Blind Citizens Australia calls for an accessible FOXTEL

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Thursday, 15 December 2011 11:22am

Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) has called on subscription TV provider FOXTEL to make its equipment and programming accessible for people who are blind or vision impaired.

Amanda Heal, a FOXTEL subscriber, has been in negotiations with the company for two years after lodging a disability discrimination complaint against it with the Australian Human Rights Commission. So far, however, FOXTEL has failed to commit to the development of an accessible IQ box with audio features such as talking menus and program guides, or the introduction of audio description on its programs.

“My choices are to continue to pay for a service which is only partly accessible to me or to miss out entirely,” said Ms Heal. “People should not be forced to take a matter to the Federal Court in order to access a basic service.”

Recent advances in text-to-speech technology have opened the way for digital receivers and other equipment to be made more accessible for the blind and vision impaired. Earlier this year, Bush Australia released its Talking Set Top Box, the first in the country to have talking menus and other on-screen information including program guides.

In the UK, FOXTEL’s counterpart BSkyB has developed a product called the Sky Talker, a small box which connects to Sky digital boxes and reads out program synopses and navigation functions such as play, pause and rewind. Sky also provides audio description on many programs.

Robyn Gaile, Executive Officer of BCA, said, “Whilst we appreciate that FOXTEL may be looking into these issues as part of their future development of their services, current subscribers who are blind or vision impaired are receiving a second class service which is discriminatory. “

BCA’s media release notes that it has been approached by six other individuals wanting to make disability discrimination complaints against FOXTEL and these will be lodged in early 2012.

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