The ultimate game experience for blind World Cup fans

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Friday, 6 June 2014 09:40am

With the largest sporting event in the world, the FIFA World Cup, starting in Brazil on 12 June (13 June Australian time), with an estimated billion people expected to watch the final alone, there will also be millions of disabled football fans tuning in.

Audio description of live events on television is very rare, and most blind football fans will follow the World Cup via radio coverage where commentators give some visual description of the action.  However, for those blind and vision impaired ticket holders attending matches in Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia and Belo Horizonte, FIFA is offering special descriptive commentary via short-range radio inside the stadiums.

The service is coordinated by URECE, a Brazilian sports association for the blind and vision impaired in association with the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFÉ), a British not-for-profit that offers audio description in football stadiums on a regular basis.

According to Gabriel Mayr, project coordinator at URECE, the motivation to offer the service was inclusion. “Football in Brazil is a culture, and the visually impaired also need to have the option to live it in order to be part of it.” It is estimated there are 6.5 million vision impaired people in Brazil.

The service is being provided by 16 volunteers who will work in pairs to deliver the live description from the press boxes. The training was undertaken by an Austrian sportswriter, Martin Zwischenberger, who started describing football games a decade ago and is now an active member of CAFE. The specialist training focuses on conveying significant visual information such as scenery, action, clothing, colours, body language, facial expression and anything else that is important to conveying the image, venue, match, event or surrounding ambience. During the match, the commentator focuses on the action rather than talking about statistics or tactics, or providing lengthy summaries of previous action which is a common problem for blind viewers listening to the television coverage. The trainees practiced on local league matches in the stadium.

At the end of the World Cup, FIFA has said that the equipment will be donated to local organisations interested in keeping up the service.

The Hindustan Times (India) has also provided an article on volunteer audio casters training to take the World Cup to visually impaired fans.

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