HBO Max gets more accessible with audio-described content rollout

It'll make shows richer for blind or visually impaired users.

BRAZIL - 2021/02/12: In this photo illustration the HBO Max logo seen displayed on a smartphone screen. (Photo Illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) (SOPA Images via Getty Images)

HBO is following through on its promise to make its Max streaming service more accessible and is rolling out audio-described content this week. Following a settlement last October where the company agreed to make its content more accessible to blind and visually impaired people, HBO is meeting its target dates for the rollout so far.

The changes this week include "nearly 1,500 hours of audio described content on web and mobile platforms," according to a press release by the Disability Rights Advocates group (DRA) and the American Council of the Blind (ACB). The content includes HBO's originals, Max originals, parent company WarnerMedia's Warner Bros films as well as some "acquired content." Some of these titles include His Dark Materials, Dunkirk, Euphoria, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice and Genera+ion.

HBO plans to bring audio description to all connected TVs, and is creating audio descriptions for all of its new original and Max Original shows. According to the release, the company promises 3,000 hours of described content to be available by the end of March 2022, and at least 6,000 by March 2023. In addition, a new Audio Description section will be added to the navigation menu to make finding accessible content easier. Improvements are also on the way "in the coming months" for users with low vision who've experienced problems setting up accounts using screen readers.

Audio description is a separate track that you can switch to, and it "provides a verbal description of visual elements on screen," according to the release. Based on questions submitted to Roku support forums this January, it appears HBO had been testing getting this feature live at least since then, which resulted in confusion for some users when the audio track describing onscreen visual elements were activated.

WIth this rollout, HBO joins the likes of Netflix, Apple TV, Prime Video and Hulu on a list of streaming video providers that offer audio description tracks for their content.

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