The Australian Broadcasting Corporation has announced the expansion of audio description to ABC Iview, its streaming/catch up service. The move will enable audiences who are blind or have low vision to enjoy their favourite on-demand shows, movies and news in a more inclusive way.
Audio descriptions provide a richer and more immersive experience by offering auditory narrations of visual elements during programming.
With the allocation of dedicated funding in 2020, the ABC launched an audio description service across its broadcast television network. Since then, this commitment has been vital for audiences who are blind or have low vision. In the 2021-22 financial year, the ABC broadcast 1260 hours of unique audio-description content including many premiere events or first-possible releases, across broadcast multi-channels.
More than 100 titles (over 1000 hours of audio described content) are now available across iOS (iPhone/iPad), Chromecast and Android devices making programmes such as Bluey, Fisk, Muster Dogs, Four Corners, Australian Story, The Newsreader and Mystery Road more accessible to more Australians. In the last Federal budget, ongoing money for audio description services was incorporated in the ABC base funding.
The ABC says it welcomes the bipartisan support that has allowed it to provide and expand audio description services.
“The expansion of audio described content to ABC Iview reflects our commitment to delivering world-class content that’s accessible to all Australians,” ABC Managing Director David Anderson said. “Television provides access to a very important aspect of cultural and social life. We are committed to providing inclusive content and services that cater to the diverse needs of our audience, on-demand — ensuring that everyone has access to high-quality ABC content whenever and however they choose.”
The ABC has partnered with a number of community organisations to raise awareness of AD content on ABC Iview within their networks – including Vision Australia, Vision 2020, Guide Dogs Australia, Blind Citizens Australia, Attitude Foundation, Access2Arts, Accessible Arts, Can:Do 4 Kids and Visability.
ABC audio descriptions campaign ambassador Nas Campanella, said that Audio description has been a game changer, enabling her to consume her favourite shows more independently.
“Previously I had to rely on someone to tell me what is happening on screen and hope that someone was free and willing to watch a particular show with me,” she said. “The level of detail I received about facial expressions, actions or costumes on screen was dependent on what that person felt I needed to know. It was frustrating. If I watched a show alone and there were sections with no dialogue, I simply missed out on those often important details. It certainly impacted my enjoyment of a show.
“Audio description allows me to have equal access to the same information and finer details as everyone else. And it means I can contribute to those water cooler conversations with family, friends, and colleagues like everyone else.”
According to the latest ABC and SBS Audio Description survey, 95% of people who are blind or have low vision are engaging with video every day or most days. One in three people who are blind or have low vision are engaging with content with audio descriptions.
Giving out a special welcome to guide dogs Poppi, Eva and Max at the launch of the service, ABC Board Chair Ita Buttrose said, “The first trials of audio-description on the ABC started in 2012. Just 14 hours of content became available. In 2020, the ABC launched its audio description service across the broadcast television network. Today, we celebrate the advent of audio-descriptions across ABC iview.
“We now have more than 2500 hours of content across linear broadcasting and ABC iview. Wonderful programs like Bluey, Fisk and Mystery Road are now more accessible to everyone.
“Audio-descriptions are important for entertainment programs, but perhaps they are even more meaningful when they give blind and low vision audiences a better way to keep up with current affairs. Three of the ABC’s flagship programs, Australian Story, Four Corners and Foreign Correspondent, now carry audio-descriptions on ABC iview.”