Disney+ is a streaming service from The Walt Disney Company that allows you to access content on your iOS device or desktop computer. Many other devices are also supported. The service goes far beyond animated features to offer a wealth of movies and series with audio description for children and adults.
For this article I used an iPhone X with the latest version of iOS 14 and a 2016 MacBook Pro with macOS Big Sur.
Disney+ has a help page with an extensive list of help topics and FAQs. Further down the page there are links to chat or call. No phone number is displayed. Instead, there is a form to tell them more about the issue. I entered “find content with audio description,” which returned a number for me to call, 888-905-7888. According to the Disney+ website, support is available 24/7.
Finding Described Content
Disney+ does not have a way to sort by audio description. The American Council of the Blind has an excellent website for finding content with audio description. The Disney+ audio description page also contains links for audio-described titles from other streaming services. Other services include Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV+. The website also has information about audio description not related to streaming services.
Disney+ on an iOS Device
Disney+ works very well on an iOS device. If I am using the app by myself, I usually put the audio through a Bluetooth speaker. If I am watching with people who are sighted, I’ll use an HDMI-to-Lightning cable to play content through the TV.
Disney Plus hosts content from Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. Titles include recent releases as well as classic movies and TV shows.
To begin, you will need to download the free Disney+ app. At least iOS 12.0 or iPadOS 12.0 is required. In the United States, a subscription to Disney+ costs $7.99 per month or $79.99 per year. Disney+ also offers Premier Access, allowing access to content that is not yet available to all subscribers. It currently costs an additional $29.99 per year.
In addition, there is a Disney Bundle option that includes Disney+, ESPN+, and whichever Hulu plan you choose. The Hulu plan with ads costs $13.99 per month; without ads it costs $19.99 per month.
Creating an Account
Begin the process of creating a Disney+ account by going to the Disney+ website. On the next page is a "Sign Up Now" link. When I activated it, nothing happened. Further down the page are two links for choosing whichever plan you want. The first link is “Get All Three,” which leads to the Disney Bundle: Disney+, ESPN+, and whichever Hulu plan you choose. The second link is “Sign up for Disney+ Only.”
The sign-up form is spread over several pages. Below where you enter your email address is a check box for receiving emails from the Disney Company. It is checked by default.
Using the Disney+ App
When you launch Disney+, VoiceOver says, “Disney+.” Near the top of the screen is a carousel. Next is a list of providers: Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, and National Geographic. Selecting one of these options brings up a list of content. For example, when I selected Marvel, I got a list of Marvel Studios productions including “Black Panther,” “Doctor Strange,” and “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
Next are sections that can be navigated by headings including Recommended for You, New to Disney+, and Continue Watching. This last section contains any movie or episode that you have not completed watching. There are additional headings that are navigated the same way. Each heading has a list of content that fits the heading’s criteria.
At the bottom of the screen are four tabs: Home, Search, Offline Downloads, and More Options. The Home screen is the one that contains all the information listed above.
The Search tab offers a standard search box. As you type in your query, results will be underneath the box.
Below the search form is an extensive list of search categories including Princesses, Disney Animation Studios, Marvel’s Avengers, and National Geographic Animals and Nature. Selecting one of these categories brings up a list of results.
The Offline Downloads section is where downloads are located. To Download content, find and select something you want. There will be three options below the title on the screen: Play, Add the current title to your Watchlist, and Download the current title to your offline Downloads.
The final tab is More Options. In this tab, you can access your Watchlist and settings. You can also modify profiles.
On the new screen, use the first section to access, create, or edit a profile.
Create a profile by selecting the Add Profile button. At the top of the new screen there are options to select an avatar or go back to the home screen. Next is an extensive list of avatars, grouped into headings including Disney, Pixar, Star Wars, and Kids. The name of each character within the headings is spoken by VoiceOver. For example, the first two options under the Disney heading were Mickey Mouse and Elsa. VoiceOver said their names.
The next control is an edit box for your name. The next item in the tab is Watchlist. Your saved content will be there.
Next are app settings. Here is where you choose whether to stream over Wi-Fi only or use cellular as well. The same options will be listed for Downloads. The next is Account. Here is where you can choose whether to pay monthly or annually. Toward the bottom of the screen is a Help option. This will bring you to the Disney+ help center. Toward the bottom of the screen are options to chat or call.
Once you have selected a show or movie to play, double tap on it. The next screen will present information about your selection and give you several playing options. At the top of the screen are buttons to play, add the item to your Watchlist, or download the title. Next is information about the show or movie.
Near the bottom of the screen are three tabs: Suggested, Extras, and Details. For series, there is an additional Episodes tab before the Suggested tab. You will need to flick up with three fingers in order to discover the content of each tab. At the very bottom of the screen are the usual Home, Search, Offline Downloads, and More tabs.
When you press the Play button, a new screen will load and VoiceOver will say “Landscape.” You will need to position your iPhone with the charge port on the right. On occasion, the first time I tried to play content, VoiceOver did not speak. Reloading the content solved the problem.
At the far left of the screen is a Back button. Flicking right, the next control is an unlabeled button. It is used for Airplay. Next is the Audio and Subtitles Menu button. Select this button and then flick right until you hear, “English, Audio Description.” Select this option and description will begin. The Close button is in the upper left. When you play other content, if English Audio Description has been selected previously, you will not need to select it again, unless you turned it off.
Next to the Menu button is another unlabeled button. Use it to rewind. Next is the Play/Pause button. The next button is also unlabeled. This is for going forward. Next is how much time has elapsed and how much time remains. Finally, there is a control to advance or move backward through the content. VoiceOver says, “Adjustable.” Flick up or down with one finger to make the adjustment.
Disney+ on the Web
The first time you use your user name and password to log in, the new screen will ask for your email address and that you agree with Disney’s terms. When the new screen loads, enter your password. Right below the edit box is an unlabeled button. Selecting it lets VoiceOver say what you were typing in the edit box.
The main screen starts with “Who’s watching?” Make your selection. There are many headings on the screen including New to Disney+, Trending, and Recommended for You. Select your show or movie.
On the new screen is a Play button. Select it and a video player with labeled controls will be on the screen. To the left of the player is a Settings button. If audio description is not playing, select the Settings button. VO + Right Arrow until you hear, “English Audio Description.” Next, VO + Left Arrow once and you should be on the button to activate audio description.
When done, go left to the Close option. This will put you back on the page with controls. You can also use Command + Left Bracket, It will bring you back to the page preceding the controls.
Disney+ has many described series and movies for people of all ages. Both the iOS and web versions work well, but they are not perfect. Some controls in the iOS version are not labeled. The Disney+ website takes some work to master, but it is useable. I personally prefer the iOS version.
If you’re looking for something great to watch, I loved “Hamilton” when it was on Broadway with live audio description and I loved it on Disney+ with audio description.
This article is made possible in part by generous funding from the James H. and Alice Teubert Charitable Trust, Huntington, West Virginia.
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