KTOO's 'Gavel to Gavel' considers adding captioning for deaf viewers

Posted: Thursday, March 01, 2001

Three days of demonstrations proved closed captioning of "Gavel to Gavel" can be done.

"Now it's just a matter of raising the money" to make access for the deaf population a regular feature of television coverage of the Alaska Legislature, said Ken Dean of Southeast Alaska Independent Living.

Dean has been working toward this goal since Juneau's KTOO-TV put "Gavel to Gavel" on the air full-time in 1996.

Juneau's public TV station hired Nevada captioner Nancy Means to produce the three days of captions last week, said KTOO General Manager Bill Legere.

"We've been assuming that about 15 percent of the general population is either profoundly deaf or hearing impaired," Legere said. Estimating an Alaska population of 630,000, that means 94,500 people could benefit.

Joel Bergsbaken, an American Sign Language instructor at UAS, stopped by one of KTOO's demonstrations.

"I know several deaf people who moved to Juneau and loved it, but moved away because everything was an ordeal for them. Services haven't been developed here yet," Bergsbaken said, adding he supports any services connecting the deaf to the hearing world.

Captioning a full 121-day session, six to seven hours a day, would cost under $100,000, Legere said. Two captioners would be needed because the work is so intense.

"KTOO now has its own captioning equipment, but you still need someone to operate it," he said.

The station is looking for funding to allow captioning to begin.

"It's a kind of unsung glory for a sponsor because most people will not see the captions, but we believe we can identify a sponsor that has the civic sense that would make them want to do this," Legere said.

Ann Chandonnet can be reached at achandonnet@juneauempire.com.

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