Qatar Foundation plans a unique experience for the visually challenged by fully engaging them through the live audio description in English and Arabic of the opening and closing ceremonies of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.
A team from the Audiovisual Translation MA programme of QF's Hamad Bin Khalifa University’s (HBKU) College of Humanities and Social Science is working out the project.
Last year, the team participated by providing live audio description in Arabic for the FIFA Arab Cup Qatar 2021 opening ceremony. For the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, the team will utilise its expertise in Arabic and English in the opening and closing ceremonies of the upcoming tournament.
Nahwan al-Aswadi, a graduate of the Audiovisual Translation programme explained: “Taking great care to describe every detail, including images, colours and movement, so that we draw an integrated verbal picture that enables the vision impaired fans to imagine the whole scene. This is quite unlike the descriptive audio commentary on football matches that focuses on where the ball is on the pitch, or the players’ movement, fouls and goals.”
“It's like reading a graphic novel or listening to an audio book. It is an experience in which the description we offer is consonant with all the sounds in the stadium, – a speech, music or sound effects –, so that the audience can immerse themselves in the experience, and enjoy the event down to the smallest detail,” she continued.
Providing a description with such accuracy requires high skill and technique, such as voice concentration, its speed and consonance with other sounds in the stadium, as well as knowing when to stop so that the recipient may integrate the scene.
Al-Aswadi said that she was able to develop these skills during her master studies in the Audiovisual Translation programme at HBKU. She noted that this field teaches to translate all aspects of daily life to make them accessible to people of all abilities.
She added: “When we talk about accessibility, we are not talking about equality, instead we are talking about equity. We strive to create a space where everyone can be part of the event even if they don’t see it with their eyes. And, instead of relying on others to describe the event to them, we promote independence, allowing people to immerse in the event, to enjoy the experience by adapting it for their specific needs.”
Susan Abbas, also a graduate of the Audiovisual Translation programme, narrated her experience of being part of delivering audio description: "It opened my eyes to a different world. It makes me feel that I’m responsible to help people who really need help, and to share what I learned with them.
“People often think that humanitarian work is only in relation to wars or famines and poverty, but in fact it goes beyond that – it is broader and more comprehensive and includes all the segments of society”.
Dr Josélia Neves, professor and associate dean for Social Engagement and Access at HBKU, said that this service will not be limited to FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, but will constitute a lasting legacy for the future.
“By building the expertise of audiovisual translation students, we will have a significant base of experts in this field, who can contribute to providing accessibility to all live events, as are theatrical events, shows, or even conferences, among others,” Dr Neves noted.
This service is accompanied by an audio-descriptive commentary training programme hosted by HBKU’s Translation and Interpreting Institute, in partnership with the Centre for Access to Football in Europe. The programme aims to enable the blind and partially sighted to join their fellow fans in the stadiums as they watch each football game.
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