Captioning

Episode 106 – Wednesday, November 16th, 2016 (7260)

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While we, the ordinary people, are watching TV, we can hear what the presenter speaks on a particular program. We can hear the sound effects and the music shown on TV. However, not all have sense of hearing including deaf and hearing-impaired people. Here at the Philippines, there are lots of deaf Filipinos around there, and sadly they don’t have accessibility on watching TV. They can watch, but they can’t hear the sounds from the TV set. Unlike in some (first world) countries, there’s closed captioning that flashes on the TV screen for the deaf and hearing-impaired people.

In the observance of Deaf Awareness Week (even though I’m no longer in “Deaf World”), I’ll discuss about Closed Captioning (CC) in the Philippines.

Overview

When I was studying at Philippine School for the Deaf (PSD) in Pasay City, most of the deaf students were watching TV (TV shows, movies, documentaries, etc.) but without the sounds because they can’t hear due of their disability. I felt they’re not so fortunate to watch a particular TV program that they could watch only the motions on TV screen. At one time, I and my deaf classmates watched an educational TV program, but our teacher was there to interpret from what the presenter said on TV. This has been similar right now in most TV stations in the Philippines where they provide interpreters who show sign languages during most live news programs or live national events such as presidential debate, election coverage, State of Nation Address, etc. The interpreters, whom I know them mostly from PSD or other deaf schools, are placed in a tiny inset screen to interpret what the speakers on TV. However, not all TV sets have bigger screens, so some deaf people may not see the interpreter. Inserting an interpreter on a small inset of TV screen has been not new here in the Philippines. I’ve already seen this when I was a young kid (particularly old TV shows such as Kapwa Ko, Mahal Ko and El Shaddai where most of the interpreters were my teachers/advisers in PSD).

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This is the example of inserting an interpreter on a lower right screen during the live TV coverage such as SONA 2012. This practice has been existed up to present without putting a captioning on TV screen.

But when I was an exchange student in the United States, I was amazed when there’s closed captioning on every TV sets. Since my foster parents are deaf and my host school was Alabama School for the Deaf (ASD), CC is required. Another thing was the telephone systems for the deaf people where there was teletypewriter (TTY), a device similar to a typewriter but with ticker tape screen when someone calls thru phone in real time. It was the first time I saw this high-tech device for the deaf thru telephone, aside of texting (cellphone). The closed captioning on TV screens and the TTYs are the things that my beloved country doesn’t have (although the TTYs might be unpopular and obsolete since using cellphones are now the most convenient way to communicate deaf people thru reading text messages).

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This is the example of flashing a closed caption on a TV show.

After coming back home from my wonderful experience in the U.S. in mid-2005, I felt I was in culture shock when I watched TV. I realized I missed having closed captioning on TV even though I was no longer belonged to so-called “Deaf World”. Despite of my suggestion to have closed captioning in my home country, the Philippine legislators did not work to pass the closed captioning bill. Until recently last July 2016, Filipino senator, Grace Poe-Llamanzares, sponsored the first official legislation, thru Republic Act (RA) No. 10905, requiring closed captioning for TV broadcast. However, not all TV sets in the country have built-in CC decoders, and most TV networks are still relying on the interpreters. But there’s one suggestion that might be implemented.

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Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares authorized the Republic Act 10905 or Closed Caption Law in the Philippines.

Digital Broadcast

In early 2015, the digital TV boxes were first released into the market. The digibox, that’s what we called, has the ability to receive TV signals digitally with clear, nice pictures unlike analog broadcast where it applies to use TV antennas. These are now applied to receive clear signals even thru old CRT TV sets. And since the digiboxes are now less expensive and convenient, they must have captioning compatibility where Filipino deaf people can now understand what they’re watching. Unfortunately, as of now, not all digiboxes, as well as high-definition TV sets, have CC decoders, so the manufacturers must notice these in the future especially the new law was already enacted.

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This digital TV box such as ABS-CBN TV Plus must have a special feature for captioning.

Captioning in Other Platforms

Filipino deaf people may encounter the absence of closed captioning, not only in TV broadcast, but also in other platforms or media. If they buy an original (I repeat, original not pirated) DVD copy of a movie, there’s an option that they can place a subtitle flashed on the bottom of the screen. The subtitle is similar to captioning; however, most subtitles are only applied to translate into native (or foreign) languages. But that’s okay since most Filipino deaf people are easier to understand English language whether it is a Filipino or foreign movie (making sure that DVD movie is original and not pirated). Subtitling in Filipino might be much better to learn Filipino language for them. But since our country has many dialects, I don’t think if most of them also learn local dialects despite that they can’t speak or hear.

Another platform is YouTube where there’s an option that features closed captioning. In most videos uploaded on YouTube from the English-speaking countries, deaf and hearing-impaired people can click the CC button to read what the video speaks. However, not all captioning on YouTube videos are accurate. Sometimes, when I turned-on a CC on a YouTube video, it is misleading on what the topic is about on the video (it might be inappropriate to anybody). Sadly, up to now, I haven’t seen any video uploaded in the Philippines have CC both English and Filipino (or otherwise, local dialects).

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In other countries, captioning inside a theater is required for deaf people to watch a movie.

Back to the movies, the most challenge for Filipino deaf people is to watch a movie on a cinema. I think most cinemas in the Philippines don’t have accessibility to put a captioning for deaf and hearing-impaired people. They might wait for a DVD release of a movie (original copy with subtitles) after being released about two or three months. So, if there’s an interpreter accompanied, a deaf person may experience inconvenience on what he/she watches while looking to the interpreter translates on what the movie is talking about. Or the worse, he/she may not understand on the movie, only the motions that he/she can see. When I was in the U.S., there was one cinema that had a built-in captioning for deaf people. I don’t remember if it was placed behind the seats in front or putting in a head (similar to 3D glasses or something).

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A device for captioning is installed on a movie theater.

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An open captioning is set during a stage play.

How About The Feast?

Last October 2, the deaf students of Ephphetha School for the Deaf Inc. in Santa Rosa, Laguna were invited to attend a Feast session with Bro. Dreus Cosio. It was my first time that deaf people attending The Feast despite of their disabilities to not hear and speak, but thanks to their interpreters who might be also their teachers or staffs of the school. They also “sang” the worship songs in sign language while playing the music. However, this might not be convenient for deaf people to focus between the visuals (PowerPoint presentation), the speaker, and the interpreter.

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An interpreter (wearing yellow dress on the far right) signing using sign language to her deaf students during one of the Feast sessions in SM Santa Rosa. (Photo courtesy from Feast SMSR Facebook Page)

In most of the times, having interpreter on the program, like The Feast, is actually familiar to me especially when I was studying PSD and ASD several years ago. He/she may place besides the speaker (I was once an emcee back in 2001). But in other countries, there was an open caption on a big screen showing a live video where the camera focused on the speaker/presenter. Unlike closed captioning where it can only be seen by a person through a device, open captioning displays for a wide audience such as stadiums and live stage plays. This might be the best solution; however, the teletypewriter might be needed to encode on what the presenter speaks in real time and accurately. So, if there are deaf people attending The Feast (and also to the churches and parishes elsewhere) but without an interpreter, an open captioning on the visuals (or big screen) might be better.

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Since my life was once belonged to so-called “Deaf World” as well as I had many deaf friends, I really have a big concern about deaf people in the Philippines regarding to the accessibility in multimedia. Having closed captioning in TV broadcast, in the theaters, and other media platforms (such as YouTube) is the most efficient way to make our Filipino deaf people comfortable and convenient to understand on what the other ordinary people know while we’re watching. They really need this access because they can learn about the surrounding things that affects our everyday lives particularly in news and information. As we’re now experience new technology, Filipino deaf and hearing-impaired people have privilege to explore like the others do.

For more information about captioning, you can click this link: http://www.ai-media.tv/the-7-types-of-captioning-you-must-know/

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