16 May 2013: Federal budget fails to deliver on audio description

The federal budget announced on Tuesday evening had disability reform as its cornerstone. While most Australians with disability cheered, the budget also held disappointment for those who are blind or vision impaired.

Along with funding for DisabilityCare and education reform, funding to the ABC was boosted by $104.9 million. This money is allocated to news and current affairs and digital delivery of programming. What is noticeably absent is funding for an audio description service. Audio description is essential for providing equal access to television for people who are blind and vision impaired.

While audio description is widely available on broadcast TV around the world, it is yet to be provided in Australia. The ABC performed a three-month trial in 2012 in order to determine if broadcasting audio description is possible in Australia. This trial was hailed as a great success by technical experts and the viewing public.

In the lead-up to the federal budget, blindness organisations and their members campaigned for an ongoing trial to be delivered in 2013. This would provide equitable TV access while allowing the ABC to resolve any technical issues before audio description becomes a regulatory requirement like captioning.

In responding to the budget, Disability Discrimination Commissioner Graeme Innes stated his disappointment that funding for audio description was not included in what was otherwise a landmark budget for disability reform.

“It’s our ABC too,” said Innes.

This was originally published by campaign partner Media Access Australia.