Netflix and NAD Reach Historic Agreement to Provide 100% Closed Captions in On-Demand

Netflix can be a pain for those that are unable to hear or have partial hearing loss. Their subtitles and closed captioning are haphazardly implemented throughout their Watch Instantly service. Some titles will feature robust settings while others have none at all. That’s all set to change, though.

Netflix Inc. and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a non-profit organization, have submitted a joint Consent Decree to a federal court in Springfield, Mass., ensuring closed captions in 100% of Netflix streaming content by 2014.

NAD, along with the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (WMAD/HI) and Lee Nettles, a deaf Massachusetts resident, brought suit against Netflix seeking that commitment in 2010.

The agreement indicates the parties’ mutual intent to increase access for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to movies and television streamed on the Internet. Netflix began its closed-captioning program in 2010. Netflix has increased captioning for 90% of the hours viewed but is now committed to focusing on covering all titles by captioning 100% of all content by 2014. Captions can be displayed on a majority of the more than 1,000 devices on which the service is available.

Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of NAD, said, “The National Association of the Deaf congratulates Netflix for committing to 100% captioning, and is thrilled to announce that 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people will be able to fully access Netflix’s Watch Instantly services.”

“We have worked consistently to make the broadest possible selection of titles available to Netflix members who are deaf or hard of hearing and are far and away the industry leader in doing so,” said Neil Hunt, Netflix Chief Product Officer. “We are pleased to have reached this agreement and hope it serves as a benchmark for other providers of streaming video entertainment.”

Netflix will also improve its interface so that subscribers will be better able to identify content that has been captioned in the period until 100% captioning is achieved. The parties have asked the court to maintain jurisdiction of the case for four years to assure compliance with the terms of the Decree, and plaintiffs will monitor Netflix’s progress.

“We’re so pleased that Netflix worked jointly with plaintiffs to devise a reasonable and workable way to achieve 100% captioning. The Decree is a model for the streaming entertainment industry,” said Arlene Mayerson, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund’s Directing Attorney. “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.”

The Consent Decree is available here: http://dredf.org/captioning/netflix-consent-decree-10-10-12.pdf regarding National Association of the Deaf, et al. v. Netflix, Case No. 3:11-cv-30168.

Adapted from a NAD press release.

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