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TV Audio Description: how is it for you?

Damon Rose Damon Rose | 10:17 UK time, Monday, 17 January 2011

If you're visually impaired, you may be taking advantage of Audio Description (AD) services on your television set.

We at Ouch! often hear that broadcasters have had very little feedback about their AD output and are keen to find out how well they're serving the intended audience.

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) aims to put this right and has created a simple one-stop web page which has the relevant contact details for the major channels to help you feedback easily and effectively

Joan Greening from RNIB's Media and Culture Department says: "We've had some brilliant feedback in the past. One person told us that the description on Planet Earth painted amazing pictures for him, for instance."

But she stresses that if you have any problems or notice factual inaccuracies, you should speak up: "We've heard that there's been a Woolpack on Coronation Street and a Rovers on Emmerdale in the past ... but feedback best comes from those who are watching it.

The page quotes one of the AD providers waiting to hear from you: "Channel 4 is really keen to get feedback from viewers who use our audio description service to help us in quality control as well as selection of programmes for description."

Major broadcasters have an obligation to describe 6% of their output but Sky, BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 publicly announced last year that they would voluntarily hit a target of 20%.

Around 70 channels are obliged to carry AD, and Ofcom figures from 2010 show that most of these channels already regularly exceed 10 or even 20 per cent, though this can often be due to repeated showings.

• AD is an extra spoken soundtrack that explains visuals, so that those who can't see the screen can fully follow what's happening. It's available as standard on Sky, VirginMedia and Freesat but only on selected Freeview sets or boxes.

more information about AD on television (includes a link to a downloadable Word document with a list of commercially available AD-ready Freeview boxes and TVs).


  • Comment number 1.

    I think one of the most annoying things for me is the delay in programmes becoming available on BBC iPlayer with audio description. I've waited 3 days after the original programme appeared on iPlayer for the AD version to appear!

  • Comment number 2.

    Thank you for covering this important issue. Every day another 100 people will start to lose their sight. The BBC continuing to provide audio services is really necessary - especially when fifty-three per cent of children with sight problems attend a mainstream school or special resource unit in a school. BBC must set aside funds to ensure AD channels have a bright future.

    In the RNIB, I can't think another charity that offers the practical support to children and young people in mainstream education to help them get the most out of school and college life. There are a few educational audio/braille resources for the blind on TV, particularly chess related and toy related, but in the UK, the RNIB is the foremost charity offering support to rebuild lives devastated by sight loss.

  • Comment number 3.

    I am partially sighted and I don't watch much TV because the only channels you can get with AD are the mainstream ones on in daytime or at peak times and the content is bland and boring.
    People don't seem to think that VI people watch late night TV
    We are just as likely to want some post-pub viewing as fully sighted people and just as likely to keep anti-social hours.
    Give us some good AD stuff after 10.30 at night
    its as if VI people are all children or over 70 and we are not

    Chess , don't make me laugh , why would a VI person want that -

    ps Lives aren't 'devastated' by sight loss and we are not 'the blind'
    we are all different and lead full lives
    It is attitudes like that that stop us getting what we really want


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