A depressing discrimination

This week I read a very depressing thing - this editorial on a ruling against Netflix.

It's depressing because it rails against the idea that Netflix should have to make their products accessible to the deaf without charging them extra.

But you should read the comments that this attracted.

Or rather, you shouldn't. They're very depressing. Some even go as far as to say things like "This is what happens when one values equality over the costs imposed by disabled people" and "I am not convinced that the ADA had a good purpose. People are not all equal, and a strong country moves ahead by helping those who have the greatest return on investment."

Yeah, sorry you had to read that.

But the most interesting thing to me is that copyright law is the underlying reason for the fight. In the same way that Amazon removed text to speech from the Kindle to avoid a copyright fight.


In both cases, the less able suffer because the incumbent industries have decided to split off a part of their product to be sold under a separate license - subtitles/closed captioning for Netflix, or audiobook rights for Amazon. (And I should stress that this isn't the fault of Netflix or Amazon. These differences are put in place by the content producers, not the retailers.)

They're trying to segment the market to make more money, but are harming the less abled in the process.

As a hearing user, I don't want or care about subtitles and closed captions - so wouldn't pay more. So as far as I can see, this split simply exists to punish those who have hearing problems.

And because I have vision, the text-to-speech feature of an eReader has little interest to me. If I did want to hear a book being read, I'd prefer the soft and dulcet tones of Mr. Fry to the half-arsed mechanical attempts that computers usually manage. And look at the price difference at Amazon - the first Harry Potter book is £9.09 in hardback, $4.59 in paperback, £4.99 on Kindle, and £15.34 as an audiobook.
Now, the talented voice actors who perform in the audiobook are almost certainly worth their money. I don't question why the price is higher. I do question why anyone would think that a computer generated voice would be competition - it's not really the same product.
So protecting audiobook rights by banning text to speech seems to be doing nothing but punishing those with vision problems.


So there's one obvious question here.

Why are we allowing this discrimination?