National Association of the Deaf

NAD Calls Out Netflix on Captions



On September 9, 2009, the National Association of the Deaf requested that Netflix provide a captioned version of “The Wizard of Oz” movie that Netflix made available online, for free, for everyone on October 3, 2009. Netflix disregarded the NAD request along with thousands of letters, emails, comments, and tweets urging Netflix to caption the movie. Today, the NAD expressed its dismay at the lack of any response from Netflix and its failure to make this 70th anniversary celebration of “The Wizard of Oz” accessible to 36 million deaf and hard of hearing viewers. 

Here is what the NAD said:
 

 
Monday, October 5, 2009
 
Catherine Fisher
Director, Communications
Netflix, Inc.
cafisher@netflix.com
 
Ms. Fisher –
 
On September 9, 2009, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) wrote to you in response to Netflix’s announcement that “The Wizard of Oz” would be freely available to everyone on October 3rd, the 70th anniversary of this classic film. We requested that Netflix enable people to choose to view a captioned version of this classic film by placing a "CC" icon on your webpage linked to the captioned version. We urged Netflix to take advantage of this unique opportunity to demonstrate its commitment to providing accessible entertainment to 36 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans. See http://www.nad.org/node/442. In addition to the NAD, Academy Award winning actress Marlee Matlin and many other people appealed to Netflix to caption “The Wizard of Oz.”  
 
The process of captioning “The Wizard of Oz” is technically possible and relatively simple to achieve. The television version and the DVD version of the film have already been captioned. Captions can be programmed into the Microsoft Silverlight application that Netflix uses for its Watch Instantly feature. Captions have been included in videos, programming, and movies made available for viewing online. See, for example, http://www.hulu.com.
 
We received no response from Netflix. Our request for a captioned version of “The Wizard of Oz” on October 3rd was not honored. Unlike the characters in “The Wizard of Oz,” Netflix looks like it is still searching for its brain, heart, and courage. We view Netflix’s lack of response and lack of captioning for “The Wizard of Oz” as a blatant statement by Netflix that 36 million deaf and hard of hearing people are second class citizens. This is the message that our community received from Netflix. 
 
Netflix must commit to a policy and timetable to provide captions for its online movie service to ensure equal access to this service by Netflix account holders who are deaf or hard of hearing. Such a policy is a not only a good business practice, it's the right thing to do.
 
In addition, we ask Netflix to meet with NAD representatives, and the courtesy of a response to this invitation.
 
Rosaline Crawford
Director, Law and Advocacy Center
National Association of the Deaf
8630 Fenton Street, Suite 820
Silver Spring, MD 20910
 

 

UPDATE – Netflix Responded; Declined Invitation to Meet with the NAD

Monday, October 5, 2009

Ms. Crawford:

Thank you for your email.  Netflix frequently communicates its commitment to provide closed captioning for the TV episodes and movies you can watch instantly and here is a blog post which provides more background http://blog.netflix.com/2009/06/closed-captions-and-subtitles.html

It was not simple for Netflix to instantly stream the Wizard of Oz this past weekend, otherwise we would have done it.  Netflix developers continue to work on closed captioning and we will keep the deaf and hard of hearing community apprised of the progress.

Regards,

Catherine Fisher
_____________________________________________

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Ms. Fisher --

Thank you for your response.

Our constituency is keenly interested in seeing Netflix online services made accessible through the provision of captions.

We would like to meet with Netflix to discuss this issue and your progress.  Would that be possible?

Rosaline
_____________________________________________

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Ms. Crawford:

We understand your eagerness to see closed captioning on movies and TV episodes instantly streamed from Netflix. As Netflix Chief Product Officer Dr. Neil Hunt explained on the Netflix Blog the technical process is complex.

Since closed captioning is included in our development plans and since we have addressed the situation at length we are going to decline the invitation to meet.

Thank you for your understanding and I will be sure to keep you apprised of progress.

All best,

Catherine
______________________________________________

The NAD is disappointed that Netflix declined our invitation to meet. While we are pleased to learn that closed captioning is included in Netflix development plans, "seeing is believing."
______________________________________________

Advocates need to continue to request captioning on Netflix Watch Instantly movies by sending messages to Netflix by Twitter via the Netflix twitter account at http://www.twitter.com/netflix or @netflix and http://www.twitter.com/netflixhelps or @netflixhelps, via the Netflix Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/netflix, by posting comments on the Netflix blog at http://blog.netflix.com/, and contacting:
Catherine Fisher
Director, Communications
Netflix, Inc.
cafisher@netflix.com
408-540-3847
and
Netflix Customer Service
1-866-716-0414