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Australian blindness and consumer organisations have today launched a national campaign to promote the importance of audio description currently being trialled on ABC TV, and appeal to Communications Minister Senator Stephen Conroy and ABC Managing Director Mark Scott to make the service permanent.

The groups say the ABC audio description service has given over 600,000 Australians who are blind, vision impaired or can benefit from the service proper access to television for the first time.

Audio description*, or ‘AD’, provides an audio narration of what’s happening visually on screen during television programs.

The campaign, It’s As Easy As ABC, will coordinate thousands of Australians to send postcards to Mark Scott and Stephen Conroy, requesting the service be made permanent beyond the AD trial’s scheduled end date of 4 November.

“Having access to audio description on the ABC has been incredibly exciting as it’s meant that many people who are blind or vision impaired have been able to enjoy television for the first time,” says 26-year-old campaign spokeswoman Lauren Henley, who lost her vision in 2006 due to a motor accident.

“We are encouraging everyone to get behind the ‘It’s As Easy As ABC’ campaign by sending a postcard to Senator Conroy and Mark Scott. Access to television is about so much more than simply watching the latest soap opera. It’s about choice, civic participation and the ability to be informed.”

AD is already widely available on TV in the UK, USA, Canada, Europe and New Zealand. The campaigners say that it is vitally important that the service continues on the ABC and becomes a permanent feature for Australian audiences.

Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes says it is important that all Australians have equal access to television.

“Thanks to the ABC trial for the first time I know what’s happening during a TV program, rather than enduring long periods of silence or dramatic music. I hope that Mark Scott and Stephen Conroy give all Australians equal access to TV by continuing audio description beyond the trial’s end date,” said Innes.

The postcards are being distributed around the country via the groups. They can be ordered via www.audiodescription.com.au and are available in a range of accessible formats.  

The Gillard Government has funded the trial to investigate the possibility of delivering the service permanently, something the advocates say is essential.

“It’s extremely important that the fantastic service that is currently being delivered on the ABC continues for the benefit of Australians who are blind or vision impaired both now, and in the future,” said Henley.

The campaign is being jointly run by Blind Citizens Australia, Vision Australia and the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network.

ENDS

For more information and to order postcards visit www.audiodescription.com.au.
Follow the campaign on Twitter via @ADonTV.

Campaign spokesperson Lauren Henley, Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes and Vision Australia General Manager, International and Stakeholder Relations Maryanne Diamond are available for interviews.

Media contact: Elise Davidson M: 0409 966 931 

Background

*About audio description

Audio description (AD) is a form of narration which allows people who are blind or vision impaired to enjoy television. Delivered during gaps in dialogue, it describes actions, settings, costumes and other visual cues that are important to understanding what is occurring on screen. Without it, people are left to guess, or rely on family and friends to fill them in.

There are approximately 600,000 people in Australia who are blind, vision impaired or can benefit from using AD (H. Taylor, J. Keeffe, H. Vu, J. Wang, E. Rochtchina, P. Mitchell and M. Pezzullo 2005, ‘Vision Loss in Australia’, Medical Journal of Australia, vol. 182 no.11, pp. 565-568). AD has also been found to benefit people with an autism spectrum disorder (Garman, J. 2011, ‘Autism spectrum, captions and audio description’, Mindful Research).

About the AD trial

In August 2012, the ABC commenced a 13-week technical trial of AD on ABC TV. The aim is to assess the technical challenges of delivering AD in Australia.

A selection of primetime Australian and overseas programs have been included as part of the trial including Dr Who, Grand Designs, Rake and As Time Goes By.

After the trial, the ABC will submit a report to the Department of Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy (DBCDE) about the technical possibility of delivering a permanent AD service. Senator Stephen Conroy and ABC Managing Director Mark Scott will then decide if AD will continue on Australian TV after the trial.

As the service is delivered via a secondary audio track, it can be turned on or off as needed avoiding any potential disruption to sighted users.

A digital receiver in your television or set top box that can access the AD track is needed to hear it. Turning on AD varies between brands, but generally involves pressing the audio or ‘AD’ button on a remote control, or activating AD in the set-up menu.

A list of suitable receivers and instructions for turning on AD across different brands is available via the Department of Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy.

About the spokesperson

Lauren Henley is an Advocacy Officer with Blind Citizens Australia. She is completely blind after losing her sight in a motor vehicle accident in 2006. No longer able to work as a Parks and Gardens Apprentice for her local Council, Lauren decided she could contribute towards addressing some of the many barriers that face people who are blind or vision impaired. One of Lauren’s passions is audio description, and she greatly values the many benefits that this service can offer.

About the campaign

The campaign is being led by Blind Citizens Australia, Vision Australia and Australian Communications Consumer Action Network, with the support of blindness and consumer organisations around Australia.

For more information, visit www.audiodescription.com.au or follow @ADonTV on Twitter.