Martine and her guide dog stand by a bus shelter.

Martine Abel-Williamson is President of the World Blind Union and was an early adopter of audio description. To mark the tenth anniversary of AD in New Zealand, we sat down to hear Martine’s thoughts about the emergence and importance of audio description in Aotearoa.

Kia ora, Martine. Can you tell us a bit about your journey with audio description?

I began enjoying audio description in the late nineties. We realised that you could buy it on VHS video from overseas, and every six months or so, we’d make an international call, look at their catalogue, and order some tapes with Audio Description to come to NZ. Fortunately, then, Audio Description started in New Zealand on TV. We can’t do without it. I think it’s just amazing – we really enjoy New Zealand content, especially documentaries, as well as Country Calendar – and New Zealand series, like The Luminaries.

I also love audio described theatre – we’ve recently seen The Lion King and Galileo. We’d really love to see AD in movie theatres, though – there’s still work to be done in that space.

Do you remember the first time you experienced audio description?

The first movie I saw with audio description was Fatal Attraction. I saw it with my family when I was younger, but then later experienced it with audio description, and I was amazed at how much extra detail I received.

How does your role as the President of the World Blind Union shape your perspective of audio description?

We’re really watching this space, and I really see a huge range, globally, of countries that do have audio description on TV, and others that don’t and are waiting for it to happen in their countries. In 2019, the World Blind Union joined forces with the American Council of the Blind’s Audio Description Project to survey organizations around the world on the availability of audio description in their countries. The survey consisted of eleven questions, and users from 69 countries responded. The final report is now available here. In New Zealand, we’ve obviously grown since then in terms of AD availability on TV, but now that we have surveyed people worldwide, we can compare progress, trends and solutions. I think it’s great that we are where we are in New Zealand, really.

Next in the journal:

Text reads The Fold: Wendy Youens wants to make NZ's media accessible to all

The Fold: Duncan Greive & Wendy Youens

In celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day, Duncan Grieve interviewed Wendy Youens, our Chief Executive (CE), on The…

A picture of Lily McManus who has long brown hair, tanned skin, and wears a tank top.

Universal Design for Social Media: 3 ways to make your content more accessible

To ensure that you're welcoming everyone to access your content, here are some easy things you can do…

Decorative image

Dreaming of a fully inclusive society: From rugby to parenting to CEO in a wheelchair

“From playing sport to figuring out parenting in a wheelchair, “challenges come in various forms” when you’re disabled.”…

Dan Buckingham has brown hair and eyes, and a friendly smile. He sits against a purple background.

Introducing Able’s next Chief Executive

A change in leadership is coming up at Able. In May, the team will farewell CE Wendy Youens…

Advocacy & Captions: Nancy’s Story

"While living in northern Queensland with just my 8-year-old daughter, there was a cyclone approaching and normal TV…

A headshot of Pauline, a young woman with blonde hair

Pauline’s Story

"I hope that big powers keep learning from disabled people and prioritising us. I hope they see that…