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Over 25,000 people demand better access to subtitles and audio description on video on demand services

We’re thrilled that so many people signed our petition to tell the Government to make video on demand content accessible.

RNID and RNIB supporters and campaigners

RNID and RNIB launched a petition last year calling on the Government to compel broadcasters to provide consistent audio description (AD), subtitles and signing on video on demand (VOD) services.

We’re really pleased that the petition has been signed by 25,767 people who agree that more needs to be done to make these platforms accessible and inclusive for all.

Audio description, subtitles and signing are used by people who are blind, partially sighted, deaf, deafblind or people with hearing loss. There are 12 million people in the UK who are deaf or have hearing loss, and 350,000 people who are blind or partially sighted.

Major broadcasters are required to provide subtitles for up to 90% of programmes on linear TV, but there is currently no requirement for broadcasters to provide subtitles for on-demand services. The situation is similar for blind and partially sighted people who need on-screen action audio described through audio information provided between the dialogue.

Despite the rapid rise in popularity of video on demand services, with nearly half of UK adults considering these platforms their main way of watching TV and film content, the majority remain inaccessible to those living with sight and/or hearing loss due to the lack of access services. These include services like NOWTV, All4, ITV Hub, BBC iPlayer and Paramount Plus.

RNIB and RNID successfully campaigned to change the law to make on demand TV more accessible, which resulted in the Digital Economy Act 2017. This campaign win enabled the government to introduce minimum quotas for audio described, subtitled and signed content. But five years later, the law has still not been put into action, and on demand content often remains inaccessible.

Teri Devine, Associate Director for Inclusion at RNID, said:

“It’s shocking that more than five years after the Digital Economy Act passed, no action has been taken to improve accessibility for deaf people and people with hearing loss watching TV on demand.

“Subtitles enable people to be fully included, whether that’s watching a favourite programme with friends or family or catching up on popular shows in the workplace. Deaf people and people with hearing loss are sick of feeling left behind, and we urge the Government to put the Digital Economy Act regulations into action, and start the clock on subtitling, signing, and audio description quotas for TV on-demand.”

Charlotte Hyde

Charlotte Hyde, an RNID supporter and campaigner who is moderately deaf, said:

“When subtitles aren’t readily available, it makes me anxious. I shouldn’t have to feel this – things should just be there and ready. If you can broadcast a TV show live with subtitles, why can’t it be on-demand? It’s upsetting and frustrating that this continues to happen. 

“If subtitles were readily available on-demand, that would mean I could finally sit down and enjoy things with my family and I’m not having to move my schedule around to be able to watch something. I would be able to enjoy entertainment on the same level as my hearing peers. So, yes, let’s subtitle it!” 


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