Netflix Inc. has promised to ensure closed captions in 100% of its streaming content within two years.
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (WMAD/HI), and a deaf Massachusetts resident, the lead plaintiff, sued Netflix in federal court 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. The company has increased captioning for 90% of the hours viewed but will now focus 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.
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 agreement, with plaintiffs monitoring Netflix's progress.
Disability rights attorneys say the agreement is a model for the streaming entertainment industry and the beginning of opening the internet for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in streamed entertainment, education, government benefits, and more.