Senate Calls For TV Audio For Blind People

Source: ProBono news
Posted: Tuesday, August 18, 2015 – 10:45
Author: Xavier Smerdon

The Australian Senate has supported a motion which could force television stations to introduce audio description services for blind and vision impaired people.

Australian Greens Senator, Rachel Siewert, raised the motion yesterday which called for the implementation of audio description services on free-to-air and subscription television programs by the ABC and all other networks.

Senator Siewert said a large portion of the Australian population were being disadvantaged by not having full access to television shows. “Audio description describes actions, gestures, scene changes and facial expressions for those with no or low vision during pauses in dialogue,” Senator Siewert said.

“Currently the ABC, SBS, Foxtel, and the commercial free-to-air television networks provide no audio description in Australia. With approximately 350,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision, this is simply not good enough.

“The Senate acknowledged this today in supporting my motion. The motion calls on the Government to amend the Broadcasting Services Act to include requirements for the provision of audio description on free-to-air and subscription television programs.”

Senator Siewert said Australia had fallen behind the rest of the world in not making television shows accessible to blind and vision impaired people. “Audio description has already rolled out in the Germany, Spain, Ireland, the US and the UK on free-to-air or subscription services,” she said.

“It is time for us to catch-up and offer this service across the board. I hope Senate support for this motion increases momentum on the issue and encourages positive outcomes.”

In July this year NSW woman, Suzanne Hudson launched a case of unlawful discrimination against the ABC for its failure to provide audio description services. In February Not for Profit, Vision Australia lodged complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission against Channels Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS and Foxtel, calling for an audio description service. The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) represented Vision Australia in the complaints and said the organisation was asking for a minimum of 14 hours of audio described content per week on each channel named in the complaint.

“In the same way as captioning has facilitated media access for people who are deaf, audio description has the potential to significantly improve access to Australia’s cultural life for the 350,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision,” PIAC’s CEO, Edward Santow said.

“The technology and accessible content exists, and it has already been successfully trialled on the ABC in 2012, so we are calling on the other Australian broadcasters to take this important, permanent step towards equality now.