NAD settlement and Digital Accessibility Working Group

February 18, 2020
Martin A. Schmidt, Provost, 2014–2022 |

To the members of the MIT community:

I am writing to provide information about recent steps that MIT has taken to achieve greater website and digital accessibility.

First, I am pleased to announce that we have resolved the lawsuit brought by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD) concerning MIT’s captioning of audio and video content. As many of you know, NAD and several deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals filed a lawsuit against MIT (and a similar one against Harvard) in 2015. This suit alleged that MIT was violating two federal laws, the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Rehabilitation Act, by failing to accurately caption all of the audio and video content posted publicly online by anyone associated with MIT. In the lawsuit, NAD asked the court to require MIT to caption all of that content — without any limit — or remove it from public view. We believe the resolution we have reached provides a reasonable and achievable framework for meeting our shared goal of increasing the accessibility of our online audio and video content.

Specifically, MIT has committed to providing captioning for video and audio content that faculty and staff create as part of their MIT work, and then post to MIT’s public webpages or public third-party platforms (such as YouTube and Vimeo). MIT has made the same commitment with respect to content created by MIT-Sponsored Student Groups. The settlement establishes certain deadlines for MIT to meet different aspects of this captioning commitment:

New Content

  • New content posted 60 or more days following the date the settlement becomes final must be captioned upon posting.

Existing Content

  • Content posted on or after January 1, 2019, but before the date 60 days after the settlement becomes final, must be captioned (or removed from public view) as soon as practicable but no later than one year from the date the settlement becomes final, or upon request within seven business days.
  • Content posted prior to January 1, 2019, must be captioned (or removed from public view) upon request, within seven business days of a request.

In addition, MIT will develop an Institute accessibility webpage that will provide an online process by which members of the public can request that certain content be captioned. Please note that MIT’s public webpages must contain links to that accessibility webpage within 90 days after the settlement becomes final.

There are some exceptions to these commitments. In particular, the above requirements do not apply to webpages managed by students; student groups that are not MIT-sponsored; residence halls; fraternities; sororities; independent living groups; alumni; or cultural and religious groups on campus. Nevertheless, in keeping with our goal of greater accessibility, I encourage all community members — including all students, faculty, and staff — to caption all new content at the time you post it to any webpage or public platform, and to use only third-party platforms that support accessibility, even if not mandated by resolution of this lawsuit.

These requirements will not go into effect until the settlement is approved by the court later this spring. We will work with all of you in the coming weeks to ensure you have the information you need to help meet these commitments, including providing training. While captioning is not prohibitively expensive compared to the typical cost of producing video or audio content, we recognize that these requirements may create an initial financial burden for some units. In this case, we would ask that you advance your needs through your leadership so that my office can work to address that burden.

If any community member needs assistance with captioning or other digital accessibility matters, I encourage you to contact our experts in Disability and Access Services. They are available to advise you on relevant captioning practices, vendors, and tools. They can also review your current websites, applications, and software, and provide feedback and recommendations that you can implement to meet our goal of accessibility. We are working with them to make sure they have the resources they need to help you.

Second, I have charged a Digital Accessibility Working Group with making recommendations to increase the accessibility of MIT’s technology for individuals with disabilities. The charge to the working group can be found here.

I applaud all ongoing efforts made by the MIT community to meet the greater goals of accessibility. Through the thoughtful work of our offices of Disability and Access Services, Human Resources, and Open Learning, we already provide access to our community members—including students, employees, and learners—who experience barriers to our information. I look forward to continuing the trajectory of making MIT-created information available to everyone through the commitments we have made to the National Association of the Deaf and those we expect to make in response to any further recommendations made by the working group.


Martin A. Schmidt