Media Release: Audio Description: ABC sued for unlawful discrimination

Blind Citizens Australia Media Release
7 July 2015

Suzanne Hudson, who is blind, has today launched a case of unlawful discrimination against the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) for their failure to provide audio description as part of their regular programming – a service that would make ABC TV accessible for the 350,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) will represent Ms Hudson in her case, which will be heard in the Federal Circuit Court.

Audio description is a second audio track that can be turned on and off. It describes the important visual elements of a television program – such as actions, scene changes, gestures and facial expressions – that a person who is blind or has low vision can’t see.

Ms Hudson believes that by failing to make its television broadcasting service accessible for people who are blind or have low vision, the ABC has engaged in indirect discrimination.

‘Australia is dragging its feet in providing an audio description service that would provide inclusion of people who are blind or have low vision into the TV watching community. Many countries, including New Zealand, the UK, US, Ireland, Germany and Spain, already provide the service on free-to-air or subscription services,’ said Blind Citizens Australia President, Mr Greg Madson.

‘By comparison, 20% of the UK Channel 4’s programs offer audio description, which works out at more than 33 hours per week.

‘In fact, people who are blind or have low vision can watch Home and Away with audio description in the UK but not in Australia.

“Members of Blind Citizens Australia were bitterly disappointed when the ABC decided not to introduce an audio described service following a successful trial of audio described service on free to air ABC TV in 2012.” said Mr Madson.

‘While a decision earlier this year by the ABC to trial audio-described content via iView is a step forward, there remain significant barriers to many people accessing the online service, especially for those who rely on screen-reading software, and for those who struggle with an extra layer of complexity to simply watch a TV show.

‘With a 2012 successful audio description trial by the ABC in 2012, and the technology and accessible content available Blind Citizens Australia urges the ABC to take this important, permanent step towards equality.’

The case follows the lodgment of discrimination complaints against Channels Seven, Nine, Ten SBS and Foxtel in the Australian Human Rights Commission in February.

Greg Madson
Blind Citizens Australia
0408 396 333