New Lawsuit Looks to End Inaccessibility of Popular Podcast Platforms

December 15, 2021 BY KELLY MAHONEY
Updated: December 20, 2021

On December 14, 2021, the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) announced their accessibility lawsuit against podcast services offered by SiriusXM, Stitcher, and Pandora. Surprisingly, these major entertainment providers do not prioritize transcription of podcasts hosted on their networks – therefore making their content inaccessible to Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing, and in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

 

Read DRA’s announcement
 

About the lawsuit

The National Association of the Deaf (NAD) is a premier nonprofit civil rights organization, dedicated to protecting the civil, human, and linguistic rights of more than 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people across the United States.

Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is a leading national nonprofit and disability rights legal center. Founded in 1993, DRA is dedicated to advancing equal rights and opportunities for disabled people across America. lawsuit clipboard

Both the NAD and DRA are working together to bring legal action, and cite five additional deaf individuals as Plaintiffs: Rebecca Alexander, Jazmine Jones, Amber Martin, James Munro, and Mei Nishimoto. Each of the Plaintiffs was effectively barred from consuming podcasts offered by SiriusXM, Stitcher, and Pandora (“Defendants”).

Howard Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, says podcasts “are the latest form of entertainment, and it is imperative that deaf and hard of hearing people not be left behind.” Entertainment technology is constantly evolving to accommodate user interests or preferences, and this lawsuit points out that the Defendants have had more than enough time to incorporate accessible accommodations — like making transcripts available.

“Requesting accommodations is not asking to be given information out of privilege,” says Plaintiff Rebecca Alexander, “but having equal access to information, including from podcasts, is a fundamental civil right.”

Forecasting future trends

Just as the official complaint itself points out, the Defendants fail to provide transcripts “despite the fact that it is relatively simple to do so, particularly given much of [that work] can be automated.”

Nowadays, there are so many ways to generate transcripts for audio-only content, that there’s essentially no excuse for not doing it. Whether you create your own transcripts or use a third-party transcription company, it’s much better to provide your users with something rather than nothing.

This new lawsuit will likely serve as a foundational piece of litigation in the podcast industry, very much like the landmark Netflix captioning lawsuit has done in the video industry. The legal action comes as no surprise to those in the accessibility space, especially considering that transcripts & text-based formats are projected to be a key point of focus for podcast producers in 2022 and forward.


Podcast accessibility: 6 tips for improving access to your podcast with link to read the list

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