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BBC iPlayer gets more Audio Description and an Access-IT@Home award

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Jonathan Hassell | 12:41 UK time, Wednesday, 7 October 2009

We've been delighted to hear lots of positive feedback from the blind community after we launched Audio Description on BBC iPlayer at the end of August. It's been great to hear stories of the difference this feature is making to many of our user's lives on programmes such as the BBC's 'In Touch' radio show and talking with blind people directly at the recent TechShare conference.

Today I have more good news for vision-impaired iPlayer users.

I'd like to announce that we have now completed the work needed to increase the amount of Audio Described programmes on iPlayer to be broadly the same as broadcast on BBC TV - approximately 40 hours a week. You'll see these additional programmes - from CBeebies, BBC3, and the overnight Sign Zone - appearing in the Audio-Described category from today onwards.

It's been a good week for our team too, as we picked up the Access-IT@Home award at this year's Access-IT awards with iPlayer being recognised "the best ICT-based service in Europe that advances independent living for people with disabilities or who are elderly".

This is a great result, and is testament to how important video-on-demand is to the quality of life of elderly and disabled people across Europe.

The judges remarked:

"We recognised the immense value of emotional well being through an application that gave users a sense of cultural identity and entertainment for free and on demand. Millions of users access this software and content daily, and the opportunity to access media that is amongst the best in the world as and when you want it should not be underestimated. The work of the winning entry in creating a free, accessible solution is significant, and for these reasons the award goes to the BBC iPlayer."

They recognised iPlayer as being the most accessible video-on-demand service in Europe:

Gareth Ford Williams, Jonathan Hassell and James Hewines picking up the awardBBC iPlayer was the first VOD site in the UK to include BSL signed content in March 2008;

the first VOD site in the UK to include subtitles in May 2008;

the only VOD site in the UK to achieve >90% of programmes with subtitles;

and the first VOD site in the world to include audio description in August 2009.

Picture: Gareth Ford Williams, Jonathan Hassell and James Hewines picking up the award

As a result of the award we are already getting requests from broadcasters and governments across Europe asking how they can replicate what we've done in making iPlayer such an inclusive service.

So it couldn't have been a better time for Erik Huggers to introduce the BBC's 'Open iPlayer' plans to help other broadcasters by sharing iPlayer technologies with them, as he announced at the IBC conference.

Maybe someday all VOD services will be made this way...

If you have any comments or suggestions about how the accessibility of iPlayer could be further improved, the BBC Audience Accessibility Team would love to hear your views.

Jonathan Hassell is Head of User Experience & Accessibility, BBC FM&T

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