An Open Letter to the CEOs of LOVEFiLM

Dear Ms Fern O’Sullivan and Mr Chris North,

We are writing to you under the auspices of Pardon a social network group consisting of over 3,400 people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Our group focuses on raising awareness and campaigning for access to communication for all people with deafness or hearing loss.

We are supporting Stephanie McDermid and the Love Subtitles group, who sent Amazon a petition protesting the absence of subtitles on your LOVEFiLM and Amazon Prime Instant Video service. 14,000 people have signed this petition, and Amazon has not yet issued a response.

Subtitles are essential for most of the 10 million people in the UK. According to official figures, this is 1 in 6 people in the UK. Imagine how much of your audience you are excluding by not providing subtitles on all films and video.

Deafness and hearing loss affects people from across the population. Poeple of all ages are affected and need access to communication via subtitles/captions. The majority of people affected have ‘sensorineural’ deafness. This type of deafness affects both the volume and quality of any sound that people are able to hear. The effect is that people often hear speech but cannot distinguish the words spoken or the source of noises. Subtitles are essential for people to be able to see what words are being spoken and to see descriptions of any sound effects i.e. sound of telephone ringing.

The only other type of deafness or hearing loss is ‘conductive’ where the main issue is volume. Many of these will still use subtitles where the volume and clarity provided by hearing aids and/or TV devices is insufficient to access the broadcast they are viewing.

It is also important to mention that many people with normal levels of hearing use subtitles where accents are strong or there is a lot of background noise. People whose first language is not English may also use English subtitles to learn and understand spoken English.

Many of our group members tell us they have stopped using LOVEFiLM as they paid the same as other subscribers but received a worse service i.e. little or no access to online instant films and video. Many say they still receive DVD’s with no subtitles. Most also say they would subscribe again if they received full access to your services. They are bewildered and find it hard of understand your stance on ignoring the wishes of such a large group of people who want to be your customers.

If you want to see what it is like for us why not try an experiment. Watch a foreign language film (in a language unfamiliar to you of course) without subtitles and see how enjoyable it is for you. Go further and wear noise cancelling headphones and see what that is like. You will soon see what we are putting up with. Would you want your family and friends treated the way we are? I doubt it somehow.

The failures to provide satisfactory responses and resolutions to the issues raised is wholly unacceptable. We live in a world where technology has come far, and you continue to keep your customers in the dark ages when it comes to equal access. At the very least we want a response detailing how you will provide full access to your services with a timetable for such actions.

Kind regards,
The Pardon facebook group and blog.