Marvel and Netflix’s recent faux pas of failing to include Audio Description for their newest release, Daredevil, has suddenly thrust them into the Accessibility spotlight. However, this problem isn’t a new one. This is just the latest in a litany of issues facing people with disabilities. It took the irony of the situation, years of groundwork from advocates, and a phalanx of Netflix fans to bring about a change in Netflix’s policies.
It appears that Netflix did not provide any Audio Description for its programs, but neither did the other companies whose shows are hosted on the site. This is a bigger issue than one new show. It’s a widespread problem, a lack of interest in providing accessibility. I suppose if there’s no money to be made, it isn’t worth doing until someone calls you on it.
However, Netflix has smartly taken quick steps to assure its audience that Audio Description will be available for Daredevil as well as the rest of its own titles, like Orange Is The New Black and House of Cards, and that the process of adding Audio Description to hosted materials will soon begin. This improvement is due to pressure from advocates, as well as fans.
Here’s the thing: fans have a lot of power, even more than advocates, which is a sad truth. Fans have the power to make or break a show, and with the advent of social media, the access to stars as everyone tweets along with episodes, posts pithy comments, or states an opinion that meets mass agreement, corporations are now having to listen, or lose their audience.
It’s amazing that fans are beginning to speak up and show their support for accessibility, and I hope this continues to be a thing. The power of fandom and the education of the advocates is a strong force. It is up to us to educate ourselves and become aware of those around us who could utilize accessibility.
Audio Description is a fascinating leap in technology for the blind. While before they had to rely only one dialogue and soundtrack, which means missing facial expressions, choreography, symbolism of color, etc., they can now listen to the scene described, enabling them to appreciate the story at a deeper level.
So why wasn’t this put into use earlier? Was it a money issue? Was it a lack of education on the best way to serve blind customers? Or was it just carelessness? Whatever the reason, this development is a step forward in providing similar services to people regardless of need for accessibility.
This is what we want. A shared experience, the ability to live in a story and be able to discuss the details. We’re all fans, and we want to join in the conversation about how much we love the show, which characters are our favorites, and what episode we thought was the best. We all want this opportunity to connect with others who share the same love and passion for the stories we love. Before now, the bulk of this was lost to part of the fandom.
I hope this is the beginning of a new era, and I think we should join advocates, listen to them, and back them up when they ask for their right to accessibility. We can sign petitions, we can use social media to raise awareness, and we can support the companies that do provide things like Audio Description.
Be the kind of person that would make Daredevil proud.