Wednesday 12 January 2011


Graeme Innes AM, Disability Discrimination Commissioner


The following opinion pieces have been published by the President and Commissioners. Reproduction of the opinion pieces must include reference to where the opinion piece was originally published.

Lights, camera, action for the first time in my life

Author: Graeme Innes AM, Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission

Published in The Daily Telegraph, Wednesday, 12 January 2011, page 24

FOR THE first time in my 50 years of going to movies I can follow a complex action sequence -- and I've been blind since birth.

The introduction of audio-described movies means that my movie experience will never be as it was. I'll get all of the visuals described to me.

No longer will my long-suffering wife fill in audio gaps with whispered commentary. No longer will I select only "chick flicks" because there'll be enough speaking parts for me to follow the plot. Bring on the action heroes -- now I'll know what's going on.

After years of campaigning by disability organisations and the Australian Human Rights Commission, cinemas have embraced what the Disability Discrimination Act has been saying since its passage in 1993 -- substantive equality means that if you can't see the movie, you're entitled to be told what's happening via audio. And if you can't hear the movie, you're entitled to have the soundscape conveyed by captions.

Cinema executives and disability activists did a deal whereby both benefit. More customers will "see" and "hear" the movies -- and there will be more bums on cinema seats.

The audio description comes through one side of a set of headphones which you collect at the counter when you buy your ticket. The captions come on a small screen which you also collect and which sits in your cup-holder.

It started during these holidays in a few cinemas around the country. During the next three years it will be rolled out to more than 230 screens, in about 130 cinema complexes by the four major cinema chains. If you want to experience it, look on the website of your favourite cinema chain for the captioned and audio-described movies, or go to

I "saw" Tron: Legacy. Kevin Flynn, the head of a computer company, creates a virtual world in the form of a computer game, but things turn nasty when Tron and Clu -- his own creations -- trap him in this world after he directs them to develop the "perfect system". It's a world of light-cycles and solar sailors, sprinkled with virtual jokes to keep the geeks chuckling.

For the first time, I walked out of a movie being able to discuss it with my 13-year-old daughter with equal knowledge of what had taken place. I turned my head away so that she couldn't see the tears of joy in my eyes.

Graeme Innes AM is the Disability Discrimination Commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission