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Netflix Sued For Violating the Americans with Disabilities Act: Take Action!

Netflix Sued For Violating the Americans with Disabilities Act: Take Action!

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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122 comments

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2:25AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

My last post was too long. To finish up:
36 million people have some form of hearing loss
22 million have noise-induced hear loss that could be prevented
More than 59,000 military members have disability status for hearing loss from current wars.
30 school-aged children per 1,000 have a hearing loss

Does this sound like my isolated personal problem?? Don't maybe our returning service men and woman deserve to enjoy movies and TV shows equally to the hearing population? Imagine if there was no sound track. Tell me you'd put up with that for 1-hour.

And Fay S. Bitter? Rude? Miserable? REALLY? Better than rolling over and playing dead. Call me what ever you'd like, but at least I'm trying to make my (and according to the stats previously supplied for you, a whole lot of other hearing impaired people) a little easier and a tiny bit more enjoyable. And in your case, I think I'll stand by my suspicion that you are on 'stupid pills'.

2:18AM PDT on Jul 15, 2011

This is an old thread, but I've been trying to find the exact cost of captioning movies on NetFlix - without success to this point. However, I keep thinking about some of the comments on here and it still boggles the brain that so many people are so concerned about forking out an extra couple of cents in order that others may benefit or just don't understand about captioning.

First, yes, all TV set manufactured after a certain year (I don't know what year exactly safe to say after 2000) have to come with CC; however, not all movies or TV shows are required to have captioning. There have been a lot of loop holes to get around what has to be vs. what is okay not to be and if the show/movies isn't captioned, it doesn't matter that the TV is equipped with CC.

Not all shows/movies that are streamed have captioning.

Perhaps auto-teller machines have braille menus so that passengers in cars don't have to rely on having the drives enter their sensitive info for them.

Why sue Netflix when they don't do the captioning? Because if Netflix only purchased the rights to movies that were captioned, I'm sure that production companies like 20th Century Fox, etc., etc. would feel a lot more pressure to hire captioning companies to caption their movies.

As for the cost, if Netflix made sure all their movies were captioned, they would have a whole lot more people who would join. I brought this up at a recent meeting of the Hearing Loss Association and most people there would ha

8:54PM PDT on Jun 25, 2011

Excellent point Diane!

7:27PM PDT on Jun 25, 2011

I watched a movie last night on HBO that had closed captioning, and I've set my TV set to default to show the C.C., but while most programs have it, not all do. It showed very clearly at the begging AND the end of the movie, "Closed Captioning provided by Twentieth-Century Fox".

So, that pretty mmuch says WHO provides the C.C., it's done at the time the movie was made, NOT a service that can or would be provided by the network airing it, and in this case, NOT by Netflix. They are like Hertz........they provide cars, but don't manufacture them or put in custom features such as GPS, etc. If it's on the cr to begin with, they'll rent it, but if it's not, you take what they have.

9:25AM PDT on Jun 25, 2011

My husband & I wish there were subtitle availability on Watch Instantly, but to sue Netflix over it? Oh, come on! That's ridiculous. They'll raise their rates and then we won't be able to afford Netflix, subtitles or otherwise. Everything on Netflix is available on disc and the discs have subtitles.

12:02PM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

Sorry for the previous post it posted all by it's self... what is up with that???
I will not be signing this petition... TV's come with the option already... by forcing this company or any company something like this will cause the cost to go up 3 fold... I do not begrudge the deaf... most of the streaming comes with help for the hearing impaired, and there are services that can see to it the TV's are given the option of closed captioning. I understand buying movies can be cost prohibitive. This is a frivolous law suit & a waste of the taxpayer’s money, when there are so many other things that are desperately needed by the handicapped, instead.

11:57AM PDT on Jun 22, 2011

I will not be signing this petition... TV's come with the option already... by forcing this company or any company something like this will cause the cost to go up 3 fold... I do not begrudge the deaf... most of the streaming comes with help for the hearing impared, and there are services that can see to it the TV's are given the option of closed captioning. I understand buying movies can be cost prohibitive. This is a frivolous law suit & a waste of the tax payers money, when there are so many other things that are desperatelly needed by the habndicaped, instead.

3:56PM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

wow, i am really going to reconsider renewing my netflix membership next month

11:45AM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

@ Charles

Exactly! I never understood the stupidity of putting braile on drive thru atm. This is just another stupid lawsuit that I hope they lose. Get your heads together to whom you should be complaining to.

11:07AM PDT on Jun 20, 2011

As I am blind in one eye and so hard of hearing that when out in public I largely depend on my wife to do my 'listening', I know where you are coming from for wanting CC, but don't 'treat the symptom' by suing Netflix; go to the source and go after the ones that create the media. Netflix is not a whipping boy. ADA when read literally is fine, but you delve into 'interpretation' by lawyers and judges, you border on the ridiculous. For instance; part of the ADA reads that braille instructions are required on all ATMs. All fine and dandy until lawyers and judges get involved. Even the DRIVE UP machines are so equipped. I don't know about you, but it would make me extremely nervous to have a blind person driving up to one of these machines.I had to help install the plates when working for an ATM service company.

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