“We’re so pleased that Netflix worked jointly with plaintiffs to devise a reasonable and workable way to achieve 100% captioning. The (Consent) Decree is a model for the streaming entertainment industry,” said Arlene Mayerson, an attorney for the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, whom represented the plaintiffs, in a news release. “DREDF hopes that this is the beginning of opening the internet for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in streamed entertainment, education, government benefits, and more.”
In June 2011, the NAD and the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired filed a lawsuit against Netflix, arguing that the company’s failures to provide closed captioning in many of its movies and television shows available to “Watch Instantly” violated the Americans with the Disabilities Act.
Netflix originally argued the ADA did not apply to online-only businesses. In June 2012, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts denied Netflix’s motion to dismiss the case, ruling that the internet is a “place of public accommodation” under the ADA.
In the ruling, the court analogized the website to a typical brick and mortar store and thus falls under three of the 12 categories of public accommodations enumerated under the ADA: a “place of exhibition and entertainment,” a “sales or rental establishment,” and a “service establishment.”
The consent decree, which still must be approved by the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, required Netflix to make 90 percent of its on-demand content fully accessible by September 30, 2013 and 100 percent accessible by September 30, 2014. For all new content, Netflix will be required to include closed captioning within 30 days by 2014, 14 days by 2015 and 7 days by 2016.
Closed captioning is a viewer-enabled function that allows people who are deaf or hard of hearing to read text along with a movie or television show, as opposed to open captioning, where the subtitles are automatically enabled.