The Milton School District has decided to suspend live streaming of school board meetings and other events because it can’t comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, school officials said Wednesday.
The district’s current method of streaming does not have closed-caption capabilities for live videos, which allow people who are hearing impaired to read dialogue instead of listening to it. That’s a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, Communications Supervisor Jerry Schuetz said.
Milton still plans to record board meetings and other events, such as concerts or graduation ceremonies, and upload those videos to its website and YouTube channel.
YouTube automatically generates captions several hours after being uploaded, so the tape-delayed videos meet ADA regulations, Schuetz said.
Milton discovered in June that the Janesville and Whitewater school districts had websites that were out of compliance with the law. A person in Michigan had filed formal complaints with the Office of Civil Rights, which falls under the U.S. Department of Education’s umbrella, he said.
As Milton officials researched the issue further, they learned live streaming without closed captioning was a potential violation.
Live streaming a meeting with real-time closed captioning is not something the district can currently do. The district could hire a stenographer, but that person likely would be typing captions from home or an office, District Administrator Tim Schigur said.
That wasn’t worth the price if a weak internet connection hindered the stenographer, he said.
Milton also plans to overhaul its website.
Some people who are visually impaired use a device that describes photos and text seen on a web page. The district will write captions for its uploaded photos so the visual aids can “read” the website, even if the captions are not visible, Schigur said.
Milton began live streaming school board meetings about two years ago. It never received formal complaints, but it did have one disabled person ask for an adjustment, Schuetz said.
The district complied with that request. Besides that, some have clamored for better audio.
While Milton officials would like to live stream future meetings and events, they’re not comfortable putting the district at legal risk, Schuetz said.
“There is a strong desire to be able to provide access, but the very concept of equal access means you’re providing access for people of all abilities,” he said. “The intent of that law is to make sure we are providing not only as much access as possible, but equal access.”
Schigur said Milton will continue researching different options for live closed-caption technology. The district will keep the community updated on that search.
Until then, there is no timeline for when live streaming will resume.
“This is so new that the solution options are few, if any, right now. Eventually, things will catch up a bit,” Schigur said. “We’re just trying to be transparent on the front end as opposed to having people respond on the back end.”