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U.S. Laws About Captioning for Online Videos

There is no doubt that top businesses should go out of their way to be both accessible and respectful to all its potential customers, especially in light of legislation such as the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) of 1990. The ADA requires that people with disabilities be given the same opportunities as others to participate in all aspects of American life which includes media such as online videos. Of course, life has changed a lot since the ADA and other legislation concerning accessibility for disabled people were written so how they affect online videos is not exactly clear at times; after all, no one had the Internet in mind back in those days. 

The law requires that organizations ensure that there are no unnecessary barriers for people with disabilities to have access to their materials, but how this is interpreted and implemented can vary and it does not necessarily apply to everyone who uploads online videos. Just because you are uploading an online video does not mean that you absolutely have to include closed captioning for people who happen to have a hearing disability.

Complications with Interpretations of the Law

According to the ADA, materials that public entities choose to make available have to be accessible to everyone; so this can clearly be interpreted to mean that government entities have to include captions in any video that they make available to the public, but does that obligation extend to private companies or even individuals? The ADA states that there must be no barriers to anyone in a “place of public accommodation” but this does not necessarily apply to the Internet since courts tend to be split on the opinion of whether the Internet really is a place of public accommodation or not. Of course, the Internet is not a physical location and this is the main issue that comes up when courts try to decide on whether the ADA rules in question apply to it or not. Although, it must be said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) is charged with enforcing ADA regulations and they clearly believe that websites should comply with ADA regulations. But whether including captions in uploaded videos is required by law or not, it does make sense for various reasons.

Complying with Accessibility Requirements

Even if adding closed captions to videos can be interpreted as not being absolutely required by law, it should be done because of the number of people that can be reached with it. According to reports by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 15% of all Americans suffer from a hearing problem; this means that they cannot enjoy uploaded content such as videos without proper captioning. Although 15% might not seem like a huge number, at first, that translates to about 38 million people! If your objective is to reach the most people that you possibly can with your videos, then closed captioning is a must. 

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Alternative Communication Services, LLC


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