The Captioning Studio’s Mobile App Launch

The Playhouse, Canberra Theatre Centre

Tuesday 7 February 2012

I would like to acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we are meeting, and to pay my respects to their elders past and present.

Thank you Joy [Joy Burch, ACT Minister for the Arts and Minister Community Services] and I acknowledge your hard work in supporting people with disability and carers in the ACT.

I’d also like to recognise Shane Rattenbury, Speaker of the ACT Legislative Assembly as well as Dean Barton-Smith, Chair of the Australian Federation of Disability Organisations (AFDO).

And thank you to The Captioning Studio for having me here today to launch Go-Theatrical!

Minister Macklin is very sorry that she is unable to be here but she has asked me to convey her congratulations and thanks to you on your tremendous achievement.

If there is any need to explain why we should all be thrilled to be here this morning, it is surely best told by the people who have already experienced The Captioning Studio’s work.

Like Rosslyn Werner, a South Australian theatregoer with hearing impairment who said after seeing a GoTheatrical! captioned performance;

For the first time in years … I did not miss a single word of a performance …With the magic of captions, theatre came alive and accessible again.

Or the architect with hearing impairment, who had been to a conference:

I’m over the moon …this is the first time, believe it or not, that I’ve been in a room, a conference, a lecture theatre, a seminar, a workshop, and I’ve actually understood everything the speakers have said.

What fantastic endorsements.

And today we are taking it a step further, with The Captioning Studio’s latest development, enabling people who are deaf or hearing impaired to access live captions of theatre performances on smart phones and tablets.

Technology like this builds on the Australian Government’s commitment to ensure that all Australians can participate in our community.

That disability must not be a barrier to being included.

The ideal of an inclusive society is one we should all embrace.

But having an ideal is one thing.

We need the sorts of practical measures that we are launching today to make it happen.

That is why I am particularly pleased to be associated with fantastic developments like the Go-Theatrical! app.

It is why the Government has committed to funding, some $500,000, to improve access to cinemas for people who are visually or hearing impaired.

This will mean captions and audio description are available on 242 screens in cinemas around the country by the end of 2014.

Similarly, it is why we have provided $1 million for playback devices, DAISY players and audio navigators, to be made available for loan to people with print disability through public libraries across Australia.

The goal of effective, practical reform for people with disability has driven the historic reforms that marked last year as a watershed one for people with disability in our country.

Our government announced we would begin preparing for a National Disability Insurance Scheme.

This is a truly historic initiative.

The Prime Minister described it as a scheme that will stand alongside Medicare and the age pension as a fundamental strand of Australia’s social compact.

We committed immediately to lay the foundations for the new scheme.

The road ahead is long and complex.

But the NDIS will fundamentally change the way disability care and support is provided in Australia. It is a significant opportunity for all governments, present and future, to pursue major reform to the disability services sector and to improve the lives of thousands of Australians with disability, their families and carers.

This will finally end the cruel lottery that means the services people with disability get depend on where they live, what disability they have and how they got that disability.

The NDIS is the culmination of years of dedication and work by many, many people.

People like Nari Jennings, co-founder of The Captioning Studio, here today….who have a passion for achieving true access and inclusion for people with disability.

The new scheme is being introduced on the back of our National Disability Strategy which we launched early last year.

The Strategy is a ten year road map for practical reform.

A strategy that guide all levels of government to bring about change in mainstream services and programs as well as community infrastructure.

This kind of change is pivotal to giving people with disability the same opportunities as other Australians – a quality education, adequate health care, a job where possible, as well as access to buildings, transport and social activities.

The strategy is both about providing practical support, and about changing mainstream community attitudes.

So that no opportunities are closed to people with disability.

We put it in place after two years of consultations.

As the final report on those consultations noted, the clear picture to emerge was that people with disability may be present in the community, but most do not enjoy full participation in it.

Participants observed consistently that they should not require such extraordinary effort to live an ordinary life……to attend a conference, to catch public transport, to go on a holiday…..

And of course, enjoy a night out at the theatre!

I would like to thank and congratulate those theatre administrators and those theatre companies who have embraced the need to provide for people with disability.

Who realise it is such an easy thing to do.

Well, taking it up is easy. And the technology we are launching today will be remarkably easy to use.

It was not so easy to conceive, develop and implement! It took talent, it took research, it took acumen. Above all, it took will.

Nari Jennings had that will……

This morning would not be complete without paying tribute to Nari.

Acquainted with hearing loss through her own family, she was inspired to ensure people could share the joy of theatre after her first experience of opera at the age of 16.

An Aunt took her to La Boheme.

She determined to ensure that other people could share the unforgettable experience of that wonderful opera.

We all owe her our thanks and our gratitude, for her generosity and her talent.

Thanks to her, many people who would not otherwise be able to do so, will be able to share with their fellow Australians many wonderful nights at the theatre.

Thank you Nari.

It is entirely appropriate that the Australian Human Rights Commission recognised you and your team with the Human Rights Business Award last year.

I have much pleasure in launching Go-Theatrical! and asking Alex French from The Captioning Studio to tell us more about this exciting new technology.