Big news from Netflix this week: the internet television network announced that it is adding audio description to its platform as a setting. This is huge news for those of us with vision loss.
When I read and started talking to people about this announcement, I literally got chills. We all have our outlets for entertainment, relaxation, and even stress relief. Netflix is one of mine; it’s something I truly enjoy. I view it via my Apple TV or my iPhone. And up until today, unless my wife or a friend fills me in on what’s happening on the screen, I end up missing facial expressions, changes in setting and just about everything that’s not captured in the dialogue.
For those unfamiliar with audio description, it’s a detailed narrative around the actions, movement and visual information portrayed; it gives people with vision loss a complete picture of what’s happening on the screen. The information is provided through a narrator in between dialogue in a production. It makes watching TV much more enjoyable for those of us who can't see or can't see that well. The major networks and some cable channels are required to provide approximately four hours of video described programming each week. You can learn more at afb.org/tv.
So how am I celebrating this news? I’m taking the day off tomorrow, hanging out on my couch and watching as many episodes as I can of Marvel’s Daredevil, the first Netflix show to include description, and one that’s dear to my heart. And I’m not the only one celebrating this wonderful news. Here are some quotes from others at the American Foundation for the Blind:
“Bravo, Netflix! Now Americans with vision loss can more easily and fully enjoy their favorite Netflix shows alongside their sighted peers. Wonderful news.”
—Carl Augusto, President & CEO
“The historic Netflix announcement about the addition of video description to many of its hit shows is a huge step forward for TV viewers with vision loss. As an avid fan of description and politics, I am thrilled to be able to start watching “House of Cards” and learn about all the wonderfully twisted intrigue. As a community, it will be great to start enjoying described TV online, for the first time.”
—Paul Schroeder, VP of Programs Policy
"I'm thrilled Netflix is making description available. I hope Dr. Who can make it to the top of the list to be described. It's time to sign up for Netflix!"
—Crista Earl, Director, Web Services
"I am very excited to hear about the announcement from Netflix! This will provide access to its thousands of subscribers who are blind or visually impaired. I am glad that Netflix is setting this example for other media providers to follow."
—Lee Huffman, AccessWorld Editor, Technology Information
"I have watched Netflix's House of Cards in the past, but I am ready to get the full House of Cards experience with the addition of audio description."
—Aaron Preece, National Technology Associate
Bringing this setting to all of the devices that we use to access Netflix will take a little time, as I was told last night from a customer service representative from Netflix. I plan on buying a new Apple TV device, as I want the access right now. Audio description is officially confirmed and live on Apple iOS devices; you have to enable it under Settings > General > Accessibility > Video Descriptions (under “Media” heading). In the Netflix app, you can go under the language button to select description. After I updated the setting under the Apple iOS settings, the setting on the Netflix app was already enabled.
Thank you to Netflix for including us in the viewing experience. I am ready to celebrate with a good dose of binge watching of streaming television. Let us know what shows you want to see with audio description, or if you have been able to access this setting.