Research Areas

1. Audio Description


Audio Description transfers the visual images and sound effects of feature films and other visual media into spoken language. Together with the original soundtrack, an audio described film or programme provides an additional narration track intended primarily for blind and visually impaired people.

In the German-speaking world, guidelines and methods for Audio Description of feature films do already exist; however, these vary, often in a contradictory fashion. For instance, Benecke (2014) argues that no interpretations should be made in film descriptions (e.g. “She looks angry”). Rather, descriptions should allow visually impaired consumers to interpret for themselves (e.g. “She shows her teeth and frowns”). By contrast, Fix (2005) argues that interpretation in film descriptions should be allowed.

Accessibility to documentaries and educational films for visually impaired students forms the core of this Research Area. To date, guidelines and methods can at best be only partially applied to Audio Description of documentary and educational films, or not at all.

The main objectives of Research Area 1 are therefore:

  • To compile a catalogue of requirements for Audio Description of documentary and educational films in collaboration with visually impaired people. Existing Audio Description guidelines for feature films in German will be tested against a) their applicability to documentary and educational films, and b) their transferability to other languages (French, Italian).
  • To analyse Audio Description software currently available as well as existing Audio Description methods for broadcast television. Recommendations will then be developed for use of Audio Description in higher education settings.
  • To provide research-driven data that will inform the design of training programmes in Audio Description. These data will also be integrated in the existing ZHAW MA module in “Barrier-free Communication”.
  • To develop recommendations for standardised services and evaluate commercially available services.


  • Benecke, Bernd. 2014. Audiodeskription als partielle Translation. Modell und Methode. Berlin: LIT.
  • Fix, Ulla, ed. 2005. Hörfilm. Bildkompensation durch Sprache. Berlin: Schmidt Verlag GmbH & Co.