Inclusive Description for Equality and Access (IDEA)

Royal Holloway, University of London, in partnership with VocalEyes, has been awarded £100,000 funding by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) for the project Inclusive Description for Equality and Access (IDEA), as one of ten Equality, Diversity and Inclusion Fellowships. The Fellow for the project is Professor Hannah Thompson (Royal Holloway) and the Project and Community Engagement Manager is Dr Rachel Hutchinson; whom were both co-authors with VocalEyes CEO Matthew Cock, of the Describing Diversity report.

The project will run for one year from 1 February 2021 to 31 January 2022.

About IDEA

The project seeks to extend and expand on the work begun in Describing Diversity, supporting and enabling theatre professionals and audio describers to engage with and explore the report’s findings in order to promote the creation of inclusive descriptions which celebrate diversity in ethical ways. We will work with directors, casting directors, actors, access professionals, front-of-house teams at five producing theatres / theatre companies (Donmar Warehouse, Royal Exchange, Shakespeare’s GlobeMind the Gap, one of Europe’s leading learning disability theatre companies and Octagon Theatre, Bolton) as well as audio describers (VocalEyes, Mind’s Eye Description and Totally Inclusive People) and blind and visually impaired theatregoers, to promote the value of AD as both a communicator and a driver of equality, diversity and inclusion. IDEA will also seek to increase the diversity of audio describers, blind and partially sighted theatre goers and theatre professionals by engaging under-represented groups with the creation and reception of inclusive audio description.

We will promote inclusive audio description by taking the report’s describer-led recommendations back to theatre professionals and blind and visually impaired audience members in a series of workshops, discussions and performances, as well as through online collaboration and resources, such as a video and a MOOC.

More information about the project will be shared on this page in coming months.

About the team

Hannah Thompson is a partially blind academic and audio description user based at Royal Holloway, University of London where she is Professor of French and Critical Disability Studies. Hannah is the author of three books on issues of gender, sexuality and disability in French literature and culture. Her third book Reviewing Blindness in French Fiction (1789-2013) (Palgrave, 2017) marks the start of Hannah’s influential work on Critical Disability Studies and her theory of ‘blindness gain’. Her current work on the relationship between theories and practices of translation and inclusive audio description was used to develop some of the recommendations in the Describing Diversity report. Hannah is also the author of the popular BlindSpot blog.

Rachel Hutchinson received her PhD from the University of Westminster in 2020. Her thesis examines the impact of inclusive audio description on engagement and memorability in museums for blind and sighted people. She is the Project and Community Engagement Manager on the project and can be contacted on [email protected]