Hello Session with Kaleidoscope


We recently Googlehung with Kaleidoscope, an organisation based in Spain that promotes access to visual arts of visually impaired people, using audio description as an inter-semiotic translation modality. You can see more at their website, http://kaleidoscope-access.org/.

We were so excited hearing about Kaleidoscope that we decided to share a snippet here. Stay tuned for more about their work on Brack in the coming weeks.


How do you “do” audio description at Kaleidoscope?

We translate the image to the Spanish language. In such inter-semiotic translations, also called audio description, we translate the visual into a verbal language. If you think of any descriptive text in a novel, that is quite similar to what we do. Because we address visuals to visually impaired people, there are guidelines to take into account to allow them to understand a work in the best possible experience we can give.

One of the most important things is to understand that vision is synthesis while audio is analytic. We need an ability to organise the information in a way that allows the receiver to build an image step by step. We need to give the receiver enough time to assimilate the words and their linguistic meaning and transform it into a mental image, with sensations and with memories. When you see something, it is obvious and it is a whole, but you have to translate all that into small pieces. You have to think of the person you are translating to. The main difference with other types of translations is the characteristics of the receiver. In interlinguistic translation, the receiver cannot access the original text because he/she lacks the necessary linguistic competence; in intersemiotic translation, the receiver lacks the physical capability to access the original text. The translator is in both cases a mediator in the communication who needs to be aware at all times of the receiver’s needs.

How do you convey art when you yourselves are not artists? Do you find this is an issue you have to tackle?

We face this issue every day. We were very aware that we are not artists, historians, nor writers. But the background of a audio describer is varied and changes depending on where we are; audio describers could be art historians, or they could have non-art backgrounds in audio visual or written communication. So people do ask us, how do we do what we do?

To answer that, what we do is what any translator does, and they are not necessarily experts in the original text’s subject area. What we do is research into a specific area and become experts into that subject, and all that helps us become ready and able to do the description.  Of course, being versed in art and its own language can help us make better “structure” and better audio descriptions. We like to say the ideal situation is if audio describers are part art historian, part artist, part writer, and part translator, but we try our best.

One fundamental thing is to collaborate with visually impaired people. We test our audio descriptions with visually impaired consultants with different levels and types of visual loss and review the texts accordingly. We like to cooperate with the beneficiaries of audio description and learn from them. They know better than anyone what they need and we apply our expert knowledge in Applied linguistics to try to give it to them.

So we know we can learn a lot with these artists as well and are very interested in possible collaborations.


If you would like to join us in the #BrackGathering, email us: heybrack@gmail.com

Read our open call here.


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