Have you seen Netflix's new original series, Daredevil, yet? Based on one of Marvel's least-appreciated comic book characters, if you haven't yet, drop what you're doing and give that first episode a go -- whatever you felt about 2003's woeful Ben Affleck adaptation, cast your prejudices aside; Netflix has a bona fide hit on its hands. And it's got a problem, too.
For the uninitiated, Daredevil stars Charlie Cox as lawyer Matthew Murdock, the titular "Daredevil" hero who, after a childhood accident, is blinded and left with other heightened senses that enable him to fight crime. Netflix's adaptation is startlingly good -- dark, funny, gritty, it gets off to a great start and keeps delivering across the entire first season. Perfectly cast, it's the best Marvel spin-off show yet, more immediately engaging than Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and more arresting than the fun-but-lightweight Agent Carter. Having only kicked off on Friday (Netflix released all 13 episodes at once on April 10th), it's already picked up a 9.3 out of 10 average rating from 17,324 IMDB user reviews.
I'd be surprised, however, if any of those user reviews come from members of the blind community. That's because, despite starring a heroic blind protagonist, Netflix is failing to offer an audio description option for Daredevil.
That's quite the oversight, and one that hasn't been lost on the show's fans. A change.org petition has already been set up, urging Netflix to "Make Daredevil Available to The Blind Community".
"That's right people, the show about a blind lawyer turned super hero can't even enjoy his own show," said petition creator Ryan Dyck. "Doesn't the blind community deserve the same right to enjoy Netflix that everyone else does?"
The show itself is inspiring -- despite being a character that deals in shades of grey, Murdock is powerful and confident, even with his visual impairment. The show focusses on what he can do, rather than what his disability prevents, and does not dwell on his visual impairment or mine it for sympathy. He triumphs over his tragic accident, and his blindness does little to slow him.
It's a shame then that Netflix can't follow up this storytelling achievement with a technical one -- delivering an audio description option would open up Daredevil to the blind community, currently ignored by the platform (in fact, many Netflix shows do not offer an audio description option -- whether that's the responsibility of Netflix or the production team involved will be dependant on each show).
As Netflix and other streaming services become the go-to viewing platform, more efforts need to be made to be inclusive in their broadcasts, particularly in cases like this where the show is a platform exclusive. As the most-oft quoted comic book line goes, "With great power comes great responsibility." As Netflix's power grows, it's time it started acting on that responsibility.