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Closed captioning requirements in Toledo show importance of accessibility

The city of Toledo is enforcing a closed-captioning ordinance that requires all public buildings in the city limits to have closed captioning enabled on televisions.

TOLEDO, Ohio — The city of Toledo enforces a closed captioning ordinance that requires all public buildings in the city limits to have closed captioning enabled on TVs.

The ordinance has been in effect since December 2022 and means that any Toledo restaurants, bars, educational institutions, hospitals, healthcare facilities, entertainment venues and public transportation facilities should have the accessibility feature on televisions in their premises. It allows those who are deaf or hard of hearing, as well as anyone in a loud location, to read the dialogue that's playing on the screen.

At the Old Bag of Nails Pub, Manager Ranita Calhoun-Bolar said her pub is in full compliance.

"I think it is a big deal," she said. "Because a person is handicapped ... they shouldn't be limited to only things that they can do, or we would like for them to do."

Before starting at the Old Bag of Nails Pub, Calhoun-Bolar said she worked at Hollywood Casino. There, she said everything was ADA-compliant, too. While two businesses she's worked at use closed captioning, she said it's important for the entire city to enforce it.

"We are accepting everyone," she said. "We don't want anyone to be shied away because they feel like they can't enjoy the moment of watching TV, of understanding what is on TV."

She said at the Old Bag of Nails Pub, staff intentionally places the salt and pepper shakers in the same position at every table so those with visual impairments know which seasoning they're using. Additionally, at every single booth, there's a television with closed captioning turned on.

Commitment to accessibility is important, said Katherine Hunt Thomas, the disability rights attorney and director of advocacy for the Ability Center. She said the center worked closely with the city to get this ordinance passed, and she's happy that it's in effect.

"My hope is that just by letting people know, letting businesses know there's a law and asking them to do it. They'll just flip that switch and turn the captions on the TV," she said.

Hunt Thomas also said that arguments against closed captioning, like saying that viewers can read lips, aren't taking into account the importance of dialogue.

"Really only catching about half of what somebody's saying when somebody's reading lips," she said. "It's really important to understand what's happening around you so that you can respond to whatever is needed."

According to the city, Toledo establishments not in compliance with the ordinance will first receive a written warning. If non-compliance continues, the establishment could be fined up to $150.


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