HBO’s ‘My Good Good friend’ Discriminates Towards Blind Individuals

I’ve watched the trailer for “My Good Good friend,” the primary installment of HBO’s adaptation of Elena Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels, about 30 occasions.

I’m not joking. I’ve been watching it three to 5 occasions in a sitting, ever because it got here out. Each time I tear up.

However the motive I get emotional doesn’t have a lot to do with the truth that it’s a e-book sequence that I very a lot relate to and love. What actually will get me is that I’ve Stargardt illness — a situation much like macular degeneration, which renders me legally blind, or having low imaginative and prescient — and doubtless received’t have the ability to watch the sequence.

Ferrante’s Neapolitan novels had been written in Italian earlier than being translated for a world viewers and HBO has determined that the dialogue in its hotly anticipated new sequence will keep true to the supply materials (not simply Italian however a Neapolitan dialect), which suggests it’ll be totally in subtitles.

It’s a cool transfer, and HBO has patted itself on the again for its devotion to authenticity, particularly since different Italy-set sequence, resembling “Rome” and “The Younger Pope,” had English dialogue.

However I can’t learn subtitles. I can’t even learn the notes my family members write on my birthday playing cards with out somebody’s assist or a magnifier. I can also’t learn avenue indicators, which brought on me to lose my driver’s license, uproot my complete life and transfer to New York Metropolis, which has higher public transportation than my hometown, at age 29. It’s an identical story for numerous different individuals with visible disabilities.

Many individuals with visible disabilities usually depend on a function known as video description or audio description once they watch TV. It’s a function by which a narrator tells somebody who can’t see nicely what is occurring on the display screen.

Individuals with low imaginative and prescient don’t use it on a regular basis. For instance, I can normally watch TV with relative ease, simply so long as I’m sitting a couple of inches from the display screen. However those that are blind and have extra extreme circumstances of low imaginative and prescient depend upon it. HBO received’t be together with audio description for “My Good Good friend,” although.

With HBO’s determination to not function audio description, the premium cable community has determined to embrace one tradition whereas utterly alienating one other that already has to navigate life with infinite obstacles.

However this isn’t something new. The community has been ignoring the essential wants of the blind and low-vision neighborhood for so long as it’s been in existence.

HBO confirmed to HuffPost that it doesn’t provide video description providers for any of its programming. On this case, audio description may even have simply been used to translate the Italian dialogue into English, in response to Joel Snyder, president of Audio Description Associates, an organization that makes video descriptions.

Snyder mentioned it could possibly be finished very similar to an audiobook. For instance, one audio describer or voice actor may learn the script’s motion traces in a single voice or tone after which use a distinctively totally different voice or tone for the dialogue. It may be finished with a number of voice actors, one in every of which reads the motion traces and one other (or others) who learn or act out the dialogue.

“A talented audio describer who has researched pronunciations may even make the subtitles extra significant,” he informed me.

Although it might seem to be the ultimate product could possibly be complicated to hearken to, Diane Johnson, president and CEO of an audio description firm known as Descriptive Video that does audio descriptions for Netflix unique sequence resembling “Home of Playing cards,” “BoJack Horseman,” “Expensive White Individuals” and “American Vandal,” informed me that isn’t the case. For example, when she was first requested by the streaming service to do audio description for his or her unique sequence “Narcos,” a present that makes use of quite a few languages, she was involved there can be “lots occurring.”

However after conducting focus teams for individuals in Spanish and English who listened to the video description for the present, she realized it could possibly be finished in a transparent method.

So, if an audio description firm can determine the way to sort out a sophisticated script and ship a transparent product that aids hundreds of thousands of potential viewers, why wouldn’t HBO need to make the most of that? Particularly since Johnson informed me it could possibly be finished shortly and it’s reasonably priced

Frankly, it’s insulting, ablelist and reinforces the notion in society that individuals with disabilities are lower than these with out.

Personally, I’m new to being ostracized by HBO as a result of “My Good Good friend” is the primary of its unique sequence within the U.S. to be aired in one other language, in response to The Hollywood Reporter.

But, people who find themselves utterly blind or have extra extreme circumstances of low imaginative and prescient have by no means been in a position to watch any HBO sequence, no matter its big presence in American tradition, as a result of the community has by no means actually provided audio description. Snyder informed me he’s conscious of only one undertaking that HBO made an audio description for — 2009’s “Monica & David,” a documentary about two individuals with Down syndrome getting married — as a result of his firm did it. He additionally famous that it was finished solely as a result of the producer wished it.

Might you think about how isolating it should really feel to be hanging out with your folks, household or colleagues and never have the ability to chime in together with your “Sport of Thrones” theories? Or by no means having the ability to totally grasp the cultural significance of “The Sopranos” or “Intercourse and the Metropolis”? Or being blind and never having the ability to have interaction with an HBO documentary about being blind?

The choice to easily not embrace video description has real-life penalties for many who are blind and have low imaginative and prescient.

“There’s lots of people which can be unemployed which can be blind and imaginative and prescient impaired,” Johnson informed me. “They usually’ll let you know a part of the reason being that they really feel like they’re socially inept. … They really feel alienated. Why would we do this to anybody?”

Frankly, it’s insulting, ablelist and reinforces the notion in society that individuals with disabilities are lower than these with out.

The community has acquired pushback from the neighborhood for not together with video descriptions. There have been petitions and printed mentions of this injustice. But HBO received’t budge, nor did it provide me any clarification as to why it doesn’t provide audio description after I reached out to the corporate.

HBO shouldn’t be legally required to offer audio description, sadly. In 2010, Congress handed and President Barack Obama signed, with assist from Stevie Marvel, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, a regulation that requires superior expertise to be accessible to individuals with disabilities — and this contains audio descriptions for tv and flicks. But, the CVAA, which is regulated by the Federal Communications Fee, presently requires solely 9 tv channels — the highest 4 broadcast networks and prime 5 cable channels — to offer audio description. The present record contains ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Discovery, HGTV, Historical past, TBS and USA.

A consultant from the FCC informed me that HBO’s Nielsen scores should not excessive sufficient for it to be required by regulation to offer video description.

Curiously sufficient, HBO does provide closed captioning, which gives subtitles for many who are deaf or laborious of listening to.

That, to me, is totally complicated. Why would HBO permit some who’re disabled to get pleasure from its exhibits slightly than all disabled individuals?

It’s a disgrace, it’s discriminatory and it must cease.