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Captioning for Municipal Governments

ODHHS Information and Technical Assistance Series

A Guide to Captioning for
Municipal Governments
(Source: Denise Cole and Gary Robson,10/93)
Introduction to Closed Captioning for Municipal Government
Approximately 24 million people in the United States have some degree of hearing loss. There are deaf and hard of hearing people of all cultures. Deafness may occur at any time from birth through advanced age. A census study from the National Information Center on Deafness concluded that the community of deaf and hard of hearing in the United States has grown from 20,246,000 in 1989 to over 24,000,000 in 1993. Although their community has grown, their access to information continues to be limited.
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was enacted in July 1990 to prohibit discrimination against people with disabilities. This Act gives all Americans with disabilities, including the deaf and hard of hearing, a new venue for expressing their rights as individuals to have equal access to public information and services.
As part of a plan to implement Title II of the ADA, the U.S. Department of Justice has written specific requirements and regulations. These regulations outline the obligation of state and local governments to provide access to information for the deaf and hard of hearing community.
The following excerpt is taken from the regulations of Department of Justice addressing the obligation of local governments to "remove communication barriers" for the deaf and hard of hearing community:
(b) (1) A public entity shall furnish appropriate auxiliary aids and services where necessary to afford an individual with a disability an equal opportunity to participate in, and enjoy the benefits of, a service, program, or activity conducted by a public entity.

(2) In determining what type of auxiliary aid and service is necessary, a public entity shall give primary consideration to the requests of the individual with disabilities.
The ADA requires that individuals with disabilities be given access to public entities. Such places must provide "auxiliary aids and services" for more effective communication for deaf and dard of hearing-individuals. The following excerpt is from Title II of the ADA:
Americans with Disabilities Act

28 C.F.R. Part 35, 56 Fed. Reg. 35694 (July 26, 1991)
Under Title II - Subtitle A - Sec 201 - The term public entity was defined as any State or local government; any department, agency, special purpose district, or other instrumentality of a State or States or local government.

The Justice Department´s regulation defines "auxiliary aids and service" as "...closed caption decoders, open and closed captioning, video text displays, or other effective methods of making aurally delivered materials available to individuals with hearing impairments."
Section 402 of the ADA is an amendment of the Communications Act of 1934 and specifically requires captioning of all public service announcements.
"Any television public service announcement that is produced or funded in whole or in part by any agency of Federal Government shall include closed captioning of the verbal content."
As stated by the National Center for Law and Deafness, the appropriate auxiliary aid or service depends on the need of the individual. For example, "some Deaf people may need a sign language interpreter to follow the proceedings conducted at a city council meeting, but others may not use sign language" and would require the use of a computer translation system. "The system can display instantaneous transcripts of the proceedings on a [computer] screen." Many people lose their hearing later in life and do not understand sign language. Therefore, captions or realtime translations represent the only medium which is accessible to all deaf and hard of hearing people.
Captions and realtime translation are produced by personal computers, software and special equipment such as the CAPtivator system from Cheetah Systems, Inc. in Fremont, CA.
What are Captions?
There are two types of captions; open and closed. Open captions are the visible subtitles that appear on a TV screen, or video taped production. Closed captions are subtitles that can only be seen if the television is equipped with a decoder. The decoder is a device that translates codes from a video signal to readable text and outputs the information on the television screen. It must be plugged into the television set and, when active, will transmit captions.
Until recently, deaf people had to buy this extra piece of equipment separately. However, since July of 1993, deaf and hearing-impaired people no longer need to buy a decoder. The Television Decoder Circuitry Act (TDC) took effect in 1993 and requires all new televisions to have built-in decoder circuitry. This means that every 13", or larger, television set sold in the U.S. in 1993 has the built-in capability to output captions. This capability is providing an invaluable service to the large population of deaf and hearing impaired people throughout the U.S.
Upon publishing the TDC, Congressional officials also found that captioning can improve the quality of life for people who are partially hearing-impaired. The following excerpt is from the TDC:

Under Sec. 2. (1)...deaf and hearing impaired people should have equal access to the television medium. (4) Closed-captioned TV provides benefits for 38% of older Americans who have some loss of hearing. Closed-captioning makes it possible for this audience to gain access to the television medium, thus, improving the quality of their lives. (5) Closed-captioning can assist both hearing and hearing impaired children with reading and other learning skills, and improve literacy skills among adults. (6) Closed-captioning can assist those among our Nation´s immigrant population learning English as a second language with language comprehension. (9) the availability of decoder-equipped television sets will significantly increase the audience that can be served by closed-captioned television, and such increased market will be an incentive to the television medium to provide more captioned programming.
Closed and open captioning, the CAPtivator system, and the provisions of the Television Decoder Circuitry Act are direct examples of aids and services for the hearing-impaired.
The Justice Department published the following statement about Title II of the ADA:
"Television and videotape programming produced by a public entity are covered by this section. Access to audio portions of such programming may be provided by closed captioning."

56 Fed. Reg. 35712 (July 26, 1991)
As stated in the Congressional findings, another advantage of captioning is its educational value. Children´s programs are now captioned to help them with their reading and spelling skills. Also, millions of immigrants learning English as a second language will benefit from the service that closed-captioned programs provide. The CAPtivator system is already being used to caption programs broadcast in Spanish to a multi-lingual audience.
When you buy a full captioning system fromCheetah Systems it includes an IBM compatible PC, Encoder, Decoder, CAPtivator Online software, and a steno keyboard. The equipment cost is about $10,000-$14,000. Obviously, this can vary dramatically based on the configuration of equipment you choose.
You can also purchase software only, and provide the rest of the equipment yourself.
The ADA and you
Are you complying with the ADA? If you broadcast local government hearings, public speeches by government officials, or town meetings, or publish video taped messages to the public, you are responsible to provide appropriate communication services for the deaf and hard of hearing people.
Fortunately, there are quick solutions. Cheetah Systems, Inc., located in Fremont, California, can provide the hardware and software equipment for your communication requirements.
Our CAPtivator software is a complete captioning system used by top stenocaptioners.
Many City and County Governments have implemented progressive captioning installations using CAPtivator, including the first city to provide realtime captioning for all of its broadcast meetings (Fremont, California) and the first county as well (Hillsborough County, Florida).
For more information about CAPtivator, the equipment required for Closed-captioning, or information about open and closed caption services in your area call:
(800) 829-2287 (Voice or TDD)
For more information or questions regarding the Americans with Disabilities Act, the National Council on Disability has established an ADA Hotline:
ADA Hotline
or write:
U.S. Department of Justice,
Civil Rights Division Coordination and Review Section
P.O. Box 66118
Washington, D.C. 20035-6118
(202) 514-0301 (Voice)
(202) 514-0381/83 (TDD)
For legal advice, contact:
National Center for Law and Deafness
Gallaudet University
800 Florida Ave. NE
Washington, DC  20002-3695
(202) 651-5373 (Voice or TDD)