American disabilities association argues for sensible audio description regulations

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Wednesday, 1 June 2011 16:55pm

The American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD) has made a submission to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), making numerous recommendations about how audio description should be regulated when it is introduced as a compulsory service on television next year.

Under provisions of the Twenty-First Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act of 2010 rules regarding mandatory levels of audio description will be reinstated on 8 October 2011, with required hours of described programming beginning in the first quarter of 2012.

AAPD rejects the suggestion made by the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which represents cable TV operators, that the compliance schedule does not allow sufficient time to implement the service, pointing out that the first draft of the Act was available as far back as December 2007.

One of the issues surrounding audio description is when programs should be exempt from the rules because they are ‘near-live’ (i.e. made so closer to broadcast time that it becomes impractical to provide audio description, which is difficult to perform live). AAPD supports the FCC’s proposed definition of ‘near-live’ as “programming performed and recorded less than 24 hours prior to the time it is first aired”.

However, it supports the American Council of the Blind’s recommendation that a program is not considered ‘near-live’ if it contains more than 66% of pre-recorded content. AAPD also recommends that a live program should be considered ‘live’ only on its first broadcast.

AAPD is not impressed by the suggestion of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) that it should be up to the FCC to promote audio described programs, noting that it “very much doubts that the NAB expects the vast numbers of consumers without disabilities to contact the Commission for information about TV broadcasts and programming generally”.

Instead it recommends the establishment of a common symbol to identify audio described programs, which could be used on program information disseminated across different media.

The full text of AAPD’s submission can be downloaded from the FCC’s website.

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