Effective July 25, 2021: Closed Captioning Requirements for Televisions in Public Places of Accommodation

June 14, 2021

Change of Law: Hospital Action Required

To: Rural Hospital Chief Executive Officers, Chief Operating Officers, Legal Counsel, and Government Affairs staff

Please share this information with staff responsible for facility compliance

From: Andrew Busz, Policy Director, Finance
Zosia Stanley, Associate General Counsel
Staff Contact: Andrew Busz, Policy Director, Finance
andrewb@wsha.org, (206) 216-2533
Subject: Effective July 25, 2021: Closed Captioning Requirements for Televisions in Public Places of Accommodation

The purpose of this bulletin is to inform hospitals and health systems of new requirements in Senate Bill 5027 regarding activation of closed captioning settings on televisions located in public places of accommodation.  The new requirements are effective July 25, 2021. Enforcement and potential penalties for noncompliance begin 90 days from the effective date.

The requirements apply to public areas of public places of accommodation, which includes public areas of hospitals and medical offices.

WSHA recommends facility and compliance staff of hospitals and health systems become familiar with the new requirements and make any necessary changes to settings of televisions that are in locations that are subject to the law.

Senate Bill 5027 amends the laws against discrimination in RCW 49.60 to require places of public accommodation that offer television receivers with closed captioning in public areas to activate the televisions’ closed captioning settings.  This requirement applies to public areas, which includes lobbies and waiting rooms in hospitals and medical offices. This law does not apply to areas that are not available to the general public, such as patient rooms or areas that are available to staff only.

Specific Requirements
Closed-captioned television receivers for use in any public area in a public place of accommodation must activate closed captioning with black background, white text color, and a style and size of font that is readable to people with low vision.

The requirements do not apply when the only receiver of television programming available in a public area is technically incapable of displaying closed captioning, or the place of public accommodation is otherwise exempt from the closed captioning requirement under state or federal law. In a public area with multiple televisions, up to 50 percent of on-premises televisions may be exempt from displaying closed captioning. The exempted televisions must clearly display that they do not have volume or are on mute.

A place of public accommodation may deactivate closed captioning on a television receiver actively displaying text at the request of a vision impaired person. The deactivation of closed captioning is for the length of time the requestor is at the place of public accommodation and should be reactivated upon departure of the requestor.

Under the law, the human rights commission is required to prepare an educational pamphlet advising employers and employees of their duty and liability under this section. The pamphlet should be made available online. Employers must provide employees with training on this section using the pamphlet. WSHA will monitor and alert hospitals when the pamphlet is available, though hospitals may wish to make the changes to television settings before that time.  We encourage hospitals and health systems to proactively ensure they are compliant with the requirements as a means to support and ensure access for patients with hearing difficulties.

Enforcement and Penalties
If television settings are not in compliance within 90 days of effective date of this section, a person that owns or manages a place of public accommodation that fails to comply shall be subject to a civil fine of up to $75 for each violation. Written notice of the violation and fine must be provided to the person and must state that the person has an opportunity to cure the violation by complying with the requirement within 30 days after delivery of the notice. If the person demonstrates compliance within the 30-day period, the fine will not be assessed, and the violation must be dismissed. Any subsequent violation shall result in a civil fine of up to $150.

WSHA’s 2021 New Law Implementation Guide  
Please visit WSHA’s new law implementation guide online. The Government Affairs team is hard at work preparing resources and information on the high priority bills that passed in 2021 to help members implement the new laws, as well as links to resources such as this bulletin. In addition, you will find the Government Affairs team’s schedule for the release of upcoming resources on other laws and additional resources for implementation.

Background and References
Senate Bill 5027 Television Closed Captioning—Places of Public Accommodation


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