Padden bill to accommodate the hearing-impaired signed by governor

Today Gov. Jay Inslee signed Sen. Mike Padden’s legislation to help people with hearing impairments by increasing the availability of closed captioning on televisions in public places.

According to Padden, Senate Bill 5027 is about addressing an important issue for the more than 20% of Washingtonians who suffer from some level of hearing loss.

“One of the most rewarding parts about being a legislator is listening to members of the community who come to us looking for solutions to real-world problems they face, and being able to find those solutions and see them through the legislative process to completion,” explained Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “For those who have hearing impairment, routine access to closed captioning can be the difference between life or death – especially during an emergency when public televisions are a major means of communicating news and instructions.

“I am pleased that my fellow lawmakers and the governor saw the importance of this legislation and supported it unanimously.”

Under SB 5027, a “place of public accommodation,” such as a restaurant or sports bar, would need to show closed captioning on at least one of its public-area televisions capable of doing so. Failing to do so would be considered a violation of the state anti-discrimination law, but violators would be given 30 days to take corrective measures.

Padden points out that under the new law, the state Human Rights Commission is tasked with preparing an educational pamphlet advising employers and employees of their duty and liability. The pamphlet would be made available online, and available for employers to use for training purposes.

“This measure is primarily about education,” Padden said. “Our business owners want to do the right thing and will do so when properly informed.” The bill really does accomplish quite a bit of good, the Senator added.

“This is great news,” said Conrad Reynoldson with Washington Civil and Disability Advocate when he learned of the bill signing. “We’re finally going to get the captioning bill across the finish line.”

Padden called Reynoldson key to the effort to build support for bill. During the hearing on the bill in House Civil Rights and Judiciary Committee, Reynoldson testified, “Having closed captioning turned on does not cost businesses anything, but there are many people who rely on closed captioning, including older people who have lost hearing, people who are learning English as a second language, and it also helps those with other disabilities focus.”

The law created by SB 5027, which received the support of the Washington State Association of the Deaf, the Seattle Commission for People with Disabilities and the Washington Court Reporters Association, will go into effect on July 25.