Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Britain's Got Talent: Is Lost Voice Guy's win a watershed moment for disability?

From the BBC: 
On June 3, Britain's Got Talent drew to a close and this year's winner was crowned. Nothing unusual there.  
But Lost Voice Guy's victory wasn't just notable because he was the first comedian to win in the show's history - but also because he has cerebral palsy. 
Furthermore, the runner-up, another comedian named Robert White, has Asperger syndrome. 
The pair helped the show attract its biggest audience since 2015 - an average of 8.7 million viewers tuned into the final, according to overnight figures.
Both acts made light of their own disability in their acts. So is this a watershed moment for disability on TV? 
"No," says broadcaster Mik Scarlet, who is now an inclusion and equality trainer. "I think it's just another one of those moments that happens throughout the history of media. 
"The media has always believed that the public can't cope with disability, but that's just never been my experience. 
"I was discovered in a similar, not quite so dramatic, hail of praise and glory in 1989, and I went on to become one of the most famous disabled presenters." 
Mik, who uses a wheelchair, became a familiar face to viewers as the presenter of Channel 4 kids TV show Beat That, and went on to acting roles in The Bill and Brookside. 
"Everywhere I went, all the people I met were fine with [my disability], they genuinely didn't care," he says. 
"What this actually needs to be is a watershed moment where the media wakes up to the fact that, actually, the general public are absolutely fine with disability."
He adds: "Hopefully what might happen is now the media will stop making it such a terrible tragedy story. 
"It's very easy for them to shine a light on the public and go 'Oh look the public voted, they must have changed,' when actually this is the first time the public have been given the chance to vote." 
Viewers may not have had many opportunities to vote for acts like Robert White and Lost Voice Guy - whose real name is Lee Ridley (pictured) - in talent shows before, but disabled people have been represented on screen in a variety of other ways in recent years. 
Noughties comedy series Little Britain (which starred David Walliams - now a Britain's Got Talent judge), saw Matt Lucas play a disabled character who was secretly able-bodied. 
The sketches poked fun at the idea that disabled people fake their condition in order to claim benefits, and the show was hugely popular with viewers.
But now the comedy is coming from disabled performers themselves. 
Dean Chaffer, a comedy fan who also has cerebral palsy, has been following Lost Voice Guy's career for a number of years. 
"Watching Lee around various comedy clubs and places around the north-east over the years, how he supported Ross Noble in the early days of his career, that was really good," he recalls. 
"And hopefully he can go as far as he wants to doing comedy, and challenging people's perceptions of disability and getting laughs along the way." 
He adds: "The first rule of comedy is just to be funny and I think that's what Lee does really well. 
"Disabled people have a sense of humour, just like everyone else... we're just like normal people, and I think it needs to be highlighted that Lee and Robert were up there because they were the funniest people." 
Tim Renkow, another comedian with cerebral palsy, told BBC News: "[The audience] can get super uncomfortable when you get on stage but once you've done three jokes, they just don't care and they want you to be funny." 
One of the factors key to both White and Ridley's success, Mik thinks, is the fact that they actively made their disability the subject of some of their comedy. 
"There are a few people now who work in the media who are disabled but never really mention it. The thing about Lost Voice Guy is he goes on about it, it's his set," he says. 
"And I think it'd be really nice if disabled people could finally be allowed to talk about it again, and be considered something other than a contributor. At the moment, if you want to talk about disability on television you tend to be a contributor, and not anything else. 
"And I think that might be a really important change; that we see comedy where disability is in it and it's done well. 
"Hopefully soon you'll have a really funny comedy about disability, which makes disabled people laugh, but also makes non-disabled people laugh not at us, but with us."

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

GADIM, Curtin University in Australia to host Disability, Media and Human Rights conference April 19-20, 2018




For immediate release:
For questions, contact: katie.ellis@curtin.edu.au
April 11, 2018  

The Global Alliance for Disability in Media and Entertainment (GADIM) and Curtin University in Perth, Australia, are hosting a conference 9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. April 19-20, 2018 at Curtin University on Disability, Media, and Human Rights: Policy, Practice, Performance. The conference is free and open to all.

The conference is informed by Article 8 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Personswith Disabilities, which affirms that the global disability community’s access to the media is a human right, as well as the way public attitudes towards people with disability are shaped. However, for people with disability, access to the media can be fraught with technological road-blocks, is punctuated by a lack of functional and reflexive representations, and perpetuates clich├ęs about the creativity and consciousness of people with disability.  

This conference is an investigation of three nodes of intersection between disability and the media:  
Policy: Human rights, advocacy and access regarding media. 
Practice: Making media as a person with a disability. Making media for people with disabilities. 
Performance: Representations of disability in the media. 

Access to media is a human right, and the conference explores how government, policy makers and advocacy groups can ensure equitable and just access for people with disability to the media landscape in all its avenues.

Media makers with a disability and those who may make media with a disability consciousness will present at the conference on topics including: inclusive advertising, blogging, YouTube activism, community media, and gaming. DADAA digital arts will present a session about its community engagement focus on arts and disability. 

Speakers at the conference will include: 
Beth Haller, Co-founder, Global Alliance for Disability in Media and Entertainment (GADIM) and author of Representing Disability in an Ableist World 
Katie Ellis – Curtin University and author of Disability Media Work: Opportunities and Obstacles 
Robyn Lambird – Blogger, model, YouTube celebrity, My Trex Life 
Angel Dixon - Model, disability advocate, blogger, designer 
ShawnBurns – Disability and media researcher and journalism lecturer at University of Wollongong 

A film screening of the documentary “Defiant Lives,” which tells the story of the rise and fight of the disability rights movement in the United States, Britain and Australia, will be at 3 p.m. Friday April 20, followed by a panel discussion. 

Although the conference is free, please register via Eventbrite: 
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/disability-media-and-human-rights-policy-practice-performance-tickets-44626681606 


Description of image at top of page: A poster that says "Disability Rights = Civil Rights" is held by a wheelchair user in a crowd. Only the sign and the legs of people in the crowd are visible. Note: The image is used under a Creative Commons License: Attribution-Non-Commercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0). The image titled 'Disability Rights = Civil Rights' is available from the Flickr page of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. 

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Nyle DiMarco Opens Up About Having to Leave Black Panther Because Poor Captioning

From Teen Vogue:


In this op-ed by Nyle DiMarco, as told to Bobby Siebert, Nyle opens up about having to leave Black Panther, and the captioning systems that fail deaf people.

Last weekend, I set foot in a movie theater for the first time in five years. It was a worthwhile occasion: like more than half of America, I was itching to see Black Panther and its groundbreaking majority-black cast celebrating diversity on the big screen in a major blockbuster, led by Ryan Coogler.

After receiving my ticket at the box office, I typed in my phone and showed the screen to the ticket salesperson: "I am deaf, do you have a device for me?"

Moments later the salesperson emerged holding a black device called CaptiView. It had a circular base, a long spindly arm (not unlike one of Doctor Octopus' mechanical arms), and a rectangular head.

In my seat, I stuffed the circular base into the cupholder and grappled with the Doc Ock arm until I could see the little green letters inside the rectangular head. I could feel eyes darting towards me and the black box dangling in front of my face. The rectangular head started to dip sideways, too heavy for the Doc Ock arm. I tried to lift it back up, but the arm wouldn't keep upright. I had to slink into my seat so I could see the green letters again. By this time the lights had dimmed and we were minutes into Black Panther; I'd missed the introduction.

The captions worked fine for a while, and then I noticed something odd. The dialogue wasn't quite making sense. I studied the actors' mouths on screen and realized the device was lagging and skipping lines. Making matters worse, I noticed there were subtitles on the screen when the Wakandans spoke in their language. But my device was blocking the bottom portion of the screen and I had to lift myself up in my seat to see the foreign-language subtitles, and then quickly return to my slouch to catch the English dialogue on the CaptiView. Before long I had a major headache from my eyes refocusing constantly from the device inches from my face to the screen fifty feet away.

The device was a nuisance to use, embarrassing to have parked in front of my seat in a movie theater, and infuriatingly undependable. But it was the only way the theater offered for me, and millions other viewers like me, to access the movie. In other movie theaters, there are alternative devices, like these glasses, which are no easier to use, nor do they display captions more reliably.

It was a frustrating reminder why I had not gone to a movie theater in so long.

Back when I was growing up, some movie theaters would offer open captions. This meant the captions were right there on the screen. Though these open captioned showtimes were limited to selected days and times, when they did happen the experience was much more accessible and enjoyable. Some time ago movie theaters made the switch to these new captioning devices, and soon after that I stopped going.

As a deaf person, captions allow me to enjoy TV, movies, and entertainment. But myself and the 360 million other deaf people in the world aren't the only ones who benefit from captions. Captions can help movie viewing experiences for people with ADHD, learning disabilities, and autism. It makes it easier for new language learners to understand dialogue. It also comes in handy in a ton of movie situations. When an actor mumbles, speaks in a heavy British accent, or is trying to make himself heard amidst a Michael Bay movie explosion scene, captions are there to make the dialogue crystal clear.

Unreliable captioning, or the lack thereof, isn't just a problem in movie theaters. Only a fraction of in-flight movies and TV shows have subtitles. Even though it's just a few remote clicks away, a ton of TVs in public spaces don't have the captioning turned on. The Internet brings a huge amount of filmed content to our screens, but so little of it is captioned. Recently, I tuned in to CNN’s Facebook page to watch the live-streamed town hall that Senator Marco Rubio hosted after the Parkland school shooting. I wanted to watch the essential dialogue between the students and members of the community so impacted by the tragedy and the Senator. But I couldn’t. It wasn’t captioned.

I’ve heard the standard counterargument. Onscreen captions degrade from the viewing experience. They’re annoying and distracting. I call BS. People don’t mind subtitles when they don’t understand the language being spoken.

These instances aren’t just happening when your slightly odd film-lit professor assigns you an obscure foreign film for homework either. Some of the most massively popular entertainment in the U.S. is based primarily in foreign spoken languages. Dark, Altered Carbon, Narcos on Netflix are just a few examples. (Oh, I love Netflix, because its entire library of content has captions.)

Captioning enhances the viewing experience. It should be a standard part of any filmed media — not as an afterthought, but as a part of the ultimate golden standard of universal design.

There's tons of room to improve and we have to be vigilant, or what progress that has been made will be lost. Take the Americans with Disabilities Act. It's a landmark legislation that made many things possible for deaf people like me and the more than 55 million other people with disabilities. It's also a major reason why a lot of filmed content has any captioning at all. Just this week the House of Representatives passed a bill, HR620, that weakens the ADA. If it also passes the Senate, many of these hard-won civil rights could be dramatically reduced.

Ten minutes into Black Panther, I couldn't take it anymore. I had missed half the dialogue in the movie at that point and had a nagging headache. I walked out. When I explained my experience to the manager, they apologized and gave me two free tickets. For me to relive the indignity, perhaps.

I threw the tickets away. I'll wait until Black Panther is out on Blu-Ray.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Media dis&dat participates in February 17 #FilmDis Twitter chat on Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Image description: The Rebecca character (a late 20s, brown-haired Caucasian woman) in a yellow floral sundress reads about her new diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. She stands before a bulletin board with information about mental health conditions. Here's the music video about her diagnosis

#FilmDis Twitter Chat

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Saturday, February 17, 2018

6 pm Pacific / 9 pm Eastern

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a romantic musical comedy/drama on the CW network currently in its third season. Created by  Rachel Bloom and Aline Brosh McKenna, the show follows the main character, Rebecca Bunch (played by Rachel Bloom), through some adventures in West Covina, California while exploring serious issues about mental health. Joining #FilmDis host Dominick Evans are superfans Beth Haller, professor, and media and disability scholar, and Alice Wong, Founder of the Disability Visibility Project®

How to Participate

Follow @dominickevans @mediadisdat and @DisVisibility during the chat. Dominick will be Tweeting the questions from his account.
Check out this explanation of how to participate in a Twitter chat by Ruti Regan:https://storify.com/RutiRegan/examplechat
Check out this captioned ASL explanation of how to participate in a chat by @behearddc
https://www.facebook.com/HEARDDC/videos/1181213075257528/

Questions

Welcome to the #FilmDis chat on #CrazyExGirlfriend and mental health. Joining @dominickevans today are guest hosts @mediadisdat and @DisVisibility. Spoiler alert: we will discuss current and past episodes of the show.
If you respond to a question such as Q1, your tweet should follow this format: “A1 [your message] #FilmDis #CrazyExGirlfriend”
Note: We will be discussing suicidal ideation, hospitalization, and other aspects mental health. Please practice self-care and mute if needed. For help: @800273TALK National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org #FilmDis #CrazyExGirlfriend
Q1 What do you like about #CrazyExGirlfriend? Who/What are your favorite characters, songs, and storylines so far? #FilmDis
Q2 What are your thoughts on disability representation in #CrazyExGirlfriend, in particular those surrounding mental health? #FilmDis
Q3 With the title of the show and the season 3 theme song on being ‘crazy,’ what are some ways the show is reclaiming the word and challenging our ideas of people with mental health disabilities? #FilmDis #CrazyExGirlfriend
Q4 With the main character, Rebecca Bunch, we see her past and present experiences with hospitalization, medication, therapy, and other forms of mental health treatment. How does the show’s depiction of getting help resonate with you? #FilmDis #CrazyExGirlfriend
Q5 Earlier this season the character Rebecca Bunch attempted to end her life and was hospitalized. What was your reaction to her suicide attempt and recovery afterward? What did you appreciate about how the show handled this issue? #FilmDis #CrazyExGirlfriend
Q6 This season Rebecca Bunch received a new diagnosis of borderline personality disorder. What was your reaction to Rebecca’s diagnosis and what that means for her? #FilmDis #CrazyExGirlfriend
Q7 If you identify as a person with a psychiatric disability, what themes or issues would you like the show to explore in the future? #FilmDis #CrazyExGirlfriend
Q8 Any final thoughts you’d like to share about the characters, stories, songs, and themes from #CrazyExGirlfriend? #FilmDis

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Nationwide Class Action Challenges Hulu's Discrimination against Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals

From the American Council of the Blind:

BOSTON, Nov. 20, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- A coalition of blind and visually impaired individuals and advocacy groups filed a nationwide class action today against Hulu to end the video streaming company's ongoing exclusion of blind and visually impaired Americans.  The lawsuit—filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts—challenges Hulu's violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Hulu, one of the largest online-streaming services in the country, offers thousands of shows and movies, including award-winning original content, to most customers at the click of a mouse.  However, the company fails to provide audio description—a separate audio track that blind and visually impaired people need in order to access the exclusively visual content of a show or movie—for any streaming videos. 

Because Hulu fails to include audio description tracks on any of its streaming content, blind and visually impaired individuals cannot independently enjoy Hulu's video streaming services.  Audio description is a separate audio track that, when activated, provides a verbal description of visual elements on screen, especially in scenes with no dialogue.  The audio description track plays between pauses in dialogue.  Hulu boasts an extensive library of live TV and on-demand movies and series—including its Emmy-award winning original series, "The Handmaid's Tale"—but currently excludes customers who are blind and visually impaired.

In addition, Hulu's website and applications are not accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals who use screen readers to navigate the internet.  A screen reader is software that converts the visually displayed content on the screen into audible, synthesized speech or outputs that information on a digital braille display.

The American Council of the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind, and blind individuals brought this action to end Hulu's discriminatory business practices.  Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national nonprofit legal center, and the Disability Law Center (DLC), Massachusetts's Protection and Advocacy system, represent these individuals and organizations.

Kim Charlson, President of the American Council of the Blind, said, "Movies and television are pillars of American culture.  As delivery of such media transitions to video streaming services, it is critical that these platforms be accessible in order to ensure the inclusion of blind and visually impaired individuals in contemporary society."

Rebecca Williford, Senior Staff Attorney at DRA, said, "Hulu is owned by a collection of some of the most powerful companies in the entertainment business and is itself one of the nation's most popular online streaming services.  Its utter failure to provide access to individuals who are blind and visually impaired is astonishing."

"BSCB members have been expressing their concerns about Hulu's lack of audio description for years now," said Brian Charlson, President of Bay State Council of the Blind, "and it is time that Hulu join with other industry streaming services out there and meet its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act."

"As forms of entertainment evolve, equal access must transition to meet industry innovation. Equal access means the ability to fully use and enjoy all aspects of entertainment, just like everyone else," said Christine Griffin, Executive Director of DLC.

Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages, but seek only to achieve equal access to Hulu's services.

A copy of this press release and the Complaint can be found at http://dralegal.org/press/ nationwide-class-action-challenges-hulus-discrimination-blind-visually-impaired-individuals/

About Disability Rights Advocates (DRA): Founded in 1993, DRA is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-changing, class action cases. DRA's prior cases advocating for accessible entertainment include Blanks v. AMC Theaters (2017) (reaching a settlement to improve audio description in AMC theaters nationwide), and negotiations with Netflix in 2016 that resulted in a settlement to provide audio description for Netflix's streaming and disc rental libraries, including "Netflix Originals." For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.

About Disability Law Center (DLC): The DLC is the Protection and Advocacy system for Massachusetts and is authorized under federal law to protect and advocate for the legal rights of individuals with disabilities in Massachusetts. DLC worked with Bay State Council of the Blind in a series of negotiations with Fleet Bank, Sovereign Bank, and Citizens Bank to ensure that their ATMs, websites, and other banking services were fully accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired. For more information, visit www.dlc-ma.org.

About American Council of the Blind (ACB): ACB works to increase the independence, security, equality of opportunity, and quality of life, for all people who are blind or visually impaired. ACB advocates for policies that provide services, opportunities, infrastructure, and equipment that are necessary for an inclusive society, in federal, state, and local governments, and among service providers and industry. For more information, visit www.acb.org.

About Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB): BSCB is a membership organization of blind, visually impaired, and sighted individuals committed to an enhanced quality of life for Massachusetts' residents who are blind or visually impaired. BSCB convenes meetings and conferences, organizes recreation activities, provides publications, radio programs, and information, and advocates for services and legislation that improve access for people who are blind. For more information, visit www.acbofma.org.

Friday, November 10, 2017

ABC's SPEECHLESS named 2017 recipient of Annie Glenn Award by American Speech-Language-Hearing Association

From ASHA:

The ABC Television Network series SPEECHLESS will be honored with the Annie Glenn Award for 2017 by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA). Named for Annie Glenn, advocate and wife of astronaut John Glenn, the award honors those who have made a positive impact on the lives of people with communication disorders. "Speechless" is produced for ABC by Twentieth Century Fox Television.
Mrs. Glenn, who experienced a severe stutter well into her adult years, has worked tirelessly for roughly 40 years as a champion for people with speech, language, and hearing disorders.
"Speechless" is the trailblazing ABC family comedy that centers on a 16-year-old boy with cerebral palsy, and his dysfunctional, yet lovable, family. The character, JJ DiMeo, is nonverbal and uses an augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) device to communicate. The actor who portrays him, Micah Fowler, also has cerebral palsy.
The show's creator, Scott Silveri, grew up with a brother with cerebral palsy who was nonverbal. The show is one of very few in the history of television to feature a character with a disability in a lead role. Among them, "Speechless" is especially unique in that it is a comedy.
Reflecting on the show's impact, Mrs. Glenn noted, "It really is remarkable that a show like [Speechless] is on TV these days. Years ago, an individual with a disability would never have been a lead character in such a funny show. Think about how many people now understand that people who use different ways to communicate are the same as you and me. And that TV family is just as silly as your own family. I think that gives a lot of hope to families out there dealing with some struggles and trying to figure out their next steps. Nothing is bigger than the family working together."
"We at 'Speechless' are honored and deeply gratified to be this year's recipient of ASHA's Annie Award," said "Speechless" creator/executive producer Scott Silveri. "'Speechless' is a show about communication: between parents and their kids, between brothers and sisters... but on a more literal level, between one non-verbal young man and the world around him as he strives to find what each of us wants-a way to be heard.
Immersing ourselves as we have in the world of speech and alternative communication has been a revelation for our writers, cast and crew-one that has changed every one of us. But we do our work in a world of make-believe. As such we are humbled to be recognized by ASHA, a body of pioneers and tireless advocates who offer real-world solutions. We celebrate ASHA for the work they do, and thank them for this generous recognition. We will continue to strive to tell stories that are worthy of this honor," Silveri continued.
"We are thrilled to recognize the show 'Speechless' with our 2017 Annie Award," said Gail Richard, PhD, CCC-SLP, 2017 ASHA President. "As a prime-time comedy on a major television network, 'Speechless' has a tremendous platform to raise awareness and understanding of people who communicate in a manner that is different from the norm. We hope its success will encourage the inclusion of more characters and stories in the media and entertainment industries that showcase the unique experiences and capabilities of people with communication and related disorders."
The award will be presented to "Speechless" actors Micah Fowler and Cedric Yarbrough at an evening ceremony on Friday, November 10, 2017, at the ASHA Annual Convention at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The presentation of this prestigious award is an annual and well-received highlight of the professional conference, which regularly draws approximately 15,000 attendees-largely audiologists and speech-language pathologists.
First awarded in 1987, past recipients of the "Annie" include Vice President Joe Biden, James Earl Jones, Gabby Giffords and Mark Kelly, Julie Andrews, Jane Seymour, Bob and Lee Woodruff, Bill and Willie Geist, and "The King's Speech" screenwriter David Seidler.
About the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association (ASHA)
ASHA is the national professional, scientific, and credentialing association for 191,500 members and affiliates who are audiologists; speech-language pathologists; speech, language, and hearing scientists; audiology and speech-language pathology support personnel; and students. Audiologists specialize in preventing and assessing hearing and balance disorders as well as providing audiologic treatment, including hearing aids. Speech-language pathologists identify, assess, and treat speech and language problems, including swallowing disorders. http://www.asha.org