Captioning on Public TV Promotes Access For Bostonians With Disabilities

by | Jan 4, 2023 | Discrimination |

Mayor Michelle Wu signed an ordinance requiring that places of public accommodations in the City of Boston, such as restaurants, bars, banks, and gyms, turn on the closed captioning function on any televisions in public areas. The ordinance, sponsored by Council President Ed Flynn, was unanimously approved by the Boston City Council with the goal of removing barriers in public spaces related to communications 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. “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.”

“This ordinance ensures persons with disabilities have full access to information and resources shared to the public,” said Council President Flynn. “I want to thank my City Council colleagues, Mayor Wu, and Commissioner McCosh for their leadership, and to the advocates for their work on this issue. This is a step towards accessibility. We will continue to focus on equity for residents and visitors with disabilities. Disability rights are civil rights.”

When businesses enable the “captions” function on their TVs, a live transcript of the program’s audio content is shown scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Requiring visible captions to be turned on will remove a significant communication barrier for people with hearing loss and other disabilities. This will also be beneficial to the general public, as it increases access to information in crowded and noisy commercial spaces where it may be difficult to hear.

Massachusetts residents are protected from discrimination by places of public accommodation by both federal and Massachusetts laws, including Title II of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272.

A place of public accommodation may include: restaurants, theaters, hotels, gyms, libraries and museums just to name a few.

Protected categories include, but are not limited to, race, color, national origin, disability, sex, religion, and sexual orientation. Individuals may not be treated differently or denied full and equal enjoyment of a place of public accommodation because of their membership in a protected category. Remedies for violation of the law include injunctive relief, monetary damages, and attorneys’ fees.

You have the right to be free of discrimination for protected categories in places of public accommodation across the Commonwealth

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