An audio description programme has been set up for UEFA EURO 2016 to allow blind and visually-impaired supporters to "to enjoy the show like anyone else".
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Visually-impaired fans will be able to enjoy UEFA EURO 2016 to the full thanks to the Audio Description EURO 2016 programme, put in place by the French Federation for the Blind and Visually-Impaired (FAF).
"The FAF brings together 44 different associations from across the country and aims to accompany the the visually-impaired in every step of their lives," explained FAF president Vincent Michel. "The Audio Description EURO 2016 project is a programme we have created to allow visually-impaired fans at the stadiums to enjoy the show like anyone else."
Implemented in partnership with the Centre for Access to Football in Europe (CAFE) and the French Disabled Sports Federation (FFH) as part of UEFA's commitment to inclusion, the programme will bring together 40 volunteers, all studying journalism. Following a three-month training programme conducted by CAFE, ten will be selected to provide audio description at the matches.
Audio description specialists keep visually-impaired fans abreast of everything going on in the game, commenting on the atmosphere in the stadium, physical descriptions and facial expressions. During matches, the focus is on the action on the field, rather than the statistics and tactical analysis offered by conventional commentators.
There is no special area set aside for visually-impaired fans at the final stadiums, with FFH member Charly Simo explaining: "A dedicated radio frequency will be established a month ahead of the tournament in the stadiums. Everyone will be able to access it with their mobile and listen to audio descriptions of the matches."
A similar system operated successfully at UEFA EURO 2012 and the 2014 FIFA World Cup finals, and the FFH hope to be able to expand it further after the finals. "The idea is to offer this audio description system for big Ligue 1 matches too," explained Simo. "After EURO 2016, this is the route we want to explore. We also want to encourage the visually-impaired to play, and promote blind futsal across the country."