Gaby Evans was born severe-to-profoundly deaf as a result of genetic deafness and congenital illness. At the age of 18 in 2016, she received bilateral cochlear implants and receives support from audiology services at The Hearing House.
She has recently started as the Communications Intern at Able, an Auckland-based organisation that provides captions and audio descriptions across most broadcast media for all deaf and blind/low-vision individuals in Aotearoa.
Kia ora, Gaby. Tell us a bit about yourself, your journey to working with Able, and the accessibility space.
I grew up in rural New Zealand and spent my high school and university years in Auckland. I enjoy video editing, writing, art, and filmmaking. Outside of those things, I enjoy hiking and cycling as I really like getting to explore the outdoors and a break from screens. Currently, I am working for Able as part of their communications team, which I joined after being part of Able’s Impact Story campaign, sharing my own experience on video about my experience with captions and why they are so important.
When did you discover captions?
I had heard about captions/subtitles for many years while growing up but as this was the time when the internet was on the cusp of being ubiquitous and many people still had dial-up internet (including my family), there wasn’t a sure way of figuring out how to turn the captions on. The TV guide certainly never explained how to turn them on, even though that was one of the first places to look for advice back in those days!
It wasn’t until I attended a deaf boarding school where older deaf adults and students taught me how to turn on the captions – all that was needed was the knowledge of a couple of codes and a certain button on the TV remote (back in the day of Teletext captioning). While this may seem simple in hindsight, it was definitely a valuable piece of knowledge that was important to be passed on from older deaf adults and students to younger students. Things certainly became much easier and more automated with the widespread usage of digitally broadcast TV a few years ago and Sky introducing captioning to many of their channels.
Having access to captions right from the very first episode makes me feel like I’m on the same page as everyone else – no more making up names for characters based on what I can piece together and trying to piece the story together based on what I can visually see alone. I’m not left in the dark after everyone else discovers what is happening in the story from listening to the dialogue.
What are your hopes and dreams for the future of accessible TV?
I hope that in New Zealand, the increasing rates of captioning across many shows and services such as TVNZ+ continue to rise. With the rise of open captioning being used for short videos on the internet to benefit those who may be watching videos in a crowded environment with the sound off, captioning across all services includes everyone in many situations where captioning may be more useful/beneficial than using sound such as a crowded train, not just those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing.
How To Access Captions/Subtitles or Audio Description On Your TV
Recently, Able has launched the “How To Access” campaign which is focused on distributing booklet guides containing instructions and information on how to turn on captions/subtitles for the Deaf/hard-of-hearing, or audio descriptions for the blind/low-vision on TV. If you are someone or a business/organisation that is interested in having a How To Access booklet guide, please fill out this survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/CNGYTGD or contact email@example.com.