Despite the incessant advocacy of an inclusive society and the growing need for accessible audiovisual (AV) products, the professional figures working in the field of audio description (AD) are still few, often untrained and not well defined. Furthermore, the provision of AD – i.e. verbal descriptions illustrating the visual elements of an AV product for the blind and visually impaired community – is uneven across Europe (ADLAB 2012, 2014). ADLAP PRO aims to fill this gap and it will define a curriculum for ensuring professional Europe-wide AD implementation in all cultural and media sectors through the creation of training materials to implement the new AD professional profile.
The project will revolve around six Intellectual Outputs (IOs), i.e., sets of activities with pre-defined objectives, dissemination and results. In particular, ADLAB PRO’s work will produce a comprehensive snapshot of the current AD training practices in Europe (IO1) and outline the AD professional profile, its required skills and its competences (IO2). The results of IO1 and IO2 will be disseminated via website, publication, presentation at conferences, and dedicated Multiplier Events, and feedback (coming from a varied range of stakeholders i.e. from the ‘horse’s mouth’) will be monitored and used to build subsequent activities. Crucially, the information gleaned will be used to delineate concrete training proposals based on different types of AD (TV, cinema, museums, live performance)(IO3). Then, based on IO3, training materials will be created (e.g. OERs, webinars, e-documents, recorded showcases, online tutorials, etc.) and made available as open deliverables of IO4. All IOs will be evaluated and tested (IO5) before more IOs are produced in order to monitor academic quality, real usefulness and adequate learning progress as well as to implement – as we go along – all feedback and improvements. The project will also look at the evaluation and accreditation of the educational components for both academic and vocational levels (IO6): ECTS/ECVETS will be attributed to each educational component to secure their quality, and also the project’s sustainability and resilience. In this way, learners and workers will see their knowledge, skills, competence and qualifications quickly and easily recognized, thus raising their skill levels and increasing their employability.
These activities will be carried out through the synergy of educational and non-educational partners ensuring that the profile meets multiple market needs and the curriculum designed to train future AD experts is efficient, flexible in implementation, and of high quality. The Higher Education Institution partners are the University of Trieste (acting as leader), the University of Antwerp, the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznan, all successfully involved in the project ADLAB (2011-2014). Non-academic partners, selected for their diversified expertise and complementarity, are four. Utopian Voices, a private UK company supplying high-quality AD, training, research and data analysis in the field of AVT. Soundfocus, an audio post-production studio specialized in media accessibility and responsible for all major AD projects in The Netherlands. RTV Slovenija, the national public radio and TV house that recently incorporated AD in its programming and strives to implement it, disseminating good practices also across the Balkan Regions. The Royal National Institute for the Blind, a renowned UK charity for the blind that will raise project awareness in a country where AD is long-established amongst sophisticated AD users and providers.
The training material produced by ADLAB PRO will be open, online and free, but also modular and fully customizable: it will be possible to use the modules all together as a comprehensive course, or separately in different constellations. This offers added value to the project (1) enabling anyone to access and be trained via this material, regardless of their professional or academic background; (2) offering its deliverables worldwide thus enabling EU’s know-how, access concepts and guidelines to be disseminated effortlessly across the globe; and (3) securing resilience, since the online material will have validity for many years. Since media accessibility and AD are still unknown to many countries, the curriculum and the training material produced by ADLAB PRO may seem dated in regions where accessibility and AD are well under way (UK, USA), but will be cutting edge for others (Myanmar, Balkan regions, etc.).