Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In Which Netflix and I Forget About the Deaf

The other day I was bitching about Netflix Watch Instant and how it generally doesn't have subtitles. This is because I am a language idiot and have to use subtitles to catch half the dialogue when I watch movies, but Jess pointed out that this obviously sucks for the hearing impaired. And I felt like kind of an ass for not thinking of that already. But not as much of an ass as Netflix.

TV has close-captioning. Movies usually have subtitles. It is notable that Netflix (and Amazon, if I'm correct) chooses not to offer this basic feature. Notable enough, apparently, that the ADA has filed a lawsuit against Netflix over this very issue.

It's also made me ponder the ways in which the disabled might be excluded from the first wave of technological developments. I'm not really sure how the blind tend to navigate the internet (though I'm learning!), but Flash, etc., cannot be a good thing. And anyone remember when Amazon introduced an audio feature on the Kindle which would read any book out loud, and publishers pressured them to remove it, so that it is only available when rights-holders authorize it? Yeah, that's pretty shitty, too.

Granted, it can be difficult to anticipate the needs of all of your customers, but that's what user testing is for. When I first created my website, I pestered every person I knew to visit it, then watched them navigate it. That is how it works. If you're a company like Netflix, you don't have to rely on your friends; you instead create a large, diverse group of users who will notice different aspects of the product in question. And if you have to exclude disabled individuals from that group, that's a pretty good sign that you have trouble right off the bat. Including differently-abled individuals is essential, not some incidental, oh-it-would-be-nice-if-we-could-do-that feature.

1 comment:

  1. (second attempt since blogger decided to delete my first one -.-)

    Kindle developed a way for ANY book to become a (albeit basic) audio book? That sounds like the GREATEST THING EVER.

    And I can't see how it would impinge on the sale of produced audiobooks since they are productions with actors so quite a bit different from what I assume is a computer generated tone. There are so few audio books though, not to mention non-published material, that this sounds like it should have been incredible if not life changing.