Name one superhero with a disability. If you didn’t answer Professor X, I’d venture to guess you might have chosen Daredevil. The visually impaired Matt Murdock, or Daredevil, is the perfect example of a character who has overcome personal, physical adversity to rise up a hero. Sure, he has super senses, but he uses his blindness as a tool, not a weakness, and that idea could be pretty empowering to someone who is also blind. Unfortunately, the visual nature of comics, TV, and film severely limit the access many visually impaired people have to discovering and enjoying the Daredevil character. Netflix has taken a step to change that.
Last month, Netflix launched a new audio description feature as part of its service. The company fittingly kicked off the new feature by first offering it on their critically acclaimed series Marvel’s Daredevil.
Audio description tracks accompanying each episode allow visually impaired superhero fans to enter Daredevil’s world of Hell’s Kitchen, giving them a genuine experience that immerses them deep into the tense action and story-lines of the series. The American Council of the Blind describes audio description as a “commentary and narration which guides the listener through the presentation with concise, objective descriptions of new scenes, settings, costumes, body language, and ‘sight gags,’ all slipped in between portions of dialogue or songs.”
In the past, Marvel has released occasional audio editions of its comic books, one example being the launch of Mark Waid’s Daredevil #1 back in 2011. Unfortunately, these audio editions are few and far between, and the 2011 release of Daredevil in particular felt more like a PR stunt than a genuine attempt to reach a new audience.
In the coming weeks, Netflix will be making audio description available for its other original shows, including House of Cards and Orange iIs the New Black. To date, the service is available on all devices except for Apple TV, though it should soon be available on that device as well.