Friday, April 24, 2020

"Anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can join in"

From the Boston Globe, an article of interest to Franklin.
"City and town halls across the state are largely silent this spring as efforts to slow the spread of coronavirus have forced public meetings online — leaving elected officials working to keep local government moving in the midst of a pandemic.

Until a few weeks ago, Kenneth Tavares — chairman of Plymouth’s Select Board and a 50-year veteran of town politics — never would have imagined holding video conference calls to conduct public business. Now, he feels differently.

"I think I'm a fan of it," Tavares said. "Thirty days ago, I don't think I would have said that to you."
Continue reading the article online (subscription may be required)

In this pandemic time, the Town of Franklin is not alone in moving to virtual meetings. While the Governor's Executive Order has allowed for these, and they do work, although they would seem to take longer, that is a small price to pay. Questions remain to be resolved to make this a standard practice. 

In the BCE (before coronavirus era), an open meeting basically meant, the location of the meeting was physically open for anyone to walk in, even if handicapped. In this digital arena, internet access seems to be the default. 

However, how do other forms of handicap get addressed? Assuming internet is broadly available (a big assumption), how does the online platform enable someone with a hearing disability participate? The Governor's press updates have an individual signing American Sign Language (ASL). That provides the information outward. How would a hearing impaired person, ask a question or provide feedback on a topic?

What does accessible meant for an open meeting in this digital/virtual world?
one of three screens of users for the Town Council meeting Weds (over 60 at peak)
one of three screens of users for the Town Council meeting Weds (over 60 at peak)

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