Class action lawsuit challenges Hulu’s discrimination toward the blind

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It’s no secret that Hulu isn’t fully accessible. for years, blind and visually impaired people have tried to get them to consider accessibility as an ongoing commitment rather than a one-time PR stunt but it never stuck. In our call to action post, even, we detailed a few attempts by the blind community to try to dialogue with them but there are many more out there, unanswered, or just answered in a one time PR stunt way.

Now, the ACB, American Council of the Blind, has filed a class action lawsuit against Hulu. The lawsuit says that since Hulu has refused and keeps refusing to make their website, application, and service, fully accessible to screen reader users, as well as not provide audio description when it’s easily available and technically possible, they are in violation of the Americans with disabilities act.

The below is the text of the press release taken from Disability Rights advocates.

Here’s the documentation for the class action.

Boston, Massachusetts—November 20, 2017—A coalition of blind and visually impaired individuals and advocacy groups filed a nationwide class action today against Hulu to end the video streaming company’s ongoing exclusion of blind and visually impaired Americans. The lawsuit—filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts—challenges Hulu’s violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Hulu, one of the largest online-streaming services in the country, offers thousands of shows and movies, including award-winning original content, to most customers at the click of a mouse. However, the company fails to provide audio description—a separate audio track that blind and visually impaired people need in order to access the exclusively visual content of a show or movie—for any streaming videos.

Because Hulu fails to include audio description tracks on any of its streaming content, blind and visually impaired individuals cannot independently enjoy Hulu’s video streaming services. Audio description is a separate audio track that, when activated, provides a verbal description of visual elements on screen, especially in scenes with no dialogue. The audio description track plays between pauses in dialogue. Hulu boasts an extensive library of live TV and on-demand movies and series—including its Emmy-award winning original series, “The Handmaid’s Tale”—but currently excludes customers who are blind and visually impaired.

In addition, Hulu’s website and applications are not accessible to blind and visually impaired individuals who use screen readers to navigate the internet. A screen reader is software that converts the visually displayed content on the screen into audible, synthesized speech or outputs that information on a digital braille display.

The American Council of the Blind, Bay State Council of the Blind, and blind individuals brought this action to end Hulu’s discriminatory business practices. Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national nonprofit legal center, and the Disability Law Center (DLC), Massachusetts’s Protection and Advocacy system, represent these individuals and organizations.

Kim Charlson, President of the American Council of the Blind, said, “Movies and television are pillars of American culture. As delivery of such media transitions to video streaming services, it is critical that these platforms be accessible in order to ensure the inclusion of blind and visually impaired individuals in contemporary society.”

Rebecca Williford, Senior Staff Attorney at DRA, said, “Hulu is owned by a collection of some of the most powerful companies in the entertainment business and is itself one of the nation’s most popular online streaming services. Its utter failure to provide access to individuals who are blind and visually impaired is astonishing.”

“BSCB members have been expressing their concerns about Hulu’s lack of audio description for years now,” said Brian Charlson, President of Bay State Council of the Blind, “and it is time that Hulu join with other industry streaming services out there and meet its obligations under the Americans with Disabilities Act.”

“As forms of entertainment evolve, equal access must transition to meet industry innovation. Equal access means the ability to fully use and enjoy all aspects of entertainment, just like everyone else,” said Christine Griffin, Executive Director of DLC.

Plaintiffs do not seek monetary damages, but seek only to achieve equal access to Hulu’s services.

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Help build a case for Hulu audio description and screen reader access.

It is no secret that Hulu has not been the most accessible company. They did not even want to provide captions willingly until they were sued by the National association of the Deaf.

Last year, and this year, their once accessible app has gotten some upgrades to it that has made it inaccessible to people, even on the Apple TV.

Even though their help page says that their app is accessible to VO, VoiceOver, it says absolutely nothing about accessibility compatibility with other screen readers on mobile or the desktop.

We had to have our investigative team dig up external articles and resources that talk about accessibility in passing, like this one where it mentions they made the Android apps accessible. “

In it, their accessibility bullet point says, “We continuously strive to make our service more accessible to users with disabilities. We support text-to-speech features, which provide audio descriptions for all content – text, links, buttons, menus, you name it.”

This has been a battle in the making though. Even back in 2009 the COAT wrote a demand letter to Hulu regarding their screen reader access.

It looks like others agree with us, that this is not accessibility.

Disability Rights Advocates is investigating complaints from blind individuals who report that the Hulu website and mobile applications are not accessible, and from blind individuals who want audio description tracks to be made available on Hulu. They would greatly appreciate speaking with you if you are blind and you have chosen not to subscribe to Hulu because you have heard about access barriers or the lack of audio description. They would also like to speak with you if you have confronted access barriers yourself while using Hulu.

To share your experiences, contact Kyle Ruiz, by phone at (510) 665-8644 or by email.

Non disabled customers are using Netflix audio description

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Ever since Netflix added audio description to it’s service many blind and visually impaired customers have been enjoying the plethora of content. As Netflix continues to provide audio description they may even start to notice that sighted people are using audio description, but not to watch movies with their eyes.

As audio description grows many people who are not blind or visually impaired are finding benefits to using audio description. People who are on the autism spectrum find it very helpful to identify visual cues.

A trend is developing in the sighted population. Listening to movies with audio description like an audio book while driving or doing chores around the house.

People are starting to talk about their experiences, as sighted people, using audio description. On the site reddit, for example, a user details how they find audio description to be an interesting audio book. The best produced audio book ever, in fact.

Earlier this year, a podcast talked about audio description and presenting it as an audio book or new way to listen to movies. Audio description is growing and is even growing into markets not originally intended. This is a great thing.

It will be interesting to see how audio description will continue to be adopted by others, even consumers outside the immediate audio description market.

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If you want to get involved or say hey, Send us an email with this link or Help our team advocate in another way.

FCC Increases Amount of Required Video Described Programming on Broadcast and Nonbroadcast Networks.

The Federal Communications Commission today adopted new rules to ensure Americans who are blind or visually impaired have access to more video described programming. Video description, also called audio description, allows people with limited vision to hear a description of on-screen activity while also following the dialogue, providing a more fulsome entertainment experience.
According to the National Federation of the Blind, more than 7 million Americans have a visual disability. The new rules adopted today will ensure that more video described programming is available to those who rely on it, and also provide broadcast and nonbroadcast television networks more flexibility in complying with the rules.
Beginning in July 2018, broadcasters and pay-TV providers carrying one of the top networks must provide 87.5 hours of described programming per calendar quarter, which averages out to roughly one hour per day of description on each included network. This is an increase of 75 percent over the 50 hours per quarter presently required. While the current 50 hour requirement must be provided during prime-time or children’s programming, the additional 37.5 hours per quarter being added by these new rules can be provided at any time of day between 6 a.m. and midnight. The networks currently covered by the rule are ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, Disney Channel, History, TBS, TNT, and USA. However, the list of the top five nonbroadcast networks will be updated in July 2018, so this is subject to change.
With the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010, Congress recognized the importance of ensuring that Americans with disabilities have access to functionally-equivalent entertainment and communications options. The new rules adopted by the Commission today take another important step in implementing this law and furthering its
accessibility goals.
Video description is provided through the TV or set top box “secondary audio” feature, which some TV controls identify as “SAP” or “secondary audio program.”

To learn more about video description, see the FCC’s consumer guide.

Amazon ads audio description to movies and TV shows.

It’s a beautiful thing when progress has been made without a campaign or a huge protest or similar. Now that I say that, this development could have been the result of many emails or phone calls, but I personally think it is because of Amazon’s director of accessibility. My email group tells me that Peter Korn isn’t the director of anything. In my head, anybody who makes huge and sweeping accessibility advances in a small number of years is the director of accessibility, thank you.

So, sue me. My team thinks I am praising him way too much. They tell me, he’s not the accessibility director! That may be true, but Peter Korn is an Accessibility Architect at Amazon, serving the device and content businesses. In my head, well, that screams director.

We’re not quick news people on this blog so we’re possibly the last people to tell you that you can now turn on audio description while watching Instant movies or TV shows that support audio description.

Because we don’t have the time nor resources to maintain such a list, they should make this category an RSS feed, the category link is below. You will find movies and TV shows in there. Some, free with Prime.

The audio description category on Amazon.

this news just smacked me upside the head a few days after I learned that Amazon is offering a discounted Prime membership to people on food stamps.

A question has been bugging me though. Since Amazon and Netflix offer TV shows with audio description why doesn’t apple do the same? Offer TV shows with audio description. They offer movies with AD but not TV shows with AD yet. Surely they have been approached about this, right? Not just by consumers but studios and producers. Surely.

To, hopefully, speed up the process, I for one encourage you all to contact their accessibility team below and encourage them to figuratively shout at their content acquisitions team regarding TV shows without audio description.

accessibility@apple.com

or call 1-800-MY-APPLE

Switched At Birth now has audio description

Today we have some small news to report. Actually, it’s big news for Switched At Birth fans who are blind or visually impaired but it’s small news for us because we still have a lot to do in terms of digital accessibility for the blind.

Thanks to our efforts, Switched At Birth now has all four seasons described on Netflix. Yes, Switched At Birth has audio description!

Season 5 is almost over. The final episode airs soon on TV and will soon go up on Netflix and otherwise soon after. The entire show will have audio description!

Even though our Disney contact said that he would give the audio description tracks to Apple, we have yet to confirm if Switched At Birth is described in iTunes. We can confirm Netflix though. All seasons are described thus far and soon, the whole show will have audio description.

We hope to make Amazon see the benefits of adding audio description to their platform next. We will be busy for a good long while but we just wanted to share the great news with you all.

Switched At Birth will have audio description in 2017.

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Ever since our first post about getting audio description on the TV show Switched at Birth we have been working hard on actually, either, making this happen, or, figuring out if it was ever going to happen. Our focus was on digital media because the ACB is covering the TV bit and doing it very well.

The phone calls and emails began.

We contacted many describers in the United States because we wanted to, first, try to see if they would even be willing to contract with either Netflix or Apple to produce platform based audio description. Even though it would only be on one service and not the rest, the audio description that is, the describers would be working and, since they were contracting with the VOD providers to produce exclusive description, they would be paid by the VOD providers.

Many describers wanted to do this. That wasn’t a cause for concern. Many were willing to do this, make exclusive audio description on certain platforms, especially for TV shows and movies that were never described. Some were so eager; they began relaying price quotes to us.

One describer who we emailed put us in touch with a very enthusiastic group of audio description students who were also fans at Switched at Birth. They were from the audio description institutes. We were very up front about them contracting with VOD platforms instead of us, because, simply put, we can’t afford it and it’s just better to do overall. We explained our past attempt to get this happening where Lizzy said that it looked like it wasn’t going to happen to Sam and I on twitter as well.

A plan was formed. Our team would try and contact the needed parties to get the two parties connected and working together. We tried. At first, we were ignored when we emailed the right people at these VOD companies, or, we were blindly sending out communication emails, hoping someone would be kind enough to drop a name or a phone number or an email address.

For a while it seemed as if we were not going to get a break. We got one however, in the form of Kevin at Tell Me TV the two connected and they got to work. Kevin didn’t have the rights to air the show on his video description on demand service and the team at the audio description school didn’t have the rights to produce anything as of yet. We figured if Kevin could just secure rights on his end then they could just work with Kevin.

That’s still pending, obtaining the rights. Meetings need to start and people need to talk to make this happen but Kevin did tell us that meetings were set up for the coming weeks, which is a great step in the right direction.

When we heard this news we figured we would still dig to find out if Netflix would host the independently produced audio description just in case Kevin learned of the prices the audio description team were proposing and changed his mind. Still, we were banking on Kevin because he’s the only one who didn’t ignore us or brush off our concerns or desires unlike other VOD companies. We figured we would look into what’s happening with the landscape of audio description on TV, what I jokingly call, old time audio description. Our team didn’t have to look far. Many of us are subscribed to the audio description mailing list. {This article was posted that talks about the FCC halting a lot of agenda items.](http://motherboard.vice.com/read/the-fcc-just-caved-in-to-republican-demands-that-it-halt-work-on-major-issues) I began to panic but many people on our team told me to just cool my jets. Still, I was worried. The first thing stalled on the agenda is described TV? Really? When I asked on the audio description email list how we can combat the FCC killing so many agenda items, I was assured that nothing was going to be killed, that things were just on hold and stalled.

Still, I became even more restless and even more desperate to figure out if the VOD platforms would at least consider contracting with describers to produce audio description for a show that was never described. Not only did I want the show described, but I wanted another thing to become possible along with the show being described. Since people will cut the cord in a number of years and get their video online I wanted to insure that VOD companies would think about contracting describers. It would give the describers a lot more work and, they can make content described that never had audio description.

I put all of us to work with one email. Get on the phones, try to message our contacts again, we need to make contact. Emails were sent, phone calls were made, and, finally, we got a response.

Ironically, it was from Netflix, of all places. One content acquisition manager told us the following:

thanks for writing to us! Let me talk with the other folks internally about this and let me get back to you about this.

I made a note to follow up with her and also told my fellow members to remind me to follow up with her in January, after the new year.

The second reply came from Bryan in the captioning department at Netflix.

Hi! Thanks for writing us. I don’t know if you already know this but Switched at Birth is already in the process of being described by Disney. The person you should email about that is Christopher Stefanidis. Email here.

He didn’t say if all seasons were going to be described or if only the last season was going to be described on TV. I asked Chris this question, what seasons were going to be described, and if they were going to give the audio description to Netflix.
We heard back from the VP at Disney. Switched At Birth will be described! His reply is below.

Dear Mr. Kingett:
Thank you for your note and interest in Described Video Service for the television series, SWITCHED AT BIRTH.
Audio description tracks for this series are currently in production (targeted completion dates are listed below).
To date, we have delivered tracks for 29 episodes to Netflix.
Unless I am mistaken, I believe it is the policy of Netflix to post AD when an entire series is complete.
It appears that we will have created, conformed and delivered Season 5 by the end of February 2017.
Given the digital platforms’ content processing time, I would assume that the series would be fully described in English shortly thereafter.
As you may know, iTunes recently began support of AD for television content.
We are pleased to support AD where possible for this series and will be coordinating with iTunes (and any other US/CAN digital platform that supports AD) upon availability of all of the tracks.
This series is not currently licensed to TELL ME TV, but feel free to pass along the corresponding contact information and I will gladly connect the parties.
Should you have any questions or require further information, please contact me.
Regards,
Christopher Stefanidis
VP, Digital Distribution Operations & Strategy
Walt Disney Pictures and Television
xxx@xxx.com
(818) 560-6573.
The below dates are the dates the tracks are set to be created. They hope to give to these platforms. We heard back from Netflix on the hosting of these tracks. Even though they have a good number of tracks they will not release them until they have all of the tracks for the show and until they are checked for quality. We predict Netflix will release the tracks March 2017.
SWITCHED AT BIRTH (YR 1 2010/11 EPS 1-10) – 16th September 2016
SWITCHED AT BIRTH (YR 2 2011/12 EPS 11-30) – 18th October 2016
SWITCHED AT BIRTH (YR 3 2012/13 EPS 31-51) – 2nd December 2016
SWITCHED AT BIRTH (YR 4 2013/14 EPS 52-73) – 23rd January 2017
SWITCHED AT BIRTH (YR 5 2014/15 EPS 74-93) – 24th February 2017

The ACB is hosting a survey about audio description

The below has been lifted directly from their audio description project website.

The American Council of the Blind (ACB) is seeking your valuable input and real-life experiences on audio description for broadcast cable television, mobile apps, streaming services, and film. In recent months, there has been a significant amount of movement in the television and film industry, which could greatly impact the quality and quantity of audio described choices for viewers.

ACB has developed a brief survey to collect information about your experiences accessing audio described content. This survey will take approximately 10 minutes to complete, and your responses will be kept confidential. You can access the survey by clicking the following link:

Take Survey

Details of the Netflix accessibility agreement

On their accessibility page for Netflix, The ACB has written about the deal and what some of the deal will include, but we believe they are actively updating the page over time so check the page often! As of today, this is what the deal says, as written by the ACB on their website.

In April, 2016, an agreement between the ACB and several others was announced with Netflix.  While some of the points of agreement had been previously announced or implemented, several items are new.  Key points of the agreement are:

  • Netflix will request audio description tracks in all its new contracts with streaming content providers.  For third-party content that is already in the Netflix streaming library, the company “shall make reasonable efforts to obtain existing audio description assets” for those videos.
  • Netflix will provide audio description for TV and movies branded as “Netflix Original,” assuming it has the necessary rights for creating audio descriptions.  If Netflix doesn’t control the audio description rights, it will “make commercially reasonable efforts to secure and offer audio description.”
  • For DVD subscribers, Netflix “shall make commercially reasonable efforts” to offer discs with audio description on videos from third-parties, “whenever such videos are available.”
  • Netflix has agreed to add audio description search functions and will also make its website and mobile applications accessible to individuals who are blind and use screen-reading software.
  • The agreement specifies that by Dec. 31, 2016, Netflix will have updated all apps for all applicable devices to provide blind individuals using screen-reading technology with access to the same features available to sighted users

DRA and ACB settle on Netflix accessibility

DRA and ACB have reached a settlement with Netflix that will, basically, force them to be more accessible. The press release has been sent to us for release. For complete transparancy we are pasting the release below, with emails and phone numbers removed because, well, nobody likes spam!

Netflix to Enhance Access for Customers Who Are Blind

Berkeley, CA – April 14, 2016 – In a first-of-its-kind settlement, advocates for people who are blind have reached an agreement with Netflix to make accessible the movies and videos offered through the Netflix video streaming and DVD rental subscriptions. The settlement provides that Netflix will make its video content accessible by adding a new technology called “audio description” as a feature that blind customers can activate so they can more fully understand and enjoy the movie and video experience.  

The settlement was reached between Netflix and the American Council of the Blind (ACB).   The Massachusetts-based Bay State Council of the Blind (BSCB) and Robert Baran, an individual who is blind, were also parties to the settlement. These blind advocacy organizations and Mr. Baran were represented by Disability Rights Advocates (DRA), a national non-profit legal center.

Netflix provides one of the nation’s most popular online streaming and DVD rental services, offering convenient and affordable video entertainment, including original content, to millions of Americans.

Under the agreement, Netflix will provide audio description for many popular titles in its streaming and disc rental libraries. Audio description technology lets blind people know what is happening in scenes without dialogue or scenes with significant visual elements via an audio description track that contains narration of the visual elements that is synchronized with the show or movie. Television and movie studios will create the audio description tracks and provide them to Netflix. Without audio description, blind individuals do not know what is happening in scenes without dialogue and can misinterpret the meaning of other scenes. Under the settlement, Netflix will also provide audio description for the “Netflix Original” shows that Netflix has begun distributing such as House of Cards and Orange is the New Black

Under the agreement, Netflix will also make its website and mobile applications accessible to individuals who are blind and use screen-reading software to navigate websites and apps. Screen-reading software is an interface between people who are blind or low vision and computers and/or mobile applications. The software creates an audio version of text and images that appear on a screen that it reads aloud to a user. The user then controls the computer or mobile device by pressing keys or tapping on a mobile application. With the changes Netflix is making, users who are blind or low vision will be able to independently use the Netflix website and mobile applications.

This agreement is the first-of-its-kind to provide screen-reader and audio access to users who are blind or low vision. 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.  Millions of Americans identify as having a visual disability.

Kim Charlson, President of the American Council of the Blind, commented, “We applaud Netflix for working with us to enhance access to its services for people who are 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. Movies and television are a central pillar of American culture. 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.”

Attorney Rebecca Williford of Disability Rights Advocates explains, “This is a great example of technology promoting greater accessibility and inclusiveness for people with disabilities. We hope that the outcome of our collaboration with Netflix will serve as a model for others in the online video entertainment industry.”

A copy of the settlement agreement is available at http://dralegal.org/.

FCC looks to expand video description rules to include on demand streaming

On April 1, 2016, the FCC released a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) proposing to expand the availability of video described programming.  Video description makes video programming accessible to individuals who are blind or visually impaired by enabling audio-narration to describe key visual elements of a television program during pauses in the dialogue.

 

The FCC proposes the following key rule changes:

 

  • Increase the amount of described programming on each included network carried by a covered broadcast station or multichannel video programming distributor, from 50 hours per calendar quarter to 87.5 (a 75% increase);
  • Increase the number of networks required to provide video description from four broadcast and five non-broadcast networks to five broadcast and ten non-broadcast networks;
  • Create a “no-backsliding” rule, so a network would remain subject to the rules even if it is no longer one of the top five or top ten ranking networks; and
  • Require video programming distributors to provide proper customer support contacts in order to improve consumer access to video description.

 

The NPRM also seeks comment on other matters, such as a potential requirement for described video-on-demand programming, a dedicated audio stream for video description, and a change of terminology from “video described” to “audio described.”

 

Comment and reply comment due dates will be announced once the Notice is published in the Federal Register.

 

Links to the News Release:

 

Web:     https://www.fcc.gov/document/fcc-proposed-expand-video-description-rules

Word:    https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-338677A1.docx

PDF:       https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-338677A1.pdf

Text:      https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-338677A1.txt

 

Links to the NPRM:


Web:     https://www.fcc.gov/document/video-description-expansion-nprm

Word:    https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-37A1.docx

PDF:       https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-37A1.pdf

Text:      https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-16-37A1.txt

 For more information about the NPRM, contact Lyle Elder and 202-418-2365, or Maria Mullarkey at and 202-418-1067.

 

 

DRA is investigating Hulu and Amazon Instant accessibility

Hulu and Amazon instant are not as accessible as they could be. This is common understanding among people who use adaptive technology. Disability Rights Advocates, a not for profit law firm, is investigating these complaints to, hopefully, move forward with advocating for better access on these platforms. The below is a PSA that was posted to the audio description email list.

Disability Rights Advocates is investigating complaints from blind individuals who report that the Amazon Video and Hulu websites and mobile applications are not accessible, and from blind individuals who want audio description tracks to be made available on Amazon Video and Hulu.  We would greatly appreciate speaking with you if you are blind and you have either confronted access barriers yourself while using Amazon Video or Hulu, or you have chosen not to subscribe to Amazon Video or Hulu because you have heard about access barriers.

To share your experiences, please contact Julia Marks by phone at (510) 665-8644 or by email at jmarks@dralegal.org.

Rebecca Williford
Senior Staff Attorney
Disability Rights Advocates
2001 Center Street, Third Floor
Berkeley, California  94704-1204
510 665 8644 x.123 (Tel)
510 665 8511 (Fax)

Netflix ads many accessibility enhancements in their app update

The latest Netflix app update ads a number of accessibility enhancements for the app. Below is a podcast that demonstrates some of the features and below tat is a post on AppleVis.

Netflix for iOS 8.00 brings groundbreaking accessibility improvements to VOiceOver users. Here is a quick demo of these improvements.

Netflix for iOS 8.00 brings groundbreaking accessibility fixes to Voiceover.

http://www.applevis.com/comment/52880#comment-52880

As Netflix becomes more accessible, what’s next?

Here is a potition that asks for Hulu to add audio descriptions.

For years, our team has been pressuring Netflix to make their content and service accessible. We have succeeded in many fronts, with the latest accomplishment being that Netflix has switched to a fully accessible HTML 5 player.

They are adding audio description in countries other than the United States as well. Our UK team members report that we have more described titles than they do to choose from but their selections are growing as well.

So, our team asked, over at the Facebook group, what’s next? We’re not finished advocating for greater accessibility on streaming platforms. It’s 2016, after all. More should be done to ensure this happens.

Our next target is Hulu, but we will still continue to advocate for blind and visually impaired customers as well as other streaming services, even YouTube.

We will advocate for captions, and web design for the mobility impaired as well. Our team consists of a wide array of staff with a varying array of disabilities and we care about all streaming media customers.

I just want to say, from the team, thank you to all readers, guest bloggers, and news outlets that have helped us show the importance and need for accessible design. It’s not over yet, but this is certainly an epic start!

Over the course of the coming weeks, the blog will get a new design as well as name to better reflect our mission and size. We have grown and hope to expand even more in the years to come. Thank you everyone! May the accessibility be with you!

Described offerings continue to grow despite titles leaving Netflix

With the arrival of new titles coming to Netflix, the big question is, which will have audio description and which will not have audio description.

Unfortunately, we can only guess. Netflix does not have a blog category featuring audio description news, and they are not publishing blog updates regarding audio description. Blind consumers are left to seek outside sources for their Netflix accessibility news, including us.

Blind Bargains published a report detailing the departure of some described titles. They stated it quite simply.

As usual, with the departures, we have new arrivals to the Netflix catalog. People want to know which will be described. We asked about the additions thus far and have outlined which content have audio description. We have reached out to Netflix representatives to determine more concrete information but they have not responded at the time of this writing.

More TV shows and movies are showing up in the audio description category, however, even shows that have never been described in the USA. One of these is the TV show Sherlock.

Stay tuned to our blog for updates!

Possible Netflix partner replies regarding new layout accessibility

The other day we reported briefly about the new Netflix layout. Even though we reported that the layout was somewhat usable, it is not accessible. Today, an Email was sent to various Netflix staff and employees of consultants and partners. Below is the Email that was sent today.

Hi this is Robert Kingett from the Accessible Netflix Project. We’d like to inform you that the new layout Netflix adopted on desktops is not completely accessible to people who use a screen reader. Many people have written to us and have illustrated the problems they had using the new layout on desktops and mobile web.

The screen reader’s focus does not stick due to the nature of the thumbnails. The previous version of the website was much more accessible, according to many users of different screen readers.

JAWS users report the site is not usable at all since the layout change.

We’d love to put you in touch with web accessibility experts for consultation. We, too, would love to assist in making the site more accessible for your blind customers.

If you’d like to talk via phone about this, my number is 850-764-2161.

we have received a reply from someone who appears to work in a lower division of Netflix or a partner. The signature of the reply does not have details. The below is the reply we have received from someone with the domain @pulsecom.com.au.

Than

Dear Robert,
Thanks for your email and flagging the below. 
We have passed on your message and offer to the relevant teams at Netflix who will circle back in due course if they would like to take up your kind offer. 
Once again, appreciate the note. 
All the best,
Javi

New Netflix layout has mixed accessibility results

A few weeks ago Netflix adopted a new interface. This new interface appeals to the sighted users by providing easier to see thumbnails. In essence, it looks as though they want to unify the mobile view and the desktop view. How accessible is the new layout? Many different users report different things.

A Voiceover user running a Mac says that the new layout works really well. He says that it is easier to cycle through his list of curated titles and he also says that it is easier to hear what episode he is currently on for each show. He has found no unlabeled buttons as of yet. The new layout appears to have an infinite scroll feature but this is not the case. Netflix just has a lot of categories listed on the main page after logging on.

An NVDA user in Washington has reported to us that the site works so so with her Windows machine. She has described the so so part to be a slight frustration with the screen reader because it appears to get stuck on a graphic that’s an advertisement for a movie, TV show, or new Netflix original. When users finally make it past that, she says they will have no trouble at all with the new layout. She did say that pressing the space bar on elements such as links don’t work when you want to watch a movie or TV show. Sometimes the enter key doesn’t work either and you will have to access this show by searching for it and hitting the enter button on the summary page. She reports that it is beyond easy and smooth to read the show and episode descriptions before playing the show and dealing with that inaccessible player on windows. She has also said that now, the rating stars have been labeled, whereas before, they were not.

Authors note. My NVDA courser gets stuck on the advertisement as well but I don’t know how to navigate past it other than immediately jumping by headings before it can fully load. I can’t make any personal comments about what I’ve experienced using the new layout yet but I will do so on YouTube.

A JAWS user reports that, accessibility is not the issue. JAWS crashes when he loads the website, and even when he is trying to browse his own list of tiles. Another JAWS user says that there’s a lot of strings of code he hears when he moves around the Netflix website. Another JAWS user says that the layout is better for him, much better than the other layout. The latest version of JAWS works the best. Version 12 and below will face many issues.

A Window Eyes user in Chicago has reported that everything is read to him as he navigates the site, meaning no unlabeled images or anything but he does say that Window Eyes will stutter on Netflix more than any other site but we believe that’s a computer error, not an accessibility error. He can use all controls with the exception of the player. Window Eyes, based on his reporting, seems to be the screen reader that works best with the new layout.

Sense8 launches on Netflix with audio description and more

Today a Netflix original has launched, with audio description. It’s a thriller called Sense8. Below is the description.

One gunshot, one death, one moment out of time that irrevocably links eight minds in disparate parts of the world, putting them in each other’s lives, each other’s secrets, and in terrible danger. Ordinary people suddenly reborn as “Sensates.”

below is a link to the Netflix original.

http://www.netflix.com/WiMovie/80025744?trkid=437879

in other news, Netflix does not have any immediate plans to announce news of described Netflix originals.

A few days ago I sent an Email to quite a bit of folks in the communications department and the content acquisitions department. The below reply came in just now.

Hi Robert,

Thanks for getting in touch.

As mentioned previously we’ll be rolling out AD content on an ongoing basis, but there is not a set list or RSS feed available.

Users are able to search for AD enabled titles through the user interface.

As you know we work hard to continually improve the experience for our members when viewing movies and shows on our service, and as promised we’ll be sure to share any additional news relative to AD when relevant.

The Accessible Netflix Project will continue to document future Netflix originals that release with AD. If you would like to blog for us, join our team!

Over 50 described titles added to US Netflix in under a week

Over the past few days, Netflix has been adding commercial described TV shows and movies, but the great news is that titles just keep on coming to their audio description category.

In the past week Netflix has added over fifty movies and TV shows with audio description in the USA. The audio description link for Netflix directs customers to their countries described offerings. Even though it’s required to have a Netflix account, the numbers of audio described movies and TV shows have tripled in just a matter of days.

One suspicion why this is so easy is because Netflix is using the theatrical tracks created by companies such as CaptionMax and WGBH media access Group. In one day, Netflix added ten titles last week with audio description.

The number seems to be climbing daily or every other day, so the best bet is to keep checking the audio description link daily or weekly to see what new titles have been added.

The audio description link is http://www.netflix.com/browse/audio-description

NOTE. While many have stated it’s required to log in to see the list, I, personally, have tried to view the listing logged out and I am able to view the listing without being logged in on my laptop

Netflix quietly adds audio description link to website

A tip has come in today that is huge news for the blind and visually impaired community. Netflix has quietly been describing movies and TV shows. They have also inserted an audio description link at the footer of the page.

The link isn’t visible if users are in a movie details page, or any other page apart from the main Netflix homepage. However, it’s there at the bottom and it holds over 30 movies or TV shows that have audio description or will soon have audio description.

In some cases, such as with Psych, the audio description is only on in later seasons of TV shows because that was when the AD aired on TV. results are very sporadic with this listing, but Netflix has stated in a blog post it would be rolling this out over time, so the best bet is to browse through the audio description link and see what’s there and what isn’t there.

The audio description link is below.

For movies and TV shows Netflix is using the theatrical AD tracks created for movie theaters, which do not include deleted scenes that Netflix shows as part of some movies. That is why AD seems to not work for a few seconds in some movies and TV shows

http://www.netflix.com/browse/audio-description

Daredevil season 2 may be described

With the release of Daredevil season 2 acquired by Netflix on April 21, many wonder if season 2 will have audio description just as season one does. It appears that season 2 of Daredevil will not be described. At least, Netflix has no idea if season 2 will be described.

In a blog post, Netflix has stated original shows will be described, including Daredevil, House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Marco Polo, and others, but the blog post was not clear about the availability of audio description for seasons beyond the first season.

With the announcement of season 2 of Daredevil, the Accessible Netflix Project team immediately reached out to Netflix to inquire if the next season be described as well. We assumed it was. Netflix doesn’t want to comment on the matter.

In an Email from Cliff Edwards, Director of Corporate Communications at Netflix, he clearly states,

We haven’t announced a release date on DD season 2, nor have we commented on which originals will have audio descriptions beyond the blog posting a couple of weeks ago. You can refer to that blog for a discussion on future plans.

Thanks “

when asked for clarification, Edwards directed us to his first Email, telling us that if we wanted to use something, we can consult the blog.

It would, quite frankly, make sense to describe all seasons of a show. No more information has been released on this matter but it is safe to assume that Daredevil will have AD for the entire run.

VICTORY! Daredevil has audio description with more to come

Today marks a historical victory for our team, Netflix, and the blind community. Today, Netflix has added audio description to their original show Daredevil.

Netflix has announced in a blog post released earlier today that Daredevil isn’t the only show that will have audio description. According to the blog, “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.”

We’re all rejoicing over this news. This marks a day for advancement. This is a day that proves that anything is possible and that other companies should follow suit. We’re hoping Hulu and others follow Netflix’s course of action. It’s technically and financially doable, after all, so there isn’t an excuse anymore.

As mentioned on Twitter, however, the web player is still inaccessible to screen readers. Nevertheless, many blind and visually impaired Netflix subscribers are happily enjoying Daredevil described.

The audio description plays on computers and video game systems including the PS4 and Xbox One.

Here’s an informative post on how to enable Audio Description for the iOS devices, Android devices, and the Apple TV:

Netflix illustrated that this is a pilot test, and will be fixing bugs in the coming weeks, in addition to adding audio description to the shows mentioned above. They have also illustrated they’d explore adding audio description in different languages.

Now comes the easy part. The DVD’s that have audio description can easily be added to the platform. We’re still advocating but we are celebrating this victory loudly and proudly.

Netflix detailed plans for future audio description by saying ” Over time, we expect audio description to be available for major Netflix original series, as well as select other shows and movies. We are working with studios and other content owners to increase the amount of audio description across a range of devices including smart TVs, tablets and smartphones. ”

To sum everything up nicely, a Washington post report says it all.

Daredevil petition and audio description advances with Amazon.

We have good news in the accessibility world today regarding Netflix and daredevil and audio description, and Amazon instant and Amazon

a Change.org user by the name of Ryan Dyck in Arlington, VA has created a petition to Netflix, asserting they should make their original show described so the blind and the visually impaired can enjoy this show.

The petition is titled “Make Daredevil Available to The Blind Community”

in other news, Amazon is looking into adding an audio description filter to their DVD searches in the USA. On Amazon UK there’s an audio description filter that lists all DVDs the UK has with audio description. Users can even narrow down the described DVD’s by genre, studio, ETC.

with a bit of advocating on Twitter, Amazon is actively listening.

That’s not all, however. They have said that Amazon instant might be a possibility regarding hosting streamed movies and TV shows with audio description.

At the time of this writing they have not provided us with direct contacts yet but we will update this page with any new developments

Navigating Netflix NZ with NVDA and a CNBC feature

With the launch of Netflix Australia and New Zealand, we asked the question will Netflix be accessible with regards to screen readers? A tutorial demonstrates that Netflix, in New Zealand is very much usable by NVDA users.

There’s a written tutorial with notes about navigating Netflix Australia using NVDA, including playing videos and episodes, navigating, and managing your account. Links are elow.

Text tutorial.

Audio tutorial.

In other news, CNBC has written about us! The article centers around our efforts to try and get DareDevil described. Though it centers around the Netflix original series, it also highlights the larger issue of Netflix accessibility and, even, audio description, as well.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/102563311

Donating your social media accounts to share Netflix accessibility updates

For the past two years we have been bringing you news on video demand accessibility, advocacy efforts, and more. Today, we’re inviting you to help us spread our message.

We have created a donate my account page where people can donate their Facebook’s and twitters to help spread our updates to a wider audience.

Donating your social media accounts simply means that, when we set a message to go out onto all of your accounts, you will tweet that message or post it to Facebook. We are not asking for dollar donations. We’re asking, here and now, that you help us spread our updates and message.

Donate your account here

UPDATED: DCMP’s channel brings media accessibility to Roku

As we investigate tips that are coming into our inbox, we have a bit of news regarding video on demand accessibility on the Roku platform.

On Twitter , someone sent a tweet entitled, DCMP activates channel on Roku. The link provided was to an announcement by DCMP. DCMP has enabled their channel to all Roku platforms in the later editions of Roku, including the newer models. Based on quick research, I’d recommend the Roku 3.

here’s a link to buy one on Amazon

just to be sure you get the latest Roku, here’s their home page

DCMP has educational videos for disabled students. This move allows students who have a Roku to access accessible content.

Even though the Roku platform is inaccessible to the blind and the visually impaired this is still extremely great news. Other companies, like TalkingFlix and Zagga TV, should follow suit, if they are not planning to do so already. Updates have not been released by either service.

According to the announcement, these are the requirements.

Any model Roku device (starting at $49, to purchase a Roku visit: www.roku.com).

  • A broadband Internet connection that delivers at least 1.5 Mbps. (Almost all schools will have a connection that meets this requirement, as do most homes with DSL or cable Internet service.)
  • To connect your Roku device to the Internet via Wi-Fi or with an Ethernet cable.
  • A free DCMP account with streaming privileges. (Teachers, other professionals, and family members whose use benefits students who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired, or deaf-blind qualify for DCMP services. There are no user registration or service fees.)

we have reached out to Roku regarding making their device accessible and have yet to hear back from them.

Stay tuned, however, as we’re hot on an audio description tip. Audio description is coming to Netflix in a few months. We will publish when we have all of the information.

update: DCMP replied with the below statement regarding Roku accessibility when I inquired about contacts at Roku to discuss making an accessible device for the blind.

Kyle Sis, I.T manager at DCMP had this to say.

We really don’t have any good contacts at Roku.  Our channel went through the exact same approval process as normal channels.

Long ago (in 2009) we got early access to the Roku API by emailing a few of the higher-ups at Roku, but that contact dried up several years ago.  We did a ton of research regarding the possibility of making the device accessible.  It doesn’t seem possible given the current OS and development environment.

We discussed quite a few options including creating an accessible Roku remote control iOS app (they have an API for that).  We then realized there’s no way to get navigational information back from the Roku, it’s one-way communication.  The closest we ever got was attempting to mirror each navigation movement on the app and the Roku simultaneously, but if they got out of sync the VO would be leading the viewer astray.

The only thing we can come up with is possibly being able to make a single channel accessible if you developed it using their native SDK (which has very limited public access; only a handful of channels have used it).  The public SDK uses a proprietary language called bright-script and is very limited.  We really don’t know since we’ve never had access to the native SDK.  I might reach out to their dev team and see if they would give us access.  Or possibly just give us access to the documentation.

Apple TV bug allows audio description on Netflix show

Reports from several Apple TV users in the USA have stated that the popular Netflix show New Girl has an audio description on by default in some of it’s episodes

According to the users, Many people have been watching the shows to see if a repeat occurrence would happen but all reported that only 2 episodes in season 2 have the audio description track on by default. The episodes are one and two.

When played on different devices, such as a laptop, however, the audio description does not play at all. The audio description does not play on tablets, video game systems, and mobile viewing devices.

A forum illustrates that this has been noted by the sighted community as well.

Netflix didn’t want to comment on the glitch but they kept assuring me that the problem with the audio description would be resolved as soon as possible, even after I told the operator I didn’t see it as a glitch. I wanted more of it on different shows because it would allow me, as a blind man, to watch shows.

I was unable to get a definitive answer from Apple regarding the Apple TV and a possible stream intercept. A Netflix representative assumed I was calling in a “problem,” and assured me that the team are working hard to fix the issue as quickly as possible, even after I explained that I’d like more of the so called, glitch, on other episodes and TV shows.

Since it can’t be replicated on any other device, even video game systems, it’s a safe assumption that only Apple TV owners will hear the audio description on the episodes. If the audio file were on their servers then people using different devices would be able to hear the audio description as well. If it is, indeed, on the Netflix server, then that’s definitive proof they are choosing to not use these audio files that have the description track.

Audio description is on the way to an official Netflix only show, however. stay tuned for an investigative report on that.

FCC Extends Waiver of Advanced Communications Accessibility Rules

FCC rules implementing the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 (CVAA) require equipment used for advanced communications services (ACS) to be accessible to individuals with disabilities.  The FCC may waive these ACS accessibility requirements for devices that are capable of accessing ACS, but are designed primarily for purposes other than using ACS.

On January 28, 2015, the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau extended the waiver it granted in 2014 for basic e-readers for one year – until January 28, 2016.  Basic e-readers that qualify for the waiver are designed primarily for the purpose of reading text-based digital works, such as books, and must meet each of the following requirements:

  • The device has no LCD screen, but rather utilizes a screen that is designed to optimize reading.
  • The device has no camera.
  • The device is not offered or shipped to consumers with built-in ACS client applications and the device manufacturer does not develop ACS application s for its respective device, but the device may be offered or shipped to consumers with a browser and social media applications.
  • The device is marketed to consumers as a reading device and promotional material about the device does not tout the capability to access ACS.

inks to the Waiver Extension Order:

Word:  https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-15-117A1.docx

PDF:  https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-15-117A1.pdf

Text:  https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DA-15-117A1.txt

The FCC might focus on internet video standards rules next!

On December 17, 2014, the FCC adopted a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) seeking comment on a proposal to update its rules to better reflect the fact that video services are being provided increasingly over the Internet.  The FCC proposes to change the definition of a multichannel video programming distributor (MVPD) because video programming is now no longer tied to a particular distribution technology (such as cable or satellite).  The new proposed definition of an MVPD will include providers that make multiple linear streams of video programming available for purchase, regardless of the technology used to distribute the programming.  This proposal is designed to ensure that (1) the Commission’s regulations continue to cover members of the video distribution industry if they change their services to Internet protocol delivery and (2) new web-based video programming services have access to the tools they need to compete with established providers.

Specifically, the NPRM proposes to define the term MVPD in either one of the two following ways:

  1. Any programming distributor of multiple linear video programming streams, including Internet-based services, OR
  2. Any programming distributor that has control over a transmission path.

The NPRM asks for public comment on the benefits and burdens of each of these possible definitions, and how each would impact MVPDs, consumers, and content owners.

Links to the News Release:

Word:   https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-331161A1.docx

Adobe: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/DOC-331161A1.pdf

Links to the NPRM:

Webpage:          http://www.fcc.gov/document/commission-adopts-mvpd-definition-nprm

Word:                 https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-210A1.doc

Adobe:                https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-14-210A1.pdf

Audio description advances and push back from Netflix again

It’s a new year and that means new advances are popping up in the tech world, and on our blog, and in the world of audio description on demand.

While our team has been sleeping and getting fat over the holidays others have been very hard at work prepping their audio description on demand services for the public. Note that we don’t have many updates to talk about because these kinds of services rely on two critical aspects: content and funding, which take a while to secure. Both companies have made significant strides in each area.

Zagga Entertainment or Zagga TV.

Zagga TV has been making strides with licensing and development. Their website has undergone some changes. The text size has increased site wide and the links are easier to see visually. Some links have been removed from the main navigation bar, such as the samples link, but the about the team link now includes links to LinkedIn profiles.

According to a blog post the founder, Kevin, wrote, they have already acquired content deals.

We’ve also been busy this year speaking to the studios about licensing great content for our VOD service. We’re very happy to report that we have landed our first two content deals with two great Canadian distributors and we are happily closing deals with two Hollywood distributors offering us movies and TV shows from a wide range of genres, including children’s programming. We’ll be making an announcement about this once the contracts are officially signed. Other studios are in the wings waiting to sign on with us and we’re thrilled that they see described video as a worthwhile endeavour for them and for us.

Further, down, he illustrates the progression of the development, even though they didn’t reach their fund raising goal. $18,926 CAD was raised out of a $50,000 goal. This campaign ended on June 14, 2014.

in a video Kevin Shaw provides a sneak peek of the Zagga iPad app and provides a look ahead to the service.

TalkingFlix.

TalkingFlix has made more website changes than anything else. The site has cleaned up very nicely with a new accessibility menu on all pages. The main layout of the website is still high contrast friendly and users can still sign up to get credits for referring people to the service, which will apply to their account when the service launches.

Here is a nifty update straight from the TalkingFlix news blog about where they are at and what they are doing to move forward with the launch.

Netflix.

What advances has Netflix been making by way of audio description this year? Telling the CRTC no regarding described video, pretty much the same way they told us no several times.

Netflix knows it’s not doing the right thing by not providing described content if the content already exists. In a company, however, money talks. With the launch of Zagga TV and TalkingFlix blind and visually impaired people will not need Netflix anymore because there will be a service that is accessible that they can turn their dollars to. Eventually, perhaps, Netflix will realize that a significant portion of their revenue is dwindling but the hopes the company will fully acknowledge and support the needs of blind customers is a bit of a stretch. Netflix has shown, time and time again, that they have no plans to support the blind populace.

Better services are on the way, however, that take care of the entertainment needs of the blind. This year is certainly shaping out to be an epic year!

Trying to getNBC’s reality show “Starting Over” online

We believe that advocating for what you believe in should be done regardless of how small the task. That is why we want to showcase this blog post from a blind Chicago resident. Starting Over is not described at all but could be. Many TV shows are described on one platform and not the other, as well. This blog post demonstrates a bit of explanation on why audio description should be taken seriously on all accounts.

Matters to Sam

Hi Everyone,

It’s been a  long long time since I’ve been on here!  I don’t really know if people read this or not, so have been concintrating more on making videos.

However, I thought I’d put something on here about this project I’m doing to see if anyone has  thoughts or ways they could help.

The producers of the real world  did a show that ran from 2003 to 2006called “Starting Over” It featured six women living together in a house working on life goals with the help of   coaches Rhonda Britten, Iyanla Van Zant, and Stan Katz a psychologist. It showed the ups and downs of the women’s  progress in the house,  both on  their individual goals and also issues within the group. The issues dealt from ranged from working on finding better romantic relationships, to redefining  identity, to learning to  “grow up”, to addressing child abuse ETC. I…

View original post 491 more words

audio description advocates respond to DOJ comment requests

Back in July, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) requested commments on a proposed update to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require movie theaters to provide closed movie captioning and audio description.  The ACB recently filed a response.  The deadline for filing your own response has passed, but you can read the ACB response.  You can also read the original DOJ filing, if you wish.

We have filed our own comments as well via their online forms. At the moment we are actively working on advocating for other video on demand accessibility concerns with other services because Netflix is at a bit of a standstill as definitive actions are taken in key places, most of which, we can’t talk about yet

Happy Holidays from the team

We, from the Accessible Netflix Project, wish everyone happy holidays and more! Many of our them are taking a break from the blog and otherwise to celebrate their various holidays so we want to wish all of you well. Below will be a link to get some described DVDs if you want to stock up for the holidays. Thank you everyone and we will be back after the new year!

http://acb.org/adp/dvds.html

We are still advocating for disabled Netflix users.

This is Robert Kingett of the accessible Netflix project just writing to say that we are still very much advocating for an accessible Netflix. I, for the month of October, have been offline and this has made communication and news distribution really limited.

While it’s true that we are waiting for something to happen with our newly developed connections and partnerships we are still working hard to make Netflix and other video on demand services accessible.

Over the next few weeks we will most likely post news about audio description and otherwise to keep this blog updated.

Thank you for your understanding and keep advocating for what you believe in!

Opinion. Netflix excludes the blind on Attitude Live Magazine.

Hi all, I am very sorry it has been a while with no updates but I have two articles to share with you.

The first is an opinion piece by me explaining why I have started the accessible Netflix Project and why Netflix, and other VOD platforms should make their sites and services accessible to everyone.

http://attitudelive.com/blog/robert-kingett/opinion-netflix-excludes-blind

the next is a news article in a weekly. It’s called SF weekly. It’s an interview with me about where I want to take the project and why the project started, and it even details a bit of my history as well, such as what school was like, ETC. that link is below. Enjoy!

http://www.sfweekly.com/thesnitch/2014/08/19/robert-kingett-blind-journalist-takes-on-netflix

We’re still advocating. At the moment, however, we are just waiting for emails to be returned, phone calls to be returned, and team members to finish with final exams. Audio description news may pop up to keep this blog updated.

We thank you for your continued advocacy and support!

Audio description news and a strong attempt at getting to Netflix again

There are some very slow yet palpable advancements with audio description happening in the USA, and yes, with us as well and what we are doing. First though, we want to bring some audio description news to you that showcases the increasing advancement of audio description.

Justice Dept Proposes ADA Modification for Movie Theater Accessibility.

On Friday, July 25, Attorney General Eric Holder signed a Notice of Proposed Rule making (NPRM) to amend the Title III regulation for the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to require movie theaters to provide closed movie captioning and audio description in order to give persons with hearing and vision disabilities access to movies. Read the full announcement.

Emirates Airline Introduces Movies With AD Tracks

Emirates, who was recently awarded the ‘World’s Best Airline Inflight Entertainment’ award at the SKYTRAX World Airline Awards for the 10th consecutive year, now offers Audio Description soundtracks on 16 Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures films. Read the article on Emirates.

Lionsgate starting to release DVD’S with AD.

Until now Lionsgate have published the audio description tracks in theaters and not on DVDS. This is changing, or so we hope. They are beginning to release the audio description tracks onto DVD’s that are in theaters. We’re not sure if this is an ongoing thing but we are pleased that Lionsgate and their Summit Entertainment subsidiary have been releasing a few audio described videos lately, though sometimes only on Blu-ray.

That’s all the news for today. Now I want to tell you about yet another attempt to get Netflix to work with us, before sending them the news article in SF Weekly that has been trending on Facebook. Thank you by the way.

In a Skype chat with a few of our team members we debated about trying, yet again, to open up a dialog about Netflix accessibility. The promises didn’t look very good, with their last Email directly to us has been august of last year. We debated, pondered, deliberated, and pondered some more.

“You know what? I think we should,” Kate said over sounds of a dog wining to go outside. She then added a thought that we didn’t know how to even proceed with. Should we send them the SF article?

“I don’t think so,” I suggested. “that could seem as if we are taunting them and I don’t want to do that.”

“Robbie,” Angela, another team member interjected, “there’s a fine difference between taunting and saying that we don’t want to be ignored anymore. We want to have someone there tell us, at least, we want to do it, and we, at least, want to be taken seriously. We want to help, and It’s stupid that we are being ignored.”

“Seriously guys, I get it, I seriously do. We’re all frustrated. We have been at this for a little over a year. We want to have the company tell us they are working on it but don’t you think that’s nudging a bit too much?” there was a collective groan filling my earphones not even a second after I finished my thoughts. My team weighed in. at least, the local Chicago team anyway. Their minds were set but was it even worth it? What would that accomplish, sending them the article in SF weekly, I didn’t think it would make them want to be our friend any faster but I didn’t have any ideas at all. My pool of plans and strategies drained like water in a tub. The decision was up to me and I had no idea how to proceed at all.

“Let’s meet at the library tomorrow,” I said, “in a meeting room with our laptops and IPhones.”

“You don’t have an IPhone, remember?” Kate interjected mockingly.

The next day rolled around and with it came a meeting where the Chicago team all huddled around a circular table, looking at past emails and documents in a library. To the public eye we were college kids furiously researching documents. To us, we were lost activists wondering how the professionals managed to keep their hair dashingly combed. We broke off into individual teams. I was on the Email trail, hunting down old emails to send to yet again within the Netflix company, Kate dialed and dialed the Netflix corporate office, navigating to any random person higher up than a customer service personnel hoping that we could, at least, talk to someone live about our letter we sent last year and invitations to start dialogs but she kept hitting voice-mails. Angela, in between downloading books on her Victor Reader Stream, was hunting around the web for people who have mentioned us. Perhaps Netflix publicly said something about us. If they did we all wanted to know what it would say, for sure.

About an hour into our tasks Angela let out a very preppy “OMG you guys, you guys, guess what?!

“What?” I said, “you see Will Smith In here just waiting for my marriage proposal?”

“He is not attractive,” Kate moaned with a grin, “:you just don’t know your stars, do you?”

“you are blind,” I reminded her with a smile.

“Redbox just got totally told by DRA!” she squealed, swiveling the laptop towards us just as Kate was leaving yet another message on yet another answering machine at Netflix. Remembering that she still had the ear-buds in, and that she literally swiveled the laptop toward us, she blushed and unplugged the headphones to have NVDA read us an article about Redbox in California having to make implementations to aid the blind. We looked up disability rights advocates and soon found an Email. The ladies immediately forwarded the Email to my cell, declaring that I was to contact them and ask them to help us. I quickly typed out an Email and sat there a while before sending, with the girls and I listening to the Email several times before actually sending it.

With their urging, I pulled up an Email with all the Netflix contacts in one BCC field and pasted the article in SF weekly in the body of the message as a link. Kate, meanwhile, was leaving her last voice mail of the day.

“Hi. This is Kate, I’m a member of the accessible Netflix project, I want to talk to someone about, not accessibility, but about getting a movie onto Netflix. I think that Star Wars would be such a wonderful movie to have on Netflix because it still teaches kids the importance of imagination and belief. Besides, everybody grew up on Star Wars. Netflix should make us feel more like we’re living the good old days and have all Star Wars movies on there, because we love the force. Thank you! My number is,” she gave her number, “If you want to talk about this matter. Thank you and I look forward to having a lively discussion about Star Wars.” with a flourish and a heavy sigh, she hung up, looked at me, and glared.

“That’s it. Send the Email now or else I will call Netflix asking for Barnie next.” smiling, I definitively pressed the SEND button and awaited our future. No response from Netflix at all.

Redbox agrees to provide better access for blind customers

Read the direct news article here

In a truly wonderful victory for blind and visually impaired entertainment lovers out there, Redbox has agreed, after a legal settlement, to make their kiosks accessible to the blind and the visually impaired by providing various features such as speech output, braille labels, and a dedicated accessibility customer service number. You can read the full story at the link below.

The community can call them and suggest improvements to their streaming service, as well. We plan to follow up with them regarding streaming titles very soon

read Full article here

Access Chat and Follow Friday

Hi folks. This is Robert Kingett here wishing to let you all know, very briefly, what’s been happening. I have participated in Access Chat and Follow Friday! Follow Friday is quite the big interview regarding the accessible Netflix project and a bit about me. Below will be a link to the interview after the Access Chat Twitter chat. Please share if you are inspired!

http://www.fedoraoutlier.com/%3Fp%3D4855

Team member spotlight: Tanja Milojevic

My name is Tanja Milojevic and I was born in Serbia as a premature baby. I had retinal detachment as a result of the incubators and was diagnosed with retinopathy of prematurity. I then had several surgeries on both eyes to restore some vision which were partially successful. These surgeries took place in the United States.

I permanently came to live in the US at the age of five when I was diagnosed with open and close angled Glaucoma in both eyes. My medical visa helped me make a permanent home with my family near Boston where I began my main stream public education.

I went through some struggle with the school system through the years but I was mostly a dual learner, both visual and tactual which meant that I relied on both braille and extremely large print on a closed circuit television.

As the years went on, I brought more and more of my close family to the US where we continued to live. I learned English and Braille to a better degree and picked up technology like the PC and braille light. Math and the visual sciences game me trouble but my braille teachers assisted me enough so that I could get by with A’s and B’s My family was pushy for me to get good grades. I’m still like that today. I like to be almost perfect if not perfect.

High school rolled around and I continued to push through school and I continued to push through school. I met other peers who were blind and had some friends in the blind world and not so much in the sited world. I had trouble fitting in. I enjoyed my O&M instructors and learned more and more about traveling independently. I found colleges that interested me and did better in subjects like English and Psychology than Math and Physics. That lead me into getting a few scholarships from my school and brought me to the end of that four years. I took part in my choir from fourth grade and to the end of high school. I’d continue it for another two years in undergrad as well.

I then moved on to Simmons College where I enjoyed the disabilities’ department and was able to be a strong advocate for myself and other students who needed someone to talk to. I had begun to listen to described movies and radio dramas back in high school and only found new ways to do so in college. I began to successfully make my own radio dramas and post them to a website. Www.lightningbolt.podbean.com I called my show “Lightningbolt Theater of the Mind.” It was a good social networking place. I joined the school radio station and chorus, and moved from my dorm, to an apartment, and to home. I got my guide dog Wendell just before entering College. He is from the Seeing Eye and is a golden lab who is now eight. He has brown ears and yellow fur. He sheds a lot but is friendly and loves to lick and get belly rubs. I graduated with a BA in English and I minored in Radio communications and special education moderate disabilities.

I then moved on to UMass Boston where I am a graduate student currently working to get my license to be a teacher of the visually impaired. I have completed my course work and am now working on my state testing and then practicum before getting my MA. I am describing content that wasn’t available on descriptive such as the old doctor who episodes from the sixties. Those are not available to the public and I feel like they should be. I am using the series transcripts from on line to be able to know what’s going on and to then have the ability to put the descriptive track in the right place.

For technology, I use jaws, the IPhone, a braille note empower which I got after height school, and I am considering getting an iPad or a mac. I use a blue bird microphone and gold wave as my audio editing software. I’m also learning reaper.

I am an advocate, that is why I’m here. I enjoy seeing the law followed. Everyone else can access Netflix. The deaf and hard of hearing have the ability to watch closed captioning. Why can we not access the description that is mandated by the FCC each year? We are paying for a net flicks membership each month. It would only make sense for this to be the case. Network television is too confusion to try to figure out. I want to help change happen.

Advocating for audio description on Netflix’s Daredevil series

Hi guys and ladies and everyone else, young and old, this is Katie, temporarily taking over Robert’s WordPress account to blog about what we all have been doing while he prepares for the 2014 ACB conference next week, which, he will participate via Skype.

There have been a lot of developments with Netflix over the past month. A lot of it deals with content. Shows have come and go. They are still not addressing accessibility for the blind and the visually impaired. The biggest news, however, is that Netflix will be producing a Daredevil TV series

UPDATE: This publication says it will be a Netflix movie.

The Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada is really excited about the project. We all are. All of us are huge comic book lovers!

Robert contacted him via twitter about adding audio description to this series so that blind and visually impaired Netflix users can fully enjoy the show. We hope he replies!

UPDATE: The webmaster of  manwithoutfear.com has replied to our tweet!

We have been sending emails and tweets directly to Netflix, as well, to try to plant a seed in their minds. Unfortunately, we have not received a reply yet.

Hannah wrote the below Email and sent it. We deliberated over the wording and then some, worried it sounded too pushy but in the end we sent it feeling really good about what we wrote!

We have called Netflix corporate and have left several messages at different answering machines, as well. no response yet

——– Original Message ——–
Subject: Adding audio description to Daredevil
Date: Mon, 23 Jun 2014 21:53:17 -0500
From: Accessible Netflix Project team
To: undisclosed-recipients:;

Hi there. This is one of the Accessible Netflix Project team members writing to you to say congratulations on producing another show in the making, as outlined in the article here. We are sure that this will be an excellent show for everyone and we want to thank you for producing this series.

Daredevil is a hero loved by all, including blind comic book fans. Since we could not find any definitive answer online could you elaborate on plans, if any, about adding audio description to the show so that blind and sighted can enjoy the heroics together?

Adding audio description would certainly help to create an accessible series for everyone who wishes to watch it. Everyone could have fun and discuss the series. Families with blind spouses can all use the benefits of adding audio description to this series.

Adding audio description could also be a wonderful way of spreading accessibility awareness and showing other companies that adding audio description does more than just allow the blind to see. This could provide awareness to budding producers who may want to follow in your footsteps. Adding audio description would certainly be a win for everybody and we want to help make it happen.

We would be more than happy to provide resources and give input on dialogue regarding audio description. We would love to provide links to describers and production resources and much more. There are not many options on the web for accessible media. Doing this would definitely show other companies how and why accessibility matters. You’d be setting a phenomenal example for many companies.

We, as stated above, would love to help you with resources and information regarding audio description and audio description matters. If you’re already pursuing audio description, could you let us know that as well? Thank you for your time!

A few days later an Email flew into our inbox with gusto but it was not a reply from Netflix. A man tipped us off about the FCC here in the USA. It turns out that the FCC have a audio description committee. The link is below.

http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/video-programming-accessibility-advisory-committee-vpaac

And here are the committee members.

http://www.fcc.gov/encyclopedia/vpaac-members

We haven’t been able to find contact methods for the committee yet but we will look when all of us have some down time after all the conventions are over with. This way we can focus on what needs to be focused on and we can be a stronger voice where we need to be.

The only thing that we can do now is wait, and wait, and hope. You can help. Tweet your support to @netflix or @JoeQuesada and let them know how adding audio description to this epic show would benefit so many! Thank you all! We will be back after the conventions!