My hearing isn’t as good as it used to be, and I only have myself to blame. After years spent destroying it by attending incredibly loud hardcore rock concerts, I shouldn’t be surprised. Because of that, these days I tend to watch most shows with subtitles enabled, and that’s where Netflix has a big accessibility problem.
Recently, I decided to use Netflix to catch up on AMC’s zombie apocalypse show, The Walking Dead, which is about to finish its 11-year run with its eleventh and final season. I stopped watching back in 2017, but decided to give it another chance before it wraps up. As someone watching old episodes on Netflix with mild hearing impairment, it hasn’t been a great experience.
I’m not sure if this is unique to The Walking Dead — I didn’t test other shows on the service — but Netflix’s captions are inconsistent at best. Not every episode of the show offers captions, even within the same season, and sometimes the captions cut off mid-sentence or are otherwise incomplete. Luckily, my hearing is intact enough that I can usually fill in the gaps, but that’s a privilege many other hearing-impaired individuals don’t have. How is someone like that supposed to enjoy watching a character-driven show if they can’t understand all of what the characters are saying? How can they enjoy an entire season if several episodes don’t offer captions at all?
Netflix needs to put their ear to the ground and ensure that everyone who wants to enjoy their content can, regardless of their level of ability.