Weird: The Al Yankovic Story

Where I Watched it: Roku

English Audio Description?: No

To be 100% fair to Roku, who has not really broken into the understanding importance of audio description and accessibility for the blind, I reached out to them. I had already seen Weird at the time, so I knew the film was currently offered without audio description. I politely asked if there perhaps was a glitch, and that audio description for the film was available but just didn’t make it out right way. I even notified them I was a film critic, and I reviewed films for a blind audience, and that I ahve to review a work as it exists, and that I would be publishing the review soon so I needed to know the status of the audio description.

Roku, which apparently means “cannot be bothered”, let me know that audio description for Weird was not available at launch, but “should be available at a later date”. You know, there are a lot of problems with that statement. First, should be? Like, there’s a chance you guys might still roll the dice on this thing and decide against reasonable accommodations for the blind and visually impaired community? How about will be? Let’s be definitive in our answers. We are working to develop audio description for this title and hope to have it up as soon as possible. That would be a great response. “Should be available at a later date” however, not so much.

The blind and visually impaired community shouldn’t have to wait for accessibility, something that Hulu also has a problem with. Frequently, they add audio description long after the fact. We miss out on watercooler moments with our friends because we don’t have basic accessibility day and date. I think if more sighted people were told they couldn’t watch something they wanted to watch, until “at a later date”, they might start realizing how asinine that statement is.

At a later date could mean tomorrow. It could mean next month. It could be next year. it could be in the year 2038. All of those are later dates. i suppose, if you want to be quite honest about this concept, you could say that about all titles. Literally, every title should have audio description at a later date. because, why not? The should is non-committal but sounds like it is. Lots of things “should” happen all the time but don’t always come to fruition. But at least you are hopeful enough to say that they should. I should get an A on the test. But, when it turns out I got a B, the first statement was still true. I probably, to the best of my knowledge at that time believed that I should have gotten an A, but the fact that I didn’t, well, them’s the breaks.

Roku isn’t poor. They probably think that because they have a screen narrator built in that it absolves them from needing to create any further accessibility in the future, but that’s not true. Weird played at festivals, in theatres. Those audiences that showed up live were denied the opportunity to enjoy the film with accessibility? Something tells me, due to the independent nature of festivals, lots of films don’t have audio description. but, Weird already had a distributor in Roku, and the festival circuit proves to me that this film was completed a while ago, giving them plenty of time to develop an AD track. Still, it wasn’t a priority. I was not a priority. We were not a priority.

So, since Roku was more than willing for me to review Weird: The Al yankovic Story without any audio description, I’m perfectly fine using this as a teachable moment for Roku. I’m not reviewing your film. I’ve seen your film. But this written review is serving as a purpose to let you know what it feels like to believe you are supposed to get something, but then that thing is denied. Yeah, when I contacted Roku, my review of Weird “should be available at a later date”.

Funny about how much weight that statement holds.

Do better Roku. Making your device accessible but not your programming is not a measure of inclusivity, but rather a reminder of how very uncommitted you are to the process.

Everything should have audio description. If it has closed captioning, it should have audio description.

Final Grade: Should be available at a later date.

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