As a child of deaf adults, or CODA, Brad Klein is used to watching captioned shows. However, he said he discovered during a recent eight-hour flight, there were only five movies available to watch that offered closed captioning.
When Klein, 34, boarded his flight from Chicago to Copenhagen, Denmark on May 8, his initial enthusiasm for inflight entertainment soon dissipated, recounting Newsweek that “the availability of captions and subtitles varies widely”.
Klein said there were only five films on board the SAS Airlines flight with English subtitles, which provide subtitles for all audio, not just speech.
Klein himself is not deaf and explained that he “technically could have watched any movie,” but having grown up a proud CODA, he “much rather watched with subtitles.”
“My flight had five of the 99 movies with subtitles and 10 more had English subtitles available,” he continued. “I am a hearing CODA and both my parents are deaf.
“I grew up in a deaf family where closed captioning was on the television all the time. It’s what I’m used to and I prefer watching television and movies with closed captioning and subtitles.”
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) states that closed captions are required in some contexts, under civil rights laws and the Americans with Disabilities Act. This is usually to provide access to services open to the public, such as locations, health care, employment and public services.
However, this does not cover all audio and video material and the NAD points out that when it comes to film studios and producers, subtitles are included on a voluntary basis.
NAD CEO Howard A. Rosenblum shared his dismay that closed captioning is not readily available for all in-flight entertainment today, meaning they will continue to advocate for better accessibility .
Rosenblum said Newsweek: “Since every film shown on an airplane is already subtitled elsewhere, there is absolutely no reason why the same content shouldn’t be subtitled while being shown on airplanes.
“The National Association of the Deaf has long advocated 100 percent captioning of all airplane content,” he said. “Many deaf, deafblind, deaf-disabled, hard-of-hearing, and late-deaf people are frustrated in flight, only to find very little or no options on the in-flight entertainment screen that is captioned. Also, the airline’s audible announcements flight personnel are not accessible.”
Rosenblum added that the US Department of Transportation “missed an opportunity” to fix this problem by not taking action to improve current standards.
There is still much to be done to make the world more inclusive for the deaf community.
Klein said unfortunately cases like his “happen too often.” Talking about his experience in flight, Klein has come to realize how many people rely on subtitles.
“A look at the comments on my video shows that this is not just a problem affecting deaf and hard of hearing people,” he said. “So many hearing people have commented that they not only want but need captions or subtitles for a variety of reasons.
“There are so many reasons why someone would want the option to have closed captioning available: They might have auditory processing issues, they haven’t brought headphones, and not to mention airplanes are noisy.”
Klein is adamant that it’s not just the 6 percent of hearing-impaired US adults who benefit from increased availability of closed captioning. By posting a video of his experience on Instagram (@oncloudkl3in), he hopes to shed some light on what can be done to improve this problem.
“Subtitles are essential for some but useful for all,” he said. “So many people from all walks of life have commented, shared and messaged in support of my video. I am grateful to all the people who have helped amplify my video and shared it directly with airlines. I hope it brings about a change and that day all movies and TV shows about airlines are captioned.”
After Klein posted the video to Instagram on May 10, it generated more than 4.6 million views and more than 259,000 likes. Thousands of social media users showed their support by commenting on the post to praise Klein for speaking up.
One commenter wrote, “Okay! I’m not deaf either. I just have auditory processing issues, so it’s much easier for me to watch using subtitles. When I see there’s no subtitles I get mad at deaf people.”
Newsweek contacted SAS Airlines via email for comment. We could not verify the details of this case.
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