How Well Do Organizations Understand Captioning Laws?

Updated: June 3, 2019


Depending on things like industry, annual revenue, jurisdiction, and other criteria your organization probably has at least some legal obligation to caption its public-facing or internal video content to make it accessible to the Deaf and hard of hearing.

One might assume that most organizations are pretty on top of their game when it comes to understanding and adhering to the law.

However, even big organizations and institutions like Netflix, Harvard, MIT, and UC Berkeley have all dealt with varying degrees of legal action over their lack of proper video captions in public-facing video content.

In a recently published report, the 2017 State of Captioning, we use survey data to paint a picture of how organizations are currently responding to the legal landscape around video captioning. Here are some highlights from the section of the report entitled, Legal Compliance:

Understanding of Captioning Laws

In the survey used to generate data for the 2017 State of Captioning, we asked respondents, “How confident are you that you understand what it means to be in compliance with the closed captioning requirements laid out by accessibility laws?”

Column chart showing how confident respondents are about their understanding of captioning laws: 9.12% are not confident at all; 23.71% are not very confident; 50.99% are pretty confident; 16.19% are very confident.

Over 67% of respondents are at least “pretty confident” they know it means to be in compliance with closed captioning requirements laid out by accessibility laws.

At the same time, nearly a third of our respondents are “not very confident” or “not confident at all” when it comes to understanding compliance. We suspect that this lack of understanding could have something to do with why over 22% of organizations use automatic captions for “all” or “some” of their videos without cleaning up the transcript for accuracy.

Industry Breakdown

We took all responses to the above question and filtered responses by industry. Responses were ranked from 1 (least confident) to 4 (most confident) and the average was used to calculate a confidence level between 1 and 100.

Bar chart, based on average of individual responses, showing the confidence level from 1 to 100 of each industry's understanding of captioning laws: In descending order, Government is at 69 out of 100; Media & Entertainment is at 65; Higher Ed is at 58; Video Content Creator/Distributor is at 55; K-12 is at 51; Enterprise is at 51; Religious Broadcast is at 42.

Responses from the Media and Entertainment industry expressed more confidence in the understanding of video captioning laws than any other industry. This response rate is likely because most companies in that industry produce and distribute video content that falls under the strongest of regulations: CVAA and ADA.

The 21st Century Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA), which the FCC introduced to ensure all broadcast programming that has aired on television is captioned, contains some of the strictest regulations around.

Additionally, as a result of the aforementioned Netflix ruling, the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) can now be applied to any other online video streaming services like Hulu or Amazon Video. So, even if a TV show hasn’t aired on traditional television, like a Netflix original, it still needs to be captioned.

Existence of a Captioning Compliance Policy

Captioning compliance policies are measures set in place to ensure that video content at an organization is captioned to consistently meet legal requirements for accessibility.

Since the implementation of the ADA and the spread of digital technology in our everyday lives and work environments, more and more companies are adding policies to make sure their video content is captioned and compliant with the law.

Column chart showing the existence of clear captioning policies at organizations: 23.61% of organizations have a policy; 21.18% are developing one now; 20.76% have a plan to develop a policy on their roadmap; 20.9% do not have a policy.

This chart aligns well with our data that tell us captioning needs are on the rise.

Right now, almost a quarter of our respondents (about 24%) say their organization has a policy for captioning compliance. At the same time, almost 42% of respondents say they are either in the middle of developing a policy or have it on their roadmap to establish one.

This tells us that we can expect to see the number of captioning compliance policies rise significantly in coming years.

To learn more about trends in video captioning including how organizations use video, what captioning budgets look like, and how organizations get their captions, download the 2017 State of Captioning report below:

2017 State of Captioning: Keep up to date with the latest trends in video captioning. Download the free report here.

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