Netflix Rolls Out New Accessibility Options

For Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Netflix is continuing its expansive push to make its content more accessible. In a new video and article published by the streaming service, Netflix’s director of product accessibility discusses the company’s efforts.

Netflix is spotlighting this work in Celebrating Disability with Dimension, a new content collection highlighting stories focused on people living with disabilities. These titles feature closed captioning and subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) viewers, though particular extra attention has been paid to audio descriptions in these collected titles.

Speaking with TechCrunch, Netflix’s director of accessibility Heather Dowdy emphasized Netflix’s continued focus on “intentionality” in audio descriptions to go beyond barebones narration of settings. “I recommend you turn it on on Bridgerton,” said Dowdy. “It’s very steamy.”

Netflix also announced that by 2023, it plans to expand the language availability and offerings of its audio descriptions and subtitles for 20-30 languages, including Spanish, French, Korean, and Portuguese. New UI elements are also being rolled out across the entire catalog so users can at-a-glance see what accessibility options are available, instead of having to begin to watch something, hit pause, and then look.

From a more zoomed out perspective, Dowdy told The Verge, “Things like race, gender, hair texture, skin tone–things that really bring our characters to life… [They’re] evident visually, but then we’re able to put that in the audio description as well so that our members are involved in the conversations that we’re having around these characters.”

But a key driver for Netflix here is being in constant conversation with its subscribers. Dowdy told The Verge, “If our members with disabilities aren’t even able to access that title and give us the feedback to improve the SDH, then we aren’t serving all of the members the best way that we can. [We are] continuously listening to members and incorporating that feedback to get better, which is something that Netflix is really good at doing.”

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