Bush administration: Read our lips, no closed captioning

Since the early 1970s, closed -captioning has assisted the hearing impaired with their television-viewing pleasure. However, according to the Palm Beach Post, the Bush administration has recently put a stop on closed-captioning for approximately 200 cable television shows. Refusing to close caption television shows is not only a form of censorship, but discrimination as well. If people without hearing difficulties can be exposed to certain television progams, then people who need to rely on captions should enjoy the same right.

Kelby Brick, the director of the law and advocacy center for the National Association of the Deaf, told the Post that the U.S. Department of Education “apparently used a panel of five individuals and then made the censorship decision based on the individuals’ recommendations.”

Brick also told the Post that NAD discovered the identity of one of the panelists who was unaware that he was serving on such a panel and that his views would be used for censorship reasons. According to Brick, the individual also indicated that no panel was ever convened, rather the “members” were contacted separately.

The NAD Web site lists the shows that are being censored. The list includes some shows that are not usually considered to be offensive. Hearing impaired and deaf persons can now no longer fully enjoy shows like MTV’s Cribs, The Simpsons, various ESPN sports programming or reruns of shows like Bewitched. The Post reports that one of the reasons for shows like Bewitched being included on the list is the fact that deaf people may “fall prey to witchcraft” after viewing the reruns.

Nowhere on NAD’s Web site is it indicated that people with hearing disabilities are anymore impressionable or susceptible than people without disabilities. To assume that they cannot handle certain kinds of material is not only preposterous; it is laughable.

Closed-captioning has been praised in the past as a method that not only accommodates the deaf, but also helps children with their reading skills. The Caption Center reports that even former first lady Barbara Bush used to promote the idea of using captions to help with literacy.

The Post reports that NAD is lobbying Congress to change this policy. Congress would be wise to heed its request, as the current practice ensures unequal treatment. According to NAD, there are an estimated 28 million people that depend on the closed captioning. Apart from people with hearing disabilities, the captions are often used by people whose first language is not English. To assume that such groups have less judgment than the rest of society is ridiculous.