Daredevil is getting a lot of rave reviews after hitting Netflix on Friday, but one group that is staying quiet are the blind. That’s because they have no real way of watching and enjoying the show in it’s current form. They also can’t enjoy any of the other original programming on Netflix, Hulu, or Amazon. That’s because none of the services offer audio descriptions for their shows and movies, leaving those in the blind community out of the binge watching game and dabbling on the fringes of piracy.
There are currently quite a few a people working hard to change this and they’re using Daredevil as a lightning rod. Robert Kingett, a legally blind 25-year-old and “self proclaimed geek” according to CNBC, is one of the voices leading a charge for services like Netflix and Hulu to grant wider accessibility within their platforms:
The cost of audio description is “a tuppence” compared to the price of producing movies and television, said Joel Snyder, president of Audio Description Associates. The company charges about $5,000 to write, voice, and record description for a roughly 21/2-hour movie, and about $1,000 for a 22-minute sitcom.
Since October 2012, Kingett has been writing to Netflix executives under the banner of the Accessible Netflix Project, a grassroots campaign now comprised of 11 blind volunteers who want the world’s largest streaming video service to provide audio descriptions. The group has since asked Netflix to audio describe “Daredevil” in particular.
“It’s entertainment, but accessibility is important regardless of if it’s entertainment or education,” said Kingett, who also lives with cerebral palsy and contributes stories to gaming publications about accessible video games for the blind.
CNBC notes that television networks like NBC and ABC are required by the FCC to provide at least 50 hours of audio described programming per quarter, with the top non-broadcast networks included in on the mandate. Outside the regulation, there are some networks that provide the service despite not being required to do so and those numbers are growing.
It is an issue gaining traction and clearly something the streaming platforms will need to address. If Daredevil seems like the perfect time to do so, you’re not the only one to think the same thing:
Last fall, New York-based comic book creator Rich Bernatovech began calling Netflix to ask the company to add audio descriptions to “Daredevil.” He said he was inspired to take action after a woman at his local dog park told him her visually impaired son was disappointed to learn the show would not be described.
Bernatovech said he got no definitive answer from Netflix, so he took to Facebook to raise awareness among his friends and network of comic book professionals.
“Am I the only person who finds it bad that there is a show about a blind superhero coming on TV and people, more importantly children, who are visually impaired will not be able to enjoy this show unless they find their own way to get audio description?”
It would make sense. I think the most telling part of the entire story is how the blind are forced to go to the black market to watch the shows they can’t enjoy legally, using unofficial audio descriptions and downloads. But as Audio Description Associates president Joel Snyder says, “Blind people want to watch good television, good film—or bad television and bad film—just like sighted people.”
Netflix is reportedly working on a fix, but how long will it take?