Gimlet Media Sued for Not Making Podcasts Accessible to the Deaf

Gizmodo reported that Gimlet Media is facing a class-action lawsuit for failing to make its podcast accessible to the deaf and hard of hearing. The complaint was filed in New York. Plaintiff Kahlimah Jones argues that Gimlet violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by failing to provide closed captioning on various podcasts.

The lawsuit, posted on Scribd, is called: Kahlimah Jones, individually situated and as the representative of a class of similarly situated persons vs Gimlet Media Inc. It was filed in the United States District Court Eastern District of New York.

The plaintiff’s argument states that deaf and hard-of-hearing people listen to podcasts just as aurally capable people do. The lack of closed captioning means that deaf and hard-of-hearing people are excluded from the rapidly expanding Internet media industry and from independently accessing podcasts posted on the website.

Despite readily available accessible technology, such as the technology in use at other heavily trafficked websites, which make use of closed captioning for hard-of-hearing individuals, such as YouTube and Netflix, Defendant has chosen to post podcasts without closed captioning, or with limited closed captioning, that are inaccessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals. Without closed captioning, deaf and hard-of-hearing people cannot comprehend the audio portion of the podcasts on the Website.

The lawsuit also claims that by failing to make the website accessible to deaf and hard-of-hearing persons, Gimlet Media is violating basic equal access requirements both under state and federal law. It notes the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) which was designed to eliminate discrimination against individuals with disabilities.

Gizmodo reported that courts haven’t come to a consensus about how the ADA applies to the web. They aren’t sure if a website for a private company constitutes a place of public accommodations and therefore needs to remove barriers to entry, in the same way we expect physical stores to accommodate for wheelchairs.

Spotify acquired Gimlet Media in 2019. To me, it seems possible that the outcome of this lawsuit could also affect the podcasts on Spotify, as well as Anchor (which Spotify also acquired in 2019).