Today the National Association of the Deaf, the nation’s premier civil rights organization of deaf and hard of hearing individuals, filed a lawsuit against Netflix, charging that the entertainment company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide closed captioning for most of its “Watch Instantly” movies and television shows that are streamed over the internet. An estimated 36 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing and, as noted in a press release about the lawsuit, many had repeatedly appealed to Netflix via letters, petitions and social media tools.
Says NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins:
“We have tried for years to persuade Netflix to do the right thing and provide equal access to all content across all platforms. They chose not to serve our community on an equal basis; we must have equal access to the biggest provider of streamed entertainment. As Netflix itself acknowledges, streamed video is the future and we must not be left out.”
Arlene Mayerson, Directing Attorney of the Berkeley-based Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, points out that Netflix itself has acknowledged “there is no technological issue” in providing closed captioning which, for those who are deaf and hard of hearing, is analogous to “ramps for people who use wheelchairs.”
Indeed, under the ADA, all “places of entertainment” must provide “full and equal enjoyment” for people with disabilities. Netflix has over 60% of the streamed video services market share and therefore constitutes a major “place of entertainment,” albeit one that currently is in violation of the civil rights of the deaf and hard of hearing.
The plaintiffs, who also include the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (WMAD/HI) and a deaf Massachusetts resident, are requesting that the court declare that Netflix must provide closed captions on all of its streaming content and, further, that Netflix’s behavior constitutes a violation of Title III of the ADA which says that public accommodations must
- eliminate unnecessary eligibility standards or rules that deny individuals with disabilities an equal opportunity to enjoy the goods and services of a place of public accommodation
- make reasonable modifications in policies, practices, and procedures that deny equal access to individuals with disabilities…
- furnish auxiliary aids when necessary to ensure effective communication, unless an undue burden or fundamental alteration would result
The lawsuit was filed today in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, Western Division in Springfield, MA (Case No. 3:11-cv-30168).
It’s more than enough to make me think of cancelling my Netflix subscription.
Take action! Sign the petition telling Netflix to provide all users Equal Access to “Watch Instantly” videos.
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Photo by Jorge glеz.