At the end of Citizen Kane, the meaning of "Rosebud" is finally explained to the audience by showing an image of a child’s sled burning in a fire. That climax is heralded as one of the great cinematic reveals in movie history and because it’s told visually, it’s also an ending that would be completely lost on someone like me who was born blind, or anyone else who has a visual disability.
That’s why video described content – programming that includes a narration track between the natural pauses in the dialogue that describes the action happening on-screen – has made such a dramatic impact on the way people with disabilities enjoy entertainment. Now, when I tune-in to a program that includes description, I can follow along much better and get much more enjoyment from that particular show or movie.
With that improved experience in mind, Comcast and NBC today announced a national pilot program that will take video description to the next level. On December 3, video description will be included with the national broadcast of the hit Broadway musical The Wiz Live!, making it the first live entertainment program in U.S. history to be accessible to people who have a visual disability.
Live description is usually reserved for events like Inaugural Addresses. But to my knowledge, no one has ever tried to describe a live entertainment show in the U.S. before, let alone a musical that’s the size and scale of The Wiz Live!
The described broadcast of The Wiz Live! is a national pilot program that is available across the country, wherever SAP (Secondary Audio Program) audio feeds are available.
And for Comcast customers who have the X1 Platform, there’s an added bonus: they will also be able to easily search, navigate and tune in to The Wiz Live! independently, with tools like our talking guide and our voice controlled TV remote control. X1 has quickly become the most accessible TV platform in the world and The Wiz Live! will also become the latest addition to the growing library of video described content available on Xfinity on Demand.
This combination of accessible content and technology is powerful and is helping us change the way people with visual disabilities enjoy entertainment.
When I joined Comcast a few years ago, we set out on a mission to make our products more accessible. But what we learned along the way was that these enhancements and features are universal. Sure, a TV menu that talks to you is critical for someone like me who is blind, but it’s also useful for seniors, young kids, and people with reading disabilities or those who speak another language.
I’m proud of the work our team is doing in this space and think the broadcast of The Wiz Live! will be a real milestone in how people with visual impairments experience television.