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BBC News and disabled audiences

Peter Horrocks Peter Horrocks | 12:50 UK time, Thursday, 19 February 2009

Yesterday, several newspapers picked up on an internal e-mail I sent to BBC News TV presenters asking them to avoid using the phrase "as you can see on your screens" when pointing audiences to the BBC News website. I asked them if they would please spell out URLs, e-mail addresses and phone numbers, pointing out that a significant number of blind people use television news. The phrase "as you can see" excludes people with visual impairments, and means they can't get the information they might want. This is discourteous, and we can do better than that.

BBC News logoCommentators, and one reported "BBC insider", have said: "This is political correctness gone mad." It is not. This issue is not about avoiding causing offence. It's about information and how to access it.

Eleven million adults are considered to have a disability in the UK which affects their everyday life, and this group make up 19% of the working population and an even higher proportion of our audience. For instance 21% of the audience to the BBC News at Six on BBC One is considered to have a disability. Surely it's not political correctness to consider whether the content we're producing is suitably accessible and understandable?

The BBC has a commitment to help people with disabilities use our services. There are various pages on the BBC site which give information about how it addresses this - for instance which helps arm audiences with tools which enable them to make the most of the web. There's also the Ouch! website - which reflects the lives and experiences of disabled people with articles, blogs, and an active messageboard.

I'd be interested in hearing from you on what more BBC News could do to makes its services more accessible to all and also about the range of stories we cover.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This is an excellent and sensible decision and I'm very disappointed at the reaction of some of the newspapers - especially the Telegraph who really ought to know better.

    Well done Peter !

  • Comment number 2.

    Oh dear Mr Horrocks what a mess you guys make. I am deaf so reading the screen is a must even with my amplified sound. Can you not simply say "...and for our visually impaired the URL is....".

    Why do you have to devote a blog to it - can you not accept criticism at any price?

  • Comment number 3.

    I must say that broadcasters generally missed the trick when moving onto digital TV. I can fully understand the plight of the deaf who undoubtedly benefit by a sign language translator appearing to the right of our screens but why must we who aren't hard of hearing have this distraction. If I want subtitles, I call up that option - it isn't permanently on the screen. How come a sign language expert can't similarly be hidden until called up?
    There are so many aspects of broadcasting that could have been made optional: that horrid drum machine that underpins anyone making news announcements on BBC24 as if we really need or want that sort of thing.

  • Comment number 4.

    I can't see what's wrong with reading out URLs or phone numbers. It doesn't harm anyone, disabled or otherwise. The only issue is that it takes marginally longer to read out (and I'd guess would have to be repeated too)...

  • Comment number 5.

    Also for hard of hearing or deaf people, the subtitles tend to cover up the web addresses so it is helpful to have them read out as well.

  • Comment number 6.

    This is frankly ridiculous. Where does the line get drawn and where do we stop?

    Welcome to Britain, a PC nation where it appears even those suspected of crimes against the British people can't be got rid of out of the country for reasons of "PC".

  • Comment number 7.

    I completely disagree. The disabled being referred to here are presumably the blind/poorly sighted. The BBC provides huge amounts content suitable for them already, with huge subsidy by other TV licence-payers. Plain PC nonsense to try and make all TV suitable for people who cannot see.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.

    I think it's great that they show give the information verbally rather than the lazy it's on the screen.

    My Mum finds it hard to see some info and it's correct to say this is providing info. Yes we are a bit too PC now, but this is not within that grouping

  • Comment number 10.

    Yes Mr Horrocks, you made a stupid mistake and trying to back-peddle like this makes you seem even more of an idiot.

    Maybe you could let us know exactly how many visually impaired people complained about presenters saying "as you can see?"

    I'm guessing at none. I'm also guessing you have nothing better to do than trying to fix problems that don't exist.

    I guess you had better stop showing filmed clips and just have someone describing the incident you are reporting on so you don't exclude people who cannot see.

    Don't forget to report the news in easy to understand words, don't want the hard of understanding getting excluded by you!

  • Comment number 11.

    1 in 5 (19%) of the working population are disabled?

    That cannot be right?

    It certainly isn't reflected where I work (in an office).

  • Comment number 12.

    Erm... if a blind person can't see the URL on the tele then how are they to use a computer.

    So while I appreciate your PC crusade and your ridiculous justifications you really could think these things through.

  • Comment number 13.

    #3 attrisse, You beat me to it. My point exactly. I'm all for any technology which helps people with disabilities but I object most strongly to having someone gesticulating away in the corner of my screen.

    Like subtitles these can simply be turned on for those who need them.

    May I also say I object most strongly to being told which channel I am watching. These obtrusions are most annoying and completely unnecessary. If we are too stupid to know what we are watching we can use our remote.

    Am I getting old or do I have a point?

  • Comment number 14.

    You say; "21% of the audience to the BBC News at Six on BBC One is considered to have a disability."

    I dare that's true, but it implies that 21% of the audience would be excluded by the phrase "as you can see."

    As far as I can see you've not quoted a figure for that.

  • Comment number 15.

    I think it is ridiculous first and foremost that the ignoarance of others has prompted you to write this blog to justify your direction on the reading out of URL's during broadcast.

    To me, for the two seconds it would take to read it, would in no way change the course of my day or life.

    However, I will add this.

    I do have a number of blind and visually impaired family members and friends. And to be frank they dont bother with television news, mainly because the programming and content is aimed towards a viewing audience:

    "Viewers my find these pictures disturbing"
    "And the Queen, seen here in ......"
    "As you can see in Gaza......"

    And so on. Radio news is the preference, in my experience, of those with visual disabilities. In fact two that I can think of do not even have television. And this is because television news as a whole is not accessible to all.

    So yes, nice thought and for sure a huge dissapointment that people would be negative about it.

    Personally speaking though, whether the URL is read or not is not going to make one iota of difference to anyone.

  • Comment number 16.

    It is of course politically correct. What is incorrect is the assumption that this is a negative. When I was young I had heard the word "typical" used sarcastically so many times that I was shocked to learn that it could be used in any other way. Does anybody ever consider what the opposite of politically correct might be? Unthinkingly prejudiced perhaps?

  • Comment number 17.

    It should be both displayed and read out, after all it's fine to display and read out premium rate voting telephone numbers...

  • Comment number 18.

    This is so indicative of our micromangement of everything everywhere. Peter I'm on your side, but I feel it should not need to be said. We seem to need rules and regulations that cushion the blow against everyone.

    Please take this as criticism of our 'system', rather than this blog.

    Reading out the URL would not assist deaf or hard of hearing viewers, as displaying it on screen doesn't aid those with viewing difficulties.

    Maybe you should also mention during phone in shows that people who can't talk should send an email instead, unless they can't write, then ask a friend. How far do you go?

    Are we to start commentating on snooker saying that the green ball (or it may be red if you suffer from colour perception problems) blah blah.

    A simple change in our state of mind is what is needed here. I agree that all public services should be seen to be accessible to everyone, irrespective of race, colour, creed, sexual preference, gender, physical ability etc., but come on BBC - a bit of common sense please.

    Something like 'further information on the story can be found on our website, available at' whilst displaying the URL on screen would suffice. Say it for those who have visual difficulties, and display it for those who have hearing difficulties, while the rest of us can take our pick. Easy

    I realise there are varying degrees of deafness and blindness, but how does a profoundly blind person use the internet. Excuse my ignorance, but how?

    It is those who do not have physical impairments that seem to cause the obstacles. We need to stop nit-picking on what is said and concentrate on what is meant.

  • Comment number 19.

    I am very tired of this repeated use of ridiculously high figures for those who are "disabled". I believe I am counted twice (being hard of hearing and having asthma) but I don't expect every channel of communication and every activity to adjust to my specific health status.

    The deaf use visual interfaces more; the blind use audio interfaces more. People who are actually blind don't make much use of URLs or email. Hearing induction loops; buzzers to indicate when pedestrian lights are green etc make sense, but let's not overdo it.

    Richard Sage

  • Comment number 20.

    Dear Peter

    "Eleven million adults are considered to have a disability" .... your use of statistics (the only point from which your argument seems to stem from) is poor.

    1. You have used a large sounding number to give weight to your view, yet this figure dose not represent blind people in the UK. You have instead incorporated a multitude of otherwise unconnected persons into a debate to make it sound more important. You could have just as well said blind people have heads and there are 60m people with heads in the UK so this reaction offends everyone.

    2. It would not matter if 100% or 0.00001% of the UK which were blind.... if it was offensive it would still be offensive regardless of the amount of people it offends. Again making the figures pointless

    The only argument you make outside of these misguided stats is that "The BBC has a commitment to help people with disabilities use our services" and while the BBC may have a commitment it is not an overriding one that should be perused beyond all reason. If that were so, then surely you must also ask your colleagues to fax a braille copy of the URLs, e-mail addresses and phone numbers to blind members of the audience for easier reference. You wont because that would be silly and impracticable.... I think a little like your original suggestion.

  • Comment number 21.

    I completely agree that URLs, phone numbers, addresses etc should be read out. I'm visually impaired and to be honest it annoys me when someone says 'the number's on the screen'. Why should I have to ask someone in the room to read it out for me?

    What harm can it do to make these things accessible for all, after all the details are printed on the screen for the hard of hearing, so why shouldn't others be catered for as well?


  • Comment number 22.

    How would a blind person be able to turn on a computer, open up a web browser find the navigation bar and type in or some other web address?

  • Comment number 23.

    this is going to sound insensitive, but what use is a url to a blind person? they wont be able to see the information anyway and surely the audio will only be of use on certain sites?

  • Comment number 24.

    Try reading out the URL for this page:

    I'd hazzard a guess it couldn't be read out once, stored, and then typed into a browser without mistakes.

    What about other sites like my favourite - no one is getting that correct.

    Leave things as they are please. URLs should be listed on the site, maybe on a page called "URLs shown on the TV today".

  • Comment number 25.

    Could there please be a definitive ruling on the difference in usage for 'slash' and 'stroke', so that the awkward Americanisms 'forwardslash' and 'backslash' can be avoided, ie 'slash' is back and 'stroke' is forward.

  • Comment number 26.

    I have no problem with reading out web addresses onscreen, but newsreaders shouldn't have to bother with the laborious "www", which triples the time it takes to say the address.

  • Comment number 27.

    I find the idea of reading out URLs impractical. Why waste program time detracting from actual program content by reading out potentially long URL’s when any visually impaired person can go to the main BBC website and using reader software follow the links from there? Though Mr Horrocks states the contrary, everyone can clearly get the information they want, BBC online news articles for example have far more links than provided with the onscreen news.

    I think the statistics provided by Mr Horrocks are also misleading - the percentage of BBC viewers with a disability is a complete irrelevance. The discussion was about people with visual impairments, why not furnish us with these figures? Did the relevant statistics not suit his point as conveniently?

    It needs to be remembered that the URLs are usually for supplemental information only and not for main content, and while accessibility is indeed a noble cause, making things less convenient for the overwhelming majority of people to make things slightly easy for a very small few is not sensible. I echo the point made by ‘atrisse’ earlier that the ultimate example of this is the sign language pop-up for hearing impaired viewers... why is this not optional, why must we all have this distraction, subtitles are optional after all?

    Even if URLs being read out does not eat into very much time, it will most likely encourage programs to not present a long URL or to give less of them, thus affecting ALL viewers negatively.

    I fear that the things are shaped by those who shout loudest, and that the quiet yet overwhelming majority should make our views heard too. While accessibility is a very good thing, it should not make media less viewable for a far larger portion of the audience. Speak up or the accessibility extremists will have their way – all to the detriment of almost everyone’s viewing experience!

  • Comment number 28.

    @atrisse: Spot on! With digital TV so much could have been done to enhance viewers' experiences. Start with the permanently-visible station ident that digital stations have. Why can't this be hidden once the viewer knows what the channel is? Then there's also the way continuity announcers talk over the end credits of programmes, ruining the music that a composer has written especially, and damaging the artistic integrity of the programme (one great thing about the iPlayer is that this doesn't happen). Unfortunately the only purposes of digital TV were (1) to allow most of the airwaves to be sold off to mobile phone companies; and (2) to squeeze in loads more more low-quality channels (I'm mainly referring to commercial ones here). There's no room for innovative features.

  • Comment number 29.

    I work in web design and we apply similar principles for accessibility.

    For example, we make hyperlinks to other content descriptive, as opposed to hyperlinks that say "click here". This makes the link purpose clear to visually impaired people using screen readers, as well as people who can't use a mouse (we tend to use the word "select" instead of "click" where actions need to be explained).

    Similarly, a significant percentage of the population is colour blind, so we don't use green and red colours to denote different meanings as this could lead to confusion.

    This isn't political correctness - simply awareness of the difficulties some people face and an attempt to include them. The trick, however, is to be able to do this without damaging the experience for users with no impairment.

  • Comment number 30.

    While its is a great addition to have a bulletin signed for the deaf and hard of hearing, does it need to be on the main channel, to the distraction of the non-disabled viewer? Can it be put behind the red button? Those requiring audio description can choose this setting themselves on their Sky digibox.

  • Comment number 31.

    After further thought i'd be interested to know where the figure of 21% comes from. What are the demographics for the "BBC News at Six on BBC One" ?

  • Comment number 32.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 33.

    'Erm... if a blind person can't see the URL on the tele then how are they to use a computer'

    VinChainSaw you are showing up some incredible ignorance there my friend. Just go and google your own question for 5 seconds and you will learn plenty of answers - maybe it is you who cannot 'see'?

    As for this debate. Nothing wrong with reading out root web addresses, takes no time at all. Don't make it 'law' though - they soon become very long indeed, check out the address bar on the page we are reading right now for instance...

    Can I also suggest saying [phonetic] 'treble doubleyou' rather than 'doubleyou doubleyou doubleyou' at the start, scans so much easier for the speaker amd listener.

  • Comment number 34.

    Re: VinChainSaw's comment regarding blind people using computers - There is a program called Jaws that a blind colleague of mine uses to interact with her PC. It is connected to a Braille output device which allows her to read whatever is on her screen. She performs the same kind of work on the IT help desk as her colleagues who are not blind.

    Please don't assume that just because someone is blind that they cannot use a computer or perform other tasks. Blind people can do anything but see.

    With regards to the general issue of reading web site addresses, phone numbers etc out rather than just referring viewers to what is on screen, I believe that this is justified as it allows visually impaired people access to the same information as sighted people. It could be argued that the BBC and other broadcasters are obliged to provide such a service as per their obligations under the Disability Discrimination Act.

  • Comment number 35.

    I think that's great. Whilst I do not suffer a visual impairment myself, such a minor change in phrasing and behaviour that costs nothing is a good thing and a smart move. it's quite concerning that people are so worried about being considerate to others that even an internal email will generate this level of media coverage and 'outrage'. Come on people. this will not affect your viewing negatively, costs nothing, and makes the BBC more accessible to all.

  • Comment number 36.

    I have a deaf friend who writes rhyming poetry and talks about how words sound. I personally do not "see" images in my head but I talk about my imagination, and when I write I try to paint pictures for others. "As you can see" obviously doesn't apply to blind people but I'll bet you any money you like plenty of blind people use that and similar phrases.
    Politically correct should not be an insult but it is because well meaning people go over the top. There is nothing insulting to a blind person in using a phrase that they all know is aimed at the majority of viewers. Now how about you getting your radio programmes better tuned to the needs of the deaf ...

  • Comment number 37.

    In answer to , VinChainSaw's comment about blind people not being able to use a computer - have you never heard of screenreaders and accessibility options on a PC?

  • Comment number 38.

    BigBigShug - he said 21% of the audience, not 21% of the working population. I am disabled and unable to work even part-time on a regular basis due to the adaptations I have to make - your comment would exclude me even though I watch the news when I can.

    Peter - a good idea, but you might have done well to be a little less vague/broad in your definition, particularly that only visually impaired people have trouble reading the TV screen - I know some very intelligent people who still have to make adaptations to be able to read.

  • Comment number 39.

    The irony is that it's never the disabled that complain. It's always some do-gooder on their behalf.

    If you really want to help people then try asking them what they want instead of using your own discretion and ending up in pickles such as this.

  • Comment number 40.

    Just for information, people can use assistive technologies on their computers to have web sites "read" to them or, in some cases, portions of the screen can be magnified to make them 'visible'.

    It is wrong to imagine that people with a variety of visual impairments cannot use computers or access the internet. Of course this means having the right technology available and websites themselves being truly accessible - but that is another story.

  • Comment number 41.

    Full marks to Peter for thinking about universal access to the information, but 1/10 for his approach. If you are going to enter a URL on a computer you most probably can read it on the BBC screen; you may not be able to hear it read out; perhaps people who have problems seeing the screen are in the BBC radio audience not its TV one; and when all is said and done, it always seems to me that the URLs are never displayed long enough for anyone to find a pen and paper and write them down.

    And while I'm at it, can we dispense with the pointless "forward slash" when URLs are read out - if you are sufficiently computer savvy to want to follow up a URL you know it is a forward slash.

  • Comment number 42.

    I'm staggered at the comments that blind people don't make much use of the TV, computers or email. What do they imagine they do all day? Weave baskets?

  • Comment number 43.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 44.

    For those (#12,#22) who don't think blind people can use the Internet: there are devices and software available for entering text and URLs using voice controls, there are screen magnifiers to zoom in on content, there are screen-readers to read the content of a page for people who can't see it at all.

    Plus,there are many people who are 'blind' enough to not be able to read a phone number as it flashes up on a screen across the room, but can see enough to use a monitor and keyboard right in front of them.

    Not to mention short sighted people who don't have their glasses on, people who are doing something else with the TV on in the background, and people (most of us) who remember things better when we hear them as well as seeing them.

  • Comment number 45.

    Peter, I'm with you completely on this one.

    What an indictment on our country that, once again, the majority appear more interested in assuming their roles as victims of PC-gone-mad than in showing some good old fashioned generosity of spirit.

    If this counts as political correctness - essentially common courtesy - then who could possibly oppose it other than the brainwashed cretins drip-fed a daily diet of reactionary spite from our country's appalling newspapers.

    Unfortunately I fear these selfish, spite-filled people now make up the majority of Britain.

  • Comment number 46.

    How would a blind person turn on a computer, open up a web browser, find the navigation bar and type in Easy, by pressing the power button and then using the keyboard - (start+i for the browser, ctrl+l for the navigation bar, for the URL). It's not rocket science.

  • Comment number 47.

    The ignorance of some of these comments astounds me.

    If you're visually impaired, you might be able to watch the news but not read text off the screen clearly. It's no trouble to have the URI read out to cater for that minority. As a dogmatic rule, it is perhaps silly, but as a guideline, what does it matter to a fully-sighted person like me?

    And the idea that blind people can't work a computer, despite there being special software for them, is very ignorant. There's some excellent screen reader software.

  • Comment number 48.

    re: reading out long URLs - how long does it take to say ? And didn't they always used to read out web addresses (which used to be really long) until fairly recently anyway?

  • Comment number 49.

    It is sad that so many people still think that anyone with a sight or hearing problem should be consigned to the back room.
    One thing that the television companies MUST do, is to improve the outdated and really awful subtitles for the hard of hearing. Out of synch, incredible mistranslation of the spoken words - (ink readable Miss Tran Slation of the broken Kurds).
    I must go now - my hearing aid is whistling - sorry to be a nuisance.

  • Comment number 50.

    What a lot of ignorance there is among the comments to this blog entry.

    To all those who say, " if blind people can use computers" - this is what screen readers are for. I am an RNIB I.T. volunteer and you would be amazed at the speed at which blind and partially-sighted people can navigate a web page. The rest of us wouldn't even be able to understand the reader at the speed it reads out the text!

    And to those who say, "The BBC spends enough on partially-sighted people", I would say this:

    The BBC's content for blind people comes nowhere near the amount of content for sighted people. Are you saying that because someone has a disability, their life should be made worse, or they should be entitled to less?

    Shame on all of you. I would not go so far as to say I wish you would experience blindness or deafness, but...

  • Comment number 51.

    For once I surprise myself, for although a fully paid up member of the anti-PC Party, I agree, in this case, it makes every kind of sense for news readers, etc., to spell out website addresses etc.. And, let's face it, hardly any time is wasted by doing it.

  • Comment number 52.

    meddc1 @ #29
    You have summed up my 'simplify' the way we do things, perfectly.

    This could be post #50, if I'm quick enough, but it goes to show how such a simple way of doing things can be blown so many times out of proportion.

    In essence, BBC, do the right thing, but there's no need to shout about it.

  • Comment number 53.

    ah - I didn't make it to #50 - guess a lot of opinion on this subject then

  • Comment number 54.

    Forgive me for my possible ignorance... but I have a question....

    How can blind people surf the internet anyway?

    If they can't read the URL on the page, how are they supposed to read the page once it had loaded?

  • Comment number 55.

    There are two million blind or partially sighted people living in the UK. Most are elderly and feel isolated from a society they once could see and interact with. Television provides many of them with a means of communication with the world and comfort, yet they would be cut off even from this by the small minded and the anti-pc brigade.
    Audio Description is one way to make the television accessible again, as it places an optional extra layer of commentary pictures are described and scenes verbalised for the viewer.
    Only 10% of a broadcasters total output has to be audio described, and this can include repeats. So anyone who claims the Blind and Partially Sighted have loads of stuff done for them already, have to check their facts first.
    I think this is a fantastic policy, and it saddens me that people have a problem with something that will really not affect them in any way but can help thousands.

    And for general information to the few unintelligent ones, there are many ways that computers can be made accessible to the blind and partially sighted, from screen resolutions to screen reading software.

    Sight loss can affect anyone, yet if people don't lose it they don't even think of how it affects others.

    And for the record I am a fully sighted twenty four year old who despairs at some of the outdated and discriminatory comments I read above.

  • Comment number 56.

    I agree that this is NOT "PC gone mad", but it IS a reflection that the BBC these days subordinates clear, efficient, intelligent communication of the news to "interactivity", advertising it's website and commercial activities, and other gimmicks.

    If the URL was important then it would make sense for the newsreader to labouriously read it out, even if this wastes time and muddles the viewing/listening experience for everybody. But it isn't important, so they shouldn't do it.

  • Comment number 57.

    Well said! Lots of elderly people, such as my mother, suffer from macular degeneration and can still enjoy the general picture but certainly can't read a subtitle and have no chance at all of any assisstive technology to help with their late-acquired disability. Reading out a url or phone number is therefore a big help!

    What would help me, on the other hand, would be if broadcasters could stop drowning out speech with background noise, whether music or anything else. For the under thirties, this is an unimaginable problem, but for those with older ears, the whole lot descends into unidentifiable noise, as frustrating as any other kind of interference. It nearly always happens just when there's a punch-line, joke or particularly tense bit of a programme!

    The only other point I'd make is that the frailties and general bits-falling-offness of increasing age are not actually disabilities, just normal states for all people as they get older. There's nothing new or political, correct or otherwise, about showing consideration for older people. It used to be normal!

  • Comment number 58.

    good point, but needs a bit more thinking through - not everyone has a sky digibox.

    Surely 'subtitle' technology could be used, as someone else suggested, to enable the user to switch on / off the 'signing'.

    You see Peter, you've started a blog on a subject which is obviously getting everyone talking. But this is a mountain being generated by the venerable mole.

    The more we legislate about what can or cannot be done, the more we have to counter-legislate to fill in the gaps.

    This is as bad as the 'we cannot photograph the police' on the CCTV blog.

  • Comment number 59.

    For those of you wondering how a blind person might use the internet, they might use:
    A screen reader that interprets the contents of the screen and reads it to them.
    A refreshable Braille display that interprets the contents of the screen and displays a section of it using moving dynamically raising dots.
    A braille keyboard.

    Reading a typical URL out loud on the news will only take a very short time. I'm really staggered that some sighted people are so offended by the suggestion.

    If simple gestures of consideration like this constitute political correctness then perhaps it is something to celebrate rather than begrudge.

  • Comment number 60.

    "Commentators, and one reported "BBC insider", have said: "This is political correctness gone mad." It is not."

    -Oh yes it is.

  • Comment number 61.

    Bringbackbison, Relaxedsteak, Vinchainsaw and others

    You can read all about the way that visually impaired people use the internet here

    Most blind people enjoy a full and interactive experience on the web

  • Comment number 62.

    I agree with much of what is being said, but I would like to make it clear that blind people can and do use the Internet using special readers. Works well.

  • Comment number 63.

    Just to put the 21% figure in perspective it is only one percent short of the vote that earned Blair his third term. Is that minor or not so minor?

  • Comment number 64.


    Honestly, you maintain a website but know nothing about web accessibility issues?

    That's quite shocking.

    You should read this:

    And it is NOTHING to do with "political correctness". It's about making your web content available to the widest number of users possible.

  • Comment number 65.

    PC? What a ridiculous slur - this is purely a practical measure and the BBC should be commended. Do people think they should only make improvements on the back of complaints?

  • Comment number 66.

    To all the people claiming that a URL would be useless to blind people; your ignorance is quite astounding. "Screen reader" programs that can read text printed on the screen have existed for decades. You can access the URL bar by typing CTRL+L. There are many ways to launch an application without being able to see.

    To the person who claimed that really long URLs would take ages to read: nobody uses really long URLs on TV anyway, they're usually short such as

    I think spelling out every URL would be excessive, and that only ambiguous, exotic and non-dictionary words should have to be spelled. For example "" is fine just being read; but "" / "" would benefit from clarification, as would any foreign words or personal / trademark names that cannot be looked up in a dictionary.

    More broadly, I think the BBC would benefit from a "tinyurl" like forwarding system - type in "" or "" and be forwarded to the longer URL.

  • Comment number 67.

    I can't say that I believe visually impaired people really care about this, even if the URL is read out, it is unlikely the website is that friendly to blind people.

    Aside from this as a seeing person I would like people to read out URLS and everything, as I am rarely looking at the screen when the tele is on.

    I used to love when the subtitles came on for hard of hearing, as they would commentate on what was happening on the screen, like "a steam train slowly pulls into a peaceful village station"

  • Comment number 68.

    I can't even comprehend how people can think that this is "political correctness gone mad". It must have been a very slow news day for those media outlets for took umbrage at it.

  • Comment number 69.

    When did we become such a nasty country that consideration for our fellow man/woman is now always labelled as 'PC'. Was it Thatcher or Blair - or maybe if the Telegraph tells you so then you believe it.

    Why do people exend so much venom on something that helps people? Next thing you will be telling me that someone who does good could have a derogratory term about them such as 'do gooder'.

  • Comment number 70.

    Re - low ATMs. Douglas333 you could try bending your knees - it isn't difficult. Much easier than fitting the necessary ramps for someone in a wheelchair to get to the ATM. I guess you disapprove of disabled parking spaces as well - let the b*ggers struggle eh, teach em a lessor for being born like that. Nice attitude.

  • Comment number 71.

    21% of the British working population is NOT disabled, as is blatantly obvious to anyone living in Britain, whatever official figures may claim. What counts as a disability? I've had back pain a few times in my life, does that make me disabled? I wear glasses, does that count?

  • Comment number 72.

    #7, aburro wrote:

    "The disabled being referred to here are presumably the blind/poorly sighted. The BBC provides huge amounts content suitable for them already, with huge subsidy by other TV licence-payers."

    Unless there is a good reason for doing otherwise, BBC output should be accessible by ALL of the particular audience.

    As someone with good vision and hearing, am I inconvenienced by having a URL read out? No.

    Ghetto-ising disabled and/or impaired individuals would be to pile unfairness upon misfortune.

    I am 'happy' to pay my licence fee in order to have the BBC provide a universal service; the fact that some is of no interest to me does not mean that I think it should not be produced.

  • Comment number 73.

    I cannot believe that basic equality and accessibility is being criticised as political correctness. Even as a non-disabled user I find this sort of attitude infuriating. It is the modern equivalent to eugenics.

    The BBC should ensure hat every web address and telephone number is both spoken and written and what would also be good is a bibliography web page with a simple list of mentioned web addresses list by day, channel, program. Currently if I need a reminder of something mentioned on a program I have to trawl the whole site and usually to o avail.

    Please BBC ignore the silly PC comments

  • Comment number 74.

    News readers have been told to read out URLS when referring to news stories on the web? Have you not seen how long some of the URLs are? Take Must a news reader really read that out?

    What's next? Will the news readers have to describe all of the on-screen images that go with each story so that the visually impaired get as much out of each story as those who can see? Has the term "as you can see" also been banned?

    I believe BBC Parliament comes under BBC News. Is the BBC considering employing somebody to tell the visually impaired which MP is speaking like they do on the radio in PMQs? How far is this going to go?

  • Comment number 75.

    On the whole, it's probably a good idea to read out web addresses. It doesn't take very long, and even those who have perfect sight might have small TVs with fuzzy reception.

    But please don't use totally phoney statistics to justify your position. 21% of your audience has a disability? Oh really? And what does that have to do with how many people are blind anyway? No doubt some of those 21% are deaf: how does reading out the web address help them?

    I assume you are using a pretty broad definition of disability, and one which has nothing whatever to do specifically with vision. Just to give you an idea of how broadly "disability" is defined, I myself am considered disabled by my credit card issuer. I discovered that the only way to avoid having to use one of those annoying little chip 'n' spin cards was to tell them I have a disability. My disability is nothing more serious than a dislike of excessive PINs to remember, but apparently it still counts as a fully fledged disability in 21st century Britain.

  • Comment number 76.

    This is clearly a simple and very sensible suggestion. No debate needed.

    I am of the opinion that this is more of a case of "this is people who say "this is political correctness gone mad" gone mad."

    Some uninlightened commentors have hinted that visually impaired people would not be able to type the web addresses. I am certain that this is nonesense and clearly there are braille keyboards and programs that read aloud text displayed on a computer.

  • Comment number 77.

    6. At 2:59pm on 19 Feb 2009, Jordan D wrote:
    This is frankly ridiculous. Where does the line get drawn and where do we stop?

    Welcome to Britain, a PC nation where it appears even those suspected of crimes against the British people can't be got rid of out of the country for reasons of "PC".


    Since when was it a crime to be disabled?

  • Comment number 78.

    You make a valid point. I totally agree. It's easy for those of us who can see to cause a fuss and complain, but we lost our sight I'm sure our opinion would swiftly change!

  • Comment number 79.

    This may be un-PC but given that television is a visual/audio interface and radio is a purely audio interface surely it must be the case that blind/visually impared people will listen to the radio? Television will become unworkable if every visual activity has to described by the narrator. I also agree with those who disagree with the % of disabled people in the country. These numbers must have been produced by the same people who fill-up supermarket car-parks with disabled spaces of which usually 2 or 3 are occupied while everyone else has to further to carry their bags.

  • Comment number 80.

    'I have no problem with reading out web addresses onscreen, but newsreaders shouldn't have to bother with the laborious "www", which triples the time it takes to say the address.'

    9 syllables is far too many, best replaced with hex-U which is the same as 3 double U's

  • Comment number 81.

    Surely, following your logic, the term 'viewer' is offensive also? I hear this all the time on the BBC.

  • Comment number 82.

    There is madness here. But its not on the part of the BBC. Its on the part of those who run around shouting "This is political correctness gone mad" whenever they get annoyed by something.

    To consider the facts.

    1. Reading out a URL is hardly going to annoy anyone? Is there anyone here who would be genuinely upset because a newsreader read out a URL or an on-screen message?

    2. Referring to fact one above - since it isn't going to kill anyone if a newsreader reads out an on-screen message then why not? I mean if it only helps two people and a dog in Kilmarnock its still helped someone and at no extra cost to anyone else.

    Why do we live in a culture where instead of asking why shouldn't we do something we ask why we should do it? Why not read out a message? Or am I missing something and there are a band of people out there who are now going to be inconvenienced by this measure?

    As for "political correctness gone mad". It may not be political correctness but its certainly a world gone mad when newspapers have to resort to this sort of cheap tactic to inflame "furious of Milton Keynes"? Because while we are all sat here debating this there are some really worthwhile issues out there that we should be getting mad about.

    And no this shouldn't be a blog. It shouldn't even be a news story in the first place. But in Britain in 2009 no doubt its one item ahead of war and famine on most people's agenda for the day.


  • Comment number 83.

    @#43 "Another example is the huge number of ATMs that have become virtually unusable by anyone over 5'8" because they've been placed at a ridiculously low level for midgets to use."

    GOOD!!! Now you know what us "midgets" have been going through since time immemorial! Actually I'm a wheelchair user, but the height is about the same. Oops sorry, I'm guessing from your attitude you'd understand me to be "confined to a wheelchair".

    As for reading out URL's etc, all power to you BBC! It's no more political correctness than providing ramps, or induction loops etc. Bravo!

  • Comment number 84.

    I'm not visually impaired, but I know enough about to computers to know screen reading software is available to read out documents on screen.

    The standards for web page construction even allow this to take place.

    Just because a medium is visual doesn't mean it can't be accessed by blind/visually impaired people.

  • Comment number 85.

    @ Post #46:

    "Easy, by pressing the power button and then using the keyboard ... It's not rocket science."

    You've got to be kidding me. More like:

    Turn on the PC - Easy enough.
    Enter password, login sound happens. Easy enough.
    Click icon to launch browser... Agh!

    If you know enough about your operating system, you'll know how to assign a shortcut key (when they work). If not... Well you're on your own really, I hear voice recognition can actually understand the words you say now...

  • Comment number 86.

    Broadcasters have let the disabled down when moving onto digital TV. I can fully understand the plight of the deaf who undoubtedly benefit by a sign language translator appearing to the right of our screens but why must the majority who aren't hard of hearing have this distraction. If I want subtitles, I call up that option - it isn't permanently on the screen. How come a sign language expert can't similarly be hidden until called up? If this can be done with Audio Description for the Blind why not the signer for the deaf?

    Come on BBC be the first PSB to bring this in to fruition!

  • Comment number 87.

    Would everyone who's commented please stop getting your knickers in a twist over this, accept that it's a minor change that's going to make a minor improvement to some people's lives and get on with your lives.

    Keep Calm and Carry On.

  • Comment number 88.

    Politically correct or not, does this really warrant such venom in opposition? Does reading out a URL really affect the non-blind/visually impaired so much in their viewing pleasure, that the impaired minority should suffer for it?

    Everyone, everyday does things a certain way because it's the best way to do it for the good of the greatest number of people.

    Anyone complaining about this needs to look at themselves first. What about this causes detriment to you? I would guess nothing, so your complaints are invalid, pointless and reflect worse on you, than on the BBC or Mr. Horrocks.

  • Comment number 89.

    This concern for minorities is all very well, but try being a member of a minority that the BBC disklikes - ie someone who has political views BBC staff disagree with - and suddenly the BBC's duty to be "accessable to all" goes out of the window.

    In such cases,the blind amongst the general public are actually treated exactly the same way as everyone else: information about minority views is simply denied them, or even false information supplied.

    Equal access to all is laudable, but if the news content itself is wrong, then what's the point?

  • Comment number 90.

    I rarely make two posts in the same thread but having read some of the replies which were "approved" following my first post I have to add this.

    This thread is supposed to be discussing one particular act. That of asking newsreaders (or presenters) to read out any on-screen messages. It however seems to have become a discussion about percentages and blind people and subtitles and all. Why?

    Again - who does it HURT if such messages are read out? Who suffers? Who is inconvenienced. And does it really matter if we are helping one person or one million when there is no counter-balance in terms of how many people we are hurting? So you help only one person. But you inconvenience no-one.

    Until someone comes up with a valid reason as to why reading out these messages will cause someone else real and viable inconvenience - all these discussions seem rather moot.


  • Comment number 91.

    Lots of comments on here about blind people who may or maynot be able to use computers are missing the point entirely.

    I only just need glasses for seeing stuff at a distance, so I don't always wear them when walking round the house. Quite often I have BBC News on in the background, and I certainly wouldn't be able to read a url from the other side of the lounge as I'm doing something else.

    We're not talking long urls here - from memory the BBC has some policy about having no more than two words after the anyway.

    Would just have thought it was logical to read them out!

  • Comment number 92.

    If you dont like it, the BBC also provides a significant number of alternatives at the tax payers expense. They are called radio stations.

  • Comment number 93.

    I wish the phrase 'PC gone mad' was banned. It serves no other purpose than to undermine any argument in which it is used.

  • Comment number 94.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 95.

    #69, PilgrimsProgress:

    "When did we become such a nasty country that consideration for our fellow man/woman is now always labelled as 'PC'"

    My sense is that the occasional well-intentioned but foolish instances of political correctness - often blown up or mischaracterised by the press - have brought on a huge backlash that is out of proportion to that which it criticizes. Stoked by the already anti-BBC media, and tapping into people's innate capacity for selfishness and bigotry, and combined with an overall cultural swing towards conservatism more generally - and it's no surprise that we're currently in the 'age of hate' and that the BBC is attacked for something as courteous as this.

    Why do people exend so much venom on something that helps people?

    Because they're desperate to paint themselves as victims of this great conspiracy of political correctness, and for the liberal BBC to be at the heart of that. They see the minorities receiving encouragement, attention, they see how it's openly acknowledged that they're often victims of actual discrimination, and they resent it and want a piece of the victimhood pie of their own. Hence endless front pages about PC-gone-mad, poor discriminated-against Christians, etc - yet very few about the actual racism, sexism, homophobia, etc that "PC" seeks (however clumsily) to remedy. Newspapers pandering to readers selfish instincts, that's all it is.

    Next thing you will be telling me that someone who does good could have a derogratory term about them such as 'do gooder'.

    Indeed. (see also: 'intellectual' and 'elitist' and their original meaning)
  • Comment number 96.

    Hi I'm partially sighted, I have no trouble watching TV usually but when something as detailed as writing comes on the screen I can't focus quick enough to read it, and unless I'm on top of the TV I can't read it at all so I applaud your decision to remind people to read out (any) written information that appears on the screen.

    And while we're on the subject of accessibility my mum constantly complains of background noise such as music being played while people are talking, she tells me they even do it on the news. I myself haven't owned a TV for years, I only watch the occasional program when visiting other people.

  • Comment number 97.

    You write:

    Commentators, and one reported "BBC insider", have said: "This is political correctness gone mad." It is not. This issue is not about avoiding causing offence.

    But that's exactly what "political correctness gone mad" is. It is a pejorative term for being aware and considerate of the needs of others. So yes it is "correct" to do what you have reported.

    It is also correct to listen to those, as mentioned above, who complain about intrusive music/sound effects making listening to what is said more difficult even for those with hearing is normal.

  • Comment number 98.

    In response to earlier comments, of course blind people can use the Internet. There's a vast range of assistive technology, including specialist screen reader software, to enable people to use a computer without looking at the screen. Blind people can even type on a keyboard you know!

  • Comment number 99.

    Regarding long URIs, it's easy enough for a member of the BBC web staff to create a shortcut URI to ease the process for all- quicker for the newsreader to say, quicker for the end user to type in to visit. The process of setting up a shortcut URI would take just a few seconds.

    Modern web standards are making web content more accessible for people with all kinds of disabilities, so why not make more use of web resources in offline media as a way for people to find out more about a subject they're interested in?

    I think a minor change that enhances the experience of many with minimal negative impact on others is an easy decision.

  • Comment number 100.

    there's also times when people who can see, can't see a tv, but can hear it, say if they're in a different room - it makes sense to both say and display web addresses etc.


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