Author of the article: Dan Rolph
Dec 29, 2020
Council meetings will no longer be available in a recorded state after councillors decided against providing captioned versions of council recordings.
During the Dec. 21 regular council meeting, Bluewater clerk Chandra Alexander presented a report to councillors which outlined the municipality’s obligations according to new provincial criteria being included in the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) to provide captioning for recorded council meetings.
Beginning Jan. 1, 2021, all public websites and web content posted after Jan. 1, 2012 must include captioning in their recorded content.
Alexander said municipalities are allowed to livestream a council meeting without captioning, but once that meeting is released as a recording captioning is required under the new changes. She said there are automatic captions which are generated on YouTube, but they’re inaccurate and unreliable for providing accessible content.
“If there was somebody who depended on that closed captioning to be able to access that video as a record, it’s not sufficient,” said Alexander
According to Alexander’s report, directing staff to caption council meetings would require an amount of time nearly equal to a full-time position. Closed captioning services are also available and can cost up to $2.50 per minute for their services. Considering those costs, it was estimated that about $15,000 would need to be budgeted to provide that service should council wish to continue releasing recordings.
“There’s a cost associated with this,” said Coun. Peter Walden. “We do provide the minutes, and if we livestream, we provide that service. I don’t see what (the) advantage is to our residents of continuing this later. This is a cost.”
Alexander said the content of the meetings impacts the number of viewers for each recording. She said there can be upwards of 25 people watching meetings live, while that audience can expand to over 100 views over several weeks of a recording being posted.
Though there are people viewing the recordings, Alexander said there had been no requests for captioning from residents. She said if the municipality decided against doing closed captioning for their recorded videos, those videos couldn’t be posted due to AODA guidelines, and recordings which have already been uploaded to the Bluewater YouTube page would need to be removed.
After discussions, Coun. George Irvin made a motion to no longer provide recorded meetings and livestream only, which passed unanimously.