Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Our First Twitter Space

"Blind-Centered" is written in white at the center of a deep-dark blue square. The words sit just above the standard AD logo in white of three sound waves radiating off the initials AD. Above "Blind-Centered" is a small speech bubble poking up and toward the right with "chat" inside it in bright golden letters. To the left of the speech bubble is a small set of over-the-ear headphones.

The following recording is an edited version of a conversation from August 26, 2022 on Twitter Spaces.

A week or so prior to this recording, Nefertiti Matos Olivares, Cheryl Green and I (Thomas Reid) decided we wanted to hear from others in the community in regards to the many important topics we discuss around Audio Description.

It is always our intention to create an environment that encourages respectful discussion and welcomes all opinions. While we welcome all those interested in Audio Description including professionals, stake holders and generally interested parties, it is crucial to us to always center the perspectives and experiences of the Blind and Low Vision community; those who require and make the most use of AD.

The Blind Centered Audio Description Live Chats are not limited to one platform such as Twitter or Linked In. We hope to schedule on different days of the week and times of the day in order to help provide more opportunity for live participation across the globe.

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* Cheryl Green
* Thomas Reid

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Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

Exciting high energy music begins!

THOMAS: Welcome to the Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats. These are the edited recordings of the Blind-Centered Audio Description Live Chats!
CHERYL: The live is the most fun part! We get together, we start with a question, and then we invite up anybody from the audience who wants to come and chat with us, agree, disagree, shed light on something that we hadn’t thought about before, which is Nefertiti’s favorite. [electric whoosh]
NEFERTITI: I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I’m a bilingual professional voiceover artist who specializes in audio description narration! I’m also a fervent cultural access advocate and a community organizer.
CHERYL: I’m Cheryl Green, an access artist, audio describer and captioner.
THOMAS: And I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer Reid My Mind Radio, voice artist, audio description narrator, consultant, and advocate.
SCOTT B: Hi, I’m Scott Blanks. I’m a passionate advocate for the highest quality audio description in all of the arts. I’m the co-founder of the LinkedIn Audio Description Group and the Twitter AD community.
SCOTT N: Scott Nixon here. I’m an audio description consumer and advocate, hoping to be an audio description narrator very, very soon. [electronic whoosh]
THOMAS: Hey, Nef, why don’t you tell people how they could join the live recording?
NEFERTITI: That’s really simple. Just follow us on social media to keep up with important details, such as dates, times, and what platform will be using. On Twitter, I’m @NefMatOli. Cheryl?
CHERYL: I’m @WhoAmIToStopIt.
THOMAS: I’m @TSRied, you know, R to the E I D.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Scott?
SCOTT B: I’m @BlindConfucius. That’s Blind Confucius.
SCOTT N: And you can catch me on my social media, Twitter only. That’s @MisterBrokenEyes, Capital M r Capital Broken Capital E y e s.
[smartphone selection beeps]
CHERYL: Recording now!

NEFERTITI: I’ve noticed-and let me know, folks, if you have noticed this too-but a lot of things, like there’s a lot of fervor when something happens, and you stick something in our craw, and we get all up and like, aggh! And then the next thing happens, and it kind of just stays there.
SCOTT N: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: I think it’s high time that we stop doing that as a community, whether you be a blind consumer or a blind professional, a sighted professional, a sighted consumer, it doesn’t matter. Whatever AD means to you, we wanna talk about it here throughout these conversations, always ensuring top notch quality is at the forefront with, of course, you know, ’cause if you know anything about Cheryl, Thomas, Scott N. and I, Scott B., and I think I can say this about you, Scott N., as well, we are anti-racist, anti-ableism, anti-anything that keeps anybody out, including access to information.
SCOTT N: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: And that’s audio description. So, that’s my little spiel.
THOMAS: I know we all here have our own opinions on what makes up quality audio description. I wanna hear from other people. What does that mean? What are the elements that make up quality? And so, we know we start with the three basic, right? The script, the narration, the audio mix. But what else makes up quality audio description to you?
SCOTT N: I’ll start with what my idea of quality audio description is. And like Thomas said, it’s the basics. It’s the script, the engineering, I think. But the proper choice of narrator is absolutely paramount. And there’s been a big discussion, I know Thomas has been speaking about it quite a bit recently, about the cultural side of having the right narrator to the right material. And a brilliant example of this has recently come up with our friends at Descriptive Video Works who did the audio description for the new Predator movie, Prey, over on Disney+. When they did it, they had a very tight turnaround on the audio description track. And then the director of DVW was horrified to learn that the lead in the film was a member of the Cherokee Nation, and they didn’t have someone culturally appropriate providing the audio description. They’ve written to Disney+ and offered to redo the audio description with the right cultural sensitivity in at least the script, if not the narrator itself. And so far, Disney haven’t gotten back to them. So, that’s a really good example of the company being proactive and forward thinking and willing to do the work to get it done, because that cultural sensitivity and competency really does enhance the work of audio description. We all know, for example, what I call the Black Panther disaster, where a movie entirely produced by African-American filmmakers was given a very bland British narration. And I’m just sitting there going, “Did someone colonize audio description over here or what?” So, yeah, that’s my two cents for now. Scott out.
SCOTT B: So, this is Scott B. speaking, and…it was interesting, Thomas, you talked about the three basics. And I know that you-and we all know about it-but I think you left it out intentionally so someone would pick this up, which is I wanna point out two things. One, when you write a script and you have a narration, there needs to be a balance, a check and balance of quality assurance, and it needs to be in that process somewhere. It can be in a couple of different places. We can get into the technical about that. But there needs to be QC. And I am going to say that I think, as this is an artform and an accessibility tool that has been developed by and for blind people, quality work is a very good match for blind professionals as a job, potentially as a career or part of a career. Every piece of audio description that is created, brought into existence needs a QC balance. That’s point one.
Point two, just as a general comment about audio description quality. I think a lot about acting. Acting is an art, and it’s something that has been going on for as long as we’ve been around. And they didn’t just start acting and say, “All right, we’ve done it. This is as good as it gets. We’re doing it. We’re just gonna keep acting and doing exactly what we’re doing here.” There are schools. There are schools of thought. There are method acting. There are as many different things that have continued to evolve acting. Audio description is here, but we don’t stop. We make it better. And what making it better means might be a no, it is a subjective question, but it is undeniably something that can be made better on all counts: writing, QC, engineering, narration, all of it. And that’s Scott B. for now. I’m done.
NEFERTITI: Nefertiti speaking. Beautifully said, all of you. Thank you so much. And since I did invite Robert and Colleen up to the space or into the space, let’s hear from them. How about you get us started, Robert? Welcome.
ROBERT: Hello, everybody. I’m a blind audio description writer, and I’m kind of biased when we talk about audio description quality because I think that the script is like the main foundation that makes up the beautiful cake, right? So, when I think of quality, I start with the script and then work out from there. Recently, just as an example, as a totally blind person, I’ve been really thinking about how do describers, how do they put sizes into words that a lot of people can comprehend? Like, for example, if you’re congenitally blind, you don’t really have a point of reference for something like something is “gargantuan” or “gigantic.” So, what I’ve been trying to do in my previous few scripts is use terminology like, “it is the size of a locomotive” or something tangible like that. So, that kind of thing could also go into quality control. But those are just a few of the thoughts I’ve had about quality, and are writers really reaching the audience that they’re writing for? So, that’s it. I’m all done. [delighted chuckle]
NEFERTITI: Colleen!
COLLEEN: So, hello. My name’s Colleen Connor. I am…I am an advocate. I do a lot with audio description, but I primarily run Audio Description Training Retreats, which is developing virtual curriculum for all different types of audio descriptions and categories of audio description. And I’m also on that weird subject matter committee [laughs] of people in the US that’s working on creating a certification for audio describers and trying to sort of get it moving and get it…I feel like…. I don’t know how many people have sensitive ears here, but I recently just was like, “Do I have to be the bad bitch of audio description?” I don’t, I might have to be the [laughing] bad bitch of audio description.
NEFERTITI: Be the bad bitch, okay?
COLLEEN: And so, I am trying to bring lots more voices to the table. I’m trying to, you know, specifically bring as much education and keep things up to date and involve my former students and stuff like that. So, unfortunately, I haven’t done in-person training in a while, which was always lovely. The reason we’re called Training Retreats was because we used to take people to a lake house in North Carolina and do an entire retreat situation while you learned audio description. But the pandemic sort of threw that out the window. The benefits of that are that I have now reached way more people across the globe. And similar to this meeting, it was, “What time do we do? Okay, it’s 2 AM where you are. Thank you for joining us. I’m sorry.” [laughs]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
COLLEEN: “You’ll be learning an activity that is very nuanced and challenging. Congratulations.” [laughs] So, yes, that’s me. I’m happy to answer any questions. I am not shy or easily offended, so.
SCOTT N: Colleen, it’s Scott Nixon here in Australia. I just wanted to congratulate you on the work that the retreats have been doing over the past couple years. And I just wanted to mention, I sent you Allyson Johnson a few years ago. You’re welcome. [laughs]
COLLEEN: [gasps] Yes! I am welcome. Yes. She, I’m so happy. So, I follow you on Twitter, of course. You know this.
SCOTT N: Mm.
COLLEEN: And I was wondering if it was the same Scott Nixon that she had mentioned. And I was like, I’m not sure!
SCOTT N: Yeah. For those of you out there who don’t know, Allyson Johnson is a very well renowned audiobook narrator who has done literally hundreds of audiobooks over her career. And a couple of years ago, I reached out to contact her ’cause I was such a fan, and we’ve become very good friends. And she was talking to me about how, you know, what else I do with my life. And I mentioned audio description one day, and she said that she was looking for something to branch out into to get a bit more work and give her life a new direction and everything. And I told her about audio description. She found Audio Description Retreats on her own and went to them, and the rest is history. And now she’s done some very good work. Queen Sono on Netflix and also Jupiter’s Legacy on Netflix are both two shows that she has audio described and did absolutely magnificent jobs on both. So, go check her out. And the movie Arrival as well, the sci-fi movie, yeah. So, yeah. Nixon out.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Oh, my goodness. Well, Colleen-
COLLEEN: I’ve had a lot of….
NEFERTITI: -it’s so good to have you.
COLLEEN: One of my, one of my things that I’m really, really passionate about especially is as soon as the student reaches out and is of color or of something different [laughs], I am like, “Hello! How are you? What’s your financial situation? We’re gonna figure it out because you’re coming in.” [laughs] Because it was…. I started in 2015 with the company with a friend of mine, Jan Vulgaropolis, and it was just this, you know, sort of what we touched on before, the cultural awareness of it was, it was still be colorblind, meaning we don’t wanna offend anyone, so we’re not gonna mention anyone’s race at all unless it’s relevant to the plot directly. And then in the, in lieu of being, okay, well, we don’t wanna offend anyone ever, so we’re not gonna say anything. So, we’ve also erased everything as well. And I don’t…. [laughs] So-
NEFERTITI: That is the consequence of that, right? If you say, you know, if nothing, if nobody is nothing, then where are we? Where is everyone? The default becomes the majority, and for a lot of us, that’s just not the reality. What happens with all that?
COLLEEN: Yeah. My brief, very long-sorry-thing would be just the, hilariously, brevity and conciseness in description. I think one of the main quality points is even if you are doing extended description, [typing in the background starts] it is how do you get across what we need to know without extra? And how do you prioritize-especially if you are doing inline description, standard, in between the dialogue description-you don’t want the narrator speaking 100 miles an hour, and you don’t want to have two words and dead air where we wonder, did the track stop? Did….
NEFERTITI: Right.
COLLEEN: What happened? So, I think prioritizing. And like I said, just how do you, brevity, you know. Each word meaning something and not like fluff.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. I don’t know if you’re hearing that, Colleen, but I hear somebody typing.
THOMAS: That’s me.
NEFERTITI: So, someone’s out here taking notes.
THOMAS: That’s me.
NEFERTITI: Is that you, Thomas?
THOMAS: That’s me, that’s me.
NEFERTITI: Okay.
THOMAS: I said, I’m gonna write down all of the things that people say for quality.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
THOMAS: And so, I just wanted to write that. I meant to mute myself. So, sorry.
NEFERTITI: No, no. This is, I’m loving that we’re hearing that because we want y’all to know we’re taking this very seriously. We are writing this down. You know, we are taking notes. [laughs] So, keep this gold coming.
COLLEEN: So, over and out. But I’m happy to answer questions, contribute, whatever y’all want. I’m glad I made it in. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Me too. I’m glad.

THOMAS: Cool. Glad you came, Colleen.

CHERYL: So, I have a question around quality, but specifically about passthrough, which may sound like a technical term to folks new to audio description. But the idea that, let’s say we provide audio description for a film, it’s gonna have a screening, and then it goes to a festival, but they don’t pass the audio description through. Or you know, we do a film, and then it gets on Netflix, and they redescribe the whole film with a Netflix-approved vendor or something. So, it’s a real issue in the industry that different platforms and distributors and festivals are not passing through the audio description. And so, the question is, can talking about quality be a way to incentivize passthrough? Like, why even make it good if it’s gonna be used once and thrown away and then redescribed at the next screening? I mean, I think it should be good, but it’s a question. Like, why are, what is the role of quality in relation to passing through the audio description and keeping it as part of the film?
SCOTT N: Oh, Nefertiti, may I speak on this for a moment, please? [conspiratorial chuckle] I have strong views on passthrough. [sighs] The fact that a audio described program or film’s audio description track is not automatically made available to all services, all platforms, whatnot who wish to stream it or broadcast it or whatever I think is a travesty! This garbage excuse that broadcasters and streamers put out of, “Oh, it’s licensing and copyright issues,” that should be null and void because all it is, is restricting access for people who want audio description.
Just for example, I’m only gonna use this as a pure example, the new Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon. It is only audio described on HBO in America and HBO Max where available. We don’t have HBO Max in Australia. We are never going to get HBO Max in Australia. The broadcaster that airs the program here in Australia have an actual company policy that audio description will never be provided unless the government legislate that it has to be because they don’t deem audio description to be a cost-effective strategy. They don’t think that they’re going to get enough blind subscribers into their pay TV, into their cable service to justify the cost of setting up audio description. So, and this is with a lot of shows, not just House of the Dragon, with a lot of material. The Paramount+ streaming service do not pass through any of the audio described content that they have on the service in, say, the Americas and the United Kingdom. Well, actually, the United Kingdom are in the same boat as us. They just don’t pass it on and palm us off by saying, “Oh, it’s because of licensing issues,” and things like that.
So, passthrough is very, very important. It’s something that needs to be looked at desperately. And as for Cheryl’s comment about it being rerecorded, that is something that I think needs to be looked at as well, because it can be a quality control issue. Perhaps the original audio description is something that Netflix or Disney+ or whoever don’t believe is up to their standard, and that’s a discussion for them and the vendor who originally audio described the content. And I think there’s a way that they could work together to make the script better and so on. But yes, passthrough is one of the biggest bugbears that I have in the industry at the moment. Nixon out.
THOMAS: Hey, this is Thomas. I wanted to jump in with a thought about passthrough. And Cheryl, you just kinda stirred this because the same way I personally would have liked to see Black Panther not pass through and someone have an opportunity to redo that. So, what happens when, yeah, when it’s not up to par, passthrough is an opportunity to actually fix it, right, to make it better. Also, Scott, and I’m wondering what you think about this because say something is described here in the States, and there are some differences in the language used to describe things in Australia, for example, you know, those of us who have experienced AD from the BBC, y’all know what you get it from. [laughs]
SCOTT N: [laughs]
SCOTT B: Mmhmm!
THOMAS: You know, we’re familiar with “boot,” you know, and “the lift” and all of that.
SCOTT N: Yes.
THOMAS: Does that, how important is that to you, having the local language, local references?
SCOTT N: I do believe it’s something that can be looked at, but you have to think about the audio description landscape in Australia at the moment. You guys are the Jetsons. We’re the Flintstones.
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT N: We have no audio description on free-to-air television. Two of our government’s funded stations have it, but only for a maximum of four hours a day. There is no streaming service that provides audio description, no Australian-based service that provides audio description. And the audio description companies that do operate in Australia are on shoestring budgets, screaming out for money, and just don’t have the time or the capability to do what they want to do. I would love a world where audio description could be done for American and British programs with an Australian voice. I think there is a market for it in some aspects. But at the same time, the Australian landscape has been so saturated with American and British programing over the years that quite a few of us would be more than happy to deal with the American or British versions of the AD as long as we actually get it. And we’re not actually getting it. That’s the thing. Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, those are the three places you go to in Australia if you want audio description on a streaming service. That’s it. Nixon out.
THOMAS: Okay. So, let me, I just wanted to ask another one just again, thinking about this, is what would y’all think about a service where you got to choose the audio description? So, for example, you have a film, and there’s multiple versions. So, all of these versions that were created, they sit on a repository somewhere, and you choose the one. And maybe that would have, let’s say it had the producer’s name, the writer, the narrator. And based on those things, based on your history with that, you would choose which one you wanted to hear.
SCOTT N: Oh, that…
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT N: …that my friend, would be the dream. Again, [laughs] that is, that is beautiful.
SCOTT B: Yeah.
SCOTT N: If, say, I was able to go to Disney+, pick out Star Wars episode For a New Hope, you’d have the current version read by Miles Neff, you’d have a modern version read by Jedediah Barton, and you’d have an Australian version read by Scott Nixon. I didn’t say that out loud, did I?
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: I’ll listen to that!
SCOTT N: [laughs] You’d be able to pick that. I really do think that is a fantastic idea, Thomas, particularly since we are now reaching the point where we do have multiple versions of an audio description track for a film or a TV series floating around out there. Because whilst our community does not endorse in any way the concept of online piracy, we do know that it does exist out there, and there are places where you can get three, four, even up to five different versions of a film with different narrators. And there are times when you go in and you go, “Ah, I like this version, but this version is way better.” Or you get more from version A than you do version B. It’s all about writer, narrator, and so on.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
SCOTT B: This is Blanks. We’re going by last name. Is that what we’re doing, Scott? Okay, I’ll do that.
SCOTT N: Yeah. [laughs]
SCOTT B: I can do that. I have my little flask of water that I’m gonna throw on this just a little bit, I guess, with the question, which is we’re seeing all of the non-passthrough that’s happening now, and this is a beautiful idea. But how do you get all of these people to work together on something entirely new when we can’t get them to work together with the platforms and the systems that are already in place to even pass these things through?
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT N: Yeah.
SCOTT B: I mean, this is why we’re here, right?
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT B: This is why you’re here to try to answer some of these questions, ’cause it breaks my brain quite a bit to think about how does that happen? How does that happen?
THOMAS: Yeah. And I’m not, yeah, throwing it out there. But I’m also throwing it out that for the next part of this, which is, and it kind of goes back to what I think Cheryl was talking about, because that would be a wonderful way of really getting into this comparison and seeing, well, what is quality? Getting back to that whole subject. Which one of these are really quality audio description? Because you can have one, you know, and all of it is subjective, right? All of it is subjective. But there are things. I mean, there’s good scripts, and there are bad scripts. There’s bad writing. We can agree on that.
SCOTT N: Mm.
SCOTT B: Sure.
THOMAS: I think the subjective part is mainly like, or the objective part, rather, is mainly the voice, right? Wait. Did I say objective or subjective? [laughs] So, yeah. So, basically, everyone has their own opinion on whose voice they like. So, that’s sort of that side of the thing. But I think we can agree on the script. But that would be, it would just be an interesting comparison to kind of weed out what is quality and all of that.
So, I mean, I know we talked about keeping this to about an hour, and so I’m wondering if we could get into some conversations of what we do, what can we do to influence…influence the industry? Because we didn’t talk about the fact that, well, how do we get the industry to really center blind people and blind and low vision people? Because right now I’m not sure if that is the case when it comes to audio description. I don’t always feel as though we are at the center of this. And there’s many reasons that I feel like that. Number one, I think this conversation about quantity and quality really does come down to who is being centered. Because when we talk about the quantity and really going for that, I think quantity, that whole, that kinda relates back to the whole compliance, let’s just get it done because the government is telling us we need to get it done. And that, to me-
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm. Checking that box.
THOMAS: Yeah. That, to me, brings about the Amazons, the AI, and all of that.
SCOTT N: [growls]
THOMAS: That’s what that’s about. And I think we all, the majority of us probably agree that that’s not really quality, you know, and we’re not centered in that conversation. That wasn’t about us. That wasn’t about bringing a good product to the people. That was more about, again, checking that box, like Nef said, and just making sure our numbers, and we do it efficiently, right? We do it on the cheap. That’s what that’s about. So, we’re not centered.
NEFERTITI: Do it on the cheap, do it at scale.
THOMAS: Do it at scale.
NEFERTITI: And check that box and, you know, keep it moving.
THOMAS: Right. And make sure Bezos could get to space. That’s what that was all about, right?
NEFERTITI and SCOTT N: [laugh]
THOMAS: So, we’re definitely not at the center of that, right?
NEFERTITI: No.
THOMAS: But the quality, the quality conversation, we’re at the center. I think that’s really about us because we’re the ones determining what the quality is. We should be the ones who are determining what the quality is. So, how do we do that?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
SCOTT N: It’s a really, to use a desperately Australian term, a real sticky wicket to be able to get everyone to the table and explain to them, “Yo, you guys work for us,” type thing. ‘Cause at the end of the day, they’re all, a lot of the companies are squabbling amongst themselves, trying to churn out product as best as they can. There are some people out there who are low balling and cutting other people’s lunches, so to speak, and taking work when they end up churning out a product that we as consumers don’t find acceptable. But the, [sighs] the problem with that is, even if it is a crap…a crap turn out of the service, we are still going to listen to it because we need, because we need to be able to listen to the audio description to enjoy the program. If it’s something we want to watch, let’s face it, we’ve all put up with an AI at one point because we’ve just wanted to hear what something is like and be more part of the experience. So, it’s really turning around to these companies and saying, “Yeah, okay. You’ve done it. You can do better. Let’s show you how you can do better and show you that if you do better, we will give you more money. We will come to your service more often. We will recommend it to our friends.”
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh.
SCOTT N: So, yeah, that’s pretty much where I stand. Nixon out.
NEFERTITI: Hey. I just invited Darius, who requested to speak.

DARIUS: Hello!
NEFERTITI: There you go. Welcome!
DARIUS: Howdy, everybody.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
DARIUS: How fantastic. I just woke up and saw this on my phone. I was like, oh, wow. It’s audio description chat. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Where are you from?
DARIUS: I’m from Australia actually. I’m from Melbourne. So, hi there.
SCOTT N: Hey! One of me!
DARIUS: [laughs] Hi there, Scott. I think I’m following you on Twitter actually. At some point I’ve been following.
NEFERTITI: He’s very popular, Scott N. [chuckles]
DARIUS: So, I’m working in film production, and I run a post-production house. We do a lot of feature films. And audio description is something that we do a lot of putting them into DCPs and things like that for cinema screenings. And I think just talking on the point of how do you kind of center quality, I think two observations that I’ve sort of made, ’cause we’ve just recently had the Melbourne International Film Festival has just wrapped up. And I noticed that in the usage of audio description devices in the cinema wasn’t sort of really being tracked at all. And I think that there’s a sort of a missed opportunity for them. And so, I suggested to them, I was like, “Hey, we got to, you know, we should actually be looking at some stats on what’s the usage of these.” Because I think that when you think about, going back to passthrough as well with like, organizations going, “Ah, we don’t think it’s gonna be useful enough,” I think it kind of comes down to perhaps a lack of information from them. Because I think that if more people knew, I don’t think audio description has been used that much if at all, I think it’s because nobody really knew that, actually, a lot of the sessions at MIFF had audio description.
And on the other side around quality, I’m always with this sort of new frontier stuff, we’re thinking about how I can convince directors and producers of things. And I think a lot of directors, at least in Australia, the audio description’s like, it’s very much like a, it’s part of the contractual delivery requirements. They don’t really understand what it is. They’ve never used audio description before or tried listening to it on Netflix or using a device in the cinema. I think that a lot of them would be sort of mortified if they heard some of the degree of quality that the audio description is being done for, because ultimately, they’re the biggest champions of their content that they’re putting their life and blood into. So, I think that that’s probably one of many different facets of improving quality is education for the directors, because they’ll champion it as well, because they want everyone to experience the film or their content in a strong way. Darius out.
SCOTT N: If I could just jump in here for a second. Darius, will you marry me?
SCOTT B and SCOTT N: [laugh]
SCOTT N: But seriously, mate, that is-
SCOTT B: Yay!
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
SCOTT N: That is the, I couldn’t have put it better myself when it comes to the Australian industry. Please, DM me once the Space is over. You and I really need to talk.
DARIUS: Yeah, I would love that. I would love that, Nixon.
NEFERTITI: Oh, my gosh. That’s what I’m talking about: bringing people together. Yes.
SCOTT B: This is Scott Blanks. And it’s really interesting. I think the data, the point about data is really important. There are a lot of people who will hear more if we can communicate with data as well as with stories, as well as with the impactful stories of audio description.
The other piece that I think is important here is it’s not, it’s nothing really innovative about it, but we know in the sort of the big group of big players in streaming or networks, there’s some good work happening. In fact, there’s a fair bit of good work happening. And some of those companies might be models that we want to think about ways to get some of these other streaming companies or networks or movie studios to somehow follow. I don’t know how that happens, but I think one of the things that makes it possible is we bring people together. And how do you bring people together? You have to establish, well, something like this Space, and it has to be an ongoing Space, and people have to get to know it and have to think about it as a place where they can come together and talk and learn [FaceTime call rings] and be challenged and be okay with that. We have, there are good cultures of accessibility and audio description quality happening in some places. There are people in those places who want to help move this along. They will be our allies, and they will be support for this. But they know just as well as that we need them, they also need us. They need blind people, they need professionals, all of it to come together. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of tenacity. I think we got that. Blanks is done.
NEFERTITI: Scott B.!!!
ROBERT: Wheee. We did it. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Wow.
ROBERT: Hello, this is Robert Kingett again. I had a couple quick things, and then I actually have to jump off here, sadly. But in terms of how to improve, how to improve the awareness of audio description, I wanna see more open audio described screenings, like at movie theaters and everything.
SCOTT N: Hmm.
ROBERT: And also, I wanna get screenwriters involved in the audio description process. I really think that would also help as well. In terms of quality, I just would like to briefly talk about the pay rates in the industry. They are very, very, very low, extremely low. And I think that if we’re talking about quality, I think we need to also talk about how do we pay our workers fairly and make sure that we’re not taking advantage of labor? So, that’s it. I’m done. [delighted chuckle]
SCOTT B: Very well put, Robert. Very well put.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Robert.
COLLEEN: This is Colleen. There’s a few…. So, I wanna do 25,000-million things. There’s a giant list. But basically, one of the things I would like to do is talk to the filmmakers and the screenwriters. So, that would be establishing a group or, and again, these are things like, I’ve had time to start some of these and just not time to start others. But talk to the people on the front end, so the producers, the writers, and the directors and the filmmaker side of things so that they’re aware of audio description from the beginning. Ideally, I would like to make some sort of curriculum and partner with a school so that there would be a screenwriters’, like you would take a class that included accessibility in production from the beginning and not retroactively in post.
SCOTT N: Hmm!
COLLEEN: The other is, as I mentioned, I’m on the committee of people that’s trying to establish a certification, and I recently [chuckling] just shook up the table. So, I have made a couple proposals that I think they’re going to accept, one of which is I want to have an organized open forum with the committee members need to sit there and listen while we invite other people who are not us, who are not on the committee to speak and to explain some things to them and to answer questions and to, you know, it needs to be structured. But basically, there are a few big, big people in this group. And I think part of the issue that I run into the most with trying to start action is that there is several big people at the top who are like, “I have done audio description this way. I was one of the first audio describers. This is the way you do it. And I’m right, and I wanna bring everyone along with me.” And it’s like, okay. So, audio description is both an art and a science, and you can only regulate it, you can only test it or put it in a box up to a certain point. And so, the idea, I think the best thing we can do, action-item-wise, is connect with each other like we’re doing. Have, you know, continue to tweet and social media and @, like tag things for both the good and bad.
SCOTT B: Yes.
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
COLLEEN: So, Nefertiti asking, you know, asking questions, “What do people think about this,” and comment on it or, “what do people,” you know, “what are your thoughts on this?” And try and get engagement, but also, if something is very good, @ that, and if something needs improvement, @ that.
The other thing is getting…getting some sort of…. Oh, my God. It left my brain. Dang it! I had one more thing, but there’s, I have, I have a big list, and it’s just like I’m one person. And I’m like, no! Chronic illness, why? [laughs]
SCOTT N: Don’t worry, Colleen.
NEFERTITI: Listen, Colleen.
SCOTT N: We all got your back.
NEFERTITI: Yes! As one person with chronic illness too, now there’s two of you. And over there, there’s Scott Nixon and Scott Blanks and Thomas Reid and Cheryl Green and Darius and Robert. And there’s a lot of us out here who are feeling that one size does not fit all. It never did. It’s just that now we are gathering and galvanizing and actually speaking up and saying, “This doesn’t quite fit the bill.” And it’s okay. Let’s just meet these needs in other ways. It’s not that, as you were saying, the people up at the top, you know, like, “Goodbye. Get out of here.” No, there’s a place for everyone in this, but I think that’s the whole point. At least in my world, there is a place for everyone, right?
COLLEEN: Yes.
NEFERTITI: There’s this hashtag, DescribeEverything? Well, one population, or one segment of the population cannot describe everything. They are not everything, no matter how much they may have been, right?
COLLEEN: Yep.
NEFERTITI: Like, that’s just not the case anymore. We are here. We are not going to be quiet anymore. And in terms of quality, that’s what quality is all about.
COLLEEN: And-
SCOTT B: Everything counts or nothing counts.
COLLEEN: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
COLLEEN: The other thing, I remembered what I was going to say. Hurray, Nefertiti.
NEFERTITI: Yay!
COLLEEN: Is that educating people, because one of the things the report that I sent to the committee was how do we respect the past and progress to the future?
NEFERTITI: [light applause] That’s me clapping.
SCOTT N: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
COLLEEN: So, yes, you brought us here. You got us here. Fantastic. It’s, you know, we’ve gotta keep moving.
SCOTT N: Mmhmm.
COLLEEN: There’s all different kinds of people.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
COLLEEN: Everyone has a different life experience that they bring to this. And the idea, they are, I think, a lot of people similar to in learning more about white privilege and the different sections of my life that became very apparent, people are terrified.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
COLLEEN: I think they’re honestly, they feel very threatened because they’re like, it’s just that difficult conversation that people do not wanna have, and they don’t wanna be, “I’m not. I’m not. I have a Black friend. I have a Black, blind friend!”
NEFERTITI: Yep.
COLLEEN: Like, just this panic of, like, you know, the fact that, hey. No, it is okay. The important thing is we have a safe space to have the conversation, we apologize, and get forward. Because that, I think, is part of the holdup for some of the larger names in AD is just they are older white men. And they are, that is, you know, not to throw old white men under the bus, but it’s just been, I have seen them respond to me the most with immediate defensive and like, “Well, I know you can’t be entirely objective, but it is, you know, as a describer, you are objective. And you” dah dah dah. And it’s like, it’s okay, it’s gonna be okay. So, I think part of it is remembering, bringing the passion to it, but also having to toe that line, walk that tightrope of respecting the past and moving forward-
NEFERTITI: Yes.
COLLEEN: -especially when threatened and frustrated. And they don’t get it. They just, they can’t wrap their minds around it, or they haven’t had that light bulb moment. It’s like, just, you gotta have conversations, dude. So, yeah.
NEFERTITI: And if I may just say, Nefertiti speaking, hopefully they do have that light bulb moment. But in my world, whether they have it or not, it’s like if you have it, great, let’s go! If you don’t, I’m leaving you behind.
COLLEEN: Uh-huh! [guffaws]
NEFERTITI: Because I respect you. I respect you, absolutely. But I also gotta keep it moving. And I also wanna hear about myself. I wanna see more people like me. I wanna hear more people like me in everything.
COLLEEN: Mmhmm!
NEFERTITI: And that absolutely disclude-, includes audio description. I’m sorry, you guys. I’m very tired. This is like a 16-hour day, so my words are a bit meh.
SCOTT N: Nah, you’re doing fine.
NEFERTITI: Thank you!
ROBERT: Amen, girl! Hell, yeah. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, I gotta go to bed, but, yeah. Like, come with us or get out of our way, okay? Because-
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT N: Scott here, just quickly. Guys, it’s been a pleasure. It’s an honor to work with all of you. And I think we have really started something magnificent here. Let’s keep it going. Let’s keep it moving. But I have been sneaky, and I just had my own light bulb moment. We need to petition Disney+ and Deluxe who do any audio description for the Marvel movies to get our boy Thomas Reid in to redo Black Panther 1-
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT N: -and do Wakanda Forever. Do it seriously. You would crush it.
NEFERTITI: Oh, my God. You know, the Social Audio Description Collective has been wanting the same thing. So, Thomas?
SCOTT B: Clear your schedule, Thomas.
NEFERTITI: I think so.
SCOTT N: [laughs]
THOMAS: Aw, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. Yeah.
COLLEEN: I’ve been talking about that since 2018. Don’t think I ain’t in on that, guys.
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT N: So, yeah, guys, it’s been magnificent. And for me for now, follow me on @MrBrokenEyes, and I’ll talk to you guys next time. Peace.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely!
SCOTT B: So good to hear you, Scott.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Scott Nixon!
THOMAS: This is a great start. And these conversations are definitely what we need. We need to get more people involved because the more I think about it, there are definitely organizations doing what they do and doing certain things when it comes to audio description. But obviously, it can’t be everything, but it doesn’t always need to be them doing the work. And I mean that by, you know, like, sometimes I think we leave it up to an organization to do certain work, right?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: And I think there’s pressure that needs to come from within, and then there’s pressure that needs to come from without. And there’s some of this work is not gonna get done by the organizations. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean that’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes it’s not the organization’s place to do it, and sometimes they’re just not built to do it because they have other objectives.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: And so, some of this stuff has to come from the people.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: And we are the people, and we need to put some of this pressure and keep this up. And so, I think having these sorta conversations are absolutely great. And I think we also need to take a look at what we mean by support from the community, because to me, support is conversation. Support is not falling in line with what someone says. Support is conversation. Support can be disagreement and just discussion and doing that in a way that is for the greater good. Because I truly believe that we all wanna get to the same thing, right? But the way we get there is a little bit different. Some of us, you know, [clicks tongue] some of us wanna be a little, some of us are just tired. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: [chuckles]
THOMAS: Some of us are just tired, you know what I mean? We don’t have that much time.
NEFERTITI and SCOTT N: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: We need to see some things. And we’ve seen a lot. And even if it’s a, you know, it might not be just, you know, it’s not just audio description. Because as we see, again, it’s not just entertainment, all of that. Yes, it’s true. It is not just entertainment. This is big. This is big. This has really serious implications.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: And so, we need to remember that. And I think if we’re gonna be a community who’s gonna support one another, don’t think we have to always agree, but we do have to be civil about it and have these conversations and be respectful. And I don’t see anybody, I see most of us having that, doing that and being respectful. So, just keep that in mind. That’s all I’m saying. If that made sense, I hope it made sense.
SCOTT B: Mmhmm.
NEFERTITI: That made absolute sense. Love each other.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: Even if you don’t-
THOMAS: Respect.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Even if you’re not coming at something from the same perspective, or even if you might diverge from someone else, there’s no need to be rude or point fingers or degrade. There’s no need for all that.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: I think Thomas is absolutely right: We all have the same end goal, which is to improve, to enhance, to make it better, to make it more inclusive, to make it less gate-kept, right?
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: And again, there might be different ways that we get there, competing, sometimes conflicting priorities. But to someone, it might be about Dolby Atmos. To someone else it might be having people of color describing films that are of people of color. You know, it could range on what our priorities are. But ultimately, I think it comes back to what we first started talking about here: quality. We want the quality of audio description to improve and to be better every day.
THOMAS: Yeah. And let’s salute those who are actually doing that right now, because not everybody’s doing it. And I think we know. I don’t necessarily have to go through the list of companies who are doing it, but I think we need to start recognizing those who are doing it, those who put their name. Notice who doesn’t put their name. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: [belly laugh]
THOMAS: There’s folks who, you know-
NEFERTITI: Very telling.
THOMAS: -their names just aren’t there. That’s very telling.
NEFERTITI: Very telling.
THOMAS: And if you can find out who that is, you’ll notice that means something. So, when the names are there, notice if that correlates with quality. Like, that’s real. That’s real. And then shout these people out because the HBOs, the Netflixes, I really do think that we’re the ones who should be, we should be determining who they work with.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: But right now, it’s the dollar that is determining who they work with.
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh.
THOMAS: And so, I think we have power to be able to shut that down by just bigging up the folks who are doing it right. And let the Netflix know, “Hey, these guys do a good job. These guys you hired over here today? Uh…you know, they’re okay, but maybe not for this one. Maybe for something else.”
NEFERTITI: That’s right. Yeah.
THOMAS: “Maybe for something else.”
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: So, I think we need to explore that a little bit too.
NEFERTITI: We are the drivers of that.
THOMAS: Yeah, let’s drive this for real, for real.
NEFERTITI: I think we’re going to try to have, aim to have conversations with folks in positions of influence, I would say.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Power and the like. Because, yeah, we are the voices that need to be heard, right?
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: Audio description by blind people, for blind people. We are blind people!
THOMAS: Yeah. So, what you’re saying, Nef, is that this is not just a, this is not a one and done here? Is that what you said?
NEFERTITI: Oh, no! I certainly hope not!
THOMAS: [laughs] Aight, cool. So, be on the lookout.
NEFERTITI: Like we said at the beginning, hopefully this is the first of many, and hopefully we will have many more people join us, whether you’re a listener or a speaker, a host at times, though, you know Thomas and Cheryl. Cheryl at the beginning of the said that she had a fan club for you and me, Thomas. I’m in the fan club for you and Cheryl, so.
THOMAS: I’m, pssh. Come on. Come on. Y’all know where I go. I’m Cheryl and Nefertiti all day. Come on. Come on. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: [giggles]
CHERYL: I’m president. Not just in the fan club. I’m president of both y’alls fan clubs.
THOMAS: [laughs] Well, I am definitely president, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of both of y’all!
NEFERTITI: Here, here.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: I’m Prime Minister, bitch. Okay? All right. Who was it, Colleen? She said, “I’m gonna be the bad bitch!” I love that!
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yes! Yes.
COLLEEN: I’m the, I, I, I’m gonna have to be the bad bitch of audio description. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: I love it!
SCOTT B: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: I’ll join you. I’ll join you anytime, girl. Anytime.
DARIUS: Thank you so much for organizing this. This was fantastic. I’m very excited, and I feel very inspired. And I look forward to engaging in conversation with all of you ongoing. I had no idea it was even happening! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
DARIUS: I literally woke up. I rolled out of bed, and I was like, oh, there’s an audio description chat happening. Fantastic.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
SCOTT N: The more you know, Darius, the more you know.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [chuckle]
SCOTT B: I just wanna say, this is Scott Blanks, I just wanna say we’re, yeah, we’re only getting started. There will be more. We’re gonna do these at different times, on different days. As we can clearly hear and see, there is a lot to be done and a lotta people who wanna do it. So, we have a lotta cause to be back here again and again. And I think that’s what it’s gonna take for us to see some of this change. So, thank you all for putting in the effort and for the effort that’s going to come I’m sure. It’s all really appreciated, and it’s gonna pay off. I feel that.
THOMAS: Excellent. Excellent.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: Yeah!
THOMAS: I salute y’all.
NEFERTITI: Galvanize, y’all. Gather and galvanize.
THOMAS: There it is. [laughs]

Outro music begins
THOMAS: Cool. Well, that concludes this week’s conversation. Why don’t y’all keep the conversation going on social media.
CHERYL: Use #ADFUBU, for us by us, #DescribeEverything, and #AudioDescription.
NEFERTITI: And hey, you know we’re out here, right? Mmhmm! Gathered and galvanized y’all. If you haven’t joined us yet, what are you waiting for?! You can find us in the LinkedIn Audio Description group and the AD Twitter community. We know that your participation will only make these spaces better.
Music fades out!

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