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National government hindering progress in television captioning, says Green Party

The Green Party is calling on the Government to honour the International Day of Persons with Disabilities by requiring the captioning of television.

This year, the theme of International Day of Persons with Disabilities is ‘Sustainable Development: The Promise of Technology’, which highlights the importance of assistive technology, including accessible information.

"The International Day is an opportunity to reflect on issues that affect surprisingly many New Zealanders. Almost one in four - or 1.1 million - New Zealanders live with some form of disability," says Nicky Wagner, Minister for Disability Issues.

"Technology is playing an increasing part in all aspects of our lives,” Wagner says. "Innovative use of technology can help support disabled people into work, for example screen readers can assist visually impaired employees and voice recognition software can help employees who are less able or unable to type.

However the Greens are focusing on television captioning and says the National government isn’t doing enough to help disabled people in this area.

There are 380,000 New Zealanders who are deaf or hearing impaired. New Zealand has no mandatory requirements for captioning, unlike many other countries.

“There are no technological barriers to implementing closed captioning on television, yet many people are missing out on access to current affairs, popular culture, and sports,” says Mojo Mathers, Green Party disability spokesperson.

“Without a regulatory requirement for captioning, New Zealand is lagging behind best practice overseas,” she says.

“On average only 25 percent of New Zealand television is captioned compared to 85 percent in Australia and 99 percent in the United Kingdom and United States of America. No on demand television is captioned in New Zealand”.

Mathers says high rates of captioning have only been achieved in countries which have rules which require broadcasters to be responsible for providing captioning.

“By continuing with an outdated public funding model for captioning, instead of bringing in regulations, the National Government is holding up progress in this area.

“It’s time for National to step up and embrace modern expectations around captioning levels, and stop leaving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community behind,” Mathers says.