Blind viewer sues ABC for not providing audio description

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Tuesday, 7 July 2015 11:47am

Suzanne Hudson, a blind television viewer, has launched a case against the ABC in the Federal Circuit Court, claiming that it has unlawfully discriminated against her by not providing a regular audio description service for the blind and vision impaired.

Headphones resting atop a vintage microphone. Image credit: Ilmicrofono Oggiono via Flickr

In 2012, the Federal Government funded a 13-week trial of audio description on ABC1, but this was not followed by a regular television service as many expected. In April, the ABC began a trial of audio description on its online catch-up service, iview, which is scheduled to run for 15 months.

Hudson, who is the president of Tweed Blind Citizens in Tweed Heads, NSW, told the Australian newspaper that the iview trial was not a sufficient replacement for a service on television. “I’d say 90 per cent of our members are 55-plus and they don’t use the internet for starters. Even if they do, why should we have to watch something after everyone else has watched it?”

Hudson is being represented by the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), whose chief executive, Edward Santow, said, “There’s no question that in failing to provide audio description, the networks are treating blind and vision-impaired people less favourably.” 

In 2013, Blind Citizens Australia lodged complaints with the Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) for failing to provide audio description. More recently, in March this year, Vision Australia launched a campaign called Tell the Whole Story calling for audio description on television, accompanied by AHRC complaints against the commercial networks, SBS and Foxtel.

Audio description is available on television in the US, the UK, Canada, New Zealand and many other countries. For more information, see our Audio description on television page.

You may also like:

  • More on TV & Video accessibility, including captions and audio description on TV, as well as reviews and how-to guides.
  • The ADonTV website, covering the progress of getting audio description on Australian television.
  • Everything you need to know about catch-up TV accessibility in Australia and abroad.
  • Reviews and how to guides for setting up captions on TV.

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