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Overview of AD

Audio description provides access to television for people who are blind and vision impaired. It is widely available on broadcast TV around the world, and Australians are calling for the service to be returned to ABC1 following its 2012 trial.

New trial commencing April 2015

An audio description trial will launch on 14 April, initially for iPhone and iPad. In order to receive the audio description, people will need to download the latest version of the iview app (which is available now), and activate the accessibility features on the app before viewing the program. The trial will be extended to desktops in mid-May, Android devices in June, and HbbTV in July.

The initial programs with audio description will include New Tricks, Grantchester, Fortitude, Redfern Now and Poldark, and the children’s programs Bubble Bath Bay, Deadly 60 and The Worst Year of My Life.

There will be a section on iview listing all the of programs with audio description, an FAQ section and a how-to video. There will also be a phone number people can call for assistance.

AD on iview has not previously been tested so it can be expected that there may be technical issues during the trial. Given this situation, the ABC has promised to provide regular updates as the trial progresses, with a view to quickly addressing unforeseen difficulties.

The results of this time-limited trial will add to the Government's understanding of the delivery options available for AD in Australia. The Government expects to receive a report on the outcomes of the trial from the ABC after it concludes in July 2016. The report would provide a basis for further engagement with the ABC.

Current status and news

February 2015

In February 2015, Vision Australia lodged discrimination complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission against the Seven, Nine and Ten networks, SBS and Foxtel for not providing an audio description service. Its Tell the Whole Story campaign webpage includes a form letter to the Minister for Communications, Malcolm Turnbull, which people can fill out, giving their own experiences of audio description and explaining why they want it on television.

Vision Australia sees the planned ABC iview trial as a positive development, but notes that it will not benefit the two-thirds of blind or vision impaired Australians who do not have access to the internet.

October 2013

In October 2013, the ABC’s technical report on the trial was finally released to the public. The previous government had stated that after this report was released, discussions would be held with the ABC, consumer representative groups and other stakeholders about the introduction of a regular service. We are calling on the new government to stand by this commitment.

July 2013

In July 2013, Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) lodged 21 disability discrimination complaints against the Federal Government and the ABC for not providing an audio description service. BCA commenced conciliation discussions with the ABC in 2014. The discussions are being brokered by the Australian Human Rights Commission, and are ongoing.

August 2012

In August 2012, the ABC commenced a 13-week technical trial of audio description (AD) on ABC1 that aimed to assess the technical challenges of delivering AD in Australia. This was the first time that AD was made available on television for over 600,000 Australians who are blind, vision impaired or can benefit from the service.

During the trial, thousands of people sent emails, letters and postcards to the then Communications Minister, Senator Stephen Conroy, and the ABC’s Managing Director Mark Scott, urging them to commit to an ongoing audio description service.

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