Human Rights in Australia

Originally posted on 9th November 2012

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…is a big fat joke.

I got news today that the Big 4 Cinemas (Hoyts Cinemas, Village Cinemas, Event/Greater Union/Birch Carrol & Coyle and Reading Cinemas) and Foxtel both got a nomination under the Business category for the upcoming Human Rights Awards. As a Deaf person myself, I am not impressed…and the Deaf community is not impressed either.

The cinemas have been using the Captiview technology for about 2 years now…yet it still is a failure. Not all units have worked. Not all units have been available. It causes headaches and eyestrains. It ruins the cinema experience for us. I have never used Captiview myself, however I have had experience in trying to grab an unit. In July last year, I was excited to see that the midnight screening of the last Harry Potter movie would be captioned with Captiview. I rocked up at the George St Cinemas with a group of friends about an hour the movie started and we requested for Captiview units. The lady was not too sure about it, so she went and got her manager. The manager was apologetic and said that it was not working tonight…umm WHAT! I told him that we had already paid for our tickets, and there was no way our night was going to be ruined – we had travelled all the way to the city just to see this movie. It’s not often deaf people get to see a movie on its premiere date. Again, the manager was apologetic and gave us two free tickets – one for Gold Class and another for 3D. I talked to my friends about it, and we all agreed to see the movie without captions in Gold Class, and then I told the manager that we’d go ahead and see the movie in Gold Class. He then proceeded to organise our new tickets, and told us that he would provide us with free popcorn and that we would get front seats. We were disappointed, but being treated like VIPs? Yes please. We got to see Harry Potter in 3D…while sitting rather comfortably in Gold Class. Tickets for the Gold Class are nearly $40…so why not reap the benefits while we can.

But still, captions provided in whatever medium would have been nice. After hearing complaints from my Deaf friends and colleagues about Captiview, I have not had any interest in trying the device. A lot of Deaf people have complained to the cinemas, protests have been organised all over Australia and a group has been set up. But… are we being listened to? No.

A few weeks ago, Deaf Society of NSW organised a special screening of The Hammer at Top Ryde Event Cinemas, which provided us with screening room or whatever it is called. It was the first time in years I had seen a cinema full of deaf people, as the screening was OPEN CAPTIONED!!!!!!! It was just like the old days and I loved the atmosphere, as did many others. It was surreal. The last time I went to a cinema full of deaf people before that would probably have to be in 2003, I think. That’s nearly a decade ago. I, amongst many others, would love to see this come back on a regular basis. I miss Friday nights at the cinemas where I could meet up with friends to see a movie, and then go out for dinner and/or drinks afterwards.

Now for Foxtel…that’s another joke. Foxtel currently provides captions for only a mere 55% of their programs. Yet they get a nomination. I don’t understand why. I would not pay ridiculous amounts of money for subscription TV just to get access to 55% of programs. Foxtel recently released FoxtelGo – an app for people to watch their Foxtel programs while on the move. I do not think it will have captioning – I asked on their Facebook page few nights ago, and it seems to have disappeared.

While staying on the topic of captioning, I was astounded to discover that streaming video in Australia is not provided with captions. I checked out Quickflix’s streaming movies, only to discover that it does not have captioning AT ALL. Seriously? A lot of streaming video companies in the US have captions – Hulu, the US version of Quickflix, NetFlix, etc.

I applaud the ABC for providing captioning on their iView program and app – it is a fantastic piece of technology and I can watch their programs whenever I want before they expire. However, Channels 7, 9 and 10 have all failed to do this for their programs.

Moving onto other human rights issues…

Same-sex marriage in Australia? It’s moving at a snails pace. During the recent election in USA, 3 states voted for same-sex marriage to be legalised – Maryland, Maine and Washington – and will come into effect in December and January. That’s huge. Spain recently legalised same-sex marriage – and it’s a Catholic country!!! Seriously, Australia – it needs to be legalised here. What’s the hold-up, I ask you?

You know, deaf people were not allowed to marry eons ago. But the LGBT community is bigger than the deaf community here in Australia…yet we are allowed to marry and they are not. There are deaf people within the LGBT community who would like to marry. Does it seem fair? No. They’re still humans regardless of their sexuality. I don’t care which gender I marry – as long I am with the person I love.

Australia, you have further tainted our reputation in human rights – not that it was already tainted…but as a developed country, we could do better. We have ratified many conventions for human rights with the UN…yet we are not following them. It disappoints me (and I’m sure many others) that the Government only signs them just to look good.

This disappointed Deaf Australian is signing off…

S.

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