NPR 375

A hearing-impaired NPR listener has filed a class action suit against the public media network claiming “systemic civil rights violations against deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals” in New York state and across the country. Because there are no captions that accompany videos posted on NPR websites, the complaint claims it is “impossible to comprehend the audio portion of videos.”

The plaintiff, Phillip Sullivan. Jr., identifies himself as a deaf individual, living in New York City. In court documents filed Oct. 11 in the Southern District of New York, he contends that NPR has “failed to design, construct and/or own or operate a website that is fully accessible to, and independently usable by, deaf and hard-of hearing people.”

While NPR provides a “wide array of goods and services to the public” through the website, its online destination contains access barriers that make it “impossible for deaf and hard-of-hearing users to comprehend the audio portion of videos that are posted,” he adds. As a result, NPR unfairly excludes these users “from the full and equal participation in the growing Internet economy that is increasingly a fundamental part of the common marketplace and daily living. In the wave of technological advances in recent years, assistive technology is becoming an increasingly prominent part of everyday life, allowing deaf and hard-of-hearing people to fully and independently access a variety of services, including accessing online videos.” Sullivan believes that all video content should include closed captioning for such users.

From there, amid his 25-page lawsuit filing, Sullivan’s demands grow more contentious. In seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief, expenses and attorney fees to correct Defendant’s policies and practices to ensure compliance with federal and state law,” he seeks damages to compensate Class members for having been subjected to unlawful discrimination. Phillips insists that NPR is violating the Americans with Disabilities Act, and demands that the network “take all the steps necessary” to be compliant with ADA requirements.