SUDBURY CITY HALL

'I want to form my own conclusions': Sudbury advocate wants city meetings to become more accessible

An accessibility advocate is calling for the City of Greater Sudbury to introduce closed captioning on council and committee broadcasts just as budget deliberations get set to begin next week.

Travis Morgan is trying to get the city to put subtitles on council and committee broadcasts

Currently, broadcasts of Sudbury city council and committee meetings do not include closed captioning. (Yvon Theriault/Radio-Canada)

An accessibility advocate is calling for the City of Greater Sudbury to introduce closed captioning on council and committee broadcasts just as budget deliberations get set to begin next week. 

Currently, the city does not offer text on video with its TV coverage or webcasts. That makes it difficult for people with hearing loss, such as Travis Morgan, to understand what is going on.

"I want to be able to follow the council sessions," Morgan said.

"I don't want to have to read about it in the news or in the Twitter feed. I want to be able to think for myself because everyone has their own perceptions, their own bias and I want to form my own conclusions without having to depend on other people."

Morgan was born deaf and uses a hearing aid. He is able to get an interpreter for some city meetings, but he said scheduling can be a challenge. 

The Canadian Hearing Society estimates one in four Canadians report having hearing loss.

Morgan wants the city to use closed captioning or subtitles on its broadcasts so more people in Sudbury can become engaged in municipal affairs. 

"By subtitling the council session, they [city] will be able to reach that quarter that they're missing," Morgan said. 

Council expected to consider closed captioning options in 2018

Closed captioning is a system that displays the text of spoken word across the bottom of a broadcast, including descriptions of sound and other audio information. 

The city had an opportunity to buy the service in 2015, but decided to put the purchase on hold until 2018 when technology is expected to become cheaper.

At the time of the discussions, the annual cost of introducing delayed closed captioning to council and committee webcasts was approximately $58 thousand, and the yearly fee to bring in real-time closed captioning was about $205 thousand, according to a 2015 report that was presented to the city's finance and administration committee. 

But the price of closed captioning should not prohibit the city from making accessibility improvements, according to councillor Joscelyne Landry-Altmann who sits on Sudbury's accessibility advisory panel. 

"Just because you have a physical challenge does not mean that you can't contribute or you don't have an opinion," Landry-Altmann said.

"It just means that you have to work within the confines of the tools that you were given, and if our city can offer better service then we should do that."

Landry-Altmann wants the city to look for provincial and federal grants to pay for closed captioning, she said. 

Landry-Altmann added that she would like to see the city's accessibility advisory panel meetings live streamed so the public can monitor progress in this area. 

About the Author

Olivia Stefanovich

Reporter

Olivia Stefanovich is a network reporter for CBC News based in Toronto. She previously worked in Saskatchewan and northern Ontario. Connect with her on Twitter @CBCOlivia. Send story ideas to olivia.stefanovich@cbc.ca.