Where I live, it is difficult to obtain certain DVD titles from high street shops, particularly after the departure of Fopp and a couple of second-hand DVD stores. The supermarkets are small and tend to concentrate on the top titles of the moment – there isn’t much choice.
If you turn to online sellers, you trust them to give information on whether or not DVDs are subitltled. Unfortunately this information is quite often not given, and so we can’t buy the DVDs if we don’t know… or if we decide to risk it, it might turn out that we have wasted our money. I don’t entirely blame such sites; Amazon (for instance) seem aware of the issue, and have often said to enquirers that they can only give whatever information is provided by the studios and distributors. In one case I saw several DVDs by a particular distributor, so I emailed them direct to ask if they were subtitled. I got no reply.
I hoped I could obtain information from sellers on eBay, but, if anything, the situation there is worse. I might have been unlucky at the time I looked, but few were saying whether or not a DVD is subtitled. One said that the subtitles were ‘optional on/off’… seeming to fear that if he describes DVDs and videos as subtitled, hearing customers might assume that they are only for the deaf, and avoid purchasing them.
The other day when browsing online, I read a product review saying that a relative of the reviewer couldn’t watch an expensive box set because four out of six of the DVDs weren’t subtitled. Someone answered that the DVDs were surely worth more than one star, and the reviewer must have been in a bad mood when rating them. My jaw dropped when I read that!
These experiences frustrated me, and I joined DVD Subtitles. In my opinion, it’s one of the best things since sliced bread! It strives to keep deaf people informed of whether or not DVDs are subtitled – in full or in part (as sometimes the films are subtitled but not the bonus features). The site depends on information provided by individuals. People continue to contribute regularly, but it’s an uphill task… there are plenty of gaps in the information.
I wish I had joined much earlier. I always had faith that when people saw what was at stake, they would do their best to provide access, meaning that in time all DVDs would be fully subtitled… but, amongst other things, the (lack of) response I got from the studio caused me to doubt. I also assumed that most of my DVDs would already have been rated on the DVD Subtitles site – in fact, they were not.
I have now contributed information for exactly 50 DVDs… and I still have a way to go!
At a local charity shop I was delighted to find they had DVDs for £2 each, and I snapped up several… they remarked on it after a few days, saying “you must have a lot of DVDs!” Part of me feels guilty that I spend so much on this, but it’s more than just spending or collecting; it’s something I feel strongly about – a small thing I can try to do for people.
There are other charity shops that regularly ask £4 a DVD, but I only pay that price if there’s one I particularly want. I’m much more likely to buy DVDs when they are priced at £2 or less, and the charity shop ends up with a lot more of my money! I even bought one I knew perfectly well wasn’t subtitled, just so I could rate it on DVD Subtitles. After all, the information that’s most valuable is the negative information… “don’t buy this; it’s a waste of your time.” (I’ll re-donate it to the same shop later!!) If we don’t obtain these dud DVDs, we won’t be rating them them, hence some of those gaps – however, funds and storage space are limited.
The DVDs in hearing people’s collections are of special value, as there’s more likely to be a selection of unsubtitled ones. Somebody will be looking out for those – and you might be surprised to find they haven’t yet been rated.