I recently read a story in the Frederick News-Post that discussed a drive-in theater coming back to Frederick. Numerous people commenting expressed that they had concerns about the lack of closed-captioning available.
As a member of the deaf and hard of hearing community of Frederick, with bilateral hearing loss of 60 percent and 40 percent, my heart sank when I read some of the online comments stating that attempts to contact the company and request closed captioning for outdoor movies went unanswered. I fall into the category of those who are too deaf to be hearing, and too hearing to be deaf. I do not know ASL, and an interpreter will not make events more inclusive or accessible for me.
We exist, and we enjoy movies just like anyone else. We read the comments justifying the ways we are excluded from society at large, academia, the workforce, and the ways we are systemically mistreated. We are paid less money on average compared to people who are not deaf or hard of hearing. We struggle to obtain equitable educational outcomes. We face higher rates of homelessness and greater barriers to obtain quality health care. Until very recently, hearing aids were not even considered to be medically necessary by for-profit insurance companies.
How many billions of dollars worth of sales activity never occurred because a would-be buyer bounced early due to sales and marketing videos lacking captioning? How many company training videos failed their new hires because they never had captioning available? What is the economic impact of deaf and hard of hearing people struggling to find work, or working in non optimized roles, because too many people still consider us an afterthought?
These are questions worth asking. The harm that this level of carelessness does to us cannot be overstated. Deaf and hard of hearing people are not an afterthought. Please caption your videos, Zoom calls, and events. We are people who live and work in the Frederick community and everywhere; we are not an afterthought.