Faces Behind the Screen: Gage
We met Gage at the American Sign Language (ASL) Festival at Northeastern University. Gage is a double major in communication and counseling psychology at Wheelock College. He was first introduced to the Deaf and hard of hearing community when he decided to take an ASL class as the language course for his major in communication. Although he didn’t know much about it before the course, he immediately became interested in the rich culture of the Deaf community.
- It was so rewarding to go [to class] every Friday morning for three hours instead of sleeping in or playing video games. And that led me to more opportunities, like what I’m doing now, which is volunteering at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing up in Allston.
Initially, Gage started volunteering at the Horace Mann School for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing in order to engage more with the ASL language. However, through this experience, he became more and more connected to the Deaf and hard of hearing community. Gage teaches video production to high school students – freshmen, juniors, and seniors – and he loves getting to work with such dedicated individuals.
Charlotte, the teacher at the Horace Mann School, has welcomed Gage into her classroom to help her students. The students produce bi-weekly news segments, called Cougar News, and Gage helps on the technical side of things, teaching them how to work the camera, use the computers, and operate different editing programs. The next hurdle these students are going to face is closed captioning. Although the students sign their entire news broadcast in ASL and have questions pop up in text, they want to caption the videos to make them accessible to hearing individuals as well.
In his personal endeavors, Gage would like to be more cognizant of accessibility and the people in the Deaf and hard of hearing community. For example, when he was introduced to Deaf culture and ASL, he realized how important captioning is and feels it’s unfair that not all visual media is captioned.
- It’s totally an access issue, and it’s discriminatory not to caption because you’re ignoring a complete culture of people who base their language and communication off of visuals. We shouldn’t be straying away from film as its original intent as a visual medium.
Knowing what he knows now about the Deaf and hard of hearing community, Gage thinks captioning should be required:
“ It shouldn’t just be an add on that it’s like, oh, well, we have a cool feature, our closed captioning. That should be a necessity just like everything else. ”
Sophomore, Wheelock College
It shouldn’t just be an add on that it’s like, oh, well, we have a cool feature, our closed captioning. That should be a necessity just like everything else. Just like the reason light shines on the screen to show you the movie, there should be captioning for everyone to enjoy the films and enjoy whatever media you’re producing.
Although captioning is legally required in many cases, it is not necessarily enforced until a specific incident occurs – say, for example – if a Deaf student requests captions on a video that is part of the course syllabus.
Gage feels that in America there seems to be a stereotype with captions and subtitles because people don’t want to have to read while they’re watching a movie. As a filmmaker, Gage thinks that a good story should be able to get a message across visually as well as with verbals and dialogue:
- For me, as a narrative filmmaker, I think getting the intent of the story across with the pacing [is important]. And I think when people see captioning or they hear about captioning, us as Americans, with foreign films, we see captioning, we’re like, ugh, we have to read during a movie. But it’s more than that. I mean, if you are telling a good story, if you’re giving– I think it’s being able to produce a story that’s both visually appealing and the story itself through its verbals or its dialogue is also interesting.
“ And after its release, that was one of the things I was really disappointed in myself with, that, even though we were pressed for time, I didn’t really take the time to caption my video and I didn’t take the time to make it accessible to everyone.”
Gage goes on to explain further that he feels failing to provide captions isn’t fair to the producers or the potential viewers:
- Because for the producers, it’s unfair you’re not reaching the biggest audience you possibly can just by adding one simple aspect to your film. And for the audience, it’s obviously not fair for those who are Deaf or hard of hearing that need the captioning to enjoy the story as much as their hearing counterparts. It’s unfair for them that there’s a piece of art that they can’t fully enjoy because someone didn’t put in the thought to add captions.
As someone who isn’t hard of hearing or Deaf, Gage shares a bit of his experience getting involved with the Deaf community and the enriching culture:
- And the Deaf culture is a more collectivist culture apart from our hearing American culture, where we are very much individualistic. Everyone really picks each other up. People that I’ve interacted with really pick each other up and want the best for one another just innately.
“ And the Deaf culture is a more collectivist culture apart from our hearing American culture, where we are very much individualistic. ”
Although Gage has several years of school ahead of him before he graduates, there is one thing that he knows he definitely wants to do after graduation, and that is to continue being a part of the ASL community.
- Because once I open my eyes to that, to Deaf culture as existing, even just acknowledging it, I start to see it everywhere. And it’s really magical as a hearing person who has never experienced that ever. And I just really want to stay in the Deaf community. I want to stay practicing my ASL in my next pursuit.
We want to extend a huge thank you to Northeastern University for hosting the ASL Festival.