Blind Group Claims Foxtel IQ Service is “Discriminatory”
15 December 2011 at 10:10 am
Peak national consumer body, Blind Citizens Australia, says cable TV supplier Foxtel’s current subscribers who are blind or vision impaired are receiving a second class service which is discriminatory.
The peak body says it has been approached by seven individuals wanting to lodge complaints of disability discrimination against Foxtel. The complaints are expected to be lodged in early 2012.
BCA says Amanda Heal is one of a growing number of blind Foxtel subscribers expressing frustration at the inaccessibility of Foxtel's services – from Foxtel's IQ program guide, to the IQ's recording features, to the inaccessibility of television content for viewers who are blind or vision impaired.
Heal, who has been subscribed to Foxtel since 2009, says she has been left with no choice but to withdraw her original complaint of disability discrimination from the Australian Human Rights Commission due to Foxtel's resistance to increase the usability of a number of services for blind subscribers.
"Despite two years of negotiations, Foxtel still won't commit to the development of an accessible IQ set top box with audio features so that I can know what is showing next on TV or pre-record programs using the program planner.
“The program guide on their website is inaccessible and I have been told that I should record content from my iPhone – a process which is very time consuming. The irony is that I pay the same amount of money to subscribe to Foxtel as everyone else and yet I get half the service", Heal said.
"My choices are to continue to pay for a service that is only partly accessible to me or to miss out entirely. People should not be forced to take a matter to the Federal Court in order to access a basic service", said Heal.
Executive Officer of Blind Citizens Australia, Robyn Gaile says BskyB, Foxtel's counterpart in the United Kingdom, provides audio enabled set top boxes for blind and vision impaired subscribers. BskyB also provides audio described content on many of their TV channels; another sticking point for blind subscribers in the Australian market.
Audio description is a way to describe the visual elements seen on screen in a clear and private manner. It gives a person who is blind or vision impaired a true sense of what is happening on-screen with a description of scenery, costumes, facial expression and body language which is spoken between natural pauses in dialogue.
"Whilst we appreciate that Foxtel may be looking into these issues as part of their future development of their services, we are very much hoping that the new CEO of Foxtel, Richard Freudenstein will bring his expertise from BskyB to the Australian market to ensure a service that everyone can access", said Gaile.
BCA says it urges all subscribers to to voice their concerns to Foxtel directly about the lack of audio features for blind and vision impaired customers.