Today, Netflix has announced that in March of 2015 they will be providing Netflix in Australia and New Zealand. Internet-connected users in Australia and New Zealand will be able to subscribe to Netflix and instantly watch a curated selection of popular movies and TV shows in high-definition or even 4K where available. At launch, the premium and unique Netflix offering will include such original series as Marco Polo, BoJack Horseman and, among many kids titles, DreamWorks Animation’s All Hail King Julien.
It will also be home to the critically acclaimed documentaries Virunga and Mission Blue, and stand-up comedy specials Uganda Be Kidding Me, Live, from Chelsea Handler and Jim Jefferies’s BARE, among many others. The Netflix ANZ selection will expand in 2015 to include highly anticipated original series family thriller Bloodline starring Ben Mendelsohn, Kyle Chandler, Sissy Spacek, Linda Cardellini and Sam Shepard; the gripping Super Hero tale Marvel’s Daredevil featuring Charlie Cox, Rosario Dawson, Deborah Ann Woll, Elden Henson and Vincent D’Onofrio; Sense8, a new globe-spanning thriller series from the creators of The Matrix trilogy and Babylon 5, and, from the creator of Friends, Grace and Frankie with Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda.
This is all well and good, but what about accessibility? In the press release today there hasn’t been a mention of a commitment to accessibility. According to the WCAG guidelines, though, they might have to make their site accessible because the government deemed it so. in 2008, the Australian Government ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which specifically recognizes (under Articles 9 and 21) that access to information, communications and services, including the internet, is a human right.
The WCAG applies to agencies and government websites, however, so this means that Netflix is in a gray area and they don’t have to make their site accessible. Under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 agencies must ensure that people with disabilities have the same fundamental rights to access information and services as others in the community but this is a service, not an agency. Netflix has to make the conscious decision to add and implement accessibility throughout all devices, including adding audio description, even though it isn’t mandated by law
WCAG 2.0 conformance is required on all websites owned and/or operated by government under any domain. This includes external (public-facing or private) and internal (closed community) sites. That is, conformance is required for all internet, intranet and extranet sites.
All websites and web content created after July 2010 must meet at least WCAG 2.0 Single A by 31 December 2012 but this is a media service, not a government agency, so it looks as if they are not bound by these laws, WCAG standards.
Audio description seems very unlikely, as Australia is still an ongoing discussion. Currently ABC 1 is the only source for audio description but Australians are actively advocating for more audio description. In July 2013, Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) lodged 21 disability discrimination complaints against the Federal Government and the ABC for not providing an audio description service. BCA commenced conciliation discussions with the ABC in 2014. The discussions are being brokered by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and are ongoing.
New Zealand has a bit better audio description reception. All Freeview-approved televisions, set-top boxes and PVRs can access audio description at the time of live broadcast. Check with your supplier to find out which PVRs can record audio description.
Will Netflix reach out to advocacy organizations to ensure accessibility? Will they actively implement accessible designs? Time will tell, but people can definitely help by making needs and desires heard.
Send an Email to Team-NetflixANZ@pulsecom.com.au to voice your thoughts or concerns about accessibility and accessible design, including audio description. With the power of the people, the community can be an advocate that helps everybody in big or small increments