Home News New closed captioning policy under review to meet ADA standards

New closed captioning policy under review to meet ADA standards


By Joshua Vissers

By Sarah DavisThe Academic Governing Council is currently in the midst of reviewing a new policy that would require all video shown in classrooms at Grand Rapids Community College to have closed captioning or subtitles. The policy comes in the wake of multiple Americans with Disabilities Act violations at GRCC, and in light of several other colleges in the country being served with class-action lawsuits over the failure to caption video.

“Most faculty are in support of providing a learning environment that is equitable for all students,” said Jan Chapman, assistant professor of English and member of the Academic Governing Council at GRCC. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t concerns about the potential requirements.

“…some faculty are concerned that implementing the policy will require an extended wait with materials they commonly use for a course,” said Chapman. “Others are concerned about reduced spontaneity for current events. Several instructors wonder about materials used by students in presentations. Will the policy apply to their presentations, as well?”

Dominic Dorsey, Director of Accessibility at GRCC, is confident that these issues can be resolved.

“If approved there would be a period to work out all of the process issues in how it would actually be implemented before going into effect at a later determined date,” he said in an email. “The policy isn’t designed to just benefit students who are deaf or hard of hearing; it benefits students who are English language learners, students with ADD or ADHD, or simply students with learning challenges who are aided by the captions to improve note taking or cementing concepts and increasing comprehension.”

Faculty are also concerned about obtaining the copyright to subtitle each video, and the accuracy of existing closed captioning.

“One instructor noticed that there were major errors in the first thirty seconds of a video and that the errors were substantial for accurately comprehending the text,” Chapman said, referring to a Youtube video a teacher wanted to use for class on short notice.

“Currently this is our obstacle, in converting video used in up to the minute learning,” Dorsey said. “It poses a challenge in terms of the policy, but it also poses a considerable challenge to any deaf or hard of hearing students who are unable to participate in this opportunity because the format is inaccessible.”

The policy will be discussed at the next AGC meeting at 3 p.m. on Dec. 10 in the Multi-purpose room of the Student Community Center. A final hearing of the policy will take place in January.


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