Below is a Media Release from Blind Citizens Australia.
- TONY SORRY ABBOTT
The thoughts are echoed by the people I work with at the Ethnic Disability Advocacy Centre here in Perth and the national advocacy group NEDA.
Mainstream media have largely ignored the comment ( available in transcript here ) and I’ve seen at least one reporter actually play it down in a comment on twitter.
Meanwhile Respected Canberra Journo Michelle GRATTAN has tweeted to the effect that he’s been let off the hook by media.
What do you think?
Can we believe his promises on Mental Health now we know what he really thinks about disability.
I wonder if he even knows that mental illness is a form of disability.
ABBOTT ‘OUT OF SIGHT’ ON CINEMA ACCESS
People who are blind have expressed outrage at Tony Abbott’s recent comments diminishing the importance of accessible cinemas for Australians who have a sensory disability.
The comments, made on Sunday to political commentator Laurie Oakes, implied that cinema access for people with sensory impairments was of a low priority.
Condemning Abbott’s comments was Ms Robyn Gaile, Blind Citizens Australia’s Executive Officer who said, “We are frustrated that Tony Abbott is diminishing the inherent dignity of people who are blind or vision impaired and deaf or hearing impaired with regard to one of the most taken for granted recreational pursuits enjoyed by citizens of Australia.
“We have had a long and hard fight for the basic right to enjoy cinema entertainment, just like anybody else. Minister Abbott is not restricted in the choices of entertainment he is able to enjoy and yet makes a disparaging off the cuff comment which could impact the ability of everyday Australians with a disability to enjoy the same freedom.
“We would expect that our leaders would respect the value of such a landmark decision to provide audio description in mainstream cinemas which advances the social inclusion of people who are blind. These comments are extraordinarily disappointing.”
Abbott’s comments referred to the recently reached agreement between disability peak bodies, including Blind Citizens Australia, lobby groups from the blind and deaf sectors, the four major cinema chains and the Parliamentary Secretary for Disabilities, Bill Shorten giving patrons with a sensory disability access to audio description and captioned content at 132 cinema complexes around Australia. Currently, only 0.3% of screenings are accessible to patrons who are blind or deaf. Audio description is a way to describe what can be seen on screen in a clear and private manner.
According to Screen Australia, Australian cinemas saw 85 million cinema admissions in 2007, with 67,000 people over the age of 14 enjoying a movie at least once in 2007. People with sensory disabilities have been largely left out of this market.
Cinema access is cited in Article 30 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities which states that individuals with a disability should have the same rights to participation in cultural life, recreation, leisure and sport. Australia is a signatory to this Convention and to its Optional Protocol.
Greg Madson, who is blind, is looking forward to the introduction of audio description in cinemas irrespective of Abbott’s comments. “I live in WA and can’t wait to get access to audio description. It is the difference of going to the movies with friends who are sighted and being able to watch and fully understand what is happening on the screen in front of me. This is a basic right as part of the UN Convention, but it’s also about me being able to independently enjoy a movie just like other cinemagoers.”
Blind Citizens Australia is the peak consumer representative organisation for Australians who are blind or vision impaired.
Media Contact: Jody Holdback 0407 808 269
National Policy Officer
Blind Citizens Australia
Ross House, Level 3, 247-251 Flinders Lane, Melbourne VIC 3000