US deafness organisation wins next stage of Netflix captioning suit

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Thursday, 21 June 2012 13:36pm

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) has had a significant win in its lawsuit against the online movie provider Netflix, with the District Court of Massachusetts holding that the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) applies to website-only businesses.

The NAD brought its suit against Netflix in July 2011, alleging that it violated the ADA by only providing captions on 5% of its ‘Watch Instantly’ streamed programming. Judge Ponser denied Netflix’s motion that the ADA applied only to physical businesses. “In a society in which business is increasingly conducted online, excluding businesses that sell services through the Internet from the ADA would run afoul of the purposes of the ADA and would severely frustrate Congress’s intent that individuals with disabilities fully enjoy the goods, services, privileges and advantages, available indiscriminately to other members of the general public.”

Judge Posner’s ruling also clarified the impact on the lawsuit of the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act, which directed the Federal Communications Commission to make rules for the provision of online captioning. Netflix had argued that the act “carved out” online video programming as separate from the ADA, but Judge Posner dismissed this, stating that there is “no conflict between the statutes”.

Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, welcomed Judge Posner’s ruling, calling it“a major decision that ensures the ADA remains current with this technological age and makes it possible for deaf and hard of hearing people and people with disabilities to have full access to the same programs and services available to everyone else”.

For more information, see the report on NAD’s website.

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