Why Municipalities Should Care about Closed Captioning

Updated: May 11, 2023

A person watches a city council meeting with closed captions on, on their computer monitor.

Closed captions are more crucial than ever as our daily lives move onto digital platforms. While it was originally created for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, non-native English speakers have come to rely on closed captioning to keep up with what’s being said. Increasingly, captions are also used by those who want to catch up on the latest videos at times when they can’t turn on the audio. In light of these growing trends, captioning all of your city’s video content can significantly increase the reach of public service announcements, city meetings, and most importantly, crisis communication.  As the people in charge of municipal outreach and record keeping, cities need to keep captioning on all civic communication top of mind.

In the past, captioning content wasn't something that just anyone could initiate. The technology wasn't simple to use and the cost of paying humans to transcribe events manually was prohibitive to even the most well-meaning service organizations. The great news is that today AI and machine learning technologies are producing extremely reliable automated transcription and translation to many different languages. This technology has also led to solutions that are more budget-friendly and easy to use. Affordable tools exist today that can caption across all your video platforms all at once and don’t require advanced technical training.

We started with the positive reasons to adopt closed captioning, but there are cautionary reasons as well. Providing captions on all of your digital content platforms can prevent potential legal issues for your city because failure to provide it can be considered discrimination under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). What many cities don’t realize, is that even if you caption some platforms, but not others, you can still be in breach of ADA compliance. By being proactive and providing closed captioning for all public events on all platforms, city clerks can avoid this threat and ensure that the digital public record is compliant with federal regulations.

Another compliance concern relates to cities using third-party “free” video hosting platforms to host and caption city meetings. While on the surface this solution may seem like an obvious win for your city’s budget and accessibility rolled into one, there are some key issues to consider. Read the article linked above for more details and subscribe to our blog updates for our next post that gets more specific about how it concerns municipalities in particular.

To learn more about the first steps of implementing closed captioning on your city's video platforms, schedule a call with our team today!

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