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Mark Hunter

Mark Hunter and Andrew Sachs highlight need for more accessible TV for the visually impaired

February 26, 2009 5:36 PM

Mark Hunter MP, actor Andrew Sachs and Steve Winyard of RNIB calling for a target of 20% of TV programmes to have audio description

This week Mark Hunter MP met with widely respected actor, Andrew Sachs, and visually impaired "Aunt Megan" at a Parliamentary launch organised by the RNIB to call for increased Audio Description for the approximately 3,000 blind and partially sighted people living across the Cheadle constituency.

Audio Description (AD) is like a narrator telling a story, an additional TV commentary describes body language, expressions and movements that someone with sight loss would not be able to see, making the story clear through sound.

AD is available on digital TV, on DVD movies, in cinemas, galleries and museums as well as major sporting venues and exhibition centres. Currently the Communications Act (2003) only requires 10 per cent of television programmes to be audio described, thus limiting access, understanding and enjoyment of television. Mark Hunter and RNIB are calling for an increase in the amount of audio description (AD) from 10 to 20 per cent of programme and congratulate one UK broadcaster - Sky - who has already agreed to meet this target.

Speaking at the event Mark Hunter MP said; "TV is an important part of all of our lives - it's more than just another activity. For many blind and partially sighted people it's a gateway into the outside world, a source of information and in a many cases a genuine lifeline and companion. TV is a medium that could, if adequately audio described, contribute towards combating the isolation that visually impaired people face everyday.

"In this media-driven age it seems unbelievable that blind and partially sighted people are still excluded from television. As digital switchover gathers pace, the Government need to seriously commit to making television accessible to the UK's visually impaired population."

Andrew Sachs, Star of Fawlty Towers, lent his support to the campaign and added: "So much of what made Fawlty Towers enjoyable was not what was said, but was the physical comedy and interplay between characters. Audio description lets someone with sight loss really enjoy and appreciate the programme. It is wonderful to have such a creative way of bringing programmes to life for blind and partially sighted people and I support the call for a 20 per cent target."

"Aunt Megan" said; "Being visually impaired means you miss out on a lot of the silent action on television - whether that's a pickpocket at work in Oliver Twist or the crime scene in a TV "whodunit" - it's really important and makes all the difference"