Back in August, we introduced you to an issue brought up by the National Association for the Deaf, a lobbying group, who sued Netflix for not providing closed captioning for its “Watch Instantly” streaming service. Now, the company has agreed to a settlement.
The problem that started it all was that while captioning was visible on smart phones and tablets, as well as computers, it was not on products that stream Netflix to a television set. Before the lawsuit was settled, neither Netflix nor the television manufacturers had little incentive to solve the problem of closed captioning for the deaf. Publicizing the lawsuit may have been the only way to make Netflix comply. Due to the amount of publicity this case received, it was settled fairly quickly in a Springfield, Massachusetts court room, ending the battle between Netflix and the deaf community that has been going on for two years.
Spokesman Jonathan Friedland said that Netflix has ninety percent of its programming available with closed captioning. However, he said that with the number of devices that are out there, it’s hard to provide high quality captioning on all of them.
In the settlement with a deaf viewer, Netflix will be able to offer captioning on all movies and TV shows available through their service by September 2014, and will provide 100 percent full captioning by 2016. Until the company can comply with the full settlement of the case, Netflix will provide a list of closed captioning content to the deaf community. In addition, Netflix will pay $755,000 in legal fees as part of the settlement.
I congratulate the NAD for fighting for the deaf community and suing Netflix for not providing full closed captioning for their content across all platforms. Now, everything will be accessible to the deaf as far as TV and movies are concerned. Hopefully, this case sets a precedent for all content providers and will hopefully mean that descriptive video for the blind will be implemented, as well as the menus for the cable systems. This victory for the deaf community could be a real example of what the blind could do when fighting for equal access to entertainment.