the same subscription charges (e.g. Sky) as everyone else?  Ooh, it makes my blood boil!

I’ll be saying more about this in my guest blog for Action on Hearing Loss who’ve invited me to write a response to the findings of a report following their “Future of Subtitling Conference” held on 10 November in London in partnership with charities SENSE and UKCOD (UK Council on Deafness).

The Conference challenged broadcasters, service providers, Government, Ofcom and ATVOD (Authority for Television on Demand and co-regulator for Video on Demand services) to ensure subtitling and audio descriptions are provided as standard for hard-of-hearing and deaf/blind viewers so there is accessibility for all.

The findings of the ATVOD report – which is published on 13th December – make serious reading and send a really sharp message to broadcasters telling them it’s way beyond time to start pulling their socks up and to do something about it.  Watch out for my blog which will be appearing w/c 16th December on http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/community/blogs/our-guest-blog.aspx

The joys of travelling with hearing loss ….. not!

One of the things that hearing people don’t realise is the amount of ‘kit’ that comes with any type of hearing loss.  Hearing aids, batteries, boxes, moulds … that’s just for starters.  If you still have the ability to listen to music, then the list just expands exponentially and you need a special suitcase just for your hearing gear.

For example, a hearing person can just get onto a plane, plug in the headset and go.  I wish!  Headsets are no use when the microphones in your hearing aids are at the TOP of your head, while headsets are designed to go over the CENTRE of your ears, so unless you want to have your headset perched on the top of your head like a parrot then that’s not going to work!  So I end up taking a whole bag full of paraphernalia depending on the circumstances.

I have a hearing loop which I can wear round my neck.  Brilliant, sorted?  Er, nope!  Because nobody in the electronics industry has ever thought about what it’s like to be deaf and nobody has ever thought about making life easier for us by standardising the size of jacks on the end of electronic widget cables.  So, my hearing loop doesn’t plug into the hole in the aircraft arm because the plug is too small.  So I need a bigger jack size – I learned by trial and error to bring it with me and it took a bit of tracking down but I eventually found one.  I plug it into the plane arm-rest and rrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!  All I can hear on the loop is feedback/interference from the plane’s engines.  So that’s not an option 🙁

So I decide to listen to some music on my iPod but the plug on the end of my hearing loop is too big!  So I need yet another jack, a smaller one, which takes even more tracking down.  So now I have a phone, a loop, two jacks, hearing aids and batteries.  Then I need a charger for my loop and  a charger for my iPod.  Add to that my streamer so I can connect by Bluetooth to electronic devices (just not on planes), the additional chargers for the streamer, my Kindle and my iPhone and I might as well just give up and pay the excess baggage charge now!

PLUS I need to take all this kit on the plane with me – the guys at Passport Control are all peering at this spaghetti junction of electronic wiring and gadgets with great suspicion.  Nothing like trying to explain about hearing loop technology to an irate security guard on high terrorism alert in the middle of the Christmas rush at Heathrow airport.  Honestly officer, it’s just so I can watch the new Hobbit film on the plane!  And don’t even get me started about the incomprehensibly garbled announcements about plane departure times ….. sigh!

Sigh. wiring

It’s a work of art! Soundz Off looks fantastic!

Wow! Just two of many lovely comments I’ve received since Soundz Off was featured in the 100th issue of ‘Action on Hearing Loss’ magazine which came out yesterday.  The site was very positively reviewed by Jean Straus in the “Time In” section on page 36 and described as: “just what the doctor ordered”.  Great publicity!

It means a huge amount to me that other people are finding the site useful.  One lady (deaf since the age of 2 and knows a huge amount about hearing loss) still founds lots of new information to help her which makes me feel a huge sense of satisfaction.  Another lady said that it will be a constant source of reference to help herself and her daughter ….. RESULT!!  If my site is already helping people, then it’s doing its job!

Another benefit of the site is that it’s not just helping other people but it’s also hugely helping me.  I’m more informed and empowered about the latest news on hearing loss than I’ve ever been before – keeping an eye on news sites every day (looking for titbits and scoops for the Soundz Off Facebook page www.facebook.com/soundzoff) is opening my eyes to the massive amount of work being done by people all over the world.  There suddenly seems to be a tsunami of effort, determination and innovation heading our way!  Not sure whether this was already there and I hadn’t realised it or that it’s the perfect example of serendipity – whichever, it’s great news either way!

Unfortunately the AOHL magazine isn’t online yet but the review is shown below, page 36.  And remember to like and share our Facebook page too – thank you!!

AOHL article Nov 2014

Radio 5 Live asks deaf people to phone in about their hearing loss, doh!

Well it was an interesting day yesterday!  Facebook and Twitter vibrated with outrage as deaf people tried to get their heads around the latest lack of deaf-awareness by one of the UK’s national organisations.  I’m surprised you couldn’t hear them shouting!

Radio 5 Live Breakfast’s show asked deaf and hard-of-hearing listeners to phone in and tell them how hearing loss had affected their lives – what a ridiculous thing to say!  Apart from the fact that deaf listeners probably wouldn’t be listening to the radio anyway, how could they ring in when they couldn’t hear what was said?  You have to laugh or you’d go mad 🙁

The programme featured an interview with Roger Wicks, Director of Policy & Campaigns for Action on Hearing Loss, with a feature about David Hockney (the artist) about how hearing loss had made him feel isolated and withdrawn.  I’m sure it would have been very interesting if I’d been able to hear it! http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/b04p55w4

Anyway, after lots of tweeting to and fro, BBC 5 Live finally set up a text message number and an email address so that people could write in with comments and reactions.  It took a while but they got there eventually.  I think the reaction from their audience took them by surprise: “you’ve managed to alienate the entire deaf community” was one response … no pulling punches there!

So, the good news is that BBC 5 Live is going to go away and do their research then feature hearing loss again when they’ve got all their ducks lined up in a row properly.  Raising the profile of hearing loss is great and so I’ve asked if they can get live captions set up this time so we can watch/read it as it happens, rather than having to wait a week for a transcript.  After all, it’s supposed to be Radio 5 Live, not Radio 5 in 2 Weeks’ Time!!!  We shall all watch with bated breath …..

open-mouth-and-insert-foot

Shake it Off! They’re looking at me like I’m cray cray crazy!

Every now and again something makes me stop and laugh, usually a daft clip of kittens doing something ridiculous on Youtube.  But this week saw me dancing about to a great clip of pimped hearing aids which has been set to the catchy Taylor Swift song: “Shake It Off”.

“Pimped hearing aids, what’s that?” I hear you cry.  Well a young lady named Aimee-Louise Paddock has created a fab song to go with hundreds of photos on a Facebook page called “Pimp my hearing aids and CIs”.  It is mind-blowing!  You’ve never seen funky hearing aids like this before – coloured tubing, glitter and covered in nail foils, wraps, sparkles and ribbons, plus hundreds of hearing aid charms – for boys, girls and adults – of all sorts of animals, flowers and cartoon characters. Even Swarovski Crystals are getting in on the act!

Aimee-Louise is promoting the great message that parents shouldn’t have to teach children to hide their hearing aids …. they should decorate them and wear them with pride as it definitely improves the kids’ confidence levels.  What a great message! Considering 80% of people currently say they want a hearing aid that’s invisible (due to the outdated ‘stigma’ of being thought of as disabled) this message obviously still has quite a way to go in reaching the public consciousness but this is a great start.  It’s made me smile …. and start thinking about how I’d like to pimp MY hearing aids!

VoxSciences gets my vote!

When you’re hard of hearing, not being able to hear on the telephone can have all sorts of unexpected consequences, most of them frustrating!  Having struggled for years to hear voices clearly on phone calls, I’d finally given up and resorted to using text messages only – it got the message across yet I missed chatting to family and friends like I used to.

However, good news was on the horizon.  There’s a free app called VoxSciences which uses voice recognition software to translate phone conversations into text messages.  The person leaves a message on your voicemail, then the app translates it and sends it as a text message a few minutes later.  At last!  A way to avoid misunderstandings, missed meetings and urgent messages.

This really saved my bacon recently with a family emergency that involved a mad dash to the local Accident & Emergency department and frantic phone calls.  VoxSciences made it possible for people to let me know what was happening and for me to keep in touch with people at a time when we were all under great stress.

Without this app, the experience would have been even worse – so they get my vote as App of the Week!!

http://www.voxsci.com/

“There was an old lady who swallowed a fly …..

….. I don’t know why she swallowed a fly, perhaps she’ll die”.  I never thought I’d be sitting in a community centre with six other grown women singing children’s songs on Friday afternoons, but this is a new and rather enjoyable habit of which I’m becoming rather fond.  No, we’re not singing children’s songs just for the fun of it but because it’s an extremely effective way to learn BSL (British Sign Language).

I’ve been attending a weekly course for about 12 weeks now and it’s been a revelation.  I’ve always enjoyed learning languages – I learned Pitman Shorthand at secretarial college and thoroughly enjoyed being able to write in lines and squiggles which nobody else could understand yet which made perfect sense to me – so learning yet another ‘different’ language is a wonderful experience.  So far we’ve learned letters, numbers, days of the week, the weather, colours, food, seasons, animals, different greetings …. and I’m fascinated by the rich context between signs and language.  I seem to learn better if I understand how each sign links to the word – for example, wafting your hands gently from side to side like leaves falling from trees seems an extraordinarily imaginative invention for the word “Autumn”, yet it makes total sense at the same time.  I’m lapping it up!

We spend 90 minutes learning our new signs for the week then the tutor helps embed that learning by incorporating them into songs we all know such as “the Lion Sleeps Tonight” (from the Lion King), or “Old McDonald had a Farm”.  Honestly, it’s not often that I sit in a room giggling like a child but to do it in such good company, knowing that I’m learning something so useful as well as interesting, is a real joy.

Sign language isn’t something I specifically need to use right now but it’s always at the back of mind that, one day, this is the language I will need to know in order to communicate with other people.  Nobody can predict how far my hearing loss will deteriorate but it’s better to be a good Girl Scout and “be prepared” so I’m starting early!

There are very useful apps out there which can help too.  “Sign It Lite” has short video clips of more than 700 common BSL signs so there’s no excuses for forgetting or not completing my homework!  “There was an old lady who swallowed a fly ……..”

https://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/sign-it-lite/id578750713?mt=8

sign it lite

 

Get those subtitles sorted out please!!

Do you need subtitles? Do you live in London?

Do you need subtitles to be able to follow the dialogue on TV, films, video or Youtube clips? So many films, TV programmes, training videos and work-related information is provided with no thought at all for the deaf or hard-of-hearing who struggle to understand what is being said. In fact, most hard-of-hearing employees struggle in meetings and teleconferences because they can’t hear what is being said. But subtitles aren’t an optional extra, they’re an essential for millions of us.

We’re even prevented from understanding media downloaded from broadcasters such as Sky and Amazon Prime because there are no subtitles. It’s even more annoying when they ask us to pay the same subscription price even though we can’t even hear/see what’s going on!

However, there’s a bit of a revolution going on at the moment – people with hearing loss have had enough! Action on Hearing Loss are holding a conference on 10th November in London and inviting interested parties to join broadcasters, TV regulators and subtitling providers to discuss the latest developments in subtitling technology.

Not only that, you can ask questions about why subtitles aren’t provided across all media as standard and get the opportunity to take broadcasters to task for not incorporating equal access into their media content provision. If you don’t live in London you can also submit questions via AOHL’s Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/actiononhearingloss?fref=ts

Surely it’s business suicide to ignore the needs of 10 million people (1 in 6 of the UK population) who have hearing loss? Come on broadcasters – get those subtitles sorted out!

For more information on the conference see: http://www.actiononhearingloss.org.uk/get-involved/campaign/access-to-television/the-future-of-subtitling-conference.aspx

aohl subtitling conference

Access to Work? Hmmmmm…..

Over the last few months I’ve been having an on-going debate with Access to Work, the government organisation which provides grants to help people get work, stay in work or start their own business.  As a self-employed management coach, losing my ability to hear on the telephone has been a real bummer – how do you contact potential new clients when you can’t hear on the phone any more?

So, I investigated AtW and discovered it was possible that they could fund a virtual PA who could answer my telephone calls for me.  That would work!   I did lots of research, found someone suitable, prepared my application and applied.  For £70 pcm I could get all the help I need, my problem would be solved and life would go back to semi-normal …. the holy grail.  But no joy – I was refused.  The reason was that they wouldn’t fund somebody to do my job for me.  Well I didn’t WANT them to do my job for me – I can do my coaching without help – I just can’t hear on the phone so need somebody to be a pair of ears for me.  I appealed, but still no joy.  They wouldn’t budge.

Finally I managed to get an assessment interview so we could discuss my problem and see if there was another solution and a very nice man called Graham came to see me this morning.  Having heard my dilemma, it soon became apparent that there isn’t a technical solution to my problem (it’s not about volume for me, it’s about tone and clarity as my hearing loss is exactly the same frequency as that used on telephones to compress voices) but apparently AtW are very reluctant to fund ‘human’ solutions.

However, all is not lost!  A glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel is certainly better than nothing and apparently AtW might consider funding the latest hearing aids, Amplifon’s ReSound Linx, which are iPhone compatible and allow you to programme your own equaliser and adjust tone/quality. Great!  So now I’m back on the hunt to find a dispenser where I can try out these aids and see if they help.  I’ve learned the hard way to temper my hopes and expectations against reality – maybe it won’t work but if I don’t try I won’t know.

£3500 for two hearing aids seems poorer value for money than £70 pcm for a pair of human ears for 4+ years but there you go.  Nobody ever said the government was based on common sense!  And if they don’t work, it’ll be back to the drawing board again but that’s a story for another day …..