Wednesday, June 15, 2022

By: Sport Industry Group

The national governing body of tennis in Great Britain, the Lawn Tennis Association (LTA), has partnered with the BBC and design and innovation company AKQA to bring an enhanced audio experience for blind and partially sighted tennis fans that will make it easier for them to follow the sport.

The finals weekend of the cinch Championships on 18th and 19th June will feature a live stream of AKQA’s audio technology ‘Action Audio’ to help fans at home follow shots and the placement of the ball on court. 

The audio technology emphasises ball speed and trajectory, proximity to line and shot type (forehand or backhand), allowing sight loss audiences to follow a game through sound like never before, helping to follow critical moments in real-time. The sound design is shaped by a number of principles, including the use of existing sound languages familiar to blind and partially sighted audiences.

This is the first time this technology has ever been used in any sport in the UK and builds on the success Audio Action had at the Australian Open earlier this year. To align with its ambition to create a culture of everyday inclusion within tennis in Britain following the publication of its Inclusion Strategy last year, the LTA was keen to partner with AKQA and the BBC to bring British fans the same experience.

Fans will be able to access the special audio stream from the LTA website and it will be available for every match that is broadcast over the finals weekend. If the initial broadcast is a success the intention will be to roll out the technology more widely in future years. 

David Clarke, RNIB Chief Operating Officer, said, “Sports broadcasts are still very much reliant on visuals, with well-established challenges around adding traditional audio description on live broadcasts and integrating details into the main commentary.

“Action Audio augments live sports with sound which helps with orientation and being able to identify where the ball is on the court. We are looking forward to hearing what tennis fans have to say about their viewing experience and being able to follow sport in real time.”

Alex Pitts, National Partnerships Manager at British Blind Sport, added, “British Blind Sport are thrilled to see such exciting progress in making spectator sport more accessible for blind and partially sighted people. There has been a lot of focused work behind the scenes to bring about Action Audio coverage at the Queens Championship and it creates a standard of what accessible coverage should look like for major sporting events in the future.”

Chris Pollard, LTA Director of Major Events and Digital, commented, “We are very proud to be the first people to bring this technology to a sporting event in Great Britain. We believe that tennis should be for everyone and all communities should be able to share in the joy and excitement of watching a great match. We’re delighted that this technology will mean blind and partially sighted fans will be able to experience the action like no time before at the cinch Championships. If this year is a success we will look to roll out the technology to more days next year.”

As part of the LTA’s commitment to open up tennis to more audiences and ensure the sport is accessible to all, it is also partnering with the RNIB and British Blind Sport to widen participation through their ‘See Sport Differently’ campaign. This is designed to introduce more blind and partially sighted people to sporting activity and to make major sporting events in the UK more accessible for blind and partially sighted people.


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