Disability Representation – Same Goal Different Strategy

April 24th, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

Titled Disability Representation, this collage includes scenes from ; Forrest Gump, Rain Man, Ray, Wait Until Dark and The Rear Window; All movies with a disabled character played by a non disabled actor.
If you think about portrayals of people with disabilities on the screen, movies and television, chances are extremely high that the actor was not disabled. At least two recent projects have sparked this conversation including “The Upside” and “In the Dark”.

The latter series on the CW Network caused the National Federation of the Blind to launch their #LetUsPlayUs Campaign.

In this episode we learn why representation matters from:

Plus, “Blind Face” is that really a thing? I had to speak on it.

Consider this the beginning of RMM Radio’s exploration of Disability Representation in Media.

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Transcript

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TR:

What’s up RMMRadio Family?
It’s me, T.Reid, host and producer of this here podcast.
This is your place to hear stories and profiles of compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss and disability. And yes, occasionally I throw some of my own experiences in there pairing those words and music and sound design.

Today, I want to jump right into it. We have a lot to cover.
So…

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Audio:
* Rain Man – Dustin Hoffman

TR:

Each of these clips, are from movies featuring a main protagonist with a disability.

Audio:
* Forrest Gump – Tom Hanks

Yet, each starring actor does not have a disability.

Audio:
* Ray – Jamie Foxx

TR:

It’s not a new issue

* Audio: The Rear Window

A scene from The Rear Window with Jimmy Stewart, in 1954

* Audio: Wait Until Dark

And Audrey Hepburn portraying a Blind woman in 1967’s Wait Until Dark.

Audio: “The Upside” trailer

TR:

Most recently, Kevin Hart and Brian Cranston star in The Upside.

Cranston, known most for his lead role in “Breaking Bad plays a wealthy quadriplegic who hires a former criminal, played by Hart, to be his caregiver.

With fewer than 2 percent of characters in movies being a person with a disability, well it’s understandable that the disability community took to social media to express their disapproval.

Cranston’s reply?

According to a BBC report he said;
“If I, as a straight, older person, and I’m wealthy, I’m very fortunate, does that mean I can’t play a person who is not wealthy? Does that
mean I can’t play a homosexual?”

In fairness, he does agree that there should be “more opportunities” for actors with disabilities.

I guess just not those that he’s slated to play

Audio: “In the Dark” trailer

TR:

In the Dark is the new television show on the CW Network that stars Perry Mattfeld as a blind woman who is the only witness to her friend’s murder.

Perry herself is not Blind.

The NFB, National Federation of the Blind, believes this is not acceptable. The organization which says they have 50 thousand members in all 50 states including DC and Puerto Rico, began a campaign called #LetUsPlayUs.

I reached out to NFB’s Director of Public Relations, Chris Danielsen, to learn a bit more on what sparked the protest.

CD:

We’ve been concerned for some time that there are not opportunities for and roles for Blind actors. I know we passed a resolution at our National Convention in 2018 on this topic and I think we had passed one even before that.

Fast forward a little bit to early 2019 and the CW Network began heavily promoting its new series “In the Dark”. CW was asked why a Blind actress was not cast in this role and they really made excuses for not casting a Blind actor in the lead role of Murphy in their show.

TR:

According to TheWarp.com:
Nicky Weinstock, an executive producer for the show said:
“We went about searching for a blind actor immediately, and looked allover”

That included 29 different organizations for the blind where he said they were hoping to find the lead actor.

NFB’s Chris Danielsen had this to say about that.

CD:

We were not one of those organizations by the way.
And then they kind of said but we do have a blind writer, and a Blind Consultant and we do have a another Blind actress in a supporting role

They made those sound like compensations for not having cast a Blind person in the lead role.

TR:

You have to wonder, what do they really know about what it really means to be Blind.
Especially when you hear that same CW Executive Nicky Weinstock describe Mattfield as accurately portraying a blind person based on the committment she demonstrated after acquiring a cane and using it around her apartment for weeks.

CD:

This could be really tone deaf publicity on their part, but it’s pretty typical of the behavior that we see from the entertainment industry. There have been literally dozens of films and television shows about Blind people and in none of them that we’ve been able to find, was a Blind person actually cast in a lead or recurring role.
CD:

We felt that this is the right time to really respond to what the CW has said and done but also to this type of behavior that is just recurrent in the entertainment industry. And for that reason we launched our Let Us Play Us Campaign.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

Tell me what is exactly the objective of #LetUsPlayUs?

CD:

The immediate objective is to have the CW reconsider its decision to cast a sighted person in the lead role.

Given that they have really sought in a very discouraging way to justify their decision not to cast a Blind actor in the role, we feel like the only way they can really make it right at this point is to simply re-cast and re-think the show.

TR:

The showed debuted on Thursday April 4, 2019.

It doesn’t look as though this demand is going to be met.

There is time however, to expand the conversation about representation.

CD:

We have found over the years that a lot of the portrayals of Blind people are very inaccurate and often even offensive.

We want to engage in a dialog with the entertainment industry and talk about why it is that Blind actors are not cast. Why there are such low expectations for Blind actors and performers. And how we can work together; the entertainment industry and the National Federation of the Blind to actually identify Blind actors, to develop their talent and to actually see them included in the future projects so that those projects have an authentic perspective on blindness.

TR:

Disability representation in media can be categorized in four groups of characters according to a white paper recently published by the Ford Foundation.

Disability Activist and Senior Fellow at the Ford Foundation, Judith E. Heumannn authored the paper titled; Road Map
for Inclusion Changing the Face of Disability in Media.

The four stereotypes:
* THE SUPER CRIP – think Daredevil
* THE VILLAIN -The James Bond Franchise is known for many.
* THE VICTIM
* The Innocent Fool

I’ll link to the report on this episode’s post over at ReidMyMind.com.

The show’s trailer, gives the initial impression that “In the Dark” may not be too interested in changing the paradigm.

Murphy, the main character is shown trying to hide under a glass table.

Audio: The above scene from the “In the Dark” trailer
In case you’re new here, Blind people know glass is transparent and they know how it feels.

And probably even more concerning, the trailer includes what appears to be the ol’ feel the face!
You know that all too popular scene in just about any movie or television show featuring someone who’s blind where the brilliant idea comes to the sighted person to have the Blind person feel their face so they could know what you look like.

Audio: “Hello”, Lionel Richie Music Video
— From the video, Music plays and a telephone rings…”Hello” says the Blind woman in the video.

TR:

Hey how are you doing? This is T.Reid from Reid My Mind Radio. May I speak to the creator of this music video please?

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Hello”

TR:

Lionel?
Was this video your idea?

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Hello Is it me you’re looking for?

TR:
Well yes, if you’re the creator of the video.

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Cause I wonder where you are”

TR:

My brother, I’m in the future.

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “And I wonder what you do”

TR:
Well, I host a podcast, it’s sort of…

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Are you somewhere feeling lonely”

TR:

Well now that you ask?

— From video: Lionel Richie sings “Is someone loving you”

TR

Hey bruh, that’s personal.

— From video: Lionel Richie sings as echo and fades out “Tell me…”
— Music continues…

TR:

Look man, on behalf of Blind people around the world who have been asked to feel somebodies face.
You know, that thing in your Hello video.

It’s 2019 I think we can end this stereotype.

It’s 2019 & the results are in, we’re over it!

— From video: Door shuts!

Blind woman says: ” I’ve wanted you to see it so many times, but I finally think it’s done.”

TR:

At least I guess we can be happy that in the actual scene from In the Dark, Murphy was resisting and even protested saying that’s something Blind people don’t do, but her friend insisted.

We later see it was needed to advance the plot. This was how she identified her friends body.

I personally would have suggested something like Microsoft Seeing AI which allows you to take a picture of someone and it will recognize them in future pics. But maybe that doesn’t work for the rest of the show.

But that’s just me. Everyone is different.

Not all Blind people use technology.

Like any other marginalized group, we don’t all act one way, we don’t think the same and we all have our own voices.

In fact, I tried to get some individuals with opposing opinions to share them on this episode but I didn’t get a response.

Not everyone believes this issue should garner as much attention from the NFB.

Some believe, the hiring of a Blind writer, consultant and additional cast member are steps in the right direction.
Therefore, demanding the network pull the show well that’s not a way to open a dialog.

Most of the discussion I thought was valuable, focused on strategy.
That’s always going to be a source of contention.

TR:

On April 2, 2019, the NFB protested outside of the CBS offices, owners of the CW Network, in New York City. .

CD:

We had well over 100 Blind people from five different states, at least, participating in the protest. We protested for two hours

We told the CW Executives who bothered to look out the window or listen, we don’t know for sure that any did. We told them that Blind face is just as unacceptable as Black face for example.

TR:

In addition to the protesting outside of CBS, NFB and others have taken to social media including Facebook and Twitter.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

So Chris let’s talk about something because I was going to go one way but now I have to switch it up. The social media campaign, and I’m gathering that the future consists of continuing with the hashtag… (#LetUsPlayUs). One of the things that tends to happen around this topic is that comparison to people of color. I’ve seen things where people are saying “Oh you don’t want white people playing other nationalities, ethnicities etc. Even though that happens and it still happens today.

CD:

Sure, sure.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

I think that’s almost like, defeating the purpose, but then also the one you just mentioned which was the comparison of Blind face to Black face. What is the NFB’s position on that because in social media I notice that the official NFB account kind of stayed away from that. And I was wondering if that was on purpose or if that was just a coincidence.

CD:

Well to be fair that comparison came up in the protest. It wasn’t intended so much as a comparison as kind of a play on words I think when it was originated.

We are a diverse organization. We have a makeup of membership that is racially diverse, ethnically diverse different sexual orientations and all of that. We respect all of that, all of that diversity. That said, we’re not focused so much on trying to make that comparison. That said we do see some commonality in the idea that we don’t, we don’t allow people anymore to sort of appropriate and sort of pose as others. It does still happen, but there are areas where it doesn’t happen anymore and doesn’t happen as much as it used to . But so far disability isn’t one of those areas.

There wouldn’t even be a thought at this point of having, really seriously, of having a man play a woman. Back in Shakespeare’s time it was common for woman to be played by men, typically young boys. You did have situations where it was considered appropriate to put on black makeup. So why are those things largely gone and why is it still appropriate and considered the norm in fact to have non-disabled people play the role of people with disabilities. It’s the norm and it’s rewarded . Think about how often we’ve seen Oscars awarded to people for doing this; Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino Daniel Day Lewis.

Audio: “And the winner is…” followed by each of the above winning Oscars.

TR:

Chris is right about that last part. Let’s take a look at some others who won in roles of someone with a disability.

Jack Nicholson, John Voight, Tom hanks, Ann Bancroft and Patty Duke both won for the Miracle Worker playing Annie Sullivan and Hellen Keller respectively.

And oh yes, my bad…
Audio: Jamie Foxx winning for Ray.

Does anything stand out to you about that list?
I’ll give you a second.

Audio: Jeopardy music

All but 1 are white.

Which brings me back to this idea of Blind Face.

That’s a made up term, it doesn’t have the history that is tied to how Black face was systematically used to dehumanize an entire race of people.

And it’s not gone.
.
Audio: Multiple news segments regarding Virginia Governor Ralph Northam & Black Face.

TR:
Even outside of medical schools in the 80’s.

Audio for below Two college girls suspended for Black Face
College campus frat parties still have it… sometimes they use different names but it’s the same. Parties where they dress like rappers. There was even a so called Gangster Halloween costume. And don’t get me started on other examples of appropriation.

Audio: About Redskins

Does it mean that those who used the term Blind face have the same intent?
I don’t believe that.

But what can we expect when this history isn’t taught, when people prefer to be color blind and refuse to have these conversations. Especially in this world of social media and the re-tweet.

There are valid and strong feelings in all marginalized groups. Something we all need to take into consideration.

CD:

We’re not Oscar bait. We’re people with real lives. We don’t exist so that actors can play us and feel good about themselves because they’ve supposedly experienced what we experience. Which of course they haven’t. That’s what’s really offensive.

I’m interested in your perspective too because you know we don’t want to make an offensive comparison. We want to be careful about that and at the same time the point that we’re trying to make is that there are situations where it’s no longer appropriate and the industry seems to understand that it’s inappropriate to have certain kinds of portrayals. Why is blindness and disability the exception to that.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

That’s where the difference of opinion definitely comes into play and I think the perspectives where you say that the industry understands that; I don’t think most people of color would say that the industry reflects their real lives.

CD:

Sure.

TR:

Remember those 4 stereotypes of disability in media?
* THE SUPER CRIP
* THE VILLAIN
* THE VICTIM
* The Innocent Fool

Black stereotypes have existed and continue to make up what we see in film today. Slightly modified versions of, well take your pick:
Sambo or the lazy happy go lucky Negro
Mandingo – the over sexed, big Black man
Mammy, subservient Black woman who’s nurturing ways usually focus on the white children
Jessabelle – over sexualized Black woman

So many films and television shows to this very day still have some version of these stereotypes.

In fact, as the years went by new stereotypes came into existence. The Welfare Queen, the criminal or thug and of course some of your favorite movies might star the magical Negro. who’s there to mysteriously make the white persons dreams come true.

Stereotypes also exist for Latinex, Asians and just think about the context of when you’d see a Native American on the screen.

So for those of us who are aware of this history in culture, hearing what can sound like an implication it no longer exists, well that can feel like all of that struggle and history is being erased.

With that said, let me make it as clear as I can, disability experiences deserve to be on the screen as much as any other human experience.

[TR in conversation with CD:]

You don’t have to make these comparisons.

CD:
Mm , hmm!

[TR in conversation with CD:]

There are comparisons that can be made. And the thing that I like to say is we can compare apples and oranges, they are both fruit…

CD:

Yeh, yeh, yeh. (In agreement)

[TR in conversation with CD:]
… but they are so different.

CD:

Yeh, certainly the intent is different. I would say that some portrayals of blindness have been specifically meant to put Blind people down, but some haven’t. There just profoundly mis-informed. So I totally agree with you, then in that sense it’s not an appropriate comparison. I think that’s why we have stayed away from the comparison on social media. We definitely don’t want to minimize the real pain that, that has caused, but sometimes the paper trail of disability does cause pain as well. Not the same kind, but the misconceptions out there are harmful to people with disabilities and they do trickle through.

TR:

Now we’re getting there!

Probably the strongest argument for increasing representation and the one that lots of people with disabilities feel on a regular basis.

Kristen Lopez:

There is so much mis-information out there about disability. Films are a gateway for us to learn about people and cultures different from ourselves.

TR:

This is Film Critic Kristen Lopez. She also writes reviews on new and classic films.
She has a much cooler way of saying it though.

Kristen Lopez:

Freelance Pop Culture Essayist, who writes a lot about representation in cinema, specifically gender and disability.

I’ve had so many embarrassing encounters with people. Unbreakable being a great example.

People who’ve seen the movie and they feel like that’s some sort of gateway into relating to me and it’s completely wrong.

TR:

Unbreakable, is the film starring Bruce Willis and Samuel Jackson whose character is a wheel chair user and has Brittle Bone Disorder, as does Kristen.

Kristen Lopez:

I refused to watch it because I didn’t think it was actually going to be a movie that represented me. And for a year solid when people heard I had Brittle Bone Disorder they were like oh have you seen Unbreakable? it’s great, you’d love it. And I was like, why would I love it. And they’re like because it’s about you.

I’m not a super hero or super villain

I was very indignant; no that’s not me. I actually never saw Unbreakable until two years ago and I thought it was fine. It didn’t offend me.

TR:

Dr. Adam Pottle, is an author and screenwriter in Saskatoon, Canada with
4 published books and two produced plays.

He himself is deaf.

He’s experienced firsthand how misperceptions and stereotypes find their way into common belief. Like this idea that Deaf people carry on conversations by reading lips.

As he explained to me via email.

(Note the change in sound when I am reading Adam’s words.)

Adam Pottle:

It’s not enough. Reading lips is fucking exhausting, and we don’t always get things right. We need visual confirmation, whether through Sign language or captioning.

I was bullied in school about my ability to read lips. Older kids would point to their lips and mouth out, “Hey deaf boy. Can you read this? Fuck you.”

TR:

The argument for representation is less about personal offense and more about the impact images have on society.

Kristen Lopez:

Movies have sold disability as this grand mystery. We are this enigma that unless the audience knows how to handle us their not going to be able to interact with us and I think that that’s very wrong.

It’s just important to get rid of the little things. We’re talking now about a time where politically people are talking about who’s entitled to what and who needs what. Do we need healthcare? Do we need the ADA at all?

I think a lot of that has to do with movies which fuel the dialectic, fuel the culture and presented disabled people which is entitled, spoiled and massively wealthy and doomed to die relatively young. The movies have sold us as a burden on society.

TR:

Interestingly enough, I read a review of The Kevin Hart and Brian Cranston film, The Upside titled;
“The Upside” is a good representation of life with disabilities.

I don’t know if this writer is disabled. It wasn’t mentioned.
But disability isn’t one size fits all. We can’t forget the intersections;
Gender, sexuality, …

And as Film Critic Kristen Lopez explains, it’s complicated.

Kristen Lopez:

As an adult, I’ve slowly grown to be like I do identify as white, but that’s only because my skin pigment is white. So I know most people, I tell them my last name is Lopez and they look at me and they’re like what the hell are you talking about. I don’t identify as Hispanic, but I do identify as Latino just because my father is.

Now as an adult as I’ve seen how white disabled narratives are it does bother me on that level as well because you know there are no movies with disabled people of color. There’s barely any movies about disabled women but disabled people of color is completely absent in these movies. That doesn’t even factor into people’s discussion of disability because they’ve never seen it.

TR:

Representation is more than who is on screen. It’s about who is producing directing, writing and in general influencing the overall message and feel of
the project.

Adam wants to add his voice to the conversation. Currently trying to make his way into the business. He’s an aspiring screenwriter with three horror scripts under his belt. He has a PhD in English literature, for which he studied how Deafness and disability are represented in Canadian literature.

Adam Pottle:

Because my scripts all feature Deaf and disabled characters in lead and supporting roles, it’s a bit difficult to get them produced, even if they’re well-received. I have one script, a horror story, that’s been selected by six different festivals that I hope to have made one day.

TR:

When it comes to inclusion of any form, the first reasons also known as excuses is often we can’t find “them”.

The CW, couldn’t find a Blind lead. Silicon Valley can’t find people of color in STEM, Corporations can’t find women executives.

Well, I have less than 600 Twitter followers and A Blind Black Man in the Poconos, Pennsylvania found a deaf white writer in Saskatoon, Canada.

(Laughing…)

So in the words of Mr. Biz Markie:
Audio: “C’mon, don’t give me that” from “Just A Friend”, BizMarkie

Adam Pottle:

The problem is systemic. The film industry is ableist to its core. It prefer stereotypical narratives. It doesn’t understand that Deaf and disabled people have rich lives with their own stories to tell. It prefers to look at us with pity and scorn. Recent examples include Me Before You, The Upside, Stronger, The Theory of Everything…

Notice these films all feature white actors, too. We don’t see Deaf and disabled Black characters, or Indigenous characters, or Asian characters. We don’t see LGBTQ2+ disabled characters.

Deaf and disabled people must be allowed to tell their own stories, from the ground up, as writers, directors, editors, photographers, producers, costume designers, and of course actors.

TR:

So #LetUsPlayUs, I’m with that. But can we let disability drive the conversation. Call out the many valuable reasons for representation and inclusion and rather than using the history of others as catch phrases use the lessons and honor those who paved the way.

I think we can agree the more marginalized you are in the society the lower your chances of seeing a real representation of yourself. Go ahead and think about the various marginalized communities. As you filter and each segment appears to have less and less representation not only in society but also on screen.

Just imagine if rather than re-booting movies and shows from the past, Hollywood start out by seeking multi marginalized Non Cisgender women of color with a story to tell.

As Adam Pottle points out.

Adam Pottle:

the first producer or major studio to truly recognize the potential of disabled filmmakers and disabled actors will experience a tremendous cultural and financial windfall. There are over a billion disabled people worldwide. We want to see ourselves onscreen. When we do that, disabled people will come out in droves, leading to changes in theatre spaces and screening options. In short, disabled people will change the way the world watches movies.

TR:

We’ve literally already started that process; Caption and Audio Description have already begun seeping into the mainstream.

So let’s continue.

By the way, the reviews of “In the Dark” are in & mixed. I started watching the premiere via the app but there’s no Audio Description. I don’t believe it’s offered by the network. One review had this to say:

“One thing In the Dark does get right is that the blind characters are completely in control. There’s a murder mystery at the center of it, but the real thrill is watching Murphy live such an imperfect, independent life. She goes out; she smokes cigarettes; she has sex—these are things we rarely see blind
characters do onscreen.

TR:

Seriously? Yawl need to go to a convention!

Apparently 80 percent of the writing staff is made up of women and several LGBTQ+ and blind writers and led by a female
showrunner.

And Calle Walton, the young lady who is Blind and part of the cast, said:

“When I lost my sight, I was devastated. I had to throw my acting dreams away. I thought there was no way I could become an actress now that I was blind. This experience has just been amazing:
getting me back on my feet, getting me back into my love for acting. I hope this really opens up the field and it makes it so blind people are getting looked at as characters that can play roles, instead of sighted people playing roles as blind people.”

Same goal, different strategy!

Shout out to :
Chris Danielsen , Director of Public Relations for the National Federation of the Blind.
You can find out more about them at NFB.org. And #LetUsPlayUs on social media including Twitter and Facebook.

Freelance Pop Culture Essayist, Kristen Lopez. You can find her work on line where she’s written for Rotten Tomatoes, Forbes.com and other outlets.
She has two podcasts;
Ticklish Business – all about classic movies before 1970
Citizen Dame – she’s joined by three other female film critics talking all about the latest entertainment news from a feminist lens
You can find Kristen on Twitter
@Journeys_Film

Dr. Adam Pottle is @AddyPottle on Twitter (Also spelled out)
His website is www.adampottle.com
He has a new book out now title Voice.
Where he explores the crucial role deafness has played in the growth of his imagination, and in doing so presents a unique perspective on
a writer’s development.

I think it’s clear that there’s a lot tied up in this topic of representation.

Consider this episode as just the opening of this discussion here on Reid My Mind Radio.

I hope to bring you more in the future which will include highlighting those behind the scenes as well as in front. I got my eye on some talented peeps.

You know there’s only one way to be sure you don’t miss an episode…

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

You can always send me feedback or recommend a guest or topic all you have to do is hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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The Accidental Activist – Alice Wong

April 10th, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

Alice Wong, and Asian American woman in a wheelchair. She is wearing a black jacket with a black patterned scarf. She is wearing a mask over her nose with a tube for her Bi-Pap machine. Behind her is a wall full of colorful street art
Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project, Alice Wong shares her story of becoming a Disability Activist out of necessity. Her love for stories, people and natural curiosity eventually lead to the Disability Visibility Podcast.

In this episode we talk:

  • Disability, it’s not a one size fit all
  • The origin of DVP & Story Corps
  • What is an Activist anyway
  • Importance of people of color in disability & social Justice movements
  • Why we podcast

Finally, press play and here how Twitter helped Alice and I become friends!

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Transcript

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TR:

What’s good Reid My Mind Radio Family.

back with another episode and this one right here is a goodie! Before we drop that intro music and make this episode official, I want to take the time to welcome any new listeners. Come on in and make yourself comfortable. Mi podcast es su podcast!

If you are new here and I haven’t scared you away yet,, my name is T.Reid producer and host of this here series of audio files transmitted over the interwebs right to your earholes! And since we’re about that accessibility here, we send it via transcript to your Braille embosser, oh and your eyeballs too.

Specifically, I’m talking about stories and profiles of compelling people often impacted by some degree of blindness, low vision or disability. Every now and then I share my own experiences of adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

I’m excited about this episode and you should be too.

We have a true well respected superstar disability activist who joined me virtually on the Reid Compound, that’s home of the RMM Laboratory, where you can find me with my audio microscopes, beakers and chemicals mixing up some new concoction.

Honestly, you’d enjoy this one uncut and raw. It’s her work and output that make her dope.

But I’m in the lab, therefore I have to add a drop of this and that because it’s what I do. It’s my way to be sure it gets through the veins a bit faster and right to that brain. This one hopefully will also touch your soul.

Let’s get it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

AW:

Hi, my name is Alice Wong. I’m the founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project. I’m a Disabled person living in San Francisco, California.

TR:

If you’re on Twitter and especially tapped into the #Disability neighborhood, you heard of Alice Wong, @SFDirewolf.

Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility project which means she’s tapped into much of the latest disability related information as it relates to politics, justice and culture. She’s all about amplifying the voices of people of color with disabilities. We’ll get into all that but first I wanted to get to know her a bit more.

AW:

My parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s. I was their first kid in America in a new land.

Shortly after they had me my mom noticed other babies my age were crawling. She noticed that I wasn’t crawling the way other kids were.

I was diagnosed with a neuro muscular disability similar to Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

I guess I would also say that because my disability is progressive meaning that my body has changed a lot during my life. I used to walk. Then I used a walker then a wheelchair. And for people who are listening my voice sounds a little funny because I’m wearing a mask over my nose and it’s attached to a ventilator and that’s to get me support when I breathe.

I think this idea of adaptation and constantly trying to adjust and make the most of what I have I think that’s the relationship I have with disability.

TR:
If you’re familiar with Reid My Mind Radio then you should know how I feel about adaptations. In my opinion, it’s just one of the ways that I think non-disabled people could learn from people with disabilities.

It’s the mistake I think the able bodied world makes every day in overlooking a community of problem solvers and creative thinkers.

AW:

Disability isn’t static.

Whether you acquire it during your life or whether you have a chronic illness progressive disability like mine, all of us are evolving, we’re changing and society is changing. We’re entering and exiting different environments . How our disability interacts with those environments, with attitudes with institutions that’s always going to be a variable.

I think that’s kind of exciting in a sense, that we’re constantly learning. It’s not a very simplistic linear experience. For example, blind not blind, disabled not disabled. It’s a lot more complicated
than that.

TR:

Complicated indeed. Just ask someone with Low Vision.

To the casual onlooker, they appear (awh dang, I’m going to say it!) normal). So when they put their face close to an item on a shelf or pull out their handy dandy magnifier they’re faced with the questions. Or they struggle to ask for assistance. Of course there are those with the unseen disabilities who experience similar struggles.
Complicated from both internal and external effect of ableism.

Managing her own disability proved to be an early lesson to Alice’s activism later in life.

AW:

Sometimes it starts with being able to speak for yourself and fight for what you need. That was kind of my experience in junior high and then High School.

Getting angry at things that were happening to me to realize that I had to push back, I had to speak up and fight for myself.

I didn’t think of that as activism. As I got more connected with the disability community in my 20’s. I moved out of Indiana where I grew up to San Francisco and I really found people and culture that really welcomed me. That really opened my mind to like the variety of the disability community and learning more about the history of disability rights and activism. That’s when I really started to realize that being an advocate for yourself is all well and good, but it’s really about changing the system. It’s only through changing systems and cultures that you really make an impact. I definitely feel I’ve been an accidental activist.

TR:

Well what exactly is an activist anyway?

According to Merriem Webster:
a person who uses or supports strong actions in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue

The example used is that of a public protest. But who gets to say one version of activism is superior.

AW:

There are people who definitely look at online activism, social media as second rate, not as real that you’re not as hard because your bodies are not on the line.

Audio: Multiple news clips of disability rights protesters over sounds of protesters chanting.

AW:

There’s that very narrow idea of what it means to be an activist.

AW:

I really do take to social media a lot I do realize my own usage is a real privilege.

There are people for various reasons who find social media incredibly inaccessible and overwhelming and I totally get that.

I have privilege in terms of not really having a lot of access barriers the way some people do depending on what platform you’re using. I have access to a laptop and an internet service. All of these things cost money and there’s a certain amount of skills. So those are my privileges that I readily acknowledge.

TR:

Get in where you fit in!

There’s room for all types of activism.

AW:

There are some people who lets say they’re not able to leave their beds and they are just as bad ass organizers and activist than somebody who goes and locks themselves at a sit-in. But I think there’s all kinds of methods and each one of them are valuable.

TR:

Valuable, like the work taking place at the Disability Visibility Project.

Before DVP was known as an online community dedicated to creating, sharing and amplifying disability media culture, it was a means to collect and archive oral histories of people with disabilities.

AW:

It was 2014 and this is the year before the 25th anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act in July 2015. I remember around this time all sorts of people, all sorts of disability organizations they were all kind of gearing up for this big event. It was a major milestone.

Back then I didn’t work for any nonprofits, I wasn’t part of a group or anything and I really thought what could I do as an individual. How can I contribute to this? I went to a Story Corps event in San Francisco and they talked about community partnerships that they have in the San Francisco area

##TR

Story Corps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

They began collecting stories in 2003 at a story booth in Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

After hearing about the various partnerships in San Francisco, Alice went right up to them and was like:

AW:

“Oh do you have any with the Disability community and they said no we don’t”. I thought ok this could be my little way of doing something.

##TR
Little way? Maybe in the beginning but check out the progression.

AW:

I spoke to them about the possibility of forming a partnership with them.

So originally the DVP was going to be a one year campaign to encourage people with disabilities to tell their stories.

Not only are our stories not told they’re not considered as part of the larger American story. You have Civil rights, all the different movements, people with disabilities have been part of those movements.

We’ve also been part of our own movements. That to me is what really motivated me because we all know about Helen Keller and FDR. What about the history of now. What are everyday people doing? What are their lives about? What do they care about. I think that’s what a lot of us don’t realize is that every day we’re making history and the idea of recording a few oral histories and having them archived at the Library of Congress because that’s what Story Corps does, this to me was really exciting because it’s really a gift for future generations.

TR:

By the end of 2018, about 140 oral histories have been recorded as part of the DVP archives.

There was a natural progression from gathering oral histories that lead to other outlets including a blog and podcast.

AW:

I love talking to people. I guess I’m just really curious. I’m always interested in what other people are doing.

the idea of podcasting is like a radio show that’s topical, that’s current that’s really exciting. I was thinking about doing one a few years ago but it seemed really daunting. I wasn’t sure what’s involved, how much will it cost and just whether I would be able to figure it out.

TR:

Well she definitely did that.

She offers some good steps that I wish I thought more about early on.

AW:

Planning, budgeting. I really took my time to have a clear idea of what the podcast would be.

TR:

Since 2017, consistently podcasting publishing episodes every two weeks, The Disability Visibility Podcast is a great resource for conversations about politics, culture and media from a disabled lens.

AW:

Each episode is roughly 30 minutes. It’s divided into 15 minute segments or maybe just a longer extended conversation. I’ve also had episodes where I’ve had a group conversation with two interviewees. Those are fun too. Basically conversations by disabled people about a whole range of topics.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
And it’s cross disability, correct?

AW:

I’m also very open about what I don’t know and my own kind of implicit biases. I want this to be an opportunity to highlight and really just give space to all kinds of disabled people. And also just to not have me dominate or drive the conversation but to really have them being the ones who drive the conversation.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
I think that’s something that you and I share, that curiosity about things.

I don’t know a lot about a whole lot, (laughs) but I know I want to know and the idea of being able to talk to people and just do that and present it in a way. That’s just really cool.
AW:

Yeh! We think of the guests as the experts. I think of the guest as the expert. I want them to shine. My role is to pick the subject and really do the prep work and hopefully ask good questions. That’s what really gives me joy. When I’m in conversation with somebody and you feel the energy when two or three people are in a room and we’re kind of like Jazz, just riffing , improvising and just vibing off one another. That’s what’s so exciting about disability culture it is a shared experience. Whether we are exactly the same or not, but very often just the lived experience. Sometimes there’s a lot of common themes and when we see that reflected upon one another no matter how different we are it just makes us feel more empowered I think.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
Absolutely!

There’s so many different topics and you’re broadening the scope of disability for many people, including myself. I was happy to see you had just recently, the B-HEARD Project and Talia Lewis talking about the prison industrial complex and how that affects people with disabilities. That was a really good episode.

AW:

Yeh, that was kind of a part two of another episode I did earlier, the year before on police violence because I believe they go hand in hand.

There’s the school to prison pipeline which we all know disproportionately impacts Black and Brown kids, but also Black and Brown disabled kids in particular.

There’s mass incarceration, the whole prison industrial complex and the way it really does capture so many people with disabilities. And then there’s the other aspect too. In terms of the everyday violence that happens to people with disabilities but at the hands of law enforcement. There’s a lot of layers I feel like these are issues that sometimes we within the community don’t talk about. We really need to continue flushing that out in as many ways as possible. And to make it as personal as possible so that people can really get a sense , a visual sense of the cost at the heart and the impact.

TR:

In 2018, Alice expanded that storytelling to include the self-published Resistance and Hope anthology.

AW:

the truth during the 2016 presidential election I think I panicked, I freaked out like a lot of people when we realized Trump is our president.

Audio: Clips of 45th POTUS (TR does not say that name.) on disabilities. Includes comments on Paralympics “hard to watch”, comment on Senator McCain being captured and mocking disabled reporter.

Audio: Prophets of Rage, Public Enemy

AW:

I thought to myself ok, what can I do.

We’re going to be entering some really dangerous times under this administration and we know, marginalized folks always knew what the consequences of this president.

What are some of the wisdom and the knowledge and expertise by disabled people who have always been resisting.
This didn’t just happen two years ago.

Audio:
“46,000 year old skeleton of a Neanderthal man, who had significant Cerebral Palsy. Other Skeletons have been found with missing limbs”

AW:

Disabled people have been surviving and thriving and resisting for centuries. Since time began.

Audio: Multiple clips on disability history:
* Aristotle has been said to have been an advocate for Eugenics and the killing of disabled children… let there be a law that no disabled child shall live”
* “Romans mutilated deformed people and just through them into the Tiber River”
* :”Just this past century we had Eugenics and freak shows… that planned to eliminate or denigrate such individuals respectively. Mental disabilities and Dwarfism in Medieval Europe were considered the produce of possession and sin and were often treated as such. With their only opportunities to survive in society as court jesters and fools.”

AW:

The idea for this anthology was really a chance to ask people that I personally admire, that I learn a lot from . people like TL Lewis, Leroy Moore, like Vilissa Thompson, like so many people

It’s an E-Book featuring 16 essays by 17 disabled people.

[
I would say that pretty much
]
All but one person is a disabled person of color. So that to me was also a really intentional thing that I really wanted to center to the voice of disabled people of color.
I really think that there aren’t enough representation and enough attention paid to disabled people of color.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
Why is that important to you. What does that lend to the overall disability movement.

AW:

While I’m thankful for the people who were part of the first, male movement, the independent living movement in the 60’s and 70’s but it was a predominantly white experience. These folks became leaders, formed organizations. They’re the ones that are often noted in history. They’re the ones who are seen as Icons.
I know this in my bones that there were disabled people of color and other marginalized folks that were not given their due. I think that has always been part of the problem of who gets to tell the stories?

It’s always about power. It’s about privilege. As somebody who is proud to be Asian American disabled woman I’m cognizant of the sexism, racism that’s a part of our community. I think that’s something we don’t talk about enough. That we have to like step out be as we have to always hide those parts of our experiences in order to get along. It’s prettier to homogenize our experience and we’re so different, we’re so diverse. Those who enjoyed some privilege in terms of representing our community have really missed out in terms of what we could all learn from each other. I always kind of known that my own experience was very much situated within my culture, where I’m located in terms of growing up in the Mid-West. being a product of immigration. I’m going to see various issues very different from others. I think there’s so much in terms of living with all of these different intersections that give really valuable perspectives. Let’s face it those that set the agenda aren’t really the ones who are the most kind of at the margins. So their idea of what disability rights is may not be what disability rights is for somebody else. So that to me is why I’m very intentionally try to widen the center. Rather it just be white, physically disabled experience.

# Community

TR:

That’s the other aspect of the Divisibility Visibility Project, building community.

AW:

I grew up disabled in the 70’s and 80’s pre internet. It was a pretty lonely experience. I didn’t feel comfortable or confident until much later. I think not only because I didn’t have people like me whether in person or online but I also never saw myself reflected in the media. So that’s another huge reason why right now this time we’re living in is kind of amazing because people are using online tools like Twitter YouTube, Tumbler. We are all creating our own content.

I think it’s a really exciting time to be alive in 2019.

TR:

Through the use of online tools like Twitter and their hashtags DVP coordinates and hosts regular Twitter chats. These are conversations in the form of structured Q&A’s where the community is asked to answer questions on a specified subject.

The beauty of these online public discussions is that others can easily be brought into the conversation or discover them. Plus their archived.

Information about past & future chats are published on the VVP website and shared via the Twitter account @DisVisibility

As far as the future for DVP is concerned,

AW:

The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, housing , transportation, education. Almost every one of these areas there have been a real attempt at going backwards in terms of advancements for civil rights and disability rights.

Overall I think it’s been a war against the poor, immigrants, people of color, against the LGBT community and against women – you know reproductive rights.

There’s a lot to look out for.
[TR in conversation with AW:]
This is probably one of the hardest questions Alice. With 45’s (Note – TR does not say that Trump name) and all that, what do you see in the future that’s hopeful?

AW:

Delay – ooh!

[TR in conversation with AW:]

Laughing . Unfortunately that’s a hard question, right? More laughs.

AW:

Yeh!

You know I do find, it is really hopeful to see so many people engaged and politicized in ways they may not have been before. That to me gives me hope that people realize oh shit, we all are in this together.

My friends, my neighbors, they are all going to be hurt. It’s up to all of us to speak against hate, bigotry, and to call it out.

That to me is hopeful to see people not give a fuck anymore. Put aside this whole idea of respectability politics. Oh we gotta be civil, we gotta be polite, we gotta work within the system. Well you know what, sometimes you can’t do that. Sometimes the situation calls for direct action, it calls for people to be angry and to really show that anger. There’s some hope in that. People are hopefully coming to terms with our relationship to what kind of world do we want to live in. What kind of leadership do we want and deserve. Last fall the wave of women and people of color elected for the first time. That’s kind of exciting. People are galvanized. People want to do something. There’s a lot of potential with that.

Audio: “Well you’re quite hostile!” from “Prophets of Rage” Public Enemy

[TR in conversation with AW:]
What is that you like to do when you’re not fighting Ableism Alice?

AW:

Oh so many things Thomas.

I love coffee, I love good desserts with coffee, I love going to bakeries cafe’s, I have a love affair with fried chicken and French fries, I love really really good southern food but also just watching TV, watching cat videos, Netflix. We all need to find things that give us joy. Talking to my friends, being lazy, love to sleep in lay around. Those are things that keep me going.

##TR

Lazy? Do not get it twisted. Let’s take a look at what Alice and DVP turned out in 2018.

Hit me!
Audio: I Go to Work” Kool Moe Dee

I’m going to need the right vibe for this one.

She’s written article for multiple publications on topics including;

the California wildfires
plastic straw bans and accessibility
an essay on the visibility of Senator Tammy Duckworth as a disabled mother of color
HR 620 and disability rights
representation of disabled people in entertainment
for Teen Vogue.

– Published 5 oral histories of some movers and shakers in the disability community in partnership with Story Corps. 

Lots of blog posts including guests posts, Q&A’s

Produced and hosted 26 episodes of the
Disability Visibility podcast
with her team:
co-audio producers Cheryl Green, Geraldine Ah-Sue, and Sarika Mehta.

Multiple media appearances including:
United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell
on CNN
– Featured in the
Bitch 50,
(I didn’t name it!)

a list recognizing the most impactful creators, artists, and activists in pop culture influential feminists by Bitch Media and
Colorline’s 20 X 20,

Multiple presentations and talks:
the 2018 Longmore lecture at the
Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability
– Co-presented a workshop on reproductive justice and disabled people

Co- hosted a couple dozen Twitter Chats
for DVP and several other organizations and groups.

Don’t forget she Published and edited
Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People
available on Amazon
and free in multiple formats

To find out more about that and how you can share your disability story and have it archived with Story Corps visit the DVP at DisabilityVisibilityProject.com
Follow them on Twitter @DisVisibility
And definitely make sure you follow Alice if you want to be in the know about disability issues and culture at SFDirewolf.

All these links will be on this episodes show page at ReidMyMind.com.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
Alice Wong yawl!

Salute to you Alice. I think you do some wonderful things and I know I’m learning from you. So I appreciate you.

AW:

Well I am learning from you. And I’m so happy that, again it’s through Twitter that brought us together.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
Yeh!

AW:

That’s what’s really awesome We may have never come across each other in real life but thanks to the internet I could call you a friend.

[TR in conversation with AW:]

Absolutely, absolutely! I truly appreciate that. I truly appreciate you and the fact that you just called me a friend I’m very happy about that! Because I hope to continue this. I honestly do learn a lot and I appreciate that because this is part of my growth and you know finding where I fit in with disability and how this all works and I appreciate it.

AW:

Me too you know It’s all part of the journey, and you’re part of it.

TR:

Tell me who wouldn’t want to be on a journey with cool people, bad asses getting things done and doing it from a good place. I guess could be summed up by a hashtag from another project of Alice and two other disability champions Mia Mingus and Sandy Ho.
#AccessIsLove.

Audio: Music… “It Just Makes Me Happy”, DJ Quad (No Copyright Music)

One thing disability has taught me that applies to just about everything; there’s no normal. There’s the way we’ve been used to doing something and if anybody tells you it’s easy to just change that, they haven’t been through anything.

But we can adapt. We can find a new way and sometimes that new way, even though it’s not the one you would choose, it may be the one you needed and may prove to bring you where you’re supposed to be.

A few things I want to highlight before we get out of here.

No one gave Alice permission to start Disability Visibility Project. She didn’t need a board of directors, she didn’t need a large organization behind her. She made the decision to make it happen.

We can all do that. And if you have to change it up cool!
If you don’t enjoy it that’s cool too. Just start it if you’re thinking about it.

psst… I’m talking to you!

Like if you’re thinking about subscribing to this here podcast, I suggest you follow through with that feeling!

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

You can always send me feedback or recommend a guest or topic all you have to do is hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

The Art of Access with Cheryl Green

March 27th, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

The camera catches Cheryl & Cynthia from a jaunty angle. Cynthia holds a beautiful plaque for Superfest Disability Justice Award for New Day Films’ Who Am I To Stop It. The plaque has text, Braille, and raised lettering. Cynthia smiles at Cheryl as she burst into excited laughter at the passer-by who shouted “Superfest, whoo!” she holds a bouquet of sunflowers by her face.

Meet Cheryl Green, a filmmaker focusing on disability identity and culture and making media accessible.

She began making films after acquiring disabilities from brain injury. Her media combine personal narrative and activism to create
dynamic tools that critically challenge misconceptions and stereotypes of disability, celebrate pride in disability experiences, and amplify marginalized
voices. Cheryl works to create a platform for people to use the arts to increase connectedness and to promote dialogue and change within the larger community.

Hear why Cheryl views Captions and Audio Description as an artistic part of the film/media and a means of achieving disability justice and equity.

Her latest film Who Am I To Stop it is a documentary on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury.

She’s a fellow Association of Independence in Radio New Voice Scholar… hit play below and hear how that worked out for yours truly!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Audio: “Fellow Americans, it’s with the utmost pride and sincerity that I present this recording …” PSA, Jay Z (Just Blaze)
— Beat rides underneath…

TR:

Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.

Audio: “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is…” PSA, Jay Z

TR:

T.R E I D, Moving podcasts by the GB!

. I’m your host and producer of this podcast.
Bringing you stories and profiles of compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss and disability. Plus, I occasionally explore my own experience around becoming blind as an adult. I try to present that in my own way blending my words with audio and sound design.

Before we get into it, you know movin’

Audio: “Moving’ doin’ it you know” Sex machine, James Brown

I want to send a shout out to those of you who subscribe to the podcast. I truly appreciate you. That simple act of hitting that subscribe button especially if you subscribe via Apple Podcast, increases the chances for others to discover the show.

Audio: Music stops…

I don’t know why, that’s just what they do!..

Music re-starts…

One of my main goals of producing this show is to hopefully reach those who are new to the experience of blindness, low vision, vision loss I think the people across the Atlantic refer to it as sight loss. Maybe you are recently experiencing some form of disability. I think there’s something for you here.

It’s a shift in attitude that is not based on changing just to change but it’s based on experience. Experience from people who have been where you are right now and worked their way through it. People who accepted what they were given, people who didn’t feel the need to overcome but rather embrace and continue.

Hmmm!

If you are new to disability let me send you a very warm welcome. A virtual hug going out to you. I’m referring to anyone impacted by disability. Whether you are Blind or Low Vision or maybe you are the spouse, parent or child or even the friend of… we got something for you right chere. And yes, I said right chere!

So with all of that said, I hope you are ready because I want to introduce you to a new friend of mine who brings a different perspective to how we view accessible media content.

I just hyped myself up and I hope you can feel it too!

Let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

# Cheryl Intro

My name is Cheryl Green. I am an independent documentary producer and audio producer.

TR:

She’s also a strong advocate and maker of accessible media content including subtitles, captions and audio description.

As an independent film maker, we see that’s just one of the unique perspectives she brings to her work.

# On Disability

[TR in conversation with CG:]
What is your relationship with disability?

CG:

I like that question. It’s so much nice and more nuanced then what’s your disability and what’s your diagnosis because disability experience is so much more than medical diagnosis.

One of my relationships to disability is political. I’m always looking at cultural and political things from a disability rights and disability justice platform. Another relationship is that almost all of my friends and significant people in my life are disabled people. And then because I like things in three’s; my relationship to disability is that I have multiple invisible disabilities, but I’m not sure that invisible makes sense as a term. Non-apparent or easy to hide. Some of them are acquired and some are stuff that I was born with that has shown up later in life from kind of living as a knucklehead and now it’s coming up. Laughs.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs…

Oh boy there’s a lot of stories right there. In that one statement, living as a knucklehead. Oh boy!

CG:

Laughing…

But it’s funny because that’s the one that I was born with. It’s a connective tissue disorder and for me it’s very mild , but I have dislocations and I have chronic pain chronic tendonitis, ligaments that are over stretched. I was born with it. The knucklehead part is that I over did it as an athlete through most of my life. So just chronic injuries and stuff but it’s nothing as fun and exciting as you know…what did she do?

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs…

# Captioning

## TR:

Cheryl also experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury that she says is indirectly related to the complications of the connective tissue disorder.

Our conversation however, focused on accessible media content. Beginning first with captioning.

Now I know most of you listening are way smarter than me but I needed a clarification between sub titles and captions.

CG:

Subtitles are just a typed out version of what people are saying. It’s just words on the screen as the words are being spoken. Captions also provide descriptions of the sounds music, whether there’s traffic going by, dogs barking. When possible you can add in a description like whispering or tense voice . There’s all sorts of descriptors you can add in there.
They should identify who’s speaking and when the speaker switches.

The thing about subtitles is that they actually assume that it’s only hearing audiences watching a film that has subtitles because there’s no indication when the speakers change. And if you’re looking at a sunrise and two people are off screen talking and you just see sentence after sentence after sentence there’s actually no way to know who’s talking and when the speaker’s switching. And to me I don’t see how you can follow what’s happening if you don’t know when the different people are talking.

TR:

Maybe you can’t tell yet, but this subject has a special place in her heart. It’s not just about words on the screen.

CG:

I love captioning more than anything else that I do. One thing that I love about captioning is that it is so precise, detailed, tedious and repetitive. That just works for me.

I look at captioning as part of the art. I do not think of it as a piece of accessibility that you have to add or want to add at the end. To me it’s artistic. Translating things. I can’t literally caption every single sound that is in a piece of art. That doesn’t make sense it’s not even possible. So I have to make creative decisions based on what I think it most important from the creator’s perspective and what I think audiences will want to get from something. I don’t want to be like “Speaks slowly, whispers quietly, birds chirp” I want it to be rich and lush especially when the film or the show is rich and lush. I feel like it’s my duty to make the captions as interesting and beautiful and artistic as the film is.

For me captioning is something that I can do in a move towards justice and equity. It is access to information. Whether that’s the news or pure entertainment or something that’s informational or somethings that’s on a social issue. it’s about equity. It’s not just about meeting compliance. I love doing it and I love what it can bring to people and how it can include more people in media and in conversations.

# Audio Description

TR:
Captioning eventually led Cheryl to find an additional way to make media more inclusive and engaging.

CG:

Through one more piece of access that’s very artistic , very subjective and hopefully integrate it into the art itself.

TR:

Maybe that’s not the way you’re used to thinking about or even hearing Audio Description discussed. . but that’s what she’s talking about.

Cheryl recalls first thinking about AD after providing captions for a client and then reading their Facebook post which read;
CG:
“Hey my video has captions now it’s accessible to everyone!”

## TR:

This just wasn’t true!

CG:

You have to be able to read quite well and quite quickly to follow captions. No, captions are not accessible to all people because not everybody can read in whatever given language there in but also I looked at that and thought well these captions are just visible on screen and if you’re not
looking at the captions there not there.

TR:

There’s all sorts of benefits gained from captioning and Audio description. And not just for the consumer.

CG:

I think it takes a lot to acknowledge you know what, I made a great film here but I recognize that not everybody can access it because of the way I made it.

There’s a big piece of acknowledging this film is not complete until more people can come in.

From a capitalistic sense if you have great content and you want an audience why not make your content available to a bigger audience. It just makes sense.

But I hate capitalism so I do also value more of a disability justice and social justice and equity lens to say people need to be participating in civic engagement, arts, culture, entertainment and all of it. And What can I do to make that more accessible and available to more people.

# Film

TR:

She’s answering that question from multiple points of view. That’s a Caption & Audio Description provider and as a film maker.

Following the brain injury which impacted her ability to cook as well as organize she did what anyone would do;

CG:

I made a comedy film about it and it took off.

Audio: “Cooking with Brain Injury”

TR:
Okay, maybe that’s not what everyone does.

That first film was called “Cooking with Brain Injury”

A short film looking at daily struggles of life after traumatic brain injury with dark, honest humor.

CG:

I sold many copies of it. I’ve taken it to state and national speech therapy conferences. I’ve done Continuing Ed. trainings around it and it was totally impairment based. It was a window into my world.

TR:

After other films around brain injury, she decided it was time to close that window.

Audio: window closing

CG:

I realized I need to get out of the spotlight and get behind the camera and do more. Over the years my films have become much less about impairment and much more about disability experience, marginalization, self-empowerment, autonomy and decision making. I do a lot of cross disability work now. It was all brain injuries in the beginning but that didn’t hold my attention because it can be so impairment focused.

TR:

Cheryl’s first film didn’t start out with Captions or Audio Description.

CG:

I didn’t know about access at all when I started, but as soon as I found out I could copy down the spoken words and put them up on the screen; it didn’t look good , but those words were on the screen. And I loved it!
Then I got educated about Captioning software

TR:
She became quite serious about the craft.

CG:

I read up on the FCC guidelines. I love it when the FCC issues new guidelines new recommendations. I’m there with those white papers reading them to make things the best that I can.

I have seen some people criticize the FCC guidelines for example saying, “I don’t care what the guidelines are I want to know what Deaf people want.”

Number one, Captions are not just for Deaf people. There’s a lot of different kind of people who want and need Captions.

Number two, there were Caption users on the committee that wrote the FCC guidelines.

They’re really good guidelines . They make for beautiful Captions They included actual consumers actual Caption users in their creation and that’s another reason I really value them.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

You really are a Caption nerd! Laughs…

CG:

Laughs… I’m such a nerd!

TR:

Deep passion for a given subject. That’s what separates the nerds from the rest.

In this case, the passion is all about inclusion, social justice and equity.

CG:

I have a lot of clients a lot of filmmakers who come to me for captioning and they have a lot of complaints about the way captions look. Or they make requests that I find unreasonable. They’re unreasonable because they are centering that hearing filmmaker who doesn’t actually know what Captions are or can’t really articulate what Captions are for. And I say, your aesthetics around Captions are not what I’m working with. I am working to serve Caption users and I have very explicit reasons why I make the choices that I make. I’ll negotiate with you. I’ll talk with you on the phone but you have to understand that Caption users come firsthand I’m not interested in your aesthetic choices around the Captions.

If you want access you would make captions the most accessible that I know how to make. I get into fights with people all of the time and it’s so much fun!

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs!

TR:

Don’t worry, know one’s out here recklessly out starting fights. This is all about advocating for the user.

CG:

IF content creators always included Caption users and Audio Description users in their minds and their target audience then it wouldn’t be a thing. But it’s specifically because people whether it’s willfully or they just have somehow remained oblivious through their careers, they don’t even consider people who would benefit from the access as part of their target audience. That’s why I harp on it . I would love to get to a place where it’s just we have to do color correction, we have to do sound sweetening, we have to trim off 35 seconds on this, we have to add the Audio Description. Boom, boom,boom boomboom!

When it’s just part of the practice, yeh, I won’t have to be so political and I won’t enjoy fighting with people. But until we’re at that day for whatever reason I enjoy being super fired up and political about it.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

The order in which you laid that out where you said ok, they have to do some color correction, do this and let’s add Audio Description. I want that thought about in the writing because to me the end result would be better. I still think that when it comes to things like Audio Description and Captions, there’s a charity model that starts off the process.. Let’s do this because you know (the following said mockingly) it’s a good thing to do for the people. Let’s give this to them so they can be happy.

If they thought about it has what you said which is it’s going to make our film better Not just because more people are seeing it but it actually may do something better to the film Meaning, if you think about Audio Description at the time of writing it at the time of producing that film chances are you’re going to think of something that’s going to enhance it.

CG:

Oh, hundred percent! Oh my gosh, I just got interviewed yesterday they were like what’s the one take home message that you 3want filmmakers to have.

I say, you put access in your budget in the pre-production phase. You put it in your budget so there’s no “oh we didn’t know”. And then you always consider it. You don’t just get the supplementary footage or the daily footage.

There’s kind of this idea that you find something beautiful you hold the camera on it for at least 10 seconds, get a good shot. You know what? Do it for 40 seconds because then when we’re editing there’s the opportunity to say let’s stretch out this shot a little more because then we can put the Audio Description in.

I am totally with you that if you are considering this stuff from the beginning you’re going to film it differently. You’re going to edit it differently. It is going to be better.

TR:

This is coming from an experienced film maker.

CG:

When I filmed my documentary and I was still new to this, I told my Director of Photography, “Don’t ever do extreme close ups. Ever” I don’t want any extreme close ups. Even with the mouth off to the side because we are going to have captions in every version of this film ever shown. I told the Editor, “I need you to put in spots, stretched out spots where Audio Description can come in.”

Now unfortunately I wasn’t trained in Audio Description back then, and so we didn’t nail that as well. We didn’t have enough stretched out spaces and the Audio Description isn’t as lush as it could be.

We did some re-editing and we added in more space. I re-wrote the script, the original Audio Description script, hired other voices to do it. As you watch my film progress over time the same film different versions Audio Description becomes more lush, more engaging more honest because now I understand Audio Description a little better. So there were things that were a little vague in the description.

TR:

For many such re-writes would feel like a chore.

Like her latest production, “Who AM I to Stop it”, a documentary film on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury, was selected for Superfest International Disability Film Festival.

The longest running disability film festival in the world – co-hosted by San Francisco’s Lighthouse and the
Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State.

Superfest is one of the few festivals worldwide that is accessible to disabled filmgoers of all kinds.  
CG:

I got an email from the director, hey we love your film it got in, it got an award, but we had to stop during the screening a few times because our Blind jurors felt left out by a joke in the film. It wasn’t described well enough. She said I’m sorry I don’t mean to be negative but are you at all available to re-record.

TR:

I suppose it’s viewing this process as art that produces Cheryl’s response.

CG:

Negative, this is the biggest gift in the world are you kidding me let’s go.

I rewrote several parts but I specifically rewrote the part that people felt left out by. My Blind Audio description teacher helped point out some spots where she still felt a little bit excluded or maybe even confused about what was happening. It’s just more descriptive. That’s how art should be. As you learn and develop your skills it gets more wonderful.

Audio: Basic Able

TR:

Wonderful, like the time she described an improvised dance segment for a video podcast. It featured Antoine Hunter

CG:

He is a really phenomenal person. He’s a dancer, choreographer and healing artist. He teaches dance. He’s marvelous. He’s Deaf and he’s the Artistic Director I think, of the Real Urban Jazz dance Company.

I’ve never done dance before. It was so fun and it was so exciting to try and get the dance moves and match them. And because he’s Deaf he incorporates some sign into the way he dances.

I’m not fluent at all, but I’m familiar with Sign language and I’m familiar with the role that facial expression plays in the grammar and expression of Sign language. So I was able to make references to his hand gestures as being Sign and references to his facial expressions.

I think I said his facial expressions mirror the expansiveness of his bodies motion.

Audio: from podcast if available…

TR:

Hopefully, by now, you too should at least start to see the art. It’s the familiarity with the culture that enables Cheryl to recognize such detail.

CG:

Everything that I do has something about disability or Deaf culture in it. I engage with it seven days a week. Whether I’m making something or reading or watching something. I try to immerse myself in the cultural aspects of Deafness and Disability. That brings a more lush Audio Description

TR:

That level of detail and equity goes as far as seeking input from those being described.

CG:

I sent Antoine the script because it wasn’t going to be in the captions for him to read. He really liked it and he corrected one part that he didn’t like. It didn’t feel fair to him and he gave me words that not only feel more fair to him, but were more beautiful than the words I had chosen. It was so collaborative and so beautiful.

When I’m describing what somebody’s body looks like or how it moves I send them my script. I ask them what they think about how I wrote it. or I tell them I’m going to audio describe this please tell me how you want time to describe what you look like. Sometimes people will send me a description that’s actually not very visual.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Like what?

CG:

Like when I say how do you want me to describe how you’re moving? And the response is a man with Cerebral Palsy. That doesn’t give me a sense of how you move, but I asked and you answered. And I respect your answer. But it is tricky because the point of audio description is to give people a flavor of the visuals and man with Cerebral Palsy that’s not very visual is it?

[TR in conversation with CG:]
No, not at all.

CG:

If it’s your content and I’m describing you and that’s all you give me ok, that’s what I’ll use.

When it’s my content I’ll use their words as the starting point and expand to make it more descriptive and more visual oriented.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

Give me an idea of the types of things that you would include in a description of someone.

CG:

I try to always describe something that relates to race or ethnicity. If I know how the person identifies then I can use those terms. If I don’t then I might be more descriptive. for instance, I describe myself as a white woman, which is kind of descriptive but not really because my skin tone is darker than any of my white friends. I’m the darkest person I know in my circle of white friends so it’s not super descriptive to say that I’m white. But it wouldn’t be useful to say I’m a brown woman because I’m white. I just have kind of light brown skin. If I don’t know their ethnicity I might say someone with a dark skin tone, someone with a fair skin tone. Sometimes I’ll defer to hair. A woman with bright red hair.. She’s probably white if she has bright red hair. now not necessarily of course.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

(Laughs…) Now-a-days!

CG:
There are different reasons why someone would have red hair regardless of their ethnicity.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

What would make you choose their hair and what would make you include that in the description. I wonder why would they say that? Why did they now tell me that this person is a Black person or whatever. And I’m like hmm, let me see if this is going to be really necessary to the story line.
CG:

Yeh!
[TR in conversation with CG:]

Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. And it leaves me wondering why they made that choice and why they didn’t describe the white person.

CG:

Ok, get ready!

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Yeh, ok! (Laughs.)

CG:

Oh my! I cannot tell you how with you I am. I’m going to describe something if it feels relevant to the story or for political reasons.

Just end my career now if I ever put something out there where I say the black person and the person meaning white. I don’t know if I would ever recover from my remorse.

I don’t do, a wheel chair user and a person. Huh! No! If there’s a wheelchair user and there’s someone else standing. One person sitting in a wheel chair and one person standing. I make political choices If one person’s race or ethnicity or nationality becomes relevant to the story, I am going to make a point to name everybody’s so that I’m not singling one person out as the other or the weirdo or the outsider.

There is no way that someone is ethnic and some other person is not ethnic. I just cannot even wrap my head around … I don’t even know what ethnic food means, what on earth, what? (Said with a lot of annoyance!)

What food doesn’t come from a culture? What? (Said exasperatingly)

No, I will name them all or I will name nobody. And it really depends on the content creator, what they’re going for, how much time there is and yes is it relevant. Is it going to make a difference to the story for me to know something about the ethnicities of the people involved and is there time to get that in there. And if I can’t describe them all then I can’t describe any. or sometimes I will tell somebody, you need to stretch out that first scene because I have got to get that description in there. I have to!

TR:

Movies, television are often a reflection of society. It’s not surprising that the politics of the world impacts the way we think about and create access to content.

There are many who believe the best approach is to ignore race or ethnicity all together. As Cheryl points out, the results don’t lead to equality.

CG:

I think when Audio Describers are shy, oh I don’t’ want to say those words, as an Audio Describer your comfort and discomfort are not supposed to be part of this. You’re censoring it for the viewers.

You know I was really moved by your episodes around Black panther. There’s the access piece, but also one of the ways we white wash is to pretend like white people are neutral and just people. And so whatever we think is important is what’s important. And yeh, they had some cool costumes in Black panther, but ok, cool costumes whatever. That’s not fair. It’s so beyond not fair, it really is a show of white supremacy.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Mm Hmm! (In agreement)

CG:

To neutralize overt displays of culture that are not white, you erase them, you ignore them. That is white supremacy. And it’s not ok.

If the film maker did not erase culture then the Audio Describer or Captioner really should not erase culture as well.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Absolutely!

CG:

Some people feel like it’s just the detail, no. We’re talking about humanity and we’re talking about dehumanizing people. Willfully dehumanizing people when we leave stuff out

TR:

Cheryl says the same occurs in captions.

Not only is she creating films, accessible content through subtitles, captions and audio description, Cheryl produces the podcast Pigeonhole.

As described on Apple Podcast:

Pigeonhole challenges the stereotypes that disabled people are all white, straight, middle class people in search of a cure for their bodies and minds
the way mainstream media would make it seem. Made by from disability community, and centering disabled people as audience, Pigeonhole interrogates the
assumptions and biases we hold about disability and embraces all parts of people’s identities. We uplift disability culture, celebrate identity, and break
out of the narrow pigeonholes people attempt to stuff us in.

She’s a fellow recipient of the New Voice Scholarship warded by Association of Independence in Radio.

Receiving that scholarship puts us both in a very exclusive group of some of the best audio makers currently making radio and podcasts.

Audio: Microphone and other equipment collapsing during my conversation with Cheryl.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

We are having operating difficulties, please stand by

TR:

Well, maybe not all of us!

You can find Cheryl online at WhoAmIToStopIt.com She tweets under that same name, which again is her latest production.

Her films are available through New Day Film.com.

Checkout Cheryl’s podcast Pigeonhole – that’s P I G E O N H O L E. I especially like the episode titled “A nap and a bird.” It’s a short well told story that says a lot.

# Close

Audio: “As we proceed”

We’re continuing to advance our ongoing conversation around Audio Description and content access in general.

Considering captions & AD as art? Why shouldn’t it be. It’s the written word that has some pretty strict requirements including the time constraints and a need to quickly convey a message. We’re talking about talented writers and voice actors/narrators.

Let’s spread this way of thinking about accessible content.

Let’s push for content creators like Cheryl whether independent or in the major studios to see it as a tool to improve their storytelling. Then maybe we’ll see it become a part of the pre-production and be more of a reflection of the film’s conceived vision.

Looking at content access through a social justice lens feels like it leads closer to inclusion.

A big shout out to Cheryl Green! I enjoy speaking with her and appreciate her perspective. I guess I’ll go ahead and put this right here… I hope you will hear more from her right here on the podcast in the future.

You know, I still hope to hear more from you the listener. I’m not looking for you to write me long messages about how much you love the show or how funny you think I am or how much you like the production, or how much you think this podcast should be the top podcast on the charts or how it makes your day when a new episode publishes… no who would want to hear any of that!

I just want to know if it made you smile, gave you an idea or maybe encouraged you to do something.

I send myself fake messages about all the other stuff so I have that covered!

Seriously, holla back!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

So make sure you Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud
Audio: Bring the audio to a screech!

## TR:

if you mainly listen to the podcast via Sound Cloud I’m hoping you will continue to listen but I am moving away from that platform. I’ve been tolerating their interface in order to avoid the move to another service.

I may decide to keep one or two episodes available, but the best method for staying caught up is to subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio and wherever you get podcasts.

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com

So there’s no confusion, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And please, tell a friend to listen. Spread the love, man!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace

Hide the transcript

Up and Moving Again

March 13th, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

William at the finish line of the Prickly Pear

Meet William Greer, Director of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival. Hear his story of finding his passions after Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and vision loss.

We discuss TBI, Ultra Marathon running, disability representation in films and that time he ran a certain Boston Marathon with NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me Host Peter Sagal.

This episode includes an original piece produced by Tilly Jones.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.
I’m your host and producer, T. Reid.

Today I’m speaking with William Greer. He’s the Director of the Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival. In this episode we’re talking;
* multiple disabilities,
* disability arts
* marathon running.

That’s next up! On Reid My Mind Radio. Let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

WG:

I was riding a bicycle, not wearing a helmet.

TR:

This is William Greer.

WG:

And I went in the middle of the street when I shouldn’t have. Nothing between me and the pavement. My brain was exposed to light air and dirt. I’m told those are the three worst things that could come in touch with the brain.

I was in intensive care for probably three or four weeks. I’m told that there were a couple of times that I was legally dead while I was still in ICU. it took a lot of therapy and patience just to get me out of the hospital and back in school.

TR:

William was only 17 and still in high school at the time of the accident which caused a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI).
In William’s case, the effects include a reduced ability to understand and learn math, facial paralysis…

WG:

I have poor short term memory, my balance is not as good as it used to be. The most dramatic result is the vision loss.

TR:

In order to return to school, Will would have to adjust.

WG:

Figured out new ways to take notes. Learned that I had to listen to a book rather than visually read it. graduated high school got in to Kenyon College and now I’m working full time.

TR:

In 2003, unable to find full time employment, William was volunteering for the Coalition for Texans with Disabilities when he had an idea.

WG:

Oh, we can raise money and awareness by showing films that have good representation of disability.

TR:

In 2004William produced the first festival known as Cinema Touching Disability. It began as a one day event.

WG:

We would pick out films about people who have disabilities. Sometimes they were documentaries, sometimes it was fiction film.

It started off as one art form and it sort of grown into others.

TR:

Among those included were a disability photography competition and a live re-creation of a piece of art originally produced in the documentary Getting UP.: The TEMPT One Story

Diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease, almost completely paralyzed, a graffiti artist regains his voice through technology that reads
the movement of his eyes and enables him to create art and write once again.

Audio: “Marciac Master” By Tilly Jones

WG:

This year one of the people who entered my competition is someone from Australia with Cerebral Palsy and Asperger’s and a couple of other disabilities.

She plays 5 musical instruments and writes her symphonies. So I asked her to write an introductory piece for our festival. She did that. So we got the funds together and brought her over here. We had her playing music with other musicians and playing music during the intermission.

## TR:

The music you are hearing is the composition William referred to. The young musicians name is Tilly Jones.

As the years progressed the duration of the festival increased from one day to up to five days one year.

The festival like art itself serves multiple purposes that go beyond entertainment. Like representation.

WG:

We need good representation. Non stereotypical representations wherever we can get it. Whether it’s advertisements like commercials on TV. In paper representations; signs or in the ways that people with disabilities are treated in restaurants, libraries or movie theaters. When the community as a whole sees positive representation of disability it can only improve outcome and help people learn more about it.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Do you have any favorite films about people with disabilities ? Anything that you would recommend?

Audio for each of the movies is included.

WG:

The two best disability films I’ve ever seen are;
The Best Years of Our Lives.” That was made in 1946One of the stars of it, Harold Russel, actually lost both of his hands in a training accident for World War II.

“Duet for One” which is about a music teacher who has I think its Multiple Sclerosis so she has to stop playing the violin.

Now those are the absolute best. No question about it. My favorites include “The Crash Reel” which is about a snowboarder who has Traumatic Brain Injury while trying out for the Olympics. It’s about his recovery and his desire to get back into competitive snowboarding and his family saying please don’t.

There’s “Right Footed” which is about the only armless pilot in the world. There’s lots of others that I really like

[TR in conversation with WG:]
What’s a (laughs) what’s on the bottom of your list?

WG:
There are so many of them. I really hated Memento. I think that that was a horrible representation of brain injury.

Don’t like Forrest Gump obviously.

Oh, Al Pacino was in it…

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Laughs… Scent of a Woman? Laughs…

WG:
Scent of a Woman, . I really hated that film.

Audio: sounds of a runner’s feet hitting the pavement…

TR:

William says he himself isn’t much of an artist. Growing up with horses, she’s definitely more of the outdoors type. He cycled over 30 miles at a time. I figure we can assume he’s athletic?

WG:
Yes.

I’d run when I was younger. I was on the cross country and track team when I was a Freshman in High School but there were lots of things they didn’t teach you like the importance of stretching, good diet and running wound up being incredibly painful . So after my Freshman year I didn’t start running again until 2005.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

And what made you do that?

WG:
Well, just looking for a good way to stay in shape and keep myself entertained.

In terms of sports that you can do as a Visually Impaired person on your own there aren’t really a lot of them and running seems to be like the best way to go.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

A lot of people wouldn’t necessarily think that because you’re talking about outdoor running.

TR:
As we know there are degrees of vision loss. William has some usable vision that enables him to manage independent running under specific circumstances.

WG:

I can run in a straight line and I see well enough to avoid obstacles so as long as I’m going on a familiar path I don’t have a problem running.

When I’m in marathons I prefer to run with a sighted guide just so I don’t take a wrong turn.

TR:

Training with a sighted guide prior to a race is optimal. It allows the two runners to become used to the preferred guiding method.

WG:

The sighted guide enables me to concentrate on running.

TR:

William has the guide run in front providing directions about obstacles and other information like approaching hills and changes in the terrain.

WG:

Even picking up water or Gatorade from the water stops.

Todd, the person who guided me on my first 30 and 50 Ultra Marathon, we ran two or three times together.

And I’m glad we did that because an Ultra is a heck of a lot different from a marathon.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

I thought a marathon was 26 miles. You said a 30 mile and then a 50 mile?

WG:

A marathon is 26.2 miles. An ultra is anything longer than that. Most of them are on trails. the trick with an ultra is a slower pace, you also got to avoid creeks, roots, rocks, holes in the trail. there are times when you have to walk because the hill is too steep or unsafe going either uphill or downhill. It’s not the same as a marathon.

TR:

In your standard marathon runners consume water and energy gels. In an ultra, you have to consume more carbohydrates including food like nuts, bagels, burritos, pretzels and chips. The body loses a lot of salt so that needs to be replenished.

WG:

In an ultra-marathon the runners carry their own water. You’ve got to be hydrating all of the time. You either carry something like a belt that can hold 5 or 6 bottles of water, a backpack that can hold a couple of big bottles of water or something that they call a camelback which is just a pouch that you fill with water and you can drink from the whole time.

In the ultras you can stop refill on water, have a bit of food maybe stretch a little bit if you need to and then go on your way.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Wow! Fifty and one hundred mile, you’re doing that all in one day? Laughs…

WG:

Laughs… With a hundred mile it is one day!

TR:

William has 20 marathons under his belt. In fact, since he began tracking his runs, he’s logged in over 9,000 miles.

In 2013 Williams ran the Boston Marathon with his guide, NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me host Peter Sagal.

Audio: 2013 Boston Marathon Bombing…

WG:

We finished 5 minutes before the first bomb.

That was luck as much as running skill.

## TR:

Such incidents are rare, but there are risks.

Running in his second Austin marathon without a guide, there was a change in the route and William was unaware of a natural depression in the street’s pavement.
WG:

It went down about a foot or so. I wound up going head over heels as a result of that.

It didn’t happen to the other runner because they could see it and avoid it. And that’s just one of those things where it hurts a little bit but you just got to stand up and start moving again.

TR:

Sound advice. For more than running!

If you’ve been considering starting your own personal running program, William has some advice for that too.

WG:

Buy yourself a good pair of shoes. If you can go to a store that specializes in running. You don’t have to spend 200 to 300 on running shoes especially if you’re just starting. If you got the wrong shoes it’s going to be painful. Don’t worry about having to run fast. Just run at the speed that you’re comfortable with and run on a route that you know.

The best piece of advice that I ever heard about running is if it hurts you’re doing it wrong. Just run so that it feels good.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

I think that might be a foreign concept to a lot of people… laughs…

WG:

Laughs…

[TR in conversation with WG:]

The average person who doesn’t run there like probably saying, why? Laughs… Why do you do this man?

WG:

You know that’s … Pause…

Because I can’t imagine not running.

There’s something about it that really feels good. And makes me feel just incredibly good right and centered. It’s a bit like an addiction. And I find that I’m always wanting to increase the distance I’m running or increase the difficulty of the race or find a different kind of challenge to add into it.

The next marathon I’m going to be in I’ll be running a 10K on Saturday and a 50K on Sunday. So yes a 50 K is challenging let’s make it extra challenging by running a 6 mile race the day before it.

Yes you’re soar but it’s a soreness that feels good.

[TR in conversation with WG:]

Have you found anything that can possibly match the feeling that you get from running? Laughing… Yoga? A good movie… laughing…

TR:

William says he gets a lot of fulfillment out of organizing the film festival but nothing compares to running.

In addition to that two day event William is planning on running a marathon in December 2019.; 100 mile Ultra

The next Cinema Touching Disability Film Festival is scheduled for October 25 & 26, 2019 in Austin Texas. For more information you can visit CTDFilmFest.org

It may not sound like it but I used to run years ago and actually enjoyed it. I never did a marathon but I can grasp why someone would find it addicting.

There’s a freedom that comes with running. Especially trails. You’re forced to be present – dodging fallen tree stumps and low hanging branches, jumping creeks and being aware of nature.

Being Blind or visually impaired, so much of the daily grind is about people and aspects of society concentrating on what they think you can’t do.

Running and other such activities can for some remind and reinforce a feeling of independence. Athletics and sports provide the opportunity to excel based on strengths while continuously improving weaknesses. Plus progress is measurable.

Unlike my addiction to chocolate!

Big shout out to Mr. William Greer. A special shout out to Cheryl Green who suggested Will to the podcast.

Cheryl’s a film maker who focuses on disability identity culture and justice. She’s an advocate for accessible media. And you’re going to meet her on an upcoming episode.

You too can be a part of the show; Want to suggest a guest or topic, comment on an episode… hollaback!

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

if you mainly listen to the podcast via Sound Cloud I’m hoping you will continue to listen but I am moving away from that platform. I’ve been tolerating their interface in order to avoid the move to another service.

I may decide to keep one or two episodes available, but the best method for staying caught up is to
subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify and Google Podcast. All other platforms will be updated as well.

I appreciate you listening and if you liked what you heard please rate and even review the show via Apple Podcast. And tell a friend to listen. Help spread the love!

Don’t forget, you can always find me at ReidMyMind.com.

So there’s no confusion, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Peace!

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We’ve Been Here: Black Disability History

February 27th, 2019  / Author: T.Reid

black background, red square with a yellow shadowing underneath and a green shadowing that one. Black fist coming up from the bottom, the words Black History Month over the squares with the word “disability” written through black and history in orange.

Courtesy of: Raven Reid


Happy Black History Month!

We begin this episode by honoring two historic Black Women of history. That’s followed by Leroy Moore Jr. of The Krip-Hop Nation. We talk a bit about the importance of including Black Disabled men and women in not only conversations about history but all aspects of society and culture.

We hear how he himself is contributing to that effort with his latest publication; The Krip Hop Nation Graphic Novel Volume 1.

Cover art for the Krip Hop Nation Graphic Novel

Courtesy of Krip-Hop Nation

Special Shout Outs:

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family!
Welcome back to another episode.

If you’re new here, welcome! You’re among friends. My name is T.Reid host and producer of this here podcast.

Every two weeks I’m either bringing you stories about or profile of people impacted by blindness, low vision and disability. Occasionally, I bring you stories from my own experience as a man who became blind as an adult.

You can check out the last episode if you want to know more on that.

today we’re recognizing and saluting Black History Month.

That’s next up on Reid My Mind Radio !

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music…

Audio: “Like It Is” with Gil Noble featuring John Henrik Clarke

# Black Disability History
Gil Noble:
Black History Month as it’s called. From whence does it come? How old is it?

John Henrik Clark:
What we now call Black History Month formerly Negros History Month and I call Africana History month started around 1927 by Carter G. Woodson who had found the Association for the Study of Negro Life now the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, had found this organization in Chicago in 1915. He began the week in order to call special attention to the contributions that people of African descent made not only to America but the world.

TR:

That was renowned historian, the late great Dr. John Henrik Clark appearing on “Like It Is” with host Gil Noble. This was a
public affairs television program in New York City that focused on issues relevant to the African-American community.

I grew up watching this show with one of my personal all-time great Black mentors Mr. Reid, my Daddy.

Black History Month celebration unfortunately usually consists of the same references;
Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa parks and the usual version of the Civil Rights era.

One thing however that rarely gets attention; Black disability.

Today, we’re going to change that a bit.

I thought it was time we had our own celebration of Disabled Black History.

Let’s begin by , paying honor to two historic Black Americans that you should have heard of, but may not be aware of their disability.

Audio: African flute music…

Please welcome, Raven Reid!

Raven:
Harriet Tubman (1822–1913).

Ms. Tubman is best known as an abolitionist.

Risking her own life to help lead enslaved African people to freedom.

Since age 12, Ms. Tubman was disabled after a severe beating by her slave master.

As a result she experienced seizures from epilepsy as well as vision loss.

Yet, she tirelessly traveled back and forth through slave country multiple times via what became known as the underground railroad.

Audio: Flute fades out into a more modern sounding flute with accompanying instrumentation.

Fannie Lou Hamer (1917–1977)

Ms. Hamer was a civil rights activist who helped African-Americans register to vote.

She co-founded the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and was involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Like many poor blacks at that time, she was sterilized without her knowledge or consent.

Ms. Hamer had polio as a child.

She protested in the face of heavy opposition and was beaten in a Mississippi jailhouse, which caused kidney damage and a limp.

She is known for saying, “I am sick and tired of being sick and tired!”

Ms. Harriet Tubman, Ms. Fannie Lou Hamer we honor you!

TR:

Once again, that was my baby girl, Raven Reid.

Thank you to Vilissa Thompson over at Ramp Your Voice.com. You should go on over there and check out the great articles on Black Disability History and more.

# Leroy: Black History Month

Audio: “Audio Call” Voice Over speech from iPhone

[TR in conversation with LM:]
Happy Black History Month brother.

LM:

Thank you. You too.

TR:

If you’ve been riding with RMM Radio for a while, you may remember Leroy Moore Jr. A disability activist, writer, author, artist and one of the founders of the Krip-Hop Nation.

The Krip-Hop Nation’s all about educating the media industry and the public about the talents, history, rights and marketability of Hip-Hop
artists and other musicians with disabilities.

It wouldn’t be right to have an episode on Black history from the disability perspective without Leroy.

Leroy schooled me on some noteworthy disabled Black people in history.

In addition to the many early Blues artist, he dropped a bit of science on Reverend Cecil Ivory.

LM:

I love his story!

He was a brother back in the 50’s and 60’s.

He organized his whole town to do this counter sit in. He was also an NAACP Chairman at the time.

TR:

Falling out a tree as a child, resulting in a broken back Ivory became a wheel chair user following an additional fall later in his life.

In 1960, Ivory organized a sit-in at a South Carolina lunch counter

LM:

And so he was sitting there and the cop told him he had to move. He said well I’m not taking up a seat because I have my own seat.

They took him to jail but couldn’t book him because the booking place was downstairs.

TR:

One of the few times that inaccessibility works in our favor.

LM:

The National Black Disability Coalition is putting together this whole exhibit around Black Disabled people in history. We’ve been working on it for the last two years.

TR:

The exhibit will include people like the Blind Jazz singer Al Hiddler who sang with Duke Ellington’s orchestra and later marched with Dr. King.

Soul singer Robert Winters and

Audio: “Check this out!” DMC from “Here we Go live at the Funhouse” Run-DMC

even one third of the legendary rap group Run-DMC

Audio: Run….(from King of Rock)
LM:
DMC

Audio: DMC… of the party. The D is for doing it all the time, the M is for the rhymes that are all mine. The C is for cool, cool as can be …
Run – and why you wear those glasses…

DMC – so I can see!

— The above is playing while TR talks over…

TR:
DMC wrote all about his experience with Depression and mental health disabilities.

Stories highlighting the contributions of people like Reverend Ivory and others when Leroy was attending grade school in the 1970’s were limited. In fact, that’s probably generous.

LM:

We just didn’t see nothing.

We just got so pissed! Me and two other Black Disabled men, boys at the time, wrote letters saying that there’s no Black Disabled nothing on TV, radio…

TR:

Those letters? Well, they aimed high!

LM:

Jesse Jackson, The Urban League, The NAACP

I knew back then that I had to do it outside of school because the school wasn’t offering anything. It started my quest to really learn about my history as a Black Disabled man.

[TR in conversation with LM:]
Did you ever hear back from any of those organizations that you wrote to?

LM:

Form letters saying dear such and such sorry there’s nothing out there.

We can’t do nothing for ya!

LM & TR laugh!

Audio: Flavor Flav “I can’t do nothing for yo man”

TR:

So Hip-Hop!

LM:

Now at 51 years old still doing this.

# Leroy Graphic Novel

He’s doing it alright. He’s the author of Black Disabled Art History 101,
Black Kripple Delivers Poetry & Lyrics

Now, hot off the press is
The Krip Hop Graphic Novel Volume 1 published by Poor Press.

LM:

Yeh, I’m so excited to have this come out.

TR:

Familiar enough with comic books and graphic novels Leroy recognized the lack of representation of Black Disabled Women characters.

LM:
You have Misty Knight that came out in 1975.

Came back to life in Luke Cage. For me, when comics “include” disabled characters they just include them. It’s a diversity kind of thing. I wanted to flip that and say no Krip Hop graphic novel tells you that disability has always been there in Hip-Hop. It’s not inclusion, we’ve been there.

TR:

The novel’s protagonist is a young Black Disabled girl who uses a wheelchair.

LM

This young lady from New York her mother tells her the stories about the old time in Hip-Hop in New York.

She gets more and more confident when she finds Krip-Hop on the internet.
TR:

Traveling through the city, the reader joins the young girl as she participates in various events.

LM:

Black Lives Matter protest, Open Mics…

TR:

As she continues to learn more about Krip-Hop her power increases.
That super power?

LM:

Her wheelchair turns into Hip-Hop.

[TR in conversation with LM:]

Now when you say her chair becomes Hip-Hop , so I’m like oh man, she got two turntables … laughs!

LM:
Yeh, definitely.

[TR in conversation with LM:]

That’s what it is? Laughs.

LM:

Yeh, laughs… She got two turntables , she’s scratching’ yep! She also has a spray can you know graffiti. She dances in the wheelchair, yeh!

[TR in conversation with LM:]
So you got all the elements?

TR:
For those outside of the culture, you may think rap music and Hip-Hop are synonymous. But they’re not.
Hip-Hop is made up of five elements;
1. DJaying – This is the genesis. There’s no rap, there’s no Hip-Hop without the DJ.
2. Emceeing – the rappers who controlled the microphone and the crowd.
3. Break Dancers – the original B boys & B girls… acrobatic floor moves, electric boogie or what some call popping’ and locking’… where folks were doing the moonwalk way before Michael Jackson.
4. Graffiti – Probably more difficult to explain if you never seen the amazing moving art murals on the 2 or 5 train for example, running from the Bronx to Brooklyn and other boroughs.

“I’m feeling very nostalgic right now!” BX stand up!

The story also includes other disabled characters like a sort of guardian angel for the protagonist, and some real Hip-Hop pioneers with disabilities.

There’s even a bit of time travel. And we meet Leroy himself.

LM:

As a little kid outside of the cipher..

TR:

Taking a page right out of Leroy’s personal history during the early days of the New York Hip Hop scene.

Traveling on a Greyhound bus from Connecticut to the Bronx to check out and maybe join the rap ciphers. Picture a circle of young rappers honing their rhyme skills. Each of them ready to take their turn to impress the other rappers with their latest lyrics or flow – that’s their cadence or rhyme pattern.

Now here comes a young Leroy

LM:
Kids used to see me coming with my walker. The kids would say ok, you can’t go into the cipher because you’re too cripple. So you’ll be our watch man for the police. Anytime I saw the police I used to shout “Po Po”. They used to scatter. Police used to see me and just like kick my walker because they were so pissed off.

TR:

No longer looking out for the police, but Leroy is still the Watch Man.

Now making sure those with disabilities aren’t relegated to the sideline.

When you think about that early experience, it gives you a sense of the depth of his love for the culture.

That appreciation of history explains why he chose to name the protagonist Roxanne, as in Roxanne Shante – probably the first female MC to gain real notoriety.

recalling Leroy’s grade school experience where the lack of Black Disabled representation sparked what became a lifelong mission to find Black Disabled ancestors, leads us to that very important, but often forgotten fifth element of Hip-Hop.

[TR in conversation with LM:]
It sounds like there may be knowledge of self built right in.

LM:
Yes, exactly! That’s the whole concept of the book because once she gets the confidence about herself then her powers get stronger.

# Leroy Krip Hop Update

Audio: Hip Hop don’t stop…

TR:

Like Hip-Hop Krip-Hop don’t stop.

Maybe this is Leroy’s super power. He continues working on letting the world know that people with disabilities have and will continue to represent the culture in every aspect.

Krip Hop Nation has two events coming up in 2019.

LM:

We’re having an all-women’s event here in Berkley at the Premium Cultural Center.

That’s going to happen on march 30th. We’re highlighting ADA 420. She’s a rapper from Detroit but she’s from the Bay area.

TR:

the event will include about 7 other artists representing a variety of art forms.

LM:
Dancers, singers, spiritual workers. So it’s going to be dope!

TR:
In addition to the event, The Krip Hop Nation is putting out a CD featuring women artists with disabilities.

[TR in conversation with LM:]

So Krip-Hop Nation is pretty active on the African continent, correct?

LM:

Yeh, thank you for bringing that up.

We’ve been really connecting to our African brothers and sisters for the last 10 years.

Krip-Hop went to South Africa in 2016 and we did a tour. We hit up like 8 cities in 4 weeks.

TR:

When it comes to all aspects of disability, we often assume that living in a developed nation brings the most opportunities and equality.

LM:

I’ve only been to South Africa. I’ve interviewed artists from all over Africa and it seems to me that America needs to catch up to African countries when it comes to supporting Black Disabled musicians. Especially physically disabled musicians.

[TR in conversation with LM:]
It seems as though America is comfortable at this time accepting musicians who are blind

We know Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Jose Feliciano and there’s the others.

LM:

You got the Blues with all the Blind artists.

[TR in conversation with LM:]
But even going back, it’s like when it comes to physical disabilities you don’t see you don’t see that. I’m trying to think who, did I ever see any artists with physical disabilities… at all!

LM:

Especially on the mainstream stage.

You got Bushwick Bill, the rapper who’s down with the Ghetto Boys

TR:

Of course it’s not until we’re off our call that I remember two well-known soul singers, Curtis Mayfield and Teddy Pendergrass who both acquired a disability after their initial success.

Audio: “Only You” Teddy Pendergrass & “Pusher Man” Curtis Mayfield

TR:

The Krip-Hop Nation continues to push forward and create platforms for artists with disabilities throughout the diaspora.

Like a festival scheduled for July 2019 featuring several disabled artists.

LM:

Artists from Uganda, Tanzania, the Congo. All coming here from Africa.

It’s happening in July. We’re doing a tour in the Bay area. We’re going to get a chance to talk about what’s going on in Africa around people with disabilities. Really collaborate.

One artist that’s coming from South Africa , he’s bringing a mayor of a town in South Africa. They want to see what Krip-Hop is doing They’re thing about doing an international arts festival in South Africa next year.

TR:

The Krip-Hop Nation Graphic Novel is currently available in print form. I’m hoping we’ll see a digital version in the future.

You should check out the first episode featuring Leroy talking about Krip-Hop Nation & a documentary about Joe Capers – another notable historic Black man. Capers owned and operated an early accessible analog recording studio where some of Oakland’s Hip-Hop and R&B artists recorded. People like The Digital Underground, Tony, ToniTone , EnVogue and MC Hammer.

Audio: “It’s Bigger than Hip Hop”, Dead Prez

TR:

As this episode comes to an end, so does Black History Month.

However, that doesn’t mean we can’t continue to highlight not only the accomplishments but also the issues currently and disproportionately impacting the Black Disabled community like;
access to healthcare
police brutality and the school to prison pipeline.

Once again a big shout out to Leroy Moore and the rest of the Krip Hop Nation. Thanks to;
Ramp Your Voice.com
Raven Reid
This episode included some beats from Chuki Music the link will be on the episode page.

There’s lots of clips and old episodes of Like It Is on Youtube including interviews with Malcolm X, Bob Marley and so many more.

Do you have a favorite historic black disabled person you think we should know about?

Want to recommend a topic or person for the show?

Hollaback…

We have the comments section on the blog, ReidMyMind.com.
The email; ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com
The Reid My Mind Radio Feedback Line where you can leave a voice mail: 1 570-798-7343

I would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

You too can help make Black history…
Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.
Visit www.ReidMyMind.com

So there’s no confusion, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

Peace!

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