Blind Woman Sues ABC for Discrimination
7 July 2015 at 10:59 am
A blind woman in NSW is suing the Australian Broadcasting Corporation for failing to provide audio description as part of its regular TV programming.
Suzanne Hudson from coastal NSW has launched a case of unlawful discrimination against the ABC for its failure to provide the audio description service – a service her lawyers say that would make ABC TV accessible for the 350,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC) is representing 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 and describes the 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.
Fifty-seven-year-old Hudson, who began to lose her vision when she was a child, 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 lags behind the rest of the world in providing audio description. Many countries, including the UK, US, Ireland, Germany and Spain, already provide the service on free-to-air or subscription services,” PIAC’s CEO, Edward Santow said.
“By comparison, 20 per cent 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.
“While the ABC’s decision earlier this year to trial audio-described content via iview has been welcomed by the blind community, there remain significant barriers to people accessing the online service, especially for those who rely on screen-reading software.
“Audio description has already been successfully trialled by the ABC in 2012, and the technology and accessible content exists, so we are urging the ABC to take this important, permanent step towards equality,” Santow said.
The case follows the lodgement of discrimination complaints against Channels Seven, Nine, Ten SBS and Foxtel in the Australian Human Rights Commission in February.