Audio Description & Accessibility

How the Blind Audience Receive and Experience Audio Descriptions of Visual Events

A three-year interdisciplinary research project funded by FORTE (Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare)

Project members
Researchers: Jana Holsanova, Roger Johansson, Viveka Lyberg Åhlander. Aassistant: Erika Sombeck.

audio description; cognition; communication; visual, spatial and temporal properties of events; voice quality; understanding and enjoyment of film; sighted and blind audiences

About the project
The theoretical aim of the project is to gain a better understanding of the principles that underlie successful communication between the sighted and the blind via audio description (AD). The aim of a series of experiments is to identify similarities and differences in how the sighted and the blind understand, segment and experience visual, spatial as well as temporal properties of an event. The project also includes workshops with researchers, practitioners of AD, interest organizations and blind users of AD. The applied goal is to increase the quality of AD and to support the training of audio describers and AD practices, and ultimately facilitate the understanding and accessibility of visual information for the visually impaired.


  • Holsanova, J. (accepted): The cognitive perspective on audio description: Production and reception processes. In C. Taylor & E. Perego (eds), Handbook of audio description. Taylor &amp Francis.
  • Holsanova, J., Johansson, R., & Lyberg-Åhlander, V. (2020). How the blind audiences receive and experience audio descriptions of visual events – a project presentation. In Proceedings (extended abstracts) of 3rd Swiss conference on barrier-free communication (pp. 39-41).
  • Holsanova, J. (2020b). Uncovering scientific and multimodal literacy through audio description. Journal of Visual Literacy, Special Issue, 39(3). DOI: 10.1080/1051144X.2020.1826219
  • Holsanova, Jana (2020a): Att beskriva det som syns men inte hörs. Om syntolkning. Humanetten, 44, 125-146, DOI: 10.15626/hn.20204406
  • Holsanova, J. (2019): Bildbeskrivning för tillgänglighet. Myndigheten för tillgängliga medier, rapport no. 6.
  • Holsanova, J. (2016a). Cognitive approach to audio description. In A. Matamala, & P. Orero (eds.), Researching audio description: New approaches (pp. 49-73). Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Holsanova, J. (2016b): Kognitiva och kommunikativa aspekter av syntolkning. In J. Holsanova, C. Wadensjö & M. Andrén (eds.), Syntolkning – forskning och praktik. Lund University Cognitive Studies, 166. & Myndigheten för tillgängliga medier, rapport nr. 4 (pp. 17–27).
  • Holsanova, J., & Wadensjö, C. (2016). Syntolkning – forskning, tankar och visioner. In J. Holsanova, C. Wadensjö, & M. Andrén (eds.), Syntolkning – forskning och praktik. Lund University Cognitive Studies, 166. & Myndigheten för tillgängliga medier, rapport no. 4 (p. 13–15).
  • Holsanova, J., Wadensjö, C., & Andrén, M. (eds.) (2016). Syntolkning – forskning och praktik. Lund University Cognitive Studies, 166 & Myndigheten för tillgängliga medier, rapport no. 4.
  • Holsanova, J., Hildén, A., Salmson, M., & Kesen Tundell, V. (2015). Syntolkning och uppläst text. En studie om hur användarna vill ha det med riktlinjer för audiovisuella medier. Tundell & Salmson.

Thematic collaborative initiative: Audio description for accessible communication and social inclusion (ADACOM)

In our complex audio-visual world, it is important to make images, films and visual information accessible in order to make sure that people with visual impairment and blindness do not miss any important information and have the same opportunities to access the contents as the sighted. Audio description and image description offer better understanding and richer experience for the users and play an important role for inclusion.
The thematic collaborative initiative ADACOM is one of Lund University strategic efforts addressing central social challenges. To achieve this goal, interdisciplinary research efforts within academia, as well as collaboration with partners outside of academia is needed. The collaborative initiative is co-ordinated by Jana Holsanova, Associate Professor in Cognitive Science at Lund University.

Collaborative partners
The team of our collaborative initiative consists of both researchers and representatives from different government agencies, interest groups, educators and users:

  • Faculty of Humanities and Theology, Faculty of Social Sciences and Faculty of Medicine at Lund University, Sweden.
  • Swedish Agency for Accessible Media (Myndigheten för tillgängliga medier – MTM).
  • The National Agency for Special Needs Education and Schools (Specialpedagogiska Skolmyndigheten – SPSM).
  • Training in Audio Description at Fellingsbro folkhögskola, Region Örebro län.
  • The Swedish Association of the Visually Impaired (Synskades Riksförbund – SRF).
  • Youth with Visual Impairment Sweden (Riksorganisationen Unga med Synnedsättning – US).

We are creating a meeting place where researchers, professional audio describers, educators and users collaborate on research and development of audio description, image description and accessible communication.

Examples of our activities

  • We organise regular meet-ups where we discuss and update ourselves on issues related to audio description and image description.
  • Organise thematic workshops where we analyse audio described media products.
  • Identify knowledge gaps and needs from a research perspective, as well as educational and user perspectives.
  • Find funding opportunities for collaborative projects within R&D.
  • Engage in the public debate (in interviews and on social media).
  • Disseminate research results and contribute to research and development, e.g., by lectures for audio describers and educators at the training in audio description, popular lectures for the public, participation in seminars, panel discussions and presentations for institutions, agencies and interest groups.
  • Invite guests in order to broaden and deepen our competence in the collaborative initiative.
  • Plan a joint popular science publications.

International network
We have an international network of researchers and audio describers from the UK, Belgium, Finland, Spain, Italy, Poland, and Czech Republic. In addition, we are also in contact with representatives of ICEVI (The International Council for Education of People with Visual Impairment) and NOVIR (Nordic Visual Impairment Network in the field of education and rehabilitation). We also publish information about activities, projects and publications related to the initiative at the Media Accessibility Platform (MAPS).

Contact information
Co-ordinator: Assoc. Prof. Jana Holsanova, Ph.D., Dept. of Philosophy and Cognitive Science, Lund University, Sweden.
Telephone: +46 46-222 09 26
Email: jana.holsanovalucs.luse

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