The Disney Movies Anywhere app for iOS has now been upgraded to offer synced audio description for some Pixar movies. As of this writing, description is available for 16 animated movies including "The Good Dinosaur," "Inside Out," "Monsters University," and "Up." Pixar Animation Studios plans to make the feature available on all future releases.
What You'll Need
In order to use this feature, the Disney Movies Anywhere iOS app must be installed on an iPhone or iPad running iOS 7 or later. The app itself is free, but there is a fee to purchase movies. To use description, the movie and descriptive tracks cannot be playing on the same device simultaneously; two devices are required. For example, a movie can be playing on your computer while the descriptive audio track is played on your iPad or iPhone. At least one of the two devices must be an iOS device.
When the app is first launched, select the "Go There" button to see a list of titles with audio description. Under each title there is a button labeled "Sync & Play Audio."
The Disney Movies Anywhere App
The app has five tabs at the bottom of the screen, but VoiceOver does not always read them in order. The Featured tab is at the bottom left corner. Next is the Movies tab. Flicking right, the next tab is Discover. VoiceOver says this is the fourth tab. The next and last tab, in the bottom right corner, is labeled More. Flicking left, past the Featured tab, is the My Collection tab. VoiceOver says it is the third tab. If you slide your finger across the bottom of the screen instead of flicking, VoiceOver should read the tabs in order.
The Featured tab has a "Search" button and a button labeled "Go to Movies with Audio Description." This is the most direct place to go if you are looking for audio description. Next in the Featured tab are several headings including "New and Upcoming" and "All-Time Favorites." Movies in this category include "Frozen" and "101 Dalmatians." Movies in this list do not necessarily have audio description.
Under the headings is a "Sign In" button. Activating the button loads a page for your user name and password if you already have a Disney account. There is also an option to create an account. The sign up form consists of edit boxes and pickers. For information such as birth date, VoiceOver says that the controls are pop up buttons, but they are pickers that are found at the bottom of the page. Double tap on the buttons and then choose from the picker.
At the top of the page is a Search option. Next is a long list of categories including Star Wars, Comedy, Animation, Disney Princesses, and 2015 Movies. When any category is selected, a new page loads with specific results. If a movie has audio description, that feature is not indicated in the list.
Once a movie is selected, the next page loads with information about the movie including a brief synopsis, running time, and cast. There is a button to buy the movie. At the top of the page is an option to go to movies with audio description.
After movies are purchased, they will be listed in this tab.
This tab contains information about various movies. For example, I watched an interview with Carrie Fisher about "Star Wars: The Force Awakens."
In this tab are three options: Redeem Rewards, Settings, and More Apps. The Settings section contains a button to sign in and three headings: Access, About, and Legal. The "Audio Description" button is under the Access heading.
Activating the "Audio Description" button loads a new page. The first item on the page is a toggle switch button. Make sure it is in the on position. Next is information about turning on audio description and how to use it.
The app reminds users that the actual movie must be playing through a separate device such as a tablet, iPhone, or theater screen. The first time audio description is used, it is necessary to give the app permission to use the device's microphone.
Playing a Movie
On your iPhone or iPad, locate the description track for the movie. You can find a list of all described movies by activating the "Go to Movies with Audio Description" button in the Featured tab. For each listed movie there will be a title and a button labeled "Sync & Play Audio."
Start the actual movie playing or if you're in a theater, wait for the movie to start. Next, activate the "Sync & Play Audio" button. The first time you use this feature, you will be asked to allow it to use the microphone. There will also be a list of tips such as making sure headphones are plugged securely in the jack. You do not have to use headphones. Within a few seconds the description track will sync with the movie. There is no need to do anything else. There is a "Cancel" button and a "Done" button. If you press the "Done" button once the movie syncs, it will stop the sync.
I used a DVD of "Ratatouille" and an iPhone 6 to test the audio description feature. I started the movie and then synced the app. It took less than a minute to sync and I then received verbal confirmation. Once synced, a "Done" button, a "Pause/Play" button, a volume control, and a "Re-Sync" button all appeared on the screen.
If you sync at a point other than the beginning of the movie, it will start audio description at that point, where you are currently listening.
Ways to Improve the Disney Movies Anywhere App
Disney Pixar should be commended for their efforts to include audio description. Hopefully they will improve this app in the near future. Nowhere in the app's description in the App Store does it say anything about the audio description feature. The first time description is mentioned is when the app is opened for the first time.
Although the app is accessible, there are some accessibility issues such as mislabeled controls, as mentioned above.
It is unfortunate that two devices must be used: one to play the actual movie and an iPhone or iPad to play the audio description track. A sighted person would only need one device. If the person who is visually impaired is with a group of people, the person would have to use headphones if the others in the group do not also want to hear the description. Therefore, the person is not getting the full dialogue and sound effects because they are also wearing at least one ear bud or headphone.
The Disney Movies Anywhere app is basically accessible and easy to use. The addition of an audio description track to many Disney/Pixar movies is a very good start. It would be more convenient if both the dialogue and audio description could play on the same device.
- Audio Description Comes to Netflix by Jamie Pauls
- Walt Disney World Provides Accessibility for Blind Guests by Deborah Kendrick
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