The Australian Human Rights Commission has heeded the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN)’s call for no Australian to be left offline, with the release of the Human Rights and Technology Final Report

The report, presented to the Attorney General, details the Australian Human Rights Commission’s support for a concessional broadband rate for low-income households to make internet access more affordable and improve digital inclusion.

“The past year has demonstrated just how essential it is to be online,” said ACCAN CEO, Teresa Corbin. “With Melbourne in the midst of its latest lockdown, and families forced back into remote work and schooling, we need to act now to make sure that our most vulnerable have access to a reliable, affordable broadband product.”

The national human rights institution recommended that NBN Co should implement a reasonable concessional broadband rate for people with disability who are financially vulnerable.

“We know that not only are people with disability less likely to be digitally included in Australia, but they also spend a greater share of their household income on internet access than the Australian average and receive less data for each dollar of expenditure than the average,” added Ms Corbin.

Ms Corbin said that ACCAN also welcomed the Australian Human Rights Commission’s support for broadcasting content to be made more accessible for people with disability through the adoption of a minimum audio description requirement of 14 hours per week for national, commercial and subscription broadcasting services.

“People with disability have long been denied full and equitable access to Australian television. The adoption of minimum standards for audio description would be an important step forward to ensuring that vision impaired and blind Australians can enjoy the same TV shows as the rest of the nation and take part in national conversations.”

The peak body for communications consumers has raised concerns that without any legislative mandate this inequality is at risk of being replicated on digital platforms, such as streaming services, where audio described and captioned content is not always available to Australian audiences.

“We’re very pleased that the Australian Human Rights Commission has recommended that the Government introduce legislation to provide minimum requirements for audio description and captioning in respect of audio-visual content delivered through subscription video-on-demand, social media and other services that are not covered by the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 (Cth),” said Ms Corbin.

This recommendation echoes ACCAN’s submission to the Media Reform Green Paper, which is aimed at the future of television in Australia. In its submission, ACCAN expressed concern that the Green Paper proposes no provision for audio visual access features in its vision for a sustainable Australian free-to-air landscape.

“The Human Rights and Technology Final Report is a strong roadmap for Government to follow to allow Australians to enjoy the benefits of new technology, while protecting against potential human rights violations. We look forward to seeing the Government act on the recommendations put forward by the Australian Human Rights Commission as soon as possible.”