Campaign For A More Accessible Netflix

From Media Access Australia:

Campaign for a more accessible Netflix
Tuesday, 06 August 2013 10:49am

Accessibility advocates are leading a campaign to make US-based video streaming service Netflix more accessible to people with disabilities. The Accessible Netflix Project aims to get Netflix to make audio description available and improve the accessibility of the Netflix website.

Netflix is a video on demand and DVD rental service currently available overseas. While it has committed to captioning all of its content by 2014, Netflix currently has no provision for blind or vision impaired subscribers.
The campaign aims to get Netflix to:

Provide a screen reader friendly experience to all Netflix functions on the PC and mobile devices with all screen readers
Provide an easily navigable interface for the mobility impaired using adaptive technology
Provide easy access to audio described content for the blind and the vision impaired on streaming services as well as DVD selection currently and in the future

Journalist Robert Kingett, who is leading the small team behind the Accessible Netflix Project, said the campaign started when he and other blind Netflix subscribers found they were unable to access DVDs and videos with audio description.

“It started out as just shouting about audio description on streaming services only [now] we want to expand our mission and help not just us but others as well,” Kingett said.

Despite a large proportion of DVD titles having audio description, there is no way for users to identify them through the Netflix interface. Kingett said a few blind subscribers even offered to provide Netflix with a list of accessible DVDs, but the offer was refused.

They also hope Netflix and other streaming services make their websites and media players accessible to all screen reader users and easier to use with screen magnifiers.

Screen readers allow blind users to navigate websites by converting information on the screen into speech. However, if certain coding practices and techniques are not followed on a website, screen readers are unable to interpret the information.

The project’s website has a Netflix accessibility feedback form which allows people to share any accessibility barriers experienced. Kingett said they are yet to gain the support of Netflix but hope to collaborate with the company to help improve its service.

“We’re here to let people know that equality should happen, especially since we are paying customers,” said Kingett.

In Australia there is currently no video on demand service that offers audio description. We maintain a database of audio described DVDs.

The Social Network

In The Social Network, a cinematic adaptation of the book ‘The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook: A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal‘, the actor who plays FaceBook founder Mark Zuckerberg portrays the character with certain characteristics which are suggestive of Asperger’s Syndrome and/or autism spectrum disorders. On many occasions, Zuckerberg’s character is shown as having a flat affect (especially if he is asked something while concentrating on his work at the computer), and in one instance, he engages in hand motions similar to those exhibited by Temple Grandin.

However, in an early scene of the movie, his soon-to-be-ex girlfriend has other ideas about what ails him. In a tete-a-tete at a restaurant, when his conversation was dominated by his fixation on how he wanted to get into a one of Harvard’s influential clubs, and how he would go about “gaming” the process, she speculates that he might be “OCD”, and would benefit from medication. Later on, she comes up with a more colorful assessment of his character: he must have some exceptional flexibility, in order to get his “head up his ass”.

Larry Rosen, Ph.D., a professor of child psychology at California State U, had this assessment:

Jesse Eisenberg’s character qualifies as showing signs of many DSM-IV psychiatric conditions including adult antisocial personality disorder, Asperger’s, ADHD, and narcissistic personality disorder. But on the other hand, he defined a socially connected world where those behaviors are acceptable or at least accepted. If you examine our behavior behind the screen we feel comfortable acting in any way we can because nobody can see us and we have some sense of safety in that we can’t see them. We can’t see them crying, or feeling hurt. So Eisenberg’s behavior is actually acceptable online but unacceptable in person and is precisely what we’re seeing exhibited now behind one of the many screens countless hours each day.”

It is initially made to seem that certain extremely negative characteristics, including a conspicuous coldness to others including those who are supposed to have the status of friends, are inherent personality defects on the part of Zuckerberg.

His separateness from the general population is even emphasized by what must be the producers’ and scriptwriters’ decision to riff on or to rip off A Beautiful Mind, by having him write the algorithm for the functionality of FaceBook in paint marker on his dorm room windowpane. Zuckerberg’s social milieu, however, can hardly be said to be stocked with eusocial examples for him to emulate. Many of his peers who are ostensibly “normal” may have different daily conduct, but in many cases, it could hardly be called “better”. As the story unfolds, it is revealed that a number of individuals, both co-founders and rivals, spend a great deal of time engaged in manipulating and sabotaging others for material and psychic gain. Sean Parker (played by Justin Timberlake) at one point seems to be exerting undue influence over Zuckerberg in the newly-formed corporation and this contributes to a falling out with Zuckerberg’s former best (and only) friend, Edwardo.

The Winklevoss twins, in an effort to get Zuckerberg punished by the official power of the university, alleging that Zuckerberg had violated the institution’s honor code while working on the similar software development project they had contracted, The Harvard Connection, by stealing their idea and turning it into facebook, go to the then-president of Harvard, Larry Summers (also reputedly an Aspie) who tells them to simply “find another idea”.

Clinging desperately to that idea, having attached a disproportionate amount of potential profit to it, every one of the principals ends up suing everybody else, resulting in a legal, social, and financial morass which takes a team of lawyers a lot of time around a conference table to sort out. Zuckerman ends up learning remorse and regret for the damage done to relationships he had perhaps taken for granted, turning to a female lawyer for advice and support, and saying something genuinely indicative of caring to her.

Since we are not privy to the real Zuckerberg’s medical records, the audience is left to ask… Aspie or Asshole?


Disney hasn’t always been known for positive portrayals of women, minorities, and the disabled, but in the recent animated film Tangled the company seems to be trying to turn it around . On Princess Rapunzel’s first journey outside of her tower, she visits a dive bar named The Snuggley Duckling full of thugs in Viking clothing. All are odd-looking and menacing, and several have various visible disabilities.

One is missing a hand and, in a clear allusion to Captain Hook, uses a hook as a simple prosthesis:

Tangled's Rapunzel intimidated by Hook Hand Thug

One has six toes and a goiter:

Big Nose Thug shows Rapunzel his six-toed foot.

And one elderly man is of short stature and appears to be wearing a diaper.

Tangled Short Thug

Short Thug, inadvisedly, hits on Rapunzel's Mother Gothel. This is why you should always bring a wing man.

Rapunzel is initially intimidated by all the strange men at the Duckling, but as they’re about to drag her guide Flynn away she tells them she needs him to fulfill her dream of seeing the annual floating lantern event, and asks them if they have dreams too. This gives the thugs pause, and they break into a song and dance number, led by Hook Hand Thug who explains that his dream is to be a concert pianist.

Hook Hand on the piano

Hook Hand does a bang-up job on the piano.

Similarly, Big Nose Thug wants a girlfriend. (All the thugs have dreams that someone coming from a perspective of privilege might consider implausible or strange.) In real life many amputees and people with disabilities still follow such dreams; they have relationships, and some do enjoy playing musical instruments to the best of their abilities. Here’s one fellow who plays quite well with stiff, immobile hands:

Since Rapunzel has taken the time to get to know them as fellow human beings, the thugs help her escape from her witch of a mother. Hook Hand is rewarded with a chaste kiss, and though none of the disabled characters have ever been given proper names, they are all shown to have become friends with the princess and attained their dreams at the end of the movie.

Hook Hand on the piano in the finale

Hook Hand, now with a golden hook, has trouble turning the pages of his sheet music, but manages without it instead.

How to Train Your Dragon

Dragons with a penchant for chewing off limbs and burning down houses plague the Viking village of Berk in How to Train Your Dragon. The first amputee character introduced is Gobber, a burly veteran; in peacetime he’s the village blacksmith and informal prosthetist, in wartime (which is pretty much all the time) he’s the chief’s right-hand man, and teaches Viking striplings their way around a dragon.

Gobber likes to tell his drinking buddies about the time he had his hand in a dragon’s mouth, boasting that he could have ripped out its heart, but the dragon decided to eat it before he had a chance. That dragon must have found him tasty and spread the word, according to Gobber, because another dragon ate his leg in a later battle. Fortunately Gobber could devise his own prosthetics with interchangeable attachments made of leather and iron, with the help of his apprentice Hiccup.

Gobber the Viking with his homemade prosthetic stone hammer.

Hiccup, the scrawny son of Stoick the chief, has been deemed unsuitable for dragon-fighting duty by the rest of the village. He tries building novel projectile weapons to compensate for his apparent weakness, but when one actually downs a dragon mid-flight he doesn’t have the heart to finish the job. Instead, he brings food to the injured dragon and the two begin observing each other.

Realizing the dragon he has mistakenly dubbed Toothless can’t fly in a straight line without the stabilizing fin on its tail, Hiccup devises a foldable one. He rigs up a mechanism to control it with his foot during flight, and the two nearly get themselves killed, and discovered, practicing. Hiccup convinces Toothless to bring him along on a trip to the volcano the dragons call home, and discovers they’re being oppressed by a much larger dragon who requires regular feedings of sheep, cattle, and people to remain quiescent.

Stoick gets wind of the nest and decides to launch an all-out attack. Hiccup, Toothless (and several other newly-trained dragons) join the melee, but are knocked unconscious by a fall from great height. He wakes up back in his hut to discover that he’s lost a leg. A momentary look of resignation crosses Hiccup’s face, then he gets out of bed to practice walking on the prosthetic that Gobber has already fashioned and put on for him. Supported by Toothless, Hiccup walks outside to the acclaim of the village, tease Gobber about his workmanship, and discover that his new prosthetic easily interfaces with the controls for Toothless’ prosthetic tail fin.

Based on the book How to Train Your Dragon Book 1, this movie must have offered many opportunities for merchandising tie-ins, such as the Adult/Child Costume Accessory Viking Helmet and Horns, the How To Train Your Dragon Movie Mini Talking Plush Night Fury, and of course the How to Train Your Dragon Milk Chocolate Dragon Eggs. Sadly, they didn’t think to market any branded leather-and-iron Viking prosthetic limbs. And even more sadly, the producers of the How To Train Your Dragon video game, set after the events in the movie, did not see fit to depict Hiccup as an amputee.

The How to Train Your Dragon DVD is properly captioned and has an audio description track, and even the DVD extras are subtitled. Kudos to Dreamworks for their accessibility features!

Night of the Living Dead with audio description

If you’ve never heard a movie audio described before, celebrate Halloween by listening to American Council of the Blind (ACB) Radio when it streams online, via web-based radio station, the full movie Night of the Living Dead (George Romero’s original 1968 film) with complete audio description.

Tune in at 8:00 pm EDT at for the film with all of the classic film’s spooky horror described in full by the American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project. This was produced by ACB in collaboration with VITAC, a captioning & video description company. The described horror film is also available for free on VITAC’s website at VITAC.COM – Night of the Living Dead and on VITAC’s YouTube channel VITAC – You Tube – Night of the Living Dead

Notice provided by Joel Snyder, President, Audio Description Associates, LLC, “The Visual Made Verbal” ™, 6502 Westmoreland Avenue, Takoma Park, MD 20912. Email, tel 301 920-0218; Cell: 301 452-1898; Fax: 408 445-0079. For more information about audio description, please visit or contact American Council of the Blind at Tel 202 467-5083. website