Monday, 10 April 2017

Lack of on-demand subtitles leaving deaf and blind viewers behind

The lack of subtitles and audio description in on-demand programmes is leaving disabled viewers “further and further behind” according to Ofcom.

A report by the communications watchdog found that 68% of on-demand platforms didn’t provide any access services at all between April 2015 and March 2016.  And while 32% did provide some subtitling, only 6% offered audio description or signing.  Ofcom said the majority of providers who do provide subtitling do so only on their own website or mobile app.  Only 7% of providers made subtitles available on their services when viewed on a TV platform such as Sky, Virgin Media or YouView.

The report says there has been “little progress in spreading the availability of subtitles from websites to more conventional TV viewing platforms” or in making audio description available.  It also warns that “consumers with hearing and/or visual impairments are being left further and further behind, without access to content” and says the technical obstacles to providing access services are “not insurmountable”.

Ofcom will get new powers requiring on-demand broadcasters to make their programmes more accessible when the Digital Economy Bill is passed.

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