20 March 2015
A survey has revealed the toughest communication challenges for millions of Australians who are Deaf or hard of hearing.
At the top of the list: going to social functions, going to the movies or theatre, and dealing with banks and bureaucracy.
The survey* by the national non-profit organisation Conexu found about one-third of respondents did not participate in social activities or felt a social divide at work because of communication challenges.
Conexu Chief Strategy Officer Rachel McKay said the survey showed that more needs to be done to level the playing field for people who can't hear.
"Being able to communicate changes people's lives." Ms McKay said.
"Technology is a great way to improve communication but not everyone's aware of the apps and simple tools that are available."
Shirley Edwards from Queensland's Cochlear Implant Club and Advisory Association said caption systems in cinemas are a big plus but can be technically tricky and temperamental.
"Some cinemas offer a caption device which is a small display on a support arm that slots into the cup holder on your cinema seat," Mrs Edwards explained.
"It's not ideal, because you have to refocus between large and small screens, and is not widely available. Often the closed caption movies are shown at unpopular times and the equipment can be unreliable.
"A better option is to offer screenings with open captions, which are subtitled on the movie."
The Blue Room Cinebar in Brisbane has offered monthly open caption screenings for the past two years.
"Losing your hearing can be socially isolating but everyone should be able to enjoy a trip to the movies and following the soundtrack shouldn't be a chore," Blue Room executive manager Bhree Kemp said.
"I would urge all cinemas to use open captions."
About half (46%) of the survey respondents said they did not use technology to help with communication because they did not know what was available, or felt there was nothing suitable.
*Communication Technology National User Needs Analysis 2014 (Conexu Foundation)