Amazon agrees to expand catalog of closed captioned films

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Amazon to increase number of movies with Closed Captioning

The National Association of the Deaf and Amazon.com announced an agreement October 14 to expand the online retailer’s collection of film equipped with closed captioning services to more than 190,000 titles.

“This is an enormous step in making online entertainment accessible to the 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States alone,” NAD CEO Howard Rosenblum said in a news release. “Amazon is a one-stop shop for everything from household items and clothing to books and video entertainment.

“The NAD is thus thrilled by Amazon’s decision to make its online entertainment experience more accessible to deaf and hard of hearing customers who also look to Amazon to fulfill their needs for comprehensive goods and services.”

Amazon already provides closed captioning for all the titles on its Amazon Prime membership services. However, its Amazon Video option offers a far larger catalog of movies and TV shows.

Amazon already captions 85 percent of regularly viewed titles under this option, meaning they have been viewed more than 10 times in the past 90 days. Under the agreement, this figure will rise to 90 percent by 2015 and 100 percent by the end of 2016.

“Amazon has one of the largest online entertainment catalogs in a heavily-saturated field of online streaming entertainment providers,” said Arlene Mayerson, directing attorney with Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund,who represents the NAD along with Lewis, Feinberg, Lee & Jackson P.C., in the news release. “Amazon’s resolve to make its online offerings accessible to people who are deaf and hard of hearing should serve as an example for streaming entertainment providers who refuse to close caption their far more limited catalogs.”

In contrast to Amazon, Netflix for years opposed providing closed captioning on the grounds that the internet is not a “place of public accommodation” for the purposes of the Americans with Disabilities Act. The NAD and DREDF sued Netflix in 2011, resulting in a legal settlement where the parties agreed to a timetable for the company to caption its film collection.

However, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, in a separate case, recently adopted Netflix’s argument on the ADA’s applicability to the internet, leaving the law in flux.