Allen reintroduces bills expanding open caption movies, expanding employer-paid parking benefits to all transit

Today, Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen will re-introduce three bills from last Council period.

Open Movie Captions Requirement Act of 2019
This bill requires a certain percentage of showings of open captioned movies shown at the District’s movie theaters to ensure the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind community can enjoy the accessibility of a trip to the movies. The impetus of the bill came last Spring after a group called the DC Deaf Moviegoers met with Councilmember Allen to highlight the challenge and frustration with trying to enjoy a trip to the movies using the current accommodations.

“There’s a large number of people who have simply given up on going to the movies because the accommodations for those who are Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind are cumbersome or unreliable to the point it isn’t worth the price of admission,” said Councilmember Allen. “Beyond those who are deaf, providing a selection of movie screenings that offer open captions is appealing to seniors, military veterans and others who experienced hearing loss, and families with young children who find the text helps children focus.”

The bill takes a tailored approach, recognizing not all patrons will want to watch a movie with captions – only 12 percent of a movie’s weekly scheduled showings would need to include open captions. There are seven co-introducers for the bill: Councilmembers Allen, Grosso, Nadaeu, Evans, Robert White, Silverman, and Bonds.

Office on Deaf and Hard of Hearing Establishment Act of 2019
This bill would create an Office on Deaf and Hard of Hearing, which would work alongside the Office on Disability Rights to provide policy recommendations and advocate on behalf of the Deaf, Hard of Hearing, and Deaf-Blind community to increase accessibility from young children, workforce development, and a more standardized way to ensure ASL interpreters are available at public meetings. Around 30 states nationwide have already established an office like this.

Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act of 2019
This bill, also known as the parking cash-out bill, aims to increase the incentives for employees to use public transit, cycling, or walking while decreasing the incentive to drive a single-occupancy vehicle to work in DC. The bill requires employers who volunteer to offer parking as an employment benefit to match that offer for use on public transit or other forms of commuting including cycling and walking.

“Last year, the Council passed groundbreaking legislation that would reduce carbon emissions in the District by more than 40 percent by 2050. That’s a huge step forward, but we still need additional incremental efforts to reach the Mayor’s goal of a 50 percent reduction,” said Councilmember Allen. “Like it or not, to reduce carbon emission by enough to avert the most dire consequences of climate change, we simply need to drive less.”

Employers who currently offer parking subsidies for employees would also have to offer the employees a few option. First, employees would have to be offered a subsidy for their Metrobus or rail commute instead. Or, second, to increase the employer contribution to health care costs or increase salary or a combination of the two. Alternatively, the employer could choose to pay a compliance fee, to stop subsidizing parking, or to create a plan to reduce single occupancy vehicle trips. The menu of options for employers has expanded from last year, in response to comments at a public hearing held by Councilmember Mary Cheh, the Chair of the Committee on Transportation and the Environment.

This version of the bill makes a few other changes from last year: it defines the value of parking, which makes compliance clearer for employers. Employers still don’t have to comply until they renew a parking lease, but now employers who own their own parking are exempted from the requirements of the bill; after many conversations, it became clear that it would be very difficult for employers who own parking to comply. If employers don’t own or lease parking, but provide a subsidy in some other way, those employers would have 60 days after the passage of the bill to begin compliance.

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