The RNIB is bringing audio description to VOD with a new app.
MovieReading, which has been developed by Universal Multimedia Access, will provide AD to TV programmes and films watched through on-demand services such as Sky, Sky Go, Amazon Instant, iTunes, NOW TV and Netflix.
AD is commentary that describes scenes, body language, expressions and movements during films and TV programmes so that people with sight loss are able to enjoy them fully. While this is commonplace in many UK cinemas – the UK, in fact, is the world leader in AD – the less developed streaming video sector is less accessible to those with impaired vision or hearing. Indeed, over 70 television channels deliver AD on programmes (Sky provides 200 hours of on-demand audio-described programmes on its Sky+ HD Box) but despite the huge growth in popularity of streaming services, just three out of the 96 VOD players operating in the UK currently deliver description. Subtitles for the hard of hearing are also not standard.
RNIB’s Steve Tyler, Head of Solutions Strategy and Planning, says: “Audio description enhances the television and film viewing experience for its users. They use it on TV, cinemas and DVD, so why not on the VOD services as well? We believe that the app could serve as a personalised solution for AD users and are keen to hear what the participants in the trial have to say about their user experience.”
The new app will intuitively sync AD with the TV programme or film’s soundtrack and deliver AD in real time, explains the RNIB in a press release. It is currently being tested by more than 150 blind and partially sighted people
Participants in the trial will be able to use AD with popular TV programmes such as Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire and some of the leading films of the recent years.
The announcement follows existing work by the RNIB to improve the accessibility of TV in the home: last year, a partnership with Samsung saw the firm add several key accessibility features to their range, including text-to-speech support and high contrast colour schemes for the TV menus and Electronic Programme Guides.