Random Thoughts and Musings by moi

Musings by a feisty, opinionated Deaf gal who wants nothing but the best for her community and her people

mercredi 28 février 2007

The End of an Era of Accessibility

Hoo boy. Today was a day of blows for me. First, I got some news at work today, which I will not delineate at this time. It was an honor, yet it was a blow because I truly had different goals. As I was reeling from this dramatic change in direction and focus this news brings me, I got an incredibly upsetting e-mail. The Captioned Media Program is closing its doors forever as of March 30th. I've put out some feelers to find out exactly why, but I have not yet received confirmation. If any of you have any information on this, please do share! We, the community, need to know what happened that caused us to lose this valuable resource.

This news put me in a nostalgic frame of mind. The very first captioned *anything* I ever saw was a Captioned Films for the Deaf reel showing of Disney's Freaky Friday (the original with Jodie Foster, mind you, not the crappy recent re-make.) The teachers herded all of us up and ushered us off to the multi-purpose room. Up to this time, TV or movies held little interest for me, except for cartoons. I still love Disney and Warner cartoons to this day, and I proudly own all 4 Looney Tunes Golden Collection DVD sets. Back to that fateful day eons ago... I was transfixed. I finally understood what all those moving mouths were saying, and it was interesting. I still remember the opening blue/red frames proclaiming "Captioned Films for the Deaf" and the white subtitles. I got to see a few more Disney movies, including The Parent Trap and I think Herbie, all shown via reel and projector, with that same blue/red opening. When I became older, I realized I'd experienced something very much a part of deaf culture; after all, who among us has not heard the stories about reel CFD movies being shown in the clubs and schools decades ago? As I became older, I saw even more CFD films, all reels, but they were not as much fun as the Disney movies. Instead they dealt with mundane topics like driver's education, sex education, physics, and so on. One of my favorites, though, was the old black-and-white version of A Tale of Two Cities. Now *that* was a classic! I can still picture Madame Defarge's face contorted in fury as she denounced the Marquis St. Evremonde, not realizing said marquis was standing in front of her. At Gally, I saw some CFV (now Captioned Films and Videos) videotapes in classes. When I started teaching, I saw CFV eventually become CMP. I used their stuff a few times, but it was, um, not the best. A few years ago, a dear colleague of mine contacted me and asked me if I wanted to become an evaluator for CMP. I was surprised because I wasn't using their services and I didn't know that much about it except via personal experience as a student. But I'm open to new experiences, so I accepted. One of the best decisions in my life.

I was put in touch with several people at CMP in order to do a field evaluation in my area of expertise and to plan for a trip to Hartford. I found the study to be a very tall order, being completely unfamiliar with the current catalog, but I managed to come up with an assessment of strengths and gaps in the current collection - trying my very best. They were so supportive during the whole process. Much to my surprise and delight, I discovered that CMP had overhauled its offerings significantly. There were few titles older than five years, and those that were were appropriate for the most part. The titles were more aligned to national standards and to appropriate grade levels than they had been a few years previously. I resolved to start incorporating CMP titles more in my teaching, and sent a glowing evaluation, along with a honest assessment of areas that were still lacking or could be strengthened. I became excited and nervous about the sojourn to the American School for the Deaf. Hartford was amazing. I attended the opening ceremonies for CMP with no real idea as to what to expect. The next three days were a whirlwind of evaluating, socializing, and learning new things. I was inspired by the warmth I felt from everyone and the spirit of teamwork, cooperation and flexibility. They are wonderful. The whole process was incredibly complicated and required so much preparation before we started evaluating, but it went smoothly with incredible efficiency. I left, richer for the experience, hoping to be invited back for the next time, and awed by the Captioned Media Program. I, over the next two years, told some people to check the titles out, praised CMP, discussed it with my library manager and got her interested in hosting an evaluation here, checked some titles out myself, and continued evaluating titles at home. It was so cool to see titles I'd recommended appear in the catalog! I felt like our hard work was having a nationwide impact. When I was invited back to Ogden last summer, I was thrilled and eagerly looked forward to it. The Utah School for the Deaf proved to me once again how special this program is. I was inspired all over again by the people present and the work that we are doing. It felt like a reunion and I met more wonderful people and gained even more respect for CMP.

But Utah was very different. The "big kahuna" was noticeably absent, even though he was in town. His wife stayed behind in Spartanburg, unlike Hartford and apparently unlike any other time previously. (We found out later she stayed behind to work on saving the program.) The opening night, in the middle of the festive reunion greetings, bore ill tidings. CMP's budget had been slashed to half of what it has had and it had been ordered to provide video descriptions for the blind. As we blinked in confusion, he explained that while we can see someone closing a cupboard door on film, a blind person just hears something close and has no idea what it is. Video descriptions would voice over visual cues for the edification of blind viewers (now that's an oxymoron. Blind viewer? *grin*). For example, suppose you see a dishy blonde walking up to a cupboard, opening it, taking a glass out, and closing the cupboard. One might hear the patter of feet, the clink of the glass hitting the counter, and the gentle slam of the door closing. But what the heck just happened?? Video descriptions would fill this gap. A grim statistic - only 10% of educational media is currently voluntarily captioned. It doesn't surprise me, since I've been responsible for placing orders for my area for a few years now, and yup. Very little out there is captioned. Hollywood's doing a better job of captioning than educators are??? *doink* What's wrong with this picture??? But I digress. So this decision was cutting back on access for us and our kind. Hm. He went on to describe how they were fighting this and appealing the US Depatment of Education decision. We were told no more home evaluations, all the libraries might close, maybe no mailing of tapes anymore due to the cost and moving the whole collection online, this might be the last biennial evaluation, a position was closed, and so on. Things looked frighteningly grim, and when I got home, I blogged about it here urging action. CMP has a number of libraries across the nation that house and mail out videos and DVDs, including one at my school. I heard a few weeks ago that all the libraries were going to close, except for the one at the Oklahoma School for the Deaf. It'd house all titles. I haven't been contacted to do any work since last summer and the website currently announces the change in mission to include video descriptions, but at least the program was still going. And the info I got last summer did not appear to spell the end of CMP. Today's e-mail changed that.

CFD had to change to survive. But it still served a vital purpose, and shutting it down and/or crippling it is a major mistake. We *still* need it, in spite of the advent of captioning done by the private sector. The private sector is NOT fulfilling its responsibilities, and since the government is not enforcing ADA regulations, this is a vital program for us. I was so upset, I got on AIM and set my away message to "VERY UPSET! CMP is closing its doors forever!" A friend got in touch, asking what was up. I filled her in and she said we have to fight it. I gloomily told her it was too late and she said, "We can't think like that!" She's right. Even if it's an exercise in futility, we gotta fight to the very end. Contact your congressional representative, the US Department of Education, and the NAD. (Contact links are in the post I referred to earlier. If you don't want to click to see the earlier post - www.house.gov, www.senate.gov, and www.ed.gov are starting points where you can get the contact info you need.)

UPDATE 3.1.07: CMP is *not* closing its doors. For my retraction, go here. For further info on CMP, go here.


  • At 05:59, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Didn't the NAD just announced in October that they enter a five-year agreement with Dept of ED to continue CMP?

  • At 06:46, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    Oh, man. I use it all the time, for myself and in my teaching. Keep us posted with your findings.


  • At 09:39, Blogger Todd said…

    That is truly sad. More alarmingly, what happened to the Deaf community's 'mojo'?!? We had clout back the, when we worked with other disability groups in passing the ADA.

    We also started organizations when no other disability groups coalesced, such as the NAD, Deaflympics, Deaf Theatre, etc. All of a sudden, the Deaf community has incurred losses everywhere!

    The Deaflympics losing support of the USOC? Check. The NAD losing its CMP program? Check. The National Theater of the Deaf losing its federal funding? Check. Some Deaf institutions closed? Check.

    I truly dread to find out what's coming next (Gallaudet? NTID?), and the Deaf community needs to get its act together and regain its mojo, stat!

  • At 10:32, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    This is awful... can you re-post with a revised title so it gets more attention? Maybe "Captioned Media Program Closes Down" or something as straightforward.

    I AM definitely emailing my legislators!

  • At 11:03, Anonymous Anonyme said…

    I did not find anything about CMP closing its doors. They have a new mission which now include the blind. Same group of people running the program. Slight change to include the blind does not mean it is closing its doors.


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