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“JUST GO ELSEWHERE:” Netflix, Deafhood, and why separate water fountains still apply


You’ve seen them by now: the vitriolic comments under news columns about the NAD suit against Netflix to begin providing captions for all its content, not just randomly chosen items. Let’s talk about this, let’s talk about what this implies for American Deafhood, and let’s compare this to other such items in American history.

Let’s look at some examples of these quotes:

by stepyourgameup (642 comments) June 20, 2011 10:04 AM PDT

I don’t get it. You don’t HAVE to use Netflix’s service so why do they have to cater to the deaf? If you don’t like their service then DON’T USE IT. If a brick and mortar store doesn’t have handicap parking then DON’T SHOP THERE.

Right. Unless there’s only one store in the area, or many, none of which provide handicapped parking.

Or this gem:

by SumDuud (602 comments) June 20, 2011 12:22 PM PDT

I support them, but get out of here with the ‘we’re going to sue you’ BS! Just because Netflix doesn’t drop everything and make every movie they have on instant plugged with subtitles, doesn’t mean you have to sue. I am on the ‘if you don’t like it, then don’t freaking use it’ boat with this one. I guess the deaf never go to the movie theaters, because I don’t see captions on the movies there!? I also don’t see them taking the theaters to court… Get the disc service from netflix, or use hulu (they probably don’t offer it either) and stop wasting the court’s time!

We’re wasting the court’s time. Right. How exactly are you supposed to effect change in this country without working with the law? The undertone is this: Stop trying. This isn’t your country.

We think it’s obvious. We deserve the same access as any other American. We work jobs (some of us two or three), we pay taxes, we raise children, chihuahuas, and cats. Then we access CNN and find comments below news articles by people who think we’re crazy just for asking for legal support to get this access. Why don’t we just go elsewhere, we’re told, if we don’t like their services? (Just like that person using a wheelchair is told to go to another store.)

Deafhood demands we take a minute to place ourselves in the world and compare ourselves to other groups and look at our own behavior as well as that of others. The problem is that so much of the way the game in America is structured basically comes across as us giving in. We get hearing aids and cochlear implants to make it easier for hearing people to communicate with us. We add SEE and PSE variants to our languages to make it easier for them to learn signed languages. We’re like the beaten spouse or child who asks for freedom, is told we don’t deserve it, and when we fight for it, get asked (from within) why we make them angry and (from without) why we don’t just go elsewhere, to another husband, another wife, another child. It’s annoying.

We’re like the activist folks in the South who refused to go to the back of the bus or the other drinking fountain – and we’re being verbally attacked for it. Right now it’s just verbal. But this kind of talk is alarming to anyone who studies history. I saw the same kind of tone during the Gallaudet protests (why don’t those Deaf people just shut up?) and it has echoes of (why don’t those feminists just shut up?) and (why don’t those dagos and spics and darkies and jews…) One Deaf blogger was complaining that Deaf people complain too much (yes, seriously.) To that, and every other Deaf blogger vilifying “Deaf whiners,” I point out that OF COURSE the oppressed person “complains” more than the oppressor. One of them is holding the whip, the food, the money, and the power. The other is trying to get out from under that oppression.

Do we have the right to ask for captioning access? Yes, we do. The reasons cited against us – expense, availability, etc – are specious and stupid. The expense is minimal, the availability is everywhere, and the technology’s been ready to handle this for a decade now. The fact is that, where once we were at the top of our game in terms of access in America, we’re now falling behind. Deafhood – placing ourselves within the context of other groups to better understand ourselves – tells us we need to keep fighting.

Or we’ll continually be told to go elsewhere – and one day the seat they take may be your own.

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