Hearing Loss – Taking Action for Closed Caption Access!

I had two difficult hearing situations these past weeks. I have a subscription to the online version of The Wall Street Journal, which includes various videos to go along with articles on world and national news as well as business news. Due to my hearing loss, I rely on closed caption to understand what is being said. Unfortunately, most of these videos are not captioned, making it difficult for people like me who rely on closed captions to understand a speaker on a video. My other difficulty was with a company called “The Great Courses” which provides online videos, CDs, and downloadable courses on a variety of subjects. I was not able to take a writing class as their courses are not closed captioned.

I wrote to both companies and was told they would look into the problem. I also decided to contact Hearing Loss Association of America to see if there were other avenues I could consider or formal complaints I could file with the lack of closed caption for my use to understand the news and take courses, like other hearing people. HLAA suggested reporting these companies to the FCC and The Department of Justice which oversees the Americans with Disabilities Act. They also recommended contacting an attorney to see if they would take on a case.

There are a number of laws governing access for people with hearing loss. The American with Disabilities Act, the Telecommunications Act, and the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CCVA). All require anything televised or for use in the public domain to be captioned. These acts leave open a great deal of interpretation, but I believe that businesses should provide access to all. Therefore I recommend issuing a complaint wherever an injustice is perceived.

The first step in issuing a complaint would be to contact the company or business and make them aware of the problem. This can be done online through the company’s customer service department. To access such information go to the company’s website to find their information. Usually complaints can be issued by email or telephone.

To issue a complaint with the FCC access fcc.gov. The FCC keeps track of complaints and acts when there are multiple complaints about a company or situation. To issue a complaint with the Department of Justice which governs The Americans with Disability Act go to ADA.gov. You will find an online form to fill out. Complaints can also be issued to both government agencies in writing. It is a good idea to issue complaints with both agencies. Simply go to the websites for further information.

There is an excellent article by Lise Hamlin in the latest issue of Hearing Life Magazine. Ms. Hamlin is the Director of Public Policy at HLAA and has been a long-time advocate for those with hearing loss. In her article, Lise discusses the importance of issuing complaints as a way to change a situation.

Does it do any good to complain? I think it does. It is unfair and possibly illegal for companies and business entities to block those with hearing loss from purchasing or using their products or output. A case in point is Netflix. Several years ago, Netflix was sued for not captioning their videos. Now all of their content has captioning.

People with hearing loss should not suffer in silence. We deserve to have the same access to video and online content as those who can hear. Become an advocate for yourself. When you see an injustice, take action. The time you take to write a letter or fill out a form might result in change and benefit a fellow person with hearing loss.

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Linda Bilodeau

I’ve grappled with hearing loss since 1978. Through it all, I’ve faced periods of denial, acceptance, curiosity, trust and hope. But more often than not, I’ve felt annoyed, angry and frightened. I’ve encountered despair, loneliness and envy. I’ve experienced panic attacks. I’ve met understanding people, kind souls who helped me a great deal and others who thought I had nothing short of an invisible plague. As a way of coming to terms with my hearing loss, I’ve decided to put my feelings about my disability down on paper. My hope is to better understand myself and perhaps you’ll find a little something in my meanderings that will help you, too.

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