As part of the UEFA Respect Inclusion - Football with No Limits project, audio descriptive commentary has been available for the first time in Poland and Ukraine for blind and partially sighted supporters. The service was provided by a team of volunteers who had received an intense programme of training from the Centre for Access to Football in Europe, who implemented the project and were the official tournament charity of UEFA EURO 2012.

One of the commentators in Ukraine, Lubomir Pokotylo, sat with us and told us about his experience:

“The first thing that I would like to do is send my sincerest thanks to CAFE, UEFA and the National Assembly of Disabled People – CAFE’s local implementing partner in Ukraine. I see the work done around audio descriptive commentary as part of the project being just the start, and hopefully this service will be offered both at sports and non-sports events.

“CAFE’s audio descriptive commentary trainers told us that 17% of all sporting events in their country allowed blind and partially sighted supporters to “see” the action via audio descriptive commentary. I also know that films and cartoons in countries such as Russia and Belarus often use the service. Audio descriptive commentary makes an event so much more accessible, it is fantastic!

“This is just the birth of audio descriptive commentary in Ukraine, and it is so important that we continue to develop the service now that UEFA EURO 2012 has finished. The powerful people in the country need to step up and help, and I feel that sport is a great starting point. More than 600,000 people in Ukraine are blind or partially sighted, and over 18% of them are totally blind.

“I pass my sincerest thanks to Natalia and Iryna at the National Assembly for introducing me to audio descriptive commentary. I attended CAFE’s training seminars in both Warsaw and Kiev and they left a huge impression on me. It was very enlightening to understand the world from a blind or partially sighted person’s perspective, and this made me eager to offer my services. Two commentators were selected for each host city of UEFA EURO 2012, and the appointments were made based on a knowledge and understanding of football, a strong style when commentating and an understanding of what exactly was required. Audio descriptive commentary differs greatly from what you would hear on the television.

“It was a great experience to be fully immersed in the football festival atmosphere that encompassed Ukraine, and I’m sure Poland was the same. It was completely unforgettable and, in my mind, the best UEFA EURO tournament in years. Each host city was prepared and special equipment was put in place at each stadium. Blind and partially sighted supporters who were using the service were given radio headsets upon entering the stadium, and this was how they heard our commentary.

"We were taught that it was important to describe all of the colours and atmosphere in the stadium, as this creates the most vivid emotions. It was sometimes difficult to receive feedback from supporters after the match as we were based in the media centre, but we later found out that it was very positive. It is good practice to explain how things appear in much greater detail than a traditional television commentary. For example, a TV commentator may say, ‘There is Ibrahimovic of Sweden’. An audio descriptive commentator should describe him in much greater detail, so for example, ‘A true giant in a yellow shirt, standing at 195cm in his bright pink boots, braided hair and a focused look on his face’. A supporter who is not blind or partially sighted may take this information for granted, but for fans using our service this was of great help.

“The speed of the commentary is another important difference. A blind and partially sighted supporter relies solely on your commentary, and if you go quiet they don’t know what is happening. The audio descriptive commentary disappearing is like pulling the plug on the television – no information is getting through. Again this may have been taken for granted by supporters who are not blind or partially sighted. Our trainers carried out an exercise with us where we were blindfolded and guided round the stadium and this helped us to understand this point better.

“On a wider scale, UEFA EURO 2012 was very powerful in raising disability awareness in both host nations. Before each of the quarter final matches, disabled teams played in showcase matches under the framework of Respect Inclusion. This included teams who were learning disabled, blind and partially sighted, deaf and hard of hearing, and players with cerebral palsy. This will definitely attract attention amongst both the lawmakers and the general public, and will hopefully lead to a much more inclusive and tolerant society. That would be the most important effect of all”.