National Association of the Deaf

NAD Files Disability Civil Rights Lawsuit against Netflix



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Deaf and Hard of Hearing Plaintiffs Charge that Netflix Violates the Americans with Disabilities Act by Not Providing Equal Access to its “Watch Instantly” Streaming Content 

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), the nation’s premier civil rights organization of deaf and hard of hearing individuals, announced the filing of a major federal lawsuit against Netflix today in U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts, Western Division in Springfield, MA. The lawsuit charges the entertainment giant with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide closed captioning for most of its “Watch Instantly” movies and television streamed on the Internet. 

The New York Times has described Netflix as the “only major player in the online-only video subscription business.” Netflix has over 60% of the streamed video services market share.

An estimated 36 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. The deaf and hard of hearing community has repeatedly expressed concerns—via letters, petitions, blogs, and social media—to Netflix about its failure to provide equal access to “Watch Instantly.”

“We have tried for years to persuade Netflix to do the right thing and provide equal access to all content across all platforms. They chose not to serve our community on an equal basis; we must have equal access to the biggest provider of streamed entertainment. As Netflix itself acknowledges, streamed video is the future and we must not be left out,,” said NAD President Bobbie Beth Scoggins.

“There is no excuse for Netflix to fail to provide captions so that deaf and hard of hearing customers have access to the same movies and TV shows as everyone else,” stated Arlene Mayerson, Directing Attorney of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund. “Netflix admits that there is no technological issue. For people who are deaf and hard of hearing, captions are like ramps for people who use wheelchairs.”

The ADA requires that all “places of entertainment” provide “full and equal enjoyment” for people with disabilities. Plaintiffs are asking the court to declare that Netflix’s behavior constitutes a violation of Title III of the ADA, and to require that Netflix provide closed captions on all of its streaming content.

In addition to NAD, other plaintiffs include the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (WMAD/HI) and a deaf Massachusetts resident.

The plaintiffs are represented by the Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund in Berkeley, CA, the Oakland, CA law firm Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson P.C., and the Boston, MA law firm Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.

The Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund and NAD ask deaf and hard of hearing individuals who want