There’s so much that privileged, able-bodied people take for granted. Just entering a gay bar that has a few steps at its entrance can be a daunting task for a person in a wheelchair. And closed captions can change the viewing experience for our deaf and hard of hearing sisters and brothers. After one deaf Queer Eye fan brought the matter up on Twitter, Karamo Brown pledged to take a stand and do something about it.
They continue, “It fundamentally changes the experience of the television show for anyone who is d/Deaf or hard of hearing, and it does so without their consent. That’s seriously ableist, Netflix.”
Improving accessibility across the internet for the deaf and hard of hearing is a good thing. The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD) estimates that 15% of American adults — about 37.5 million people — aged 18 and over report some hearing troubles. The World Health Organization (WHO) reported over 5% of the world’s population, more than 360 million people, suffer from “disabling hearing loss.”
After the tweet of this deaf Queer Eye fan picked up traction, with many people agreeing and adding additional examples of how the closed captioning on the program is often times inaccurate, Queer Eye star Karamo Brown responded with a pledge to do something.
“Reading everyone’s comments breaks my heart,” he tweeted. “I don’t know how much power I have but know, the next time I’m at Netflix I’m going to bring up this issue internally and won’t stop until something changes. Deaf and hard of hearing people should have the same experience as everyone else!”
But not only is the discrepancy annoying and ableist against hard of hearing and deaf Queer Eye fans; it may be illegal, too. One person on Twitter pointed out that maintaining verbatim captions is a requirement for television program under the FCC.
Netflix may not have to adhere to these regulations since it’s a streaming platform, but it is under a consent decree with the National Association of the Deaf, which wouldn’t be happy to find out the closed captioning Netflix promised to provide is actually not what’s being said on the show. You can actually file a complaint yourself here.
According to Netflix, “We need to change the way we think about subtitles and closed captions. They are no longer secondary assets in a world where content knows no physical borders.”
One company that is actually a trailblazer, providing the best experience possible for deaf and hard of hearing people is, believe it or not, Pornhub. Starting yesterday the site began to add closed captions to a section of its content library geared towards those with hearing loss. The new closed captioning feature has been rolled out on over 1,000 of the site’s most popular videos within the straight, gay, bi and trans categories.
Corey Price, Pornhub’s VP, said in a press release, “Here at Pornhub, it’s important that we continue to service all of our users’ needs and make content accessible to every individual.”
Now that’s music to our ears.
UPDATE — 6/29/2018: A Netflix spokesperson reached out to Hornet, informing us the streaming platform had released a statement on their Twitter regarding this issue. They tweeted, “We’ve heard about the caption issues on the service, specifically for @QueerEye. After looking into it, there’s lots of dialogue missing from the Fab 5 that shouldn’t be. We’re fixing it. In some cases, we do bleep incidental profanity from our unscripted series.”
Karamo Brown retweeted their statement, adding, “This makes me happy. Another reason I love working for @netflix ????????”