Lawsuit Challenges Inaccessibility of Major Podcast Platforms

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Podcast symbol
Podcast symbol (via Wikimedia)

 

December 14, 2021– New York, NY—The National Association of the Deaf (“NAD”) and Disability Rights Advocates (“DRA”) have filed a lawsuit against three major providers of podcasts, SiriusXM, Stitcher, and Pandora, to end their exclusion of deaf and hard of hearing Americans from each company’s extensive podcast streaming service. Read the complaint here.

Sirius XM bills itself as the “new destination for original, exclusive, and popular podcasts,” providing customers access to a slate of both original and third-party podcast content, including exclusive access to podcasts produced by Marvel Entertainment.

Stitcher ranked #1 in Triton Digital’s Report of top Podcast Networks for August 2021, with 451 active original podcasts.  Likewise, Pandora’s podcast service offers users access to hundreds of thousands of podcast episodes.  Yet none of these multimillion-dollar companies provides transcripts for the plethora of podcasts available on their popular mobile applications.

Because Defendants do not make transcripts or captions available for any of the podcasts offered on their platforms, more than 48 million deaf and hard of hearing Americans are denied full and equal enjoyment of the content they offer their hearing users. These failures to provide equal access violate the Americans with Disabilities Act as well as state and local New York law.

NAD and five deaf Americans who wish to use each of Defendants’ podcast services but are excluded from doing so brought this action to end SiriusXM’s, Stitchers, and Pandora’s discriminatory business practices.

Howard A. Rosenblum, CEO of the NAD, said “Podcasts are the latest form of entertainment, and it is imperative that deaf and hard of hearing people not be left behind. SiriusXM, Stitcher, and Pandora have a duty under federal, state, and city laws to ensure their podcasts are fully accessible.”

Plaintiff Mei Nishimoto said “I want all podcasts to be accessible for myself, because I love to learn, and as a Deaf parent with a school-aged child, I need to screen what is appropriate for her age and interests, and advance her education.”

Plaintiff Dr. Amber Martin said “Access to information and entertainment is as interesting and important to deaf and hard-of-hearing people as it is to others. There have been many times when someone told me about something they heard on a podcast and it sparked my interest but there was no transcript. It’s disappointing not to be able to participate in the conversations with friends, but especially frustrating to know that I’m locked out of a lot of information I’d like to have.”

Plaintiff Jamie Munro said “Podcasts are now ubiquitous and serves as a wealth of information to everyone, except the deaf community. We cannot be excluded again and must have full access to knowledge that is already readily available to everyone else.”

Plaintiff Rebecca Alexander stated “Requesting accommodations is not asking to be given information out of privilege. Having equal access to information, including from podcasts, is a fundamental civil right. I am also concerned about being precluded from a platform that has important commentary from people, myself included, because of inaccessibility.”

DRA staff attorney Emily Seelenfreund said, “SiriusXM, Stitcher, and Pandora’s complete failure to consider access for individuals who are deaf and hard of hearing is an embarrassment and an abject violation of federal and local disability law.”

About National Association of the Deaf
The National Association of the Deaf (NAD), a nonprofit established in 1880 by deaf and hard of hearing leaders, is the nation’s premier civil rights organization safeguarding the civil, human, and linguistics rights of 48 million deaf and hard of hearing people in the United States.  

About Disability Rights Advocates
Founded in 1993, Disability Rights Advocates (DRA) is a leading national nonprofit disability rights legal center. Its mission is to advance equal rights and opportunity for people with all types of disabilities nationwide. DRA represents people with the full spectrum of disabilities in complex, system-change, class action cases. DRA is proud to have upheld the promise of the ADA since our inception. Thanks to DRA’s precedent-setting work, people with disabilities across the country have dramatically improved access to health care, employment, transportation, education, disaster preparedness planning, voting and housing. For more information, visit www.dralegal.org.

Video: Press release in ASL (via NAD)

Contacts

Emily Seelenfreund: eseelenfreund@dralegal.org 510-665-8644

Lizzie Sorkin: lizzie.sorkin@nad.org 301-587-1788