Community Scoop » CaptionLegislation needed to bring Aotearoa in line with other OECD countries

Article – Hope Cotton Originally posted on All for All We like to think of Aotearoa/New Zealand as a progressive country. In many ways, it is. But in the increasingly digital era of Covid, such

Article – Hope Cotton

Originally posted on All for All We like to think of Aotearoa/New Zealand as a progressive country. In many ways, it is. But in the increasingly digital era of Covid, such an issue of inequality has become startlingly clear. New Zealand Current

Originally posted on All for All

We like to think of Aotearoa/New Zealand as a progressive country. In many ways, it is. But in the increasingly digital era of Covid, such an issue of inequality has become startlingly clear. New Zealand’s current closed captioning standards or lack thereof, as the case may be, require significant change.

Other countries highlighted the need to improve the availability and quality of captions. In Australia, England and America, closed captioning is required by law. In New Zealand, “there is no legislation requiring a minimum of captioning or audio description, which puts New Zealand out of step with other OECD countries”. In 2015, approximately 31% of free television was captioned. It cuts off an entire community of people from information, entertainment and education. For people who are deaf, hard of hearing and neurodivergent like me, captioning is essential to our understanding of digital media.

What is subtitling?

Closed captions are captions that you can select to turn on. They are different from open captioning, which automatically appears on the screen, as in many foreign language films. The lack of captioning legislation in New Zealand means that producers do not have to create captions and there is no imposed quality standard. Automatically generated subtitles, often dubbed ‘creations’ by the deaf community, can have an accuracy as low as 50%. It can be fun, as in the case of the infamous Hillary Barry Salmon incident, but it can also be damaging, for example, if the captions for a crucial Covid update are incorrect. Auto-generated captions may say things like “Share Masks” instead of “Wear Masks.”

“This misinformation goes beyond being boring and chaotic and becomes a real risk to our health and well-being.”

Hope Cotton

Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need for equitable access to digital information through captioning has never been greater. As someone raised orally in a hearing family, I’m learning New Zealand Sign Language, but I haven’t mastered it yet. Captioning is a crucial tool for access to information. If people who are deaf or hard of hearing want to stay informed and watch local news, closed captioning is available, but only on certain stations. We should all have equal access to information.

During many periods of confinement and isolation, learning from home has become part of our new normal. As education becomes an increasingly digital space, deaf, hard of hearing and neurodivergent children continue to struggle to access information crucial to our education. Without legal captioning standards, the videos we watch in class don’t have to be captioned. If these videos are captioned, the inaccuracy of the auto-generated captions can still ruin any chance of following the class. In America, NAD took legal action against Harvard University due to the poor quality of their auto-generated captions. Harvard settled the lawsuit and now captions their videos. A trial should not be necessary for this vital tool.

When I raised complaints about how our lack of captioning affects our education, the best response I could get was by Minister Chris Hipkin assistant. In a letter, she said the government at large was “given the inquiry into captioning in New Zealand, the regulation being part of a wider review of content regulation. Neither the Minister of Broadcasting nor the Minister for Persons with Disabilities answered my questions.

Captioning is an issue that affects hundreds of thousands of kiwis, I wonder why I haven’t received a more solid answer? This has real impacts. I recently had to read several versions of a screenplay to write a movie essay while the rest of my class watched this movie once because there weren’t enough subtitles available. We need more than consideration from the government. If your hearing child had a video assessment and had to listen on silent, there would be an uproar. Quality captioning is how deaf people navigate an increasingly digital world. I can’t speak for the community, but my peers also attest to the importance of captioning.

“Closed captions allow us to better understand the media. If we don’t have captions, people who are deaf or hard of hearing don’t understand anything and other people have to guide us through what’s going on. »

Aarushi Pandee

I can certainly relate to having to interrupt movies to ask what’s going on. This caused some pretty chaotic family movie nights. I’ve finally gotten to the point where I’ll often sit down and read a book rather than commit to a movie without subtitles. Another deaf youngster, Lucy Mackenzie, says: “As a deaf person, subtitles help me to understand more clearly what is being said on television, and then I would have the possibility of being able to watch things… I think it is essential that Deaf people have the same experience as hearing people, so having access to captions is really important to me. Having the same opportunities and access to information as hearing people should be a reality, not a distant wish. For New Zealand to be a truly inclusive and equal country, it must be accessible. This cannot happen without captioning the legislation.

In 2008, the New Zealand government signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In doing so, the government promised New Zealanders and the world that it would prioritize equal access to information for people with disabilities. Article 9 of the convention states that they are required to “enable persons with disabilities to live independently and to participate fully in all aspects of life, States Parties shall take appropriate measures to ensure persons with disabilities the access, on an equal basis with others, to the physical environment, transport, information and communications, including information and communication technologies and systems. There is no legal requirement to caption media in New Zealand despite signing this article. Although I cannot speak for the blind community, audio descriptions of New Zealand are also very limited. The government must do more. Able does a fantastic job creating audio descriptions and closed captions for New Zealand media but they are dependent on funding as funding has increased over the years without legal regulation there is no universal mandate for subtitles – media producers can choose not to apply to be subtitled and make content inaccessible without consequence. The Community has long advocated for change. The National Foundation for the Deaf led a huge push for legislative change in 2019, but the fight continues. We need more people behind us. We need to get the attention of lawmakers who have the power to enact this change.

I ask you to do what you can to raise awareness of this problem. Share this article. Caption all the media you create, even if it’s just an Instagram story or a TikTok. If this issue is important to you, write to your local MPs. Contact Education Minister Chris Hipkins, Disability Minister Carmel Sepuloni and Broadcasting Minister Kris Faafoi.

A petition about this is available here:

Since writing this article Hope has heard from Minister Faafoi who in a letter outlined the work being done in Strong Public Media, the regulatory updates being considered and an increase in funding to NZ on Air for this purpose. You can know more detailed things on the internal affairs website Where at this link which shows Minister Faafoi’s speech.

Deaf is capitalized when referring to someone who identifies as a member of the Deaf community or when capitalizing Deaf when describing themselves.

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