Media accessibility – more of what's in store for Australians with a disability in 2011

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Wednesday, 5 January 2011 12:33pm

What progress can Australians who are Deaf, hearing impaired, blind or vision impaired expect in access to media in 2011?

Here is Part 2 of Media Access Australia’s top ten predictions and wishes:   

1. More audio description available in Australian cinemas.

With the government and major cinemas coming to an agreement to roll out captioning and audio description services in cinemas over the next four years, Ally Woodford, Media Access Australia’s Cinema, Arts and DVD Project Manager, says, “On my wish list is that audio description will become more common on Australian movies, through Screen Australia funding support for audio description of them.

“This will complement the Cinema Access Implementation Plan by ensuring that there are audio described movies to play in the growing number of cinemas that can provide the service.

2. Captioning quality will be regulated in Australia for the first time.

The recently released Media Access Review has recommended that the Broadcasting Services Act be amended so that it states for the first time that captions on Australian television must be of acceptable quality.

The powers of the communications regulator, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA), will also be strengthened so that it has the power to properly investigate complaints about poor captioning.

“This is a great win for Deaf and hearing impaired TV viewers, as captioning quality has been a source of frustration for many,” says Chris Mikul, TV Project Manager at Media Access Australia.

3. A world-leading successful rollout of accessible digital cinema in Australia.

The accessible digital cinema rollout has already begun, with several cinemas getting the ball rolling on 30 December 2010 as part of the Cinema Access Implementation Plan, a plan agreed between the major cinemas, government and consumer groups.

Ally Woodford, Media Access Australia’s Cinema, DVD and Arts Project Manager, hopes that the world will turn to Australia to see how to handle a large scale rollout of accessible digital cinema successfully.

Ally Woodford says, “The plan will work if there is good attendance, good customer service by the cinemas in terms of advertising and in-cinema customer service, and a continued commitment by the cinemas and equipment developers to work through arising issues.”

4. Accessibility features in traditional media will be automatically included when transferred to online.

“This is a wish, rather than a prediction,” says Sarah Pulis, New Media Manager at Media Access Australia. “However, the Federal Government has taken the first step by initiating a convergence review, scheduled for this year.

“It has recognised that Australia’s media and communications regulations are becoming outdated as the ways we access content converge together (mainly via the Internet),” explains Sarah. “So, the government intends to fundamentally review the policy and regulatory frameworks that apply to the converged media and communications in Australia.”

Examples of accessible content staying accessible as it jumps from more traditional media formats (such as TV or DVD) to online media (such as catch-up TV) are the exception rather than the rule. Sarah hopes that the convergence review will be the start of properly sorting out these issues.

International DVD industry bodies will recognise the potential in providing access through streamlined file sharing agreements.

“If DVD industry bodies could get together and streamline file sharing agreements across regions, Australia consumers would see more DVDs with captions and audio description,” says Ally Woodford.

“This would also reduce the cost of providing increased access, and could be a relatively easy, low-cost win for industry and consumers alike. My wish is that DVD distributors would get together and make it happen in 2011.”

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