U.S. Accessibility Regulations for Online Video Captions

Media, Government, Education, Retail industries are most impacted

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (CVAA) has mandated in that starting on September 30, 2012 television content distributed on the Internet must also be captioned with at least the same quality as television versions.

TV Content Owners and Producers

The 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act was signed into law in 2010. Starting Sept 30, 2012, it requires closed captions on video, displayed online, for video that was delivered with captions on broadcast television.

Federal Government and Enterprise serving Government and Defense

Congress amended Section 508 of the Rehabilitation Act to require access to the Federal government's electronic and information technology. It applies to all Federal agencies when they develop, procure, maintain, or use such technology. Agencies must ensure this technology is accessible to employees and the public. Under §1194.22 (b), federal agencies must caption all videos and multimedia files, including all formats: over the air broadcast, CD or DVD, and Web multimedia whether produced internally or externally, including video produced by partners if federal funds are used. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also mandates that it is not permissible to provide stand-alone transcripts in lieu of video captioning.


Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act in 1973 provides that no otherwise qualified individual with disabilities in the United States shall, solely by reason of his/her disability, be excluded from the participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any program, such as a education institution, receiving federal financial assistance. Title II of the ADA, 42 U.S.C. §§ 12101-12213, requires comparable access by all state and local government programs, regardless of whether or not the programs get federal financial assistance.

Media, Publishers, Retailers, and Websites

The U.S. Department of Justice is considering revising the regulations implementing Title III of the ADA in order to establish requirements for making the goods, services, facilities, privileges, accommodations, or advantages offered by public accommodations via the Internet, specifically at sites on the Internet accessible to individuals with disabilities. The Justice Department is currently reviewing comments on requiring captions for websites with online video.


In National Federation of the Blind v. The Target Corporation, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California ruled that under the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA) retailers can be sued if their websites are not accessible to individuals with disabilities and that the "ADA's prohibition against discrimination in the enjoyment of goods, services, facilities or privileges, is that whatever goods or services the place provides, it cannot discriminate on the basis of disability in providing enjoyment of those goods and services."
Disability Rights Office
Consumer Facts
National Association of the Deaf
Captioning Web
Broadcast Law Blog
Closed Captions