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‘Watch Instantly’? Lawsuit claims Netflix streaming tunes out deaf viewers

Netflix Apple TVIn a case that echoes lawsuits resolved last year against Amazon from advocates for the blind over its Kindle e-reader, Netflix now faces a complaint from the National Association for the Deaf over its online streaming content.

The organization says Netflix’s “Watch Instantly” catalog is short on closed captioning, and has sued in federal court saying this violates the Americans With Disabilities Act. The suit claims “most of the titles” on the Netflix streaming service have no captions.

“There is no excuse for Netflix to fail to provide captions so that deaf and hard of hearing customers have access to the same movies and TV shows as everyone else,” Arlene Mayerson, directing attorney of the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, said in a NAD statement. “Netflix admits that there is no technological issue. For people who are deaf and hard of hearing, captions are like ramps for people who use wheelchairs.”

The complaint was filed June 16 in U.S. District Court in Massachusetts. CNET News points out a Netflix blog post from February that quotes an executive saying 30 percent of streaming titles have subtitles, and by the end of this year it should be 80 percent.

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