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OTT Platforms Are Now Accessibility Friendly! Know WHY…

Debarpita Banerjee Published on : 26 September 2022
Accessibility Lawsuits on OTT Platforms


Website Accessibility has gained both popularity and importance in the last 30 years. Since the implementation of Section 508 in the USA, and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) of the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium), it is now mandatory for all types of websites to make their content and platform accessible to people with disabilities. And OTT Platforms need to abide by these guidelines as well. 

And it is particularly important for your business too. Recently released statistics have shown that at least 26% of the population suffers from some form of disability. At least 10% of the population have sight-related issues, while at least 2% of the population suffers from hearing loss. Hence, it is crucial for OTT platforms to be accessible to cater to people from all walks of life, including those with disabilities.

Hence, you must start working on it today itself! This blog will discuss everything you need to know about the ‘Accessibility’ of OTT Platforms and the leading lawsuits which were filed against the platforms that did not comply with the guidelines in the past. 


Introduction to Accessibility Guidelines 

Accessibility guidelines is the set of rules that a website must follow, in order to make its website content accessible to people with disabilities. These rules basically include a set of features that are compulsory for any website. These features help people with disabilities in interacting with your website. In short, following the accessibility guidelines will make your website disabled-friendly. 

One of the prime website accessibility guidelines followed worldwide is Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0. It was released by the World Wide Web Consortium on 11 December 2008. Apart from this globally accepted standard, there are many country-specific and region-specific guidelines and laws which are released by the government of that specific country or region. ADA and Section 508 (in the USA), and AODA (in Canada) are some of them. 


What does WCAG Say About OTT Platforms?

So, now comes the million-dollar question. Which rules of WCAG must be followed by the OTT platforms? 

To answer this question, we have conducted a deep study of the WCAG 2.0 guidelines, to identify the rules that apply to all the OTT platforms, and the rules that they must follow to make their platform accessible to people with disabilities. The WCAG-recommended features that must be present in an OTT platform are discussed below. 


Captions and Subtitles

WCAG guidelines recommend that you should add captions and subtitles to all your videos. It will help people with hearing disabilities understand the content of your video. Also, you can add audio descriptions for the videos that will help people with visual impairments. 


Alt Texts

Alt Texts are an important part of any accessibility guideline across the world. Whatever images are available on your website, you must add relevant alt texts to all of them. It will again help the visually impaired individuals in understanding the meaning and intent of the images. 


Background Color Contrast               

For patients with many visual impairments, and especially for color blinds, background color contrast is an important factor. That is why WCAG and most of the other accessibility guidelines recommend using light-colored text over dark backgrounds. In fact, even the google developer’s guidelines recommend the same for Android TV and applications.  

If you want to read about the WCAG guidelines in detail, you can visit their official website here


Consequences of Not Following Guidelines

If you do not follow the accessibility guidelines, then you might have to face legal trouble. Especially in some countries like the USA and Canada, where the government is quite strict in such cases.       

Such legal suits may lead to multiple types of punishments, including financial penalties, and in adverse situations, you might have to face a ban for a specific period of time (though it happens rarely). 

We don’t need to tell you that this will definitely hit your business very hard. You might lose some of your most valued subscribers. Even if the customers remain loyal to you, the financial grind of lawsuits will take a toll on your marketing, recruitment, and investment plans. Your business growth will slow down drastically. 

Wait a minute. Don’t believe what we are saying? Take a look at the lawsuits that were actually filed against some of the leading OTT platforms.  


How The Biggest OTT Giant Got Sued Over Accessibility Issues

Yes, you are reading it right. A few years back, Netflix, the biggest OTT giant globally, got sued by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). The main objection of NAD was that Netflix was not using captions on some of its videos back then. As a result, Netflix’s content was of no use to deaf people.    

The details of the lawsuit are publicly available on the official website of NAD

In the submitted lawsuit, the NAD had claimed that Netflix violates the ‘Americans with Disabilities’ Act (ADA Law) as they are not providing ‘Equal Access To their “Watch Instantly” Streaming Content.’ Here, we have to note that the lawsuit was specifically directed towards a service provided by the NetFlix website which was called “Watch Instantly”. 

At that time, the Massachusetts district court had accepted the charges and had forced the company to settle the lawsuit. NetFlix had to pay more than $750,000 in legal fees. 

This case shows us that even if you have made most of the parts of your website accessible, you can still get sued even for the slightest of mistakes. Yup, ADA is THAT STRICT! 

And this is not the only case in this manner. Soon after this case, a leading news broadcasting website was also sued for not adding captions to its news videos. 

But it is nothing to fear, as different courts have shown different perspectives in their ruling of such cases over the years. An example of one such case again surrounds Netflix, but this time, the ruling was completely different from the previous case. U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had said that NetFlix doesn’t fall under ADA while judging a case that was very similar to the previous case. This lawsuit was filed by an individual named Donald Cullen, who is himself deaf. 

But still, we can’t sit on the hope of fate, right? As the saying goes, “Prevention is Better than Cure”. It is always better to follow the accessibility guideline to prevent even the slightest chance of getting sued. 


How MUVI Helps You Avoid Such Accessibility Lawsuits on your OTT Platform

If you are building your OTT platform with MUVI, then you don’t need to worry about such lawsuits at all. Because MUVI lets you add captions, subtitles, audio descriptions, and color contrast very easily to your website. 

You can upload captions and subtitles to all your videos in a single stroke, by following the steps given below:

  • Firstly, you will have to develop captions for your videos and store them according to the name of their respective videos.
  • We will be using the FileZilla app in the next step. So, if you don’t have that app, then please install it. 
  • Now login to your CMS, and find out your FTP account details. 
  • Then, log in to FileZilla using your FTP account details. 
  •  Upload the caption or subtitle files, select the source and target language, and click on “Sync to Video Library” on your video library page. 
  • In case you are uploading closed captions, the source and target language will remain the same. 
  • In this way, the captions files will automatically get mapped to their respective videos. 

You can read this process in detail by clicking here

If you want to upload captions and subtitles individually to a single video, you can do so by following the steps given in this article

Wait a minute…Are you confused about the difference between a caption and a subtitle? Read the differences in detail here


Wrapping Up            

Over the years, many leading OTT and media companies have been sued for not following the accessibility guideline. But a simple process of adding captions and audio descriptions to all the videos will save your platform from any such consequences. 

So, if you are already on MUVI, don’t waste your time. Start adding captions and subtitles to your videos today! Wait a minute, are you not on MUVI yet? Then it’s your time to sign up, as MUVI lets you build your own OTT platform and OTT apps in 16+ environments in just a few minutes, without writing a single line of code! So hurry up! Sign up for our 14-Day free trial today. 

Written by: Debarpita Banerjee

Debarpita is a Content Writer with Muvi. With around 2 years of experience in content creation, she has worked across industries like SaaS, EdTech, eLearning, AR-VR, and Metaverse. She believes in delivering content that can be of some value to the readers. In her free time, she likes to try her hand at website and app development.

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