ABC iview officially launched its audio description service today, featuring aural narrations of visuals for blind or visually impaired audiences.
More than 100 titles (over 1000 hours of audio-described content) are available on iOS (iPhone/iPad), Chromecast and Android devices that build programs such as Bluey, Fisk, Muster Dogs, Four Corners, Australian Story, The Newsreader AND Path of Mystery more accessible to more Australians.
In 2020 ABC launched an audio description service across the broadcast television network at 14 hours a week. In the 2021-22 financial year, ABC aired 1260 hours of unique audio description content, with recent government funding to maintain its AD schedule. In the latest budget, ongoing money to maintain audio description services has been incorporated into the ABC core funding.
“The expansion of audio-described content on ABC iview reflects our commitment to providing world-class content accessible to all Australians,” said David Anderson, Chief Executive Officer of ABC. “Television provides access to a very important aspect of cultural and social life. We are committed to providing inclusive content and services that meet the diverse needs of our audiences, on demand, ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality ABC content when and how they want.
The road to AD for Australian TV has been a long one with the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2022 recommending that Australia take “the necessary legislative and policy measures…to ensure the provision of audio description services”. This followed Vision Australia’s filing of complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2015 against Seven, Nine, 10, SBS and Foxtel for lack of audio descriptors, after it had been rejected by the Australian Human Rights Commission. The ABC and SBS trials date back to 2012.
ABC now works with a number of community organisations, who are helping to raise awareness of AD content within their networks, including Vision Australia, Vision 2020, Guide Dogs Australia, Blind Citizens Australia, Attitude Foundation, Access2Arts, Accessible Arts, Can:Do 4 Kids and Visibility.
Nas Campanella, ambassador for ABC’s audio description campaign, said: “Previously I had to rely on someone to tell me what’s happening on screen and hope that someone would be free and willing to watch a particular show with me.
“The level of detail I received about facial expressions, actions or costumes on screen depended on what that person felt they needed to know. It was frustrating. If I was watching a show by myself and there were sections with no dialogue, I simply missed those often important details. It certainly affected my enjoyment of a show.
“Audio description gives me equal access to the same information and finer details as anyone else. And it means I can contribute to those fresher conversations with family, friends and colleagues like everyone else.”
According to the latest ABC and SBS Audio Description survey, 95% of blind or visually impaired people use video every day or almost every day. One in three people who are blind or have low vision interact with audio-described content.