Government to provide free accessible set-top boxes

Tuesday, 17 April 2012 14:35pm

Senator Stephen Conroy, Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, has announced that talking set-top boxes will be distributed to blind and vision impaired people as part of the Household Assistance Scheme being co-ordinated by his department’s Digital Switchover Taskforce.

Senator Conroy made the announcement during a radio interview with Robyn Gaile, Executive Officer of Blind Citizens Australia, on the New Horizons program, which is broadcast on Radio for the Print Handicapped and community radio stations across Australia.

People who are legally blind or receiving a carer’s payment for a legally blind child need to register for the Household Assistance Scheme as their region of Australia transitions to digital-only television. A timetable of when each region switches to digital transmission is available on the Digital Ready website. The next region, Northern New South Wales, will be switched over in June. The Government is also investigating the possibility of providing talking set-top boxes to blind and vision impaired people in areas where digital TV switchover has already been completed.

Two talking set-top boxes, which feature talking menus, program guides and other features, were developed for the Household Assistance Scheme and trialled in 2010. One of these, the Bush Talking Set Top Box, went on sale last year for $200. The Government has also commissioned research into which other set-top boxes and TV sets are capable of receiving audio description.

In the interview, Senator Conroy also talked about the upcoming trial of audio description on ABC1, saying that, “The ABC and my department are developing plans to let interested people know how they can take part in the trial.” The trial is due to commence in August, and will involve 14 hours of audio described drama, comedy and documentary per week.


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