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Toronto man invents Netflix-like service for visually impaired

Platform allows visually impaired people to follow described videos in movies, documentaries and TV series.

Kevin Shaw is the founder of TellMe TV, a program offering audio description for movies and television shows.

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Kevin Shaw is the founder of TellMe TV, a program offering audio description for movies and television shows.

When Kevin Shaw lost his sight at 19, it felt like the end of the world – and the end of his burgeoning career.

“I was trying to break into a job that’s totally visual, and here I was without a vision,” said Shaw, then a Radio and TV Arts student at Ryerson University. “It was the most frustrating of things.”

But Shaw took that frustration and channeled it into something positive. After working at different media and advertising industries, he decided to put his entrepreneurial skills to work in an attempt to reduce social isolation for people who are visually impaired.  

“People at work or in social meetings are always talking about what they saw in The Simpsons or Star Trek, but you have very little to say if you’re blind,” he said.

This week, with the support of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind, Shaw launched TellMe TV. Described as Netflix for the visually impaired, the service offers rich audio description for popular films, documentaries and television shows.

For a $6.99 monthly subscription fee, users of the feature are able to not only follow what’s being said in movies and shows, but also get a description of what’s happening outside the dialogues and soundtracks.

There are an estimated 1.4 million people with visual impairments in Canada. Shaw hopes the service will help them connect and bond with others by making popular culture more accessible.   

“I just want to make sure people with vision loss aren’t excluded in those conversations,” he said.

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