It’s 2018: everyone watches streaming video. From sports to news, the world of video is shifting away from the linear broadcast model of the 20th century and embracing the revolution that is streaming. Streaming video provides a level of convenience and compatibility which is impossible with traditional cable or over-the-air broadcasts, opening up entire new ways of watching. To continue expanding the functionality enabled by streaming video technology, Hulu has just announced that they are developing audio services designed for blind subscribers, potentially opening up an entirely new customer base.
While it might seem like this is a time to praise Hulu, the new support for blind customers is actually due to a settlement agreement between Hulu and advocacy groups. Hulu was sued by Disability Rights Advocates last year for not providing accommodations for the blind who accused the streaming service of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by not offering these accommodations. Many of Hulu’s main competitors like Netflix already offer these services for the blind for many of their original programs and other content.
Hulu will now add features to enable separate audio tracks for its on-demand programming and live TV channels that offer descriptions of on-screen action and facial expressions when possible. Hulu will update their interface and features to ensure all people can use screen readers and access menus using audio controls.
While this story might not make major waves in the streaming news cycle, it nonetheless reinforces just how mainstream streaming video has become. While streaming might have been a niche product a decade ago when it first hit the market, it is quickly becoming the dominant medium for video of all kinds and for all people. Between expanded types of content, expanded compatibility and on-the-go ability, and now the rise of skinny bundles offering just the channels you want, it’s clear that streaming is a much more customer-oriented technology. Will it stay that way?