SHARE: Historic Captioning Agreement with Airlines

[Video description can be found below. If you use a screen reader and need to access the caption file transcript, go to “More…” and click on “Transcript”]

The Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation (ACCESS Advisory Committee) reached an agreement on ensuring that the same in-flight entertainment that are available to all passengers are also accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and visually impaired passengers. Zainab Alkebsi, Policy Counsel of the NAD, led as co-chair of the in-flight entertainment and communications work group. More info can be found: https://nad.org/news/2016/12/historic-captioning-agreement-airlines

Video description and transcript: Zainab stands inside NAD Headquarters. A small white NAD logo appears on bottom right corner.

ZAINAB: On most flights, deaf and hard of hearing passengers do not enjoy movies because almost none are captioned. This is because most airplanes have in-flight entertainment systems that do not support captioning and also because most of the videos provided to the airplanes do not have captions. The NAD reached an agreement with Gogo to provide captioning on all of its movies by June 30, 2017, but not all planes have Gogo.

In April 2016, the Department of Transportation (DOT) established the Advisory Committee on Accessible Air Transportation. This ACCESS Advisory Committee included disability advocacy organizations, airlines, aircraft manufacturers, and content providers. These committee members were to negotiate among themselves to develop a proposed rule addressing accessible in-flight entertainment and communications, accessible lavatories, and service animals. I was appointed co-chair of the work group that focuses on in-flight entertainment and communications.

After seven months of negotiating, the committee reached an agreement on ensuring that the same in-flight entertainment that are available to all passengers are also accessible to deaf, hard of hearing, blind, and visually impaired passengers. The ACCESS Advisory Committee submitted these recommendations to the Department of Transportation. The DOT was part of the negotiation process and is likely to create regulations based on these recommendations.

We made many recommendations but I’ll share three.

• All new in-flight entertainment systems, whether on newly delivered aircraft or newly-installed on existing aircraft, must be capable of supporting closed captions and audio descriptions as of the effective date of the final rule.

• If an aircraft has inaccessible seatback in-flight entertainment systems, it must provide an alternative personal entertainment device (PED) with accessible, comparable video content. Airlines can do this either through their own PEDs, on which content can be preloaded or streamed wirelessly, or by streaming wirelessly to passengers’ PEDs.

• Airlines shall request from video content providers that 100% of covered in-flight entertainment content are closed-captioned and audio-described, and shall obtain such covered video content with closed captions and audio descriptions available from the content providers, including edited versions.

The committee also agreed to establish an independent task force to determine how to achieve accessible cabin announcements. The committee will review available technology to decide how deaf and hard of hearing passengers can have equal access to announcements such as departures, landings, flight changes, and delays. The committee will develop and submit recommendations for accessible cabin announcements to the DOT on or before November 15, 2017. The NAD will be a representative on this task force.

Deaf and hard of hearing passengers have a right to equal access to the basic services available to other airplane travelers. For many years, deaf and hard of hearing passengers have been denied access to in-flight entertainment and communications during flights. With this agreement, in-flight entertainment and communications will finally be accessible to all passengers. The NAD is proud to have been involved in the regulatory negotiation process and applauds the DOT for taking steps to mandate increased accessibility in the air where the viewing experience is inclusive for all passengers.

Video fades to several different font types showing “NAD” very quickly. Copyright video ends with the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) logo centered. Blue text below the logo appears, “A production of the National Association of the Deaf (copyright) 2016 All Rights Reserved”.

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