Accessibility Laws for Enterprise

December 11, 2017 BY ELISA EDELBERG
Updated: January 8, 2018

Enterprise video can greatly benefit from being accessible! But with 70% of enterprise captioning budgets falling under $10,000, many wonder if they really need to make their videos accessible. While the answer is probably “yes” and certainly “you definitely should!” this post hopes to give you more concrete answers to the question you really want to know – “What accessibility laws apply to enterprise?”

If your enterprise organization produces the following videos, or has received a request to make videos accessible, then the laws apply to you.

  • Public-facing online video content
  • Employee training videos
  • Video tutorial for products
  • Video content for internal communication

The Americans with Disabilities Act

The goal of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is to ensure equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities. The ADA has five sections, but Title II and Title III are the most relevant for video and web accessibility.

Title II

Title II prohibits disability discrimination by all public entities at the local and state level including employment in public entities. Under Title II, disabled employees must not be blocked from performing responsibilities due to inaccessible processes or procedures.

Under the ADA an employer is required to make reasonable accommodation for the disability of a qualified applicant or employee, as long as it would not impose an “undue hardship” on the operation of the business. Accommodations vary from situation to situation, but an example of such an accommodation would be providing a d/Deaf employee with a sign language interpreter or captioned video content for job training. In addition, in order to allow full access to d/Deaf or hard of hearing employees, employers must caption videos for internal communication and training, as well as public‐facing material, and provide audio description for the visually impaired.

These laws also mean that if you receive a request for making video content accessible, it must be granted. Dishonoring this type of request is what led to a FedEx Ground lawsuit.

Title III

Title III applies to places of public accommodation. Under Title III, when it comes to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, or accommodations of a place of public accommodation, no individual may be discriminated against on the basis of disability with regards.

Accessibility Laws for Enterprise. Do the following types of video content pertain to your enterprise organization? Public-Facing: Do you produce public-facing online video content? Employee Training: Do you use video content as part of your employee training process? Product Tutorials: DO you produce video tutorials to showcase how to use the products or services you offer? Internal Communication: Do you use video content for internal employee and company communication? Accessibility Request: Have you received a request to make your employee training or public-facing video content accessible? Yes! If you answered yes you should be captioning and describing your videos. The ADA: The Americans with Disabilities Act strives to ensure equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Title II impacts public entities, and Title III applies to places of public accommodation. Requests:If you receive a request to make your videos accessible, be prepared to caption and describe them. There are approximately 48 million Americans living with hearing loss, and it's estimated that 23.7 million Americans have trouble seeing. No:If you answered no to these questions, you may not be legally required to caption or describe your videos. However, you should consider the many benefits of accessible video.

Enterprise Lawsuits

“Places of public accommodation” is an umbrella term which has recently been extended and tested against online businesses via lawsuits. Because the ADA was passed before the Internet was as widely used as it is today, Title III has traditionally been applied to physical structures like wheel chair ramps. However, recent case law has extended the ADA to online businesses and web and video accessibility, expanding its reach across industries. There have been several lawsuits in the last decade regarding web and video accessibility in enterprise.

FedEx Lawsuit

In 2014, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) sued FedEx Ground for violating the ADA by discriminating against a large number of deaf and hard-of-hearing package handlers and applicants by failing to provide captions on their mandatory training videos. This case is still pending, but the court denied FedEx’s motion to dismiss.

Target Lawsuit

In 2006, the National Federation of the Blind sued for violating the ADA by having a website that was inaccessible to blind users. This case was one of the first that challenged the ADA’s application to websites. Target and the NFB settled in 2008, with the court stating that the “litigation extended important areas of disability law into an emerging form of electronic commerce that promises to grow in importance.” This case was an important step in extending the ADA to the web.

Winn-Dixie Lawsuit

Winn-Dixie – a grocery store and pharmacy chain – was found to have an inaccessible website. After being sued, the court was faced with the question of whether the website should be subject to the ADA as a service of a public accommodation. The DOJ dissected each word of the regulations, and in June 2017, the court came to a decision. The final say was that the ADA doesn’t only refer to the physical access to a place of public accommodation, but includes access to the web and online services as well.

Amazon Lawsuit

In 2015, Amazon struck a deal with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) to ensure their library of over 190,000 TV shows and movies will be captioned. This agreement would apply to Amazon’s archive of Instant Video that wasn’t yet captioned. In addition, all new Amazon Prime video offerings will also have closed captions.

Benefits of Accessible Video for Enterprise

If you produce or plan to produce video content, there are numerous reasons to caption your videos. Besides making your videos accessible to the 48 million Americans living with hearing loss and 23.7 million Americans with difficulty seeing, adding captions and audio description to videos also makes them more accessible in the following instances:

  • The audio quality is poor
  • The speaker has an accent
  • The content is difficult to understand
  • The viewer knows English as a second language
  • The viewer has a cognitive or learning disability

In addition, captions have the benefit of making your videos SEO-friendly and viewable in sound-sensitive environments like subways, libraries, gyms, and offices. Audio description makes your videos viewable in eyes-free scenarios like while cooking or driving. So whether or not the law says you have to follow accessibility regulations, make the smart choice for your enterprise organization, and make your content accessible!


Get started making your videos accessible with captions and audio description today!


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