Video on demand

Traditional video formats such as DVDs have been completely outpaced by video-on-demand services such as iTunes, Netflix, Google Play, Telstra Bigbond, Foxtel on Demand, and myriad streaming services. These allow users to purchase TV shows, movies and other content and play them on a mobile device, computer, or smart TV.

In Australia, access to this content for people with a sensory impairment is patchy. Unlike broadcast television, there is no legislation that ensures captions are provided for online video, and most video-on-demand servives do not offer captions. The exceptions are iTunes, Google Play and and XBox Video, which have captions on 50% or more of their content, and Netflix, which captions close to 100% of its content. The high level of captioning on Netflix, which launched in Australia in March 2015, was the result of a suit brought against it in the US by the National Association of the Deaf. In a settlement, Netflix agreed to caption 100% of its content by the end of 2014.

In April 2015, Netflix became the first subscription video-on-demand service to offer audio description on some titles. These can be found by clicking on the the 'audio description' link at the bottom of the homepage, which will bring up a list of audio described titles. (Note that titles with audio description can't be searched for on the Netflix app.)

In the U.S., the 21st Century Communications and Video and Accessibility Act 2010 introduced rules which make it compulsory to provide captions on any material distributed via the internet which has been captioned for TV broadcast. In the U.K., VOD providers have been given notice that legislation will be introduced if sufficient progress is not made in imporoving the accessibility of VOD services by the end of 2016.

The ‘Access on Demand’ report

In April 2015, Media Access Australia released a report, 'Access on Demand: Captioning and audio description on VOD services'. This looks at the levels of captioning and audio description on VOD in Australia and other countries, and includes recommendations for improving the accessibility of Australian services.

Download the report:

Access on demand: captioning and audio description on video on demand services


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