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Seattle bars, restaurants must now display closed captioning on TVs

Beginning this month, restaurants, bars, and other public places in Seattle will be required to turn on captions.

Editor's note: The above video was published in 2015 when Portland passed a law requiring closed captioning in public places. 

Bars, restaurants, and any other public places in Seattle that have TVs will now have to display closed captions. 

Last month, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan signed legislation requiring captions during business hours. 

In a release following the city council's unanimous approval of the ordinance, the city said that captioning "not only benefits those who are Deaf or hard of hearing, but also the elderly, people learning English as a second language, and people with learning disabilities, attention deficits and autism."

Seattle’s Commission for People with DisAbilities asked councilmembers in January to address closed captioning. Eric Scheir, the commission's co-chair, argued that displaying captions benefits everyone.

“With this ordinance, our communities will now have the same access as everyone else watching TV in public," said Eric Scheir. "There are many people who depend on captions but don’t have equal access to information. They may stay home to watch a baseball or football game, but turning captions on will increase patronage to restaurants and bars and help the business itself.”

Businesses that do not turn on captions will be given a warning before the threat of fines. Enforcement of the law will begin at the end of the year.

Other cities have mandated similar closed captioning laws. In 2015, the Portland City Council passed an ordinance to require TVs to display closed captions in public places. 

Portland's action was another instance of members in the disability and community coming to the council asking for help. 

“Deaf people, they want equal access to what the hearing people are sitting and watching,” Philip Wolfe with the Portland Commission on Disabilities told KGW.

He said some deaf people are too intimidated to ask a bartender to turn on captions, which is why the rule was necessary.  

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