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Push for audio description gathers momentum

MEDIA RELEASE

Representatives of Vision Australia, along with a number of people who are blind or have low vision, met MPs in Canberra today to demonstrate audio description and lobby for its inclusion on Australian TV.

The information event was organised in partnership with Greens Senator Rachel Siewert, and the Vision Australia team met with event co-sponsors Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull MP, and the Shadow Communications Minister Jason Clare MP.

This comes as the Australian Senate recently supported a motion put forward by Senator Siewert calling for audio description.

Vision Australia is also backing a recently created change.org petition calling on Minister Turnbull to, “help people who are blind or have low vision to get Audio Description on Australian free to air TV.”

The petition has been created by Stephen Jolley, who has been blind since birth. In his petition he notes that this has given him a first-hand appreciation of the power of words in story-telling.

“You get a more complete idea of what’s going on in a program and it’s so nice not to have to ask my wife about what’s happening or ‘what’s on the screen?’” he said. 

“Audio description really feeds the imagination and enriches the experience of television.”

“Fortunately, there are laws that require TV stations to caption shows for people who are deaf, but that’s not going far enough.”

“I’d like Minister Turnbull to lead the way in changing the laws and provide the same access to television programming for the blindness and low vision community,” Stephen said.

Maryanne Diamond AO, Vision Australia’s General Manager of Advocacy and Engagement welcomed the support of the more than 1,000 people who have signed the petition so far.

“Australians who are blind or have low vision have been advocating for decades for audio description on television, but it remains out of reach,” she said.

“Audio description has been available on US television since the late 1980s. Since then it has been introduced in many European countries and in New Zealand in 2012.”

“Without audio description on television, the 350,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision miss out on important news and current affairs, entertainment and other information.”

“They’re unable to take part in a very basic and ubiquitous recreational activity with their family and friends and can’t talk to their own children about what they’re watching.”

“It is frustrating, isolating and discriminatory,” Ms Diamond said.

Please note:Stephen Jolley is a retired Vision Australia employee and remains an active member of the blindness and low vision community.

ENDS

This media release was originally published as Vision Australia’s push for audio description on Australian TV gathers momentum on the Vision Australia website.

More information

  • 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.
  •  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. For comparison, the UK’s Channel 4 offers audio description on 20% of their programs - which works out at more than 33 hours per week.
  • Vision Australia recently lodged disability discrimination complaints in the Australian Human Rights Commission against Channels Seven, Nine, Ten, SBS and Foxtel, calling for AD content to be made available. Blind Citizens Australia has previously lodged complaints on behalf of 31 people who are blind or have low vision against the ABC. The action remains ongoing.
  • Suzanne Hudson, a blind television viewer, has launched a separate case against the ABC in the Federal Circuit Court, claiming that it has unlawfully discriminated against her by not providing a regular audio description service for the blind and vision impaired.

Media Contact

Ben Jessup, 0410 632 123, ben.jessup@visionaustralia.org

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