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Netflix’s New Collection And Expanded Accessibility Features Celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day

by Victoria Marian Belmis / May 20, 2022 10:30 AM EDT
Cover Art For Celebrating Disability with Dimension

To celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Netflix expanded its accessibility features across the globe and revealed a new themed collection spotlighting stories focused on people living with disabilities. The collection is titled Celebrating Disability with Dimension, and similar to other collections it draws from Netflix's existing catalog with the goal of highlighting them as users surf across the service.

"Explore a world of characters, creators and real-life personalities who bring rich dimension to disability representation, one story at a time," the collection's subheader goes. Films and shows like The Fundamentals of Caring, Raising Dion, and Atypical can easily be accessed there among many others.

In addition, Netflix is also boosting its audio descriptions (AD) and subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) offerings in more languages, including Spanish, French, Korean, and Portuguese.

READ: Apple Reveals New Accessibility Upgrades For Apple Devices In Celebration Of Global Accessibility Awareness Day

Netflix's director of accessibility, Heather Dowdy, spoke with The Verge and explained how people's ability to use AD and SDH has usually depended on whether the networks airing content took the initiative to provide the features in multiple languages. For example, shows produced in France like Lupin might have those features available in French; English speakers planning to watch the series with English AD or SDH can only do so if that accessibility was prioritized by the platform airing it.

"We're adding more titles because we recognize that folks are finding these inclusive stories all over the world," Dowdy said. "We have some global hits when you think about with Squid Game and La Casa de Papel, and we want our members and others in other countries to be able to access that content as well."

 

According to Netflix, 40 percent of its global user base regularly uses subtitles and people have been watching hundreds of thousands of hours worth of shows like Lucifer, Ozark, and Seinfeld with their audio descriptions turned on. Dowdy, who is a CODA herself, explained that Netflix worked with members of the disability community to develop more robust AD guidelines meant to make the platform's approach to accessibility more inclusive.

"Things like race, gender, hair texture, skin tone - things that really bring our characters to life," Dowdy said. "That's evident visually, but then we're able to put that in the audio description as well so that our members are involved in the conversations that we're having around these characters."

READ: Microsoft's Upcoming Adaptive Mouse And Button Can Be Tweaked With 3D-printed Accessories

Dowdy didn't specify the next steps of Netflix in moving the initiative to ensure that shows and movies' original voices are maintained when the streamer localizes them. However, she did note that the Squid Game situation helped as a learning opportunity for Netflix that came as a direct result of viewers' critical feedback.

"If our members with disabilities aren't even able to access that title and give us the feedback to improve the SDH, then we aren't serving all of the members the best way that we can," Dowdy said. "So I think that's an example of our continuously listening to members and incorporating that feedback to get better, which is something that Netflix is really good at doing.

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