Netflix Inc and the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) have submitted a joint consent decree to a federal court in Springfield, Mass. In the agreement, Netflix states that 100% of its streaming content will have closed captions within 2 years.

NAD, along with the Western Massachusetts Association of the Deaf and Hearing-Impaired (WMAD/HI) and Lee Nettles, a deaf Massachusetts resident, brought suit against Netflix seeking that commitment in 2010.

Netflix has attempted to provide closed captioning, but had not guaranteed it until now. The company began its closed-captioning program in 2010 and has since increased its captioning for 90% of the hours viewed, according to the company. However, “viewed” is not the same as all 90% of all titles, but only the titles actually viewed by consumers.

With the consent agreement, the company is now committed to focusing on covering all titles by captioning 100% of its content by 2014, whether viewed or not.

Captions can be displayed on a majority of the more than 1,000 devices on which the service is available. To better inform the deaf and hard of hearing community about the available titles with captioning, Netflix has agreed to improve its interface so that subscribers can identify content that has been captioned thus far.

The parties have asked the court to maintain jurisdiction of the case for 4 years to assure compliance with the terms of the decree, and the NAD and its co-plaintiffs will monitor Netflix’s progress.

“We’re so pleased that Netflix worked jointly with plaintiffs to devise a reasonable and workable way to achieve 100% captioning. The decree is a model for the streaming entertainment industry,” said Arlene Mayerson, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund’s directing attorney. “DREDF hopes that this is the beginning of opening the Internet for deaf and hard of hearing individuals in streamed entertainment, education, government benefits, and more.”

The consent decree is available here:

SOURCE: National Association of the Deaf (NAD)