Both Media Access Australia and Vision Australia are united in their wishes for the audio description service to continue after the trial’s scheduled conclusion at the beginning of October.
Varley said that the service was invaluable, and that current legislation lends itself well to a mandate for audio description: “It’s logical to have quotas in the same way as captioning quotas. The Broadcasting Services Act has been modified this year to deal solely with captioning issues, and the template that now exists lends itself readily to [audio description] quotas being slotted in.
"The reality is that most TVs/set top boxes coming into our market follow the European standards and have receiver-mix capability built in... the access legislation also covers pay TV channels, so it is set up for a comprehensive service.”
Vision Australia’s Maguire told PC World that “Vision Australia believes strongly that it is time for the Government to honour its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and ensure that people who are blind or have low vision can enjoy equal access.
"Television is an important part of Australian society, and audio description provides the most effective way of bringing it to life for people who have a vision impairment. Audio description has been shown in other countries to be technically feasible, economically sustainable, and socially beneficial, and there is no reason why it should not be a permanent and legislated feature of Australian television.”
To make the transition easier for blind and vision impaired citizens, Maguire said Vision Australia wants the audio description service to continue “without interruption” after the trial’s completion, and to eventually increase to cover all television channels in the same way as the closed captioning service currently running.
UK broadcasters are mandated with a 10 per cent minimum for audio described television programs, and some channels provide audio description for up to a third of their programming. Vision Australia will push for legislation to be introduced that would see Australia put on equal footing with the UK: “We believe that minimum legislative requirements are appropriate for Australia too. We already have such requirements for captioning, and we will be lobbying the Australian Government for similar requirements for audio description.”
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Some quotes used in this feature have been edited for spelling and clarity.