Campaign For A More Accessible Netflix

From Media Access Australia:

Campaign for a more accessible Netflix
Tuesday, 06 August 2013 10:49am

Accessibility advocates are leading a campaign to make US-based video streaming service Netflix more accessible to people with disabilities. The Accessible Netflix Project aims to get Netflix to make audio description available and improve the accessibility of the Netflix website.

Netflix is a video on demand and DVD rental service currently available overseas. While it has committed to captioning all of its content by 2014, Netflix currently has no provision for blind or vision impaired subscribers.
The campaign aims to get Netflix to:

Provide a screen reader friendly experience to all Netflix functions on the PC and mobile devices with all screen readers
Provide an easily navigable interface for the mobility impaired using adaptive technology
Provide easy access to audio described content for the blind and the vision impaired on streaming services as well as DVD selection currently and in the future

Journalist Robert Kingett, who is leading the small team behind the Accessible Netflix Project, said the campaign started when he and other blind Netflix subscribers found they were unable to access DVDs and videos with audio description.

“It started out as just shouting about audio description on streaming services only [now] we want to expand our mission and help not just us but others as well,” Kingett said.

Despite a large proportion of DVD titles having audio description, there is no way for users to identify them through the Netflix interface. Kingett said a few blind subscribers even offered to provide Netflix with a list of accessible DVDs, but the offer was refused.

They also hope Netflix and other streaming services make their websites and media players accessible to all screen reader users and easier to use with screen magnifiers.

Screen readers allow blind users to navigate websites by converting information on the screen into speech. However, if certain coding practices and techniques are not followed on a website, screen readers are unable to interpret the information.

The project’s website has a Netflix accessibility feedback form which allows people to share any accessibility barriers experienced. Kingett said they are yet to gain the support of Netflix but hope to collaborate with the company to help improve its service.

“We’re here to let people know that equality should happen, especially since we are paying customers,” said Kingett.

In Australia there is currently no video on demand service that offers audio description. We maintain a database of audio described DVDs.

Dear Netflix, We Can’t Hear You! Signed, 50 Million Americans

Dear Netflix, We Can’t Hear You! Signed, 50 Million Americans
April 4, 2013

by: Barbara J. King, NPR
Recent scientific research links hearing impairment with dementia. Commentator Barbara J. King says widespread availability of closed-captioned films could help.

Netflix was ordered to close-caption all its films by next year.
Justin Lane/EPA /Landov

Addicted, that’s what we are: My husband and I are addicted to BBC television shows. We watch BBC series via Netflix streaming, the “instant” option available to Netflix customers.

This past weekend, we chose a show called The Last Enemy starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Like thousands of others, we are impatiently awaiting the reappearance of Cumberbatch and his co-star Martin Freeman in the BBC Sherlock Holmes series, but Season 3 won’t come to the U.S. until 2014. We hoped The Last Enemy might ease the pain of the wait. It started off great, and we were hooked.

Episode 2, however, unlike Episode 1 and the initial two seasons of Sherlock Holmes, lacked closed-captioning, even though it was listed as closed-captioned on the Netflix website. (Subsequent episodes lack closed-captioning also.)

For us, that was a deal-breaker. My husband has a moderate degree of hearing loss, and without closed-captioning, what should be a fun activity rapidly became an exercise in frustration. Even though my hearing is intact, I also had trouble without visible words on the screen because the show involves fast-paced dialogue and thick accents. After about 20 times of hitting the remote’s pause button and asking each other what we just heard — or didn’t hear — we gave up.

Why does the slight ruination of our weekend viewing plans merit a blog post? Because many millions of other Americans are in my husband’s boat. In her new book Shouting Won’t Help: Why I — and 50 Million Other Americans — Can’t Hear You, Katherine Bouton notes that 17 percent of the U.S. population has some degree of hearing loss. It’s not only older people, either, she notes: 19.5 percent of 12-19-year-olds have at least slight hearing loss; 5 percent of these young people are considered to have some degree of serious impairment.

Not all hearing loss is alike. Bouton notes that the deaf community in the U.S. today is vibrant, with its own language, full of accomplished people in “just about every profession.” By contrast, she writes, the hearing impaired “live in a kind of limbo, not really part of the hearing world but not part of the Deaf world either. Many are unwilling to acknowledge their hearing problems publicly.” Bouton’s own story underscores this last point: For two decades, she endeavored to keep her own hearing loss secret as she worked in high-powered journalism.

It’s no secret, though, that some people are less than happy with Netflix’s services to the deaf and hearing-impaired communities. A Massachusetts woman who is deaf, working together with two deaf organizations, sued the company in 2010, saying that a lack of closed-captioning on its instant-streaming shows violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. A judge agreed: Netflix was ordered to close-caption all its films by 2014.

Possibly you are thinking: First-world problem! That’s a comment I get pretty often here at 13.7, when I’m tackling an issue that a reader dismisses as less than critically important. So let me explain why Netflix’s forthcoming compliance with the ADA is good news from the scientific side of things.

A 2011 paper by Frank Lin of Johns Hopkins University, summarized by Bouton in her book, offers a startling conclusion: There’s a strong correlation between hearing loss and dementia. Lin studied 639 people aged 36 to 90, some of whom had hearing loss at the study’s inception, but none of whom had dementia. A median time period of 12 years later, with scientific controls applied for effects of age and medical conditions, those who did have hearing loss at the start had a greater incidence of dementia. “The risk of dementia,” Bouton reports, “increased with the degree of hearing loss. The use of hearing aids seemed to have no effect.”

An association between two variables is a tricky thing because it doesn’t imply a cause: There’s no proof that a hearing impairment leads to dementia.

Bouton asks the key question: How might hearing loss and dementia be related? She reviews three possibilities. Social isolation often results from hearing impairment and may itself be a risk factor for dementia. Or, the brain may be so overworked by trying hard to hear others’ speech that working memory may be affected (this is called the “cognitive overload” idea). Finally, there may be some underlying cause common to both hearing loss and dementia.

Or maybe more than a single factor is at work.

Perhaps in the future, scientists will be able to disentangle these various possibilities. (That hearing aids seem to have no effect strikes me as particularly surprising.)

One thing is already clear: more closed-captioning would help the situation. It would combat both a feeling of isolation and any cognitive overload resulting from straining hard to hear felt by those with hearing loss.

Netflix and other companies that share film or TV content with paying customers can and should ensure that the spoken dialogue is comprehensible to all. It makes no sense for Netflix to offer a series of episodes, some closed-captioned and others not, as happened to us. (A Netflix customer representative readily agreed when we contacted her and promised to look into the problem.)

Watching a film shouldn’t be an unpleasantly challenging strain or a pleasure rendered impossible altogether. Whether solo or shared, it should be an engaging brain treat available to all, no matter the working status of one’s ears.

Barbara King’s book How Animals Grieve has just been published. You can keep up with more of what Barbara is thinking on Twitter.
Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit

Netflix and National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Reach Historic Agreement to Provide 100% Closed Captions in On-Demand Streaming Content Within Two Years

from a press release:
Netflix and National Association of the Deaf (NAD) Reach Historic
Agreement to Provide 100% Closed Captions in On-Demand Streaming
Content Within Two Years
(October 10, 2012) Netflix Inc. and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a nonprofit organization, have submitted a joint Consent Decree to a federal court in Springfield, Mass., ensuring closed captions in 100% of Netflix streaming content within two years.
NAD, along with the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (WMAD/HI) and Lee Nettles, a deaf Massachusetts resident, brought suit against Netflix seeking that commitment in 2010.
The agreement indicates the parties’ mutual intent to increase access for people who are deaf and hard of hearing to movies and television streamed on the Internet. Netflix began its closed-captioning program in 2010. Netflix has increased captioning for 90% of the hours viewed but is now committed to focusing on covering all titles by captioning 100% of all content by 2014. Captions can be displayed on a majority of the more than 1,000 devices on which the service is available.
Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of NAD, the lead plaintiff in this case, said, “The National Association of the Deaf congratulates Netflix for committing to 100% captioning, and is thrilled to announce that 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people will be able to fully access Netflix’s Watch Instantly services.”
“We have worked consistently to make the broadest possible selection of titles available to Netflix members who are deaf or hard of hearing and are far and away the industry leader in doing so,” said Neil Hunt, Netflix Chief Product Officer. “We are pleased to
have reached this agreement and hope it serves as a benchmark for other providers of
streaming video entertainment.”
Netflix will also improve its interface so that subscribers will be better able to identify
content that has been captioned in the period until 100% captioning is achieved. The
parties have asked the court to maintain jurisdiction of the case for four years to assure
compliance with the terms of the Decree, and plaintiffs will monitor Netflix’s progress.
“We’re so pleased that Netflix worked jointly with plaintiffs to devise a reasonable and
workable way to achieve 100% captioning. The Decree is a model for the streaming
entertainment industry,” said Arlene Mayerson, Disability Rights Education & Defense
Fund’s Directing Attorney. “DREDF hopes that this is the beginning of opening the
Internet for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in streamed entertainment, education,
government benefits, and more.”
The Consent Decree is available here:
10-10-12.pdf regarding National Association of the Deaf, et al. v. Netflix, Case
No. 3:11-cv-30168.
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.
Netflix is represented by David F. McDowell and Jacob M. Harper of Morrison &
Foerster LLP.
# # #
National Association of the Deaf (NAD)
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is the nation’s premier civil rights
organization of, by and for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in the United States of
America. NAD represents the estimated 48 million Americans who are deaf or hard of
hearing and is based in Silver Spring, MD.
Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing Impaired (WMAD).
WMAD is an advocacy membership organization of individuals who are deaf and
hearing impaired in western Massachusetts.
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Founded in 1979 by people with disabilities and parents of children with disabilities, the
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF) is a national law and policy center
based in Berkeley, CA and is dedicated to protecting and advancing the civil rights of
people with disabilities.
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 civil rights, employment discrimination, ERISA employee benefit and pension 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.

Netflix: Closed Captioning Could Help Stock Rise

from Seeking Alpha:
Netflix: Closed Captioning Could Help Stock Rise
[quote]Netflix: Closed Captioning Could Help Stock Rise
Recently, a U.S. District Judge in Massachusetts ruled that Netflix (NFLX) must provide a closed captioning option to movies and other content featured on its “Watch Instantly” on-demand service. In a lawsuit filed by the National Association for the Deaf in 2011, the association claimed that under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), retailers and others must accommodate those with disabilities to ensure these customers can readily use goods and services sold.

Netflix argued that the ADA does not cover online retail, so the company is not under any obligation to ensure all streaming movies have closed captioning options. The judge who ruled against Netflix reasoned that the ADA was written with room to grow (and include new forms of retail).

In accordance with a Federal law passed in 1996, all television programming must include closed captioning options for the deaf or hard of hearing. Until now this law only addressed television and does not specify online viewing.

However, the FCC has put new regulations in place that include closed captioning for online videos and other content — these new regulations will go into effect in 2014. This means that regardless of whether Netflix needs to adhere to the ADA, the FCC will enforce the new regulations, which gives the company little choice but to comply.
What’s So Terrible About Closed Captioning?

In most cases, closed captioning already exists for movies and television shows made from 1996 on. This means all Netflix has to do is include additional “closed captioning” files on its website to be used by most televisions and other devices made for the hearing impaired. This ruling will not affect Netflix profits, and the company has already taken steps to add closed captioning to some of its online content.

The main issue here may be time — even though 2014 sounds like a long time from now, in reality, to go through an entire database of online content to ensure each file containing closed captioning could prove quite an undertaking, and a costly one at that. Other companies that provide online content including YouTube, owned by Google (GOOG), features closed captioning and subtitles options that content creators can add to content prior to uploading. The company does not force creators to add closed captioning or subtitles, however. Hulu, controlled by a partnership with NBC Universal, which is owned by Comcast (CMCSA) and NBC, Fox Entertainment Group, Disney-ABC Television Group, and Providence Equity Partners provides some closed captioning features for its online streaming service.
Not all companies involved in online streaming of movies and other content provide these services. Amazon (AMZN), which is set to become a main competitor of Netflix in online media streaming, does not currently provide closed captioning with its media streaming service, Amazon Prime. Blockbuster on Demand, owned by Dish Network (DISH), does not offer these services either.

If Netflix is forced to start providing closed captioning, then it makes sense that other companies will have to follow — especially when new regulations go into effect. What’s interesting to note here is that Netflix has been trying to add closed captions to its database and now has a jump on the competition.
Increased Customer Base

Why should investors care about this development? Closed captioning could give Netflix stock a boost. While it is unknown how many hearing impaired people there are in the world, it has been estimated that by 2015 approximately 750 million people worldwide will be hearing impaired to some degree. And while many can watch television without the need for closed captioning, others cannot or would prefer to have the option whenever they want to use it. This means Netflix could potentially increase its customer base greatly by providing closed captioning services.

Another advantage is that by catering to those with disabilities, the company appears friendlier and socially conscious. This is very appealing to potential investors and those who already invest as investors choose companies not only based on latest stock numbers, but also in how companies conduct business and treat customers.
Netflix Stock Up 14%, No Need to Worry (Well, Mostly)

Investors shouldn’t worry about this latest ruling though, as Netflix stock has steadily increased since last week and continues to rise. Inflated investor confidence due to an increase in viewership of streaming movies and other content is one reason for this recent jump in stock price. It is estimated that subscribers streamed 1 billion hours of online content in the month of June. On average, Netflix subscribers spend 38 hours per month streaming video, and this should continue to increase.

Even though investors should feel really good about this news, the truth is that the company still needs to recover from last year’s decision to offer two separate plans — one for online viewing and one for DVDs by mail. According to quarterly income statements, the company hit one of its lowest points in Q1 2012 as compared to all four quarters in 2011. In Q4 2011, the company earned $35.22 million in net income, but in Q1 2012 net income was down $4.58 million. Increased SG&A expenses ($229.55 million in Q4 2011 vs. $247.79 million in Q1 2012) pretax income growth (-39.29% in Q4 2011 vs. -112.36% in Q1 2012) may have contributed to a less-than-stellar first quarter for 2012.

But with this latest increase in stock price, investors seem pleased with how the company has managed to bounce back from last year’s change in pricing options. Netflix still has work to do, however. For now, I recommend investors stick with Netflix; with more and more people streaming movies and soon with the option of closed captioning, the company should make a full rebound by the end of the year and into next year.
It will be interesting to see how the rest of the years financials pan out. Investors should play close attention to this new development. I think these figures will play a role in Netflix maintaining its stock price rise.

Disclosure: I have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

Netflix tries to ride out wave of customer anger

When Netflix first introduced their streaming download feature, I complained about the lack of captions and was told I didn’t have to use the streaming option as it was a “free bonus” to my account. (And since when has it been ok to exclude deaf and hard of hearing folks from “free bonuses” either?) But now that Netflix has announced fees for streaming download service, they no longer have an excuse to discriminate. From SFGate:

Then last month, the National Association of the Deaf filed a lawsuit against Netflix claiming the company is in violation of the federal Americans with Disabilities Act because most of the movies and TV shows available for streaming don’t have captions.

Netflix has said that about 30 percent of its “Watch Instantly” videos have captions and that the company hopes to have 80 percent captioned by the end of the year.
Petition for captions

But Sebastian St. Troy, a hearing-impaired consumer rights activist from Texas, said Netflix has still not done enough. St. Troy’s online petition drive to push Netflix to include captioning gained more momentum last week, in part because of the publicity over the subscription fees.