ON HAND: Big Captioning Brother is watching you

This originally appeared in The Tactile Mind Weekly in Trudy’s ON HAND column.

Is it just me, or does the MCI commercial on television worry you, too?

It’s the one with a guy singing praise to MCI or whatever he’s saying. I have no idea what he’s saying because MCI, instead of captioning the commercial, has chosen to show closed captions about IP-Relay.

There are several other commercials that also put the TTY number (usually at the top of the television screen), when in reality the spoken words are providing the voice number.

Is this really acceptable? I didn’t really care before, and thought it was a great tool in publicizing TTY or relay services. But now, the more I think about it, the more I find it somewhat disturbing for one reason. If this trend continues, then people might think it’s okay to put in substitute messages instead of the actual text–and we might never know, unless we’re expert lipreaders or if someone notifies us. What’s to stop other companies from putting in their own messages/text instead of captioning the actual dialogue? Maybe I’m making a big deal out of nothing, but the possibilities are not appealing to me.

I remember when I was little, I’d feel frustrated when Sesame Street ‘dumbed down’ its captions–Oscar would still be moving his mouth long after the captions, usually consisting of two or three words, ended. Captioning folks I spoke with said they reduced the number of words because deaf children’s literacy levels were so low. When I challenged this, they quickly changed their answers and blamed speed of dialogue for the dumbing down.

Whatever the reason–instead of having a bunch of hearing folks with probably very little direct experience (if any) with deaf people, I have a great idea. How about letting us decide for ourselves? Besides, MCI (or any other relay provider, for that matter) could do a television ad about relay services. Wouldn’t that be much better, and probably a great public relations move, for these companies? I don’t care if the money isn’t available. They certainly make enough money off my calls to produce a television ad.

Until then, I’ll just change the channel whenever the MCI ad comes on. I’d like to decide for myself whether I want to watch or not, thank you.

P.S. One of my first articles for this fine e-zine asked if anyone knew of deaf people working for captioning companies. The grand total to date is still at one hard of hearing person.

Copyrighted material. This article can not be copied, reproduced, or redistributed without the written consent of the author.

Related posts:

Comments Closed