Senate calls for audio description services across public broadcasters for vision impaired

Monday, August 17, 2015

 Australian Greens Senator Rachel Siewert has welcomed Senate support for the implementation of audio description services on free-to-air and subscription television programs by the ABC and all other networks.

“Audio description describes actions, gestures, scene changes and facial expressions for those with no or low vision during pauses in dialogue.

“Currently the ABC, SBS, Foxtel, and the commercial free-to-air television networks provide no audio description in Australia. With approximately 350,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision, this is simply not good enough.

“The Senate acknowledged this today in supporting my motion. The motion calls on the Government to amend the Broadcasting Services Act to include requirements for the provision of audio description on free-to-air and subscription television programs.

“The Senate also acknowledged that trials on ABC’s iView catch up service are a step in the right direction but many who are blind or have low vision experience significant barriers to accessing iView.

“Audio description has already rolled out in the Germany, Spain, Ireland, the US and the UK on free-to-air or subscription services.

“It is time for us to catch-up and offer this service across the board. I hope Senate support for this motion increases momentum on the issue and encourages positive outcomes”.  

Motion reads:

 

Notice of Motion

Audio Description

Senator Rachel Siewert

 

I give notice that I will move on the next day of sitting,

That the senate:

  1. notes: 

  1. that audio description (AD) is a flexible and unobtrusive way of making the visual content of television accessible to people who are blind or have low vision,

 

  1. that modelling done by Vision Australia shows that there are approximately 350,000 people in Australia who are blind or have low vision, with this number estimated to increase to 564,000 by 2030,

 

  1. that under Article 30(b) of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which Australia has ratified, the Government has an obligation to ensure that people with disabilities have access to television programs,

 

  1. that Part 9D of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 includes  requirements for the provision of captions on television programs in order to make them accessible to people who are deaf or hearing-impaired;

 

  1. that despite a successful trial of audio description conducted by the ABC in 2012 the ABC does not provide audio description on any of its free-to-air television services,

 

  1. that the ABC is currently conducting a government-funded 15-month trial of audio description on its iview catch-up service, but that many people who are blind or have low vision experience significant barriers to accessing iview,

 

  1. that SBS, Foxtel, and the commercial free-to-air television networks provide no audio description in Australia;

 

  1. Expresses concern that Australians who are blind or have low vision are disadvantaged because Australia lags behind many other countries including the US, UK, Canada, Ireland, Germany, Spain and New Zealand, which all provide varying levels of audio description on television programs;

 

  1. Calls on the Government to amend the Broadcasting Services Act to include requirements for the provision of audio description on free-to-air and subscription television programs by the ABC and all other networks, similar to captioning requirements.