A proposal approved this week by a City-County Council committee calls for allocating $250,000 to make broadcasts of Indianapolis and Marion County government events more accessible to deaf, partially deaf and Spanish-speaking residents.
Councilor Ali Brown’s Proposal 242 would provide the additional funding to the Marion County Information Services Agency to add English and Spanish closed captioning on local government access channel Channel 16. The captioning will be available for live TV, online streaming and archived recordings.
The proposal was unanimously approved by the Administration and Finance Committee on Tuesday evening.
Brown said former head of the Indianapolis Office of Disability Affairs Luke Labas brought the accessibility issue to her attention. Labas told her the deaf community was having difficulty getting closed captioning required for government-access channels.
“Luke connected me with a whole bunch of people, whether it’s from the Indiana School for the Deaf or advocates for deaf and hard of hearing folks, and we have a conversation and start talking about the things the city needs to do better,” Brown said.
Most TVs can auto-caption, but Brown said that process can be inaccurate and confusing, especially when the programming includes several different people talking. The service Channel 16 plans to use is expected to be more accurate and learn the voices of the councilors to become better at transcribing live speech.
Of the nearly-1.4 million Hoosiers with disabilities, 6% have a hearing disability, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Indianapolis is also home to the Indiana School for the Deaf, which has 300 deaf or hard-of-hearing students.
Brown said this is only the beginning of the efforts to bring constituents with disabilities and Spanish-speaking constituents into local government processes.
“None of this translates into being able to redress your government for grievances, then coming to our meeting,” Brown said.
Brown said she will also push for are sign language interpreters and translators at all meetings. A sign language interpreter was available at Tuesday’s meeting because Brown knew to expect a large number of deaf or partially deaf constituents in attendance, but she wants to make translators and interpreters consistently available.
The proposal will move on to the Aug. 8 meeting of the full council.