A federal judge has taken a step toward requiring Netflix to provide closed-captioning for the deaf on its video-streaming website, ruling that the Americans with Disabilities Act covers businesses that serve their customers online.
This has potentially wide reaching implications for many businesses with are either based online or which provide content online. While there are potentially conflicting rulings from other courts, including the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, the ruling issues by U.S. District Court Michael Ponser from the District of Massachusetts opens the door for requiring “reasonable accommodation” for disabled individuals in their use of online resources.
In the suit between Netflix and the National Association for the Deaf, Netflix argued (unsuccessfully) that Federal Communication Commission regulations exempted Netflix from having to meet the standards of the more generally worded ADA.
A 1996 federal law required closed-captioning for television programs but did not address online videos. Federal Communication Commission regulations will require captioning on Internet videos of all U.S.-produced, post-1996 programs by March 2014.
The District Court rejected Netflix’s arguments, stating that the FCC regulations and the associated timeline “reflects only minimum compliance standards” and that a court could invoke the ADA to order closed captioning at an earlier date on all videos.