by Carl Richardson, Co-Chair, Audio Description Project
Gone are the days when the only way you could watch film and television with audio description was to be content with what the broadcast and cable channels thought you wanted to see, when they made decisions about what you wanted to watch and when you wanted to watch it. Gone are the days when you were limited to renting a VHS cassette or DVD from your local talking book library, because it was one of the few places that made audio description content available to you. We are now in a very exciting time, a time when you can watch what you want, when you want, and how you want. This paradigm shift means, to paraphrase a once famous advertisement, you can now have it your way.
With the explosion of streaming services and the availability of audio description on these services, we now have the freedom to choose not only what to watch, when to watch, and how to watch, but also we can choose from many thousands of titles. We can watch at our convenience and on our streaming device, smartphone, or accessible smart television. What is ironic is that there are no laws mandating audio description on streaming services, yet these services are the ones producing the most audio description at a high quality and with such variety that there is something out there for people of all ages, tastes and viewing habits. There is a streaming service for educational purposes in the K-12 school system for parents and teachers of visually impaired children, and we can also watch audio description in multiple languages. This is an exciting time for lovers of audio description.
We can rent, buy, and stream with or without commercials. We can binge-watch or watch weekly installments of certain series, all depending on the streaming service that is right for us. It is up to us to do the research and find what works for ourselves.
Now, with the ever-changing landscape of the streaming wars in the media industry, what we want can actually be hard to keep up with. But that’s actually a good thing! Below is a list, along with the corresponding websites, of many currently available streaming services. Things change rapidly, so by the time you read this article, there might be other options. For this reason, I am not going to review pricing, devices the services work on, or what each service provides in terms of content. Instead, the list below is designed to make you aware of the many streaming services that offer audio description. For more information and an up-to-date catalog of titles, just go to the Audio Description Project at www.acb.org/adp. For pricing and availability, check out the streaming service’s website or contact their customer service center.
And here, in no particular order, are the streaming services that let you have it your way:
- Apple TV Plus on-demand streaming service – http://www.appletvplus.com
- iTunes – rent or purchase to own TV shows and films – http://www.apple.com
- Disney Plus – on-demand streaming service – http://www.disneyplus.com
- Amazon Prime Video – on-demand streaming service as well as rent to own and buy titles – http://www.primevideo.com
- Described and Captioned Media Project (DCMP) – www.dcmp.org – educational streaming service for K-12 education
- Netflix – on-demand streaming service – http://www.netflix.com
- CBS All Access – on-demand streaming service plus CBS programming – http://www.cbsallaccess.com
- HBO Max – AD starting in March – on-demand streaming service- http://www.hbomax.com
- IMDb TV– free on-demand streaming service – http://www.imdbtv.com
- YouTube TV – live TV and cloud DVR service – http://www.youtubetv.com
- Spectrum Access – streaming app to compliment TV with AD – http://www.spectrum.com/access
- Hulu – on-demand streaming service – http://www.hulu.com
- YouDescribe – audio description for YouTube videos – http://www.youdescribe.org
- Watch ABC App – App that streams on-demand ABC programming – get the app on Android or the Apple app store
It is very exciting to be in the midst of a true paradigm shift – to go from only watching audio description that is available on a few broadcast channels during primetime hours, to having a choice of what to watch, when to watch, and how to watch. This opportunity is due in large part to the work and advocacy of the Audio Description Project (ADP). The ADP has lobbied and worked collaboratively with a multitude of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Max. As co-chair of the ADP, I am proud of the many consumers, advocates, and members of ACB and ADP that have made this happen. The streaming landscape continues to evolve on what seems a daily basis, so we continue to need your help. If you have any thoughts, suggestions or ideas for ways to improve existing services or to advocate for a new service to have audio description, please do not hesitate to contact me at email@example.com, [spell] or you can contact members of the ADP through the Audio Description Project at www.acb.org/adp. We want to hear all about how you want to have it your way!