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April 23, 2004

Deaf community decries move to cut funding for closed-captioning

From: Daily Home Online - Talladega,AL,USA - Apr 23, 2004

By David Atchison

The U.S. Department of Education's move to cut funding for closed captioning of almost 200 television programs has angered many of the 28 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans who depend on the service for entertainment, education and important news information.

"It was a mistake on their part," said Judith Gilliam, president of the Alabama Association of the Deaf. "We still want accessibility 24 hours a day, seven days a week, not select programming."

Gilliam said the Department of Education's move has essentially censored what programs deaf and hard of hearing people can watch.

"It's almost like someone is telling us what we can and cannot watch," she said.

The Alabama Association of the Deaf aired its feelings before the Alabama Department of Rehabilitation Services in Montgomery on Thursday, and the group has also gotten the attention of state legislators.

"It's important," said Roy Hanner, the legislative director for Sen. Jim Preuitt.

Hanner said as Americans grow older, many lose their hearing.

He said people take their hearing for granted, and many don't understand the needs of those people who can't hear or are hard of hearing.

"There are 28 million Americans that are deaf or hard of hearing," Hanner added.

Hanner said there is a proposed joint House and Senate resolution that, when approved by the Legislature, will be sent to President Bush, each member of the Alabama U.S. Congressional delegation and the secretary of the U.S. Department of Education.

The proposed resolution states: "Recent actions by the U.S. Department of Education has resulted in censorship of television programs selected for captioning, as recommended by a deaf consumer advisory board and to be financed with allocated federal funds."

The resolution points out that the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 was intended to ensure accessibility to the mainstream of life for all persons with disabilities, including all aspects of public communications for people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

"This legislative body thinks it is proper to request U.S. government officials to take appropriate action to better ensure that the rights of deaf and hard of hearing citizens are considered and protected," the joint resolution states.

Gilliam said it is essential that deaf and hard of hearing people have uncensored access to programs available to the general public.

"We want them to hear and understand this," Gilliam said.

She pointed out that when a television program is interrupted for emergency purposes, the deaf community is left out.

"We have no idea what's going on," said Gilliam, who is deaf. "Where's the tornado? This is one big concern."

But it is not the only one, she said.

"It's the little things," Gilliam said.

Captioning is absent in many areas of society.

Gilliam said communication for the deaf and hard of hearing is lacking in airports, movie theaters, train and other transit authorities.

She said many people just don't understand the importance of that information to deaf and hard of hearing people.

"Education is the key," Gilliam said.

About David Atchison

David Atchison is a staff writer for The Daily Home.

Contact David Atchison

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