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BBC Opens Up iPlayer To Audio Description

The BBC’s hugely popular iPlayer software will now carry approximately 25 hours per week of the broadcaster’s audio described TV programmes, giving visually impaired users access to a range of well-known shows including ‘Dr Who’, ‘Little Britain’ and some children’s programmes.

Audio descriptions assist vision-impaired people by using gaps between dialogue to describe what is happening in a programme. Until now none of the BBC’s audio described output has been available on the iPlayer but there are now plans to make all such programmes available on the system over the next few months, storing them in a new category on the iPlayer site (
http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/categories/audiodescribed ).

Jonathan Hassell, head of audience experience and usability at the BBC, told E-Access Bulletin: “The whole point of iPlayer is to allow our audiences to consume our programmes however, wherever and whenever they want. So for us to leave blind people out of this revolution in how people watch TV would go against our fundamental aim to make our content and services available to all licence fee payers, regardless of their age, abilities or disabilities.”

The Royal National Institute of Blind People has described the move as “a major breakthrough and great leap forward for blind and partially sighted people”.

Earlier this month, the iPlayer also won the ACCESS-IT@Home award (
http://www.access-it-events.org/2009_access_it_awards.php )
for best ICT-based project, product or service that advances independent living for people with disabilities or the elderly.

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