Restaurants, bars, banks, gyms, and other public venues in Boston with televisions are now required to turn on the closed-captioning function to increase access for people with disabilities.
“Improving communications access in public spaces across Boston is critical to Boston truly being for everyone,” said Mayor Michelle Wu, who signed a City Council-passed ordinance on Friday. “This ordinance removes barriers for people with disabilities, and I am grateful to the Disabilities Commission, Disability Advisory Board and the entire Boston City Council for their leadership and advocacy.”
In 2020, then-board member Wesley Ireland raised the issue of requiring that live transcripts of a program’s audio content be shown scrolling across the bottom of the screen.
During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, TV stations broadcasted municipal press conferences, public health updates, and other information that wasn’t available to the deaf community, people with hearing disabilities, and people who speak a language other than English.
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At least a half-dozen cities and and one state have instituted a similar captions requirement.
“I am excited to see Boston joining the ranks of other big cities like Seattle and San Francisco to require captioning on public facing televisions,” said Ireland, board chair. “It is an equity issue I have faced in the past and it is finally addressed.”