TVs in public places need closed captioning turned on, especially during breaking news, to help the deaf or hard of hearing

Virginia Moore is the sign-language interpreter at Gov. Andy Beshear’s coronavirus press conferences. (WKRC image)

By Melissa Patrick
Kentucky Health News

For the nearly 700,000 Kentuckians who are deaf or hard of hearing, breaking news stories on television, like those about the new coronavirus, are often only pictures on a screen, The fix for this problem is sometimes as easy as turning on the closed captioning option on the remote, especially in public venues.

Closed captioning displays the audio portion of a television program as text on the TV screen for those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. It can be accessed through the television’s remote.

Virginia Moore, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, said to alleviate misinformation and fear, it is important to make sure information about the cornavirus and other breaking news is being communicated clearly, including to those who are deaf or hard of hearing.

“Just imagine not being able to get the correct information and how that escalates fear,” she said.

Moore said public entities, like airports, doctor’s offices and restaurants need to do their part to make sure they are using closed captioning if they have a public TV, especially if there is breaking news.

“If they have breaking news, that needs to be captioned,” she said. “It’s very easy. It’s a button on your remote; push that button, have the captioning available so that those individuals with a hearing loss will be able to see the important information coming across, just like everyone else who is sitting there.”

And while hearing loss is often associated with aging, Moore said loud music and listening to music at unsafe volumes with ear buds has resulted in one in five American teens experiencing some type of hearing loss.

Moore pointed to WDRB-TV in Louisville as a great example of a station that offers real-time closed captioning. She said WDRB has been able to offer this service because of its partnership with Norton Healthcare, which underwrites the cost.

Because real-time captioning can be costly, Moore encouraged stations across the state to seek out similar partnerships, calling it a “win-win,”  since the station gets more devoted viewers and the partner gets advertising.

It’s important to note that while some stations may have closed captioning, it is sometimes limited to whatever is on their scripts and does not include anything that is ad-libbed, and some stations may not offer any captioning for live broadcasts.

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