Sunday, November 23, 2014

Talks could bring closed captioning to city broadcasts

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 6/17/2013

Closed captions could be added to the televised broadcasts of Ottawa City Commission meetings in the near future to aid hearing-impaired residents in the Ottawa community and surrounding area.

Chuck Bigham, the City of Ottawa’s information technology director, proposed a $4,500 increase in his department’s 2014 budget to add closed captions — a text version of the spoken part of a televised broadcast, movie or computer presentation. The city commission’s twice-monthly regular meetings are televised on the city government access Channel 20.

Closed captions could be added to the televised broadcasts of Ottawa City Commission meetings in the near future to aid hearing-impaired residents in the Ottawa community and surrounding area.

Chuck Bigham, the City of Ottawa’s information technology director, proposed a $4,500 increase in his department’s 2014 budget to add closed captions — a text version of the spoken part of a televised broadcast, movie or computer presentation. The city commission’s twice-monthly regular meetings are televised on the city government access Channel 20.

The request came out of an effort to make the broadcasts compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, Richard Nienstedt, Ottawa city manager, told city commissioners during their study session Monday afternoon.

The city commission is in the process of reviewing the departmental and community service components of the budget as it crafts its 2014 version in the coming weeks.

Closed-caption broadcasts would be another step toward making the City of Ottawa’s services and facilities inclusive for all residents, Nienstedt said.

Bigham told commissioners that Caption Solutions, a Lawrence company that specializes in closed captions, would listen to the city commission meetings and type every word that is said and then relay it back to Ottawa, where it would show up in real time on the live feed as typed text on the screen.

“It’s an expensive process,” Bigham said. “They charge an hourly rate — it costs about $125 an hour, with a minimum fee of one hour [per broadcast].

“So I guess there is some incentive for you to keep your meetings to under an hour,” Bigham said jokingly to the group of smiling commissioners. “This service is necessary, because we’re just not quite there yet with voice activation [closed-caption technology],” Bigham said.

In addition to aiding the hearing impaired, closed captions also have been used by airports, restaurants and other noisy environments where audio cannot be easily heard by the average viewer.

The technology department’s overall proposed budget would increase about $13,000, from $207,076 in 2013 to $220,078 in 2014.

In addition to the additional $4,500 for closed captions, the other $8,500 increase was reflected in the department’s salary and overtime line items.

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