by Paula Igareda
COVID-19 has taken many things away from us and one of them was the human side of face-to-face meetings at events such as congresses, conferences, and seminars, where academia and industry join hands and work together toward a common goal. Now that the most serious part of the storm seems to have passed, I was lucky enough to attend the International Conference on Accessible Intersemiotic Translation (ICAIT) as a speaker, together with my colleague Verónica Arnáiz-Uzquiza. The conference was held in the city of Parma, Italy, on March 31st and April 1st.
Audiovisual translation has many positive things to offer, one of them being that despite the situation we have experienced over the last two years, the sector has weathered the storm and has (almost always) come out on top, thanks to the fact that technology allows us to continue our work. Despite this success amid chaos, when academics, professionals and young researchers want to share their work, the pandemic has forced us to do so from the remoteness of our homes. While it’s true that in two years I have had the opportunity to travel to places I would never have been able to go physically and enjoy conferences on the other side of the planet, it was about time that people saw each other’s faces, even if only behind a mask and enjoyed the human side that can promote interdisciplinary collaboration between researchers working in the same field.
ICAIT starts from the basic recognition that access to media and cultural content is a right for all citizens and defends new concepts such as “Design for All” and “Universal Accessibility”. There is a special focus on access to audiovisual and cultural content for people with hearing, visual and cognitive disabilities. While many still believe that audiovisual accessibility is not part of audiovisual translation studies and professional practice, ICAIT believes that audiovisual translation deals with content whose meaning is constructed through a multiplicity of codes, multimodal texts, and their transmission. ICAIT is proof that accessibility to cultural products (film, architecture, natural spaces, art in general) is carried out within the framework of intersemiotic translation and arises from the need for cooperation between experts from different disciplines.
This conference involved two frenetic days of debate on Accessible Intersemiotic Translation around theoretical and practical issues related to audiovisual accessibility and cultural heritage.
The last day of March opened with major proposals on universal accessibility by means of easy-to-read translation through corpus linguistics and on the accessibility of cultural heritage exhibitions. Comparison was also made between the accessibility of television now (VOD, TVOD and streaming platforms) and television a decade ago. A lot of time was devoted to several projects related to audio description of theater and cinema, with a special emphasis on the use of modalities such as audio description and subtitles for the deaf-and-hard-of-hearing as a didactic tool for learning and teaching audiovisual translation and foreign languages.
There are three keynotes I would like to highlight because I consider them to be turning points for the field: those of Anna Matamala and Jorge Díaz Cintas, and Frederic Chaume.
Professor Matamala, principal investigator for the EASIT project (Easy Access for Social Inclusion Training), opened the first day of April by introducing easy-to-read language and current practices regarding easy audiovisual content. This project makes information easy to understand using Easy-to-Read Language and Plain Language. Part of her speech described several other initiatives, notably easy audio descriptions, easy interpreting, easy voice-over, and not yet researched concepts such as easy audio subtitles.
Díaz Cintas and Chaume closed the conference with their panel on the present and future of audiovisual content localization. They debated the new challenges and contexts in which we find ourselves, both in the academic world and as professionals: market demand for immediacy, the irruption of artificial intelligence and neural machine translation in audiovisual and creative content translation workflows, the uberization of translation, the talent crunch and much more.
33 papers with great talent, excellent projects-in-development and interesting proposals for the future made Parma, for a couple of days, a place for intellectual exchange between experts in the field of accessible intersemiotic translation.