1st February 2019
Where is TV audio description heading in 2019?
It’s 25 years since the first audio described (AD) programme arrived on UK television (believed to be Coronation Street) and since then the amount of AD television has hugely grown. Last year there were 150,000 hours of it in the UK.
Frustratingly for people who are blind or who have sight loss, however, a lot of top shows still aren’t audio described or aren’t available with AD on catch up or on some platforms. Blind audience members can find themselves hooked after a first series of a popular show only to find the second season isn’t audio described.
At AbilityNet’s recent tech and accessibility conference TechShare Pro, we heard from heads at the BBC, Channel 4 and ITV about what is being done to address this. As a tech and accessibility charity, we champion the use of technology to create more equality for disabled people. We know how disappointing and alienating it is to be left out of the conversation on the latest episode of your favourite programme.
While the mainstream channels do offer a lot of AD described content, there is still some way to go. For example, ITV Hub does not yet offer AD across all devices. Rachel Yendoll, head of content at Channel 4, also said that progress is slower than she would like on getting catch up All4 programmes audio described across the 26 platforms that it’s available on. Doing this is expensive and complicated, she said, but Yendoll passionately reaffirmed the channel’s commitment to it.
Reassuringly, RNIB’s broadcast relationships manager Sonali Rai does believe that the broadcast industry is highly committed to accessibility and very forward-thinking. Speaking at the event, she said the sector is not just “doing the right thing”, but is actually very progressive – looking at how it can extend accessibility into other services and how it can make the processes more efficient and improve the user experience.