Two federal laws and one set of federal regulations govern the captioning of videos.
Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a broad, anti-discrimination law for people with disabilities. Title II of the ADA requires that state and local government entities ensure “effective communication” with citizens by providing assistive technology or service, including captioning. Title III requires captioning for videos displayed by “places of public accommodation”, that is, businesses and non-profit organizations that serve the public, including schools, colleges and universities.
It should be noted that both Title II and Title III offer a disclaimer related to instances where such accommodation would create an “undue hardship” for the organization. However, there have been recently filed against colleges, video streaming providers, and other companies for not providing captioned media.
Section 504 and 508 of the Rehabilitation Act
The Rehabilitation Act of 1973: Section 504 requires that all federal entities, and organizations that receive federal funding, make accommodations for equal access for individuals with disabilities. Section 508 requires electronic communications and information technologies, such as websites, email, or web documents, be accessible. For video content, closed captions are a specific requirement. These regulations apply to US federal offices as well as organizations that receive federal funding and colleges and universities that receive federal grants.
The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)
The CVAA requires closed captioning for online video content that was originally broadcast on TV. The CVAA does not cover video content that aired only online and never on television.
FCC Closed Captioning Regulations
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates interstate and international communication via television, radio, and the internet and sets a strict standard for the accuracy, synchronicity, completeness and placement of captions.
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