Edmonds man helps push through state bill requiring closed captions in public spaces

Dean Olson practically testified at the Senate hearing for SB 5027 on January 18.

Getting a Washington State Senate bill through isn’t easy, but that’s exactly what Dean Olson of Edmonds did. Senate Bill 5027 – requiring closed captions on televisions in all public accommodations in Washington state – was passed unanimously and signed by Governor Jay Inslee on May 10, for the benefit of the hearing impaired.

At the age of 4, Olson began to suffer from minor hearing loss which eventually progressed until – as an adult – he became profoundly deaf, requiring bilateral cochlear implants.

He said he spent many hours making sure SB 5027 became law in Washington state.

“I knew we could do it,” Olson said, adding with a laugh that he was relieved that he no longer had to send 8:30 am emails to lawmakers urging them to pass the bill. “The last emails I sent were to thank the sponsors for their hard work.” These included Sen. Mike Padden (4th district), who sponsored the bill and Jesse Salomon (32nd district), co-sponsor, as well as Sam Hunt (22nd district), Derek Stanford (1st district) and Claire Wilson (30th district).

Olson, who is president of the Washington State Communication Access Project (WASH-CAP), said the impact runs deep: “When you walk into a place and the captions are on, you’re going to tell people, and they will tell others and it will soon be bypassed that this place is inclusive. “

“It helps to show that as a community we welcome people with hearing impairments,” he added.

“I never thought I could help draft a Senate bill.” Olson said. “Working with Senator Salomon’s office in Washington State and then helping to lead support for SB 5027. It’s quite surprising.”

Closed captioning has been provided on a voluntary basis by most states, but Washington is the first in the country to require it statewide. The Federal Rehabilitation Act, the Disability Education Act (IDEA), and the United States Disability Act (ADA) ensure that people who are deaf or hard of hearing have equal access and opportunity to participate in events such as television in public places. .

In testimony before the Senate Justice Committee on Jan. 18, Olson said that SB 5027 “ensures that no matter which part of Washington I am in, I know the televised captions will be in. activated.

State Senator Mike Padden speaks about SB 5027 during a Senate hearing on January 18.

During the Senate Virtual Hearing on January 18, Senator Padden said that “the whole idea behind this bill is to help people who are hard of hearing, and we all have experiences ourselves, or with our families. , or know someone who is hard of hearing, and captioning has been such a positive development for the hard of hearing, so it is first and foremost an educational effort. “

The bill exempted airports, tribal lands and places of worship from the requirement, but Olson said those locations should be included as well – something he hopes to address later.

A 30-year advocate for disability accommodation and diversity, Olson got the live captioning through negotiations with the Seattle Mariners at T-Mobile Field and the Seattle Seahawks at Lumen Field and also defended the implementation of closed captioning at Benaroya Hall, White River Amphitheater. , Mountlake Terrace Cinebarre Theater, ACT Theater, Woodland Public Zoo Tunes, Edmonds Theater and Edmonds Center for the Performing Arts.

“Unlike most accommodation for people with disabilities, this is free accommodation.” Olson said. “It’s easier for everyone in a public space to ‘hear’ what is being said.”

Olson said he appreciated the bipartisan effort to push through SB 5027. Padden, the bill’s sponsor, is a Republican from Spokane while Salomon, the co-sponsor, is a Democrat from Shoreline.

“Sen. Jesse Salomon and his team really supported the bipartisan approach. I was thrilled to be a part of it, ”said Olson, a voter for the 32nd district of Solomon, which includes parts of Edmonds, Lynnwood and Mountlake Terrace.

The bill becomes law on July 25, 2021, and Olson said the state Human Rights Commission will prepare a brochure for business locations detailing SB 5027.

You can find out more about https://app.leg.wa.gov/billsummary?BillNumber=5027&Initiative=false&Year=2021.

– By Misha Carter

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