“Portland: Turn on the Captions Now!”

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I’ve blogged about captioning movies on this blog before. It’s really important to me that all my films are captioned, and I provide captioning services to other people who create streaming videos.

We’ve had captioning for TV for decades. It’s one thing to turn on the captions when you’re at home watching TV or the rare YouTube video with real, accurate captions. It’s totally another when you’re in a public place like a bar or restaurant and have to ask a staff member to turn on captions for you. There can be a lot of resistance. Even though Closed Captions on TV don’t hurt anyone or obstruct the important parts of the screen, some places just don’t want to have them on, even when they’re asked to.

I encountered this type resistance once at a bar where someone parked on the stripes in the parking lot right next to the accessible parking spot. The stripes are there to keep open another space so someone can get out of a wheelchair-accessible van on the side. I asked the bartender to find the patron who parked there and get them to move because a friend of mine was about to arrive. I’m just so selfish; I didn’t want her to spend the whole evening sitting in her van alone while I was in the bar. It was as if I’d asked him to clear out the entire bar, serve only me, and not charge me. I reminded him it’s the law, that she’s a paying customer like anyone else, and I badgered and badgered before he would even address it. I wasn’t taking him away from his job. No one was ordering at the time. But it just seemed like the most offensive request possible.

This is non-disabled or able-bodied privilege: being able to not care whether access laws are broken, being personally offended that you would be asked to correct a situation, and generally not giving any weight to the experience of the disabled person. Sigh, sigh, sigh.

It’s an uphill battle, always has been. I’d love for anyone reading this blog to join in with a new campaign called “Portland: Turn on the Captions.” Sign the petition! Refusing to or being unable to turn on captions isn’t actually breaking the law, but it is a civil rights issue because it’s someone deciding that one specific group of people in a protected class of citizens can’t have access to information.

Read more about the project and its founders David Viers, Jim House, Steven Brown (who all use captions) and Carol Studenmund, a professional captioner in Portland on the Koin News website.

Let’s get some real momentum behind this movement before City Council looks into it on July 2nd.