Hello! I’m Rogan and welcome. I had someone comment on one of my videos a while ago, asking me to discuss my experiences with online media, the Internet, etc., and accessibility in relation to that. So I thought that would be the post today. Now, I want to be clear that what I discuss in this is more from my personal experiences. I can’t sign for all Deaf people because we all have different ways of interacting with the world. So keep that in mind.
The main issue for us Deaf people online is the lack of captions. That’s the biggest accessibility issue for us. For DeafBlind, blind, and others, it’s a completely different thing, I can’t sign for them. For me, the biggest issue is captions. Yes, in the past few years there has been quite a bit of improvement, but we still have a long way to go. For example, look at the news. Often their most recent uploads don’t have captions, so we have to wait until later to get captions. Or we have to put up with live captioning. It really isn’t the best, because they’re not in sync with what people are saying. That’s why on YouTube (mostly), there’s been a big push for accessibility with actual captions by using the hashtag #NoMoreCraptions, or #CaptionThis. Those two are big pushes for YouTubers to do more captions on their videos. So yes, there has been an improvement in that area but there’s still a lot of work to do. Onto another thing. It’s really nice and beneficial that FaceTime and Skype were invented. Because, obviously, I can’t hear on the phone. So… Those two are really great ways to have conversations in sign, and not have to text or type everything. There’s also Glide, which is like video texting. That’s really nice!
We also have various Video Relay Services (VRS). I call whoever I want, then I connect to a video chat with an interpreter, and they speak for me. So I sign whatever I want to say and they speak to whoever I’m calling, and they sign whatever they say to me. It can be my doctor, or my bank, or whatever. So that is nice. For VRS, we have four large companies right now – Sorenson, Convo, Purple, and ZVRS. Those are the big ones. For those services, we have different ways of using them. First, a physical video phone, connected to a TV. Second, an app on our mobile or our laptop, or even online. That’s great that we have different options of how to use it.
A really frustrating and annoying thing about everything being online, everyday living being online is that often customer support has to be done through a call. Companies have gotten better about providing a live chat with an actual person, or providing an email address that we can email. But certain things still require a phone. Banks for example. If your account is locked for whatever reason, you have to call them. Which I think is kind of silly because anyone can just call and say, “Hello this is _____” and get in that way. So how does that make it more “secure”?? Also. I’m not always able to use VRS so that’s one downside. A good example of not being able to use VRS is when I left the country for nine months. I wasn’t aware that I was supposed to inform the VRS company before I left the country that I needed to be able to use VRS outside of the country. There’s also a limited time I can use it, for 30 days or something, if I’m out of the country. So. The whole nine months, I wasn’t able to use VRS at all because I didn’t inform them beforehand. Now, before y’all get all mad yelling “it’s not fair!” Hold your horses! It’s not the VRS company’s fault. It’s the laws under the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The law says that you can’t use VRS services outside of the country. You have to be an US resident, and living in the country, and actually be in the country to use it. So it’s not the VRS company’s fault. It is annoying though!
The person who posted that comment also asked about airports, trains, and so on, with accessibility for that. We live in an extremely audio-centric world. Airports, trains, etc., will have announcements over the PA system. They’ll be announcing the train is arriving now, this flight is boarding now, and so on. Restaurants and malls usually have music playing on the speakers, and if there’s an emergency, it’s announced over the system. All of that… And often, we don’t really have any way for us Deaf people to get that information. Looking at airlines when they do boarding, some will have a TV showing “Group A: 1-30 boarding now.” While they do have that – and it is nice – it’s not always accurate because sometimes they won’t update the TV at the same time they announce it. Really? Often, I will just go up to the desk in front of the gate, and let them know I’m deaf and that I can’t hear their announcements, please let me know when it’s my turn to board. Frequently, they will just let me pre-board because it’s easier that way than trying to know what group I’m in, and finding me during the boarding chaos, and such. They tend to do pre-boarding, sometimes they don’t, but they do tend to let me know it’s time to board. That’s great, while trains on the other hand… Trains don’t have a front gate desk or anything like that. Hence, I will often have to hope this is the right train, or go up and ask another person at the train station. I ask them if this is their train too, and if it is, perfect, I wait with that person until it arrives. That’s kind of annoying I have to depend on strangers to tell me when it’s time to get on MY train. Understand that this is in the US. A lot of train stations aren’t really…that good. Compared to Europe anyway. When I was in Europe, oh yes! Beautiful! I never really had to worry that much about if I was on the right train or if it was time to get off, etc. It’s very accessible there. While here… Not really. I love traveling, I do. But that aspect of traveling is what I really hate, depending on strangers to tell me what’s going on.
I think I’ve covered everything I wanted to say. I hope I did, and if I forgot something – oh well. I’ll just leave a comment below the video if I think of something else I didn’t say. I hope you learned something new about Deaf people and how we get through everyday life. If you have any questions, or want to see me chat about a specific topic, let me know in the comments below the video. Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.