The Government is Failing to Meet its Human Rights Obligations! “Lack of captioning compounds the issues of being uninformed, isolated and vulnerable, so often experienced by the Deaf and hearing impaired.”
By captioning only a small proportion of public TV and other broadcast media, enabling access by the hearing impaired, the New Zealand government is failing in its obligation to meet the terms of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD).
Under the UNCPRD, which New Zealand has ratified, the government is required to ‘take measures to ensure that all persons with disabilities [which includes the hard of hearing] can enjoy TV, film and other cultural activities in accessible formats’.
In New Zealand, only 23% of public television has captions over any 24-hour period and many of these hours are repeats. (See our previous article about this!). Compare our level with Australia (85%) and the UK (99% on 11 channels) and you realise just how seriously New Zealand is failing this group of citizens. The fact is, the government is failing to meet its human rights obligations in relation to captioning. It’s not just an issue of inadequate public service, it’s a matter of human rights.
In 2011, we were so concerned about the lack of captioning that The National Foundation for the Deaf, Deaf Aotearoa New Zealand and the Hearing Association New Zealand set up the Captioning Working Group. The Groups aim is to achieve equal access to TV and movies for deaf and hearing impaired New Zealanders. The Captioning Working Group is calling on the New Zealand Government to follow their example.
During the Christchurch earthquakes in 2011, deaf communities were rightly provided with New Zealand Sign Language interpreters and Captions for the TV broadcasts. But where were the Captions in broadcasts during the 2013 earthquakes near Seddon?
What else is uncaptioned? Most drama, comedy, sports, culture, science, news, current affairs, documentaries and children’s programmes and On Demand services on the internet. Parliamentary debates and most public health ads are not captioned. And so the list goes on.
Tens of thousands of New Zealanders were glued to the TV during the 2013 America’s Cup final series. It was an event of national significance, yet the races weren’t captioned until the very end – only after the Captioning Working Group raised the issue with Access Services/TVNZ, the government body that funds captioning.
Lack of captioning compounds the issues of being uninformed, isolated and vulnerable, so often experienced by the Deaf and hearing impaired. In Australia, the UK and other countries, broadcasters are required to law to provide captions, and they are funded to do so.
The Captioning Working Group recently sent an open letter to the Hon Craig Foss, Minister of Broadcasting regarding the captioning of television programmes made with public funds.
Your support helps us keep the pressure on the government to give those who are deaf and hearing impaired the same access to television, film and other broadcast media as all New Zealanders.
This content is materially taken from the National Foundation for the Deaf and used with permission