As most of you guys know, I’m Deaf. I grew up in an all-Deaf family. My parents are Deaf. My siblings are Deaf. I grew up attending various public schools with interpreters and eventually graduated from a Deaf school. I don’t know a single sound. I can’t hear your songs. I can’t speak a single word - including my own name. I only communicate through sign language.
But that doesn’t make me any less of a person. Unfortunately, the rest of the world seems to think so.
Why? Because there is an immense amount of non-captioned videos out there on the Internet. Including the major websites ranging from CNN to Amazon. Osama Bin Laden died? LOL, you will find out five hours after everybody does! Barack Obama announcing to the world that he’s for gay marriage? LULZ NUB. You will have no idea for a day or two.
I know, I know. You guys are not Deaf. It doesn’t really affect you guys. But it freaking sucks, man. In fact, that’s what attracted me to Tumblr. In here, I’m kinda like you guys. Because there are gif sets complete with subtitles. We are able to squee over the same things. And when there are gif sets WITHOUT subtitles, you guys are kinda like me. You don’t know what the people in the gif sets are talking about.
But as soon as there are videos, I’m suddenly left out while you guys squee along. And it blows. Go to this video to get an idea of what my daily life is like.
So come on, people. Today is the day. Please go to this link and find out what you can do to help out the Deaf community.
If not, please try to reblog this today. Spread the word. #captionTHIS!!!
If you don’t reblog anything else today, reblog this.
The OP is a friend of mine who I met while writing The Silence of Silence. Believe me, when I realized that a Deaf individual was reading my story, it made me anxious—had I written the situation insensitively? Was I promoting misconceptions about the Deaf community? But she reassured me otherwise, and if there are Deaf-related issues that are accurately portrayed in the first few chapters, it’s by sheer luck; if they are accurately portrayed in the last 15 chapters, it’s because of my communications with her (and stringent research).
We hearing individuals take subtitles for granted. We watch without them and only turn them on when 1) we had difficulty understanding something so we go back or 2) we have to watch with low volume and can’t quite discern the words. The privilege in these habitual actions is astounding.
Cattyzombie and I corresponded for months back and forth about a lot of things—Glee, movies and other television shows, school and future plans, all alongside Deaf-related issues. At one point, I remember talking to her about South of Nowhere and my one and only OTP, Spashley. To my astonishment and (quite honestly) horror, she had never seen South. And why was that? Because there were no versions anywhere online or for download with subtitles. So together, we set out to find a solution—and find a solution, we did; it involved downloading subtitle files from random places all over the internet, and her learning how to edit those files to even make them in-sync with the characters’ lips onscreen. But we managed!
This moment in particular is one that has stayed with me in my conversations with her:
Some people who I watch Glee with would often make fun of Lea and her facial expressions while singing. But oddly enough, I wasn’t bothered at all. I was always so moved because I could see how much passion she has put into the song and I couldn’t help but love her for that.
She went on to ask this of me:
My Man was done by Barbra, right? I know it’s probably unfair to ask you to make a comparison…but did Lea Michele do the song justice just like Barbra did? Curious!
And I wish that I possessed the talent to put down into words what it sounds like when someone sings a song with every bit of their soul. I wish I could explain what it sounds like when the wind rustles the leaves in the trees. I wish I could accurately portray what it sounds like when a train is approaching—so that you could imagine it in accompaniment to the vibrations beneath your feet. I wish I could make a dictionary of sounds—one that you could flip through when you see or experience something, that you could read the words and think, Oh, I can almost hear that, just because of my description.
And while I don’t have a Dictionary of Sounds in the works at the moment, I do wish that the playing field, at the very least, be evened. It’s the little things in life that I wish for you all, especially the things that we who can hear take so offhandedly—as if we are deserving of them; but that would imply that people in the Deaf community are not deserving, and that is a true injustice.
I wish most of all this one thing for every Deaf individual: that every video could be captioned. They need it, they deserve it, and we are the people who can—and should—help make this happen.