When Is Closed Captioning Required? U.S. Laws for Video Accessibility

If you produce or distribute videos in the United States, your content may be subject to federal regulations regarding accessibility for people who are deaf and hard of hearing. Accessibility laws are adapting to the digital age, so it’s important to be aware of legal standards and how they apply to your business.

In this post, we’ll go through the most important U.S. laws regarding video accessibility so that you can know exactly what types of videos will need to be captioned.

Note: When you need to add captions to your videos, Simon Says offers a simple yet powerful solution for all your subtitling needs. With just a few clicks, you can automatically turn your video audio into text which you can then use to quickly caption your videos. Check out the various tools to learn more.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The ADA is a law that aims to prevent discrimination against those with disabilities in public settings. It requires that state and local government (Title II entities) and businesses and nonprofit organizations that serve the public, like libraries, universities and museums (Title III entities), communicate effectively with all citizens, even those with a disability that affects the way they communicate.

Essentially, whatever written or audio-based materials these entities produce must be as clear and understandable to people with disabilities as they are for people who do not have disabilities.

Rehabilitation Act: Sections 508 & 504

Enacted in 1973, the Rehabilitation Act originally addressed disability discrimination for federal entities or organizations receiving federal funding. Two amendments, Sections 504 and 508, broadened the act’s application to online video content.

Section 504 makes accessibility for disabled individuals a civil right. Failure to accommodate individuals with disabilities can result in a discrimination lawsuit, which applies to both federal agencies and any entity that receives federal funding.

Section 508 mandates accessibility for electronic media or IT in federal programs or services. While this section doesn’t explicitly extend beyond federal agencies, many states passed laws called “mini 508 laws” that extend the section’s reach to organizations that receive federal funding. This includes many colleges, universities, arts and culture institutions, and research facilities.

21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA)

Brought into law in 2010, the CVAA provides an update to existing federal communications law with the aim of increasing the accessibility of “modern communications”, especially online content.

Building on FCC closed caption regulations, this act states that online content must comply with analog closed captioning standards, such as those influencing the quality, timing and placement of captions on streamed video content.

Closed captioning requirements for online videos

Numerous FCC mandates for online video programming were passed in 2014 to increase closed captioning rules for IP-delivered content. Like the CVAA, FCC rulings apply to online video that previously appeared on television. Here are the most prominent updates to FCC rules for online video:

FCC Quality Standards

The FCC has clarified quality standards for television captioning, which set the precedent for online video captioning as a whole.

  • Accuracy: Captions must relay the speaker’s exact words with correct spelling, punctuation, and grammar with 99% accuracy and no paraphrasing. Captions must honor the original tone and intent of the speaker. Captions must match background noises and other sounds to the fullest extent possible.
  • Time Synchronization: Captions must align with their corresponding spoken words and sounds to the greatest extent possible. Captions must not proceed too quickly for the viewer to read.
  • Program Completeness: Captions must be included from the beginning to the end of the program to the fullest extent possible.
  • Placement: Captions must be positioned on the screen without blocking important content. Font size should be reasonably legible.

User control requirements for TV video

In addition to these quality standards, the FCC mandates new user control requirements for consuming online video which previously aired with captions on television. This involves an application or plug-in to video players that allow the viewer to select font type, size, color, opacity, and edge style for their caption display.

Ensure your videos meet all captioning requirements with Simon Says 

Because legislation like the ADA requires Title II (state and local governments) and Title III entities (businesses and nonprofits) to communicate effectively with everyone, more businesses than ever are finding themselves needing to think about captioning for the first time. Luckily, Simon Says’ intuitive captioning software can help simplify the process 

Whether your business requires you to meet ADA, FCC, or other standards, Simon Says allows you to effortlessly add captions without interrupting your normal workflow.

Check out our captioning software today to learn more.

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