Netflix and the wider industry may not having cracked the code for making all its services accessible to everyone, but the streaming platform has taken some steps in the right direction. If you weren't already aware, here's a guide to using Netflix's accessibility features if you or someone you know needs them.
According to the Australian Network on Disability, 1 in 6 Australians suffer from hearing loss, and there are approximately 30,000 Deaf Auslan users with total hearing loss. Research from Vision Australia estimates there are around 357,000 people in the country who are either blind or have low vision. Often times, we tend to forget about inclusion unless numbers like these stare us in the face.
Netflix began its journey with audio descriptions when Marvel's Daredevil (about a blind superhero) was released. Now, there are over 10,000+ hours of audio descriptions on Netflix globally in over 30 different languages. You can access the gallery here. An audio description logo has been added to the relevant titles. Similarly, 'closed captions' are also available for the hearing impaired.
Browsing on Netflix
If you're looking to browse or navigate Netflix for something you may enjoy watching, turn on the 'voiceover' (ios) or 'TalkBack' (Android) on your smartphone, tablet or desktop. It'll automatically be able to read out the navigation menu, the title names, ratings, and even describe the visual of the key art in brief.
How to find titles with audio description
On the Netflix app, go to either TV shows or movies, click on genre and then scroll down to the last option: 'audio description'. This will show you only titles that contain audio descriptions. Additionally, you can choose your language preference so for example, 'audio description in Hindi' will give you content in that specific language only.
Selecting audio description for the visually impaired
To turn on audio description, you can simply start playing a title, and navigate to 'audio & subtitles' and select 'audio description'. Once enabled, it will become your default setting. On iOS, users can skip this step as enabling audio descriptions enabled in your device settings, will let Netflix play them by default.
For the hearing-impaired: The same 'audio & subtitles' menu will let you also select 'closed captions'. They're similar to your usual subtitles but with the addition of descriptions of background noises, tracks playing in the background, or names of characters who may be speaking off camera.
Downloading titles with audio description: These will automatically be downloaded if you have audio description turned on already.
How to increase subtitle size
If you have difficulty reading small fonts, go on 'Account', click on your 'Profile' and then select 'Change' to make the necessary adjustments. You'll even be able to add a drop shadow or background colour against the subtitles for better visibility.
Netflix has an extensive list of guidelines when it comes to creating audio descriptions. These are made available to the public so others can incorporate best practices for accessibility as well.
Having issues with your internet streaming quality and can't figure out why? Netflix's 'Fast' web app might be able to help: it tests your mobile and broadband speeds instantly with no need to download or click anything. Handily, the service is free to use whether you're a Netflix user or not.