When we read or watch media content we usually do not consider whether everyone can consume this information on an equal basis. The European Union funded project ‘Equal Access for All’, which is implemented by the organisations ‘Ja bih u EU’ and ‘ICVA’, gathered people who are blind, deaf and those with visual or hearing impairments as well as media representatives to attend a four-day training held in Banja Luka. The main topics of the training were the latest techniques and modules for adapting television programmes and web content and cooperation between associations and the media on adapting content.
As part of the project and in order to facilitate the adaptation and creation of media content, it is planned to establish cooperation between the media and the associations for the blind, deaf and persons with visual or hearing impairment.
The percentage of custom content in Bosnia and Herzegovina is among the lowest in Europe and these statistics will have to change if the country is to progress toward the European Union. In addition to the lack of content adapted for people with disabilities, there is also the problem of a lack of professional staff in this area. Coaches Samra Lučkin, Amer Sikira, Mišo Čirko, Jasminka Proho and Vehid Hajduković advised the media on the most economic and efficient ways to adopt the concept.
Tamara Čuruvija, an editor at Radio Television Republika Srpska, presented the obligations that public broadcasters have toward persons with disability and the challenges that await public broadcasters in regard to the adaptation of content. During the discussion, the representatives of the associations gave their suggestions and proposals for achieving better results in this segment.
The first two days of the training were dedicated to the blind, persons with impaired vision and media representatives. Branko Suzić, president of the association ‘Savez slijepih i slabovidnih Republike Srpske’, in a short presentation pointed out the challenges that these people face when it comes to media content. He cited the inaccessibility of the design of media content for persons with disabilities and the lack of technical capacity as the main problems. He also called on the authorities to protect the rights of blind people and those with visual impairment in our country.
Vehid Hajduković, an expert in Braille and an audio description creator, explained to the participants the basics of making an audio description and adjusting media content. Also discussed during the training were audio description skills and techniques as well as the professional knowledge of the representatives of the media. A person making an audio description must be familiar with the subject matter and know how to provide all information that is relevant to blind and partially sighted persons in order to create an adequate image.
A module for adapting websites to blind people was also presented. The video ‘Cultural Heritage’ was used for a practical exercise and an audio and video description of the video was made during the training.
Representatives of the associations ‘Udruženje gluvih i nagluvih regije’ from Banja Luka and ‘Savez gluvih i nagluvih Republike Srpske attended the third and fourth days of the training. The trainers Amer Sikira and Mišo Čirko demonstrated how WinCAPS software works in practice. This software is used to adapt content to the needs of the deaf and persons with hearing impairments. The participants had an opportunity for practical work and they took part in adapting videos and websites. There was also a discussion on the position of interpreters within TV and video content.
Jasminka Proho, a trainer and interpreter of sign language, presented the needs of the deaf and persons with hearing impairments in relation to media content. She explained the methods for interpreting information as efficiently as possible for the deaf and for persons with impaired hearing and provided guidelines and advice for interpreters. She emphasised how the deaf and those with hearing difficulty can help interpreters and contribute to effectively conveying certain information.
The most important achievement of the workshop was the interaction between the media and persons with these types of disability. Through this interaction, the media representatives received direct information on how to improve content and how to provide a better response to the needs of the blind, the deaf and those with visual or hearing impairments. The inability to access information narrows the opportunities for people with disabilities and this is why the project ‘Equal Access for All’ will, among other things, strive to ensure better cooperation between the media and people who need customised content.
After the trainings in Sarajevo and Banja Luka, there will be series of online trainings for the media in Tuzla, Brčko, Bihać, Mostar and Prijedor and beyond.