Accessibility of in-flight entertainment to deaf passengers

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What better way to pass the time on a long-haul flight than to enjoy in-flight films or television programs? The US National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has recently highlighted the lack of accessibility in this area to a US Senate hearing.

Although the necessary technology is available, deaf and hard-of-hearing passengers travelling in the USA often cannot access in-flight entertainment because of a lack of captioning. "With existing technology, there is no excuse for not providing captioning capability on in-flight entertainment," says Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD.

According to Rosenblum, his group has been advocating captioning for in-flight entertainment for decades. Sometimes the problem goes beyond simple entertainment. In September, Virgin America was fined for not making its in-flight safety video accessible to passengers with hearing loss. The US Transportation Department is working on a draft proposal in this area, but its current tentative timeline is February 2014. Some flights offer satellite television packages, such as DirecTV, that integrate captioning in their broadcasts. Another solution may come from the continuing roll-out of Wi-Fi technology on commercial aircraft, which will enable passengers to use their own entertainment devices.

Interestingly, this is less of a problem on airlines from countries outside the US because they generally include captioning, even though the original aim may have been simply to provide multiple language versions rather than accessibility for hearing impaired passengers.

Source: USA Today