By Josh Richman, Oakland Tribune
A Berkeley-based non-profit sued global media and entertainment giant Time Warner on Wednesday in Alameda County Superior Court, claiming CNN.com discriminates against the deaf or hard-of-hearing by not providing any captioning of its online videos. Disability Rights Advocates is representing the Greater Los Angeles Agency on Deafness and three individual plaintiffs in what they call a first-of-its- kind lawsuit. The Oakland firm of Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian is also representing the plaintiffs.
"Time Warner’s refusal to provide captioning of its videos is astounding given how central the Internet is in today’s communication environment," DRA attorney Anna Levine said in a news release. "The lack of captioned videos means that millions of people with hearing loss will continue to be denied equal access to video news content on CNN.com." The lawsuit alleges violations of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and Disabled Persons Act. A CNN spokeswoman said Wednesday that because the company has not yet been served with the lawsuit, it won’t comment.
Hayward resident Daniel Jacob, 36, is among the three individual plaintiffs. "The era of waiting for the 6 o’clock news is over," he said in the news release. "I simply want an equal opportunity to view news videos on CNN.com‘s website at my convenience like most people can." DRA said CNN.com viewership rises dramatically when breaking news becomes available. For example, according to its own website, CNN.comreceived 67 million global page views in a single day, March 12, after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Almost every user who visited CNN.comthat day watched a video; according to its own website, CNN.com received 60 million global video starts that day.
The Hearing Loss Association of America reports that about 36 million American adults report some degree of hearing loss; about 1 million are functionally deaf. Federal law already requires that broadcast and cable television content be closed captioned.