ADA Regulations for Closed Captions

ADA regulations with Closed Captions
With the aim to give people with disabilities a fair opportunity to understand and enjoy video content, the ADA or Americans with Disabilities Act was enacted to ensure that the information shared therein was made available to all those with disabilities. Broadly, it is a law against discrimination for people with disabilities.

Passed in the year 1990, the ADA was originally meant for to ensure that supplementary aids were made available to the physically challenged, but was later expanded to providing closed captions for videos for the deaf and hard of hearing individuals.

When these guidelines were first passed, they did not address online video needs. Upon realizing that the standards set did not take into consideration evolving technologies, Title III of the ADA mandated open or closed captioning for all theatrical performances apart from providing auxiliary aids and services. This was based on a lawsuit filed by the supporters of the deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Entities thus, had to stick to these mandates, as a violation of these guidelines could result in legal action. The auxiliary aids with regards to online videos referred to video captions, though not specifically mentioned by the ADA.

While ADA Title II prohibits disability discrimination at the local and state level, Title III governs all commercial facilities. One example to substantiate this would be the 2010 suit against Netflix by the National Association of the Deaf, alleging that their streaming service did not provide accessibility to the hard of hearing people to watch their shows. Netflix obliged, and agreed to caption all their online videos by the year 2014.

As mentioned earlier, though ADA does not specifically address online video accessibility, the judgments involving several media houses in the past have implied its importance by stating that online video accessibility is not to be ignored as it has become an important business practice, and a legal requirement covered by the ADA. Secondly, any organization that publishes video will be considered a commercial facility, and will fall under ADA’s jurisdiction.

The captions mandated by ADA’s best practices had to follow some set standards that include the duration for which captions should remain on screen, the accuracy of the captions, and synchronicity, amongst others.

In an era of technological advancement, dependence on the internet and online sources for information is growing by the day. People with disabilities, thus, are forced to rely on the same tools that would be inaccessible without captions. ADA’s guidelines thus ensures that no one is discriminated on the basis of race, color, age, sex, national origin, religion, or mental or physical disabilities, and the principle of equality prevails.

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