The Americans with Disabilities Act is the first comprehensive civil rights legislation addressing and granting basic accessibility needs of people with disabilities. The law includes sections prohibiting discrimination against people with disabilities in several areas, including employment, transportation, public accommodations, communications, and access to state and local government programs and services. The Americans with Disabilities Act and Captioning don’t always necessarily go hand-in-hand, but becoming and remaining compliant is a means to accommodate those who are deaf and hard of hearing and to ensure accessibility.

How the ADA Affects Accessibility:

  • Title I of the ADA says that employers cannot discriminate based upon a person’s disability status. Companies must provide “reasonable accommodations” for employees. While this doesn’t necessarily always mean captions and audio description, many companies are captioning and describing online training videos, conference calls, and webinars to ensure compliance.
  • Title II of the ADA requires state and local governments to make their programs, services, and activities accessible to individuals with disabilities, including individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. This includes websites.
  • Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires businesses open to the public to ensure that individuals with a disability have equal access to all that the businesses have to offer. Note that Title III was used as the basis for the National Association of the Deaf’s lawsuit against Netflix®, and, as a result, the online streaming media giant now captions all of its videos (and provides video description as well).

Note that the above instances do not mandate captioning.  Governments and businesses must provide equal access to people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, which may include ASL interpreters, CART providers, or C-Print note takers, among others. Captioning may be one of the requested actions.

In the case of online streaming providers, however, captioning is probably the only way to ensure their public business is accessible.