UK retailers urged to make their Christmas adverts accessible for people with sight loss

Post date: 
Friday, 13 November 2020

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

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.

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. With audio description added to adverts, blind and partially sighted consumers can enjoy and understand content through sound as it describes body language, expressions and movements which are otherwise lost to them. 

“Retailers that make their adverts more inclusive by adding audio description are opening themselves up to two million consumers that they would otherwise miss out on. This not only makes good business sense, but they are 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.

“We’ve contacted many of the largest retailers again this year, urging them not to exclude blind and partially sighted people from enjoying these much-loved launches. We are delighted that many have got back to us, including The John Lewis Partnership and Aldi, to confirm that they will make their adverts accessible, which is very promising. We are also encouraging retailers to make all their future adverts accessible and RNIB will be happy to support them on this journey.”

Claire Pointon, John Lewis Customer Director, said: “The John Lewis Partnership is committed to making its Christmas campaigns accessible to blind and partially sighted consumers. Over the years the premier of our Christmas advert has become a much-heralded TV and online viewing event that receives significant media attention. 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. We will continue to work with RNIB to ensure that our organisation continues to be accessible for blind and partially sighted consumers, whether they shop online or in-store.”

Richard Thornton, Communications Director at Aldi, said: “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. We look forward to continuing to work with the RNIB to meet the needs of our colleagues and customers.”

The UK has a flourishing industry of AD providers to aid retailers in becoming accessible. Adding AD is one of the most straightforward and reasonable assets to produce. For information and help on how to make advertising more inclusive by adding AD, please email [email protected]. Click here for more information on this access feature.

Notes to editors

All media enquiries to Gorki Duhra, PR Manager at RNIB, email [email protected] or call 020 7391 2320.

  • Audio description is additional commentary that explains what’s happening on screen to people with sight loss. It describes body language, expressions and movements, making the content clear through sound. AD is a secondary audio track that can be activated across all UK TV Platforms in the same way as subtitles.
  • Watch a showreel of an advert with audio description 
  • In 2017, Channel 4 partnered with RNIB, alongside five advertisers, to enable viewers for the first time to 'see' an ad break through the eyes of two million people living with sight loss in the UK. All five commercials during the ad break were repeated with AD. 

About RNIB

We are the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB). Every six minutes, someone in the UK begins to lose their sight. RNIB is taking a stand against exclusion, inequality and isolation to create a world without barriers where people with sight loss can lead full lives. A different world where society values blind and partially sighted people not for the disabilities they’ve overcome, but for the people they are. RNIB. See differently.