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Legislative Resource Guide: HB 254

2017 Legislative Resource Guide

HB 254

Closed Captioning Activation Required Without Request

House Bill 254 proposes to require places of public accommodation to keep closed captioning activated on specified television receivers under specified circumstances during regular hours regardless of whether the closed captioning was requested by an individual.[1]

HB 254 will amend existing law, in which the current law requires places of public accommodation to activate closed captioning upon request.[2] Places of public accommodation include, but are not limited to: bars, restaurants, gyms, hotels, and sports venues. HB 254 eliminates the “upon request” clause, recognizing that public televisions in places of public accommodations need to be automatically accessible to Maryland’s 1.2 million Deaf and hard of hearing Marylanders.

The Governor’s Office of the Deaf and Hard of Hearing has previously posted a resource guide on the existing statute: please see http://odhh.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2015/10/SB68FactSheet1.pdf.

Currently, if a public television’s captioning is not activated, an individual must ask the place of public accommodation’s manager or staff to turn on the closed captioning. Based on feedback from the Deaf and hard of hearing community, this requirement has often resulted in miscommunication, confusion, and disputes if the place of public accommodation is unaware of their legal obligations or refuses to abide by the law’s requirements. Oftentimes, only the manager has the authority to fulfill the request and the remote to set up the closed captioning may be unavailable or locked away. Community members have also reported that enforcement of the existing law is inadequate.

All televisions are already equipped with closed captioning capability and use of closed captioning does not incur additional expenses.

In addition to enabling Deaf and hard of hearing individuals to fully receive information (including critical information pertaining to their safety), closed captioning also has increased usability for all individuals. Closed captioning use results in better comprehension for viewers who know or are learning English as a second language, an enhanced learning environment for children or adults who are learning to read, better clarity of names and unfamiliar terminology, improved comprehension of on-screen dialogue that is unclear, and improved access to televisions in noisy environments, such as restaurants and bars.[3]

(Updated January 30, 2017)

[1]http://mgaleg.maryland.gov/webmga/frmMain.aspx?id=hb0254&stab=01&pid=billpage&tab=subject3&ys=2017RS

[2] Maryland State Government Code §20-306

[3] http://odhh.maryland.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/13/2015/10/SB68FactSheet1.pdf