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New service for vision impaired audiences

Broadcasting Minister Jonathan Coleman and Associate Disability Issues Minister Pansy Wong are today applauding funding for a new pilot service that allows people with impaired vision to follow television programmes more easily.

Broadcasting funding agency NZ On Air has confirmed $500,000 is to be made available for the first year.

Audio description is a special audio track built into broadcast programmes that describes the non verbal on-screen action in a programme alongside the normal soundtrack.

‘'This service is as important to vision impaired people as captioning services have been to people with hearing impairments,'' Dr Coleman says.


‘'The disability sector has been asking for this service for a long-time and it's a real step-change in providing improved television services for this audience".


Audio Description will be available through TVNZ's digital channels in 2011. Over 75,000 New Zealanders have a sight limitation that cannot be corrected by glasses or contact lenses and cannot clearly see what is happening on-screen.

"Being able to access and enjoy television is an important way for people to stay connected and informed,'' says Mrs Wong, who has delegated portfolio responsibility for access issues for disabled people.

‘'Also, what people see on television is an important part of social interaction. This is an example of the Government's commitment to addressing access barriers for disabled people.''

The Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand welcomed the announcement.

"We've been waiting many years for audio description", says National President Clive Lansink.


"Now the technology is finally here, it's fantastic that NZ On Air and TVNZ have been able to work together to develop this service. Television plays a huge part in people's lives and now it is possible for the television industry to include us more in their audience."


Updated on 23rd July 2015