We spend a lot of time at home these days. For many, this means binging our favorite shows. With streaming services and network channels now offering mobile watching, it’s easier than ever to watch what we want, when we want.
Like sighted people, blind and visually impaired viewers eagerly anticipate the latest episode of “This is Us” or binge straight through “Stranger Things” or gossip about “Tiger King.” How do you comprehend what is happening in a show when you can’t see it? Many blind people consume visual content using audio description.
What is an audio description?
Audio description allows blind and visually impaired people to access visual content at no extra charge. A narrator describes the content that cannot be discerned without description such as color, action, background and expression. In the case of films and TV shows, the recorded description is slipped in between scenes where there is no dialogue. The description happens in real time with live performances, also in between dialogue and music.
Technology for the blind
More and more production companies, TV programmers and artists are realizing the importance of providing audio description services for blind and visually impaired viewers. Just as closed captioning evolved in the industry more than 20 years ago, audio description evolved as well.
The five main streaming services are Netflix, Disney Plus, Prime Video, Hulu and Apple TV. Netflix and Disney Plus currently provide more audio described content than any other platform. Especially if it’s a content original to Netflix or Disney Plus. Prime closely follows with most of its original content audio described. With only four audio described shows last year, Hulu now offers many shows with this feature. Apple TV also provides many audio described titles. Each of these platforms titles from various TV networks. However, many of these titles are not described; it depends if the original programmer built it in or not.
These services all have accessible interfaces for screen reader users. Technology for the blind like JAWS or NVDA or Apple Voiceover can access the app/site itself in audio description to watch audio described content.
How to access audio described content on these platforms?
The following is a list of directions for the specific services if using an Apple device. You will need to turn the audio description feature on your device itself, but once you do, it will remain on, and you will not have to constantly turn it back on.
First, you will need to turn the audio description on. Go to the Settings app, swipe until you find Accessibility, tap on this then swipe, looking for audio description–make sure it is toggled on. Once you toggle this, if a film or show has audio description, it will automatically play.
Once you toggle the audio description feature on your Apple device, you are set to watch audio described content on Netflix. If audio description is available with a title, it will automatically play from this point on.
Select a title and as it plays, tap on the screen, then controls will be displayed. Look for Audio and Subtitles Menu. If available, there will be an English Audio Description button to select. You will only have to set this up once.
Select a title. Once the program is playing, tap on Video Controls. Then look for Audio and the Subtitles Options, tap on this. If audio description is available, you will see the option. Once you select this option, audio description will automatically play when available.
Once you find a title you want to watch on Hulu, play it. Swipe on the screen until you find Player, then tap on it to turn on player controls. Then swipe until you find Settings, tap on it. If audio description is available, there will be a button for English Audio Description; tap on it. You will only have to do this once. Any title with audio description available will automatically play with audio description .
Like Netflix, once you toggle the audio description feature on your device, titles with audio description will automatically play.
Outlook Enrichment’s adaptive technology trainers can help you set up audio description on your Apple TV, smartphone or other device. Learn more about the live theater performances our describers bring to life for the visually impaired, right here in Omaha.
Audio description services make it possible for the visually impaired to enjoy film and TV and theatre as their sighted peers. The more audio description is advocated for, the more visual content blind people will have access too.