TVNZ has launched a new service for vision impaired and blind audiences.
Audio Description – the visual equivalent of captioning for hearing impaired audiences – begins on March 1 with episodes of Coronation Street.
Audio description is an optional additional narrative, spoken by a neutral voice, which describes the on-screen action in between dialogue. It’s a service widely available in the UK and US.
It has been made technically possible in New Zealand by developments in TVNZ’s digital infrastructure, and financially possible with a pilot grant of $500,000 from New Zealand on Air.
At this stage the service is limited to Coronation Street, which was requested as the popular choice of the Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand.
At the end of a year the success of the service will be evaluated and, depending on available funding, it is expected it will be rolled out to cover more programmes.
Audio Description will be provided on the Freeview digital platform.
TVNZ’s Head of Production Services and Technology, Helen Clifton, says the new service is the result of many years of discussion with the blind community.
“We’re very proud that the technical developments in our digital broadcasting infrastructure have at last put us in a position to help. We’ve been providing captioning for those with hearing impairments for a long time, and we can now make television an experience to be really enjoyed for those with visual difficulties.”