Blind viewers are dreaming of streaming

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Monday, 3 August 2015 11:28am

Video-on-demand (VOD) or streaming video services are seen as the new way of delivering content to people where they can choose how and when to view that content, rather than rely on time-limited broadcast schedules. In Australia, services such as Netflix, ABC iview, Foxtel on Demand, Presto and Stan have gained lots of publicity and secured new customers quite rapidly.

Left hand with extended index finger pressing a holographic play button

People who are blind or vision impaired have also been excited by these new developments, but a key issue for them is whether the content is audio described or not and whether the platforms to access these services are accessible.

In light of this excitement, Vision Australia hosted a consumer webinar, Dreaming of Streaming, on 29 July 2015 from its Sydney corporate offices. The webinar was an interactive question and answer session with host Cassandra Strakosch moderating the discussion and feeding in viewer feedback and questions. On hand to explain the VOD systems and answer consumer questions were Media Access Australia CEO Alex Varley and Vision Australia Adaptive Technology Consultants Scott Erichsen and Paul Paradigm.

The webinar was interactive with participants from all across Australia sending in questions and comments via email or SMS.

The first part of the webinar covered the range of services that are available across the world with audio description and contrasted that with the more limited services in Australia. Alex Varley linked the presence of audio description services on television to having similar services on catch-up TV, although New Zealand is the notable exception. 

“The UK and then North America are the places to find audio description in relative abundance, whilst in Australia is basically limited to Netflix and ABC iview.”

Paradigm and Erichsen spoke about the user experiences of accessing services from the perspective of someone who is blind or has low vision. It was agreed that more work is needed in that area.

A more positive discussion was around the momentum that the Netflix and ABC services had created. As Varley pointed out, “These services operate in a worldwide market and operate commercially. Netflix providing AD very early on is giving it an edge over its local and international rivals and eventually competition should address that.”

The comments and questions from the audience suggested a rich vein of customers to be tapped and a willingness to work around any minor issues that might impede the service. 

The last call was to consume and show people that you want the services and will pay for them.

“Let the ABC know how good the iview service is. Tell the operators of other services like Stan and Presto that you would like to buy, but can’t without audio description,” said Varley.

Accessing the webinar

The webinar went for approximately one hour and a copy of the transcript and a link to the video of the webinar and a demonstration video on accessing ABC iView through an iOS device are all at the Dreaming of Streaming page on Vision Australia’s website.

Additional information on Video on Demand services and access features

Campaigns and other news about audio description for TV services in Australia

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