What the Porn Industry Can Teach Us About Accessibility

PornHub recently announced (safe for work link) that it was offering described video, or narrated sex scenes, for the blind. Described video or audio descriptions help blind viewers understand what is happening on television programs or films.

Let’s remove the moral debate of pornographic movies and examine the actual motivation of making its videos more accessible to the approximately 285 million people worldwide who are blind or have low vision.Black background with yellow lettering that says, "XXX Accessibility"

Watching videos online (including pornographic movies) are a huge part of our life and culture. In 2015, people watched 4.9 billion videos on YouTube everyday. How many of those are captioned or have audio descriptions? While I couldn’t find specific statistics to answer this question, a quick analysis on YouTube revealed that using even “good enough” captions (or including transcripts) are remarkably low for those who are deaf. Audio descriptions are even harder to find for online videos. Bottom line, the industry still has a long way to go.

Ironically, when Netflix released its show “Daredevil” in 2015, based on the Marvel character who is a blind lawyer that also fights crime at night, it didn’t have audio descriptions. It later conceded due to pressure from fans, and Netflix has since reached an agreement to offer audio descriptions for its other shows.

On the porn front, people watched approximately 87.8 billion videos (and 4.4 billion hours) total on PornHub in 2015. It’s also big business, producing $13 billion in 2015 in the U.S. alone. So, why did Pornhub make this move? In a Guardian article, PornHub vice president Corey Price said, “It’s our goal to service all of our users’ needs which begins with making content accessible to every individual.”

Maybe more organizations should take a lesson from the porn industry and create better experiences for all of its users – including people with disabilities, the growing aging population, or anyone facing a “situational disability” while using a mobile device. Every day, there are more and more examples of businesses who are failing to address accessibility — whether its captioning online educational course videos, retail websites or point-of-sale devices not meeting certain levels of accessibility requirements for blind users, or organizations who are not providing proper workplace accommodations.

Of course, this begins with strong leadership and a desire to do both what is right and noble, along with improving the business. Best practices include providing proper training to designers and developers, making accessibility easier to use so it can be integrated from the beginning of a project, gathering user feedback during testing (especially from people with disabilities) and working across different segments of the business.

If the porn industry can go all in with accessibility, maybe your organization can too. Whatever your business and your content, incorporating accessibility will better connect with customers and create more personalized experiences through any contact point.

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