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Web Accessibility & Closed Captioning Laws


US Federal Accessibility LawsJump to Top

  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)


    The ADA is a broad, anti-discrimination law for people with disabilities. Titles II and III of the ADA affect web accessibility and closed captioning.

    Title II prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local and state level. Governmental organizations must ensure “effective communication” with citizens, including providing assistive technology or services as needed.

    Title III prohibits disability discrimination by “places of public accommodation.” A place of public accommodation covers shared or public entities like libraries, universities, hotels, museums, theaters, transportation services, etc., that are privately owned. Video displayed within or distributed by such places must be captioned.

    Both Title II and Title III offer a disclaimer about instances where such accommodation would create an “undue hardship” for the organization. This is often the crux of arguments in ADA lawsuits about whether or not an organization must provide closed captioning. Another point of contention is whether or not a purely online business can be considered a “place of public accommodation.”

    Whom this law applies to:

    Municipal and state offices and facilities; museums; libraries; schools, colleges & universities; theaters & cinemas; convention centers & arenas; train stations & airports; hotels; parks; hospitals and clinics; pharmacies; restaurants; retail stores & malls; day care facilities; potentially, online services or products that are made publicly available.

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    How the ADA Impacts Online Video Accessibility


  • Section 508 & Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act


    Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act requires electronic communications and information technologies, such as websites, email, or web documents, be accessible. For video content, closed captions are a specific requirement.

    Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act protects the civil rights of people with disabilities by requiring all federal entities — and organizations that receive federal funding — to make accommodations for equal access. This means that closed captioning must be provided for users who are deaf or hard of hearing.

    Whom this law applies to:

    US federal offices and all their digital or physical services and communications; organizations that receive federal funding; universities or colleges that receive federal grants.

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    Sections 508 and 504: Closed Captioning and Web Accessibility Requirements


  • FCC Closed Captioning Regulations


    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communication via television, radio, and the internet. They set strict guidelines for closed captioning television programs and live broadcasts, with specific standards on caption accuracy, timing, placement, and completeness.

    While analog broadcasters have long had to caption all of their video content, some web video broadcasters are affected by FCC captioning rules.

    Whom this law applies to:

    Television broadcasters in the US; television content producers; television content distributors, online or analog; film producers and distributors in the US.

    Want to learn more?

    Download free whitepaper:

    FCC Updates for Closed Captioning of Online Video: Are You Compliant?


  • 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)


    Passed in 2010, the CVAA addresses closed captioning for online video. Specifically, it applies to all online video that previously aired on US television with closed captions. This content must comply to analog FCC closed captioning regulations, including quality standards for timing, placement, accuracy, and completeness.

    The CVAA applies to web video streaming sites that distribute TV shows online, as well as media sites that include movie trailers, clips, and soon, montages. Deadlines for compliance benchmarks have been rolling out for the past few years, and more deadlines are on the horizon (see timeline to the right).

    Whom this law applies to:

    Websites that stream or offer downloadable English or Spanish video that previously aired on American television with captions.

    Want to learn more?

    Download free whitepaper:

    CVAA Online Video Captioning Requirements and Deadlines


US State Accessibility LawsJump to Top


    Many states have adopted Section 508 federal regulations into their own laws (“little 508s”), requiring state government entities to comply with federal accessibility standards. Some states created their own accessibility laws based on Section 508 or other standards.

    Click on the map below to learn more about captioning and web accessibility laws in your state.

    AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MS MO MT NE NV NH NJ NM NY NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY


International Accessibility LawsJump to Top



    Canada

  • Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA)


    The AODA sets accessibility requirements for organizations in Ontario, Canada with the aim of creating a universally accessible province by 2025. It categorizes businesses by size and ownership (public vs. private), with slightly different rules for each.

    The AODA is the most progressive accessibility law in the world. It requires WCAG 2.0 compliance for every public and private organization, except for private organizations with fewer than 50 employees. Closed captioning is required for all video content.

    Want to learn more?

    Download free whitepaper:

    Accessibility in Ontario: How the AODA Impacts Web and Online Video




  • United Kingdom

  • The Equality Act (EQA)


    The EQA consolidated 116+ anti-discrimination laws into a single bill that protects individuals’ civil rights regardless of gender, sex, age, religion, political affiliation, disability, marriage status, or sexual orientation. Employers are required to make “reasonable adjustments” to accommodate people with disabilities. Accessibility requirements such as closed captioning videos extend to public entities and universities, as well.

    British National Standard 8878


    BS 8878 is a national standard that set accessibility recommendations for all electronic products, services, and information. It outlines an actionable accessibility strategy and provides templates for writing your organization’s accessibility policy statement.

    Ofcom Regulations


    Similar to the FCC in America, Ofcom regulates British telecommunications and broadcast media. It is responsible for setting standards, rules, and deadlines for closed captioning in the UK. The Ofcom Code on Television Access Services sets a schedule of accessibility compliance for broadcasters with annual deadlines spread over 10 years. By the end of the 10th year, at least 80% of the broadcaster’s content must have subtitles.

    Communications Act of 2003


    The Communications Act of 2003 granted Ofcom full regulatory authority of telecommunications and broadcast media in the UK. In addition to other major rule changes, the Communications Act increased requirements for UK broadcasters to provide ‘television access services,’ like subtitling, sign language, and audio descriptions. Section 303 of the Communications Act compels Ofcom to enact rules about TV access services, along with deadline for compliance.

    Want to learn more?

    Download free whitepaper:

    UK Web Accessibility and Subtitle Regulations



  • Australia

  • Broadcasting Services Act


    The Broadcasting Services Act gave Australian parliament power to set requirements for closed captioning of broadcast media. An amendment to the act specified caption compliance for public television: 100% of public TV programming aired between 6am-12am and all news and current affairs footage must be closed captioned.

    ACMA Regulations


    Similar to the FCC in the US or Ofcom in Britain, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) regulates broadcasting, including closed captioning rules. They set guidelines on acceptable formatting, style, and caption display.

    Disability Discrimination Act (DDA)


    Comparable to the Americans with Disabilities Act in the US or the Equality Act in Great Britain, the DDA protects the civil rights of individuals with disabilities and mandates certain accommodations for them. Section 24 of the DDA requires all free or paid goods, services, or facilities to be made accessible. Subsequent disability discrimination lawsuits have establish that this applies to Australian websites or other digital products or services.

    Want to learn more?

    Download free whitepaper:

    Web Accessibility and Closed Captioning in Australia & New Zealand




  • New Zealand

  • Web Accessibility Standard


    New Zealand’s Web Accessibility Standard established rules for accessible design of government websites at the state and federal level. It largely mimics WCAG 2.0 design standards. According to the standard, web video requires closed captions for prerecorded content within 10 business days of posting. Live captioning is required for “high stakes information or services,” such as public safety announcements or election news.

    Want to learn more?

    Download free whitepaper:

    Web Accessibility and Closed Captioning in Australia & New Zealand


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