Accessibility = enabling equal participation in society, culture and communication

You can watch my online lecture on accessibility below. The lecture was given in the online course “Introduction to Multimodality” (a joint initiative by the universities of Tampere and Helsinki). The lecture is a narrated PowerPoint presentation.


Here’s Professor Liisa Tiittula’s farewell lecture at University of Helsinki, in October 2018, on the same subject, accessibility in translation and interpreting:


Audio Description: An access service and intermodal translation

Audio description means:

  • the translation of images into words, sometimes involving collaboration between blind and sighted persons
  • an audible spoken track embedded in a film, video, TV program, audio guide, etc.
  • a descriptive text of visual information or representation
  • an assistive service and a tool for blind and visually impaired people – and for anyone who cannot or does not want to watch

Follow the links below to get more information and samples of audio description in Finland:

in English:

in Finnish:

  • Kuvailutulkkausnäyte dokumenttielokuvasta Salainen metsäni (näytteen litteraatti alla):

(Tuotantoyhtiö: Double Back Documentaries, 2017; kuvailutulkkaus Pipsa Toikka, kuvailutulkkauskonsultti Riikka Hänninen)

Kertoja: Epätarkka vihreys, valopilkut täyttävät kuvan. Hohtavien pilkkujen seasta hahmottuu ohuita, alastomia kuusenoksia,vailla neulasia. Pirjo ja lauri seisovat metsässä, kuusen juurakon edessä, maassa keltaisia lehtiä. Pirjo ojentaa pientä kirjaintaulua, johon lauri kohti katsomatta naputtaa.

Pirjo: Ihanaa olla metsässä.

Lauri: Metsässä.

Kertoja: Salainen metsäni.

Why study audio description?

Audio description, involving communication in language, images, speech and sound as well as people with distinct perceptual capacities, furnishes a wealth of research issues and touches upon various fields of research. All of them are, moreover, socially relevant as they are geared towards increasing knowledge of human communication and interaction. In fact, by looking at this phenomenon which might seem marginal at first sight – serving “only” the few hundred million blind people in the world – will prove fundamental and therefore massive in its very basic question:

  • How do people conceptualise and verbalise the non-verbal world, and therefore their ideas?
  • How are moving and static images being transformed into words by people from different linguistic and cultural backgrounds?
  • What can the descriptions and the act of describing reveal about cognition?
  • How can we reach a mutual understanding of something to which we have different perceptual access?

In this era of multimodal, audiovisual communication, translation is going beyond overcoming linguistic and cultural barriers and facing the issue of transforming information presented in one communication mode into another.