At the end of May this year, the ADLAB PRO Project hosted a focus group to gather feedback from a group comprising blind and partially sighted people on a selection of audio-visual material produced within the project. After watching five videos on a range of topics including social attitudes to blindness, touch tours in theatres and guiding blind people, the group was invited to comment on whether they felt they were fairly represented in these videos and evaluate the usefulness of the content.
According to the report on the focus group written by Louise Fryer of Utopian Voices who had moderated the session, even though the group did not shy away from giving critical feedback their comments were largely positive and, revealed potential users of ADLAB PRO materials that had not previously been considered, such as anyone concerned with advocacy for issues concerning people with sight loss. These included local blind societies, workers who are public-facing such as railway staff and even friends and family members of visually impaired people.
After watching the video on what information would be most helpful when guiding people with sight loss, one of the participants, who is in her mid-thirties and has had significant sight loss since birth, commented: “Just ask them what they [blind people] need, it’s not a big deal”.
In the report, Fryer also says, “the most positive aspect for ADLAB PRO was the unanimous interest expressed by participants for incorporating the videos into their own training programmes. This was a huge acclamation which demonstrates how well these videos fit not only with the aims of the project but beyond it into advocacy for people with sight loss and training for sighted people for guiding.”
The two-hour discussion organised at the London headquarters of the Royal National Institute of Blind People concluded with the researcher asking the focus group if the discussion had invoked further interest in exploring the rest of the ADLAB PRO materials.
The group genuinely seemed interested with several participants wanting to know what else was in the repository and how they could go about finding that information. One of the participants who has partial sight loss said that she was curious to find out what else did the course cover and if there was anything that she could use for her campaigns, “I think I'd be keen to know more, to see more other than the sight issues”.
One of the participants who works as a lobbyist at the RNIB asked if the videos were free to use and available for general public. “I liked it because for my work I do campaigning, and I go out and do talks to people. And just kind of change society's perceptions and there'll be times when you do have to provide training material and teach them. So, I work really closely with Transport for London and Transport for All to improve their customer service.”
Fryer confirmed that all materials in the ADLAB PRO Project have been produced under the Creative Commons licence so anyone can download and show them.
The 36-month project has been funded under the Erasmus+ which is the European Union Programme for education, training, youth and sport for the period 2014–2020, succeeding the previous Lifelong Learning Programme. During this period, the project team led by Elisa Perego, researcher and lecturer at the University of Trieste (Italy), in the Department of Legal, Language, Interpreting and Translation Studies, has created a substantial repository of flexible, didactic materials for training future audio describers (https://www.adlabpro.eu/coursematerials/).
The modular structure allows trainers to select modules that meet the requirements of the course and interests of those looking to enhance their skills in audio description. Broadly, the course comprises modules on production and delivery of the access feature that blind and partially sight people have come to rely on when for watching audio-visual content on-screen and live in theatres. In addition to the teaching materials, the course also comprises additional videos, which have been produced by the consortium that in addition to University of Trieste comprises seven partners including, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Universiteit Antwerpen, Uniwersytet im. Adama Mickiewicza w Poznaniu, Utopian Voices Ltd., Radiotelevizija Slovenija Javni Zavod Ljubljana, Soundfocus, and the Royal National Institute of the Blind.
Among the many areas covered in the additional videos, there are talking heads with existing and potential users of audio description talking of their experience of using the additional commentary across services. Whilst it is clear that progress over the past few years has resulted in the improvement in quality and provision of description, more work is needed to standardise its delivery and therefore, projects such as the ADLAB PRO are the perfect channels to drive that development.
The Erasmus+ project is a successor to another project, ADLAB, also coordinated by the University of Trieste, which focused entirely on the audio description of film for the blind and visually impaired community. It was acknowledged for its best practices and awarded the status of success story.