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Increasing Internet Accessibility for the Deaf

Contributed by Alan Thomas, Deaf Services Coordinator

Twenty-five years ago, few television shows or movies were captioned. Today, thanks to advancing technology and Federal Law, you can turn on the television and watch most shows with captions. Also, thanks to improved technology and the volunteer efforts of movie studios and movie distributors, you can now buy or rent many DVDs with captions.

Increasingly, people are watching television shows and movies that are redistributed over the Internet. People can download these television shows and movies from the Internet and watch them on their computers or other internet enabled devices. Additionally, people may decide to save these shows and watch them later. However, almost none of these television shows and movies, even television shows which were captioned in their original release, are captioned when redistributed over the Internet. Presently, only a fraction of the multimedia on the Internet must be captioned or otherwise made accessible to people who are deaf or hard of hearing.

Many organizations such as Centers for Independent Living, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD), and state associations of the deaf, continue to advocate for increased Internet captioning. The law is generally clear that government agencies must make their websites accessible. The law is less clear about business websites. Finally, the law does not require television shows and movies that are redistributed over the Internet to be captioned… yet.

The NAD Law and Advocacy Center is seeking to make changes to the Communications Act that will expand the television Closed Captioning rules to television program producers and distributors who redistribute television programs or other video over the Internet.
People are also advocating for broadband Internet access to be available, affordable and accessible to all Americans.

Below is a link to a law you may not know about. Some sections apply to our daily life:

The Communications Act of 1934 found online at:


Section 225 (Relay Services)
Section 255 (Accessible Equipment and Services)
Section 710 (Hearing Aid Compatibility)
Section 713 (Video Programming Accessibility).

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Thanks for reading! Be sure to check back with us next week for more info from PACE!

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