The Court Jester

Danny Kaye plays a mild-mannered medieval jester Hawkins in The Court Jester, caught up in palace intrigues when he poses as one of many body doubles for forest outlaw The Black Fox. His former troupe of traveling entertainers–all little people–also volunteers to aid the rebellion, but are turned away by the real Black Fox, who thinks they’re too short to make a meaningful contribution to the cause. Unfortunately, Hawkins does not vouch for the capabilities of his friends, but instead bids them farewell.

Hawkins heads for the palace with Captain Jean, he disguised as a hard-of-hearing emphysematous old wine merchant, and she as his deaf and speech-impaired granddaughter. Their feigned disabilities annoy and frustrate the king’s guard into letting them access the palace without proper screening.

Hijinks ensue, and reinforcements must be called in. But the only way to access the palace is a secret entrance large enough only for a small woman or child; the Black Fox must eat some crow and call up the little people (described as “an army of midgets”.

The real story of the “army of midgets” is worthy of a Hollywood movie in itself. Credited only as “Hermine’s Midgets” in the film, the group was essentially collected by a Czech woman named Hermine and trained by her stepson in the circus arts. The small group left Austria in 1938, shortly before bad things began happening to little and disabled people there. Two Jewish little people were discovered in Budapest and added to their troupe before the impending Nazi invasion. The group was displayed at the New York World’s Fair, going on to tour the USA and perform in U.S.O. shows and war bond drives during World War II.

Meet The Artists of Lake Windfall

From D-Pan:
Meet The Artists
Feature length film “Lake Windfall” written by Roger Vass Jr. and Tony Nitko

A brand new feature length film “Lake Windfall” written by Roger Vass Jr. and Tony Nitko is making appearances around the country. We sat down with Roger, Tony and assistant director and editor Jason Roberts to talk about the film. Featuring ASL, audio & subtitles, “Lake Windfall” is a portrait of interactions between Deaf, hard-of-hearing and hearing friends in a post-apocalyptic setting. While navigating this tale of awareness and survival, both Deaf and hearing realize how critical communication is to our collective survival.


Based on the novel Alice and set in 1940’s rural Georgia, Wildflower begins with children hearing rumors of a “monster” in the old Guthrie barn. After some ridiculous shrieking, Ellie discovers the monster is really just an unkempt girl in rags who has trouble speaking. On their second meeting, when Ellie tries to communicate with Alice, she realizes that Alice is hard of hearing and has been neglected by her family. After an incident where Ellie convinces Alice to scare another girl with her echoed slurred speech, Ellie starts meeting with Alice in secret to talk, and Alice’s language skills quickly improve.

Eventually Ellie introduces Alice to her brother Sammie, and convinces her grandmother to tutor her. But first Ellie must get Alice into some decent clothes. Once she’s cleaned up, Alice is no longer a monster but a sweet innocent trailing roses. Sammie is clearly attracted to her but decides it would be wrong to act on it, saying he thinks of her as being “like a baby”, despite Alice’s assurances that “I feeling that feeling” too.

Though her parents don’t like people knowing they had a child with a disability, saying she’s “devil-tetched”, one day Alice has a seizure in a cornfield and the doctor must be called for. (Her seizures are presented almost as if it was a horror film, with a shifting, blurry image and strange distorted noises.) The doctor pieces her story together, and prescribes an expensive hearing aid that just fits in her pocket.

Now that the jig is up and the whole town knows about Alice, she starts interacting socially with Ellie and Sammie’s friends. They make fun of her speech and mannerisms, prompting Sammie to join in the public teasing. Later, when he goes off to school, he does not write to Alice and avoids introducing her to his friends out of embarrassment.

Ellie calls him out on it, and at the town dance Sammie sees Alice can now look and act normal, and is thus to his mind finally eligible for a romantic relationship. (Although, in my fantasy dreamworld, a much better ending would have involved Alice telling him to shove it.)

Regal outfits almost 6,000 theaters with Sony closed-captioning glasses

from endgadget: Regal outfits almost 6,000 theaters with Sony closed-captioning glasses
By Jon Fingas posted May 8th, 2013 at 12:36 PM

Sony’s subtitle glasses have been a long time coming. The US rollout began more than a year ago, but the gradual launch has left hard-of-hearing Americans with few modern closed captioning options at the movies. They’ll have a much easier time of it as of this month, as Regal will be providing the glasses to nearly 6,000 theaters before May is over. While the wide-scale deployment is coming later than the original first quarter target, it should be a welcome upgrade for viewers who’ve had to either deal with clunkier subtitle systems or stay at home. The Sony solution still won’t be ubiquitous, especially when it sells for $1,750 per pair, but there’s now a better chance that at least one captioning-friendly theater will be within reach.

Source: LA Times

More Coverage: Regal Entertainment Group

Dear Netflix, We Can’t Hear You! Signed, 50 Million Americans

Dear Netflix, We Can’t Hear You! Signed, 50 Million Americans
April 4, 2013

by: Barbara J. King, NPR
Recent scientific research links hearing impairment with dementia. Commentator Barbara J. King says widespread availability of closed-captioned films could help.

Netflix was ordered to close-caption all its films by next year.
Justin Lane/EPA /Landov

Addicted, that’s what we are: My husband and I are addicted to BBC television shows. We watch BBC series via Netflix streaming, the “instant” option available to Netflix customers.

This past weekend, we chose a show called The Last Enemy starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Like thousands of others, we are impatiently awaiting the reappearance of Cumberbatch and his co-star Martin Freeman in the BBC Sherlock Holmes series, but Season 3 won’t come to the U.S. until 2014. We hoped The Last Enemy might ease the pain of the wait. It started off great, and we were hooked.

Episode 2, however, unlike Episode 1 and the initial two seasons of Sherlock Holmes, lacked closed-captioning, even though it was listed as closed-captioned on the Netflix website. (Subsequent episodes lack closed-captioning also.)

For us, that was a deal-breaker. My husband has a moderate degree of hearing loss, and without closed-captioning, what should be a fun activity rapidly became an exercise in frustration. Even though my hearing is intact, I also had trouble without visible words on the screen because the show involves fast-paced dialogue and thick accents. After about 20 times of hitting the remote’s pause button and asking each other what we just heard — or didn’t hear — we gave up.

Why does the slight ruination of our weekend viewing plans merit a blog post? Because many millions of other Americans are in my husband’s boat. In her new book Shouting Won’t Help: Why I — and 50 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You, Katherine Bouton notes that 17 percent of the U.S. population has some degree of hearing loss. It’s not only older people, either, she notes: 19.5 percent of 12-19-year-olds have at least slight hearing loss; 5 percent of these young people are considered to have some degree of serious impairment.

Not all hearing loss is alike. Bouton notes that the deaf community in the U.S. today is vibrant, with its own language, full of accomplished people in “just about every profession.” By contrast, she writes, the hearing impaired “live in a kind of limbo, not really part of the hearing world but not part of the Deaf world either. Many are unwilling to acknowledge their hearing problems publicly.” Bouton’s own story underscores this last point: For two decades, she endeavored to keep her own hearing loss secret as she worked in high-powered journalism.

It’s no secret, though, that some people are less than happy with Netflix’s services to the deaf and hearing-impaired communities. A Massachusetts woman who is deaf, working together with two deaf organizations, sued the company in 2010, saying that a lack of closed-captioning on its instant-streaming shows violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. A judge agreed: Netflix was ordered to close-caption all its films by 2014.

Possibly you are thinking: First-world problem! That’s a comment I get pretty often here at 13.7, when I’m tackling an issue that a reader dismisses as less than critically important. So let me explain why Netflix’s forthcoming compliance with the ADA is good news from the scientific side of things.

A 2011 paper by Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University, summarized by Bouton in her book, offers a startling conclusion: There’s a strong correlation between hearing loss and dementia. Lin studied 639 people aged 36 to 90, some of whom had hearing loss at the study’s inception, but none of whom had dementia. A median time period of 12 years later, with scientific controls applied for effects of age and medical conditions, those who did have hearing loss at the start had a greater incidence of dementia. “The risk of dementia,” Bouton reports, “increased with the degree of hearing loss. The use of hearing aids seemed to have no effect.”

An association between two variables is a tricky thing because it doesn’t imply a cause: There’s no proof that a hearing impairment leads to dementia.

Bouton asks the key question: How might hearing loss and dementia be related? She reviews three possibilities. Social isolation often results from hearing impairment and may itself be a risk factor for dementia. Or, the brain may be so overworked by trying hard to hear others’ speech that working memory may be affected (this is called the “cognitive overload” idea). Finally, there may be some underlying cause common to both hearing loss and dementia.

Or maybe more than a single factor is at work.

Perhaps in the future, scientists will be able to disentangle these various possibilities. (That hearing aids seem to have no effect strikes me as particularly surprising.)

One thing is already clear: more closed-captioning would help the situation. It would combat both a feeling of isolation and any cognitive overload resulting from straining hard to hear felt by those with hearing loss.

Netflix and other companies that share film or TV content with paying customers can and should ensure that the spoken dialogue is comprehensible to all. It makes no sense for Netflix to offer a series of episodes, some closed-captioned and others not, as happened to us. (A Netflix customer representative readily agreed when we contacted her and promised to look into the problem.)

Watching a film shouldn’t be an unpleasantly challenging strain or a pleasure rendered impossible altogether. Whether solo or shared, it should be an engaging brain treat available to all, no matter the working status of one’s ears.

Barbara King’s book How Animals Grieve has just been published. You can keep up with more of what Barbara is thinking on Twitter.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

Interview with Alex Gibney, maker of Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence In The House Of God

from Documentaries:
Interview with Alex Gibney
HBO Sexual abuse in the clergy is not a new subject. What initially attracted you to it?

ALEX GIBNEY I had read a story in The New York Times about a particularly horrific abuse case involving some two hundred deaf boys who had been abused by a priest in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. What made the story stand out for me were the documents that were revealed as part of the investigation which led straight to the Vatican – not only to the Vatican, but to Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict. That seemed to me a story that hadn’t been told yet. And to understand the story and see its connections all the way to the top-that really intrigued me.

The other thing that intrigued me were the heroes at the center of the story, the deaf men. The film is called Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. Obviously the silence refers to the silence of the church in the face of these crimes. But it also refers to the silence of these deaf men, these people who somehow managed to have their voices heard, even though they couldn’t be understood by most hearing people. That seemed to me miraculous: amidst all of this darkness, there was a ray of light. Or better, in the midst of this ghastly clerical silence, there was a voice for justice.
HBO What kind of change have you seen in the church’s policies on sexual abuse since these scandals have erupted?

ALEX GIBNEY Judging from statements from the Vatican, it’s as if there has barely been a sex abuse crisis. They really haven’t reckoned with it. Even worse, they keep saying it’s over, and then more dimensions of the cover-up are revealed.  I mean, Pope Benedict has apologized, but in a way that seems so vague and indistinct and  didn’t at all reckon with the church’s role in covering up these crimes. On the other hand, if you look at the United States, the American  bishops have made substantive changes – out of necessity. Not only priests but bishops are being prosecuted – and not just for committing crimes, but for covering them up. Civil society has taken hold. The idea that the Prime Minister of the Republic of Ireland can speak of the “rape and torture of children” at the hands of the Catholic Church – that’s powerful stuff. As a result, people are not going to church – not because they have lost their faith in God but because they’ve lost their faith in  the man-made institution of the church. All over the world people are getting so angry at the church’s intransigence that they’re demanding a change, and are voting with their feet. The Vatican hasn’t changed, but the church is changing around it.
HBO Where are the film subjects now? Has the film had a positive impact on their lives?

ALEX GIBNEY I think it has. I think it’s empowered them. Their mission now is to protect children. And so they’re speaking out, even if it means having to expose embarrassing details about their own past. They want to see justice done. That’s one of the things I wanted to celebrate was the heroic persistence of these deaf men in the face of so much silence from the church. And they really did make a difference.
HBO What do you hope audiences take away from the film?

ALEX GIBNEY I was raised Catholic. And I do hope that what Catholics take away from it is an understanding of the corruption of the hierarchy, which is very different than any kind of attack on the faith. I think what this film does is show what happens to institutions when they become so convinced of their own goodness that they imagine that they can do no wrong; because child abusers don’t just exist in the Catholic Church. What all these institutions seem to have in common is the concept that reputation of the institution outweighs even the damage that it does to small children. In the film we refer to a police phrase, “noble cause corruption,” which is the idea that crimes committed by members of an institution are unimaginable because the institution itself is so inherently good. Yet that unyielding sense of infallibility in the face of crimes is the very thing that’s corrupting the institution! It’s that mantle of respectability that we must always be cautious of. The church shouldn’t be able to cover up crimes in order to protect some phony notion of respectability. There are no black hats, there are no white hats. And bad apples are not what we should be looking for. What we should be looking for is to hold institutions to account. And that means that if the Catholic Church – or any other institution – wants a great reputation, they have to earn it, day after day.

Marlee Matlin Speaks Out: Help Deaf Parents Go to the Movies With Their Kids!

from famecrawler:
Marlee Matlin Speaks Out: Help Deaf Parents Go to the Movies With Their Kids!
Posted by shanaaborn on June 1st, 2012 at 2:28 pm
Marlee Matlin Speaks Out: Help Deaf Parents Go to the Movies With Their Kids!

Marlee Matlin is an advocate for issues affecting families who are deaf and hard-of-hearing.

This summer, most of us parents will be answering our kids’ cries of “We’re boooooorredd!” by checking the theater listings for screenings of the latest blockbuster films. It may be pricey to go to the movies these days, but it’s still a good way to beat the heat and keep the young ones entertained for a couple of hours.

But for Marlee Matlin, it’s not quite that simple. She, along with the 35 million other Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, often have trouble finding a film they can enjoy along with their families.

As she writes today in the Chicago Sun-Times, theaters showing captioned versions of movies may be located miles from home. “Even more puzzling, the screening times don’t make sense: 11:00 AM, 10:45 PM,” she says. “Somehow, popcorn before lunchtime doesn’t taste as good, and 10:45 PM for this mom and four kids is out of the question.” (Her children are not hearing-impaired.)

What’s even more infuriating is that it doesn’t have to be this way. Sony and Regal Cinemas have developed special wi-fi glasses that show captions within the lenses when used at movies with digital formats. “But Sony is only making 500 pairs a month,” Marlee explains. “At that rate, I might be able to see Men in Black 24 when it comes out in 2019.”

As celebrity spokesperson for the National Association for the Deaf, Marlee frequently helps raise awareness of issues and inequities affecting people who are deaf or hard of hearing. The picture here, for instance, was taken this spring, when she traveled to Capitol Hill to promote the push to get phone companies to provide “text to 911? service, which would allow deaf users to send text messages to emergency services.

Maybe we can help spread the word and urge studios and theater chains to make captioned screenings and caption glasses more widely available to the millions of families who need them. “[N]ot only would it be the right thing to do,” Marlee says, “it would mean a lot of tickets and $5 popcorn they could be selling.”

Brava, Marlee!

Sony Creates Glasses That Provide Subtitles for Movies

from flip – Disability Equality In The Arts

Sony Creates Glasses That Provide Subtitles for Movies
Published April 16, 2012 at 3:59 pm
Sony is looking to change the experience of cinema-going for anyone in need of subtitles for a movie by creating a special type of glasses that is capable of displaying subtitles on screen, just for you. Such a technology would allow anyone in need of subtitles to attend any showing they wish while others in the audience need not be bothered by the appearance of subtitles on the screen for them. The 3D-like glasses, which have a receiver attached to the side of them, will be in sync with the projector.

For further info see

of the BBC’s report on

The Christmas Cottage

The Christmas Cottage is the story of a pivotal moment in painter Thomas Kinkade’s career; when he had to help his mother keep the family home from falling into foreclosure and help his mentor and neighbor Glen through his last days. Glen’s main disabilities are due to age; he has blurry vision, memory problems, and trouble walking, but refuses to use a walker even when one is procured for him. However, he does agree to use a gnarled branch, which he calls his “staff and rod”, pointing out that it could also be used to fight off his enemies if need be. He refuses any attempt to get him out of the house and seems to be in a depression as well, often bemoaning the fact that he can no longer capture his late wife on canvas.

Another elderly character is seen out and about more often in their little town; an old lady with hearing problems who’s still playing the piano for the annual Christmas pageant and drinking martinis. Though she’s seen getting pushed around in a wheelchair for longer distances, she’s still able to stand and even help fix up the Kinkade family cottage towards the end.

Soon after the town appears en masse at the cottage, Glen hobbles over on his staff and rod to deliver his last painting as a gift. He tells them to sell it and pay off the mortgage, and explains to Thomas that he had finally figured out the secret: that leaves are impermanent, so one should always paint the light that illuminates them instead. For an uncomfortable moment, we at Disability Movies were sure he was about to fulfill the cliche of the cripple who imparts his inspirational message and promptly dies. But Glen recovers himself, has Christmas dinner with the family, and dies serenely in his studio instead.

Whoopie Goldberg suffering from hearing loss

Whoopi Goldberg has warned music fans to be responsible listeners after learning she is losing her hearing.

The Oscar winner attended the Starkey Hearing Foundation’s So the World May Hear Awards Gala in support of her deaf pal Marlee Matlin in July, and now Goldberg confesses her presence at the party had an even more personal meaning – she is also hard of hearing.

She tells the National Enquirer, “I attribute my own hearing loss – which, by the way, is suffered by thousands of people in varying degrees – to years and years of listening to music so loudly and so close to the delicate ear drum.”

According to the publication, Goldberg now wears small hearing aids under her lengthy locks of hair to help her hear low tones.

The actress has also become an advocate for the foundation, urging teens to turn down their speakers, so they don’t suffer the same fate.


Girlfriend exposes some unsettling but often unsaid truths about how the mainstream population treats and interacts with individuals with Down Syndrome (and therefore presumed intellectual disability).
The movie starts off with Evan, a rotund young man with the obvious physical characteristics of Down’s Syndrome, engaging in some pre-Facebook networking. The period in which this film is set is indeterminate, as Evan uses a rotary dial phone to make a series of calls to a list of friends and relatives, the settings and fashions seem contemporary, but nobody seems to have or mention home computers or internet access. Evan has a voice associated with commonly-held ideas about people with mental retardation, slow, deep, and slightly slurred. (It seems people with Down’s Syndrome have a significantly high incidence of hearing problems.) He has large, childish handwriting, speaks in short words and simple sentences, and seems to have problems with social subtleties and time perception (I don’t know if these last two are typical of individuals with Down Syndrome, but they are frequently present in other conditions, and seem to be the most obvious impairment to Evan’s ability to function in adult life).

Evan lives with his mother, and they spend a great deal of time together during their daily routine; they eat meals, watch soap operas, and television dramas together. Evan has an incredible memory for soap opera plots (one of those moments distributed throughout the picture-and there are a fair number of them-which may be intended to cause the audience to question their perceptions of people with Down Syndrome). Perhaps Evan is among the fortunate ones with borderline to average IQ scores, but the film does not make this clear. His scholastic capabilities are no longer relevant, for the foreseeable future he has a dead-end job, and a secure if somewhat sheltered life. Evan and his mother both work in a diner-type restaurant a short car-ride, or a long walk, away from their home. Though Evan not only waits tables, but takes out garbage and does other such dirty jobs, his continued employment is jeopardized by instances where he is late coming back from his break or takes too long in the restroom. The movie does a very good job of portraying the fact that the higher-ups at work often say negative things about him, rather than to him, and he overhears them. One scene shows Evan engaged in a task while commentary from the kitchen is heard as a running narrative in which the kitchen supervisor tells his mother that he only hired Evan as a favor to her because she didn’t want to leave him home alone while she worked, but that his taking more than an hour for a lunch break outside of the premises as a regular practice was reason to fire him.

The audience are shown that on at least one such overly-long lunch break, Evan pays a visit to Candy, an attractive young woman he has been carrying the torch for since high school. Though Candy surely is aware of Evan’s attraction to her, she is not about to reciprocate, due to the social convention that someone of “normal” intellectual and societal abilities _shouldn’t_ be romantically involved with a person whose intellectual capabilities are suspect, if not conspicuously lower. On one occasion, when his knock on the door of her house was not responded to, he got a ladder and peeped in the window, seeing her in a bubble bath. Though Candy knows he’s harmless, still, such behavior would be more than merely frowned upon at any other time and by any other person.

Shannon Woodward and Evan Sneidera

Evan has the double-edged sword of living in a small rural town, in which everybody seems to know everyone else. This provides him a strong, if informal, support system of sorts, which proves invaluable when his mother suddenly dies, and Evan is too shocked to know how to handle the situation. However, the downside of this sort of community is that everybody knows who and what everyone else is doing, and jealousies fester. The object of Evan’s affection is a single mother whose ex-boyfriend Russ is still possessive of her, but strangely unwilling to help pay her rent. Russ uses every opportunity to try to get sexual favors from Candy even though they’re no longer “together”. She’s pretty much stuck with dodging his advances by day because they work in the same auto body shop (jobs are truly scarce in this town), but has banned him from coming to the house because he accidentally hurt his small son Simon when they got into a dispute concerning Simon’s paternity.

At one point, Russ meets a suspected romantic rival at a party at which both Candy and Evan are present, and everyone witnesses Russ instigate a fistfight with the guy, who, to complicate things, is married to someone else. Evan sees his opportunity to present himself to Candy as a knight in shining armor when a distant relation, intending to keep Evan in food for a while, but unable to take him in, gives him a few thousand dollars in cash at his mother’s funeral. On one occasion when Candy is short with the rent, Evan leaves her a thousand dollars as an anonymous gift at her door. She uses it, and only afterwords finds out that it was from Evan. Though she is not romantically interested in Evan, she clearly wants to avoid even the appearance of exploiting him or taking advantage of him, and asks him pointedly about the money and where he got it. As additional opportunities to help out financially present themselves, Evan starts seeing more of Candy, and the relationship starts getting closer.

It isn’t long before Russ finds out, and presenting himself as a friend, starts to pump Evan for information about Candy’s life, and feed him false information about how to gain her favor, e.g., “she likes it rough”. Perhaps it is no accident that Russ has a serpent tattooed on his bicep.

In this small community where people think nothing of leaving windows and doors open, Russ subsequently finds an opportunity to take some of the money Evan leaves for Candy and hold it hostage in order to get additional sexual favors from Candy. Evan happens to get home early and witness Russ sexually exploiting Candy after Candy had initially called him saying that she couldn’t find the money. While Evan does not directly confront Russ, his conduct towards Candy stands in profound contrast to that of Russ.

Whatever Evan’s level and nature of disability, his moral and ethical sense is not disabled. Russ, on the other hand, appears to have the closest thing modern psychiatry and secular thinking will admit of to a moral disability, as among other things, he shows no qualms about manipulating someone he considers his societal and intellectual inferior. The character of Russ, to all appearances, displays the characteristics of a personality disorder.

One day when Russ briefly kidnaps Simon to take him to have a paternity test, and runs his car off the road, Evan finds the wreckage and carries Simon back, though when Simon went missing suspicion initially fell upon Evan.

The movie concludes with Evan having gained Candy as a girlfriend in every sense of the word.

Netflix tries to ride out wave of customer anger

When Netflix first introduced their streaming download feature, I complained about the lack of captions and was told I didn’t have to use the streaming option as it was a “free bonus” to my account. (And since when has it been ok to exclude deaf and hard of hearing folks from “free bonuses” either?) But now that Netflix has announced fees for streaming download service, they no longer have an excuse to discriminate. From SFGate:

Then last month, the National Association of the Deaf filed a lawsuit against Netflix claiming the company is in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act because most of the movies and TV shows available for streaming don’t have captions.

Netflix has said that about 30 percent of its “Watch Instantly” videos have captions and that the company hopes to have 80 percent captioned by the end of the year.
Petition for captions

But Sebastian St. Troy, a hearing-impaired consumer rights activist from Texas, said Netflix has still not done enough. St. Troy’s online petition drive to push Netflix to include captioning gained more momentum last week, in part because of the publicity over the subscription fees.