The basic motivation for the launching of ADLAB is the need to define and create, in cooperation with industrial partners and service providers, a series of effective and reliable, practical and  educational guidelines, usable throughout Europe, for the practice of AD to make most audiovisual products (e.g. films, television programmes, documentaries, advertisements, but also such audiovisual phenomena as art galleries, museums, dance performances, city tours, live events) available to the blind and visually impaired community.

The number of people registered as blind or having low vision over Europe is large and likely to rise in the future as two major demographic trends impact on access to visual media: the increasing longevity of the European population with the consequent rise in age-related impairments, and the increasing expectancy of the baby-boomer generation, now entering old age. Access to service provision is a right, not a privilege. As the number of people needing varying degrees of assistance in gaining access to audiovisual material rises, the provision of audiodescription should evolve from being a pioneering, amateurish venture into a mainstream, professional service everywhere.

Over Europe, demand for access services such as audiodescription is very significant; those who ave used AD regarded it as ‘very helpful’ and a significant proportion of the population who has not used it is keen to try it, though only a small percentage are aware of the existence of AD. This is a gap that still needs to be filled.

Audiodescription fails to receive the attention it deserves at industry, government and educational level. The guidelines that exist in Europe are far from being homogeneous. Some are valid, at least locally, but others are controversial and not universally accepted, and in many areas there are no guidelines at all. In fact there is considerable variance in the stages reached in promoting access for the sight-impaired within the EU, and considerable imbalances.  At the same time, a burgeoning interest in audiovisual texts and in audiovisual translation has been observed, resulting in the provision of a number of courses at universities and other institutes of higher education. But there are practically no courses available at higher education level leading to major qualifications in audiodescription. These gaps at course level and in course design require close collaboration between academia, the audiovisual industry, service providers and policy-makers at government level.

What the project aims to do is precisely to pool existing competences and work towards a more standardized set of criteria that can be utilized across Europe, to fill in some of the many gaps that exist even in those countries that are further ahead in the provision of assistance, from an educational, practical and legislative point of view. In terms of the labour market, we are here confronted with a situation of skills mismatch, where the university and the training system are not yet providing the right level of skills in the right area.

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