Wednesday 29 March 2023, 13:00

Audio Descriptive Commentary training kicks off ahead of FIFA Women's World Cup 2023™

  • Audio Descriptive Commentary to be offered for blind and partially-sighted fans at Australia & New Zealand 2023

  • The in-stadium service will be a first for football in Australia and Aotearoa New Zealand

  • Prospective commentators for the highly descriptive narration were put through their paces this week

The FIFA Women's World Cup Australia & New Zealand 2023™ is set to be the most inclusive edition of the tournament to date. Another step building towards that important goal has been taking place this week in Australia and New Zealand. For the first time, blind and partially-sighted football fans will have the opportunity to receive a detailed account of the on-field action, while also taking in the atmosphere with their fellow supporters in the stadiums during Australia & New Zealand 2023. Known as Audio Descriptive Commentary (ADC), the dedicated accessible service has been in operation during recent FIFA World Cups™ – including Qatar 2022 – in the respective local languages.

Two-day training programmes in ADC are taking place in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and Auckland/Tāmaki Makaurau this week and next week. Aspiring ADC commentators were put through their paces with special training focussing on additional narration that describes all significant visual information during the match, such as body language, facial expression, scenery, action, clothing, colours and anything else that might be important to convey context. Specialised ADC Instructor Alan March said the method follows a traditional radio style: “If you watch football on TV the images do the talking, so the commentator can allow the images to talk for them, in audio description, that’s not possible. We have to follow the ball. We have to follow the movement. We have to track it as far as we can. “If you’ve got a visual impairment, you can’t follow those [TV] images. Radio has manoeuvred its way away from being over-descriptive into more of a TV style, so we feel that ADC is something that combats that.”

One noteworthy attendee was Canberra United legend and former Houston Dash defender Ellie Brush. Honing skills behind the microphone is more challenging than being on the pitch said the two-time Matilda at this week’s Sydney training course. “Football playing comes a bit more naturally than being on the other side of the camera and talking about it,” Brush said. “That ability to really describe pace for pace what’s actually going on, and following the ball, and really describing for that person who can’t see as well that what’s happening in the game is something that’s quite challenging, but you can really see how it would really help that person. “I have always been around football, so talking about it as well is something that I love to do. A chance to be involved anywhere I can with the FIFA Women’s World Cup is an amazing thing. Plus, here we really get to bring the love of our beautiful game and give that to vision-impaired people.”

Beyond Greatness Champion Casey Dellacqua (R) and Paralaympian Ellie Cole (L)

Two special guests dropped in to surprise the Sydney-based group in the form of newly announced local Beyond Greatness Champion Casey Dellacqua, as well as inspirational Paralympian Ellie Cole. The duo spoke with the attendees and even had a turn behind the microphone. Dellacqua, a seven-time tennis Grand Slam doubles finalist and current media commentator, is passionate about helping women in media. “It’s a really big responsibility when you work in the media to make sure that you portray and you talk [about] women’s sport the way that it deserves,” she said. “It’s just so important for women’s sport to have a voice. I’m really passionate about it because having a woman’s voice behind the microphone is extremely powerful and we need more of it.”

Beyond Greatness champion Casey Dellacqua attends an Audio Descriptive Commentary training session for the FIFA Women's World Cup 2023

Cole is Australia’s most decorated Paralympian with a remarkable tally of 17 medals accrued across four Paralympic Games. The now retired swimmer says accessibility for all is crucial at major sporting events. “I’ve really seen what inclusive design can do, what an accessible tournament can do for the athletes in particular. “To see that rolling [out] across a tournament that doesn’t necessarily have Para-athletes, but really wants that inclusive design and that whole experience accessible to all the spectators, is going to be really interesting. I think the world is moving in a really positive place in terms of accessibility in sporting tournaments.”

Fans arriving at the game will simply need to download the FIFA Interpreting app, with updated information to be available closer to the tournament. The ADC’s heightened experience will be a milestone moment for blind and partially-sighted supporters who may have previously felt partly excluded on matchdays. “Why shouldn’t somebody who’s visually impaired be able to go to a football match and follow every single kick,” March adds. “This is an access tool that allows somebody who perhaps thinks, ‘This event is out of bounds to me’. It’s not out of bounds anymore. “You can go, simply switch it [the App] on, sit with your friends, sit with your parents, whoever it is that you go with, and enjoy the game from the start to the finish, with your own commentary.”