National Association of the Deaf v. Netflix

An estimated 36 million Americans are deaf or hard of hearing. The deaf and hard of hearing community had repeatedly expressed concerns to Netflix about its failure to provide equal access to Netflix’s streaming video product, “Watch Instantly.”  Plaintiffs National Association of the Deaf, Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired, and Lee Nettles asked the court to declare that Netflix’s behavior constituted a violation of Title III of the ADA, and to require that Netflix provide closed captions on all of its streaming content.

Plaintiffs filed their complaint in the District Court of Massachusetts in June 2011, charging the entertainment giant with violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by refusing to provide closed captioning for “Watch Instantly” movies and television streamed on the Internet.

In May 2012, DREDF and Lewis Feinberg filed an Opposition to Netflix’s earlier Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. The Opposition asserted that Netflix is a place of public accommodation under Title III of the ADA, that Netflix sufficiently controls its Watch Instantly content to be held liable under the ADA, and that the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act does not conflict with or supersede the ADA. The Department of Justice also filed a Statement of Interest in Opposition to Netflix’s Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings. In June 2012, in a major victory, the District Court of Massachusetts held that the ADA applies to website-only businesses.

In October 2012, Netflix and NAD submitted a joint Consent Decree ensuring closed captions in 100% of Netflix streaming in 2014. DREDF expects that this is the beginning of opening the Internet for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in streamed entertainment, education, government benefits, and more.

Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson P.C.
 Lewis, Feinberg, Lee, Renaker & Jackson P.C. is a national law firm based in Oakland, CA, that represents plaintiffs in ERISA employee benefit and pension litigation, Civil Rights litigation, and Wage and Hour Overtime litigation.

Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C.
 SRBC is a Boston-based civil litigation firm with 26 lawyers and more than 80 years of success in managing complex cases for local, regional and national clients.