Launching successfully in Canada, Disney+ Star is leaving a lot to be desired for the blind.
Boasting hundreds of mature films and TV series, it’s been described as an international version of Hulu. Unlike the United States however, Star appears as a seventh tile directly in the app too. We may not get live channels with our version, but armed with 20th Century Fox’s back catalogue, the addition has made a big splash in a hurry.
If you’re a blind Star user though, it’s not necessarily in a good way.
Did Anyone Else Notice That Fox Hole?
Let me get something out of the way: Star’s addition to Disney+ for $11.99 a month is a great value.
I also don’t expect any service to be perfect at launch either. Making my gripes known about Disney+ in the past, they’ve made several improvements to accessibility along the way. It’s commendable and definitely deserves acknowledgement.
With that being the case though, I have to point out the elephant-sized fox in the room. As great as it is to have this additional content, the selection of titles with audio descriptions is embarrassing.
In retrospect, I should’ve “seen” it coming when none of the Fox-produced X-Men or Fantastic Four films joined the service with audio descriptions. Despite having it in other release formats, they were nowhere to be found here and that was very disappointing. Still, I reasoned that it might have been pointless if Marvel Studios was going to reboot those franchises anyway, right?
Fast forward to Tuesday, February 23 and the launch of Star: Not a single title produced by Fox exclusively has audio descriptions. That means no Die Hard Films, no Predator films,, no Aliens, no Planet Of The Apes, no Independence Day, no Black Swan, no X-Files, no Logan, Deadpool or even freaking Zardoz!
It’s so bad that I’ve started calling the opening Fox drumroll and horns the “sound of inaccessibility.”
What A Fox-tease!
The most frustrating thing about this is that it didn’t have to be so blatant.
I completely understand that it costs money to create audio descriptions. I don’t expect Disney to record them for every title on Star, but when they were available on other media? It becomes really hard for me to understand why they aren’t here. Compounding this frustration, the Fox library was a major part of the promotion and appeal for Star in the first place. How can you launch it and not have audio descriptions ready for a single title from 20th Century?
In some cases, the TV shows are even more maddening. While most streaming services have fewer titles with audio descriptions, there’s no explanation how that’s decided here. Take two examples: Family Guy and New Girl both had audio descriptions when they streamed on Netflix in Canada. Even so, they don’t get afforded the same luxury on Star for… reasons.
It’s hard to swallow when you know those things are out there and not being used to help make the service more inclusive.
Time To Do The Foxtrot!
Look, I get that even Disney+ added audio descriptions to titles that didn’t have them at launch.
Still, it’s hard to feel like blind people aren’t being overlooked (no pun intended.) Compare what’s available with audio descriptions as opposed to what can be viewed by the fully-abled. Would you still be satisfied with the selection from the list of audio described titles? If the answer is no, I’m not sure why it’s acceptable to those of us who rely on them.
Don’t get me wrong, Star does have some great films and shows with audio descriptions. It’s just that a lot of work needs to be done to expand on what they have. Even explaining why those things aren’t available would go a long way actually. As it stands though, it feels like a bait and switch to showcase so many titles and then take them away because they aren’t accessible to everyone at launch. It’s like selling a new television that only gets a picture on two channels to a deaf person.
Hopefully Disney moves quickly to fix this issue for the blind. As they do, we’ll be updating our list of audio described titles on the service, so stay tuned!