Skip to content Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf & Hard of Hearing Persons

FCC Announces Implementation Schedule for New Closed Captioning Rules
On January 13, 2012, the FCC released a Report and Order adopting rules for closed captioning of video programming delivered using Internet protocol (the “IP closed captioning rules”).  These new closed captioning rules were published in the Federal Register on March 30, 2012, and will generally become effective 30 days later, on April 30, 2012.   ...continue reading "Captioning of Video Programs on Internet- Most New Rules Effective April 30, 2012"

NVRC Note: This lawsuit is discussed at

Some of the comments are very harsh.PRLog (Press Release) - Oct 4, 2011 - Netflix and four other high tech corporations have been charged with violating human rights in a formal legal complaint which alleges that willfully refusing to provide closed captioning on most of the programs it transmits over the Internet constitutes illegal discrimination against the handicapped by denying the deaf “full and equal enjoyment” of its goods and/or services in violation of the D.C. Human Rights Act, the toughest anti-discrimination law in the U.S.

If convicted, Netflix would have to add closed captioning to virtually all of the movies, TV shows, and the other programming it provides over the Internet to customers; a tremendous benefit not only to the deaf, but also to the much larger number of customers who are older or otherwise simply hard of hearing, says public interest law professor John Banzhaf, who has filed more than 100 successful complaints against discrimination based upon race, sex, country of origin, and disability.

Netflix -- and Apple, Panasonic, Tivo, and Toshiba, which have been charged with "aiding and abetting" for providing and modifying their devices to facilitate Netflix's Internet transmissions -- could also face penalties for every day and to every person who has been subjected to this discrimination, as well being forced to pay attorney fees.

The complaint recites that Netflix has assured deaf organizations, as well as deaf individuals who have complained about the discrimination, that there is no technical reason why the closed captioning information -- which is allegedly already available in most of the source material Netflix uses to transmit the programming, including even in the DVDs which it provides to customers -- cannot be transmitted over the Internet, and Netflix has repeatedly promised to do so.

Netflix's "willfully, maliciously, and unfairly refusing to provide closed captioning services for the programming it transmits to customers through the Internet," and its continued refusal to meet the legitimate needs of their deaf, hearing impaired, and hard of hearing customers, is the basis of this legal action, says Banzhaf, who helped establish the National Center for Law and the Deaf, require the open captioning of information in emergency messages broadcast by TV stations, get deaf students admitted to law schools, and caused Congress to invite the first deaf person to testify on deaf-related issues before a congressional committee.

Many courts have held that even providing the same services to everyone may nevertheless illegally discriminate against one group as compared with another if that service has the effect or consequence of adversely affecting one group. For example, a university which provides uniforms and equipment to its university athletes, but doesn't provide protective cups and/or jock straps, obviously has the effect or consequence of discriminating against the male athletes, even though the female athletes are likewise denied these same items.

Two U.S. Court of Appeals decisions make this point very clearly. In the first, the Sixth Circuit court held that even providing identical restroom facilities to males and females may constitute illegal sex discrimination against women because their needs are very different. In that case the facilities were filthy, which presented a far more serious health problem to women since men don't have to sit to urinate. The court held "anatomical differences between men and women are ‘immutable characteristics,’ just as race, color and national origin are" – and, of course, as deafness is.

Similarly, in another case, where both male and female workers were equally required to urinate outdoors in the open, the court held that the requirement constituted "sexual harassment" of female employees because the same act of urination was both more difficult and more embarrassing for women than for men

This legal proceeding against Netflix is also similar to two other discrimination complaints brought against eHarmony, a match-making Internet website.  Both charged that although the company provided the same service to everyone -- help in finding a person of the opposite sex who might be compatible -- it nevertheless discriminated on the basis of the prohibited basis of sexual orientation since the service was virtually useless to homosexuals -- just as a movie-via-Internet service without captions is virtually useless to the deaf.

eHarmony was ordered to pay $55,000 in one case, and to settle for $2 million in the other.

Ironically, deaf people may sign up to receive DVDs in the mail from Netflix containing many of the same programs they can also receive over the Internet, and which have closed captions which they can turn on so that they can understand and fully enjoy the programming.  However, they cannot get this same closed captioning if they obtain their programming from Netflix over the Internet.

As a result, the deaf are denied the full and equal enjoyment of the Netflix Internet service since, with the DVD delivery-by-mail service:
■ they have to order the programming days in advance and cannot be spontaneous, entertain visitors with different tastes who suddenly drop in, etc.;
■  they must wait several days before they can watch the programming they desire;
■  they are limited -- by the number of DVDs they can have out at any one time -- in terms of how many programs they can watch in a given time span;
■  they must put up with the inconvenience of opening and repacking the mailing envelopes, finding and then putting them back into a mailbox, etc.

Banzhaf, who has been a leader in using legal action as a weapon against the problems of the deaf, just as he has also done with the problems of smoking, obesity, and sex discrimination, says that finally the silent minority may be heard, and be able to enjoy -- even if they cannot hear -- the movies and TV programs everyone else takes for granted.

Professor of Public Interest Law
George Washington University Law School,
FAMRI Dr. William Cahan Distinguished Professor,
Fellow, World Technology Network,
Founder, Action on Smoking and Health (ASH)
Creator, Banzhaf Index of Voting Power
2000 H Street, NW, Suite S402
Washington, DC 20052, USA
(202) 994-7229 // (703) 527-8418


By Marla Dougherty  6/30/11

The friendly people at QuickCaption were pleased to share information about all the captioning services they have been providing for 12 years. They have 103 contractors that provide captioning nationwide and offer CART, remote CART, video/DVD captioning and streaming media captioning.

Last November I experienced remote CART at the HLAA Walk4Hearing in Washington DC.  Walkers with a smart phone or iPad could enjoy the streaming of live CART if they were too far away to see the remote CART.  By going to the QuickCaption homepage and clicking on the HLAA event, they had instant streaming of the speeches.

QuickCaption makes it easy for you to get a copy of the event transcript. On their website you can copy and paste the transcript once the program is over. The information remains “live” on the website for about 15 minutes. After that, it is archived and the text can be mailed to you.

By Bonnie O'Leary  6/29/11

Many of us are familiar with or use Ultratec’s CapTel phone, and I have been fortunate to have used both the 800 and 800i models over time here at NVRC.  I spoke with CapTel Outreach Manager, John Kinstler, who wanted me to let readers know that they provide great customer service both in English and in Spanish.  All you have to do is push the blue Customer Service button on the phone. 

The CapTel technology is evolving all the time, and now in addition to landline service, CapTel is available on the web, computers, and mobile phones.  Services are provided by either Sprint Relay or Hamilton Relay.  You can find CapTel on Facebook and Twitter, too, and John asked me to mention that they were the top sponsors for the HLAA 2010 Walk4Hearing.

What is the main difference between the 800 and 800i model?  The CapTel 800 works with standard analog telephone line(s) or DSL with appropriate filter.  Because the captions are provided by a captioning service, the person calling you must first connect with that service by dialing a toll free 877 number.  The caller will then enter your phone number and press #, and the call will go through.  The CapTel 800i, on the other hand, works like a regular phone because it is connected to the internet, so the person calling you can just call your number directly.

There is more information about the phones and the CapTel service available at, or you can contact John Kinstler at

By Marla Dougherty  6/27/11

 If you are familiar with the CapTel telephone, you know it is a free relay service that delivers real-time captions so you can read what the caller is saying.

You can also get the captions on your computer screen with Web CapTel. All you need is a high-speed internet connection and any available telephone. It is a convenient way to use the telephone at work or home.

At the HLAA convention, Hamilton CapTel presented their newest service, the Mobile CapTel which is available with compatible smartphones. After a one-time registration, you can easily download the free app to your smartphone. Stay connected while you are on the move using the speaker phone and reading captions or use a hands-free headset that works with hearing aid and cochlear implants.


Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, along with Hearing Loss Association of America, has been working with National Public Radio and Towson University for several years to make radio broadcasts accessible.  We are close to the finish line!   Technology now makes it possible for radio broadcasts to be captioned both over the air and online.The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) is being asked for a research grant to do for pilot demonstrations in several cities.  We believe CPB is a good match because of its particular responsibility “to encourage the development of programming that involves creative risks and that addresses the needs of unserved and underserved audiences, particularly children and minorities.”

We invite everyone who supports this request for funding to sign onto a letter to Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 

Go to to read the letter and sign on by providing your name and your street address or city/state and email address.

Thanks so much!

Captioned Radio Demonstration
Captioned radio demonstrated on a Sony digital radio