One of the biggest problems for deaf people in terms of access to the internet is, with the proliferation of videos, how few of them are actually subtitled or provide any kind of access to the content. The BBC isn’t bad; they do at least make sure that the content of the video is written down beneath the video, or that the news its reporting is reported in text elsewhere on the site. Its not as good as a subtitled video however, which is why i was so impressed when i went to read David Cameron’s weblog.

I should add at this point – I’m not a Conservative Party member, or a member of any political party for that matter, but David’s weblog was reported in the news when he first started writing it – a couple years ago, i think – and i went to have a read, found it interesting, and bookmarked it then. Personally i think weblogs or similar, written by the party leader, or other leading politicians (although named – i don’t hold truck with someone else writing a weblog for, say, Jack Straw or someone) are brilliant – its an opportunity for someone like David to speak directly to the electorate that simply doesn’t happen very often (the only other time i can think of that it happens is in party literature that may be handed out, or party political broadcasts) and bypass the press editing that occurs, even with the best of intentions on the part of the press, even if the press medium concerned tries its best to be politically neutral, some editing always occurs and in that process, the meaning of what the party leader *wanted* to say may have been missed. I also found David’s early weblogs very interesting – he was going on a tour of the country, talking to people, staying with people for a while to get a real feel for their problems and issues… maybe its spin, but it spoke to me of someone who really cares. So, I return every so often, once a month or something like that, have a catch up on stuff.

However, the last time i did this i noticed something new. In scrolling back through the archives for June, I noticed that there was a small line: “Hard of Hearing? a subtitled version of this video is available at Google Video”, and the link to the subtitled version. Impressed? Ohhh… you betcha. I hightailed it over to the Labour Party & Lib Dem websites to see if a) Gordon or Nick did their own weblogs (not that i could see) and b) if they did anything similar, giving equal access to the videos they put on their websites.. and nope, they didn’t.

I returned to webcameron and continued to surf, watching the videos and being more and more impressed. I couldn’t help but notice that William Hague was involved in one of the videos, a conversation with the Dalai Lama, and i have to wonder if the fact that the videos were subtitled was down to him (the more alert will recall that he was Minister for the Disabled from 1994 to 1995). Anyway, exactly who is responsible for it is almost irrelevant.. what’s important is that someone has made the effort to reach out to the one in seven people who have some kind of hearing difficulties in the UK. That’s a tremendous demographic, and while the more cynical may point out that Mr Cameron may just be trying to get the deaf onside, I’d point out that at least Mr Cameron is giving the deaf equal access in a way that none of his other political colleagues are.

Then, to my sadness, i go to the July archive and find that the links to the subtitled versions have gone. Whether it was something done just for June, i don’t know. Its a great shame though, and i’ve emailed them asking them to reinstall the subtitled versions. With luck, they will, and if they do, kudos to the Conservatives.

I have to wonder when the Labour Party and LibDems are going to do something about their websites…?

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