Straits Times Forum, 15 November 2013 (print edition)
THE Disabled People’s Association supports Mr Alfred Yeo Chi Jin’s appeal in his letter (“Reach out to deaf community with English subtitles”; Wednesday).
To meet the needs of the local deaf community, and because hearing loss is a common issue faced by the elderly – a fact especially pertinent in view of our ageing population – media providers should take the initiative to implement Mr Yeo’s suggestion on having English subtitles for TV programmes and movies.
Recent drama series and certain variety shows on MediaCorp’s Channel 8 have led the way by having dual English-Chinese subtitles.
Another option would be to use the closed captioning facility, which allows the viewer to select the caption language or to switch it off entirely.
Closed captioning also enables the profoundly deaf to understand better what they are watching as it includes text descriptions of sounds such as “car engine splutters” and “jazzy music plays”.
The use of closed captioning has been around for decades and is common in countries like Australia, Britain and the United States where such access is mandated by law.
As Singapore takes pride in keeping ahead of the technology curve and is also well on its way to an all-digital media environment, it should be more than feasible to roll out such services for TV programmes within a reasonable timeframe.
Similarly, videos uploaded online by government ministries, local organisations, educational institutions and companies should include subtitles, or, failing that, transcripts. Accessibility of online media for the blind is another area which requires more awareness and work.
Singapore has come a long way in improving accessibility for its citizens and residents with disabilities.
But while we have done well in providing facilities which are more tangible and come easily to public consciousness, such as ramps and lifts for wheelchair users, we need to keep in mind, too, the less visible needs of the deaf and the blind communities in accessing information via broadcast and online media.
Alvan Yap Boon Sheng
Disabled People’s Association