Going to a pub or bar to catch the big game is something many Manitobans can relate to, but it's an outing not everyone can enjoy without facing barriers.

Members of Manitoba's deaf and hard of hearing community hope a new provincial law will allow them to follow all the action just like everyone else.

Ingmar Schmauder enjoys cheering on the Winnipeg Blue Bombers and Winnipeg Jets with friends at local pubs and bars.

Taking part isn't always easy because some establishments can't or won't turn on closed captioning for Schmauder who's hard of hearing.

"I feel left out in a way,” said Schmauder. “Closed captioning's part of my life. Part of the deaf community's life.

"Sometimes, the announcements and everything, even with a cochlear implant, or, somebody that's got a hearing aid, will not follow everything."

Schmauder would like to see all private establishments and public venues automatically carry programming with closed captioning on at least one television without being asked.

This is something he thinks could be accomplished under Manitoba's customer service accessibility standard – a new law which came into effect Nov.1.

"It would help so much,” said Schmauder. “Not only myself but the deaf community, to follow things."

The standard is aimed at allowing people with disabilities to access the same services as everyone else offered by private businesses and non-profit organizations without facing barriers.

It's the first of five standards to come into force under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act.

Deaf Resource Centre service coordinator Nicole Revoy, who is deaf herself, said asking for closed captioning to be turned on is something many people have just gotten used to doing.

"You feel you always have to go to the staff and ask,” said Revoy through an interpreter. “I feel it would be nice if it would be set up for individuals who are coming into restaurants so we have the same access so we can just sit down, enjoy the food and watch a show."

That's not a bad idea according to Underdogs general manager Aimee West.

Her restaurant features 36 televisions.

West said keeping the closed captioning on a few of those screens makes sense.

"I think that just makes it inclusive for everyone rather than having to stand out in the crowd and have to ask for that one TV to be put on just for them,” said West. “They might feel a little uncomfortable doing that."

While the new law doesn't define specific ways for businesses to meet customers' needs the province said keeping closed captioning on is a reasonable request.

“I think that’s something we could suggest as an example of a very easily achieved accommodation,” said Manitoba’s deputy minister of families Jay Rodgers, who’s been appointed director responsible for implementation of the Accessibility for Manitobans Act. “As we’ve been looking at how to implement the act we’ve been in really close consultation with Ontario because they’ve had many more years of experience with this.

“Very often barriers like that can be addressed very quickly simply by the person making a request at the establishment.”


The province said its focusing on getting businesses and organizations to comply with the new law through education rather than enforcement.

A provincial spokesperson said in situations where education fails to achieve compliance from businesses the legislation allows for written orders, fees and other sanctions.

Schmauder hopes some choose to do so voluntarily.

"I'm not asking for anything hard or that can't be done,” he said. “It can be done"

Schmauder said most places will turn on closed captioning if he asks but his point is he shouldn't have to ask.

He said he's waited for up to an hour after asking for closed captioning for it to come on and by that time he's missed half the game.

Schmauder also points out people who are deaf may not feel comfortable asking and that could explain the low number of requests establishments and venues receive to turn it on.