Finding a Solution: A Netflix For The Blind?

Three years ago, Kevin Shaw was trying to find descriptive audio on a DVD. When He couldn’t find it, he tried browsing ITunes and other websites for the same movie. He felt out of the culture—one at least in North America– that is dominated by conversations about movies and TV shows that are popular.

Many blind and low vision people around the world often find themselves in a similar predicament, which is why Shaw said he is trying to do something about it. He is trying to give blind and low vision people a chance to participate in the conversation.

“A big part of our culture has to do with “What did you watch on TV this weekend?”” Said Shaw, who lost his vision at age 19. “There’s always a sense of being left out of the conversation and that you’re missing out.”

Out of that need, Shaw created Zagga Entertainment, a website modeled after Netflix or Hulu in which customers pay a monthly fee but will have access to movies and TV shows, all featuring descriptive audio.

Zaga’s interface will be accessible and easy to navigate with screen readers on the site or through the app, Shaw said. Zagga, which is based in Toronto, will cost customers $8 Canadian or U.S. $7.34 a month.

With only four employees, Zagga is currently in its infancy. So far, Zagat is about 20 percent to its goal of $50,000 which is being raised on IndieGoGo, a fundraising site. After that money is raised, Shaw said big donors await. Zagga has already signed agreements with an independent film company and hopes to land deals with big companies such as Fox, Paramount and Universal. For movies and shows that do not already come with descriptive audio, Shaw said Zagga will provide it. A sample of videos can be found on Zagga’s website.

So far, Shaw said he has received both negative and positive responses. He said there have been a number of people who have commended him for the site. But there are those who say that it’s not fare blind people have to pay for something that ought to be free. They also say that Zagga is a good idea, but may be too ambitious.

“The cool thing about Zagga is that a customer will know that their payment won’t just be treated like a pile of cash,” Shaw said. “The money will actually be used to fund the site and continue providing a service that people benefit from.”
The need for sites such as Zagga is becoming more and more prevalent, even if there are mandated laws in the U.S. and Canada that require popular networks to have a particular amount of descriptive audio shows a week. But with that, sites such as Netflix say that descriptive audio simply isn’t a priority for them. This leaves blind and low vision customers out of a market. Shaw isn’t sure if Netflix will allow Zagga to place some of Netflix’s original series on the site, but Zagga plans to contact Netflix about the matter.
“Who knows, maybe Netflix may want to buy out Zagga in the future,” Shaw Said.

Shaw, who has a master’s degree in media production from Ryerson University and who has spent 15 years working in radio and advertising said Zagga isn’t just for those who have trouble seeing the screen, but sighted people can also enjoy it, because everyone can watch the content at the same time.

“It’s about being part of the story,” Shaw said. “It’s about the culture. We are presenting the movies with video so that everyone can experience it together.”

Zagga hopes to launch later this year. Below, find a YouTube video about Zagga. Follow Zagga on Twitter @zaggatv

What do you think?

Is Zagga a good idea? Would you, as a blind or visually impaired person pay for this service? Would you, as a sighted person watch Zagga with someone? Please feel free to Sound off below.

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