SEBRING — Videos of meetings have returned to the Highlands County Government website ... to an extent.

Links have reappeared for the last two Board of County Commission meetings on Feb. 19 and March 5, along with the Feb. 28 meeting of the Tourist Development Council.

The TDC meeting might have some hiccups with certain internet browsers, displaying just a test pattern and no sound. The two County Commission meetings play without flaws, but also without captions.

Assistant County Administrator Tasha Morgan said there should be a pop-up window to allow people to activate closed captioning. As of Thursday, it wasn’t working for her or for the Highlands News-Sun.

The current module the county uses to list and replay old meeting videos should have the capability to show closed-captions for videos that have had captions added to them.

Currently, Morgan said, it does not appear to be working, and it does not appear to be a problem with a pop-up blocker.

She said administration would reach out to information technology staff at the Clerk of the Courts Office, which handles the internet capabilities for county departments.

Up until now, the problem seemed to be fixed. County Administrator Randy Vosburg made an announcement at the beginning of the Feb. 19 meeting that livestream video of that meeting would have captions in real time by a per-hour paid service.

Commissioner Chair Jim Brooks asked commissioners and speakers to give their names and speak directly into microphones. By the end of the meeting, Vosburg believed the county had satisfied concerns and complaints made under the Americans with Disabilities Act [of 1990].

Prior to Feb. 19, livestream video and saved videos did not have closed captions. In January, Vosburg received form-style complaint letters about a lack of captions, descriptive audio or printed transcriptions, similar to the types of letters other local governments throughout Florida and the nation had received.

He said Highlands’ letter came from someone who did not appear to be a local resident, now or in the past.

Online links to video of county meetings were removed, pending what Vosburg and County Attorney Joy Carmichael could find out about ADA requirements.

Vosburg originally estimated it might cost $40,000-$60,000 for equipment and software to provide closed captioning, along with the per-hour charge for real-time captions of $100-$140.

For audio recordings of other meetings, board personnel or the Clerk of the Courts Office would have to transcribe audio for ADA requests.

For the Feb. 19 meeting, Vosburg estimated the cost for livestream closed captions at $435.

With an average of 26 meetings per year, including the special budget meetings, he estimated the annual cost at approximately $12,000.

Vosburg also said the county potentially saved the $40,000-$60,000 cost by already having the capability to activate captions in the existing system.

Carmichael said March 5 that the county has also dealt with concerns about livestreaming on Facebook by designating the county’s website as the official site for ADA-compliant live streaming, and putting a notice to that effect on the Facebook page.

She said she believes that will address any claims of a lack of captions on the Facebook site.


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