Netflix will expand its accessibility features in 10 additional languages, part of an effort to accommodate users who are hearing and vision-impaired. Starting this month and through early 2023, Netflix will roll out Audio Descriptions (AD), Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH) and dubbing for its entire library of original content, in languages including French, Spanish, Portuguese, German and Italian. Eventually, the streamer plans to add even more languages from the Asia-Pacific region and local European languages. The expansion will be available to all Netflix users globally and only apply to Netflix Originals.
The streamer said its aim was to allow even more viewers to watch content that is not in their native language. “For decades, the entertainment you had access to was determined by where you lived and what language you spoke, meaning people who needed AD or SDH could not enjoy stories made outside of where they were from,” wrote Netflix’s director of accessibility Heather Dowdy in a blog post.
For those who are deaf or vision-impaired, watching a new show or film on a streaming platform means turning on assistive technologies like subtitles or audio descriptions. But such accessibility features aren’t widely available across all platforms. Advocacy groups for the deaf and blind such as the National Federation of the Blind and the National Association for the Deaf have pushed streaming services to include more accessibility features over the years. Thanks to a 2012 settlement with the NAD, Netflix makes closed captioning available for all of its content. Netflix began rolling out audio descriptions for the blind and visually impaired in 2015, with the release of the show Daredevil. But the entertainment industry has been slow to embrace the newer technology, at the expense of its vision-impaired audience.
Currently, there are over 11,000 hours of audio description available globally on Netflix, and the streaming service plans to keep adding more. Netflix is also adding new badges for subtitles and audio descriptions on iOS and the web version.
“Our ambition is to entertain the world, and by increasing our SDH and AD language availability to now cover over 40 languages we hope to give all of our members the ability to see their lives reflected on screen,” wrote Dowdy.