Graeme Innes’s greatest media access hits

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Friday, 4 July 2014 09:33am

With Graeme Innes finishing up in his role as Disability Discrimination Commissioner today, Media Access Australia takes the opportunity to look back at some of his greatest achievements in improving access to media for people with disabilities.

Innes, who has been blind since birth, completed a law degree in 1977. He was a hearing commissioner with the then Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission from 1994 to 2001, Deputy Disability Discrimination Commissioner from 1999 to 2005, and has been Disability Discrimination Commissioner since 2005. He contributed to the drafting of the United Nations’ ‘Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities’, and was an advisor during the development of the National Disability Strategy. In 2013, as a private individual, he took RailCorp to court for not providing announcements on NSW trains, winning the case and $10,000 in damages.

During his time with the Australian Human Rights Commission, Innes played key roles in many initiatives which have led to greater access to the media for people with disabilities.

  • He led the negotiations which saw the introduction of captioning on subscription television in 2004, and rising quotas for captioning on free-to-air channels between 2005 and 2012.
  • He played a similar role in the round table discussions about DVD accessibility which commenced in 2006. These soon resulted in DVD distributors importing audio description files from overseas when available, and including them on local releases. By 2012, Australia had the highest levels of audio description on DVDs in the world.
  • Innes has also campaigned for the introduction of a regular audio description service on television, following the trial of it which took place on ABC1 in 2012.
  • After a Perth man, John Byrne, lodged a discrimination complaint in 1999 about the lack of captioning in cinemas, Innes led discussions with the industry which resulted in over 115 cinemas across Australia now screening captioned movies. He was also involved in the roll-out of audio description in mainstream cinemas.
  • Innes was instrumental in Qantas introducing accessible tablets on its planes.

In 2012, Innes officially launched Media Access Australia’s web accessibility initiative, Access iQ. “Working alongside Graeme has always been easy,” said Media Access Australia’s CEO, Alex Varley. “He shares the passion for access to media but grounded in practical reality. He is always first to praise progress as the best way to achieve more. I know that although his time at the Commission has ended, he will still be there pushing and applauding each step of the way.”

Although he is leaving the AHRC, in his farewell speech to the National Press Club on Wednesday, 2 July, Innes said, “I still have the passion and the stomach to advocate for the rights of people with disabilities. And I will continue to do so in other roles.”

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