Replies to my published letter in the Straits Times Forum

It is great to read more replies from Disabled People’s Association, StarHub, Media Development Authority (MDA) and MediaCorp after my letter was published on 13 November. Hopefully, my advocacy efforts start to see fruits…

15 November 2013. By Mr Alvan Yap, Disabled People’s Association.
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18 November. Starhub replied.
Subtitles for deaf viewers: Starhub replies

18 November. Mr Winston Ho wrote in to the Straits Times Forum online.
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21 November. Both MDA and MediaCorp replied

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The Straits Times Forum – Wednesday, 13 November. Reach out to deaf community with English subtitles

On the 7th November, I wrote long letter to the Straits Times Forum about the captioning the TV programmes and movies for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The heading in the letter was “Captioning TV programmes and movies for Deaf and Hard of Hearing”. I received the reply from ST Editor that my letter was considered to be published. Then my letter was well edited without compromising the intention of the captioning issue for the Deaf community.

On 13th November, the edited letter was published in the Straits Times. This made my day. It was my first time writing to the Straits Times. I hope that the message is loud and concise. This won’t be the first and the last letter I wrote to the Straits Times. 

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Below is the version of my original unedited letter to the Straits Times Forum. It was pretty long, straightforward and full of details.

Dear Editor,

I am writing in to appeal to the Mediacorp, Starhub TV, Singtel Mio, cinema operators and film distributors to screen the TV English speaking programmes and English movies with English subtitles. I have profound hearing loss in my both ears and rely heavily on English subtitles to understand and enjoy the TV programmes and movies. Singapore has signed United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCPRD) on 30 November 2012, ratified on 18 July and UNCPRD is enforced in Singapore on 18 August. We have not seen full accessibility for the Deaf community.

Our basic right as Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals, is to access to information under the UNCRPD Article 9: Accessibility and Article 21: Freedom of expression and opinion, and access to information. We need equal amount of information as the hearing counterparts to increase our knowledge. Not only Deaf and Hard of Hearing benefiting from the captioning, the hearing viewers especially the children and students would be able to read the captions to improve their vocabulary, spelling and reading comprehension.

Mediacorp should have captioned most of the English speaking channels on Channel 5, OKTO and Channelnewsasia to reach out to the Deaf community. Currently only handful of TV programmes were captioned. Some of the TV programmes were shown in English subtitles and often broadcasted late into the early morning. Most of us could not stay up until so late to watch captioned TV programmes, In other words, we are deprived our rights to access to information. Starhub TV has facility to change subtitles, which is only available on Channel 876. The Starhub viewers can press on asterisk on the Starhub remote control to change subtitles. We desire to have more channels like National Geographic, Discovery Channel and HBO to be closed captioned. Singtel Mio subscribers should get the similar facility and captioned TV programmes as well. We can easily turn on and off the captions by using remote control. 

Since 16 May 2013, the first English blockbuster movie, Star Trek into Darkness was screened with English subtitles in GV Vivocity that brought much delight and excitement to the Deaf community. The United International Pictures was first film distributor to put in English subtitles in the blockbuster movie. GV Cinemas have screened total of 10 movies since May 2013. Sony Pictures, Warner Brothers and Marvel have been supportive in captioning the films. 

However we do wish to have more captioned movies, not just blockbuster movies that get to be captioned. Currently, Thor: The Dark World with English subtitles is being screened in GV Vivocity, GV Plaza, GV Tampines and GV Yishun. Having English subtitles would definitely benefit the hearing cinema patrons to understand the movie plots better when they could not catch the words because of heavy accents in the dialogues and a lot of jargons in the movies.

Singapore has been making efforts to be inclusive society. This would mean that Deaf and Hard of Hearing individuals should have full accessibility in media. Our greatest disability is the apathy of service providers, not our deafness. 

Thank you.

Regards,

Yeo Chi Jin, Alfred

Experience is the best teacher

AYE. I agree. Looking back. No doubt I have gone through ups and downs of my life. Study, play and work. The best moment was the release of my PSLE results. I was the last student to arrive to collect the PSLE result. I spent eight years in my primary school. PSLE was the gateway to real world. When I opened my report book, the result slip was attached to it.

English: Grade A.
Mathematics: Grade A.
Science: Grade A.

The feeling could not be described easily. I was surprised. If you asked me how I did it, I simply got drilled in my school works and enjoy doing the assessment books. I ran out of my classroom and my dad was waiting in his company van. He was so anxious. I screamed, “I pass! All A!”

My heart was almost out of my throat as I was suspended from the Battlestar Galactica blue roller coaster on inverted track that threatened to throw me. 360 twist. Sudden turns close to building. Blasting through mist above the ground. My heart beat wildly at every turn and every twist.

I was pinned to the seat as the plane rolled down the runway at speed of above 300km/h. When the plane rotated, I turned my head to the window and watched the ground slipping away. The airport buildings become smaller and smaller. I could not take my eyes off when the plane took off in the night. The lights at the airport. Flashing lights of the incoming planes and outgoing planes. What a sight.

The human resources officer tapped on my shoulder and gestured me to see him at 5pm. His expression told me that he had bad news for me. My mind was blank as I was fixing the computer. I told my supervisor. He went out to meet the HR officer. Exactly at 5pm, I entered the conference room.

My supervisor and HR officer were sitting. The envelope was on the table. The HR officer handed it over to me. I read. My world crashed. The letter stated that I was to be released from the employment in one month time. This was actually nice writing. I was sad because I just graduated from polytechnic and worked in IT company for just 2 years. I never expected that the global recession would hit my company and many colleagues were told to pack up and leave. This was in August 2002.

With heavy heart, I tided up the computers and fixed the ones that could be ready to function. I labelled all computers nicely. I looked around. Switched off the lights and closed the room. Looking around. It was lunch time. I bid farewell to my ex colleagues – one by one.

I made my way to meet my parents and my brother in Raffles City. We were on way to indoor stadium where my brother made his speech in his polytechnic graduation. The sun was setting. Waters in Kallang made beautiful sparkling as sun rays swept the waves in the waters.

Since then, loss of my first full time job did shape me up and I began to pick myself up. it was hard at first. My dad told me to relax and learn throughout the career. I had worked in various industries – IT, F&B, engineering and accounting.

Wealth of experiences in my life. But I am still learning… 🙂

Life is a journey, not a destination.

On morning of 26th April, my boss handed over the letter to me. Anxiously I picked up and read. The sentences in the letter made my eyes widen. Salary increment. I was grinning. I can relieve now. I can look forward to have a home of my own in near future. I am glad that I manage to squeeze my time to enjoy dragonboat and study professional accounting. Many goals to set. But I always make it point to enjoy my life.

5 minutes past 12 noon yesterday, one of my deaf friends dropped the bomb. She said that her mom had passed away peacefully. Life is indeed short. It is often hard to let things go and move on. At this moment she is busy preparing the last journey of her mom.

Meanwhile at Buona Vista Swimming Pool, my swim buddy looked at me when I told him that my senior whom I chatted at the swimming pool, was my primary school senior. He was surprised. Unknown to him, many deaf people have childhood friends all the way from kindergarten or primary school to secondary school and even polytechnics. In a distance in the restaurant, I was eating with my swim buddy. There was a group of young teen boys who were singing “Happy Birthday” to a spectacled boy who was looking at the cake with a single candle. I counted the number of boys in this group – Nine. Nice number.

I bid farewell to my friend as the Circle Line MRT train pulled into Holland Village station. Six minutes later, my train arrived. I was looking around the carriage. Many commuters were busy looking at their smartphones. Some were talking. Some were seen reading books. No matter how busy we are, we should always find ways to enjoy what we like to do.

Buona Vista. I got out of the Circle Line train and made my way to another train at the elevated platform. East-west Line train pulled in as I stepped out of escalator. Squeezing in the packed train car. I looked at the dynamic route map with lights. One light flashing – representing the next destination.

Indeed my life is not a destination. We should appreciate the journey of life while focusing on the goals. Agree?

Movie in Cinema Hall

Watching movies in cinema is not a big deal to many hearing cinema goers. However it is different story for Deaf. The first questions we, Deafies would ask, “Got English subtitles?” when we learnt that the movies were English speaking. For many years, we did ask the cinema operators to caption the movies for the benefits of Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The answer came back, citing the high cost of captioning.

I first wrote to the GV Cinemas to screen the captioned movies when I was secondary school student. The most irony was that many movies are captioned in Chinese subtitles. Nobody knows exactly why the Chinese subtitles are widely available in the movie screenings. To me, there is probably a reason for putting up Chinese subtitles. However the audience in the cinema halls is always mixed with different races.
Star Trek Into Darkness Trailer

In May 2013, I was browsing the YouTube videos and came across the trailer of Star Trek Into Darkness with English Subtitles. It is still available at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5gdbUC9mWU. Then I showed the video in the posting in the Deaf Singapore Facebook. I was thinking why should I show the Deaf fellows the trailer with English subtitles when the movie screening would not be shown in English subtitles.

The idea came to my mind. I went to Cathay Cinemas Facebook to make a simple request for the captioned movie of Star Trek Into Darkness. The reply came and said “We sincerely wish we can promptly accede to your request but we seek your understanding that inclusion / exclusion of subtitles is decided by the movie distributor and not movie exhibitors like Cathay Cineplexes. The movie distributor in this case is Paramount Pictures.”

Then I searched the internet and found United International Pictures Singapore Facebook and posted the same request. UIP Singapore responded by saying that my request was forwarded to the management. In few days later, the UIP Singapore came back to me with positive news, telling me that Golden Village was screening the captioned movie of Star Trek Into Darkness at GV Vivocity for 2 daily sessions. My jaw was dropped. Soon I circulated the news across to various Facebook groups and my personal Facebook.
Star Trek Into Darkness - 18 May 2013 Deaf gathering
One whole hall – GV Vivocity Hall 8 was booked under my name for Deaf and friends of Deaf to watch together on 18 May 2013. This was historic moment when the movie was playing with English subtitles, making the cinematic experience even more pleasing. I was grinning widely in my seat. I simply loved it. Finally I could understand and enjoy the movie.

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Soon in June – July 2013, GV Cinemas continued to screen total of seven movies captioned by film distributors. Long wait for such captioned movies was over. Now I am stepping up to get the film distributors to continue captioning…

Sound

I was working on the computer. My mom suddenly walked into my room to close the window. Through the window, it was raining furiously. I stopped and wondered what was the sound of raining beating the ground and surroundings. Whenever I am in locked room, my mom would text on my handphone to tell me the message. She is brilliant to text me like this. It is always extremely quiet in my both ears. Most of the time, I do not get to hear any sound below 90 decibels.

What is the sound like actually?  Machine humming, the sound of water dripping from the tap and splashing in the sink, the sound of bird chirping and the sound of waves crashing into the rocks? Infinite questions. Sound is really hard for the hearing people to describe in words to the deaf people who have varying hearing loss especially the profound deaf.

When I put on my headphone that is plugged to my macbook, I would increase the volume that it is already very loud to hearing individual with prefect hearing. Then I passed my headphone to my sister. She put it on. “Ahhhhh!” She took it off. “Very loud!” she exclaimed, looking at me. I took the headphone and put it on and smiled.

What I actually heard on the headphone was the beat of sound. What I could not was to identify the different types and frequency of sound. When I asked my sister to play the classical music, I had to increase the volume because I could not hear or feel the beat of sound. Then I asked her again to play pop song with lot of beats. She did and I heard.

Pit Grandstand. Pretty Cool!

Pit Grandstand. Pretty Cool!

In 2009, my uncle gave me the ticket to Singapore Formula One Grand Prix. I grinned and managed to sell the Bay Grandstand tickets that I held so that I would get hold of the ticket given to me. When I walked to the Pit Grandstand, I saw the fleet of porsche cars lining up. Crews and people start to clear out on the ground. The starting light was turned on – one by one. On the lights, I could hear the thrusting sound from accelerating cars that send out the shockwaves sweeping the entire Pit Grandstand. The ground vibrated. My jaw dropped.

I was alone. My eyes glued to the screen as the cars raced down the closed streets of Singapore city. As the sun set, the glowing lights of the city lit up. The street was brightly lit. Formula 1 cars were incredible louder. This was enough to blow up my ears. I love the vibration of sound as fleet of F1 cars screamed and raced down past from the starting point.

My uncle texted me. “How was it?”

“Fabulous. Great! I love the sound. Very loud! Thank you for the ticket.” I texted back.

During the National Day Parade, F16 fighter jets would fly overhead. The shockwaves get to my body, hitting every bone. My eardrum responded. Beautiful sound. I paused and wondered. The world is filled with sounds. But what if there is no sound for next few minutes, can hearing people bear? Irony that people always say to me, “Good thing you don’t get to hear noises.”

Is this really good not to hear any sound? Shaking my head. I have been living, not hearing any sound below 90 decibels for more than 34 years. Silence.

Silence is something that a hearing person takes for granted. Always.