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Title: Lawsuit against Hulu because it fails to be accessible to the blind and visually impaired
On November 20, the American Council of the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind, and Brian and Kim Charlson, who are both blind, sued the video streaming company Hulu. There are 2 reasons for the lawsuit. First, none of Hulu's video content is offered with audio description, which in turn makes the video content inaccessible to people who are blind or visually impaired. Second, Hulu's website and applications are also not accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.
Hulu is owned by The Walt Disney Company, 21st Century Fox, Comcast and Time Warner. All these companies have experience with audio description. In fact, the Disney Channel, ABC, Fox, NBC (owned by Comcast), TBS and TNT (the last 2 owned by a division of Time Warner) are all obliged by law to provide 50 hours of video-described prime time or children's programming per calendar quarter. It does not make sense that Hulu, a company with 10 years in the market, does not provide services that are accessible to the blind and visually impaired.
In addition, even though it is not mandatory for streaming service companies to include audio description in the content they offer; Hulu's competitors, Netflix, Amazon, Apple iTunes and ABC, already offer audio description for some amount of their content (see note). You would think that knowing this would be an incentive for Hulu to follow suit. Unfortunately that has not been the case, not to mention that offering equal access is the right thing to do.
As in many cases, it takes a lawsuit to produce changes. Just last year, Hulu and the National Association of the Deaf entered into a settlement agreement where Hulu had to provide 100 percent closed captions of its full-length English and Spanish content by September 2017.
What the American Council of the Blind and the other organizations and individuals involved in the current lawsuit are asking for, besides declaring Hulu in violation of Title III of the American with Disabilities Act, is:
- Require Hulu "to provide audio description on all of its streaming video content and to affirmatively market the availability of audio description to blind and visually impaired individuals."
- "Issue an injunction requiring Hulu to bring its website into compliance with the WCAG 2.0, Level AA standard of digital accessibility, and to provide an equivalent level of access for its software applications."
We will keep an eye on the results of this case.
Note: The Audio Description Project offers on its website an excellent summary of the amount of described video offered by these and other companies.
- "Nationwide Class Action Challenges Hulu’s Discrimination against Blind and Visually Impaired Individuals." American Council for the Blind, November 20 - 2017, http://acb.org/hulu-lawsuit
- "Class action lawsuit challenges Hulu’s discrimination toward the blind." The Accessible Digital Project, November 25 - 2017, https://netflixproject.wordpress.com/2017/11/25/class-action-lawsuit-challenges-hulus-discrimination-toward-the-blind/
-"'Dynamic Duo' Kim and Brian Charlson honored for advocacy work." Perkins School for the Blind, October 24 - 2014, http://www.perkins.org/stories/dynamic-duo-kim-and-brian-charlson-honored-for-advocacy-work
- "Streaming video services offering audio description." The Audio Description Project, http://www.acb.org/adp/streaming.html
- "The National Association of the Deaf and Hulu Reach Agreement." Hulu, September 6 - 2016, https://www.hulu.com/press/the-national-association-of-the-deaf-and-hulu-reach-agreement/