After Legal Victories, Push Continues to Make Movies and Web Sites Accessible to the Deaf and Blind

Iowa senator Tom Harkin (D) recently introduced a bill to require movie theaters with more than two screens to provide captioning and audio services for all blind and deaf customers. Senator Harkin also proposed a second bill calling for similar services for in-flight entertainment. According to an article on, an advocacy Web site, the bills have been referred to committee "and thus its by no means certain that they will be brought to the floor for a vote. and even then they have to successfully pass and make it to the White House for a signature."

But new legislation is not the only way to expand accessibility. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the Justice Department is weighing new regulations interpreting the Americans with Disabilities Act in a way that would require Web sites, especially retailers, to provide accessible features like spoken descriptions of pictures for blind consumers and captioned content for deaf visitors.

The push for new legislation and regulation follows the settlement of several high-profile lawsuits brought by disability advocates against Target and Netflix. In both cases, the plaintiffs claimed that the Web sites were public accommodations and, as such, should be governed by the same rules that govern brick-and-mortar stores and movie theaters. As a result of the settlements, Target modified its Web site and Netflix agreed to caption all of its streaming content by 2014. Other retailers have already begun working with accessibility organizations in an effort to make their online stores more accommodating.

To read Senator Harkin's two new bills, click here and here.

To read the Wall Street Journal's article discussing web accessibility, click here.

Article Last Modified: 03/26/2013