Excited for more audio description to happen.

Hi everyone. This is my first email post to this blog. I was an early adopter of this whole audio-description concept. I think it’s great that we have so much of it today in our lives, and hope this trend will continue. Numerous family and friends–most of whom have working eyeballs–have greatly benefited from it as well. So it’s painfully obvious why there needs to be even more of it in the world. I’m in the process of acquiring my first iPhone, and can’t wait to try out Actiview. I’ve been reading good things about this new app. Thanks for reading, and I will have more to come so stay tuned right here.

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.

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.

contact us at this email

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

Why We want audio description on Switched at birth.

Sam also keeps a blog on mental illness! Read it here!

UPDATE. You can write to the below folks and ask them about contracting with describers for shows that do not have an AD track, such as Switched at Birth.

Tracy Wright at Netflix.

Tweet: Hey @TWright_LA could you contract W/describers to add AD to shows without AD, such as Switched At Birth? #a11y

I first heard of the show Switched at birth about a year ago from my best friend Robert Kingett, manager of this blog. At the time I was starting to know a totally deaf woman in the building I live in. Previously I’d never had any deaf friends. I was really wanting to build a connection. Robert went to the florida school for the deaf and the blind, and so learned a good amount of sign language and has many deaf friends. So I sent him a lot of e-mails about like every interaction this girl and I had and how could I connect with her better. I was probably bugging the hell out of him because he had a lot of journalist stuff to do.

So eventually he just kept saying well the show switched at birth would have this example or that example of the stuff you’re wondering about. We don’t have ABC Family on our limited TV channels at Albany and I have a very small number of shows I like to watch. So I never heard of it. He told me that it was a teen drama focused on two girls who were switched at birth. How their reunification affects them and their family and the twist is that one of the girls is deaf. He said that the show had deaf actors and that there was as much communication in ASL as in English if not more. I thought this was awesome because I’d honestly not even heard of a deaf character on tv in the first place. So many people don’t even know what sign language is and I thought it was amazing what this show was doing for people of all disabilities. Showing that people with disabilities have full lives, don’t obsess over their disability and meet challenges as they go along. And that it’s not as hard as one would think to connect with someone who’s disabled and form a true friendship.

So finally I was like ok I’ll watch this show! So I went on Netflix and sat back ready for some heartwarming and thought provoking teen drama. As the first episode introduced Daphne and Bae there was a lot of dialogue. And so I could follow that story. Daphne’s mother was there and signed while she spoke which was nice. Shortly though it became clear that there were a lot of scenes shot completely in ASL. So there was just silence in those moments. Though I love audio description, and have never been so energized about advocating for it since meeting Robert, I’ve usually done pretty good with shows that have a lot of dialogue. But this was so different as part of a conversation could be going on in ASL and then someone talking in English so it was extremely difficult.

I was very disappointed as I then did some online research. There were many articles praising the show for it’s showcasing of characters with disabilities and positive effects of this on disabled and nondisabled individuals alike. Audio description is thankfully becoming the norm with different laws pushing for it’s inclusion in certain numbers of shows.

As online venues like Netflix and ITunes become more popular advocacy is pushing these platforms as well. And by and large they are responding to the need pretty well. So why then is an obviously disability centered show not accessible for blind/ low vision viewers. I don’t know the answer to this question. Maybe a lot of people still think that there’s no way a blind person can appreciate tv. Or that a blind person would want to watch something about deaf people. Your average person on the street would consider blindness and deafness to be opposing disabilities and therefore forming relationships/ sharing interests between those disabilities would be very difficult if not impossible.

This is why I strongly believe this show must be audio described to make a statement that blind people are interested in the show and the issues it raises for all disabilities. More importantly, we’re very interested and care about the issues affecting deaf people and want to be supportive. We want to learn about ASL, issues between deaf and hearing people that come up and in general bridge the gap between these disabilities. Because it’s not true that they’re a barrier. Months and months after my initial pestering of Robert about everything deaf I’ve made a deep and lasting connection with my friend. And ask him less questions because I realize I don’t need to pretend to know everything about deaf people to be her friend. That our friendship goes way beyond each of our disabilities. And I’m learning to sign. Which is a whole other story.

To sum up, we need as many people as possible to get on board with our efforts.

We’re currently corresponding with contacts at audio description organizations who are more than willing to provide AD in a fairly inexpensive and high quality manner. We’ve contacted the producer who unfortunately has not been able to pass on any contacts from ABC family itself. We’re turning to online platforms as our best bet for this project as the show is ending in 2017. We haven’t gotten any response from Netflix or Apple at this point.

//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js

What we need is a lot of people behind us. It won’t happen with just two people saying we want this!

We need more voices. if anyone thinks about the show from this point of view, that it’s a disability centered piece, yet excludes blind access, it only makes sense to want to help as much as you can. I look forward to connecting with a lot of people around this. I know we can win if we work together!

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)

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!

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

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.

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.

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

share your thoughts about Netflix accessibility on our blog

=hi all. Big updates with audio description and accessible interfaces on the web, including Netflix are on the way. We, however, don’t want to report on any unconfirmed actions or rumors. We’re working very hard behind the scenes. We have some big events happening soon. Help from you would definitely help us in many ways.

We’re opening up this blog to write about your accessibility and or audio description wishes and experiences. This is your chance to tell the world how audio description in a digital age is as well as how wonderful audio description on the few websites that have audio description has enhanced your surfing. This is also your chance to explain your point of view regarding Netflix accessibility.

The blogs can be as long or as short as you wish. If you want to talk about your audio description wishes or experiences as well as give commentary on accessibility, please fill out the form below.

Be sure to include a bio in third person, not first person, which we can include at the end of your blog posts. You may specify a link to a website or blog that we can share at the bottom.

It’s highly recommended that you type your blog post in a word processor and then copy and paste it here. We will edit for spelling and grammar. If the errors are excessive we will ask you to re write the blog post.

Progress with Netflix, Audio description, and even Hulu

Hi all! I’m just making a quick post to detail that some things behind the scenes are taking place with audio description and Netflix.

However, because of our efforts, other people like the ACB are collaborating ideas to fix the audio description online issue, so it looks like we definitely got some heads turning and thoughts clinking into new directions.

A far as Netflix goes, we are still working very hard to work out solutions. Thought we may be quiet on the blog, we’re definitely making stuff happen so stay tuned because big news is  on the way along with ideas!

The good thing is that Hulu have also seen our project and they sent me a quick email asking how audio description can be done. I didn’t have any on demand services in the United States so I pointed them to the RNIB.

Future Family Guy with audio description can’t happen on Netflix

I have finally received a definitive answer regarding the TV show Family Guy and video description. I won’t say anything in regards; I will just paste the email that I have received just now.

Hi Robert,

I have a few more answers for you regarding video description. This is from memory from a phone conversation earlier this morning; a few details may be left out.

ITunes is the only streaming service that currently has the option for video description, but only for a few movies. It is a separate section that just has the audio files for a reduced cost. Other streaming services like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu, etc… Do not support video description at this time. Since file delivery workflow is essentially the same for each service, they won’t institute a new policy unless all services are in agreement, or if they are required by law (like broadcast).

Syndication is apparently interested in including video description with their deliveries. As I mentioned before, I believe Modern Family was a test case. They will be looking to implement this next year (March) for Season 11. They will not go back to revise files for previous seasons.

I admit, this is definitely a huge bummer, but I did immediately write her back and asked her what about putting them on iTunes? Even though I definitely have a bias hatred for iTunes with every bone in my body it still could be the shining beacon of example that tells other companies “look, you should be doing this too!” what do you think about this new founding with audio description? Let us know in the comments!

Help us contact studios about audio description on Netflix

Hi all. Here’s what we’ve been doing since we have been quiet. Since Netflix has said no to us regarding audio description even though Fox will give all future described episodes to Netflix, We’ve been trying to get studios that provide audio description on DVDs and TV shows to give those files to Netflix for free. We’re having a difficult time obtaining studio contacts so this is where we ask our readers to assist. Here’s how.

In the navigation bar there will be two links that point to TV stations and studio contact information. Below we will provide the movie studios that provide audio description on most of their DVDs. use the links above to contact studios on our behalf. The more, the mariner. If you’re unable to navigate to the links, we will provide the studio contact information below but not the TV stations contact info, as that is always changing and we won’t have time to continuously visit the link above.

Below will be the studios and their contact information. Unfortunately we could not obtain emails easily so we will also provide the website as well as phone number and physical address.

If possible, try to mention a DVD that has both audio description and is also available on Netflix or other streaming services such as Hulu and Amazon Instant and RedBox. Say that you want to have audio description on streaming as well. Thank you!

Disney / Pixar / Buena Vista

500 S. Buena Vista Street

Burbank, CA 91521

818-560-1000

Fox

Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp.

10201 W. Pico Blvd.

Los Angeles, CA 90035

310-369-1000

www.foxmovies.com

Paramount

Paramount Pictures Corporation

5555 Melrose Ave

Los Angeles, CA 90038

323-956-5000

Sony

Sony Pictures Entertainment

10202 W. Washington Blvd

Culver City, CA 90232

310-244-4000

Universal.

Universal Pictures

100 Universal City Plazas

Universal City, CA 91608

818-777-1000

Movies and recorded TV on the PS3 have audio description. Why can’t anyone else?

This is a neat feature that I found one day while fiddling with someone’s PlayStation 3. If you get a movie in the play station movie store or the PlayStation instant movie queue, one of the audio language tracks is the audio description track found on the DVD. If you’re legally blind and you have a PS3 and you know what DVD has audio description you can select that as an option on all PlayStation three systems. You have to purchase the on demand movie from the Sony store though, Hulu, Netflix, etc., won’t have the audio description.

NOTE: the track will not be called audio description. You have to cycle through all the English language tracks.

You can also watch described TV shows via the PS3 play TV. Apparently, it only works on RECORDED TV shows, not live TV shows. I’ve never used the application myself but a reader said it was possible.

If a video game system and distribution company can have audio described movies then why can’t Netflix and Hulu? Now I wish I had a PlayStation three of my own! Just a small audio description news tip for those visually impaired or legally blind who have a PlayStation 3. Thank you!

Netflix says don’t expect audio description anytime soon

Hi all! I’m bringing you an update that contains bad news for the blind and the visually impaired community, but first, for the people who are just signing up, I’ll I’ve a brief recap about what we have been doing.

In short, we have been contacting TV show distributers and producers as well in movie companies and broadcast networks such as fox and Sony. Things are still working out with Sony but fox has agreed to give all future Family Guy episodes to Netflix. Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t want to have them… at all.

I replied with this email below. Their response to my telling them that Fox was going to do this is below my email to them. Below is my response to them.

If the producers are willing to provide the needed audio description files to you free for all future episodes then all your programming and design team would need to do is find out how to make the audio description available in the languages menu of the streaming player. I’m sure this wouldn’t be hard to do, but thank you for the reply.

And here is the reply that they have sent me when I told them that future Family Guy episodes were going to be made to them, free, no less. Every audio description that’s produced will be available to Netflix dealing with the Family Guy TV show.

Hi Robert,

Thank you for being a Netflix fan and for being so passionate about making Netflix more accessible. At this point we have no immediate plans to add audio descriptions to our service. We continuously evaluate this and we will let you know if there’s a change, but don’t expect it to come in the near future.

Well, looks like its back to the drawing board. I wonder if Hulu will be more open to adding audio description. I’ll try some other people at Netflix. That was just only one person.

Future Family Guy episodes with audio description available to Netflix.

Hi all! I have great news! I don’t know how to move forward with it though. Ever since I’ve been contacting studios, I’ve been getting distributers on the Netflix discussion as well. It took some time to do, but I finally got a reply and it looks like a good one! My nameless contact said they’re moving forward with family guy and having new shows, not old shows, and new shows with audio description on Netflix. What this means is, that Netflix will have access to the files. I’ve sent that email that I have received, but to be honest, I don’t know what to do if Netflix says no about the audio description. What do we do AIF they say no, what will be our next course of action? I’ve forwarded that email to all my contacts at Netflix. I won’t stop until this is resolved! I’m forbidden from sharing the email with others, but I definitely hope this summary is enough. Sorry everyone, but I understand why my sources want to keep hidden. Don’t you? Just know that the email has been saved in my drop box.

Producers say yes to audio description on Netflix.

it’s quite an astonishing feat at what information you find out when you actually dig deep into something and do a tad bit of investigating. Way back, Netflix had made a valiant case that it wasn’t up to them to produce the audio description track for TV shows and movies, and that they couldn’t legally do anything with the content because they didn’t hold any of the rights to the content that has audio description tracks, and that would need to be taken up with the media producers of the TV show. They are correct, but I wondered if they thought I was going to drop it at that. I didn’t. I decided to find out for myself just how much Netflix holds in terms of decisions.

The search, hunting, and getting the right contacts took me forever to do. First I had to try and find a show that had audio description on TV, and then I had to check and see if that show was on Netflix. I didn’t want to do a show that didn’t have audio description on Netflix, nor do a show that had audio description on TV but wasn’t on Netflix because then the response would take even longer because they’d have to work out licensing and the like, and, since they wouldn’t have audio description then that would add another complication to the mix explaining what audio description is.

With that in mind, I knew that finding a TV show that had audio description, and aired on both TV and Netflix was the easiest method to go that would definitely get me an answer, either way.

Finding that show, though, was easier said than done. With a WordPad document open and NVDA turned off, I looked through every entry in the audio description project listing only to find out that a few were on Netflix, and even then I may have missed some. The research took me an hour to complete on that end.

Once I had the shows, I needed to find the creator, also known as producer of the show. That swallowed up an additional two hours of my time because not everything wasn’t on Wikipedia.

With the shows Family Guy, The Office, Glee, and others in mind, I set out to find some contact information. This was the hardest of all, taking up two days to do, after repeat attempts, mind you, but I will get to that later.

Naturally, I started off by calling corporate offices of networks like FOX, NBC, etc. in most cases; a generic operator couldn’t transfer me, nor give me emails, nor give me phone numbers. Some didn’t have it in their database, others weren’t allowed, and others kept giving me a generic email, which I didn’t want to, have. I called for a specific reason and that reason was to get answers.

I tried sounding as business as possible but I guess when you have a stutter; many don’t take you seriously or think you’ve fallen very high and hit your head. Some operators cut me off, hanging up on me, leaving me no choice but to call using the IP relay service where I was hung up on for yet another day and a half. Usually when I call with the IP relay service, people on the other end have to speak slower. They’ve disabled the option for me to place HCO calls, hearing carry over, where I hear everything the other person is saying. I don’t know why they discontinued that feature, but now I have to use the IP relay service just like a deaf person. I’m just a person with a speech disability but TV station operators think it’s a scam, and they hang up on me, or speak too fast and then they hang up on me, again.

The third day, I have managed to get someone who’s in charge of Family guy, out of all 56 calls I have made, I had only one lead and so I followed up accordingly. She wishes to remain nameless, and she didn’t give me permission to copy her email, but she said that yes, Seth did have the rights to the show, hence, he negotiates licenses. I explained my result with Netflix, and explained my situation via email, as that’s my best mode of communication. She actually was surprised that it didn’t have audio description on Netflix, and she wondered why. Just to make things better on myself, I forwarded her the email sent by Netflix staff. She immediately responded with a urgency to push this Netflix woman, and explain that this show is on TV with audio description already, and make it very clear that the audio description has been produced, and also make it VERY clear that they’d be more than happy to license, or anything else to help. So, I sent the Netflix staff this email.

Hi XXX. This is Robert Kingett again. Recently I sent you an email about the availability of audio description on instant streaming services. You pointed out that it’s up to the producers to provide audio description. There are already shows on TV and movies with audio description, and who are willing to provide the audio description to Netflix. Family Guy, a show that is both on Netflix and on TV, offers described episodes after season 10. Since Family Guy offers audio description on TV already, I’d like to know how Netflix would work with the producer of the show to also provide audio description for instant streaming. Family Guy airs on FOX with audio description. Knowing this, how can we move forward in regards to providing audio description on instant streaming? Since the producers are providing audio description on TV already isn’t it up to Netflix to negotiate audio description on their systems and services if the audio description is already provided for other mediums the show airs on?

The reply that I received was that, in that case, FOX holds the control over the audio description, not the producers, since the audio description is produced. FOX airs the show bundled with the audio description so the producers wouldn’t have any say so. Just to check her facts, I emailed 13 other Netflix email addresses I had collected. No response shot into my inbox from any of them, and it has been a week since the last email. Since FOX airs the show, they have all the rights, so I’d need to talk to someone at FOX. She didn’t even give me a name of any sort. I didn’t want to be treated like a joke anymore, so I contacted my Family Guy contact who told me that she’d look, and dig, and find out who I’d need to speak to and she promised that she would give me a direct contact, even number. So, I guess now we just wait on the big reveal. I don’t know when that will happen but I’m sure it won’t be far off before I have a definitive answer. At least someone is taking me seriously, but with very few leads, the worry is mounting. Will my efforts be in vein? I hope not. I do wish though, that I had someone helping me make these calls. People really don’t like IP relay but what other options do I have?

The good news, we’ve learned something, the bad, we need to learn more about the vast world of licensing. We will keep looking, however.

Our Netflix accessibility project was congratulated!

FYI, on the ACB teleconference regarding audio description on July 24, our project was congratulated by both the ACB and the AFB. That brought us a few more subscribers but we need more feedback.

Even though the feedback we have received has been helpful, we do need more. Remember, there are many different ways that users can leave us comments and or feedback about Netflix accessibility

There’s actually a lot of different ways that you can help us with this project.

1.          Make a donation to help our cause.

2.        Leave us a voicemail or fax at 253-780-9696

3.        Fill out our Netflix accessibility feedback form (NOTE: your responses will be kept for future use.)

4.        Send an email to us. You may attach audio files as well

5.      Leave us a voicemail using your microphone

6.       Help to legislate audio description and captioning in all U.S. cinemas

If you have or had Netflix in the past.

Write about the accessibility frustrations that you’ve had on any device, android, apple TV, IPhone, desktop, laptop, Ipad, and tablet, windows phone, or IPhone and detail what doesn’t work. Name anything that doesn’t work with adaptive technology and also cite any website issues such as missing labels, alt text, etc. detail frustrations and also detail how your life would improve if Netflix had these accessible services, including audio description of streamed movies.

If audio description is a big thing for you make sure you put that in there and why you want to see audio description on streaming movies and TV shows and how your life would improve if Netflix had audio description streamed. Detail why and send it to netflixacessproject@gmail.com  and CC Bob Hachey bhachey@verizon.net or send it to Bob Hachey bhachey@verizon.net and CC netflixacessproject@gmail.com please provide a way for us to contact you, either via email or phone. No social networks please. Thank you.

If you don’t have Netflix, or had it and canceled.

Say why you no longer have the service, be very detailed and direct about the reason that you don’t have the service. If it’s an accessible feature that you need but they don’t have, such as audio description, make sure you illustrate your frustration at this lack of accessibility tool. If you left because many things were not accessible. Detail why and send it to netflixacessproject@gmail.com  and CC Bob Hachey bhachey@verizon.net or send it to Bob Hachey bhachey@verizon.net and CC netflixacessproject@gmail.com please provide a way for us to contact you, either via email or phone. No social networks please. Thank you

A direct response from Netflix regarding audio description on streaming content

Hi all,

Thank you for sharing additional information with Tracy and I, we appreciate the advice and recommendations you’re sending along. It’s helpful to learn the choices that are exist and are evolving in the marketplace. As a note, I’m sure you’re aware that creating the audio descriptive files rests with the creators of the content – usually studios or networks, potentially independent producers. The content creators hold the copyright to the underlying material and therefore the right to create AD, and Netflix simply licenses their content, so they would need to take the initiative to create and then also license audio description for Netflix to then offer it to subscribers.
We appreciate the continued information, and are working to stay informed, and we hope you continue to work with the studios and content owners to create audio description for all content they are licensing in the online marketplace, whether for streaming or download. Thanks again,
Elizabeth Bradley
And below is just a snippet of negotiation we have tried to make with Netflix. I won’t even include the responses from the audio description companies in the United States because the post would be really huge!
On Mon, Jun 24, 2013 at 7:45 AM, Paton, John RNIB wrote:

Thanks Robert,

Dear Tracy,

I’m John Paton and I work in the Digital Media and Culture team at RNIB, the largest UK charity for blind and partially sighted people. One of my areas of work is to try to encourage audio description on Video on Demand services such as Netflix. To that end we work with service providers and participate in the ATVOD (Authority for TV on Demand) access services working party. Despite being a UK regulatory body ATVOD has no power to compel and so rather than informing regulation the discussion revolves around sharing best practice and learning opportunities to ensure that making content accessible is as unburdensome as possible for service providers.

We would be very interested in having a discussion with Netflix about your plans for providing audio description on your service and would be happy to sign an NDA to ensure confidentiality. We have worked under NDA with companies very successfully in the past and that was how we managed to bring the Panasonic Voice Guidance feature and TVonics talking features to market alongside the respective industry partners greatly improving the accessibility of the television market in the UK. We are also keen to advertise accessible solutions to our members through our magazine, website, social media channels and radio station and I look forward to being able to announce the first fully accessible non-catchup Video on Demand service.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Best regards,

John Paton

Netflix and audio described DVDs.

Here are a lot of rumors floating around that Netflix doesn’t offer described DVDs. They do offer them but you’d never know they were described because they don’t even list the audio tracks, or the subtitle information on the website.

By the way, Netflix has no accessibility information on its website up front. You’ll have to turn to Google to dig deep into the blog posts in order to get information.

Every DVD that’s made today has subtitles and closed captioning for the deaf but few DVDs have audio description for the blind and the visually impaired.

Netflix carries these DVDs which users can rent. As noted above, if you’re just looking on the Netflix website, you’d never know which DVDs have audio description because there’s no information like that on the website and in the catalog when searching for a movie.

Instead, you’ll have to go to http://www.acb.org/adp/dvds.html and find the title there then go back to Netflix and select the titles.

As an alternative, if you don’t want to place online orders you can call them or have them call you.

Phone Number. 888-638-3549   or 1-866-579-7172

Talk to a Human. Press zero at each prompt.

You can also chat with them online. https://contactus.netflix.com/help

Hit start live chat link.

You can also have them call you back.

You can go back to what you were doing, and avoid the waiting on hold on the phone. We’ll do the waiting for you.

1: Enter Your Number

Two: They Call in Minutes

Get back to what you’re doing Netflix will call you back soon.

Three: That’s It! Try and See!

Netflix says “no” to audio description.

Recently I tried contacting Netflix in regard for audio description. Needless to say that getting an email address was complete guesswork. I had to guess what the email format was and then try some random name’s that I found on a website, because, quite frankly, the operator said she couldn’t give them out when I called their corporate office

When I finally got an email address, I emailed. I’m not going to post it here because I don’t want to give away private information but I asked about Netflix having audio description.

In short, they can’t do audio description because not all platforms and devices would even support it and when I tried to reply with some folks from the RNIB they even told her, Elizabeth, how they have audio description on the web.

She didn’t reply, even after a few more emails.