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/.

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.

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!

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.

Team Member Spotlight, Rocco Fiorentino

Hello everyone, my name is Rocco Fiorentino. I was born in Philadelphia Pennsylvania, and became totally blind due to ROP (Retinopathy of Prematurity). I only have light perception now.

 

I’ve been playing piano and singing since I was 2 years old, and my love and passion for music has allowed me to play with and meet some incredible people throughout my life. I am 17 now, and attending Berklee College of Music in Boston MA in the fall of 2014. If you’re interested in checking out my music or learning more about me, please visit

http://www.musicbyrocco.com

 

I’ve also been a strong advocate for the blind and visually impaired community, which is why I joined the accessible Netflix Project. At the age of 5, I testified to the New Jersey State legislators to obtain more Braille services for blind and visually impaired children. I decided to do this because I realized that I couldn’t keep up with my sighted classmates because I was only receiving 1 hour of Braille per week, while my classmates were reading print every single day. As a result of my speech, the legislatures awarded $1.2 million to Braille education and services. I’m hoping to get the same positive advocacy results with this project. 🙂

 

My parents and I started a foundation when I was born, called the Little Rock Foundation, to provide services, programs, and resources to visually impaired or blind children and their families. We started a summer camp for these children, because most typical summer camps will not take a child who has a sight impairment because they are too high of a liability risk for the camp. We also have resource centers in Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to provide information and assistance to parents and their children. For more about the foundation, feel free to visit

http://www.tlrf.org

 

I am extremely excited to take on the task of getting Netflix programming to be audio-described. This is something which should have been available to the blind and visually impaired community a long time ago, and I’m ready to help the team in making it a reality.

 

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!

Guest blog post: Toni Bader

For the past fifteen years I have been part of a group of Audio Describers that offer our services for the visually handicapped to various live theaters in Indianapolis.  During that time, both the number of participating theaters and the pool of AD presenters have dwindled. I am working with the Indiana Repertory Theater to reverse that trend and hopefully we will increase our audience, the theaters that offer AD, and train more Describers for our market.
In the meantime, the offer of AD for movies is incredibly necessary but uncommonly convoluted.  Sometimes you can find it on Netflix, sometimes not.  Sometimes it is listed on the DVD packaging, and sometimes, even with the listing, it is impossible to find and use.
Netflix is the most familiar business that offers movies online.  To accommodate the wide audience of the non-seeing audience, they ought to be aware of the need, especially after months and years of letter writing campaigns.
The ball of who/which company is responsible for providing this service keeps getting bounced from one source to another with no resolution and little accomplished.  It sounds as if, despite government regulation for television (also often hard to find and use), the movie industry is slow to respond to ‘viewer’ demand.
I hope that soon we will be able to find movies that are not only available for visual enjoyment but audio as well.
Toni Bader
Audio Describer
Indianapolis IN

Team member introduction: Dawn Jones

Dawn has officially joined our team because she’s very passionate about equal media rights and overall inclusion. Though she is hard of hearing her passion for advocacy spans across the spectrum! How could we say no to such an enthusiastic soul?

Here’s her message that she wanted to share with you all.

My name is Dawn. I am hard of hearing so I rely on subtitles to access video on demand services or any other form of audiovisual entertainment. I think it is important that no part of society is left out and so I am supporting this campaign to encourage video on demand services to improve their accessibility for all. If Netflix can provide subtitles, why can’t they also invest in audio description? Aside from it being the right thing to do, investing time and money to ensure a service is accessible makes business sense. Doing so allows greater reach for your services, and adds business value in the form of extra data and information about the video content that can be used by the business in creative ways to provide a richer experience for all customers.

New team members and collaborating with RNIB

Over these past few weeks, we have been collaborating with a lot of different people and getting many team members acclimated to the blog dashboard so they can post audio, video, or regular blogs whenever they want to.

We have gained 10 new team members in the past week so we are all working to update the site, collaborate, and they are all working on their wicked introductions that they want to share. Some of them will be audioboos, others will be YouTube videos, and others will be epic blog posts.

Amidst all of the initiations, we have been talking to the RNIB about initiating a dialogue and a deeper partnership regarding Netflix and our future plans of action that we are strategizing.

At 10 AM Central Time, Wednesday, April 23, RNIB, Joel Snyder from the audio description project, Kim from the ACB, and a few team members from our campaign will participate in a Skype call to discuss matters relating to audio description and accessibility. As we’re working towards the next step in advocacy, we want to be sure that this will benefit people in different countries, such as the UK since Netflix is available in countries other than the United States.

At the moment, we are trying to connect with various people, locally, nationally, and internationally to form a toothsome voice for accessible media services on the web. When we can, we will release details.

What’s after RNIB? CNIB in Canada! If anyone knows people in CNIB, point them to us and tell them to have a poke around our site!

Zagga TV, audio description on-demand for the whole family

In the past few months we have made some advancements and discoveries regarding audio description and Netflix, as well as alternatives such as TalkingFlix. We’re here to tell you about another audio description on demand service that provides audio description for the whole family, not just the blind, and the visually impaired based out of Canada. The service is called Zagga TV, created by Zagga Entertainment. Zagga entertainment founded in January of 2012 and they were incorporated in February of that year.

The website is http://zagga.tv/

The tagline of the site appears to be watch what you want, where you want, instantly and accessibly, as that’s exactly what the service aims to do, provide on demand described movies and or TV shows, with video, for the entire family to enjoy.

According to the website, “they understand the frustration that comes with discovering your cable company’s VOD website is inaccessible. They have felt the aggravation over finding no described video titles on the most popular VOD platforms. This is why they are here. Zagga Entertainment makes watching described movies and TV shows easy, convenient and fun,” they write on their about page. This service will also make the described videos accessible on mobile devices, as well.

A portion of your monthly subscription fee will go towards professionally describing more movies and TV shows for every Zagga Entertainment subscriber to enjoy

The home page has a magnificent promo video that details what the service will be about. The video has wonderfully crisp audio description, as well.

The site has many links to browse through, including a samples page of some videos with audio description, and what they might look like on the platform as well as a news page with Canadian newspapers and media outlets. International web surfers may have a hard time accessing all of the news content, such as the audio and the video, but the Zagga website is open for anyone to browse through.

Their contact page is http://zagga.tv/contact-us/ just in case users want to ask questions or schedule a press related interview.

No details have been issued yet as to the cost of the monthly fee, and it appears that they don’t have a credits’ system such as TalkingFlix, but we’re sure this will be a profitable alternative to other video on demand services that are completely inaccessible or refuse inaccessibility altogether.

Their Indiegogo campaign gives their audience a chance to figuratively “take ownership” of the launch of this service and be directly involved with starting it.

If you’re blind or have low vision it would be worthwhile considering canceling your inaccessible subscription with mainstream providers and consider Zagga as a new, and hip, Netflix for the blind.

It will be interesting to see how Zagga TV and TalkingFlix will hold their own after the official launch of both platforms but this is a great year for audio description on demand! If mainstream VOD providers don’t realize they will lose subscribers, perhaps the plummeting numbers will convince them after the two services are in full swing.

Netflix keeps refusing accessibility and audio description

Over the last few months, we have been trying to get a definitive answer about whose responsibility is it to provide audio description during production, and after production and broadcasting. It has taken a while to get answers to these questions because it’s a very complicated matter simply because audio description is not as mainstreamed as we all would like audio description to be. Since it is very new naturally, one person appeared to handle it but it turns out that the person initially contacted doesn’t handle audio description at all, even the legal aspect, but here’s an email to try! This process repeated for several months. The good thing, however, is that we finally have a definitive answer regarding audio description on all sides, the TV side and the web side of things.

The text below is from a team member, who wishes to remain nameless, that explains audio description in the past, and going forward, as far as the TV network side of things. We have been utilizing all of our connections to get this answer.

Moving forward on new T.V. Shows and Movies, it will be the studios responsibility to handle the described video. On older titles the studios, production companies, and networks are all arguing over whose responsibility it is to provide described video, and of course this is nowhere near a resolution. The issue on future shows and movies is also complicated as the work for described video is costly, and there is a writer guild issue, meaning will the Described Video that is being provided for a movie or television show is considered Writers Guild work or nonunion work? Obviously again this is a compensation issue and nothing has been determined as of yet. While this all sounds like a lot, the good that I take away from all of this is that Described Video is on the Studios and Production Houses radar and I’m sure all of this will be settled the next time contract negotiations with the WGA takes place.

It’s no question that the people who are responsible for producing audio description are, as the above said, the studios. They have to actively engage in audio description, that means contacting audio description companies and working with them up until production and even, in some cases, after. Once it airs on TV and in movies. studios have definitely done what they needed to do by way of audio description and don’t need to do anything more. Since the studios included audio description on the TV show and or movie they are not responsible for other forms of media to provide the same audio description on other platforms. That responsibility lies with a different party altogether.

In the beginning stages of the project we have tried to contact Netflix about adding audio description to their streaming TV shows and movies, thinking that it was their responsibility to provide audio description onto their platform since the audio description that we wanted to see, current audio description that was on TV, on Netflix as well. They have sent us email after email pointing fingers at the studios that produce these shows. They told us repeatedly that audio description on their service didn’t have anything to do with their decisions. Naturally, this didn’t make  any sense since, if it was broadcasted with audio description elsewhere then Netflix would have to be responsible since they are distributing content that has audio description elsewhere and not on their platform.

They kept telling us   no, that they are not, and or would never be responsible for providing audio description on their platform. This is incorrect. Netflix are, without a doubt, responsible. We’re just not sure why they don’t want to do it. We’re not sure why they keep pointing the finger at the TV studios when the studios have done what they needed to do and provide audio description for their respected platform. In this case, on TV. It’s Netflix who should be asking for those audio description tracks along with the TV show files but they are not and they keep telling everyone who asks about it that they are not responsible. This is a bold-faced lie. They are, without a doubt, responsible. They just don’t want to admit that they are responsible nor provide audio description.

Since Netflix is hosting the content that has audio description elsewhere and not on their platform they are definitely responsible for ensuring that the content has audio description on their platform as well.

Netflix definitely has a responsibility to provide it if an already described track is available. Since we know who does what and who’s in charge of what going forward, this will be a good way to tell Netflix that the people who you need to be talking to are clearly defined and also, that you are not doing it at all. It’s the studio’s job to make the audio description. They have done so, and are even broadcasting it on TV. The responsibility to distribute audio description on different platforms lies within the platform creator. In this case it would be Reed. He’s the creator of the platform. Netflix are actively not making any efforts at all to have audio description.

As a side note, they are not making any accessibility initiatives either, for screen reader and magnifier users, on the desktop environment and on the mobile side of things but that will be for a different blog post.

Since Netflix have refused to provide audio description and, also, provide a fully accessible interface, we are asking for your help more than ever. Let them know they are responsible but they are refusing to be responsible. Be sure to let other video on demand companies know this is wrong and we hope other video on demand services don’t follow in Netflix’s business practice. We hope that other video on demand services do not make this kind of business practice their own. Everyone should be able to enjoy the same content as others.

Share your Netflix accessibility experiences on our YouTube channel.

Today we have just launched our YouTube channel, where we will host videos relating to Netflix accessibility as well as other accessibility matters created entirely by you!

The channel will be user driven and community driven, so everyone will get a chance to have their voices heard. There are two ways to send videos to us to host on our channel and they will be explained below.

All videos will be added to a playlist so that way users won’t be uploading anything directly to our account. Besides, YouTube doesn’t have that option.

Users can submit any video that they wish to be included in our channel. You can submit anything from VLOGS to a screen capture demonstrating accessibility matters. If it’s a screen capture that you are doing, please have audio with the video, otherwise, we will ask that you record the video again.

Even though you can submit anything to the channel, we do ask two things from you.

Don’t swear excessively. Obviously you can express yourself in a way that you wish but excessive swearing isn’t something we want to hear.

Keep background noise to a minimum.

That’s it! That’s all that we ask. now we will explain how to send your videos to us.

If you have a YouTube account you can just upload your video to your own channel, with “Accessible Netflix Project” somewhere in the title, and send us the URL to the video and then we can add it to our playlist. There’s a contact us link in the navigation bar where people can send their links or just message our YouTube channel.

If you want to upload videos by email click here.

The title of your video will be the subject line and the message body will be the video description.

If you don’t have a YouTube you can upload your video to our drop box, or use send space to send the file to us.

If you’re in the United States you will have to use this link because that’s just how the service works!

http://www.jotform.us/form/40764616111145

If you are sending your file outside the United States, click the below link.

http://www.jotform.com/form/40764616111145

If you want to send the file via send space visit https://www.sendspace.com/ and enter our email address, found by clicking contact us.

Here’s our YouTube playlist your video will appear on.

And here’s the YouTube account page.

National news outlets are writing about The Accessible Netflix Project!

While the accessible Netflix project is working very hard behind the scenes in regards to our next course of action after sending our letter wishing to dialogue, news outlets have been noticing us and promoting us and even rooting for us, which is beyond epic!

There are a few blogs and news articles, podcasts, and videos that didn’t quite make their way towards us, but a quick Google search brought them up and now they are on our press page, as appropriate.

There are a lot of interviews that I, Robert Kingett, have been having with a lot of people. Some of which are listed below.

The Huffington post.

AMI, accessible media Inc. in Canada.

The New York Times.

RNIB’s evening show.

COAT, The coalition for accessible technology,

And more will be on the way. Links will show up on our press page as they are published and or aired on a podcast.

There’s even news about us that we don’t even know about straight away, which is totally great! It’s refreshing to see people reading our news on the air and also planning for future interviews.

RNIB’s morning edition had a discussion about us some time ago, and the file below is the entire segment they had, which was epically done, by the way.

Link to audio file. http://recordings.talkshoe.com/TC-130496/TS-840656.mp3

We have news as well about new partnerships that we are forming as well, but that will be for another blog post!

As all of this is happening behind the blog, viewers and readers can still help us in many ways. Any small thing is highly appreciated.

People could also guest blog their accessibility experiences with Netflix and or attempts to do what we are attempting to do.

In other news, we’re trying to get a hold of VOD Film services in the UK to ask about adding audio description for their services. At the moment, the only provider that we know of that offers audio description on demand of recent episodes of certain TV shows is the BBC via IPlayer, which is not available to international viewers.

Since none of our small team is in the UK geographically, we cannot reach anyone definitive at these companies via phone. Email is our only option. I, myself, have tried to email a lot of people, but must of the time I can only find a generic email. I message that anyway but a generic response comes back to me about activating my account.

We have been trying to get someone at Hulu, still, and or Amazon as well, even though they are only available in the United States but make no mistake of it; we will definitely reach out to these video streaming services while we work on the next definite step with Netflix that will happen this year. Stay tuned!

Planning steps forward regarding Netflix accessibility

In the days that this blog has not been updating, a lot has been happening behind the scenes regarding Netflix, and even accessible Netflix alternatives.

On the Netflix side, we’re planning the next step. We are not twiddling our thumbs on this. Something will definitely happen this year, even if it’s news or meetings, but for now, everyone is putting our heads to the test as we carefully work out what the next action will be.

Since we’re still planning, contemplating, strategically wondering, we need help from our community. There’s a lot of ways that our community can help us. Everything helps a little.

In other news, I, Robert Kingett, have been interviewed by insight Radio about TalkingFlix, the new audio description on demand service.

TalkingFlix was made with love by the people at Crossway Media Solutions. Check out the Champions of TalkingFlix, mainly, me, or visit their corporate website for details about the team.

Crossway Media Solutions provides an online entertainment service for visually impaired consumers and develops cutting-edge products for the accessibility industry. With an aim of connecting visually impaired and sighted consumers in a shared social experience of enjoying entertainment content together, TalkingFlix narrows the divide between two worlds.

Since I’m an advisor for the people behind TalkingFlix, I voluntarily test out the site, and also provide suggestions based on trends or market niches I’ve seen as a consumer as well as a journalist.

And oh my god! Insight Radio did an interview with me! The interview took place on Skype, and it will go live on the air at March 4, at 12:45 PM Chicago time. The UK lives in the future so I’m guessing this will be at night for the folks over there. When this becomes available as a podcast, a link will be provided below and in the media section of the accessible Netflix project website.

The first audio description on demand service has launched

There hasn’t been an audio description on demand service that everybody could enjoy, even on an international scope.

The few audio described sources that are on the web are either geographically based, illegal, or have a limited number of content with audio description.

Today, a new audio description service has launched.

Introducing TalkingFlix… for under $10 a month. Check the website for updates and news.

The first global Audio-Described On-Demand entertainment service for the visually impaired is launching soon. We are excited to open TalkingFlix for pre-launch signups. Early adopters will get exclusive perks: deals on our subscription or premium movies and television shows, the option of becoming a beta tester, and the chance to start earning credits for referring friends. The sooner you sign up, the more referral credit you can collect before our launch.

Below is my referral link. Users can receive credits that they can use towards the service so that cash does not have to be spent – credits can be used instead…

http://talkingflix.com/signup.php?ref=33951

Don’t forget to check out the Crossway Media Solutions, the company behind TalkingFlix, at http://crosswaymediasolutions.com

A positive step forward regarding voices of accessibility

It’s been a while since we’ve had updates but I’m here to report some big steps forward!

Although we have been quiet, we have been working behind the scenes to connect with other organizations who share our concerns. We have been working with the Description Leadership Network (DLN) — a coalition of description and video-accessibility stakeholder organizations that includes the American Council of the blind, the American Foundation for the Blind, the National Federation of the Blind, and many others.

The Description Leadership Network is seeking to open a dialog with Netflix regarding accessibility of their services for blind customers.

Dr. Joshua A. Miele, Founder and Corresponding Secretary of The Description Leadership Network, is coordinating the effort to engage with Netflix on a variety of accessibility issues faced by blind Netflix customers.

In late September, Dr. Miele sent a letter to Reed Hastings offering to help organize a meeting that would include Netflix representatives, DLN members, the Accessible Netflix Project, and other important media-accessibility stakeholders. We will let you know when we hear back from them.

Thank you to everyone involved, and our very passionate partners, followers, and fellow Netflix lovers. With this move we hope to contribute to a dialogue that will benefit everyone! Stay tuned for more updates.