In celebration of World Sight Day, we’ve collaborated with TVNZ and South Pacific Pictures to shine a spotlight on the invaluable free audio description services accessible to all. We’re thrilled to announce our partnership with the exceptional actor and comedian, Karen O’Leary, who is lending her talents to provide audio description for Shortland Street, set to air on Thursday, October 13th.

On raising awareness for World Sight Day, Karen O’Leary says: “I jumped at the chance to be able to have a greater understanding of how audio description happens and experience it first-hand under the guidance of the amazing Able team. It’s an exciting way to celebrate World Sight Day with the blind and low vision community, as well as raise awareness among the wider community that this service is available.”

Audio description (AD) provides access to New Zealanders who are blind or who have low vision. An alternate audio track, AD provides a description of what’s happening on screen for the 180,000+ New Zealanders who are blind or have low vision.

Able CE Dan Buckingham says, “Audio description provides such a fantastic added layer to storytelling and information sharing. It enriches the programming our local producers pour their heart and soul into, making it accessible for those in our community who are blind, deaf-blind or low vision. Yet, far too few people know about it. It feels very much on point that we’re partnering with TVNZ and South Pacific Pictures for this unique event as we seek to increase awareness about the service that’s free and available on TV. Shortland Street reflects who we are as Kiwis back to us on screen, and we’re proud to have been making this iconic show accessible by providing audio description and captions for more than a decade.”  

“I’m absolutely passionate about TV. The way it tells stories about people and culture – it takes people on a journey. I want to help everyone to have access to the stories TV tells, it means so much to be able to support this community and help strengthen accessibility in media,” Karen continues.

“We are deeply supportive of the work Able does in making content more inclusive and accessible for Kiwis,” says Nevak Rogers, Deputy Content Director – Local and Commissioning at TVNZ.  “A partnership between Shortland Street, Able and TVNZ for World Sight Day is a strong and natural collaboration, and one we are proud to be part of.”

As New Zealand’s leading media accessibility organisation, we create audio description for New Zealand TV and media. We have been providing audio description for Aotearoa since 2011, and have grown the service exponentially over time, with a 148% increase over the past two years. Currently, approximately 30% of possible content is audio described on TVNZ’s channels, including all Shortland Street episodes, with 7% of New Zealanders watching TV with audio description.

Comedian Sam Smith says about the impact of AD: “In 2017, I got diagnosed with MS. I lost all the feeling in my hands, and so couldn’t do dentistry anymore. I could still do comedy, so I started to do that more and more. A couple of years later, I had an MS attack and lost vision in my left eye, and part of my right eye. Audio description is amazing. Media accessibility means that we can all have access to the same information at the same time. You don’t think about it until someone points it out to you.”

At Able, we have a skilled team of audio describers who work to enhance audio-visual media through audio description. The team scripts, voices, and records descriptions to reflect what’s happening on screen for each unique piece of content. AD is typically placed during natural pauses in the audio, integrating with the score and dialogue of the media.

Dan Buckingham continues, “Our aspiration at Able is to support accessibility on a broader range of channels and digital platforms, to provide viewers with freedom and choice when accessing the news, entertainment, and culture of the nation. This is something we are constantly working towards and striving for.” 

Instructions on how to access audio description are here:  

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