Australian policy and legislation

Leading US accessibility advocate speaks at Sydney conference

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Karen Peltz Strauss, one of the principle architects of accessibility legislation in the US, spoke today at the M-Enabling Conference about the decades-long efforts to make telecommunications, television and, more recently, the internet accessible for people with disabilities.

Peltz Strauss, who is currently Deputy Bureau Chief of the Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), has been involved in this field for 30 years. In her presentation, she explained that legislation always struggles to keep up with technology. For example, an amendment to the Telecommunications for the Disabled Act in 1988 ensured that all telephones would be accessible to people with disabilities – with the exception of wireless phones.


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ACMA rules on captioning breaches by Nine and Seven

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The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) has completed two investigations following complaints about captioning on programs broadcast by the Nine and Seven networks. In both cases, it found that the networks were in breach of captioning obligations, but has disregarded the breaches because they were caused by technical difficulties that could not reasonably have been foreseen.

The complaint against the Nine network related to an episode of The Big Bang Theory broadcast on TCN and GTV on 9 January 2013 in which the captions were intermittent. In submissions to the ACMA, Nine stated that the program had originally been captioned to tape in 2009, and there was a compatibility problem with these captions and the file-based system now used at its National Playout Centre.


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Greens crowdsource map of physical access barriers

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A new app has been developed by the Australian Greens which gathers information on physical accessibility barriers from the public. The app allows people to identify access trouble spots, such as a building without ramps, or a traffic light without audible signals. The information collected by the app will be used by government to inform future policy.

Led by Australian Greens disability issues spokesperson Senator Rachel Siewert, the app creates a direct line between people with disability and the people in parliament who can help improve physical access policy. When a user submits an access issue, an email is sent to Senator Siewert, who will then compile a report for other disability policy makers.

The app, available in iPhone, iPad and Android versions, was tested by our digital media team, with pleasing results. Both the versions are accessible to people using their devices with assistive technology.


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Lack of audio description a breach of human rights

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Blind Citizens Australia (BCA) yesterday lodged 21 disability discrimination complaints against the Federal Government and the ABC for failing to provide an audio description service on television.

Audio description is the descriptive narration of a TV program or other media, making them accessible for the blind and vision impaired. It was successfully trailed on ABC1 between August and November last year, with 14 hours of programs broadcast with audio description each week for 13 weeks. After its completion, the then Minister for Broadband, Communications and the Digital Economy, Senator Stephen Conroy, said, “It’s clear that audio description is a service that is strongly desired by the vision impaired community and the trial was embraced with real enthusiasm by participants.”


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