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Swiss centre for barrier-free communication

The School of Applied Linguistics at the ZHAW, in collaboration with the University of Geneva, is in the process of establishing a Swiss centre for barrier-free communication.

The Swiss centre employs (computational) linguistic methods to support people with visual or hearing impairments and speakers with limited knowledge of the local language. The aim is to ensure barrier-free communication and make sources of information from all areas of life accessible to everybody. Prominent methods are audio description, respeaking, speech-to-text reporting and easy-to-read language.

Prominent methods in barrier-free communication

Barrier-free communication aims to remove language barriers and uses an array of different translation and text-editing methods in the process. For instance, audio description is used to transfer visual elements in spoken language, whereas respeaking and speech-to-text reporting are used to transform spoken into written language. In turn, easy-to-read language is a medium which is used to provide simpler, more comprehensible versions of complex texts. In the following, the afore-mentioned methods are described briefly, with some additional information.

Audio description


Speech-to-text reporting

Easy-to-read language

Aims of the Swiss Centre

Practice partners in the competence centre
Praxispartner für das Projekt «Schweizer Zentrum für Barrierefreie Kommunikation»

Certain services are already offered in practice. There is, however, a lack of sound research evidence for their benefits. Such research is required to standardise the approaches used and to ensure the provision of a high-quality service that meets the needs of users in respect of barrier-free communication.

The planned Swiss centre for barrier-free communication aims to address these research gaps. Thanks to the collaboration with service providers, as well as organisations and representatives of the target group, research and practice are brought closer together. In addition, standardised training programmes are being designed for audio description, respeaking, transfer to easy-to-read and other special forms of translation. The Swiss multilingual context and the transfer of spoken Swiss-German dialects into standard German play an integral role in the process of establishing the centre.

As a matter of course, these aims can only be achieved by a close collaboration with the target groups, their umbrella organisations as well as practice partners. Therefore, the centre is closely linked with multiple practice partners.



The centre is still in the process of being established. We welcome any questions and suggestions. Do you require a specific service in the domain of «Barrier-free Communication»? Do you want to establish contact with us as an affected person or as a practice partner? Please write an email with the subject line «Barrier-free Communication» to Professor Susanne Jekat.