• Adam Dayan, Esq.

Closed Captioning For The Hearing Impaired

Netflix is back in the news and this time it's not about price hikes but, rather, closed captioning for its hearing-impaired audience, or potential audience, and the extent to which Netflix is legally required to provide captioning for its video streaming service.


http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/envelope/cotown/la-et-ct-netflix-closed-captioning-20120625,0,2349779.story


In the recent federal court case, National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix, 3:11-cv-30168-MAP (June 19, 2012), Judge Ponsor of the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts denied Netflix's motion to dismiss the case which is brought under the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §12182(a), for failing to provide equal access to the video streaming website. An important issue in the case is whether the Internet can be considered a "place of public accommodation" under the ADA. Judge Ponsor believed that it could be.


For a brief and interesting analysis of this decision see:


arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2012/06/will-the-americans-with-disabilities-act-tear-a-hole-in-internet-law/


Another interesting question this case raises, which is applicable not just here but in any instance of statutory or constitutional construction, is - To what extent was the law meant to encompass new technologies that come into existence after the law was written. Judge Ponsor cited to the legislative history of the ADA where Congress explicitly addressed this issue: "[T]he committee intends that the types of accommodations and services provided to individuals with disabilities, under all of the titles of this bill, should keep pace with the rapidly technology of the times." The case will go forward, with broader implications than just Netflix.


This morning I also received a link to a video emanating from the Collaborative for Communication Access via Captioning ("CCAC") on the importance of captioning. Worth a look:


http://usodep.blogs.govdelivery.com/2012/06/13/dont-leave-us-out/

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