A blind woman has launched an unlawful discrimination case against the ABC for failing to make audio description part of its regular programming.
Audio description is a second track that describes actions, scene changes, gestures and facial expressions for those with no or low vision.
Suzanne Hudson believes that by not making programs accessible for people who are blind or have low vision, the public broadcaster has engaged in indirect discrimination.
The Public Interest Advocacy Centre is representing Ms Hudson in the Federal Circuit Court and the centre’s chief executive, Edward Santow, says Australia lags behind the rest of the world when it comes to providing audio description.
“Many countries, including the UK, US, Ireland, Germany and Spain, already provide the service on free-to-air or subscription services,” he said in a statement on Tuesday.
“By comparison, 20 per cent of the UK Channel 4’s programs offer audio description, which works out at more than 33 hours per week.”
That means that vision-impaired people in the UK can watch Home and Away with the service, while viewers in Australia can’t.
The ABC trialled the service for 13 weeks in 2012 on its primary channel ABC1.
After handing a report to government, the communications minister agreed late last year to fund a further 15 months trial on iview.
“The technical trial will test the digital delivery path for audio description services within the ABC,” the public broadcaster says on its website.
It will also provide a greater understanding of the issues associated with the public’s access to and use of such a service.
A report will be handed back to government in the second half of 2016.
Mr Santow said the iview trial was welcomed by the vision-impaired community, but there remained significant barriers to accessing the online service, especially for those who rely on screen reading software.
“The technology and accessible content exists, so we are urging the ABC to take this important, permanent step towards equality,” he said.