Australian blindness and consumer organisations have 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