We Need to Know Too….. “As a society we need readily available information…”

As a society we need readily available information to address our concerns that become raised when we learn about emergencies and situations such as terrorist attacks. Yesterday morning our levels of concern were raised and we needed further information to ensure we could understand the evolving situation in London.

But, when we turned on our televisions the only captioned information available in the breakfast news programmes on any New Zealand television channel was a single headline saying “terror attack at the UK Parliament” and once again, New Zealanders who are hard of hearing and deaf were left in the dark.

We would have been as well informed as our hearing family members, friends and colleagues if at least one breakfast news programme had been captioned.

So what are captions? Captions show us what other viewers can hear. Captions include text for sound effects like “door slamming” or song lyrics, or simply say “silence” when there is no sound at all. Without them, TV is series of moving pictures and guesswork. People that need them can turn them on using a button on their remote control or by choosing an option on their phone, tablet or computer.

Chairperson of the New Zealand Captioning Working Group, Dr Louise Carroll, said “this is simply not good enough and breaches the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, to which the New Zealand Government is a signatory. No news is captioned on any channel between 11pm and 12 noon the following day; some main channels cannot support live captioning and some free to air channels have no captioning whatsoever; no New Zealand On Demand or TV catch up service offers captioning (including TVNZ On Demand, 3Now, Sky Go, Lightbox).
In addition and sadly, some excellent examples of great New Zealand content are available in America with closed captioning but, incredibly, not here e.g. Brokenwood Mysteries.

As Deaf & Hard of Hearing New Zealanders we need to be able to watch what we want, when we want and how we want – just like our hearing able family members, friends and colleagues. We want to be part of the conversation about the latest news, reality show, political announcement or Rugby result. Captions are not a luxury, they are essential. Captions give us the full story so we can participate too.

The New Zealand Captioning Working Group is a collaboration of Deaf Aotearoa, The National Foundation for the Deaf and the Hearing Association New Zealand.

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