Audio description on the ABC
In 2012, Australians who are blind or have low vision experienced full and independent access to Australian television for the very first time with the commencement of a 13-week technical trial of audio description on ABC1. For each week of the trial, 14 hours of audio described content were provided.
In July 2013, Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) lodged over 25 disability discrimination complaints against the Federal Government and the ABC for not providing an audio description service. BCA commenced conciliation discussions with the ABC in 2014 however, this conciliation was unsuccessful in resolving the complaints and the complaints were terminated.
Audio description trial on ABC iview
Former Minister for Communications Malcolm Turnbull committed to an audio description trial on the ABC’s online iview service that commenced in April 2015. The 15-month trial concluded in July 2016.
Vision Australia, on behalf of the blindness and low vision sector, submitted a report to the Minister for Communications on the trial. The report was prepared in collaboration by the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, Blind Citizens Australia, Blind Citizens NSW, Media Access Australia, the Royal Society for the Blind, VisAbility, and Vision Australia.
We discovered that people who viewed programs over the streaming service found the experience was generally positive, the quality of the audio description was good and the mix of programs satisfactory. However, many people reported they were unable to participate in the trial for reasons including lack of access to a smartphone or internet technology, low bandwidth or slow data speeds, and the prohibitive cost of downloading data.
You can read a copy of the Blindness Sector Report on ABC Iview Trial of Audio Description (1.81MB, Word) report here. To order a copy of the report in a different format contact Vision Australia.
While the trial was a positive development, audio description on iview alone did not, and will not, continue to provide people who are blind or have low vision with equal access to television.
Vision Australia estimates that around two-thirds of Australians who are blind or have low vision do not have access to the internet and therefore have no means of accessing audio description services such as iview that are streamed online. Those with internet access have to pay the cost of streaming content that is otherwise freely available to the rest of the community.