A Eurovision broadcast accessible to all

KAN is offering livestreams designed for people with cognitive disabilities, vision loss and hearing impairment.

May 12, 2019 01:07
3 minute read.
Croatia takes part in a Eurovision rehearsal at the Expo Tel Aviv on Tuesday

Croatia takes part in a Eurovision rehearsal at the Expo Tel Aviv on Tuesday. (photo credit: THOMAS HANSES/EBU)


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While many Israelis are die-hard fans of the Eurovision, this year the whole country is getting in the spirit. And as Israel gears up to host its first Eurovision in 20 years, the KAN public broadcaster is making sure that it is accessible to as many people as possible.

To that end, it has arranged for three special livestreams during the semi-finals and finals: a broadcast in sign language, an option with enhanced audio description for the blind and visually impaired and a livestream designed for people with cognitive disabilities. All three of the broadcasts will be available on the KAN YouTube channel and on its website during the two semi-finals on May 14 and 16 and the finale on May 18.

To create the accessible broadcasts, KAN turned to experts in all three fields to cater to each specialized audience.

The broadcast for those with vision impairments was created in conjunction with the Center Library for Blind and Reading Impaired People. On that YouTube channel, the action on the Eurovision stage will be described in vivid detail for those who cannot see it.

“We’re counting down until the first accessible Eurovision!” the library wrote on its Facebook page recently. “Because everyone has the right to enjoy culture.”

The sign language interpretation is being provided by Sign Now, an initiative born out of the Edmond de Rothschild Foundation, through graduates of its leadership programming.

“Our sign language interpreters, who will lead the initiative, are practicing all of the Eurovision songs,” the foundation told The Jerusalem Post this week. “They are holding constant discussions about the subtext of the songs to ensure that the audience will understand their full significance.”

And the third dedicated YouTube channel will be devoted to making the competition accessible to those with cognitive disabilities. To that end, KAN is working with Shira Yalon-Chamovitz, the head of the Israeli Institute for Cognitive Accessibility, a partnership between Agudat Ami and Ono Academic College.

“What we’re going to be doing at the Eurovision is what we call simultaneous simplification,” said Yalon-Chamovitz in an interview this week. “We translate in real time into plain language. In this case, for the Eurovision, we’re going to be translating the English spoken into plain and understandable Hebrew.”

Such a service, she said, is designed for a wide range of people, including those with intellectual disabilities, people with learning disabilities, people with dyslexia who can’t read the Hebrew subtitles, some individuals on the autistic spectrum and a portion of the elderly population.

The percentage of people with cognitive disabilities, said Yalon-Chamovitz, is “close to 5% of the general population, which is more than hearing - 3.5% - or vision - 2.5%.”

This population, she said, “can see, they can hear, they can walk, they can talk just like anybody else – but they think a little differently than everyone else.”

When it comes to the songs themselves, she said, “all of us kind of experience the songs in a different way. So we’re going to give a very brief introduction to the songs in terms of the content, but other than that we’re not touching the songs. When we hear a song in a language we don’t understand, we can still experience the song and the music and everything around it.”

One of the biggest challenges for their Eurovision broadcast, she said, is making the scoring system, and all the numbers and rankings, accessible, so that “everyone can take part in the excitement.”

Yalon-Chamovitz said it was “amazing surprise that [KAN] wanted to create a cognitive accessible” broadcast for the Eurovision. While this year they are providing the service just in Hebrew, she hopes that in the coming years it can be something available in English and in many other languages.

“The Eurovision slogan is ‘Dare to Dream’ and that’s my dream – that by next Eurovision, it would be in English, or in every country in the language of that country,” Yalon-Chamovitz said. “The whole idea is to enable people to participate equally.”

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