Netflix Adds Audio Descriptions for Blind

By Karen Fratti 

Blind fans rallied around the Internet last week when it turned out that “Daredevil,” which is about a blind superhero, wasn’t accessible to the blind. Fans took to Twitter to sign petitions and protest.

And it worked. Netflix announced that it was adding audio descriptions for the blind. The FCC requires that all broadcasters do this, but Netflix is exempt from those rules because it’s not a broadcaster. For those of us that don’t need accessibility options, audio descriptions are something you can choose, just like you can choose language preferences. For the blind, they narrate the audio, providing context like facial expressions and other body language, or scene location changes. 

It’s a big deal that Netflix made it right with their fans. They wrote in an official blog post that: 

In coming weeks, we’ll add more titles, including current and previous seasons of the Golden Globe and Emmy award-winning political thriller “House of Cards,” Emmy award-winning comedy-drama series “Orange is the New Black”, as well as Tina Fey’s “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and the epic adventure series “Marco Polo.” Netflix is actively committed to increasing the number of audio-visual translations for movies and shows in our English-language catalogues. We are also exploring adding audio description into other languages in the future.
At the very least, for their own original content, it should be something  fans can expect. The FCC law might not include an SVOD as broadcaster, but Netflix content is more “watercooler” worthy than any primetime network show right now. It’s not technically a broadcaster, but viewers treat it like one. Just because they don’t have to, doesn’t mean they shouldn’t. New over the top services should have those accessibility requirements in mind as they  launch. The goal is market saturation for cord cutters, right?  Make it easy for everyone to get on board.

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