Settlement Caption Requirements

In late 2019 Harvard reached a settlement in the class-action lawsuit brought against the University by the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). The result of the settlement is a consent decree — that is, a court order outlining a set of requirements for the captioning of content shared with the public online as part of Harvard University business. This page lists the details of the settlement and clarifies the requirements for members of the Harvard community.

At Harvard, we are committed to ongoing efforts to ensure the accessibility of our digital systems and communications to persons with disabilities. To that end, in spring 2019 we adopted our Digital Accessibility Policy, which addresses accessibility standards for all public-facing web content on University Websites (a defined term in the Policy). This Policy establishes the essential foundation for the consent decree, which imposes a few additional requirements regarding the accessibility of Harvard’s public web content. The specific captioning requirements set forth in the settlement with the NAD are as follows:

Harvard’s Digital Accessibility Policy and Implementation Procedures currently require the following:

  1. All audio or video content created and produced at Harvard and posted on a public-facing University Website on or after December 1, 2019 must be captioned when posted.  This includes Harvard’s Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs).

  2. Upon request from any member of the public, all audio or video content created and produced at Harvard and posted on a University Website before December 1, 2019 must be captioned within five business days of the request.

    • All such requests are encouraged to be submitted via the Report a Web Accessibility Concern form.  Any such requests received through another channel should be entered into this form by a member of the Harvard community upon receipt. 

  3. All University Websites must have a link to the Digital Accessibility Policy in their footer. Link text should include the words “Digital Accessibility.”  This link both facilitates the request process and communicates the website’s commitment to accessibility.

  4. Captioning must have an accuracy rate equal to that offered by a third-party vendor captioning service such as 3PlayMedia or Rev, and in a manner consistent with industry standards regarding synchronicity, completeness, and placement. See the Implementation Procedures for more information.

The settlement between Harvard and the NAD makes the four preceding policy obligations legal requirements.

In addition to Policy and Procedures requirements, the settlement also imposes the following legal obligations:

  1. Within two years of the settlement, Harvard must caption all audio and video content created and produced at the University and posted on a public-facing University Website between January 1, 2019 and December 1, 2019.

    • This captioning effort will be funded by Central Administration and carried out by HUIT’s Digital Accessibility Services (DAS).

    • If you operate a public-facing University Website with 2019 content, the University will require your assistance to caption that content.

    • If university content owners would like to proactively alert DAS to video content created and posted at the University and posted to a University Website January through November 2019, they may do so by completing the Harvard 2019 video captions form.

  2. Harvard must live-caption University-wide events (such as Commencement, ceremonies for special honorands, and presidential installations) that are live-streamed over the Internet.  For any other live-streamed event of high interest, Harvard will consider requests from the public for live captioning.

  3. The University must caption certain content posted to the official YouTube, Vimeo, and SoundCloud channels for the Harvard Schools, museums, libraries, and other units listed below.  The University will reach out directly to the communications offices involved.

Harvard’s Schools

  • Harvard Business School
  • Harvard School of Dental Medicine
  • Harvard Graduate School of Design
  • Harvard Divinity School
  • Harvard Graduate School of Education
  • Harvard Faculty of Arts & Sciences
    • Harvard College
    • Harvard Graduate School of Arts & Sciences
    • Harvard John A. Paulson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences
    • Harvard Division of Continuing Education
  • Harvard Kennedy School
  • Harvard Law School
  • Harvard Medical School
  • Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
  • Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study

Harvard’s museums, libraries, and certain other units

  • Harvard Public Affairs and Communications
  • Alumni Affairs & Development
  • HarvardX
  • Harvard Art Museums
  • Arnold Arboretum
  • Dumbarton Oaks
  • Harvard Museums of Science and Culture
  • Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments
  • Harvard Museum of Natural History
  • Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology
  • Harvard Semitic Museum
  • Harvard Library
  • Cabot Science Library
  • Harvard University Archives
  • Houghton Library
  • Lamont Library
  • Widener Library

Members of the university community may contact HUIT’s Digital Accessibility Services at digitalaccessibility@harvard.edu if they have any questions.