At the Olympics, the visually and hearing impaired will also be able to “vibrate” for sport

At the Olympics, the visually and hearing impaired will also be able to “vibrate” for sport

Audio description, vibrating vest, touchscreen tablet… Devices allow visually and hearing impaired supporters to experience sporting events in unison with other spectators in stadiums and halls, some will be used during the Olympic Games.

The ball is shot from the right, it enters and exits the racket and it is Monaco who recovers the ball. The racket is this rectangular area under the basket“. In the headset, a voice describes to the visually impaired spectator the other fans waving their mobile phones on – and everything that can be seen in the Bercy Arena and on the giant screen.

During the French Basketball Cup finals at the end of April, blind spectators were able to follow matches using audio description: equipped with a box, they heard a sports commentator describing the actions while another full voice with elements of visual description, as part of an experiment organized by Optic 2000 before the Olympics.

Usually we hear the atmosphere, but we don't know why the audience is screaming“, describes Sofiane Ahmad, 31, who had already attended rugby matches, football matches and athletics competitions with this device.

There, we feel the energy that is transmitted when the supporters all shout together, we live the moment“, he said.

Shared “pleasure”

Usually this PSG fan follows the matches on the radio, whose comments are more descriptive than on television: “I reconstruct in my head how it evolves on the ground“, underlines the man who played football before losing his sight in a traffic accident at 19 years old.

The blind football that he plays today has given him a “social circle” of blind and sighted people, who sometimes follow matches together: the sighted in front of the TV, the blind with their ears glued to the radio. “It's a pleasure we share“.

Pierre-Marie Micheli, also blind since an accident at the age of 25, loved experiencing a rugby match in audio description with his father. “It's rare that I can share moments with my family without burdening them“. “I took the same pleasure as when I was a clairvoyant“, confides this 37-year-old man, a fan of rugby and mountain biking before his accident.

He has already been able to use a touchscreen tablet, with a magnet moving at the same time as the ball during a rugby match. “I felt with my fingers in real time the ball leaving the field, I was able to shout with everyone“, he explains about this tool which will be used at the Games.

In an atmosphere of vuvuzela, fanfare and bass drums, amid the clamor of the Bercy Arena, Khaled Kharraz, deaf, was also able to fully enjoy basketball thanks to a vibrating vest which converts sounds into vibrations, transmitted to his back .

“I feel everything”

I feel everything: the ball bouncing on the court, the footsteps of the players moving around, the crowd screaming when there is a basket. The vibrations are different: you just have to observe what is happening to make the connection“, he explains. “I'm really into it“, he said, delighted to be able to experience the match with a friend.

Still not very widespread, these devices are mainly used for football, tennis and Paralympic disciplines. The associations hope that the Olympic Games will accelerate their deployment.

Audio description will be offered for six sports (football, athletics, judo, swimming, tennis, horse riding) and ten Paralympic disciplines, on 13 sites, explains the Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.

We will have 460 hours of audio description and have targeted the sports that visual impairment experts have told us are most interesting to them“, explains Ludivine Munos, responsible for Paralympic integration at Paris-2024, to AFP. Europe Télévisions will set up 70 hours of speaking during the Games, on a specific channel, specifies Ms. Munos.

The touchscreen tablet will be deployed on six sites, for football, rugby, basketball and four Paralympic ball sports competitions.