Initially born, at least academically, as an area of Audiovisual Translation (AVT), Media Accessibility (MA) has been steadily growing into an area of Accessibility Studies and become a driver for major social change. A prominent reason behind this process can be identified in three shifts MA has been undergoing over the past few years: from particularist accounts to a universalist account of accessibility, from maker-centred to user-centred approaches, and from reactive to proactive models. Firstly, MA was framed for a long time as the subdomain of AVT concerned with specific modalities related to persons with sensory disabilities. More recently, scholars have been increasingly embracing a universalist account that challenges traditional notions of AVT/MA, and sees MA as the area of Accessibility Studies that focuses on “access to media and non-media objects, services and environments through media solutions, for any person who cannot or would not be able to, either partially or completely, access them in their original form” (Greco 2019, p. 18). Secondly, while ignored for years, the value of users as bearers of fundamental knowledge for the design and evaluation of access solutions has now become a cornerstone in MA. Reception studies chiefly dominate the area and this has had a considerable impact on AVT as well. Finally, long regarded as ex-post solutions, that is, relegated at the end of the production process of an artefact, MA modalities and services are now at the centre of practices that promote their full integration into that very process.
A major process connected to and influenced by the new position of MA is the change of focus from quantity to quality. For a long time, the efforts were focused on quantity, that is, on raising awareness and promoting the widespread adoption of access services. Yet, merely providing a service is necessary but not sufficient to guarantee access. True access entails quantity as well as quality of experience. The acknowledgement of that MA services can have an impact on the quality of experience of all, not only of some group of people, has been pushing the investigation of quality into new territories. Quality models initially developed with a top-down approach are now increasingly tested and re-evaluated through the involvement of users. An involvement that goes as far as to include them into the very design of MA services, which in turn poses new problems on the issue of quality.
However, quality is an inherently vague term. The difficulty in agreeing on what quality means is reflected into the lack of consensus regarding how quality should be approached. Yet, despite the complexity involved in specifying what constitutes quality, many people have to judge MA quality on a daily basis.
The second edition of the UMAQ conference seeks to explore the ways in which the different stakeholders involved in the MA/AVT value chain (such as researchers, industry, policy-makers and organisations of end-users) tackle the pressing and complex issue of quality.
The conference will be followed by a free multiplier event of the EASIT project on 18 September afternoon. Information about the multiplier event will be provided at a later stage.
Possible topics of interest
Within the context of Media Accessibility and Audiovisual Translation, possible topics of interest include, but are not limited to:
- Theoretical issues and the theoretical foundation of quality
- Quality issues in specific modalities: dubbing, respeaking, subtitling, audio description, etc.
- Quality in standards, guidelines and regulations
- The human factor in the definition and assessment of quality
- Quality in/and technology: machine translation, automatic subtitles, automatic audio description, clean audio, technologies for access services, etc.
- The role of MA/AVT stakeholders (industry, end-users, regulators, etc.) in the definition and evaluation of quality
- Quality issues in live events, museums, videogames, immersive environments, etc.
- Quality and reception studies
- Metrics for measuring quality
- One-size-fits-all approaches versus context-dependent approaches to quality
- Interdisciplinary approaches to quality
- Intersectionality in the definition and assessment of quality
- Pedagogical issues: quality in education and training, the role of education and training in current and future accounts of quality, the need for and role of new professional profiles and their potential impact on quality issues in AVT/MA
- Quality issues in relation to different end users’ groups: children, younger adults, the elderly, migrants, persons with disabilities, etc.
G. M. Greco (2019), Accessibility Studies: Abuses, Misuses and the Method of Poietic Design, in C. Stephanidis (ed.), HCII 2019, Lecture Notes in Computer Science, 11786, Cham: Springer, pp. 15–27.