SSW Blog

Disappointments of Techs 2009

Posted on | December 18, 2009 | No Comments

As 2009 nears the end of the year, we had some good and bad experiences with some techs in the Deaf and hard of hearing communities. As we could remember very well about the early years of TTY that had greatly influenced our lives, TTY will eventually be no longer in existence except in some scattering areas across the country where some people still use it.  The reason is due to its equipment being analog while the current technologies are gone digital.

I would like to share about my insights relating to techs being flopped, not just because it is a disappointment but it is a reality that some will fail or succeed and maybe some will lose out from the competition. Maybe some people will disagree with my observations as though they think these techs are doing better but good enough.

Netflix

I believe that Netflix may be dying because of growing more streaming online videos as though the Netflix management had made a fatal mistake by ignoring an important feature for captioning. Their mistake had hurt the seniors, foreigners and literate people plus of course, deaf and hard of hearing people.

Amazon Video On Demand

Unbelievably Amazon does not offer any video with closed captioning or subtitled for English.  It is difficult to find any movie via search engine for captioning or subtitled English via Viera Link, Xbox Live, or Window Media Center. Similar to others like Comcast On Demand, DirecTV On Demand, CNN videos, and others as well.

VP Interoperability

No matter, it is Sorenson VP 200, Purple Mobile Videophone (MVP), or Snap! VRS Ojo videophone, we are having difficulty to connect each device via interoperability and to make calls, indirectly or direct from deaf VP callers to deaf VP callers, and from hearing callers through VRS to deaf VP callers, vice versa.  There are strange bumps like unable to answer the SVRS calls, timeouts during VP chats and initial disconnections often than usual.

Bank of America and Wells Fargo

The companies are not deaf friendly because they refuse repeatedly to accept any calls from deaf and hard of hearing callers through VRS. They had referred us to the TTY direct call only. They did not realize that TTY does not work anymore and had been discarded long ago.  I don’t have any TTY in my home. What is good if they told me to use TTY? Obviously, they rather have been in the status quo too long, as if they are being trapped in the era of 1980s.

Wisconsin State Legislators

Legislators in Wisconsin did not realize their costly mistake of passing the bad law to “mandate” all deaf children to undergo the surgery for cochlear implants.

No VP Pagers

Almost all Blackberry, iPhone and other mobile phones don’t have the capability for making video calls except few of these offering streaming video or video player.

Digital TV Transition

In spite of approaching the June 12, 2009 deadline, we had faced radically increasing closed-captioned woes and had no such information for the right place or the appropriate person to report the captioning problem. Until late January 2009, it was too late and too slow for the FCC to move forward by an approval for the grant to the Communication Services for the Deaf (CSD) to handle the captioning issue.  As I recently learned, the CSD had ceased its hotline for closed captioning issue in July 2009 once the FCC is currently taking over.

High Definition (HD) TV

There is ongoing HD and standard digital closed captioning issue while there is rapidly growing of more and more HD Channels available in anywhere as provided by cable, satellite, or other providers.  Some believe that HDMI cable may not work with captioning but others disagree that it works beautifully with captioning.  I had no problem with using several HDMI cables although captioning works fine.

Deaf Scams

Several examples are several email messages like congratulate on winning the US Powerball Deaf Lottery, AOL AIM – KCDHH, charity organization, President Obama and Vice President Biden’s email, and US Telecom Association’s giving away Sorenson contract. As similar, the social networking sites face scams involving fake Deaf “friends” in Facebook. Poor my deaf sister, she was upset about losing over $200 dollars in replying to her email as she presumed to earn more money if be offered with job at home.

Toll Free VP Number for Hearing Callers

In order to register ten-digit numbering we had acquired local numbers for our VP calls but we had been told to accept toll free numbers such as 866 for hearing callers.  As we understand that deaf VP callers use local numbers only if calling from deaf VP caller to deaf VP caller, we have provided toll free numbers only to hearing callers who reach us via VRS. Otherwise, hearing callers would pay the fee if using our local numbers when they may live outside of our home areas.  If deaf VP callers use our toll free numbers, then the VP calls cannot work anyway.

Non-Captioned Super Bowl 2009 Commercials

Some corporations could not afford captioning at $200 (as simply say, two hundred dollars) while spent over from $1.2 million to $3 million dollars for 30-second commercial run during the Football Super Bowl 2009.  Shame on Paramount, Universal Studios, Disney, DreamWorks, Verizon, United Way, NBC TV shows, Comcast and many more for not captioning. What happened to deaf actors for Pepsi Co during Super Bowl 2008?  There was such no deaf actor in 2009.  As of December 18, 2009, I had learned by my usual local newspaper, the Hartford Courant that Pepsi had decided not to join in the next Super Bowl 2010 advertisement.

VRS Providers Being Arrested

There were 7 different companies and 26 people that had been arrested by FBI for fraud.  It is a tragedy for the deaf community and however, I suspect whether they may be extremely overcharged.  Lately why doesn’t the US government audit the monopolistic VRS provider, Sorenson Communications?  It looks like all new and small companies have been easy targets for any wrongdoing, flaws or anything they may overstep before they may not have the opportunity to understand the mechanisms of billed vs. reimbursed calls or proper rulings on how to run their VRS operations.

T-Mobile Sidekick Data Outrage

There was massive data outrage occurring in March and June twice in the nationwide which had greatly impacted most of Deaf Sidekick users because T-mobile is not designed to sync locally with their computers. Therefore, almost all the data was lost forever during the outrage.

Closed Captioning

There is a BIG question on the quality and standard of closed captioning involving digital and HD.  Sadly, there are some findings of the closed captioning in the TV programs as follows:

  • Poor quality
  • Bad grammar including misspelled words
  • Wrong placement
  • Pop, scrolling and crawling captioning
  • TV Channel logos
  • Pop up announcements of TV programs
  • Annoying constantly news crawling
  • Lack of control over visual content on TV screens

There is lack of oversight and monitoring on the quality of captioning in the media industry, and lack of standards about digital and analog captioning. Who had such idea about “labeling” the DVD English subtitled as “Subtitled for the Hearing Impaired” (SDH)? In my opinion it is poor labeling.

In closing I would love to continue about some more disappointments but I trust it would suffice for now. The list as shown above is very important to our lives.

This article is dedicated to my good colleague, Phil Moos who had passed away last June 2009. He was a strong debater, advocate and believer in our right for 100% full equal access in telecommunications. In his last words he had demanded why we could not be able to enjoy watching IPTV with captioning as well as all streaming videos including On Demand.

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