The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) says that blind and partially sighted people are tired of waiting, and now is the time for Government to stick to their word in improving the accessibility of video on demand (VOD) services.
According to the Media Nations 2021 Report published by Ofcom in September last year, nearly half of UK adults consider VOD services, such as ITV Hub, BBC iPlayer, All4, Now TV and Disney+, their main way of watching TV and film content.
Despite their rise in popularity over the years, the majority of these services remain inaccessible to the 350,000 blind and partially sighted people living in the UK with many programmes not having audio description (AD) readily available to provide an inclusive experience for viewers with sight loss.
AD is a simple but effective tool that describes what is happening on screen and creates an accessible viewing experience for blind and partially sighted people watching a particular TV programme or film.
However, most services continue to remain inaccessible for people with sight loss and they continue to be excluded from the same experiences enjoyed by most of their sighted peers.
The Government have had the power to regulate VoD services and set minimum levels for audio described content. But nothing has changed in those four years and the law still needs to be put into action.
As a result, RNIB is calling on the public to join them in urging the Government to use this power and create an accessible and inclusive experience for blind and partially sighted people when it comes to using streaming services.
Reece Finnegan, 26, from London was born with the sight condition retinitis pigmentosa (RP). He has been registered blind since he was a young teenager. He said: “When audio description is done well, it genuinely transforms my viewing experience. Unfortunately, there are still so many shows that have no such option. As a result of this, I’ve found I have to avoid programmes I would otherwise love to watch simply because I know I won’t be able to understand what’s going on without AD.”
Sonali Rai, Broadcast and Audio Description Manager at RNIB, said: “Blind and partially sighted people are tired of waiting for improvements to be implemented that will enable them to enjoy all that streaming services have to offer. Time and time again we’ve had to wait for the Government to make changes so that audio description is readily available on a large scale on these platforms.
“Enough is enough – now is the time for the Government to stick to their promise and put procedures in place that will see provisions of AD improve and be more consistent. We call on the public to join us in our campaigning and to send the message to Government that the delays are not good enough by signing our petition.”
To sign RNIB’s petition, visit rnib.in/ADWE.