Students currently reading for a postgraduate degree in translation at the University of Malta have created audio description texts for three artefacts at the National Museum of Archaeology – the Sleeping Lady, the Venus of Malta, and the Standing Statue. The recordings were made through a collaboration between Heritage Malta and the Department of Translation within the University of Malta.

The audio descriptions are set to be voice recorded and integrated into the existing museum audio guide. The three works will each have a version for adults in Maltese and English as well as a version for children, thus catering for tourists and locals, but most of all providing access to blind and partially sighted visitors.

“Audio description is a mode of accessibility for the visually impaired that is applied to media, theatre, and cultural sites,” says Giselle Spiteri Miggiani, the project’s coordinator and reviewer.

“It aims to translate the visual into the verbal, therefore, it uses words to create an inclusive experience on a sensory level.”

The approach adopted is one where inclusivity implies a shareable experience

Spiteri Miggiani, a lecturer within the Department Translation, notes that media and culture access is a new area of studies at the University of Malta and is part of the audiovisual translation specialisation stream. The students are also trained in other accessibility modes such as subtitling for the deaf and hard of hearing applied to audio-visual productions.

The Department of Translation is currently the only entity providing training and research in such accessibility modes and is implementing pilot projects for the development of localisation and access services. The research is contributing to the development of local guidelines, specifically for inclusive subtitles.

The approach adopted is one where inclusivity implies a shareable experience. Rather than creating a subtitled version specifically for the deaf and hard of hearing, inclusive subtitles comprise both linguistic and sensory access, that is, translation into Maltese or English to provide access on a linguistic level, while at the same time featuring captions that would cater for persons with any degree of hearing impairment.

The statue of the Sleeping Lady at the National Museum of Archaeology.The statue of the Sleeping Lady at the National Museum of Archaeology.

An integrated access approach is also applied at the National Museum of Archaeology where the newly created audio descriptions integrate the ‘classic’ audio guide information, while extending the experience to partially sighted visitors.

The project is coordinated and reviewed by Dr Giselle Spiteri Miggiani within the Department of Translation, Terminology and Interpreting Studies, with the participation of external consultant and reviewer Ms Lonny Evans (VocalEyes, UK) and Heritage Malta collaborators Ms Vanessa Ciantar and Ms Sharon Sultana.

Find more information on the Master of Arts in Translation and Terminology with the University of Malta Faculty of Arts here. The Department would like to thank Heritage Malta and the National Museum of Archaeology for their collaboration, as well as the students involved for being the pioneers of museum accessibility in Malta.

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