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Discrimination Complaint Against TV Stations


26 February 2015 at 10:25 am
Xavier Smerdon
Not for Profit Vision Australia has lodged complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission against Channels Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS and Foxtel, calling for an audio description service to make television more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.

Xavier Smerdon | 26 February 2015 at 10:25 am


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Discrimination Complaint Against TV Stations
26 February 2015 at 10:25 am

Not for Profit Vision Australia has lodged complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission against Channels Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS and Foxtel, calling for an audio description service to make television more accessible to people who are blind or have low vision.

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is representing Vision Australia in the complaints.

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.

The complaints state that by failing to make their television broadcasting service accessible for people who are blind or have low vision, these broadcasters have engaged in indirect discrimination.

Vision Australia said it is asking for a minimum of 14 hours of audio described content per week on each channel named in the complaint.

Blind Citizens Australia has already lodged complaints on behalf of 31 people who are blind or vision impaired against the ABC. These are currently before the Australian Human Rights Commission.

“Australia lags behind the rest of the world in providing audio description. Countries such as the UK, the US, Ireland, Germany, Spain and New Zealand already provide audio description on free view or subscription television,” PIAC’s CEO, Edward Santow said.

“For comparison, the UK’s Channel 4 offers audio description on 20 per cent of their programs – which works out at more than 33 hours per week.

“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.

“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.”

Vision Australia’s General Manager of Advocacy and Engagement, Maryanne Diamond, said a recent survey by the organisation suggests Australian Story, The Big Bang Theory and Home and Away are among the most popular TV shows for viewers who are blind or have low vision.

“Spending an evening in front of the box is a favourite way for people who are blind or have low vision to relax and spend time with their family,” Diamond said.

“They enjoy the same programs as fully sighted Australians, so why should they be prevented from fully experiencing them like everyone else?

“It’s ridiculous that blind or low vision people can watch Home and Away with audio description in the UK but not in Australia.

“Permanent, real-time, audio description on Australian television, similar to what is available now in many other countries, is the only way to remove current discriminatory barriers for Australians who are blind or have low vision.”


Xavier Smerdon  |  Journalist  |  @XavierSmerdon

Xavier Smerdon is a journalist specialising in the Not for Profit sector. He writes breaking and investigative news articles.

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