Netflix Is Expanding Its Subtitling And Audio Description Options For Disabled Viewers

In honor of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Netflix is boosting its accessibility features, including audio descriptions (AD) and subtitles for deaf and hard of hearing (SDH) people. As someone who developed tinnitus pretty young (who knows why, but also it was probably from concerts), I live in an all subtitles all of the time state of mind, but anything Netflix can do to make their content more accessible is not only worth it, it's vital. While you could easily argue that Netflix has dropped the ball recently with the news that they're cracking down on password sharing, possibly implementing ads, and spending ungodly amounts of money, it's hard to see a downside to this.

The biggest changes include expanding the number of titles with ADs and SDHs and offering them in more languages, including Spanish, French, Korean, and Portuguese. On top of that, they'll be introducing visual badges to make it easier to see which titles have AD and SDH features. As Netflix's director of accessibility Heather Dowdy explained in an interview with The Verge:

"We're adding more titles because we recognize that folks are finding these inclusive stories all over the world ... 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."

Subtitles forever

While Netflix hasn't provided a list of titles that will now include options to turn on ADs or SDHs (or which titles will have the expanded language options), I'd bet good money on them starting with their original content first. This is great news for people who haven't had the chance to fully enjoy some of the best things on Netflix, but hopefully, the accessibility options don't stop there.

While the increased AD and SDH options might be the biggest technical change, Netflix is also introducing new disability-focused collections in the vein of their "One World, Infinite Wonder" collection, which they debuted for Earth Month. The new collection, titled "Celebrating Disability with Dimension" will feature over 50 shows centered around characters living with disabilities or storylines focused on disabilities.

Of course, it's hard to bring up Netflix and subtitles without mentioning the debacle around the English subtitles for "Squid Game," which were accused of changing the show's meaning. According to Dowdy's interview with The Verge, Netflix did see that issue as a "learning opportunity." Hopefully, they only have to learn it once.