Netflix is the new accessible

Popular streaming service reaches historic agreement to make shows and movies accessible to people who are blind

Kim Charlson sits next to a television and holds a remote control

An agreement between Netflix and the American Council of the Blind will make popular programs like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards” available with audio description for viewers who are blind.

June 23, 2016

Good news for people who are blind and like high-quality television: Netflix is getting accessible.

Thanks to a groundbreaking agreement between the world’s largest streaming service and the American Council of the Blind, award-winning Netflix programs like “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards” will soon be available with audio description.

Netflix also agreed to make its website and mobile apps accessible to people with visual impairment who use screen-reading software.

“We applaud Netflix for working with us to enhance access to its services for people who are blind,” said Kim Charlson, president of the American Council of the Blind. “Our goal is to expand the availability of Netflix’s services to the blind community and to increase the availability of audio-described film and television programming.”

Charlson, who is also director of the Perkins Library, said the agreement will affect TV shows and movies offered through Netflix’s video streaming service as well as its DVD-by-mail subscription program.

“As television and movies are increasingly delivered through streaming and home delivery services, ensuring that the blind community receives access to this content is critical to ensure that people who are blind are integrated into modern society,” she said. “These improvements will provide people who are blind or low vision with unparalleled access to online video entertainment services currently enjoyed by millions of Americans.”

Netflix has agreed to add audio description to its own shows with 30 days of release. For third-party content like movies and network TV shows, Netflix will “make commercially reasonable efforts” to acquire and offer audio description.

Audio description is voice-over narration that explains what’s happening on the screen, including characters’ physical actions and other important visual elements. The narration is inserted between lines of dialogue.

Critically acclaimed Netflix original shows that will gain audio descriptions include “Sense8,” “Marvel’s Jessica Jones,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” and “Master of None.” The Netflix series “Marvel’s Daredevil” – which features a heroic lead character who is blind – has been available with audio description since 2015.

Joining the American Council of the Blind in the settlement were the Bay State Council of the Blind, Robert Baran, a Massachusetts resident who is blind, and Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national non-profit law firm.

Netflix has over 81 million subscribers around the world, including more than 46 million in the United States. The American Council of the Blind will now work to convince other major content providers like Amazon and Hulu to provide accessibility features for people with visual impairment, said Charlson.