Researching Displaced Persons During COVID-19

Catering for Users’ Specific Needs in Media Accessibility Projects




accessibility, asylum-seekers, COVID-19, data collection, interpreting, refugees, research


Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has created additional barriers to human interactions. For those conducting research with displaced persons, the barriers posed by COVID-19 add up to the existing linguistic, cultural, geographical and ethical obstacles that this type of research involves. In most cases, researchers have resorted to technological solutions to bridge the communication gap caused by the pandemic. However, the heterogeneous profiles and disadvantaged circumstances of displaced persons require further considerations and planning. This paper examines the experiences of researchers conducting research with displaced persons during COVID. It outlines the special considerations taken and provides recommendations for those conducting research in similar contexts. The communities that engaged in this research were based in Greece, Poland, Italy, Lebanon and Spain. While the focus of the study is displaced persons, the insights presented can be of benefit to those conducting research with other vulnerable groups.


Lay summary

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected human interaction. Research often involves face-to-face contact with participants and other agents, which COVID-19 prevented. The mobility restrictions and safety regulations have difficulted data collection. Many processes have been moved online, but not everybody can interact successfully with technology i.e., some people do not have access to devices or internet, others do not have the skills required. Other barriers can be linguistic or cultural. Researchers must ensure that the research is safe and accessible to participants.

This study presents how researchers working with migrants in the field of Media Accessibility have adapted their studies during COVID-19. The study reports on the results of a questionnaire distributed among researchers working on three projects conducted in European countries and Lebanon. The results show that more time was invested in data collection, and that flexibility and innovation were key to the success of the projects. The paper explains how researchers made data collection tools accessible to participants to ensure that participants could take part in the study. The considerations taken could be applied beyond the pandemic as it is adaptable to other research contexts, testing environments, diverse audiences, and disciplines.  


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Author Biographies

Maria Jiménez-Andrés, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona

María Jiménez-Andrés is a predoctoral researcher in the Department of Translation, Interpreting and East Asian Studies at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. She is currently working on Information Communication Technologies to promote refugees’ integration in Europe with a scholarship associated with the REBUILD project. Before joining UAB, she taught Spanish as a Foreign Language and Translation and Interpreting at Middlesex University from 2013 to 2018. Over the past years, she has also taught Spanish to Arabic speakers at Eton Institute in the United Arab Emirates, as well as English as a Foreign Language at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. As a translator and interpreter, María has engaged in various roles institutions such as the Bolivarian Embassy of Venezuela in the United Kingdom and Ipsos Mori. She has also carried out a number of projects with NGOs working with refugee and migrant communities in Spain and the UK.

Nourhan Alemam, Southern New Hampshire University

Nourhan Alemam is a data manager at the Graduation Center of the City University of New York and holds a certificate of completion in advanced social science research and data analysis. She is also working as a research assistant with the European Horizon 2020 project, REBUILD, which aims to support the integration of refugees in Europe. Currently enrolled in College for America's BA Degree program under a scholarship from Southern New Hampshire University's Global Education Movement (GEM); majoring in Healthcare Management with a concentration in Global Perspectives. She recently participated in several research projects that studied the impact of COVID19 upon refugees, their legal and educational status, and the experiences of researchers who have conducted research with vulnerable communities during the COVID19 pandemic.




How to Cite

Jiménez-Andrés, M., & Alemam, N. (2021). Researching Displaced Persons During COVID-19: Catering for Users’ Specific Needs in Media Accessibility Projects. Journal of Audiovisual Translation, 4(2), 23–41.