Ask Howard Anything / December 2019

The NAD sued and recently settled with Harvard University but what does this settlement mean for all deaf and hard of hearing people? #AskHoward // December 2019

Original PR: https://www.nad.org/2019/11/27/national-association-of-the-deaf-announces-landmark-settlement-with-harvard-to-improve-online-accessibility/

HOWARD: The NAD sued and recently settled with Harvard University. The settlement requires Harvard to caption and make accessible their website and online content, including videos on their website, as well as videos they post on YouTube, Vimeo, SoundCloud, and other similar platforms. Their videos must be captioned and their podcasts must have transcripts. This requirement is huge for us! This process didn’t happen overnight. We first filed a complaint against Harvard in 2015. The NAD was one of four plaintiffs, along with Massachusetts residents Wayne Dore and Lee Nettles, as well as Christy Smith. Together, we sued Harvard. Five law firms took on this case: the NAD, Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll, Civil Rights Education and Enforcement Center (CREEC), Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF), and Massachusetts’ Protection & Advocacy organization – Disability Law Center (DLC). The five firms worked hard to advance the rights of deaf and hard of hearing people against Harvard University. At first, Harvard filed two motions to dismiss the case but failed both times. After they lost the second time in May 2019, Harvard decided to implement a new Digital Accessibility Policy. Finally, in November 2019, we reached an agreement after negotiating specific details in the agreement. The settlement requires captioning of content posted by the University, including its staff and faculty. Also, Harvard must caption their Massive-Open-Online-Courses (MOOC). MOOC is available to those not enrolled at Harvard, for anyone to watch online from home or anywhere. Some MOOC content is free while some are available for a fee. Harvard is also required to make sure captioning is provided on content posted by Department Sponsored Student Organizations. While the agreement was finalized in November 2019, Harvard’s responsibility to caption the content began effectively on December 1, 2019. Any new content posted online starting December 1, 2019 must be captioned as it is posted, not after the fact. For all content that was uploaded between January 2019 and November 30, 2019, captioning must be added to this content by 2021. However, if you see something that was uploaded during that time frame, you can send a request for which they must complete within five business days. For other content that was uploaded before January 2019, Harvard must add captions only when someone requests it, and then must do so within five business days. That is incredible access for all deaf and hard of hearing people around the world — now we can have access to and understand Harvard’s content. Harvard must also add a request link to accompany all of their videos so that it is easy for anyone to request captioning if there is none — again, this request must be completed within five business days. The settlement also requires Harvard to report every six months to the NAD and DLC, sharing how many captioning requests have been made. This settlement was with Harvard, but this does not mean it is limited to Harvard. This settlement is a warning to all other colleges and universities that they must make sure their online video content is captioned and websites are accessible to all deaf and hard of hearing people across the globe. Having access is powerful! Thank you.

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