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Curtin research finds audio description key to future of television viewing

Media release

A new Curtin University research project has revealed that the future of television may rest with audio descriptions, particularly for time-poor people who are battling competing demands with watching their favourite show.

The research project, ‘Changing the Channel on Audio Description: the Future of Accessible Mobile Digital Television’, is being launched tonight during Curtin’s Research Rumble.

Audio description is a track of narration that describes important visual elements of a television show or movie between lines of dialogue to provide access for audiences who are blind or vision impaired.

Australia is the only English-speaking nation in the OECD not to offer audio description on free-to-air television.

Project leader Associate Professor Katie Ellis, from the School of Media, Creative Arts and Social Inquiry at Curtin, said her research showed that in addition to the obvious audience of people with vision impairments, television fans, audio book users, film students and people with other types of disabilities could also benefit from audio description on television.

“Audio description would be attractive to people who are multi-tasking while they are watching television and has the potential to become another television accessibility feature that is embraced by the mainstream population, just as closed captions have been,” Associate Professor Ellis said.

“While captioning was first developed for people who are deaf and have hearing difficulties, now a significant portion of the audience use it to access television in noisy places or videos on social media when sound is not appropriate.

“Our research shows audio description may follow suit and in a world where people are increasingly busy and have competing demands, it stands to change the way we view television.”

Researchers investigated the availability of audio description in the Australian telecommunications industry, how consumers who could benefit from the service sought out information about it and the best methods for communicating information about the service to consumers and broadcasters.

The research project launch will be held at Curtin St Georges Terrace, located at 139 St Georges Terrace, tonight, from 5pm to 7pm. Further information can be found online here.

The research project was funded by a grant from the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).

Curtin’s Research Rumble is a series of events that promote the innovative research projects being undertaken at Curtin University, from March 24 to 27. For more information about Research Rumble, visit here: curtin.edu/researchrumble.