As with Apple, Microsoft or Google, Netflix is not to be outdone when it comes to the accessibility of its video streaming platform. Heather Dowdy, Director of Product Accessibility, explains the SVoD giant’s desire to offer its content to as many people as possible with the same ease, both able-bodied and visually impaired or hearing impaired.
There is in her a bit of the character embodied by Louane in The Aries Family or that of Ruby, the heroine of CODA, the American version of Apple TV+ that won the Oscar for Best Picture. Heather Dowdy also grew up with deaf parents while being hearing (CODA stands for Child of Deaf Adults – Child of deaf adults). And she knows what these people go through on a daily basis, especially in the face of technology.
” Although I am blessed to be hearing, I grew up experiencing what the hearing impaired community experienced and I know what technology can do for them. We had lots of gadgets at home that helped them connect to the world and grow. That’s why I want Netflix to be able to offer the best experience to everyone.», explains the director of product accessibility to Frandroid.
Because if at Apple, accessibility is in its philosophy of all products and services, at Netflix, the subject is far from being excluded from reflections. The video streaming service even has a dedicated team to make progress in this area.“I’ve been in technology for several years and my whole career has been focused on creating accessible technologies”, adds Heather Dowdy. ” I remember a time when a teleprinter could only send one line at a time, now we have messaging, subtitled video calls… Today, we have plenty of technology to make everyday life easier. »
Pictures better told
And for years, she has been working so that the platform with hundreds of millions of users can be everyone’s. ” We have invested over the years in our captioning for the deaf and hard of hearing (DMH) as well as audio description (AD) for our members “, she recalls. For this, the decision was immediately taken that the accessibility settings are not separated from the other settings of the platform. Selection of subtitles, languages or selection buttons are next to the others to always remain accessible, without having to rack your brains to find where they may have been put. ” Their use must remain intuitive and natural for people to use them “, we are told.
For it to be innate, the experience must also be easy to access and use. ” NOT We collaborated with the community to create adapted tools, in particular on audio description. We really wanted to ensure that what was happening visually on the screen could be transcribed as accurately as possible, adds the one who was recently appointed to the US Access Board by President Joe Biden to salute her involvement and expertise in accessibility.
On The Bridgerton Chronicle , Netflix has thus worked on more advanced audio description guidelines in order to better reflect in the audio description the identity of a character by indicating the color of the skin, the sex and other physical elements that were not mentioned. previously. The color and texture of hair or skin have also been added to better represent a hero. An initiative well received by visually impaired subscribers.
Upcoming badges to better identify suitable content
For a long time, and logically, the audio and subtitle settings were made for the benefit mainly of English speakers. It will soon be to the delight of many other users. On the occasion of Accessibility Awareness Day, which is held this Thursday, May 19, the Los Gatos firm announced the arrival of new features for the visually impaired or hearing impaired. “We found that 40% of our subscribers used subtitles, whether classic or coded (for the deaf and hard of hearing, editor’s note). Subtitles were originally created for people who are hard of hearing and deaf, and now we all enjoy them. That’s also why we have to be efficient,”she analyzes.
The audio description offer or the enriched subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing will be made available to around twenty new languages, including French, Spanish and Portuguese. For France, this should be deployed during the summer.
The AD logo indicates the audio description option in French // Source: Frandroid
To better identify content that may be suitable for visually impaired or blind, deaf or hard of hearing subscribers, Netflix will set up a system of badges for series and films. This will make it easier to identify them as AD or SME. This will first be available on the web version of the SVoD service and on iOS. Eventually, a search filter, or even perhaps a dedicated category, could be considered.
A reflection around the keyboard of the internal search engine is also in progress, a better adjustment of the size of the font or the color of the subtitles and the menus as well. “It is all these little things that we are studying closely to further improve our service. And a lot of those things are based on the feedback we get from disability communities,” says Heather Dowdy. “They tell us what they want to see improved and we do our best,” she admits, not unhappy that it also led Netflix to receive theGame Changer AwardAmerican for his involvement in accessibility and his work on audio description.
A collection of content dedicated to disability
To mark the day and raise awareness among as many people as possible, Netflix is launching a collection entitledTalking about disability in all its dimensions.It brings together films and series highlighting disabled characters or stories around disability, autism and other situations.
There are series likeAtypicalabout the story of an autistic teenager who falls in love, poignant films, such asZion,the story of a boy born without legs who decides to become a wrestler, but also documentaries on the adventures of life with a disability, after an accident, dreams of travel and sports.
When we ask Netflix if the reflection around the accessibility of its platform will also lean towards the content, things are necessarily more evasive. We don’t “make” content accessible, we make sure that all content is accessible to everyone. But we recognize an awareness of the subject for Netflix Originals productions with the search for projects focused on inclusiveness of all genres in the script, the addition of consultants on the subject in addition to community members.
The idea is not just to have dramatic films or thought-provoking subjects, but also entertainment in a broad sense. “Content and how our users engage with it makes the service more accessible and that’s what we’re looking for,” says Heather Dowdy. “Increasing control over parameters is already a first step. It is a personalization like any other, for the valid and the invalid. It’s unique and that’s what we want to make easy,” she concludes.
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