Inclusive T20 World Cup Streaming with Sign Language and Audio Description

Indian sports streaming takes a groundbreaking step as the ICC Men’s T20 Cricket World Cup will feature Hindi audio description and Indian Sign Language (ISL) for visually and hearing impaired viewers. With a media value estimated between ₹1,600–2,000 crore, this move by Disney+ Hotstar, the official streaming service for the tournament, sets a new standard in inclusivity.

A New Era of Accessibility

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu, Sajith Sivanandan, head of Disney+ Hotstar, shared insights on this pioneering initiative. The platform will offer Hindi audio description and ISL for 10 matches, including key fixtures like India matches, semifinals, and finals. This move not only enhances the viewing experience for differently-abled individuals but also democratizes the game of cricket.

Also read | ICC Twenty20 World Cup 2024: full schedule, dates and venues

Setting a Precedent

While this feat is a first in live cricket streaming, Disney had previously introduced a Hindi descriptive track during some Indian Premier League matches in 2022. In contrast, JioCinema, the current IPL rights holder, lacks closed captioning, ISL interpretation, or descriptive audio tracks. Notably, the ICC Men’s ODI World Cup witnessed a peak of 5.9 crore concurrent viewers on Hotstar, illustrating the growing demand for online cricket content.

Expanding Accessibility Across Platforms

Following suit, Star Sports, the official broadcaster of the IPL, recently announced plans to introduce similar accessibility features. Mr. Sivanandan emphasized the platform’s commitment to enhancing accessibility for the deaf, hard of hearing, and visually impaired communities through VOD and live content in the coming months. While Hotstar’s original programming prioritizes closed captioning and audio descriptions, consistency in such features for licensed content from studios remains a challenge across streaming platforms.

See also  Pakistan Cricket Board announces details of national team's South Africa tour

Industry Challenges and Regulatory Landscape

An analysis conducted by The Hindu revealed the limited availability of closed captioning and audio description features on most Indian streaming platforms, particularly for films licensed from studios. Despite the IT Rules, 2021 recommending accessibility measures for differently-abled users, progress in this area has primarily stemmed from industry initiatives, as government enforcement remains scarce.

Overall, the integration of Hindi audio description and ISL in the ICC T20 World Cup sets a new benchmark for inclusivity in sports streaming. As platforms strive to make content more accessible, a collective effort is needed to bridge the accessibility gap and ensure that all viewers can enjoy the thrill of live cricket matches.