Audio description: improving access to media

Related Project: Discrimination

August 10, 2016

Flickr/ Flash Pro

Australia lags behind many other countries, including New Zealand and the United Kingdom, in making television accessible to people who are blind or have low vision. 

Audio description is a second audio track that can be turned on and off. It describes the important visual elements of a television program – such as actions, scene changes, gestures and facial expressions – that a person who is blind or has low vision cannot see. 

PIAC is representing Lauren Henley, who is legally blind. Ms Henley claims that the Commonwealth Government has failed to take all reasonable steps towards providing audio description in Australia, in breach of her human rights under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

It is time for people who are blind or have low vision to be able to enjoy television equally with the rest of the community. 

The technology exists for audio description to be provided on television. It was successfully trialled on the ABC’s free to air television service in 2012, but moves to make it introduce it permanently have stalled. 

The ABC also completed a 15 month audio description trial on iview in July 2016. While the iview trial was welcomed by the blind community, around two-thirds of blind or low vision Australian’s do not have access to the ABC’s iview service.