I read on Berkeley will begin removing more than 20,000 video and audio lectures from public view as a result of a Justice Department accessibility order (mirror) (published on 2017-03-06)

The Justice Department, following an investigation, in August determined that the university was violating the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990. The department reached that conclusion after receiving complaints from two employees of Gallaudet University, saying Berkeley’s free online educational content was inaccessible to blind and deaf people because of a lack of captions, screen reader compatibility and other issues.

If a University uploads a video of a course to YouTube, aren't YouTube captions good enough not to violate the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990?

Related: How much does it cost to make a MOOC universally accessible, as defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – eykanal
    Commented Mar 19, 2017 at 14:42

1 Answer 1


No, auto generated captions are gibberish. Try watching a complicated lecture on a scientific topic but turn down the volume and only look at the automatically generated captions. Not only is there a high error rate but there is no punctuation.

Note: the DOJ findings letter is online (mirror) and you can see the legal rationale behind the findings of law.

It should be noted that other universities followed the law when they implemented their MOOC programs and captioned their videos from their videos from the start. UC Berkeley was warned by its own academic accommodations committee in 2012 that the way they were implementing their MOOC was not only a violation of their own policies but would probably result in a violation of the ADA, especially given their status as a public university.

Furthermore, contrary to media reports Berkeley was not "forced" to take down the videos. The complainants from the very beginning (circa 2014) wanted to engage in an interactive process that would ensure access, even if over time. Berkeley declined to engage which resulted in the complaint being escalated to the DOJ. However, even the DOJ letter did not request a takedown. This was entirely the decision of UC Berkeley's senior administration

  • 5
    Worse still if someone bss a string foreign accent — or even native (the Micalense accent in Portuguese is regularly so identified as French). Worse still if the languages change, as it's not smart enough to detect a Spanish word or phrase embedded in an English phrase. Commented Mar 18, 2017 at 10:01

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .