For the first time since early April, the public was able to watch two live streaming online meetings on Tuesday, July 16 being conducted by the City of Gulfport, but this time with the option to view closed captioning (CC).
According to the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) website, CC for television ensures “that viewers who are deaf and hard of hearing have full access to programming.” CC appears as text-based captions near the video that must be synchronous “with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible” and “must match the spoken words in the dialogue and convey other sounds to the fullest extent possible.”
At 7 p.m., the regular Gulfport City Council meeting was the first example followed immediately afterward by the Community Redevelopment Agency meeting. All five members of the city council attended both meetings.
Addressing the closed-captioning issue is a direct result of a letter sent to the City of Gulfport earlier this year, said David Mather, the city’s IT and library director. The request asked for what is called “remediation” or compliance to have certain public records on the municipal website be made more accessible based on the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA).
During the remediation process that began in early April, the city chose to follow legal advice and removed most of its public records archives from its website, he said.
“We know the public wants this information back up so we’ve been working non-stop but it is a slow process because it involves training staff and a whole build on the back end” of the website regarding ADA compliant templates, said Mather.
The city legally needs at least 97 percent CC accuracy to be ADA compliant, said Mather. To compare, YouTube currently offers a maximum of 95 percent CC accuracy for its videos.
According to Mather, the FCC has determined that any CC that is less than 97 percent accurate is not useful.
This week, notice of the availability of the two live online video meetings was given on the city’s home page in a box labeled as “Quick Links.” By choosing a link, members of the public were taken to a special web page that showed the videos in addition to an option to have CC either on or off.
Eventually, as in the past, notices of live online city council meetings will be given on the city website at mygulfport.us/councilmeetings, said Mather.
The city is committed to making live-stream, CC council meetings available through the web along with the corresponding video archives beginning with the July 16 meeting, said Mather. Providing CC for meeting videos captured prior to that date depends on the availability and cost of technology that would meet or exceed the minimum accuracy threshold. Accuracy percentages are determined by audits, as needed.
Currently, the cost per hour for doing CC for archival videos to 97 percent accuracy is $140 per hour, he said.
At their April 16 regular meeting, council directed staff to work with Granicus, a current vendor, to ensure that future agendas, memorandums, minutes and videos are ADA compliant so they can be made available on the website by no later than June.
On July 15, Mather said that because the technological process is taking the vendor longer than expected, additional meetings like the one for the Community Redevelopment Agency might also be included from July 16 forward. Due to cost, providing council meetings in an ADA compliant format is the current goal.
The city is pushing Granicus to complete the remediation process for several years’ worth of council–related documents by the beginning of August, he said. Training for new workflows for city staff was completed in June.
Certain financial and budget-related documents can currently be found online at mygulfport.us/finance-department.
Regardless of web availability or ADA compliance, all public records discussed in any meetings for Gulfport are available by request by calling the city clerk at 727-893-1012, said Mather.