Thursday, October 29, 2009

Another Blast From the Past - Jamie's 1990 Statement

In 1990, when the Television Decoder Circuitry Act was working its way through Congress, Jamie wrote and submitted her own statement to Capitol Hill. Jamie did not testify on the Hill; she submitted her statement in response to a call for public comments. Here is what Jamie wrote. As you read the words of the young Jamie (subheadings have been added), bear in mind that if the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2009 does not pass, in the future a young deaf person could be writing similar words, except that instead of talking about regular television, they could be talking about exclusive Internet television programming.

From the Archives of the First Caption Action: Jamie's Words in 1990

I am writing to testify about what closed captioning has meant to me. At 25, I am old enough to remember the frustration of trying to watch television without closed captions, and young enough that I have hope for the future of closed captioning.

Early Television Years

My early television years are a smorgasbord of memories of television programs that I enjoyed, but did not understand fully because they were not captioned. Like other tots my age, I watched Popeye, the Little Rascals, the Archies, and Casper the Friendly Ghost without understanding what was going on. I relied solely on the visual humor, using my detective skills to figure out as much as I could of a story. I never knew, and may never know, what Popeye said to Bluto, what Spanky told Alfalfa, the insults exchanged between Archie and Reggie, and the words to the Casper theme song. What were those kids on Sesame Street singing?

Later when I got older, I watched Batman without knowing what Adam West said to Burt Ward. Little House on the Prairie began, and although I loved Laura Ingalls I could not lipread Melissa Gilbert. Nor could I lipread Gary Coleman on Diff'rent Strokes.

Watching television in the days before closed captioning meant only two things. One, it meant struggling to lipread actors in live action programs and pounding my parents and sister with questions. Sometimes they would get so fed up with my constant questioning - what did they say? why are they laughing? what happened? what happened next? what the heck is going on??? - that they would yell at me to shut up or leave the room, and let them enjoy the show.

Two, it meant very often not watching the network shows at all. I had to be content with open-captioned versions of PBS programs like Once Upon a Classic adn Zoom. Those were good programs, but I wanted to watch Happy Days and the Fonz! While the Fonz was all the rage, I had to be satisfied with the PBS offerings and do my homework in the next room while my family enjoyed the best TV had to offer in the 1970s.

What about news? I loved newspapers from the time I could read. Naturally, I wanted to watch the TV news too. Around age eight or nine, I discovered that if I wanted to see the ABC World News Tonight, I would have to either get up at six o clock in the morning to see it in its open captioned version on PBS or stay up until after eleven pm - not a good hour for a nine year old.

When in 1979 CBS aired "And Your Name is Jonah," starring Jeffrey Bravin, I was FURIOUS that it was not open-captioned. How dare they, I cried, how dare they show a movie about a deaf kid and not caption it? My classmates in the 9th grade said, "Oh, Jamie, we saw And Your Name is Jonah," and I snarled, "I couldn't understand it! It wasn't captioned!" Years later I finally got to see it on a tape in the Gallaudet University library.

Coming of Closed Captioning

When at fourteen I heard that closed captioning was coming, I decided to buy a decoder. My mom couldn't afford to buy me the decoder, which cost $300 then. So I saved all my baby sitting money and stopped buying clothes for six months. For six months the only new clothes I had were hand me ups from my sister (I am small so I could wear her old clothes) and gifts from relatives. I saved and saved the money and we ordered a decoder from Sears.

Finally, in Spring 1980, the decoder arrived at Sears. We went down there and I paid for my first decoder. My mom was so happy that she cried. To this day I don't know if she was crying because she was so happy that I finally had access to closed captioning, or because it meant the end of all my questions, questions while she was trying to watch a program. Frankly, I strongly suspect the latter.

Closed captioning began slowly, with just the news and a few programs. By then, Fonzie had grown up and was dating a woman with a little girl. Arnold Jackson was already in junior high. Archie and Casper were no longer on TV. Laura Ingalls was married. I had already missed all the early shows.

At first, CBS would not participate in closed captioning. CBS insisted that a teletext system would be better. The deaf community staged marches and protests in New York and elsewhere, calling on CBS to closed caption their programming. Finally, CBS caved in and began closed captioning in the early 1980s.

Since then, closed captioning on television has grown markedly. All prime time programming is now closed captioned, something I am very grateful for because I now have the same choices other people have.

Still Not Enough Captioned

However, there is still a lot of programming that is not closed captioned. Many classic, syndicated programs are still not closed captioned. I am still waiting for the day when I can watch I Love Lucy, something I have been dreaming of for years. Also, many old movies which air late at night are not closed captioned. Nor are some PBS programs, like the MacNeil Lehrer Newshour.

Cable TV has some captioned shows, but there should be some improvement. ...trying to decide whether to drop the Disney channel because the only captioning they do is very limited. It seems like Disney and several other cable channesl only do 'token' captioning, captioning a small amount of their product. I still can't watch anything on Cable News Network.

For ten years now, I have been longing for the day when everything on television would be closed captioned. I know that is an unrealistic dream, but having the most of what is on television closed captioned is a realistic objective. Despite all the progress made in recent years, closed captioning's growth is threatened by the simple fact that not enough of a market exists.

Since 1980, only 275,000 to 300,000 decoders have been sold or given away by the National Captioning Institute (NCI). NCI, a nonprofit organization, has done the best it can to publicize closed captioning with the funds available.

Too many people, both hearing and hearing impaired, do not know where they can buy decoders or do not even know about closed captioning. Last semester, a classmate asked me where his aging father could buy a Telecaption decoder because he is losing his hearing. Others can't afford it even though the cost has dropped. I need a new decoder to replace my first decoder which is on the living room television (I also have a second decoder for our second television), but it costs $180 for a new machine. Still others don't want to buy a decoder because they are hard of hearing and do not want to be identified as 'deaf' by having a conspicuous box on top of their television.

Until the technology for closed captioning is incorporated into televisions that people can buy at any store, I fear that the closed captioning's future will not be as bright as it could be. Unless the market is expanded markedly, potential supporters of closed captioning will look at the numbers - only 300,000 with a total potential market of 28 million deaf and hard of hearing people according to the Deafness Research Foundation of New York - and conclude that it is not a worthwhile investment to fund closed captioning of the programs they advertise on. Budget-conscious television and film producers may well come to the same conclusion.

Indeed, many video companies have already come to that conclusion. Since closed captioning is the last hope deaf people have of seeing and understanding movies shown in theaters, a national grass roots group has been formed to petition the video companies. That grass roots group, which I am one of the leaders of, is called Caption Action. To date, Caption Action has 25,000 signatures and has succeeded in persuading SONY Video Services to closed caption ALL of their video product.

However, there are still many small video companies that caption very little or do not caption anything at all. Cost is frequently cited as a factor. Until the number of caption-capable homes is multiplied tenfold, the video companies find it difficult to justify spending thousands to capation a video in the hopes of reaching a very small percentage of the population.

For years now I have dreamed of having a television with built-in decoder technology. The time has come for televisions with built-in decoder technology to be available to everyone. As the baby boom generation ages, a good number of them will lose their hearing. Already, at least thirty percent of older Americans are hearing impaired, according to the American Association of Retired Persons. These are people who will resent the idea of having to spend another two hundred dollars to be able to keep watching television. Give them a television with an on/off switch for closed captions, and the problem is solved.

It is too late for my generation, but this bill, the Television Decoder Circuitry Act, will guarantee that the next generation of deaf children will not be deprived of the chance to understand the Little Rascals. Who can forget Jackie trying to win Mary Ann's affections in "The First Seven Years?" I am still waiting to find out what it was Jackie said to Mary Ann that got her so mad she socked him in the nose.

Blast from the Past..Marlee Speaks in 1990!

In his latest vlog for Purple, Kelby Brick mentions that Marlee Matlin testified on Captiol Hill in 1990. Caption Action 2 searched for and found Marlee's words from her 1990 testimony for the Television Decoder Circuitry Act of 1990. Her words were found in this file.

Until the 1970s, deaf and hard-of-hearing persons had no access to television. Marlee Matlin, who is deaf and who testified at the hearing on this bill, described her experience: As a little girl growing up in Chicago, I had dreams just like any other child . . . to be a policeman, a dancer, a teacher, an actress. I was always told: follow your dreams and be what you want to be. No dream was beyond my reach. But in many of my dreams, I just sat by and watched without understanding a single word of what was being said. As a child, only through my mother could I understand the antics of "The Electric Company"; only through my dad could I understand what Mannix said to his Girl Friday; and only through my brothers could I understand the laughter on "All in the Family." There was no such thing as captioned television, and those moments of dreaming were not open to me. (Matlin Statement; June 20, 1990; p. 1.)

Saturday, October 24, 2009

HR 3101 Cartoon: No Captions Online!

Here is the special cartoon on HR 3101 by deaf cartoonist Tamara "Tami" Davidson!

The winner of the Caption Action 2 "write your rep" contest will get the original art to this cartoon.

Click on the cartoon to view a larger image.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Write Your Rep, Win Original Deaf Cartoon Art

Caption Action 2 is trying something new: a contest. The winner of the contest will get original cartoon art by the deaf cartoonist Tamara "Tami" Davidson, who is a Caption Action 2 supporter.

Contest instructions:

If you have not already done so, write to your Representative in Congress asking him or her to cosponsor HR 3101, by sending a direct email (see the downloadable spreadsheet for contacts). Or, write an old-fashioned letter on paper. Send Caption Action 2 proof that you have written to your Congressional Representative by either forwarding your sent-mail or sending a scan of your paper letter, to Jamie at

If you don't know who your representative is, here's the representative finder.

Your rep wants to hear from you! Here's how!

Winning the contest:

If your Representative becomes a cosponsor of HR 3101, the first person who wrote that Representative will receive original deaf cartoon art from Tamara Davidson. If there are others who also wrote the same Representative, they will receive signed copies of the original artwork.

Davidson is working on the cartoon now. When it is complete, we will do another post to showcase the cartoon! In the meantime, you can view examples of Davidson's deaf artwork on the website ASL Rose. The September issue of ASL Rose's e-newsletter featured a deaf cartoon by Davidson: Three healthy roses with ASL handshapes, followed by the same roses, now dead from neglect.

More artwork by Tamara Davidson on

February 2007 newsletter
October 2008 newsletter

Davidson also illustrated the children's ASL book, Have You Ever Seen...? Still more art can be seen on Tami's blog, Quiet Scribblings.

About Jamie and Tami:

Jamie and Tami go back a long way, back to the early 1980s at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf. Even then, Tami was a deaf cartoonist and she was an art major at NTID. Jamie, Tami, and a third girl collaborated on creating a deaf superhero character, Brenda the Windrider. Since graduating NTID, Tami has continued to create art, both professional art and deaf art.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hold a HR 3101 Party, Get HR 3101 Passed!

Earlier today Jamie posted this on Twitter:

First tweet: I've been asked for ideas to get more people to contact their reps on subcommittee that has HR 3101. Here's an idea for feedback...

Second tweet:
Deaf people love to socialize. about HR 3101 parties?

Third tweet:
At an HR 3101 party speaker educates group on HR 3101. Have food, etc. During parties people write letters to reps online or on paper.

Last tweet:
What do you think? The HR 3101 party would be fun with a quote Highlights for Children.

People whose representatives are on this list should party especially hard! Alcohol optional.

Readers, what do you think? Bob and I would be happy to be guest speakers at an HR 3101 party in the metro Washington, DC area as long as you feed us!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ohio, Let's Plant The HR 3101 Seed

Caption Action 2 put together this listing of Ohio Representatives. The state has one Representative that supports HR 3101: Representative Tim Ryan. However, there are 17 more Representatives who do not yet support HR 3101. Here are the Representative names and staff contacts:
Note: The seed reference is to the buckeye seed which grows into the buckeye tree, the state tree.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Illinois, Don't Let HR 3101 Blow Away in the Wind

When Bob and Jamie were young students together at the National Technical Institute for the Deaf in the early 1980s, Bob was living in a small town in Illinois. Jamie would tease Bob, "You live in Ill-inois!" Who could have predicted that in the future, Bob and Jamie would be together in Washington, DC? Or that they would be leading Caption Action 2 together?

Today, Jamie would not dare make fun of Bob for living in Illinois. After all, that is where President Obama was living before he moved to Washington, DC! Plus, Illinois is home to the popular deaf blogger and staunch Caption Action 2 supporter, Karen Putz of We don't think Obama is considered a constituent of Illinois Representatives anymore, but if you live in Illinois, here are your Representatives in Congress with their staff contact information.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

HR 3101 Needs Internet Subcommittee Support!

Although we have 14 cosponsors now, NOT ONE is from the CRITICAL House Subcommittee on Communications, Internet & Technology! Why is that Subcommittee so important? It is important because that is where the HR 3101 bill is! We MUST get at least ONE person from this subcommittee to support HR 3101.

Today, the National Association of the Deaf posted an Action Alert on HR 3101. This Action Alert asks people in the deaf and hard of hearing community to contact their Representatives, ESPECIALLY those who are members of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Internet & Technology.

The most important people on this subcommittee is the chairman, Rick Boucher, who was the subject of a previous Action Alert. IRONICALLY, Boucher is a cosponsor of another bill that benefits deaf and hard of hearing people, HR 1646, the Hearing Aid Tax Credit. Why not HR 3101 too? Deaf and hard of hearing people need both hearing aids AND captions! Another important person on the committee, because he was interested in the previous failed version of this bill, is Cliff Stearns, who was the subject of another previous Action Alert.

Below is the list of Representatives on this crucial subcommittee, organized by state, from the NAD Action Alert. Contact staff names are hyperlinked, and Caption Action 2 has added important notes about certain Representatives.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Pennsylvania, Your Words Are Steel-Strong

Pennsylvania, you're making progress. So far we have one representative from Pennsylvania who supports HR 3101, Rep. Paul Kanjorski. However, there are still more than a dozen representatives in Pennsylvania who do not yet support HR 3101! Here are their names, and staff contacts, for your convenience in sending emails.

Incidentally, tonight Caption Action 2 on Facebook reached 11,000!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Cosponsor 14 Joins HR 3101!

Caption Action 2 just learned that HR 3101 got its 14th cosponsor.

Let us welcome California Representative Grace Napolitano (D-38)!

Can we get help out there in getting Republicans to join?

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Florida, You Need to Make it Hot for These Reps

Florida, particularly south Florida, is home to a large retiree population, which means MANY people have lost or are losing their hearing! The current generation of retirees may not be that into the Internet, but the NEXT generation of retirees will be comfortable with the Internet and as they lose their hearing, they will NEED captions online! So, Florida, do your best to make things HOT for the following Representatives!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

New York State, You've Got a BIG Role to Play

New York State, you've got the third largest number of Representatives in Congress. Already, these New York state area representatives cosponsor HR 3101:
  • Rep. Steve Israel
  • Rep. Edolphus Towns
  • Rep. Maurice Hinchey
We ESPECIALLY need to get Rep. Louise Slaughter to cosponsor HR 3101!! She represents the Rochester, New York area. Rochester has a large deaf population, and Rochester's deaf and hard of hearing community should be working hard to get Louise Slaughter to sign up. Louise Slaughter's Rochester office is at:

3120 Federal Building
100 State Street
Rochester, NY 14614
Phone: (585) 232-4850
Fax: (585) 232-1954

Any Rochester area deaf person can stop by Rep. Slaughter's Rochester office. No appointment needed. Rochester area deaf and hard of hearing can also send direct email to:
John Monsif,

Here is the complete list of contacts for New York state Congressional Representatives:

Friday, October 9, 2009

Two More for HR 3101! We Are Growing!

Caption Action 2 just learned tonight that two new HR3101 cosponsors joined!

Let us welcome Virginia Representative Jim Moran (D-8) and Arizona Representative Raúl Grijalva (D-7).

As mentioned before, we need Republicans to join.

Texas, It's Your Turn Now

Texas has the second largest number of Representatives in Congress. So, deaf and hard of hearing people in Texas have almost as much power as deaf and hard of hearing people in California, to influence the outcome for HR 3101! Below is a list of Representatives in Congress from Texas, with names and email contacts for key staff members:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

HR 3101 Has Its 11th Cosponsor!

Caption Action 2 just got word from Rep. Markey's office that we have our eleventh cosponsor!

Let us welcome Representative Mike Honda (D) of California!

We need Republican cosponsors, since we have all Democratic cosponsors.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

California Deaf: You Have the Power!

California deaf and hard of hearing people and their family and friends could hold the key to the success or failure of HR 3101. California has the most Representatives (53) in Congress. If you live in California, check the table below for the name of your Representative and a direct email contact for your Representative's office. Send them an email telling them you want them to support HR 3101 and why. Not sure what to say? Check the Letters tag in the tag list and see some example letters.

  • Baca, Joe (Brenda Villaneueva -
  • Becerra, Xavier (Lia Parada -
  • Berman, Howard (Julia Massimino -
  • Bilbray, Brian (Lorissa Bounds -
  • Calvert, Ken (Christopher Marklund -
  • Campbell, John (David Malech -
  • Capps, Lois (Danielle Letendre -
  • Cardoza, Dennis (Marilyn Shapley -
  • Chu, Judy (Allison Rose -
  • Costa, Jim (Monica Carmean -
  • Davis, Susan (Spencer Young -
  • Dreier, David (Alisa Do -
  • Eshoo, Anna (Jill Pender -
  • Farr, Sam (India McKinney -
  • Filner, Bob (Sharon
  • Gallegly, Elton (Richard Mereu -
  • Harman, Jane (Laurie Saroff -
  • Herger, Wally (Darin Thacker -
  • Hunter, Duncan (Joe Kasper -
  • Issa, Darrell (Jason Scism -
  • Lewis, Jerry (Jim Specht -
  • Lofgren, Zoe (Ryan Clough -
  • Lungren, Dan (Kevin Holsclaw -
  • Mack, Mary Bono (Christopher Foster -
  • Mack, Mary Bono (Paul Cancienne -
  • Matsui, Doris (Kyle Victor -
  • McCarthy, Kevin (Rob McCarthy -
  • McClintock, Tom (Kristen Glenn -
  • McKeon, Buck (Chris Perry -
  • McNerney, Jerry (Shilpa Rajan -
  • Miller, Gary (Jessica Baker -
  • Miller, George (Ben Miller -
  • Nunes, Devin (Damon Nelson -
  • Pelosi, Nancy (John Lawrence -
  • Radanovich, George (Chris Herndon -
  • Richardson, Laura (Jeremy Marcus -
  • Rohrabacher, Dana (James Schmidt -
  • Roybal-Allard, Lucille (Victor Castillo -
  • Royce, Edward (Darrin Schrader -
  • Sanchez, Loretta (Ajay Abraham -
  • Schiff, Adam (Phil Tahtakran -
  • Sherman, Brad (Jessica Jensen -
  • Speier, Jackie (Josh Connolly -
  • Thompson, Mike (Jonathan Birdsong -
  • Waters, Maxine (Andrea Martin -
  • Watson, Diane (Abdul Henderson -
  • Waxman, Henry (Patricia Delgado -
  • Woolsey, Lynn (Katie Rodriguez -

If your representative is not listed, that is because he or she already supports HR 3101. Caption Action 2 will remove representatives from this list when they sign up as cosponsors for HR 3101.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Two More Representatives Cosponsoring HR 3101!

Today Caption Action 2 was on Capitol Hill and had a meeting with Mark Bayer in Rep. Ed Markey's office. Bayer had some good news for Caption Action 2: Yesterday Representatives Maurice Hinchey (NY) and Paul Kanjorski (PA) became cosponsors of HR 3101! Now we have a total of 10 cosponsors. Still small, but starting to grow!

Representative Hinchey was a cosponsor last year. He has now rejoined us!

Bayer also told Caption Action 2 that while work continues to get support in the House, work is also being done on two other fronts: the Senate, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). He said that sometime this month a bill may be introduced in the Senate that mirrors HR 3101 in the House! Regarding the FCC, Bayer explained that the more aware the FCC is of the issues addressed by HR 3101, the better the chances of HR 3101 moving through Congress. On October 20, the FCC will have another workshop on broadband access for people with disabilities, "Broadband Accessibility for People with Disabilities: Barriers, Opportunities, and Policy Recommendations." (Details are in this PDF). Page 2 of the PDF has this question: "How often do people with hearing disabilities find that material that they would like to access on the web is uncaptioned?"

Just before Jamie left Bayer, he received a special notice from the Sergeant at Arms (don't know what that means on Capitol Hill). This notice was about the Dedication of the Statue of Helen Keller! A statue of Helen Keller, given by the people of Alabama, will be placed in the U.S. Capitol! Jamie did not know about this event. Bayer said that this is an event that will attract many members of Congress and is therefore a good opportunity to increase awareness of deaf issues. The statue dedication ceremony will take place on October 7 at 11:00 am in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol!

Today Caption Action 2 visited most if not all, of the Representatives with offices in the Longworth building. Then a mistake was made; a walk to the Ford House Office building. Turned out there are no representatives in that building! It is only for house support offices. Ugh. Back to the Rayburn building to visit a few offices that had been missed before. On the way down in the elevator heading to the Cannon building, who did Jamie run into? None other than the same woman from Representative Conyers' office! She was pleased to see Jamie again and told her she would try to get Conyers to cosponsor.

Before heading home, Jamie made one last stop; her own Representative's office, for the second time. The people in Gerry Connolly's office did remember Jamie, and gladly took an updated Caption Action 2 flyer. Connolly still has not signed on as a cosponsor for the bill, but Jamie is hopeful that between her phone calls, emails, and in-person visits to Connolly's office, that he will sign on.

All in all, a pretty productive day on the Hill. Jamie collected a ton of business cards, and will be updating the Excel spreadsheet of Congress Staff Contacts (download it from the blogroll). Staff contacts are important because it is the staff that reviews the bill, and can influence the Representative. So download the spreadsheet and see if there is a direct email contact for your own Representative's office! It is going to take a few days for Jamie to enter all the new staff contacts she collected today, so keep checking this Excel spreadsheet for updates.