Government to trial Audio Descriptors for vision-impaired

ABC1 will trial Audio-Descriptors, which describe action, scenery, costumes and facial expression for vision-impaired viewers.

The government is set to trial audio-descriptors, which describe action, scenery, costumes, facial expression and body language for blind and vision-impaired viewers.

“The ABC will deliver content and conduct a technical trial of closed audio description using receiver-mixed technology for the Australian Government,” Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy,  said.

“The trial will involve the broadcast of drama, documentary and other content with audio description on ABC1 for 14 hours per week during prime time over a 13 week period commencing in mid 2012.”

The trial is intended to generate a greater understanding of consumer issues and will report to the government in the second half of 2012

“I am also pleased to announce a successful tenderer for a consultancy to conduct research and identify appropriate consumer equipment for decoding receiver-mixed audio description technology has been selected,” Senator Conroy said.

“This consultancy will help people with a visual impairment participate in the trial by identifying digital televisions and set-top boxes capable of receiving audio description and the steps involved in activating this functionality.

“The trial will be accessible to any viewer of the ABC’s digital ABC1 service with an appropriate receiver. The consultancy will provide its final report in March, well ahead of the trial commencing mid-year.

“The Gillard Government has already taken a number of other actions in response to the recommendations of the Media Access Review report released in 2010 and is committed to further improving access to electronic media,” Senator Conroy said.

Cheryl Pascual, President of Blind Citizens Australia, said it was a major step forward for people who are blind or vision impaired.

“This is an exciting time ahead for our members. It means school kids who are blind will no longer feel left out when all everyone is talking about is what was on TV last night. It also means that people who have lost their sight later in life can continue to share the experience of watching a movie on TV with family and friends,” she said.

“People think that this is simply about television but it’s more that that. It’s about our right to enjoy all parts of life just like everyone else.”

5 Responses

  1. @JarrodJ Maybe you should find out about things before commenting? This service is a boon to a high number of visually impaired people like me. Thankfully a lot of new movies on DVD provide this facility and I can once again enjoy movies. The quicker this facility is made available across all entertainment mediums the happier I’ll be!

  2. @JarrodJ My wife has always been blind, and trust me, she has to do so much translation at a conceptual level anyway, that it probably wouldn’t prove that much less useful than for those who have had some level of sight at some point.

    I guess what I’m saying is that if it does work at all, it would likely be better than nothing for most visually impaired users of the service… I imagine 🙂

  3. @JarrodJ: PBS in the US provided descriptive audio on certain programs since 1990. Amusingly, while it’s now widely-provided by both PBS and commercial channels, the FCC forgot to standardise the track # on digital. Each station implements it on a different track, so blind people have to use the on-screen menus to select it rather than just hitting a button :-/

    Similarly, it’s been available in the UK since the mid-90’s (I think), and mandated since 2001 (again, I think). The BBC has even supported AD tracks on iPlayer since 2009. The requirements are that 20% of prime-time main-channel programming has an AD track.

    It’s been available in some movie theatres since 1994 (Forrest Gump was the first movie to have an official AD track), using wireless headsets.

    So you don’t have to imagine it working – it has already been working for years. In this case, Australia is something like 20 years behind the times…

  4. I really cant see this working at all. I can’t imagine how it would.

    Also, what kind of descriptions would be relevant to all blind/vision impaired people? How can you accurately describe a scene to someone who is vision impaired but also have it work for someone who has been blind since birth and has never seen a thing?

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