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Petitioning Minister for Communications, Mitch Fifield

Help people who are blind or have low vision to get Audio Description on Australian free to air TV

[Image: Stephen in his Hawthorn scarf, crouches to inspect the turf at the Adelaide oval]

Hello, I’m Stephen Jolley.  Being blind from birth, I appreciate first-hand the power of words in story telling. 

This is why, as a member of the Australian blindness and low vision community, I implore Minister Fifield to update the law so that we can get the whole story from television programs.

At the moment we can only experience what is being said on screen. If we hear glass break, we don’t know if someone has dropped a wine glass or a window has been broken.

Audio description helps people who are blind or have low vision to get the whole story. It’s available in theatres, on DVDs and at the cinema – but still not on free to air TV in Australia.

We have fallen hopelessly behind the rest of the world. Audio description is available on free to air TV in the US, UK, Europe and even New Zealand.  For a while now, my friends in the UK have even been able to watch audio described episodes of Australian produced programs such as Home and Away and Neighbours.

I can understand the Brits enjoying watching Aussies frolicking in the sand, but I have to admit it’s not my cup of tea.

Fortunately, we have laws that force TV stations to caption shows for people who are deaf. But that’s not going far enough. We need laws to provide the same access to television for those of us unable to see what’s happening.

Audio description is a verbal commentary, through narration, which explains what is happening in a television program during the natural pauses in the audio.  This can include describing entire scenes where there is no dialogue, conveying facial expressions and emotions, costumes, scenery and abrupt scene changes. 

There are many important details we actually miss because they are conveyed without dialogue. I’m forever asking my wife or anyone else around “what’s happening?  Or what’s on the screen?”.

I missed a lot of sharing TV with my son when he was growing up and that shouldn’t have to happen to other generations of Australian parents, or their children, who may be blind or have low vision. It’s simply not fair to them.

I want to enjoy television at the same time as my friends, and be more able to participate in discussions about it. We are not seeking anything new, but merely to catch up with established practice in other countries.

Join me in supporting the 350,000 Australians who are blind or have low vision, who just want to watch free to air TV like everyone else, and sign this petition today.  If you can, share this link with your friends and with a bit of luck and good will, we can make a change.

Stephen Jolley

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