Federal Regulations Regarding Captioning

Two federal laws and one set of federal regulations govern the captioning of videos.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)


People who have vision, hearing, or speech disabilities (“communication disabilities”) use different ways to communicate. For example, people who are blind may give and receive information audibly rather than in writing and people who are deaf may give and receive information through writing or sign language rather than through speech.

The ADA requires that title II entities (State and local governments) and title III entities (businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public) communicate effectively with people who have communication disabilities. The goal is to ensure that communication with people with these disabilities is equally effective as communication with people without disabilities.

This publication is designed to help title II and title III entities (“covered entities”) understand how the rules for effective communication, including rules that went into effect on March 15, 2011,apply to them.

*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 several lawsuits 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.

For more information: