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RNIB urges Christmas advertisers not to ignore millions of viewers with sight loss

The Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) is urging the UK’s biggest retailers to make their Christmas TV adverts accessible for blind and partially sighted people.

It says that almost two million people with sight loss are potentially excluded from some, or all, of these festive adverts because they aren’t produced with audio description (AD) which makes the content accessible.

The charity has been proactively pushing retailers to make their much-anticipated Christmas campaigns AD-enabled, and these calls have been heeded in the new commercials from John Lewis and Aldi.

What issues do the blind and partially sighted face?

  • The RNIB has stepped in to address deficiencies in many marketing messages which fail to cater for all audiences, prioritising visual spectacle over all else.

  • This currently affects aound 2 million people in the UK with some form of sight loss, preventing them from fully experiencing many festive ads through an absence of audio description.

  • David Clarke, RNIB director of services, said: “Christmas TV adverts have become an essential part of the UK’s festive culture and we believe that everyone should be able to take part in the conversation around them, regardless of how much they see.

  • “This not only makes good business sense, but audio description is also easy to produce at a tiny fraction of the budget most brands spend on Christmas marketing anyway. It is also the right thing to do to make everyone feel included."

What reception has the campaign had?

  • The RNIB has contacted retailers directly to raise awareness of the issue, with the John Lewis Partnership and Aldi among those to respond positively to the request.

  • John Lewis has form in supporting the blind and partially sighted, having incorporated audio description in last year's Edgar the Dragon commercial.

  • Explaining this enthusiasm, Claire Pointon, John Lewis customer director, said: “We are delighted to confirm that our advert will have audio description so that consumers with sight loss don’t miss out on the fun when it is premiered."

  • Lending further weight to the campaign Richard Thornton, communications director at Aldi added: “We’ve been working closely with the RNIB to look at a number of initiatives across our business and we’re really pleased that we have been able to incorporate audio description into our main Christmas advert."