Heather Dowdy: Celebrating Global Accessibility Awareness Day With Expanded Languages, Screenings and a New Collection
Growing up on the southside of Chicago, there was nothing like a night at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. From the building’s ornate gold detailing, the velvet curtains that enveloped the stage, to being ushered to the front, my family and I felt like celebrities. I remember the details of this historic home for entertainment so fondly because it was where my family and I went for special American Sign Language (ASL) interpreted performances. As a Child of Deaf Adults (CODA), I had the privilege of seeing the world with a deep appreciation and understanding for the lived experiences of my parents and the Deaf community I was raised in. It inspired me to make every experience we had feel like a night at the Chicago Cadillac Palace Theatre.
How we access stories has changed a lot. Whether it’s video conference calls, texting, or the flashing doorbell, nowadays technology can build bridges to access for many people living with disabilities. That’s why today, to celebrate Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD), I’m excited to announce that we’re expanding our language availability of Audio Descriptions (AD) and Subtitles for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (SDH). Starting this month and into 2023, these features will be made available across more of our catalog and in more languages including Spanish, Portuguese, and French. For decades, access to entertainment was determined by where you lived and what language you spoke, meaning that until recently people who needed AD or SDH could only enjoy a story if it was made in their local language.
By increasing our SDH and AD language availability to over 20 languages, we hope to give all of our members the ability to see their lives reflected on screen, no matter where you’re from, what language you speak, or what abilities you have. We are also introducing new badges for our shows and films that have AD and SDH on Web and iOS to make it easier to discover stories suited for your needs.
At Netflix, we’re also telling more stories by and with people with disabilities in mainstream culture. That’s why we’ve launched our first-ever collection, titled “Celebrating Disability with Dimension,” featuring over 50 shows and films with characters or stories about people living with disabilities. With over 1 billion people living with disabilities globally, the opportunity to tell more inclusive stories and bond within our communities over storytelling is tremendous. We will also be hosting Accessibility Screenings in select countries globally to bring our AD and SDH features to life outside of the living room and discuss ways to make entertainment more accessible.
I’m excited to continue this work to connect our members to these stories through technology, upcoming accessibility screenings, and our new collection. Let’s make new memories together.