Netflix has to provide closed captioning on its online video, according to a court ruling in a lawsuit brought by the National Association for the Deaf. This is interesting for its online ramifications, and also because Ars Technica has an article about it where a law professor redefines the term “going ballistic.”
If websites must comply with the ADA, all hell will break loose. Could YouTube be obligated to close-caption videos on the site? (This case seems to leave that door open.) Could every website using Flash have to redesign their sites for browsers that read the screen? I’m not creative enough to think of all the implications, but I can assure you that ADA plaintiffs’ lawyers will have a long checklist of items worth suing over.
A few points I’d like to make: First of all, YouTube has been working on closed captioning for years and in fact their captioning technology is surprisingly advanced. Secondly, in most cases these captioning files already exist for movies and TV shows. Unless Netflix is using some bizarre standard nobody has heard of, which it doesn’t, it mostly just has to ask the owner of the data to fork the files over. Thirdly, would forcing retail websites to ditch that annoying Flash scroll that takes up half the page really be so bad?
He does have a point in that this breaks with judicial precedent that websites do not have to comply with the ADA, and it’s likely Netflix will just appeal this. But dude, come on. It’s the deaf. They have a hard enough time of it as it is. Cut them some slack.
(Image courtesy swanksalot on Flickr)
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