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Methods in barrier-free communication

In the "Proposal and Implementation of a Swiss Research Centre for Barrier-free Communication" project at the ZHAW, we are developing the BfC methods listed below. For each method, we give a brief overview of the projects and provide a list of more information and materials for you.

Audio description and audio introduction

Audio description aims to make visual media more accessible to blind people and people with visual impairments: films, images and other visual content are translated into oral descriptions.

An audio introduction can be made available to viewers in text format (audio file or text-to-speech system format) before they watch a film. This is appropriate when a film contains, for example, a great deal of speech. Project tests have shown that students who receive an audio introduction before watching an educational film process the content of the film better than students who do not.

Speech-to-text interpreting: Live subtitling for people with a hearing impairment

There are two main methods of translating live speech into written language for people with a hearing impairment who have little or no knowledge of sign language. These are respeaking (speech-to-text interpreting with speech recognition, i.e. dictation systems), and traditional speech-to-text interpreting, in which the spoken text is typed into a computer and written text produced.

Speech-to-text interpreting can be used in a number of situations: lectures, discussions, live programmes on TV or in teaching in schools or universities. In these situations, it is not known in advance exactly what will be said, so it is not possible to produce subtitles beforehand.

Easy-to-read language, plain language and citizen-oriented language

Technical texts, information brochures, booklets, as well as everyday texts, are translated into language that is simple to understand.

Sign language and sign language interpreting

Sign languages are fully developed functional languages expressed via the visual-manual modality. They are the normal means of linguistic expression for the deaf. Sign languages and sign language interpreting allow deaf people to participate in the world around them via language, and allow them access to educational qualifications. However, there are still not enough sign language interpreters and teaching staff who can use sign language as the language of instruction. This is why very few people who are deaf or suffer from hearing loss are studying at universities.

Community interpreting and interpreting in simplified language

Community interpreting, i.e. interpreting for the authorities, in courts or in hospitals, is particularly important in overcoming barriers to understanding, especially in multilingual communication with migrants.

Existing guidelines for easy-to-read language have been conceived for producing written rather than spoken texts. Nevertheless, isolated attempts have been made in practice to interpret into easy-to-read language. No research has yet been done into whether this type of language interpreting can help people with temporary cognitive impairments or migrants with little knowledge of the local language to understand lectures or discussions.