Federal Household Assistance Scheme continues to help people with disabilities

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Thursday, 12 May 2011 15:04pm

A bright point in this week’s Federal Government budget is the continuation of the Digital TV Taskforce’s Household Assistance Scheme (HAS).

The HAS provides a set-top box, installation and an antenna, if needed, to eligible households. These households are usually vulnerable people that are elderly, isolated or have a disability.

“The HAS is a model for how government programs should be run,“ said Media Access Australia CEO Alex Varley. “It has been designed in consultation with the people it will help and is sensitive and responsive to their needs.”

“Media Access Australia has regular dealings with people with disabilities who have major problems in setting up equipment and making it work, a task that some of us take for granted. Television is a very important entertainment and news medium for them and they want to continue receiving this when analog is turned off.”

The Household Assistance Scheme has also been the catalyst for innovations in television equipment. In the last tender cycle, the HAS included audio menus for blind people and the ability to receive audio description, in anticipation of the audio description trial on the ABC proposed for later this year.

“Incorporating audio menus and audio description capabilities in the set-top boxes is very smart thinking. This has now prompted industry to consider these features as standard for future releases. It is a good example of how government can use its purchasing power to encourage the commercial market to innovate and take up features as part of their mainstream products,“ said Varley.

Vision Australia’s article details the response of blind people to the set-top box with talking menus.

Read more about access to television, including digital television.

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