Viewpoint

June 20, 2024

Importance of accessibility, inclusion for social advancement

Disabilities

By Adeleke Imole

Across the world, an estimated 1.3 billion people experience significant disability. This represents 16 per cent of the world’s population, or one in six of us, according to the World Health Organisation, WHO. This shows that there are more people with disabilities than it is imagined, yet there is little awareness about their lived experience which has led to events of discrimination.

Although there are more conversations online about the realities and shared experiences of people living with disabilities, what is being done to improve accessibility and build an inclusive society for everyone? The lack of proper infrastructure is a major challenge for people living with disabilities as public buildings, transportation systems, and other infrastructures are not fully accessible. A major challenge is also lack of awareness about the rights of people with disabilities which often leads to social exclusion and discrimination.

Accessibility is becoming increasingly important even beyond physical infrastructures to digital services, and streaming services like Netflix are leading the way in this shift. The idea of accessible digital services is to raise awareness and promote solutions for digital accessibility. A major focus is ensuring that digital assets, such as websites, videos, audio, and social media, are accessible to everyone, including people with disabilities.

Recently, Netflix shared an update on its efforts to improve accessibility on its service during a virtual briefing with its director of product accessibility, Heather Dowdy. In the conversation, Heather Dowdy would emphasise the importance of engaging with the disabled community to understand their needs better.

Being someone that grew up with parents living with disabilities, Heather has always been passionate about creating inclusive experiences for people in this community, hence she steers Netflix’s mission to bring the best entertainment experience to everyone in terms of accessibility through accessible products and features such as audio descriptions, subtitles and screen readers.

The streaming service has expanded accessibility tools, especially Audio Description, AD, and Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, SDH, significantly during the past year. This emphasis guarantees that users with disabilities may take full advantage of the vast content available on the platform.

Since more languages are available for these accessibility features, more viewers may enjoy stories in their native tongue regardless of where they are. Netflix’s approach goes beyond simply increasing the availability of AD and SDH. Heather explained that more than 40 per cent of the hours of viewing that take place on Netflix are done with subtitles. As such, the aim for Netflix is to achieve greater inclusivity.

As the streaming giant continues to improve the accessibility of its service users can expect improved functionalities such as assisted listening systems, audio descriptions, brightness, font size and speed controls. playback, keyboard shortcuts, screen readers, subtitles and voice commands, eliminating the barriers that people living with disabilities face in enjoying the movies they love.

Imole, a media consultant, writes from Abuja