Most Australians don't question the right to watch TV. Provision of captions for people with impaired hearing is legislated in the Broadcasting Services Act (1992) but the 'completing the picture' for people with impaired vision is not similarly mandated. TV4All, a campaign from Blind Citizens Australia hopes to change that.

Audio description vs captions

Captions help people who are deaf by reproducing dialogue and important sounds in text. Similarly audio description describes the visual elements happening on screen for people who are blind. A

Free-to-air broadcast providers are must caption their TV content. "Broadcasters must comply with rules and standards relating to captioning of television programs for the deaf and hearing impaired" (Broadcasting Services Act, 1992). Yet there is no stipulation for audio description. 

Consequently people who can't see the screen miss out on important visual information, making it hard or impossible to glean the story from sounds alone. This is why audio description is a Web Content Accessibility Guidelines recommendation (SC 1.2.5 AA. Audio Description)

Audio description in Australia

2015

Australian Government commences Audio Description trial (ABC). Selected programs are broadcast with audio described content. At conclusion of the trial the Government forms an Audio Description Working Group (ADWG) to recommend ways for broadcasters to make audio described content broadly available to Australians.

2018

The ADWG releases its final report, recommending that three approaches be considered. The approaches are being evaluated by broadcasters. For example

2019

Hopefully Australia joins the UK, USA, Canada and New Zealand in providing captioned, audio described media so everyone can enjoy free-to-air TV.

If you want to learn more or have your say, head over to TV4A11, a campaign from Blind Citizens Australia that demonstrates the need for audio description in a series of compelling articles and videos.