The ADA and 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, among other things, 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 those who are deaf or hard of hearing. It requires public entities to provide “auxiliary aids” for people with disabilities, which may include captions, transcripts, screen reading software, or other services. Many municipalities meet these requirements by captioning their council, board, or cabinet meetings.
Title III of the ADA requires that businesses open to the public ensure that individuals with a disability have equal access to all that they have to offer. Examples of public accommodations include privately-owned, leased, or operated facilities like hotels, restaurants, retailers, doctor’s offices, day care centers, sports stadiums and arenas, and movie theaters.
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, and other OTT platforms, now captions all of its videos (and provides audio description as well).
Note that the above instances do not mandate captioning. Governments, businesses, educational institutions, and others must provide equal access to people who are deaf or hard of hearing. This access can include American Sign Language interpreters, CART providers, or C-Print note takers as well as captioning.
In the case of online streaming providers, however, captioning is probably the only way to ensure their public business is accessible.