Government continues to fail the blindness and low vision community

25 May 2018

The release of the Audio Description Working Group report this week by the Department of Communications and the Arts illustrates the Australian Government’s clear inability to provide services for the blindness and low vision community.

Vision Australia General Manager of Advocacy Karen Knight said while it was good to finally have the report made public, it is frustrating to see no detail on how the government proposes to solve this discrimination faced by the blindness and low vision community.

“We waited nearly six months to finally see a copy of this report and with its release, we expected a proposed pathway that the government might take to introduce audio description in Australia,” Ms Knight said.

“It’s quite frankly ridiculous that all other OECD countries have audio description available for people who are blind or have low vision, and our government so short-sighted as to see the importance of this service.

“After years upon years of working with the government on this important issue, this is a clear indication of their unwillingness to act.”

Audio description allows for more enjoyment of screen content through narration of the action and visuals, providing context for audible sounds and dialogue.

“Unfortunately, we are aware that in order to reduce discrimination we need to legislate or regulate for it. As an example, many years ago, the Federal Government regulated for the implementation of captioning for those who are deaf or hearing-impaired.

“We’d like to work with the government to have something similar implemented for people who are blind or have low vision because being refused this service impacts our ability to participate fully in the same social and leisure activities that everyone else is able to participate in.”

Vision Australia, along with other sector organisations, are advocating for 14 hours of audio description across Australia’s free to air channels.

“We don’t believe 14 hours is a lot to ask for and we will continue to work with the other members of the working group to advocate for people who are blind or have low vision to ensure television is more accessible.

“I urge the government and the minister to set out a clear plan on how we can provide this necessary service and make sure people who are blind or have low vision are included in such a vital part of Australian life.”

The Audio Description Working Group included Vision Australia, consumer groups, broadcasters, disability organisations, technology providers and regulators.