An evaluation of audiodescription as a means of encouraging autistic spectrum disorder audiences to access and engage with the complex emotions portrayed in audiovisual texts.
University of Surrey
Year of enrolment: 2014 -
Supervisor: Professor Sabine Braun
The proposed research project aims to establish whether the inclusion of explanatory audiodescription is an effective means of aiding accessibility to the emotional content of television and film texts in young audiences on the autistic disorder spectrum. Audiodescription (AD) is a secondary sound track added to film, television programmes and other art forms to facilitate access to visual semiotics for blind and partially-sighted audiences. However, since the description must be voiced during natural breaks in the soundtrack, this limits the availability of airtime in which to add supplementary explanation. The task of the audio describer is to select those elements most critical to the audience’s understanding of the work, and précis them into a scripted format for inclusion in the supplementary AD soundtrack. This expository process lends itself to adaptation for use by those affected by various cognitive impairments, including autism.
Commercial research commissioned in 2010 by the British Broadcasting Corporation’s Accessibility Unit concluded that audiodescription not only improved accessibility for the blind and partially-sighted audiences to which it was primarily directed, but also appeared advantageous to those on the autistic spectrum. The findings recommended further research to establish measurable impact and an optimal approach for harnessing audiodescription for this portion of the viewing public. In order to test the thesis, AD sub-texts will be appended to a series of audiovisual extracts, highlighting those narrative semiotic clues that serve to relay emotive content. Two separate sample audiences will be drawn from ASD individuals: one group will be exposed to the materials without AD and a second group will view the same materials with the inclusion of AD. Participants will then be interviewed to establish whether and to what extent those with access to AD were able to gain greater engagement with complex emotional markers, empathize with the protagonists and achieve a more impactful viewing experience.