Audio description finally arrives on Australian free to air TV

24 June 2020

Australia’s blind and low vision community will finally be able to enjoy audio description on free to air TV when the service launches on ABC and SBS programming this month.

From June 28, the ABC and SBS will both provide 14 hours of audio-described programming each week after the Federal Government announced funding for the service in late 2019.

At present, Australia is the only OECD nation not to offer audio description on free to air television. The introduction of the service follows extensive lobbying by Vision Australia and the wider blindness and low vision community for almost three decades.

Chris Edwards, Vision Australia Manager of Government Relations and Advocacy, said June 28 would be an historical day for Australia’s blind and low vision community.

“Television is an important part of many peoples’ lives, both culturally and socially, and people who are blind or have low vision have the right to participate in that alongside everyone else,” Chris said.

“The blind and low vision community has been consistent in our demands to have audio description on free to air TV. We’ve been through multiple trials and promises, so it’s pleasing that it will finally be available to all,” he said.

While the June 28 introduction is welcome, Chris said Vision Australia, alongside similar organisations, would continue to advocate for an expanded audio description offering on Australian TV.

“For people who are blind or have low vision, such as myself, this is certainly a significant step forward, but by no means should this be the final result. 14 hours per week on two free to air channels is a very small proportion of free to air programming.

“We certainly appreciate the government’s funding commitment and the work the ABC and SBS have put in to providing the service, but there is still more to be done.

“There needs to be permanent funding from the government for the ABC and SBS to expand beyond 14 hours of audio-described programming each week as well as a legislated requirement for commercial broadcasters to provide the service.”

Accessing audio description on ABC and SBS

Similar to subtitles, you will need to turn audio description on to access it. How you do this will be dependent on your television. To support people, ABC and SBS have provided information about how to access their audio-described programming.

ABC

SBS