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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 March 2008, 04:33 GMT
TV 'is important to blind people'
Woman watching television
Television can help with social interaction for the visually impaired
Television can play a pivotal role in the lives of millions of people with sight problems, according to the Royal National Institute of Blind People.

Research suggests that most of the 2m people with sight problems in Britain spend time watching television for relaxation and entertainment.

The RNIB is encouraging people with sight problems to use the free Audio Description (AD) service on digital TV.

This is a commentary describing body language, expressions and movements.

The research, by the University of Nottingham, found that more than half of those interviewed said they watched dramas and factual programmes.

And nearly three-quarters watched TV for five hours or more each week, with 86% saying they would watch more if there were more of the AD service available.

Audio Description is a digital TV service available on Sky, Virgin Media and certain FreeView boxes.

Richard Orme, head of accessibility at RNIB, said: "TV is often criticised as bad for you, but it brings us together - and joining in with our mates can depend more on knowing about the latest drama or soap, than on the latest international crisis.

"Many of the nation's favourite TV moments have never been fully enjoyed by the UK's blind and partially sighted population.

"AD is changing this. As well as giving people with sight problems access to the nation's favourite entertainment and drama programmes, it can transform their relationship with the world around them."

Calls for increase

David Blunkett MP, who is visually impaired and is backing the campaign, said: "I know from my own experience that people with sight problems often feel isolated and frustrated with predominantly visual entertainment and culture.

"Increasing the number of TV programmes with Audio Description is a very simple way we can improve the lives of blind and partially-sighted people throughout the UK."

According to the RNIB, only 13% of current programming is audio described, of which 85% are repeats.

RNIB is calling for the nation's broadcasters to increase the number and quality of programmes which feature the service, from 10% to 20%.

The University of Nottingham's survey consisted of two focus groups with a total of 13 blind and partially sighted participants, and a telephone survey of 172 participants.

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