Making Audio Description Trials Permanent
17 May 2016 at 10:11 am
The Australian Greens are calling for ABC iview audio description trials to be made permanent, launching a package they said would ensure the continued rollout of the service for people who are blind or vision impaired.
“At the moment Australia is lagging behind other countries when it comes to providing audio descriptions on television programs for people with disability,” WA Greens Senator Rachel Siewert said.
Audio description (AD) is a verbal commentary that complements the underlying soundtrack of a television program. It is designed to assist people with vision impairment and those with print, learning and physical disabilities to enhance their understanding of what is happening on the screen.
“The ABC iview audio description trial provides narration of visual elements of programs for people who are blind or vision impaired and has proven to be a very worthwhile component of ABC iview,” Siewert said.
“Costing by the Parliamentary Budget Office shows that for $800,000 a year, the trial can be made permanent. It is these sort of services that increase accessibility and a better quality of life for people living with disability in Australia.
“As part of the package, the Greens will also review the provision of audio description by government and commercial broadcasters and legislative requirements, to develop an action plan as the next step to making audio description more widely available.
“Countries including the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Spain and New Zealand all provide varying levels of audio description on television programs. It is time for Australia to catch up.”
The ABC said it has been conducting a trial of audio description on its online catch-up television service, iview, since April 2015 for 15 months, making 14 hours of AD content available per week until July 2016.
“In 2012, the ABC conducted a 13-week technical trial of broadcasting television programs with audio description commentary on its primary television channel ABC1. The trial involved the broadcast of drama, documentary and other content with audio description for 14 hours per week between 5pm and midnight,” an ABC online statement said.
“In late 2014, the minister for communications agreed to fund a further audio description trial on iview. The technical trial will test the digital delivery path for audio description services within the ABC. It will also provide a greater understanding of the issues associated with the public’s access to and use of such a service.”
The ABC said it would provide a report on the audio description trial to government in the second half of 2016.
Currently, there is no legislative requirement to provide audio description in Australia and no television broadcasts include audio description.
In July 2015 NSW woman Suzanne Hudson launched a case of unlawful discrimination against the ABC for its failure to provide audio description services.
As well, Not for Profit Vision Australia lodged complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission against television networks 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 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.”