Senate approves Padden bill to accommodate the hearing-impaired

The Senate voted 48-1 today to approve Sen. Mike Padden’s measure to help people with hearing impairments by increasing the availability of closed captioning on televisions in public places. According to Padden, more than 20% of the population has hearing loss, and the number is even higher for older Washingtonians.

“This a critical bill for those who are hearing-impaired,” explained Padden, R-Spokane Valley. “It makes sure that they have access to critical information from televisions in public places.

“This bill has broad bipartisan support and is a great example of the Senate coming together for the good of all Washingtonians.”

Under Senate Bill 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.

“This bill is not about penalizing anyone, but rather educating our business community about the need to provide all Washingtonians with equal access to, and enjoyment of, restaurants, sports bars and movie theatres,” explained Padden. “Washington businesses want to do the right thing and will do just that when properly informed, as this bill would do.”

Padden points out that under his measure, the state Human Rights Commission would be 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.

“If adopted, the measure could have the added benefit of helping the state avoid discrimination litigation,” Padden added.

SB 5027 now heads to the House of Representatives for that chamber’s consideration.