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LETTER: Closed captioning no laughing matter, despite satire used to make point

Letter writer Virginia McDonald defends her satirical take of city hall's closed captioning
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GuelphToday received the following letter from Virginia McDonald regarding closed captioning on the city's live streaming service:

My Jan. 17 letter to the editor about the poor quality of closed captioning on the city's live streaming service was written precisely to highlight a serious accessibility and communications issue, using satire as a tool.

Closed captioning is crucial to understand what is going at city hall. Having looked to captions myself for both comprehension and attempted note-taking it's reasonably safe to say that the ones provided by the city are possibly the worst out there. A first attempt to use them was an eye-opener.

Hopefully the local hearing and seniors associations, which were also contacted, will lobby city councillors and the city's own Accessibility Advisory Committee and its Accessibility Coordinator, all available through the city's web page.

My immediate circle alone includes three people with hearing needs, all of whom follow local issues and have sometimes been involved in them. The huge numbers of persons with hearing needs plus the growing senior population means the city needs to improve the captioning service.

Not being able to follow what is actually being said at city hall only adds the lack of participation in local affairs, now arguably at an all-time low.

This is also due to the loss of the city's daily print newspaper, the decline of its print weekly, which is now headquartered in Cambridge, and the pandemic, which prevents attendance at city hall. On the issue of public input to the city being ignored, which has been fashionable of late, that's a topic in its own right.

This entire unfunny package is reflected in the letter's sentence, “The dozens of spoken words simply eliminated from captions suggest that when it comes to informing the public, many things are better left unsaid and unheard.”

Having both covered accessibility issues for 15 years in local newspapers and worked on them during a stint in government, accessibility remains a keen interest. When it comes to lobbying, humour, and even satire, has proved in the past to be an effective way to encourage more readership. But as anyone will discover if they try rely on captions for city meetings, the lack of accessibility here is indeed no laughing matter.

– Virginia McDonald, Guelph