Deafness, disability and dodgy DVDs

From the title, you might be able to guess my score for the 50 Shades Real Women Confess DVD.

50 shades of grey real women confess documentary dvd

A big fat D.

Perhaps it should have been A+ but I’ll never know; the DVD doesn’t have subtitles.

For someone with high frequency hearing loss like myself, subtitles are not just an option when watching any kind of televisual media, they’re a necessity. I don’t flip them on in case the kids start playing up and I miss a couple of words. I don’t have them set to ‘on’ for a deaf relative then forget to turn them off. They’re so necessary for me that I simply can’t watch anything that doesn’t have subtitles. If there’s a film the family wants to watch but there’s no ‘words’, I will leave them to it. Or rather I would, but they choose not to watch anything without subtitles on my behalf. Just like my partner and I choose not to continue watching a programme with bad sound, or in a different language and just subtitles, on behalf of my visually impaired mother-in-law who lives with us.

There’s no discount on TV licensing or any kind of satellite or cable TV subscriptions when you’re deaf or have a hearing loss. It’s assumed that enough programmes have subtitles that a discount isn’t necessary; after all much of the programme will be communicated through visuals and any speech and sound effects are communicated through the easily read words at the bottom of the screen. On subtitled programmes, of course. We pay the TV license fee here in the UK due to the BBC, and I can’t think of a BBC One or BBC Two programme which isn’t subtitled. Having several Sky TV channels which rarely broadcast subtitled programmes yet still paying full Sky TV subscription price doesn’t seem all that fair to me, but I just have to accept it. In the past I have written and complained to Virgin TV as their cable subscriptions were the same in this regard – full price even if you’re deaf or hard of hearing, even though many channels and programmes didn’t have subtitles and were therefore useless to me. Even if I were an expert lip reader, those speaking in programmes are not always facing the camera or even in the shot.

hearing loss deafness and disability and sexThe type of hearing loss that I have, high frequency loss, is the type which makes clearly understanding speech incredibly difficult. The type of hearing aids that I’d need in order to offset the problems cost in excess of £800 each, with the price typically in the region of £1200 per hearing aid.  Hear speech similar to how I hear it here. This also affects how my voice sounds – as my lovely YouTube viewers have kindly pointed out on a number of occasions.

I am mentally drained after conversations with people face to face. It’s better in a one on one environment but in a crowded place with lots of background noise it’s terrible. Talking by telephone is nightmarish and gives me anxiety. Trying to explain this to people who have normal hearing is also incredibly difficult. It’s assumed that because I look ‘normal’ and because I have become skilled at filling in the gaps in conversation, I must be able to hold telephone conversations with little to no effort or difficulty. Even after I explain repeatedly and at length about my hearing loss, it doesn’t seem to register. Most of the spoken word over the telephone is missed and, after the call, I require details to be put on an email or communicated through Skype so I’m confident I have all the correct details. It makes business difficult but I manage – and I know I am lucky to be able to work, to hear as much as I do, and to be able to put together lip movements and sounds so my brain can usually reach the right conclusion.

My most recent hearing test showed that I have up to 40% loss of low tones as well as 90% loss of high tones. I am deafer than I often make out (wanting to avoid the sympathetic looks of well-meaning folk and being labelled as The Disabled One rather than Cara) and it is getting worse. There are ways around any type of hearing loss, in my opinion – especially with the technology available in the modern world. Very different to the world my completely deaf grandparents lived in for example. Being deaf, even completely and relying on BSL (British Sign Language) to communicate, doesn’t stop a person from driving, for example. Most Deaf people I have spoken with don’t label themselves as a ‘disabled person’, the deafness simply makes them different from most other people. Deaf people without other disabilities can move around, drive, go shopping, live alone – do everything a hearing person is able to do. Facetime on mobiles, Skype on the internet, email, light sensor doorbells and vibrating under pillow alarm clocks help with independence and communication.

For entertainment purposes, subtitles are a big part – no, a necessary part – of enjoying TV, films and DVDs.

So why, when we live in the 21st century and the technology is so readily and obviously available, aren’t all DVDs subtitled?

This is what led to my fury on Friday night when I finally, after weeks, months of being too busy, got round to sticking the 50 Shades: Real Women Confess DVD in the player.

This isn’t a DVD I’ve bought on the off-chance I’ll enjoy it, it’s a DVD I stocked in the Cara Sutra Shop. As a product in my shop, I needed to know what the DVD was like. My main USP is that I only stock products I can fully endorse. You’ll notice the DVD is no longer for sale at Cara Sutra.

Well how can I continue selling it when I can’t actually watch and form my own opinions about it?

That’s right – the 50 Shades: Real Women Confess DVD doesn’t have subtitles.

Like many black and white films and stand-up comedy DVDs I’ve purchased in the past, this DVD is destined for the charity bag – and that’s because I don’t believe in throwing anything away that someone else could use.

And yes, apparently deaf people don’t like old black and white films or stand-up comedy. We don’t have a sense of humour and we only enjoy films which have been produced in the last couple of decades. We also don’t enjoy special interest films or anything outside of the mainstream.

Who the hell are these DVD companies who think they can decide what deaf people can enjoy watching? Who made them the authority on what deaf people should be allowed to watch in the privacy of their own home?



Official Stampy Pants Rant


  1. Well written, thoughtful stampy pants rant!! My kids just did deaf awareness at school. Everyone should do it. It’s important to know these things x

  2. I have a bachelor’s degree in Deaf Studies (not my only major) and was passionate about helping the community out with annoying and inconsiderate things like this. Unfortunately, I am no longer fluent in American Sign Language due to lack of use (it’s hard getting to know the Deaf community when I am constantly moving).
    I’m so sorry that this didn’t have subtitles. I would not promote it either.

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