Access Services Guidelines from ATVOD

The Authority for Television On Demand has published today the final version of its ¨Best Practice Guidelines¨ for access services (eg subtitles, audio description or signing) on video on demand services. The guidelines were finalised in partnership with industry via the ATVOD Industry Forum and with representatives of those with disabilities relating to sight and hearing.

Under AVMS, the UK regulations oblige the regulatory authority to encourage providers of on-demand programme services to ensure that ¨their services are progressively made more accessible to people with disabilities affecting their sight or hearing or both.”

A public consultation on access services took place in 2011. The resulting final document is a set of guidelines that are largely modelled on those defined by Ofcom for broadcasters.

The guidelines set out in detail the recommendations and tips for the best possible presentation of access services to viewers. They correctly state that ¨providing access services is of limited use if users do not know that they are there¨, and so there are recommendations to ensure that the presence of these services are adequately signalled to users, via on-screen mechanisms, via the EPG, and by liaising with user organisations.

As a minimum standard, ATVOD recommends that the commonly used ¨S¨ for subtitles is placed at the end of a programme description within an EPG. They say that ideally information on the presence of access services would also be ¨contained within the programme file / data stream, allowing the user to sort content on the basis of available access services¨.

ATVOD believes that the provision of on-demand programming offers new opportunities for making content accessible, as the lack of a schedule means that programmes with access services can be found and viewed at any time. But this may only be true when the EPG search and display functions have such a feature enabled, which is not necessarily the case in today´s existing services. The guidelines will be reviewed annually taking into account technology and other developments.