February 23, 2023

Different Faces of Accessibility: Different Roles of Audio Description

What is audio description (AD) and how is it a form of translation? The MS in Translation and Interpreting program invited Monika Zabrocka, assistant professor from the Chair for Translation Studies at the Jagiellonian University in Poland, to explore this question with NYU SPS students.

Monika kicked off her presentation with an experiential exercise: she asked students to watch a short movie extract with the visual layer removed and without AD. Then, the attendees could watch the same clip with AD; it helped them realize why accessibility provisions matter and what is the role that translators can play in filling this gap across media industries.

While legal mechanisms, such as the Americans with Disabilities Act, aim to combat accessibility discrimination, Monika stressed how good AD can transform the user experience for everyone, equitably. Making art accessible is essential to social change and the process’s crucial part is to recognize diverse preferences of visually impaired viewers, and to offer them a choice of the sort of accessibility which fits their tastes and expectations best. This reinforces how important it is to make both information and enjoyment a part of everyone’s user-end experience. 

Finally, Monika emphasized that AD can foster collaboration within the creative process and offered practical ways in which it can play a transformative role. Focusing on her research on the use of AD in work with children, both with and without visual impairment, she noted that AD can e.g., (1) enhance processing audiovisual messages by neurodiverse children, (2) enhance their understanding of emotions and motivations, (3) enhance children’s literacy by enriching their vocabulary, and (4) train children’s phonematic hearing. Students came away from the meeting with a broader comprehension of the different faces of accessibility.


 A translation and interpreting degree can help you to take charge of your career, whether you are new to the field or already working in the language professions. Apply for PALA’s MS in Translation & Interpreting, a fully online, 36-credit graduate program.

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