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Government and ABC fail to deliver on accessible TV for Australia’s blind

MEDIA RELEASE

Blind Citizens Australia, on behalf of people who are blind or vision impaired, has today lodged 21 complaints of disability discrimination with the Australian Human Rights Commission against the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and the Federal Government for its failure to provide fully accessible content on Australian television. All complaints call for the Federal Government to commit ongoing funding to provide a minimum of 14 hours of audio described content per week.

Vice-President of Blind Citizens Australia, Greg Madson, who is one of the complainants, maintains:

“People who are blind have waited too long and are frustrated that audio description on television remains indefinitely beyond our reach. Our Deaf or hearing impaired peers have always seen great commitment from the ABC, but we continue to feel like second class citizens”.

Audio description (AD) describes visual elements on screen, such as scenes, settings, actions and costumes, to people who are blind or vision impaired. While this service was trialled on ABC television in 2012, the Federal Government has made no commitment to-date to implement a permanent service.

“It’s time for Australia to catch up and start taking accessibility seriously. When audio description is already available on free view television in many other countries, it is extremely disappointing that Australia’s public broadcaster is still inaccessible to us,” Mr Madson said.

“These complaints reflect our member’s concerns that the Federal Government is not meeting their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act 1992 and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We call on the new Minister for Communications, Broadband and the Digital Economy, the Hon. Anthony Albanese to take the lead on this issue and make a commitment to the continuation of audio description on Australian television”. 

In a media release that was issued following the trial, the Hon. Stephen Conroy, former Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, acknowledged the overwhelming support for audio description stating, “It’s clear that audio description is a service that is strongly desired by the vision impaired community and the trial was embraced with real enthusiasm by participants. The audio description trial [was] an important first step on the pathway to establishing a permanent audio description service on Australian television.”

Over 30,000 postcards were distributed nationwide in 2012, and further communications were sent this year to Minister Conroy and ABC Managing Director, Mark Scott calling for the continuation of AD beyond the trial end date. 

Blind Citizens Australia is encouraging others who are blind or vision impaired across Australia to consider lodging their own complaints of disability discrimination and will be offering assistance to individuals wanting to pursue a complaint. “People think that this is simply about television but it’s more than that. It’s about our right to enjoy all parts of life just like everyone else”, Mr Madson said. 

ENDS

Media Contact

Jessica Zammit, National Policy Officer, +61 437 355 985, jessica.zammit@bca.org.au

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