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audio description comes to amazon prime
In the July 2015 issue of AccessWorld , we took a look at the audio
description feature that had just recently been added to many shows in the
Netflix lineup. Audio
description is an additional audio track that describes visual and unspoken
aspects of a movie or TV show. Audio description is provided primarily so
that people with visual
impairments can gain a better understanding of what is going on onscreen.
When it first launched, some subscribers had difficulty getting the audio
description feature to work on their various devices, but Netflix quickly
worked to solve all
existing problems. When that July 2015 AccessWorld article was written,
there were 87 shows on Netflix containing audio description.
One year later, we took a look at how far Netflix had come with
implementation of audio description on their network.
The number of programs containing an audio description track had jumped
from 87 to over 150, and accessibility to the service had improved
dramatically across all devices
used by the blind community. Today, according to the list available from
the American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project , there are
currently around 445
audio-described programs on Netflix.
Shortly after Netflix began offering audio-described content, Apple started
offering movies with audio description in the iTunes Store . Along with
the ability to filter
search results in order to only see content with audio descriptions, iTunes
makes it quite easy to determine whether a movie includes an audio
description track by simply
looking at the details of the movie provided in the Store, just like you
would to see if a show had closed captioning.
With Netflix and Apple both providing audio-described content with their
movies, the blind community began to ask other providers when they planned
to do likewise. The most
recent content provider to step up to the plate has been Amazon.
On June 9 of this year, the American Council of the Blind and Amazon
announced that Amazon Prime was offering 117 movies and 10 TV series with
audio description. The
ACB’s Audio Description Project (ADP) now links to a page on Amazon that
shows all content with audio description.
As of this writing, there are 133 titles available. Many are free with your
Prime membership, while others must be rented or purchased. Titles are
sorted by heading for easy
navigation with a screen reader, and links are provided to watch programs,
rent or purchase them, or add them to a watch list for later viewing. The
ADP also offers its own
page with an alphabetized listing of Amazon programs with audio description
How to Access Audio-Described Content On Amazon Prime
For this article, I tested one documentary, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of
Benghazi, available to watch for free with my Amazon Prime subscription. I
tested Amazon Prime’s
audio description feature using a Windows 10 computer running JAWS version
18 and the latest version of the Firefox browser, a Mac running Safari, and
an iPhone 6 running
the latest version of iOS 10. I did not test the feature using an Amazon
tablet, or an Android device, and audio description is not yet available on
the Apple TV, according
to the information found on ADP’s Amazon page.
Accessing Amazon Prime’s Audio-Described Content On a Windows 10 PC
After pressing Enter on the link found in the title of my documentary, I was
easily able to find controls to resume watching the program (I had been
watching it earlier) or
start from the beginning. Try as I might, after I began playing the
program, I was unable to get to the screen I needed to enable audio
description. ADP’s Amazon page states
that a sighted person must enable this feature once, but that it will stay
enabled thereafter. I did not ask my sighted wife to enable the feature for
me. I will wait until
I can turn on audio description independently before I watch
audio-described Amazon content on my PC.
Accessing Amazon Prime’s Audio-Described Content On a Mac
Unfortunately, I had no success accessing audio description on my Mac,
either. After I pressed Enter on the title of the documentary, I repeatedly
got stuck in a dialog box
that kept popping up wanting me to give the program a star rating. I could
not seem to get past this dialog in order to start playing the program.
Accessing Amazon Prime’s Audio-Described Content On iOS 10
Using the free Amazon Prime Video app on my iPhone,
I did a search for the title of my documentary. After opening the details
page of the program, I was again given the chance to resume watching the
program, or start from the
beginning. Unfortunately, as was the case with the two other devices I
tested, I was unable to determine whether the program was audio-described
from reading any of the
detailed information available from this page. Because I had enabled audio
description on my iPhone previously, the show, complete with audio
description track, began
playing as soon as I activated the control to begin watching the program
from the beginning. When the program began, my phone went into landscape
mode. Since I did not
quickly begin examining the screen, the video controls disappeared. I had to
double-tap the “video” label to get them back. I was able to then swipe
right to the “audio and
subtitles” option, which stopped playback of the program. “English [Audio
Description]” was already selected for me, but I could have easily selected
this option had it not
already been enabled. Closing this menu of options, or making a selection
resumes playback of the program, and closes the menu.
I found the process of enabling audio description and watching content on my
iPhone to be quite straightforward. This is how I will watch Amazon Prime’s
content for the foreseeable future.
The Bottom Line
Two years ago, there were no mainstream content providers of television
programs and movies that offered audio-described content for people with
visual impairments through
their online streaming services. Today, Netflix, iTunes, and now Amazon
Prime offer this feature. Currently, iTunes is the only service that makes
it easy to determine
whether or not an audio description track is available in a program simply
by looking at the details page of the movie or TV show in question. All of
the services do provide
access to a list of audio-described content on their site by either allowing
for the filtering of search results to show audio-described content, and/or
providing a list of
that content somewhere on their site.
Although I was unable to access audio description on my PC or Mac, I was
able to obtain the content on my iPhone. I would certainly like to see
better accessibility across
all of my devices, but I consider this a really good start.
If Amazon continues to add audio-described content to their list of programs
on a regular basis, and improve accessibility across all devices, blind
people will have yet
another excellent source of television programs and movies with audio
description tracks readily available and easily accessible.
We can only hope that services like Hulu will feel increasing pressure to
add audio description to their program lineup.
People with visual impairments, as much as they can, should be encouraged
to subscribe to services that offer audio-described content, and encourage
others to do so. Also,
positive comments on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter will
encourage companies like Amazon to continue offering the content that many
in the visual impairment
community have been requesting for so long.
Amazon Prime costs $99 per year. You can also pay $10.99 per month, or
subscribe to the video only plan for $8.99 per month. Many TV shows and
movies are available for free
with your membership; other programs can be rented or purchased.
The Amazon Prime Video app for iOS is free, and requires that you sign
into your Amazon Prime account.
Audio description must be enabled initially when any new device is used to
play Amazon Prime’s video content, but the setting is remembered on each
device the next time you