In the last month lawsuits have been filed against two online media and entertainment powerhouses for failing to provide captioning of online content.
Netflix, the leading U.S. provider of on-demand video, is being sued by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not providing users who are deaf with equal access to its “watch instantly” video content. In addition to the NAD, other plaintiffs include the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (WMAD/HI) and one individual plaintiff. The lawsuit states that “While streaming (video) provides more access to entertainment to the general public, it threatens to be yet another barrier to people who are deaf and hard of hearing.” The suit claims that Netflix provides captioning on less than 5% of its streaming titles, despite repeated requests from the NAD dating back to 2009, and that by failing to provide captions Netflix increases the sense of isolation and stigma suffered by people with hearing impairments. The ADA requires that all “places of entertainment” provide “full and equal enjoyment” for people with disabilities. Plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that Netflix’s behavior constitutes a violation of Title III of the ADA.
Another advocacy group, the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness (GLAD), along with three individual plaintiffs, has filed a lawsuit against Time Warner Inc., the owner of CNN.com. The suit claims that Time Warner discriminates against people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing by failing to provide captioning of its on-line videos on CNN.com. Anna Levine, the plaintiff’s attorney, said, “Time Warner’s refusal to provide captioning of its videos is astounding given how central the internet is in today’s communication environment. The lack of captioned videos means that millions of people with hearing loss will continue to be denied equal access to video news content on CNN.com.”
Both lawsuits seek injunctions requiring the companies to provide closed captions on all streaming video content.