Portland Turns the Captions On


Your favorite sports team is in the running for a playoff spot, so you go to your favorite bar and grill to catch the game. You order some appetizers, and settle in to root the players to victory.

There’s only one problem: There’s no commentary. At least there’s no evidence of it, as you wouldn’t be able to hear over the noises of the bar, and there aren’t any closed captions.

How are you going to know about any penalties? Or how about backgrounds of some of the players? Sure, you can still see the game, but you don’t get the entire intended experience.

That’s an issue that no longer exists in Portland, Oregon.

Starting December 18th, all televisions in public places must have the closed captions turned on thanks to an advocacy group, Portland: Turn the Captions on Now.

While accessibility and enjoyment for everyone was a clear goal, one of the main concerns was with the transmission of emergency information. Carol Studenmund, Portland: Turn the Captions on Now member, former OCRA President and President of LNS captioning said, “…when emergency coverage goes on the air, the captions need to be visible so everyone can understand what is being said. The bottom line of this effort was to make sure all citizens in Portland have access to important information during times of emergency.”

Studenmund, along with┬áCommunication Specialist at Hearing, Speech, and Deafness Center in Seattle Jim House first talked about starting this initiative in┬áMay 2014. With the help of the rest of the Turn the Captions on Now group, advocates Steven Brown and David Viers, they brought the initiative to the County Commissioner in 2014. The City Council voted 5-0 November 18th, 2015 to pass the ordinance, requiring all businesses in Portland to turn their captions on their televisions and to leave them on. Businesses that don’t comply could face up to $500 per day in fines.

VITAC congratulates the City of Portland, and it is our hope that many other cities and municipalities will soon follow suit to grant accessibility for all.

By Brittany Bender