December 02, 2019

Harvard reached a settlement with the National Association of the Deaf Wednesday in a 2015 lawsuit alleging that the University failed to adequately close caption its publicly accessible online video and audio content.

According to the February 2015 complaint in federal court, much of Harvard’s free online content, which includes podcasts and recorded lectures, either lacked closed captioning or such captions were “unintelligible.” The complaint argued that this deprives deaf and hard of hearing individuals of “benefits” afforded to those without disabilities. It also alleged that Harvard violated obligation of universities receiving federal funding to “provide people with disabilities equal access to their programs and activities” under the 1973 United States Rehabilitation Act.

Per the settlement reached last week, the University must take steps to improve the accessibility of content posted to its official website and associated media platforms. Harvard agreed to caption Harvard-produced content posted on or after Dec. 1, 2019 to University websites or to associated video websites. For pieces of content posted earlier, Harvard will provide captions within five business days of a specific request for captions from an individual wishing to access that content. Harvard will also provide captions for livestreams of University-wide events.

The complete article can be accessed here.