Archive for the ‘Accessibility’ Category

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – Access 4 All

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

“I came to this country to start leading the project and start putting all the technicalities together to start doing captions and audio description in Spanish, serving the Latino community.”

Headshot, Maria Victoria Diaz
Maria Victoria Diaz PhD, an Electrical Engineer left Colombia to help “Flip the Script” not only on Audio Description but access in general for native Spanish speaking people.

President of Dicapta & Chair of Dicapta Foundation, her efforts continue to prove that creating access for one group can benefit others as well. In this episode hear about ;
* The struggle for Spanish AD
* Access 4 All – Dicapta Foundation’s solution assuring Audio Description can be shared across platforms.
* Go CC – providing access for the Deaf Blind to content and emergency information
… and more.

It’s fitting that I open this episode with my own Spanish translation.

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TR:

Reid My Mind Radio Family! Before we get into this latest episode, I need your help.
I want to take Reid My Mind Radio to the next level, that’s making it a sustainable venture.
But I need to know more about you, the listener. I’d really appreciate if you could take a few moments to fill out
a quick survey. Just go to ReidMyMind.com and hit the link that says , hmm, what should I call it?… Survey!

— Music Begins A mid-tempo Reggaeton Hip Hop influenced groove.

TR:

Greetings, my beautiful brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.
You know, the podcast featuring compelling people impacted by all degrees of
blindness and disability

TR in Spanish:
Saludos, mis hermosos hermanos y hermanas.
Bienvenido a otro episodio de Reid My Mind Radio.
Ya sabes, el podcast que presenta
a personas atractivas
afectadas por todos
los grados de ceguera y discapacidad.

TR:
We’re continuing with our Flipping the Script on Audio Description series.

TR in Spanish:
Continuamos con nuestra serie Flipping the Script en Audio Description.

TR:
By now, you should have an idea of where we’re going in this episode. If not, give me a moment for my theme music, and then I’ll introduce you to my new friend and she’ll make it clear.

TR in Spanish:
A estas alturas, debería tener una idea de hacia dónde vamos en este episodio.
Si no, dame un momento para mi tema musical, y luego te presentaré a mi nueva amiga y ella te lo dejará claro.
— Reid My Mind Theme Music

MV Diaz:
“I came to this country to start leading the project and start putting all the technicalities together to start doing captions and audio description in Spanish, serving the Latino community.”

TR:

That’s Maria Victoria Diaz.

MV Diaz:
I used to be Maria Victoria and now I’m just Maria, in this country.

TR:

I like people to feel at home around me.
And she said I can call her Vicky.

— Music begins –
MV Diaz:
I’m from Colombia. I’m Latina. I have tan skin and brown eyes, my hair is over my shoulders usually is how I wear my hair.

I’m the President of the Dicapta and the director of the board of the Dicapta Foundation.
I’m an electronic engineer. I’m hard of hearing.
My pronouns, she/hers.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Tell me a little bit about you. And let’s start with how you became interested in audio description.

MV Diaz:
I started working as an engineer in a television company in my country.
The first time that I saw captions in my country was working in television, and I was like, What is that for?

I started to be interested in captions.
Specifically being hard of hearing, that was like natural to be interested in that kind of service.

Then I started working, specifically researching about accessibility features, specifically, to make television accessible.

That’s where I started like, 20 years ago, trying to push in my country for some policy or regulations for captions to be included.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
How successful was that?

MV Diaz:
It was just good luck.

At that time, I had friends in the television industry, some of my colleagues from school, were the technical director of different television stations there.

TR:

Actually, that wasn’t the so called good luck. Those friends in high places didn’t make it happen. At least not until the government got involved.

MV Diaz:

So they came to me suddenly, one day, like, oh, there’s this new regulation that we need to comply, then help us please.
I think that one person, the government had a child who was deaf, and then that’s how they became interested. Sadly, that’s the reason most of the time.

And so I started doing captions for every single television station in the country and training.

TR:

What began as a two person team in 15 days grew to 20 people.

MV Diaz:

We needed to cover all the regulation that came at that time.

We help them to install the technical facilities for captioning

So the sad part of the story is that that regulation came at still the same 20 years after just like, two hours per week one newscast in the per channel.

TR:

Soon after that work began with captions, she met a guy who was Blind. He had a question.

MV Diaz:

Have you consider doing something for me?

And I was like, what kind of service Do you need, or how I can serve your needs?

And so he was telling me about Kurosawa’s “Dream” movie. And
he was describing for me every single scene of that movie, and I was like, how you can tell me those details about that movie If you don’t see. So I was so interested in his specific process.

TR:

That movie, Dreams, a 1990 film by acclaimed film maker
Akira Kurosawa was subtitled.

MV Diaz:

It was like a team effort, in a way with friends from his university.

I started researching how I can be involved in that field. It was like 20 years ago.

It was aligned with my interest in I wanted to be a musician, when I finished my high school, and I couldn’t because according to my doctors, being hard of hearing, it was not a good idea to be a musician.
I was like, Okay, I have to fight to do something else to overcome barriers.

TR:

At this point Dicapta, Vicky’s team of 20, was working on caption and Audio Description
when she was approached by one of the 2 private Colombian broadcast company’s.

They wanted to buy her out and control the market. Her response?

MV Diaz:

No, I’m not interested.

I started looking for options to serve to in Spanish in other places. And I found out that in the United States, services in Spanish were like really nothing available, not for captions, not for description at that time. So I decided to write an email to the Department of Ed asking how I can participate in your initiatives. And they told me, no, you have to talk to the television stations or to the channels. And you have to ask them. We’re not the right source for business.

TR:

Vicky’s response set her on a path and in my opinion says a lot about her motivation.

MV Diaz:

I’m not looking for business, I want to know how I can contribute in the discussion.

So they just mentioned it to me that they have a television Access Program. I’m talking about 15 years ago, 16 years ago.

TR:

It’s government, so that means lots of paperwork.

MV Diaz:

I can tell you that I was in Colombia, in my office preparing a proposal for the Department of Ed,

I had no idea how to do business in the United States… the right words to use or how to fill these forms. And I just started reading the forms , filling them up giving my ideas there.

I guess that it was a really good proposal, because we just got funded,

TR:

Come on, you know it can’t be that easy.

MV Diaz:

They call me but you can’t run a project, serving the Latino community from your country, you have to be here. And I was like, okay!

TR:

In about two weeks, she gathers her belongings, leaves Colombia and is in
the states.

MV Diaz:

I just really thank the Department of Ed gave us the opportunity to just try to add value, and to discuss and to tell what we think.

It’s wonderful for me that I every single time that I try to do it, sometimes I have to work a little bit more. I can talk with whoever I wanted to. And I can, I can just at least try. Most of the times the answer is no, we’re not interested. But it is okay. Just to have the opportunity to share what you think.

TR:
Thankful for that opportunity, Vicky uses her voice to continue her mission.

MV Diaz:

I came to this country to start leading the project and start putting all the technicalities together to start doing captions and audio description in Spanish, serving the Latino community.

TR:
While Dicapta is a for profit company, most of the work being done has been through the nonprofit Dicapta Foundation.

MV Diaz:

We really have some new partnerships doing dubbing in Spanish but most of the work that we do in audio description and captions is funded by the Department of Ed.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
So accessing audio description for television, and cable here in the States requires the sap the secondary audio programming.
And it just happens to be that that’s the same channel that delivers Spanish translations in for shows in English. So does this mean that it’s impossible for a person who speaks Spanish to be blind? Hashtag sarcasm?

MV Diaz:
(Laughs)
Kind of…

Spanish language television, They don’t have a Spanish in their SAP, they don’t have anything in the sap.
So we’re not competing with the Spanish translation in the Spanish television, we’re competing with the Spanish translation in the English television.

The big problem here is that the CVA didn’t include Spanish.

So the first thing is audio description in Spanish has to be mandated.

What I have learned is that the FCC is following the mandate from the Congress. So how to push for Spanish to be included? I don’t know Tom

TR:

Remember, the CVAA or the 21st Century Telecommunications Accessibility Act
requires local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS,
Fox, and NBC located in the top 60 TV markets
to provide 87.5 hours per calendar quarter.

How’s this for a regulation; AD on everything!)

MV Diaz:

Telemundo Okay, they are part of NBC. NBC is under the regulation, why? Telemundo is not under regulation?

TR:

Hmm good question. But, bad answer.

MV Diaz:

No, because it is not. Period.

But why, if they are under regulation and Telemundo is part of NBC? No,

I became part of the disability Advisory Committee of the FCC, and I was like, I’m ready. This is exactly the place where we’re gonna change the story.

No, no, no, no,. (Said slowly with lots of frustration)

TR:
When it comes to advocating for Spanish AD, it often comes down to priorities.

MV Diaz:

We have different problems in our community, bigger than the accessibility, I have to say that.

We are in a different place in history right now. Our concern is more, jobs, education and immigration. We are trying to fight different fights. We don’t have Latino consumers as organize. The Blind Latino consumers that we have been working with, it is not enough.

I don’t know, my grandma said something, but I can’t translate. How is your Spanish Tomas?

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Well!

— Sample Price is Right loser tone!

MV Diaz:
My grandma used to say just one little bird is not able to call winter.

TR:

There’s power in numbers.

MV Diaz:

The consumer organizations, they know that that’s a problem.

If you have to go to the Congress, or if you have to go to the FCC, asking for specific questions, is going to be like priority number 10, maybe or, let’s say, five to be more generous.

, but is never going to be their first priority. I kind of understand now

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:

I think that can be said about a lot of communities.

There are definitely people who say, oh, why are you talking about audio description all the time, we need jobs. I get that. I also see a relationship between jobs and audio description, education and audio description.

TR:

Couldn’t these lower priority issues serve as vehicles to elevate those considered higher priority. Especially when putting into context?

That’s what I mean when I say, “Audio Description is about much more than entertainment.

MV Diaz:

Our a Latino community communicates in Spanish. We are trying to have that. In here. We are trying to find our space and our beliefs, our roots, our culture alive.

It is incredible. The amount of kids that are Spanish speakers coming from different countries don’t speak English yet need access and they don’t have the access that they need.

We are working with the DCMP and they are doing a really great job. And we are trying to include some educational titles there. But in entertainment we are really, really far

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
I’m thinking about the streaming companies, they’re not obligated under the CVAA. But they do decide to go ahead and stream audio description, Univision, Telemundo, none of them are interested in doing it at all? Have you not been able to talk to them?

MV Diaz:
Yeah, I have talked to them. I don’t know. They think that I’m just a girl trying again.

But no, the thing is that, for example, Telemundo at the beginning, what they told me like three years ago, they didn’t have SAP in the whole network.
So they didn’t want to provide the service for this kind of part of the audience and not to others

We have been working with funds from the department of Ed.

TR:

Those fund enabled Vicky to have one request.

MV Diaz:

We’re gonna provide you with the description. You just have to put it on there.

Even that is really hard tom.

We included audio description but the cable companies. Don’t pass it.

For example, Channel 22. They are an international television channel. They are in DirecTV, they are in

we provided Audio Description. we created all the audio track.

Okay, DirecTV, No audio description. Spectrum, no audio description.

TR:

Cable companies, you had one job!

But regulations do really go a long way.

MV Diaz:

Caption is not that bad. I can tell you because of the regulations. The FCC regulation includes Spanish captions. So we are safe there.
Just because the regulation is there, they just know what it is. They know what it’s about.

TR:
In the rare event that the cable company does pass the AD, you better catch it that first time being aired because it probably won’t happen again. Whether on that same channel or another.
The problem, many of us have experienced.

we know a show or film has AD,
maybe we saw it on one channel or on a DVD,
but another broadcaster or streaming network doesn’t pass it.

MV Diaz:

Let’s try to do it ourselves. And that’s why we started working in a different direction creating technology and creating Access 4 All.

TR:
Access 4 All is a central repository for any accessibility asset.
That’s the actual digital caption, audio description and ASL files for example.
No matter the language! They’re all stored in one location.

Access 4 All serves as a clearinghouse.

MV Diaz:
Dicapta is a really small organization. We need influential organization or powerful organization to believe in the value of a clearinghouse the importance of sharing the resource that we have.

That’s why we are creating like a membership model under the foundation. The idea is for people to come and say, okay, I created this audio description and no matter if you are in Mexico or if you are in London or if you are in Italy, that specific program is going to be accessible.

So that’s the big dream.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
When you say a membership, so for example, Netflix would come in as a member, the BBC would come in as a member, Argentina television would come in.

so they would have a membership. And they would upload all of their audio description tracks to this repository.

MV Diaz:D

So who’s member of this repository right now?
New Day films, some movies from PBS POV and the Spanish content that we are creating with funds from the Department of Ed.

TR:

Plus, it empowers us as users to access the assets ourselves.

MV Diaz:

You just download the app. You just can watch the program with audio description, you can read captions, or you can do the ASL version of the program if it’s available.

TR:

The app developed with funds from the Department of Education, is free!

Check it out!

download the app…

Start the film, while your app is open… And voila!

TR:

Right now Dicapta is working on creating a searchable catalog. Already, they have over 300 hours of content.

— Dicapta audio icon

TR:

That little tune or audio icon was created by consumers of audio description and members of the Dicapta advisory committee.
It’s formed by the notes D, C, A, and G.
D for Description, C for Collaboration, and
A Accessibility.
The sequence finishes with a G major chord that stands for Go!

It includes a graphical element as well.
It’s formed by two purple triangularly shaped capital letters “A”.
The letters are thick and slanted toward each other so that
the adjacent sides are in a vertical position.
A blue number 4 sits over the letter A on the left.
The horizontal bar that goes from left to right on the number 4 matches the horizontal bar that goes from left to right on the letter A and also covers a small portion of the letter A on the right.

MV Diaz:

What we are proposing is to add that icon at the beginning of the program or during our in them guide, just to show that is in the repository.

I have tried to talk to the big players in the industry. But it is not an easy conversation.

my invitation is this Okay, so that if you don’t have a solution, we have one maybe you can use these one or you can start trying it and see if it if it works and if not someone come with a better one, right? But today we don’t have any solution. We are not sharing, we are creating the same track twice instead of Sharing the one that is already created.

— Sesame Street Cookie Monster shares with Elmo

Elmo:
Oh, Cookie Monster would share his cookie?

Cookie Monster:
Yep, it’s against my primal instinct, but you share with me, and me share with you.

TR:

There are some who understand.

MV Diaz:

Nickelodeon. Latin America, we launched a project with them using “Access 4 All” and they did audio description for some shows. And then they are promoting the show.

Maybe that’s kind of the support that we would need.

TR:
There’s more to be hopeful about.

MV Diaz:

the world is changing. And I see a better scenario for accessibility now that the one that I found when I came 15 years ago, the conversation is different. More people knows about accessibility and about the descriptions. So I think that consumers are more aware of that. Okay. Maybe it’s possible. I just have to say, Tom, I really thank Netflix. They are, they are they’re showing different ways. To support accessibility, and they are including Spanish, they are asking for audio description in Spanish to be included.

Hopefully, if they are showing that the assets are going to be there, or maybe somebody is going to decide to share.

TR:
It’s probably worth mentioning that Apple too offers access in Spanish.

I know there are decision makers or at least some who have the ear of decision makers
who listen to the Flipping the Script series, and
hopefully the podcast in general.

I believe many of them are sincerely about providing access because they see it as fair and just.

If you are an independent content creator, I encourage you to talk to Vicky and get your captions, audio description and any access assets on to Access 4 All.

MV Diaz:
it’s supposed to be a membership.

For now Dicapta Foundation, we’re not charging anything to independent producers.

We have a basic agreement saying that you are donating for the Clearinghouse and you’re not charging the user to use. And in case that someone else is interested in having that, that specific accessibility, they’re going to contact the owner to say like, Okay, I’m interested in this audio description to be downloaded to put it somewhere else

I think that we Dicapta, we’re going to concentrate our effort in educational programming and in independent filmmakers.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Let’s talk about the work that you’ve been doing with a community that’s often overlooked, and that’s the deafblind community. Tell me how Dicapta is serving that community?

MV Diaz:
I invited the daughter of a friend of mine who is Deaf Blind to one of our advisory meetings. We were talking about television and about movies and about access. We were trying one app. We asked her for her opinion, oh, my goodness. She was like… Are you serious?

We don’t have access to television. I haven’t watched television in my whole entire life, how you think that I’m going to go to the movies. And it was really a bad moment in that room.

TR:

Come on, we know by now, Vicky turns these sorts of situations into good.
She reached out to more consumers for input.

MV Diaz:

And so we started trying to, to bring captions to braille displays in a in a way that that they can have some kind of access, those of them that are Braille readers. So that is a minority among the minority and the minority. But given access to the caption streams through braille displays, was the general idea to start working with. So it was like four or five years ago that we started working with that project, and we got funds from the Department of Health. And we were able to produce the solution but then again, the problems came and the industry and the practices

TR:

Of course they did!

Technically, captions on Braille displays is easy. The problem is when your captions don’t include the name of the person speaking. So it’s just an endless stream of words without context.

MV Diaz:

We try to push again, like, changing best practices just include identification of the speaker in the captions or streams just to serve the deafblind community. And so we produce documents and we spread the word in the industry in the caption providers to whoever is creating captions just provide identification for the speakers to make sure that no matter what technology is coming, captions are gonna serve the Deaf Blind community.
[
TR:

The service is called Go CC and provides even more for this community.

MV Diaz:

We work with FEMA to provide emergency alert information.

we work with the Helen Keller National Center. And that’s the reason why the product is as good as it is because we work with the consumers and they created what they needed.
It was not our invention, we just did what they asked us to do.

Next step in that is just to find a foundation or an organization that has all the capacity to share that into the community in a way that we can’t do.

TR:

Dicapta’s expertise is in solving problems and creating access.
MV Diaz:

We put together captions and audio description in stream text to make sure that the deafblind communities serve. So we’re doing that through Access 4 All. So if you use access for all you can use it from your Braille display too. And you can read captions, read the descriptions. And it is done. It is already there.

TR:

The challenge is the speed of that stream of information in relation to the actual film. It could be difficult to stay in sync.

Yes, someone could read the transcript and avoid the movie all together, if watching alone.

MV Diaz:

I don’t want you to go by yourself to the movies, I want to go with you.
Same thing with television, coming from our culture, we don’t do things alone, we do things with families all the time. So it is the idea is to have sync it with the movie, just to make sure that you can be part of a group of people watching the movie.

it is the experience of being with someone else. What is different,

TR:

Family. Friends. Community!
Sharing… y’all feel what’s happening here. It’s about more than access for Vicky.

That young lady who never had access to television, they’re on Vicky’s advisory team.

MV Diaz:

$
I’m here to show you that maybe I apologize. But we do we do better now and then try to do better things.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Congratulations. I believe you got a television access award. Is that what it was? Tell us about it.

MV Diaz:
Yeah. It is wonderful.

I have to tell that that the Department of Education hasn’t been recognized enough for their support to access. So those who have been working with them, we know that they have spent I don’t know how many millions of dollars supporting captions at the beginning before that, the regulation of captions and then audio description for years too.

But it was really not clear if they had plans to continue supporting description, especially after audio description is already mandated by the FCC.

The educational part of it is not as regulated for the network’s.
So that’s why the Department of Ed decided to continue the program.

We got one of the television access awards. We are so happy.

TR:
We should all be happy!

At least those of us who say we care about access.

MV Diaz:

We’re going to make sure that Access 4 All is a reality. Not just for our community, we’re working with English language content two. So every single hour of audio description or captioning that we create is going to be shareable in our clearing house, and is going to be accessible, no matter if you are watching it in one television station, or in any other is going to be accessible using their app

It’s gonna be five years collecting audio description, collecting captions, and asking others to join this effort.
So at least for the educational programming, I think that we’re going to have very good news to report at the end of these five years.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Okay, so this is a hard question. What are you doing? When you’re not creating all this accessibility?

MV Diaz:

Laughing…

Oh, I’m playing my flute. I’m learning piano. Okay. They pandemia show me my piano in the middle of the living room.

My daughter’s used to play piano because mom wanted them to be the biggest artists. They decided that they don’t like to play.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
they said that was you Mom, not us.

MV Diaz:
Yeah. So I had this big coffee table in the middle of the living room. Coffee Table.

(Hearty laugh along with TR.)

So I have to decide I have two choices. The first one is just giving my piano to someone that is going to use it. Or taking some piano lessons. Yeah.

And I love the music that you play.

I think that we would go to the same party.

TR:

If you’re throwing a party and
you want to invite a strong advocate and someone who is dedicated to access or
if you want to learn more about the great work taking place at Dicapta, open your favorite browser and point it to;

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – And the Winner Is…

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

There’s a lot of conversation taking place about Audio Description. While Flipping the Script is less about the mainstream AD talk, I wanted to bring some perspective to this discussion.

I invited Roy Samuelson to share some of what he has been involved in as a means of creating awareness and advancing Audio Description. We’re both pretty passionate about this subject and while we may disagree on what will be effective, it’s clear our goals align.

Our conversation actually went beyond what we both intended. This version however, is mainly focusing on some news concerning Audio Description awards outside of the blindness organizations, some interesting news regarding The EMMY’s and implications for Blind Narrators and there may even be a special appearance from a Jeanie!

For a less abbreviated version check out The Audio Description Network Alliance or ADNA.org

Getting to Know You!

We’re ready to take this podcast to the next level, but we need your help.
Please, take just a few minutes to fill out this survey.

Want to listen to this podcasts via your smart speaker?

just ask it to play the podcast Reid My Mind Radio by T.Reid on your default podcast player.

Holla Back

If you have any comments regarding this episode or any others for that matter, remember you can;
* Leave a voice mail at 570-798-7343
* Email ReidMyMindRadio at Gmail
* Comment here or @sreid on Twitter

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

– “Recording in progress!” Zoom synthesized voice announcement

— Hip Hop Beat begins…

TR:

Greetings beautiful people!
Welcome back to another episode of the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

My name is Thomas Reid and I appreciate you hanging out with me.

Today, as part of the Flipping the Script on Audio Description series, I want to pause for a moment…

— Pause in the music

and discuss some things happening today to advance Audio Description in the mainstream.

For this, I reached out to Roy Samuelson.

Roy:

Hey, I think I’m here.

TR:

Come on Roy, you know I have to kick off the theme music first!

Roy:

Oh, so excited.

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro

TR:

If you watch movies with AD or you’re following the Audio Description space, chances are you know Roy. He’s a Voice Talent & Audio Description Narrator and Advocate.

We’re doing a sort of joint podcast effort here.

Roy:

Being a part of Reid My Mind Radio has been an honor from the first time that I learned about you and was a part of your conversation and in following all of the amazing podcast episodes that you released over the many years that you’ve been doing this. This is really great, I’m so glad that we’re doing this.

TR:

In addition to interviews with some of your favorite people in Audio Description, You can check out the full version of our conversation over at The Audio Description Network Alliance or ADNA.org.

Roy:

Putting a showcase on the voice, not only to celebrate those specific voice, talents, efforts, but also to give a language to people to be able to talk about audio description, quality and excellence, and give them something to anchor in on and starting with voice talents seemed like a great place to start strategically and see how that goes.

And as it grew into including writers, which it now does, as well as the engineers in the quality control specialists, it’s the audio description network Alliance. And so it’it’s become a lot more inclusive, specifically about film and TV at this point.

— Music begins – an upbeat, high energy Hip Hop beat
TR:

When it comes to Audio Description and this podcast, I want to showcase some of the interesting people and things taking place. I want to ask questions, but let me be clear,
I don’t propose to have the answers, nah, but I do have a perspective that I’d like to share. That’s as a consumer and advocate.

Advocacy, we know, takes many forms, like legislative work as in the CVAA or 21st Century Telecommunications Accessibility Act.

Roy:

I’m not speaking for anybody else, but I do feel that that mandate is an absolute necessity that having the FCC demand so many hours of broadcast television to include audio description has been so influential in where we are today. And it’s a necessity to continue being there.

TR:

Every time you inform a broadcaster, streaming provider or AD creator about your experience, you’re advocating and it makes a difference.

Remember, there’s never just one way to advocate.

Roy shares some information about some of what’s been taking place in his wheelhouse.

Roy:

SOVAS , is a society of voice arts and sciences. And they have
basically a awards for voice talents. It has nothing to do with audio description historically, but I was nominated for a SOVASS award for narration category. So it wasn’t audio description, narration, but it was an audio description narration that I was nominated for.

And over the past few years, I’ve been working with SOVASS , and specifically, this year 2021, I’ve been talking with the heads of SOVASS and sharing some of my experiences as a sighted person and what that means and to make sure that blind people are judges for audio description, when the audio description awards were a part of their categories for awards.

It’s just been amazing to see that connection, which is completely outside of the blind organizations, is now recognizing voice talents in this work. And I think that in a good way, it’s going to start bringing more quality.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
So let me just say that I’m not a big fan of awards, award shows in general.

Now, I admit it’s a great business. Move to gather the top celebrities and harness all of that attention. And brand yourself as the gatekeeper. That’s a great business move.

When I think of audio description, one of the first things that I usually apply to everything AD is, how does it impact the experience for blind people?

I realized that it could be direct at times, a one for one exchange, this happens, and then this happens. But sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes it’s not necessarily obvious. So how does this help blind people?

Roy:

I think when it comes to celebrating the work of audio description, particularly in the SOVASS, they have found a way too, to share the performance in a way that celebrates it. And it is creating a competition in the sense of the people that are voting for the audio description, narrators are going to choose the best if there’s going to be a handful of submissions. Or if there’s going to be hundreds of submissions, they’re going to have to narrow it down and to narrow it down, they’re going to have to choose the best. And by celebrating which are the best that that’s going to impact our audiences.

This will lead to more quality, because people are going to want to have good voice talents to be able to be a part of this award ceremony, which will lead to better audio description. It’s almost a cart before the horse sort of situation.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
What I’m hearing, though, is that it’s still so dependent on for example, who’s judging? That’s a really big question in my mind, because I think the only people who should be judging audio description are the consumers really, I mean, are we the judges?

what is being judged, is it just that performance? We know that a big part of audio description also is The writing.

If we’re looking at just voice talent, well, it’s probably just going to be all the stuff that makes a good voice artist.

Roy:

The conversations that I’ve had with the leadership of SOVASS is that you can’t do this award without having blind judges, I’m assuming that the people who were invited who are blind have responded.
It is my understanding that that was specifically a part of this arrangement. That’s something that we made explicitly clear,
it’s like, because this whole Nothing about us, without us this entire audio description was created by blind people, for blind people, blind people need to be judging it that is absolutely essential.

In the same way that the ADNA started with voice talents, just to help people wrap their head around it, my understanding is that there’s going to be opportunities in the future for awards for writing, or for engineering that we can start to separate this.

When it comes to the attention being placed on the narrator. Yeah, there are narration skills that go into it. But I agree with you, it’s the writing that makes a ton of difference. And the example I like to use is let’s say, a Shakespeare play and you go through the first act, and it’s the intermission, and you’re just moved to tears by the performances that had happened in it, there’s something that really connected viscerally with the engagement of the different characters and how they were interacting with each other. And whatever thing that that story was, was telling you could be just moved to tears and almost be stuck. The same thing can happen at the end of the first act where you’re in tears, because you just want to get out of the theater. It’s the worst performance you’ve ever seen. You’re trying to figure out how to get out of seeing the second act, because it sucks so much. In both examples, the writing was equal. But there was something that happened. And it was most likely the performance.

It could have been the audio glitches that may have been happening if it for example, was in a big auditorium that had the microphones cutting out It could have been all sorts of other things that got in the way of the performance, but the writing was the same.

Audio description has so many different roles that the weakest link can make the whole audio description suck. That’s where everything has to be lifted up. And again, it is for the audience’s experience that by celebrating each of these different roles, we can celebrate audio description, excellence and quality.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I’m also concerned with the idea that when a lot of attention is placed on to who the narrator is, does that end up becoming something where again, we’re focusing on the narrator. And then we start to bring in, like, for example, celebrities to narrate. And I’ve heard that idea, floating around as though it would be of benefit. again, just taking all of that attention away from the consumer. I’m always thinking that the consumer, Blind folks should be centered in audio description. So anything that moves away from that, yeah, my Spidey senses are going up.

Roy:

I have to use my experience as a voice talent that
, celebrities never used to do commercials. Now that’s very common. Celebrities didn’t used to do animated features. And, you know, we look at Toy Story, which is now what 20 years old and there’s still a voice talents that are still voicing of animation that by having a celebrity involved in this work…

— DJ Scratch leads into “So What the Fuss” Stevie Wonder with AD Narration by Busta Rhymes

Roy:

I mean, as early as Busta Rhymes back in, what, 1520 years ago for the Stevie Wonder video with the fuss and that was the that was exquisite. The first time I heard that I’m like, Oh, this is so good. I can’t help but smile and nod my head. It’s so beautiful. It’s like, there was something that Busta Rhymes the celebrity brought to that, that brought that piece alive. Not every celebrity can do this. And if there are celebrities that do it, I would hope that the focus still remains on the audio description. But you’re right, there’s no way to control that. I don’t know how to address that.

But I do see that the possibility of that kind of exposure can only grow the quality of this.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

No shots to Busta.

— Sample: “Aight, here’s how it going down.” Busta Rhymes from So What the Fuss
— Music begins a countdown like intro to a driving slow ominous Hip Hop beat

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I think the celebrity might make a difference in terms of marketing, audio description. And again, that leads me to the place where it kind of who is this for? Hmm, this is for the blind community. This is not for others, to just come in and check out all Busta Rhymes is doing this. Oh, whoever is doing this? This is cool. Let me check this out.

That’s fine if it happens, but that’s not what audio description is for.

Roy:

What is the cost to the wide audience in the context that you’re talking about? Or maybe it’s the blind talent? I’m not sure.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Well, there’s both right. So there is the blind talent, because we’re already competing with non-celebrity talent. That’s fine. But there’s also like I said, just the quality, I’m not sure if the quality is naturally going to go up , right? Because folks can make that determination. That’s what happens with celebrity you let folks in there just to draw the name.

Roy:
Hmm.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

And it doesn’t make a difference. It may not make a difference. In some cases,

How often do celebrities want to get attached to something that just feels good, and then use it in their promo of themselves? It just gives me a really bad taste. And I don’t want to see audio description suffer because of that.

Audio description needs to stay about blind people now. You can create something else, right? So for example, when we talk about there are ways that other folks are using audio description, whether they be truck drivers, whether they be kids with autism, for example, and there may be some modifications that are needed. Absolutely. There should be that. But I don’t think it needs to come at the expense of blind people. So there’s room for all of this.

Sometimes I feel like there’s these fake choices that we’re given; Do you want more? If you do, then you’ll take this.

Why do we have to have that choice? That’s not the choice.

— Transitional sound

TR:
I’m interrupting for a public service announcement.

First, I need your help.
I want to take Reid My Mind Radio to the next level, that’s making it a sustainable venture.
But I need to know more about you, the listener.
I’d really appreciate if you could take a few moments to fill out
a quick survey. Just go to ReidMyMind.com and hit the link that says survey.
Secondly, a few people have asked how they can get this podcast on their favorite smart speaker.

In this example, I use Apple podcast as my default player, so the command would be;
“Hey device, play the podcast Reid My Mind Radio by T.Reid on Apple podcast”

Of course, you can still follow or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Transcripts and more are at ReidMyMind.com
That’s R, to the E I D
— Sample: “D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick

Like my last name

— Transition sound returns to the episode

TR in Conversation with Roy:

We want to see audio description expand. We both agree that we want to see more, and we want to see better quality. Like we’re in total agreement around that. And I think these questions and all of these things as to how do we get there, you know, are great, that they’re absolutely great. Yes. Because we have the same goal, you know, but I just think that we need to kind of think through these things. And even when we try, whatever we try, always come back to the idea of asking that question. Does this center Blind people? are we adding value for our audience? And if we’re not scrap it,

And, what about the Emmys? (Laughs)

Roy:
What about the EMMY’s Thomas? This is great.

(Thomas and Roy’s laughs fade out)

I’ve been a part of the television Academy for maybe 10 or so years. So relatively new and part of my contribution has been as performers, peer group, executive committee member, it’s basically a fancy term for all the different peer groups that represent different roles of television.

So letting them know about audio description, and how that has such an impact on television and how it can have an even greater impact.

And so those conversations have really evolved from the first time that I was approached by my mentor and saying, hey, you should really reach out here and being able to do it in a way that went from almost a dismissive Well,

you know, there’s really nothing that we can do about this, but Roy has a real passion for it. So, you know, keep in mind that whatever Roy talks about, it’s it, it’s probably not gonna happen, take it away Roy, to most recently. This is such a valuable performance, and it’s a skill and it’s an access that brings so much to so many people beyond blind and sighted people. Let’s hear about audio description. And that was the introduction, it was basically 180 degree turnaround time, simply because the culture has changed, as well as the awareness of what audio description is, and through some real advocacy within the television Academy.

The television Academy now recognizes audio description narrators as qualifying television credits to become full-fledged members to be able to vote for the Primetime Emmy Awards. And I think the implications of that are, are few First of all, again, representation, making sure that people understand about audio description, but also, as many blind people work in audio description as voice talents, this is yet another way for them to be included in this television Academy, whereas normally the opportunities might not be there as much. So that feels really huge.

TR:

Whether we’re talking about the SOVASS, the Emmys, in each case it seems to come back to increasing the awareness of Audio Description.

Roy:

Is there an audio description effect that you and I could both agree on when it comes to making sure the value is what it is. In the approach that I’m exploring, the strategy of awareness is an essential part because right now things have been so hidden, that people aren’t even aware of it. And I think as awareness grows, that that can create that very healthy competition of how great the audio description can be.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Yeah, so I think you’re right with the awareness. But when I look at awareness, I’m looking at awareness from the perspective of blind people, because I know a lot of blind folks who do not know about audio description. I know a lot of blind folks who think that audio description and television and movies are not for them because that’s the way it’s been all their lives. And then so steadily, and hopefully they’re starting to learn More about that. I think that audio description for students and looking at the results of how their learning and their sort of their involvement in the quote unquote mainstream, and their ability to relate to their peers, and those relationships that that happen.

I want to measure it by the relationships that employers and employees begin to have, because there’s more of that conversation. And then blind people are making more advancements, because we know that when you’re in a corporate environment, for example, you learn about new things, because you’re just friendlier with people, you start to trust someone else, and you just like to be around that person. You feel comfortable with that person. And so much of that happens from conversations about Game of Thrones, right? On Monday morning after Sunday.

I want to see blind people who are working as movie critics. Where it’s not just about the audio description, they’re really analyzing this stuff.

Blind people who are doing the work of audio description, blind people who are commissioning others to do that work.

Again, I’m centering Blind people in this.

I still consider myself relatively new to disability. But as far as I know, I have never heard of wheelchair users promoting wheelchairs in malls, because folks can just go ahead and walk there, you know, you get tired, so why not take a load off, just so we can increase the amount of wheelchairs, we can get better wheelchairs because more are using it.

I don’t think when captioning came out, and all the advocacy that they put into it, I don’t think they were talking about the curb cut effect before it happened. It just happened. I’m learning to trust the process, and we see it all the time, it will happen, right? We already know that. Yes, truck drivers are using it. And folks will find a purpose for it. But let it be that it doesn’t have to take away from our community, and it will happen. But let’s just build it up based on our needs. And then when we find something that will Oh, this would work for someone else. Absolutely cool. Bring it in, go do it. Go create it. Because we need to bring everybody in not just some people, we need to bring everybody in.

The technology that is available, and that is growing means we have more options, not less. So let’s not take away. Don’t try to take away my options. Nah, don’t do that! We just need to be included.

Roy:

And with that inclusion, is there a place at the table for blind people to be able to influence those decision makers.

When it comes to that, the impact of inclusion of society that is there not a case to be made, that the existing leaders when it comes specifically to television are a part of the television Academy that access to those decision makers right now specifically blind people to be included in that seems worthwhile.

Forget the awards.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Okay, I like your kung fu there. (Laughs… fade out)

Yes, we need influence. And I get that. So if a way to get that influence is to be in the room. And if a way to get in the room is through being a part of an award show.

Roy:
I can hear your voice. I can hear the way you said awards talk about intention. You go on. That was great.

(Thomas & Roy Laugh)

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I mean, that part of it absolutely makes sense.

Advocacy takes place in the room. Advocacy takes place on the streets.

Roy:
Hm.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

So there’s room for all of that. And if we’re working together in the suites and the streets (laughs…) if we’re working together, and we’re coordinated and we’re all sort of, again, centering blind people.

That could be really powerful.

— Music begins, a somber piano ballad

Roy:
Thomas, if we could go back to what you said earlier about generosity in the context that you were speaking of generosity was a negative connotation in my mind, in the sense that it’s almost a condescending talking down. It’s it. generosity, and you’re caught in the context of what we were speaking about. It’s an it’s not good. It just it smells bad. I’m not sure how else to put it. What’s the opposite of that? What’s the opposite of that? Negative generosity, that almost looking down and I’m going to be generous to blind people. What’s the opposite of that? I’ve got my own opinion. I’m just curious.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah. I mean, the first word that comes to my mind when you were saying that is disrespect.

I think about it in the real world, in real life. Think about it when walking into a store. And, or wherever, and just the difference in treatment, what you know, being in a restaurant, and someone asking the person that a blind person is with if they’re sighted, what does he or she want.

As though I can’t communicate to them.

For me, it always comes back to respect because if someone is not looking at me as an equal, wherever we are, then that problem is not necessarily with me. But I do feel it. Because I’m not getting the service, whatever that may be. I’m not getting that equitable treatment. Right. It’s just not happening because of the way they view me. And it’s that that perspective that they have around blindness around disability. That is what I think the awareness that I hope I do. That if I wanted to reach out to folks to non-disabled people, it’s really in hopes that that is the message that they get that and in fact, I mean, that happens with blind people, too. It’s ableism. It’s ableism. It’s, it’s looking at disability in a certain way, as if it is less than as it’s not normal. And it is normal. It’s absolutely normal. And there’s so much that we’re missing out. Because we don’t respect and appreciate the contributions of disabled folks. And specifically, we’re talking about blind and low vision. And so, you know, if we really want to do something about it, hopefully that’s what we’re doing.

Again, that concern comes to me when we say if others become aware of audio description, for example. It’s not really helpful if they’re just looking at it. Oh, isn’t that nice? That’s great. Oh, that’s great. That’s wonderful that they do that for the blind people. That doesn’t help. It doesn’t help at all.

Roy:

Yeah. Yeah. Neck Hmm, makes it worse. Because that respect is disrespect. I get it. Yeah, that’s really, really clear.

— Music ends to brief silence

— “I Dream of Jeanie” Intro Song

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Laughing…

I’m gonna give you a genie!

Roy:

Oh boy, oh boy!

TR in Conversation with Roy:

with one Audio description wish, something that can change something about AD whatever it is good, bad, whatever? What’s your What are you going to ask of that Genie

— Music begins, an uplifting, happy Hip Hop beat.
Roy:
Parity to sighted audiences that when it comes to audio description, the experience of a blind or low vision person is as equal to a sighted person as possible, that they’re laughing at the same time that they’re able to turn it on as easily, as a sighted person, that they’re able to watch it at the same time that it’s released as a sighted person, that they’re able to go from cinema to streaming in the same way that a sighted person does, that they’re able to get the quality and excellence of the performances of the writing of the mix of the quality control that sighted people get with their track. That parody, in the sense of as equal as possible, is a part of audio description that is done. And by the way, by blind experts being paid for their value and their service. That those two things are, in are, those two things are so linked in my head that you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have the other without the one that there is no way that audio description, quality and excellence to be in parody decided audiences can happen without blind professionals being paid for their value. Those.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah. And you see, what’s cool about that is that I could wish for what I just said about respect. And I think we end up in the same place, because I think if you got your wish, I feel like my wish was granted.

Roy:

Because I don’t think that could happen without respect.

Well, and again, look how that would filter outside of audio description. Because that’s what audio description does, right? It’s not just about the film in the movie, it always applies to something bigger.

Roy:

Yeah. And that’s the model that’s like this little microcosm of audio description and how that can have a ripple effect.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah, yeah. And it does. Like, we can look at audio description and touch on. Lots of things. Look at how race, gender, all of this stuff about identity come into play.

Roy:

Is it time to as your podcast limited series is called flip the script? Can I flip the script and ask you the same Genie question

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I would really ask the genie to, to solve this problem, this issue that happens also often. And it’s just like, I just want to be rid of it that when my family and I decide just at the spur of the moment, to sit down and watch a movie, that we don’t have to go through about a half an hour because there’s no audio description. It doesn’t fail, it does not fail. And the, the feeling that I get is the same even though I play it cool. You know, and so I’ll just go ahead and watch it. I do it all the time. And they tell me No. And now the girls are older. And so they’re more bold with the way they tell me No. (Laughs…)

I can’t do anything about it anymore. But it still feels the same. And it’s not just me because they get frustrated.

I want the genie to resolve that for us.

— Audience Applause… “America, here is your winner…

TR:

So when it comes down to it…

I’m not just talking about the Reid family or even the Reid My Mind Radio family

— Crowd applause continues “Good luck both of you” America has voted… crowd applause continues in anticipation.

TR:

I don’t know what’s going to happen y’all, but it just has to be us!

– Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!
— Applause fades out.

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – Going Social

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Kensuke Nakamura wanted to write Audio Description but couldn’t seem to get in the door with any post production companies. Rather than sitting around waiting for things to change, they decided to just start writing.

Soon after starting this journey, they were introduced to other similarly motivated people including Voice Talent Barbara Faison and a Blind AD Writer, Robert Kingett.

Yes, I said a Blind Audio Description Writer…

Add two more voice talents (both Blind by the way) and you have Social Audio Description.

A perfect way to kick off the first of our 2021 Flipping the Script on Audio Description series.

Listen

Resources

Social Audio Description
All About Image Descriptions

Transcript

Show the transcript

— Record being rewind
— Impeach the President Beat.
— “Ladies & Gentlemen”

TR:

Greetings! And welcome back to the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by blindness and disability.

As part of this conversation, we’ve been talking about Audio Description in some capacity since 2015.
It began when Netflix launched Daredevil.
It continued with topics like;
Critiquing the selection of narrators,
promoting the idea of using pre-show for film and television
Introducing you to several narrators, writers,AD Directors and technology developers.

Over the next several weeks I want to go beyond the surface conversations and explore how AD is so much more than entertainment. More than a voice in your headphones. More than access!

So it’s time, for Flipping the Script on Audio Description!

— “Check it out y’all, check it out…”
— Reid My Mind Theme Music

Episode Intro
— Sound of theater environment

TR:

Remember going to the movies?

I mean actually going to a theater, purchasing your ticket and getting the Audio Description receiver and headphones. Maybe getting your favorite snacks (unless you’re like me and bring your own. Don’t judge me for being a conscious consumer!)

You head into the theater and find some seats.

(No not that aisle, the floor is way too sticky)

you try to hold off on the snacks because you want to enjoy them while you watch the movie.

Suddenly, the trailers for upcoming films begin. So all your attention is directed at the screen.

— Trailer without Audio Description

Despite all of your movie going experience, for a quick second, you just know that finally, this time, the trailers will be described.

— Trailer without Audio Description

Then you realize, they’re not. You struggle to figure out exactly what’s going on, you lean back in your seat and play with the Audio Description equipment just hoping it’s working properly. Again, experience may have left you a bit traumitized from all the mishaps in the past.

With nothing left to do but wait for the film, you grab your snacks and hope you don’t finish before the movie begins.

(Ah man! I finished my Nestle Bunch a Crunch!)

Ken:
My name is Kensuke Nakamura, I use they them pronouns. I’m light skinned, slightly masculine presenting person with dyed red hair to about my cheeks. I’ve got about an inch of dark roots coming in. I’m just wearing a black hoodie. And I’m an Audio Description writer and editor.

TR:

Ken saw a need for description on movie trailers. They soon began providing that description and eventually grew a team of people to help with the process.

But we have to begin with their introduction to Audio Description.

Ken:
I got interested in audio description for selfish reasons, I met this very cool person at a party. And I became friends with him on Facebook, and was wanting to get to know them better. And one of the first things they posted on Facebook was that if I was going to be friends with them on Facebook, everyone needs to post image descriptions on all of their pictures. And that was just a price of entry. I was like, Okay, I need to learn about the image descriptions.

TR:

And that’s what they did. Their friend actually posted an article titled All About Image Descriptions, (You can find a link to that on Reid My Mind .com)

Eventually, Ken and their friend began going on dates. These included of course, going to movies. As many of us know, some times the AD doesn’t work.

Ken:

I ended up doing a lot of extemporaneous audio description in the person’s ear. Or sometimes we’d watch one of my movies like at home that did not have audio descriptions. So I got a lot of experience doing just fly by the seat of my pants, audio description.

About a year ago, during quarantine, I realized that I wanted to try to do audio description professionally.

I started off by just trying to do some scripts. So I picked several movies that didn’t have audio descriptions, and just wrote some audio descriptions for them full length on a Google Doc.

TR:

Wait! we must be missing a step. There’s no mention of approvals or permission. Maybe the fancy software?

Interested in writing AD as a job, Ken submitted samples to different Audio Description creators. Unfortunately, none of them responded.

Ken sought a way to continue developing the skills while possibly making a name for them self.

Ken:

it was around the time that the trailer for the Batman came out after DC fandom. And I saw that trailer and I was like, Oh, this is a very good, very interesting trailer showing us a new take on Batman showing how this one’s going to be different from the ones that came previously.

There was just a lot of really good visual elements. I was like this needs to be audio described. And of course, I checked in it wasn’t.

@-from later in section

At the time I would search you’d find maybe a handful of audio described trailers for the past several years.

trailers are something I’ve loved for a long time.

I remember the trailer for Spider Man, two early Alien vs. Predator, I probably watched a couple dozen times just really picking it apart. So it was something I was already interested in any way.

TR:

These trailers, are no longer just relegated to in theater or during television commercial breaks. There on YouTube and and available any time.

— The Batman Trailer Described by Ken

Ken:

I started off doing just the trailers. I don’t have any interest in becoming a actual narrator or voice talent. So at first, I was just doing it by myself, because it was easier. I didn’t have to schedule with anyone, but I’m not particularly good at it.

Barbara:
My name is Barbara j Faison. I am a mindfulness and meditation ambassador and voice talent and audio description voice talent.

I am a middle aged African American woman with short salt and pepper hair very close cropped.

TR:

Officially, Barbara’s been doing Voice Over work since 2018. However she’s been using her voice for years. Whether in the performing arts in school, Toastmasters and as a 10 year volunteer for the Georgia Radio Reading service.
Yet, like for so many people, it often begins with the one question. In Barbara’s case, it was a neighbor who asked.

Barbara:
Have you considered voiceover?

If you decide you want to do it, I’ve got a coach for you.

TR:

At the time, Barbara was on a sabattical from her corporate job. Her husband suggested she use the time to investigate if this was something she’d like doing.

Barbara:

I had this conversation with God. And I said, Okay, listen, God, if this is something I’m supposed to do, you have to give me a really big sign. I meditate everyday, but you need to hit me upside the head. So I said, I need you to give me a big sign.

TR:

Soon after, Barbara drives about 45 minutes for her first meeting with a coach, upon arriving the coach says:

Barbara:

Barbara, I just got an audition for an African American woman. 50 Plus, you want to audition? I’ll coach you.

I auditioned. That was Friday. Monday, we got an email. The person wanted to have me come in I recorded on Tuesday, I was done in 15 minutes.

TR in Conversation with Barbara: 08:27
Wow.

TR:

That sign she was looking for soon became her open for business sign in 2018.

— possibly somthing here to separate…

Barbara learned of Audio Description after her husband asked her about a narration he heard accompanying a show he was watching. She did a bit of research and found out it was called Audio Description. Further research led her to Roy Samuelson and ADNA.org the Audio Description Network Alliance

Barbara:

I reached out to Roy and it was like, I want to do this because it reminds me so much of my radio reading service days, and I had forgotten how much I really enjoyed doing that volunteer work, right. Although, of course, I want to get paid to do this as well. I just enjoyed that service and being able to offer something with my voice that was beneficial because my personal mission is to use my voice to heal, educate and inspire not just sell stuff.

TR:

She completed the AD Retreats training with Reid My Mind Radio alumni Colleen Connor.

Roy later suggested that she reach out to Ken to possibly contribute her voice to the effort of creating AD trailers.

Barbara:
I was like, Okay.

Ken:

And so she reached out and said, Hey, I’m interested in getting into audio description narration Can I work with you on these trailers? And I was like, Oh, yeah, absolutely love to have that work, take it off my plate. And that it that made it so much easier, because I would just write it up and then send it over to her. And then like a day or two later, it would come back. And she did, she did it in so many fewer takes. So it was a lot easier to edit her sound quality was much better. So I really loved working with her.

Barbara:

We did Aunty Donna’s big ol funhouse, which was hilarious.

The hillbilly elegy, definitely more of a somber tone versus anti Donnas funhouse versus the 355, which was an action adventure. So we also did the witches, which you know, was kind of more of a fun kids kind of thing. But you still had a little bit of foreboding in some of it. So I tried to have those tones, but not over play, you know, because I think of audio description as I’m walking you into a door, and here’s what’s going on, and the things that you can’t necessarily take from what you’re hearing, I want to just add a little bit of dimension to that for the listener.

TR:

The team continued to grow. It now includes two additional narrators, both of whom are Blind.

Ken:

There’s been a lot more awareness made of audio description, as you know, as a service as something that people can get and as something that people can do as a profession. So I think there’s a lot of people who are interested in getting into it. And I’m really glad that there’s a lot of blind folks who are interested in participating as well, because it shouldn’t be something that like sighted people do without the input or the hard work of blind folks.

TR:

This seems like a great time to either inform or remind you… Blind people created Audio Description and have been involved from the beginning.

That involvement can go as far as our own ingenuity. I’ve said in the past, Blind people can write Audio Description.

(Silence)

Yes, that’s often the response, silence! But maybe you just don’t have the right perspective.

Robert:

My name is Robert Kingett I am a white male, I am five feet six inches.
My pronouns are he him or them, whichever you prefer.
I’m a avid reader and writer of short fiction and novels, which I think really benefits me in the writers room when working on these audio description scripts.

TR:

Robert was introduced to Audio Description as a student at The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.

He was assigned the task of writing essays where he would discuss the plots and themes of described movies.

Robert:

I didn’t know it was a career path that I could genuinely pursue. Number one because I do have a speech disability. So, I thought that I could never become a narrator. And number two, I thought that you had to have a perfect 2020 vision to write the audio description scripts, so I thought that I could never get in to the industry.

At the time I wanted to become a movie critic. So I would write mock reviews of audio described documentaries.

At the same time, I also thought that I could not make this into a long standing career. because I learned very quickly that the general population did not know aboutAudio Description.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

tell me how you actually started working with Ken.

Robert:

I wrote them on Facebook. Because I atempted to reach out to a lot of Audio Description companies. I asked them if I could become either a script writer or a script editor.

TR in Conversation with Robert:
So you said, you told them you were blind at that point? Why did you choose to do that?

Robert:

I chose to do that, because I thought that the Audio Description industry was relying too heavily on sighted experts.

I was hoping that these companies would kind of make the leap from providing a service for the blind and visually impaired to let’s hire a blind or visually impaired person to work with us to him prove our product. That did not happen.

The only person who wrote me back was Eric at IDC and we talked for quite a bit.

TR:

Unfortunately, there were real budget constraintsthat prevented Robert from being hire. With no other responses, robert took that as a sign.

Robert:

Okay, they don’t want me as a Blind writer, so why don’t I try to form some independent experiment.

So Ken was doing trailers, and I just had a hunch that they would accept me so I wrote them without any expectations at all. And they wrote me back and said, Yeah, sure!

TR:

The addition of Robert brings the Social Audio Description Team to five people.

Team Process>
Ken

I think of it as a cooperative, and I would like it to be like a non hierarchical collage collaborative. I currently do the writing with Robert. I’ll do a pass on it, and then send it over to Robert, and he’ll send me suggestions or corrections.

Then I send it along to the voiceover artist. They’ll record the narration on their own. And occasionally, I might send some things back and say, like, Hey, I just need to another pass of these lines. And then I do the editing, but I’m currently thinking about getting some other writers and editors maybe to join in.

TR:

I asked Ken, Barbara and Robert to describe what they would like to see come out of this work both for the group and for them individually.

First Ken, who says it began with a way to both practice and get his name out there, but describing trailers can have a real benefit.
Ken:

Blind audiences should have just as much access to trailers as a way of gauging whether they want to spend $20, $5, depending on where you’re seeing it on a movie, and spending, like, you know, 90 minutes, two hours of their lives watching a film.

There’s so many movies and TV shows that I’ve never seen, but I know plenty about and I have a general idea of what the story is, what the tone is, who the characters are, like lines from the movie, and I can get meems . I can participate in conversations . situations where like, if somebody makes some sort of reference to a thing, I can generally understand what they’re talking about. And it creates like a sense of camaraderie.

TR:

For Ken, this is also about starting a trend, but not just for his own benefit.

I don’t want to have a monopoly on this. I would love for like movie studios to pick up like, first of all, I love for them to hire me. But if not, that I would love for them to just be like, we’re just going to take what they’re doing and do that ourselves.

TR:

You hear that, the Social Audio Description team is open for business.

In fact, they’ve been hired to produce description for a webinar series and hopefully more to come.

Next up, Barbara.

Barbara:

What I would like to see from us as a team is us to become a team that is a resource for people that are interested in having projects audio described, I mean, I think we all know that there is a ton of available projects that could happen so I would love to see us as a team take on some more projects across the board from education to film and television.

I would love to get more exposure and experience and have some projects where I am working with people that are really looking at making audio description the best it can be because people deserve to have the accessibility that people who have vision have. So, plug anyone needing an audio description voice over talent (laughs) reach out to me because I would love to be involved with some projects.

TR:

Stay tuned, I’ll have contact information coming up. First, Robert.

Robert:

I would like to see our guidelines, same techniques used across the industry. I want us to sort of be the innovators of Audio Description.

I want content creators to think about accessibility as they’re creating the content.

I also want quality to become more of a conversation

I want the creator to be excited about soon hiring a very skilled visually impaired Audio Describer to make their content accessible.

TR in Conversation with Robert:
Now because you yourself are visually impaired? Correct?

Robert:

Yes.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

Okay,

Robert:
totally blind.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

Can you be given a film/some sort of content and write it independently?

Robert:

Given the chance Yes, I absolutely could write a full length Audio description script.

Okay, how would you do that?

Robert:

I would use my Wordsmith ability to mesh a bunch of amateur descriptions.

What I mean by that is a sighted person and I would watch the movie together I find that three people is an ideal number for me.

TR:

These are three friends. Think of it sort of like when you ask some friends to help you paint a room or move some furniture. You cover the cost of beer and pizza and they help you do some lifting. In this case their watching some content.

While their watching, Robert pauses the film and asks what they see. He records all of their answers.

Robert:

I would take all those amateur descriptions and then craft a sentence that fits in to that time code.

TR:

Robert ended up reaching out to another Audio Description provider, X Tracks and has since worked on multiple projects available on Netflix;
Brian Regan On the Rocks
Tiffany Haddish Presents They Ready
Fearless

Also happy to report that since recording these converssations, Ken has written an AD script for Good on Paper currently streaming on Netflix.

TR:

Three people, all from very different backgrounds. Each with a genuine interest in creating Audio Description but for whatever reason, unable to get access. So they do it themselves. At first, it sounds like that classic pull yourself up by your own bootstraps ideology. But it’s not that.

Rather, it’s team work. Each playing a position with a common goal. Yet, individually, they each have the chance to work on their strengths. Plus, they bring all of their experiences from marginilized groups which to me means even more added value for the final product.

Robert:

We all work collectively together. We provide Audio Description that reflects the real world.

For example, whereas others may refrain from describing ethnicity or skin tone we absolutely describe skin tone and ethnicity.

We tried to be as conscientious of our biases as humanly possible.

Ken
Obviously, I’m not the first person there are like other companies who are, you know, hiring blind voice talent and blind writers to help out with the creation of audio description. You know, they say nothing about us without us and I think It’s important, and I’m glad I can be part of that. And hopefully, you know, giving, giving marginalized folks the same stepping stone that I’m having to hopefully get into the industry.

TR:

That right there!

That’s what I respect and appreciate!

A big shout out to the Social Audio Description team. Ken, Barbara, Robert you know you each are official,
— Audio – Airhorn!

Reid My Mind Radio Family!

If you want to submit a suggestion for a trailer to be described or maybe you want to hire the Social Audio Description team to add value to your project, you can do that via the Audio Description Discussion Group on Facebook or via Twitter or YouTube.

Ken:

My Twitter handle and my YouTube handle is Kensukevic K E N as in Nancy S as in Sally, U K E v I C. And that’s a combination of my Japanese first name and my Polish heritage.

TR:

There’s Barbara

Barbara:

B A R B A R A F A I S O N S V O I C E.com that’s my website and
they can reach me at Barbara at Barbara faces voice anytime they’d like to I’m happy to talk with them.

TR:

And Robert.

Robert:

The social audio description, our website is
ADComrade.word press.com.

My web site is is blindjournalist.wordpress.com.

TR:

The Social Audio Description team, well they flipped the script didn’t they. They saw a need and began filling it. While they continue to do that, we as consumers need to support this effort by watching the videos.

I’m sure many Blind consumers are so used to not having access to movie trailers that you may not see the value of including Audio Description.

But consider sitting in that theater. If you want to feel fully included throughout the experience, supporting the effort of The Social Audio Description team could be a part of making that happen.

To make sure you don’t miss any of the upcoming episodes in the Flipping the Script series, be sure you follow or subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.

Transcripts and more are available at ReidMyMind.com.

And yes, that’s R to the E I D…
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be.)
Like my last name.

— Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Qudsiya Naqui – Becoming an A+ Blind Person

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021

The vision loss experience is different for everyone. Our responses to circumstances determines our outlook. Then again, our outlook on life can signal how we handle the tough situations.

Qudsiya is wearing a blue shirt and smiling besides plants outside of a building

Qudsiya Naqui, founder and host of the podcast Down to the Struts, shares several transformative moments throughout her blindness journey.

She discusses going from someone who hides their white cane to a proud Blind person who chooses to advocate on behalf of all people with disabilities.

Listen

Resources

Down to the Struts
WOC World

Transcript

Show the transcript

— Ambient music begins…

TR:

Greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family!
Welcome back to the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.
You know, we’ve been here since 2014 so make sure you take a look in the archive if you’re new in these parts.

My name is Thomas Reid and I get to serve as host and producer.
I like to consider each of these individual episodes as a part of a larger collective story.
If you know anyone new to blindness or disability in general, please go ahead and let them know what’s happening here.
I’m confident that they would find a lot of value in the lived experiences stored in these audio file (and transcripts).
All just waiting for the right person.

Today’s episode is the latest addition to this growing archive that will not disappoint.
So let’s get down to it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Qudsiya:

My story of blindness is, to take a page out of Michelle Obama’s words, it’s a story of becoming.

My name is Qudsiya Naqui. And I am a lawyer and I’m based in Washington DC. I use she her hers pronouns.

I am a South Asian woman. I’m quite petite. I’m about five one. Right now I have sort of long, dark brown black hair that’s very long because of the pandemic and I haven’t been able to cut it and have kind of medium brown skin and brown eyes.

TR:

Qudsiya is the host of Down to the Struts, a podcast that explores the inner workings of
disability design and it’s various intersections.

Today, she shares some of the transformational experiences along her journey that helped shaped her view of blindness.

At 2 years old, Qudsiya was diagnosed with a congenital degenerative condition.
By the time she began reading, standard print was sufficient.

qudsiya:

But I had trouble in dark and dim places.

We were blessed and fortunate to be able to live in homes that worked for me. That had lots of sunlight, and we had lots of extra lighting. So that was the way that we kind of help make the environment accessible for me.

My mom was proactive and had me in sort of rehabilitation services with the state agency.

— Melancholy Ambient Music begins
TR:

That’s the New Jersey State Commission for the Blind, where she received mobility training and other blindness skills as a child

Qudsiya:

My usable vision was so good when I was young that I wasn’t quite understanding sometimes, like, why I had to use a mobility cane because

oftentimes, the trainer would come during the day, and I could see really well during the day.

When I reflect on it, I’m like, why didn’t they train me with the cane? At night? When I actually couldn’t see and then I would understand the benefit of it.

I had a hard time explaining to people what my situation was also because I present as sighted I don’t fit the sort of stereotypical appearance of what a blind person looks like. And so I sort of passed for lack of a better word because I didn’t have a vocabulary to talk about my disability, I didn’t even use the word disability, disability wasn’t even in my lexicon when I was a child and a teenager and even a young adult. I really struggled.

TR:

As a child, struggling with bullying and making friends.

Qudsiya:

I do think it shaped a lot of my identity. I was quite introverted, I love to read. It definitely did shape who I was when I was younger in slightly more negative ways, I felt like it was something I had to hide and that I had some degree of shame about. That really affected my willingness and desire to engage socially and to make friends and to put myself out there.

TR:

There are two main perspectives in viewing disability.
Whether you’re familiar with them or not, you may recognize your own way of thinking.

The medical model. This approach sees the problem as the illness, disease or injury. The focus is on fixing the person.

Qudsiya:

I started losing vision really quite rapidly kind of at the end of college when I was 22. At that same time, there was a experimental gene therapy. That became available and my parents really were encouraging me. They had very good intentions, and they love me very much. They wanted me to feel good about myself and be successful. And their pathway towards that was, you know, to have this therapy that would help me either gain vision back or halt the degeneration.

I did enroll in the clinical trial. I really believe that people should have choices about how they want to live, I have a little bit more healthy skepticism about that, because so much of it is rooted in ableism, which is a term that I use a lot now, but was really unaware of at that time.

— Ambient music ends

TR:

That’s the discrimination of and social prejudice against people with disabilities based on the belief that typical abilities are superior.
It assumes that disabled people require ‘fixing’ and
defines people by their disability.

Qudsiya says she’s unsure if the therapy has helped reduce the degeneration but notes she didn’t regain any vision.
She did however slowly begin inching toward that alternative way of viewing disability, but first, she had to go through some things.

Qudsiya:

I went through a really dark time in my 20s, just trying to like sort of, quote, fix myself,

When I was young they told me that my vision would be stable, you know that I had nothing to like, quote, worry about, and it would just be the same as it was. And that was pretty doable.

TR:

While preparing to enter Law School at Temple University, Qudsiya began seeing a new doctor who explained that her vision loss was degenerative.

Qudsiya:

That really explained what I was experiencing in the two or three years prior, reading was starting to become really difficult.

Law school, is very difficult for a whole host of reasons. And it’s a difficult environment, it’s just a lot of work. It’s very hard. And there’s a lot of reading, like hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of pages of reading a week.

TR:

Since grade school, Qudsiya prided herself on her ability to study hard and have the grades to reflect that effort.

Her vision and grades both deteriorating she considered dropping out.

Qudsiya:

And somehow, I didn’t, I had a couple of really amazing professors. And then I got a really cool internship at the ACLU of Pennsylvania, the summer after my first year, because I happened to meet the Legal Director at a career fair. And we just totally hit it off. And she was an incredibly supportive person. And between her and a couple of my professors, I just, I stayed and I didn’t quit, and I didn’t give up. I started to explore text to voice software and the different kinds of technologies that were emerging. Blind people have been using it for years.

I kind of taught myself to learn by listening because I’d always been a visual learner. And I had to completely transform the way my brain worked. And I was able, it took me a long time. And it was hard, but I did it.

TR:

The grades improved, her self confidence returned and she was making strides in her blindness journey.

Qudsiya:

Oftentimes, a lot of sighted techniques are foisted on you. Like there’s always the imperative for you to use your eyes. But that was the first time I started to realize you know what, like, it’s not about like forcing me to use my eyes if my eyes aren’t the most efficient way to get something done. And so I started to like embrace like new Non sighted ways of doing things which made me a lot more efficient and made things easier for me.

The day that I said, I need to use jaws 100% of the time, like changed my life.

TR:

But what about accepting that white cane?

Qudsiya:

There was so much stigma for me associated with it. Shame.

I got myself into real difficulty. There was one time I was in Penn Station, and I fell on the train tracks.

TR:

Thankfully, the train wasn’t moving and someone quickly pulled her up.

Although already familiar with proper cane technique, Qudsiya wasn’t a practicing user. Living in New York City at the time, she
reached out to the New York Commission for the Blind and got herself an Orientation and Mobility instructor.

Qudsiya:

I said, I need you to force me to use it in front of you until I get to a point where I’m okay with it in myself.

We worked every day a couple times a week for like an hour and little by little after a while, I started to just feel comfortable with the cane.

I went from someone who would carry the cane folded up in their purse, never even think about it, to a person who now uses a cane pretty much all day all the time and never is without it and has a very healthy relationship with it. That took a long time. And it took a lot of struggle and a lot of moving past my own stereotypes and my own ableism

TR:

Qudsiya offers some additional thoughts on what could be helpful in decreasing the stigma associated with blindness and disability.

Qudsiya:

There’s such a lack of education in a young age to a culture eight children to the concept of disability and like these disability positive messages.

I just remember in high school I never learned about the ADA, I never learned about the Rehab Act, I never learned about disability rights history.

I feel like if I had existed in an environment that was giving me all these positive messages and welcoming messages and accessible messages about who I was, and the fact that my disability was okay. I think my outlook would have been quite different. But I was in an environment where my disability was sort of invisiblized. I see that changing now for young people. But I think we have a long way to go.

TR:

Another transitional moment for Qudsiya along her blindness journey came when she experienced job discrimination.

Qudsiya:

That was the first time in my life, I had been exposed to disability rights and Disability Law and the civil protections that are available to people to prevent against discrimination. And I didn’t really understand that I had been repeatedly discriminated against in various work settings until I had this experience that became so extreme that I had to get an advocate to help me.

TR:

She credits that person with changing her life.
Helping her become clear about the problem and to see things from a different perspective.

Qudsiya:

Okay, it’s not me, that’s the problem here. It’s the system. That’s the problem. And it’s a system that is not designed to give me access, and I need to fight for that access.

— Music begins – a bright melody that moves to a driving beat…

TR:

The social model of disability.

This views disability as a part of life and not the problem.
Rather recognizing that society erects barriers in various ways that can limit opportunities.

Qudsiya not only learned how to advocate for herself, , she found a community of people who also had a positive outlook on their own blindness and disability.

Moving to Washington DC from New York City, she was introduced to another Blind Lawyer.

Qudsiya:

She and I actually connected over something completely unrelated to blindness. We connected over the fact that we were both athletes. She was a cyclist and runner, and I was a runner also.

She was starting up this sports group in DC called the Metro Washington Association of Blind Athletes. And she kept encouraging me to come and try out tandem cycling.

I hadn’t been on a bike since I was a little kid.

I didn’t know anything about tandem. I was like, this is gonna be a disaster.

Finally she pushed me and I went and I got really into it, I just fell in love with it.

TR:

That led to other sports and activities like adaptive rock climbing,
guided running and most importantly friendships with other Blind people.

Qudsiya:

That was really transformative, mostly because I never had Blind friends in my life. And so I suddenly had this massive, wonderful, supportive, fantastic community of other Blind people that were doing all sorts of things had all sorts of professions came from all different types of backgrounds. And we just had fun together. And we support each other.

TR:

That support is invaluable. From the practical to the emotional, helping you become your best self.

Qudsiya:

I’m like a b minus blind person, and I’m trying to get to an A plus.

TR:

I think she’s being tough on herself.

Even if we’re not being graded, a community of people to learn and share with along any journey is important.

Qudsiya:

I started on that journey kind of later in life, as opposed to some of my peers who were born blind or lost their vision when they’re really young. They really became resources to me, and I just started to see the world really differently.

I’m also part of another new group that just started last summer. It’s called WOC World. W O C. It’s a group for blind women of color – a virtual community of blind women to support blind women of color.

TR in Conversation with Qudsiya: 39:15
I always like to highlight the importance of meeting people. Because I think it plays a big role. I always bring it back to the podcast, because that’s what this podcast is all about. Not everyone is in an area where they can actually have access to all of these people. And so that that transition process that I think really is impacted by meeting people may take even longer because you have no sort of model of what blindness can actually be.

— Music ends with an ambient fade out

TR:

Qudsiya is a fellow podcaster. She’s the founder and host of Down to the Struts.

Qudsiya:

A strut is like an engineering device that you’d use to hold stuff together.

It’s sort of evokes this idea of like, what are the building blocks? What holds the world together? And how do we change structures and systems.

I wanted to make non disabled people see why they need to think about things from a disability lens and why that’s important and why we should care about it.

TR:

While she was being pushed to write and publish law review articles she found her heart just wasn’t in it.

Already a consumer of audio content including books and podcasts,
she recognized the opportunity to explore some of her interests and expertise.

Qudsiya:

The article I was working on was about disability, specifically disability in the US. And its intersection with immigration, which is one of my areas of expertise as a lawyer.

I really care about disability and its intersections with other types of things like race or other types of policy issues like disability, unemployment, disability and health care.

And I am a person who has experience with like policy and research and these sorts of things.

I really care about this area of work. And I love audio content. And it’s a pandemic, and I’m sitting at home and I got nowhere to go and nothing to do. And I was like, You know what, I’m gonna do it. That’s how Down to the Struts was born.

— Music begins a Hip Hop beat opening with hi hats…

TR:

Occasionally, I’m asked about starting a podcast. My advice closely aligns with the steps Qudsiya lays out.

Qudsiya:

I decided I wanted to do an interview style show and bring a mix of sort of people with lived experience, people who are experts in their fields to talk about sort of very broadly speaking, disability design and intersectionality.

I got a team of people together.

I don’t know how to design a website, I don’t know how to audio edit, I got a lot of brains together. And at first it was just for advice. But then a couple of friends of mine, really like wanted to be involved and wanted to work on it. And I was so touched by their desire to be supportive, they just loved the idea of the project.

I had a focus group of a whole bunch of friends that helped me vote on the title.

We launched our first season in October of 2020. And there’s six episodes, and we’ve just launched season two.

TR:

She narrowed her subject, figured out what aspects best fit her skills and interests.
Assembled others for advice and ended up with a team.
She’s also using a seasonal approach which I highly recommend.
It takes away some of the stress in producing regular content.
And of course, she got feedback on her podcast name. Did I mention she has herself a team?

Qudsiya:

I went to Barnard College, which is part of the women’s college that’s part of Columbia University. So I went looking for a student who was interested in audio editing. That’s how I came across Anna Wu, who is a junior at Barnard.

She brought along her friend Adrian Kahn, who does our transcripts.

I have two other friends. Ilana Nevins is our audio editor and my friend Adriana pole who is fabulous social media coordinator and manages all my Twitter and Facebook and Instagram so I don’t have to. (Laughs )

I’m scared of social media!

TR:

Yes, I’ll admit it, I am a bit envious of her team.

A lot of thought and planning went into the creation of Down to the Struts. Ultimately, it’s figuring out what you want. I get the sense that this is how Qudsiya operates.

Qudsiya:
I realized very, very quickly, that I did not want to be a practicing attorney, I think I probably even knew that before law school, but I knew I was interested in immigration, and I knew I was interested in kind of policy.

A lot of the policy people were like, Well, you can’t really fix the system if you don’t understand the experience of people who are going through it.

So I did practice immigration law, representing asylum seekers and survivors of domestic violence.

And then I went to a different organization where I was managing the program that was delivering services to unaccompanied children who were in federal custody, on the border and in other parts of the country.

TR:

She continued doing that work for a different organization while expanding into disaster recovery and other areas.

— Music ends…

Qudsiya:

now most recently, I’m at a big research like policy institution working on civil court reform work. Making this civil court system for like people who experience evictions and debt collection lawsuits and have to deal with child support cases and things like that to making the system more accessible especially for people who don’t have lawyers, and I bring a lot of my disability kind of focus in there too, because, especially with all the technology and courts, like a big concern is like making sure everything’s accessible.

I feel like, it all kind of bleeds together.

TR in Conversation with Qudsiya:

What do you want people to sort of take away from your podcast?

Qudsiya:

For disabled people, I want them to leave the podcast feeling like their issues are being addressed, that I’m exposing and uncovering the barriers they face and providing positive solutions and proactive solutions to how we can break down those barriers and fix those problems. And for

For the non disabled people I want their eyes to be opened to how the systems and structures that we live inside, whether that’s the immigration system, whether that’s the education system, whether that’s health care, how, they affect disabled people, and how ableism plays a role in that. So that they can walk away and know, there’s solutions to solve them. And I want that information to get out to the people who are the decision makers and the stakeholders in the system so that they can start to make change.

TR:
Think about the importance of all the transitional moments Qudsiya experienced.
From her battle with the white cane to experiencing discrimination on the job
which led to her meeting people who would come to positively influence her life.
Combine these experiences with her own positive attitude and drive and consider her advice for those new to vision loss.

Qudsiya:

Everyone has their own journey and their own experience and their own way of going through those stages of grief and getting to the other side, or whatever the other side looks like, and that’s okay. And you have to be kind to yourself, but know that there’s a community waiting for you. And there’s a lot of possibility and that you are a whole person. And your blindness is a part of that. And it is a really beautiful part of that. That’s something that you should honor about yourself.

— Music begins, a bright inspiring Hip Hop beat

TR in Conversation with Qudsiya:

Qudsiya, you know that you are now an official, and I want to say it twice, an official member of the Reid, My MindRadio family now that you’ve been on the podcast, you know that right?

Qudsiya:

Oh, that’s awesome. Thank you. Thank you for welcoming me into the family.

(TR & Qudsiya laugh…)

TR:

To get in contact with Qudsiya and or where to find the podcast;

Qudsiya:

You can email us at down to the struts@gmail.com. You can find our website which is www got down to the struts.com. We’re also on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram at down to the struts. And you can subscribe rate review the podcast on Apple podcast, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you love to listen, so definitely check it out.

TR in Conversation with Qudsiya: 1:00:19
Spoken like a true podcaster.

(TR & Qudsiya Laugh)

TR:

I really liked the way Qudsiya identifies and appreciates the different moments throughout her journey for the value they helped bring to her life.

Once again shout out to Qudsiya, I really enjoyed our conversation.

If you too enjoyed it well you can always feel free to let me know that or any other comments you may have by emailing me at ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.
Tell others about the podcast so they can listen for themselves. All I want to do here is to reach as many people experiencing vision loss as early as possible.

You know we have transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com right?

And I know you know, that I know you know, it’s R to the E I D
(“D, and that’s me in the place to be! Slick Rick)
)
Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

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Smashing Disability Stigma with Blindish Latina, Catarina Rivera

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

Catarina Rivera as a young girl with her hearing aids and a toothy grin.
Catarina Rivera grew up Deaf. By the time she was comfortable not only using hearing aids but with herself as well, she received a diagnosis; she was going Blind. She just so happened to be getting ready to leave home for college.

Today, she has a Master’s in Public Health and is using her platform, Blindish Latina, to advocate and spread awareness. Hear more about her journey and how you too can be a “Stigma Smasher!”

Listen

Resources

Catarina Rivera.com
Blindish Latina

Transcript

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TR:
Greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family!

It’s so very nice to be back here with you.
If this is your first time here allow me to welcome you and introduce myself.
My name is Thomas and I’m serving as the host and producer of this here podcast which features compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

Every now and then I bring you stories from my own experience as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

In case I haven’t mentioned it for a while, my focus here is on those adjusting to becoming Blind. Honestly though, the more I learn and consider the adjustment process, I think the specific disability isn’t as important. Yes, of course, it matters, especially when trying to resolve specific challenges or learn technique, but there can be so much insight to gain no matter the disability.

I tend to highlight those things that I think are especially important for someone new to blindness, but we all hear differently – meaning you may resonate strongly with something said where I may not. I’d love to know if that is the case so, please remember you can always reach out and share that with me by emailing ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

Now, let’s get this Poppin’!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Catarina:
I’m Katerina Rivera, the founder of Blindish Latina. I am a light skinned Latina woman with long dark brown wavy hair. And I’m currently wearing blue glasses.

— Music Begins – A smooth chill Hip Hop beat…

When I was about three or four years old, that’s when my parents first started noticing that I had trouble hearing, I think I was walking away from them and then not responding when they would call me.

We found out that I had hearing loss and I was fitted with hearing aids, I went to one year of special education, and then I was mainstream. I still received speech therapy on a regular basis, I had an IEP continuously throughout my education. And for the most part, though, I was mainstreamed.

TR:

Catarina and her family had no explanation for her hearing loss until she was 17 years old.

Catarina:

I was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, which is a combination of progressive vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa. And hearing loss depends on which type of Ushers you have

TR:

There are three major types of Usher syndrome, known as type 1, 2 and 3. They’re distinguished by the severity of hearing loss, the presence or absence of balance problems, and the age at which signs and symptoms appear.

By 17 years old, Catarina, adjusted to her hearing loss, fully accepted wearing hearing aids and was comfortable in her own skin.

She was on her way to Duke University on a scholarship when diagnosed with vision loss.

Catarina:

When I first got diagnosed, I felt like it was a huge tragedy in my life. It was upsetting, surprising. And it felt like a very big loss. I think that I had to go through the stages of grief in some way. When I was reacting to this, when my parents heard about it, they were very upset. And I felt pain for them. So, I felt like I had to be strong for them.

TR:

Presenting that strength doesn’t give much opportunity to deal with the emotions. Even sharing with friends who often don’t know how to respond doesn’t feel right.

Catarina:

I felt like I was dropping a bomb. I felt really heavy. I don’t tell people, hey, I’m going blind, I find that when I would do that, it would really evoke a sense of pity. People feel sorry for me. And I was feeling bad. At the time, I was feeling bad about it. But as I progressed, in my journey, that language doesn’t resonate with me anymore. It’s not the way that I tell my story. It’s not, it doesn’t feel like a tragedy anymore, but I can definitely empathize with myself at that time.

TR in Conversation with Catarina: 10:05
You never said anything about even exploring the idea of postponing school where I’ve heard from other people, and it would be sort of understandable where someone might, hey, I gotta take some time. It sounds like you still went straight to college.

— Music Ends…

Was there ever any sort of, thing about Oh, okay, maybe I should postpone this because of the vision loss?

Catarina:

That’s a very interesting question. I have not heard that before. And I mean, I get it, it makes sense, every person is going to have their own response to something like that.

I never felt like I needed time away from school.

TR:

Retinitis Pigmentosa is progressive so the early diagnosis didn’t impact her studies as much as the hearing loss.

With an accommodation allowing her to register early, Catarina avoided the large classes in auditoriums and opted instead for smaller classes making it easier for her to hear the lectures.

There was more of an impact on her social life.
And she wisely considered her vision loss in her decision-making process.

Catarina:

I decided not to drink alcohol, because I didn’t want to impair myself any further, I saw that people were really cutting loose, you know, and partying. And I remember thinking to myself is it’s every person for themselves here.

I would focus more on dancing, because I couldn’t hear people when the music was loud, and I love to dance. So, I never stopped myself from having a good time.

TR:

All of this considered, it’s not surprising, Catarina didn’t feel a part of the blind community. For a while she could still drive and wasn’t using a white cane.

It wasn’t until she moved to New York City after graduation and began seeking out community.

Catarina:
When I moved to New York, I didn’t have a job, I had decided to go into the field of education. And I was very motivated to make a difference for the Latino community, for my people. I had applied to a program called Teach for America, where you commit to working in a low-income classroom for two years. And I was very lucky, because not only could I move to New York, to access great public transit, I also was able to go even further than what I had hoped.

I basically got a job as an elementary school teacher teaching third grade, and bilingual education and I was working with students who had Spanish as their first language. It was exactly what I wanted to do, it felt meaningful. I taught at that school; it was in the Bronx.

— Music Begins, a strong, dramatic intro to a driving Hip Hop beat

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

(Laughing) I can just imagine the people who have their preconceived notions, not only about disability, whether it be the hearing loss and the blindness, but then you know, you threw in my beloved bx borrow, okay, you know. And so, then they’re like, oh my she’s, she’s, she’s deaf and blind and she teaching in the Bronx, you say?

Tell me a little bit about how you did your job.

Catarina:

Sure. Yeah. So, I was really happy to be in the Bronx, my fathers from the South Bronx, he’s Puerto Rican. I felt like, Okay, this is like a full circle moment, where I can kind of be in a space that my father grew up in and give back. So, it felt amazing to me.

Now, as far as just some of the logistics, I purposely chose where I was going to live based on the commute to work, I ended up living in Washington Heights, which was just across the river. And I took a bus every day, to my school, I basically only had to walk five to 10 minutes to catch the bus in Manhattan. And I, the bus stop was directly across from the school. So, the only issue that I would have is when I would fall asleep, because it was really early in the morning, and miss my stop in the Bronx and have to walk back. (Laughs)

I also had a really great teacher who also worked at the school who would drive in from Jersey. And so, if I was ready early enough, I would be able to meet her, and she would just pick me up from 100 81st Street and just take me to work as well.

I think people who have preconceived notions of any place need to check that and not make assumptions.

TR:

Word!

There were, however, real challenges of the job that she never actually considered.

Catarina:

One thing that was difficult was knowing who was bothering who, when you have a lot of children sitting there and I’m in the front. It’s very hard, like I don’t have that peripheral vision. So I’m not able to see like filano was poking filano.

Filano is a term for like anybody, like whoever. So that’s how we use it.

TR:

It’s not just behavioral. When young children have questions or want to participate, it’s important that they’re recognized.

Catarina:

That’s something I did do with them. I would let them know and it’s simple, hey I can’t see well. If you have your hand up, I might not see you. So, wave it around. I put it up high, I’m going to scan. I would feel so bad if the kid had their hand up and wanted to talk and I really didn’t see them. That’s demoralizing. So, I would try to make sure They were aware of what was going on with me and I’d give recommendations for what they could do.

TR:

In classroom is challenging enough, but what about field trips?

Catarina:

Generally, on a field trip, the teachers in the front, you got to lead the way, you got to set up the access to the subway present the form to the conductor. That was so stressful for me, because I do well in environments that I know.

TR:

And then there’s dealing with parents.

Catarina:

Phone calls were also hard to the parents being able to hear well, on the phone, I didn’t know about any of the programs that were out there and that I had been able to use now that has somebody transcribing the phone call while you’re on it or use AI for that. I didn’t have any of that. So anytime I called home, it would be maybe a different voice that I had never heard before. I would let them know that I don’t hear well, repeat yourself. And then a lot of times, you know, it’s like parents are speaking in Spanish. So, I really worked on my Spanish as well during that time.

TR:

After three years Catarina left that job and worked for a charter school in Harlem for about a year.

— Music Ends

Catarina:

I realized that in education the way to move up was to move out of the classroom, to become an administrator. And that wasn’t really the way that I wanted to go, I didn’t want my daily life to be about that. So, when I started to become interested in food, and seeing the food that my kids were eating in the classroom and starting to question why they are eating so many bags of chips and candy in the morning.

TR:

Actually, that’s a great question especially coming from the person responsible for educating these young minds.

— Music Ends…

And we should know, proper nutrition impacts your ability to focus and learn.

So, she began researching.

Catarina:

I remember going to Western beef, the supermarket and looking at all the products, the corner store and seeing, hey, the waters all the way at the bottom of the refrigerated case why?

The first part of my journey with food was approaching it from an education lens. I had this idea that people needed to be educated.

I started a community health program in my neighborhood where I started teaching families about health, including fitness and nutrition.

TR:

In addition to the research mentioned, Catarina also has a master’s degree in Public Health and certification in holistic health.

Catarina:

I realized that the system was also a huge force in people’s ability to eat well. And if I focus just on education, I was really missing the mark.

The great thing about working in the nonprofit space is that I did work with kids in the beginning, I was working on an after-school program. But once I transitioned into Program Administration, I realized how much less stress I had in my life, sitting at a desk and working in a different way. Working on partnerships.

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

So, is that the work that you do today?

Catarina:

So, I’m still in the nonprofit space working in food insecurity. And I’m so glad that I’ve had the opportunity to get training and public health, and learn about food justice, and food sovereignty, which are really important ways for approaching the issues with food and what we can do about it. And as part of that, I’ve been able to involve myself in community organizing. And I founded an organization in Washington Heights called the Washington Heights, Inwood food Council. So, it’s in both neighborhoods, Washington Heights, and Inwood. And this group is pursuing food justice in the community, they’re gardening, they’re working with people in the neighborhood of all backgrounds. And the group now exists without me that I’ve transitioned myself out there completely sustainable and continuing to do very good work.

— Transition
— Audio of Catarina from InstaGram:
“Heres a two minute inclusion tip from Blindish Latina. Caption all of your videos…”

Voice Over from IPhone: “Video by Blindish latina”
Catarina from video: “Happy International Women’s Day! I want to tell you about a women I really admite. And, it’s my mom!”

— Music Begins, A Latin influenced Hip Hop groove.

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

Talk to me about Blindish Latina. First of all, explain the name blind ish.

Catarina:

The name blindish Latina means a lot to me, I wanted to showcase my intersectionality the multiple identities that I have, especially because we don’t see a lot of representation of people of color, of Latinidad that within disability. So that’s why I chose a Latina. And the reason I put blindish is because I wanted to give a hint of the fact that blindness is a spectrum. And I know that so many people don’t know this. They think that when somebody is blind, they don’t see anything at all. They don’t have any space in their mind or any concept in their mind of someone like me, who can see really well in such a small window. But I still retain vision.

TR:

The mission of Blindish Latina?

Catarina:

To smash disability stigmas through storytelling, through training and through advocacy.

TR:

Right now, all of this takes place on Instagram.

Catarina:

I talk about my own disability journey. And frequently share stories even about things that might seem small to me. And like something that nobody else would be interested in, for example, I did a video about swimming with hearing aids. And just talking about the fact that I have to be concerned about where I put my hearing aids, when I go swimming, and that I get really scared about somebody stealing them off the beach. So, I might leave them at home, and then not here for hours. But I got so much response on this post that other people feel the same way.

TR:

It’s not always specific to the Deaf or Blind community.

Catarina:

I also share about disability awareness in general, for example, self-identification.

TR:

For example, the debate over using identity first language versus person first language. Identifying as a Blind person as compared to a person who is Blind.

If you gather the right people, this could be a full podcast episode, but Catarina’s point is that it’s up to that individual how they choose to identify.

In addition, she’s sharing best practices and awareness of all sorts of advocacy issues.

TR in Conversation with Catarina: 49:45
What is it that made you become more interested now, in sort of connecting with the cross-disability community?

Catarina:

One thing that made me interested was the documentary Crip camp on Netflix about the disability rights movement, and the story of this camp that brought people with all different kinds of disabilities together in the 70s.

People of all different kinds of disabilities coming together to take these actions. And it really occurred to me that I had not been in a space like that. It’s something that has been inspiring.

TR:

Catarina’s been involved in some of the digital communities, but it’s not as personal.

Right now, she’s focusing on taking Blindish Latina beyond IG.
Catarina:

So, one of the things that I’m doing with Blindish Latina, is public speaking, and offering workshops, and speeches. It’s very important to me to grow my impact and be able to talk to corporations and institutions about disability awareness, why they should care about disability and accessibility, and the actions they can take to create an inclusive workplace and implement best practices. So, this is a major component of Blindish Latina and where it’s headed.
— Music ends

TR:

Catarina is hopeful that corporations will be receptive to her message. Especially considering the attention being given to diversity equity and inclusion initiatives.

This is where that smashing comes in.

— audible smashing sound

Catarina:

I think for me smashing stigmas, or being a stigma smasher was exciting, because it was action oriented.

I’m all about actually creating change. I’m not on Instagram just to talk or post photos of myself or get likes, I’m on there to share best practices to activate allies to move people along this continuum, where they are now going to operate differently and make an impact on their sphere of influence wherever they live.

TR:

Check out some specific advice for allies or accomplices who want to work with the community in smashing stigmas, straight from Blindish Latina.

Catarina:

People have this idea that being an ally is a huge undertaking.

I’ve broken it down into three simple steps. One, you have to care. You have to believe that it is important to be aware of accessibility to do better.

Second educate yourself. You can learn without putting the burden on people with disabilities to teach you, there are so many people producing content, you can engage with them, follow them, this podcast is a perfect example. Books, websites and trainings and presentation. So, you can do a lot of self-education.

— Music Begins, a triumphant smooth Hip Hop groove
TR:

The final step doesn’t actually require a lot of expertise or going far beyond your comfort zone.

— Smash sound —
Catarina:

Wherever you exist. Whatever community you’re a part of you can take action. For example, if you’re part of a church community that’s going to have their masses on zoom, you can advocate for a platform that has closed captions, and speak up and say, Hey, we should consider this other option.

If you are managing your staff, and you’re going to have a meeting off site, you can create a registration form for people to RSVP. And you can have a question in there that says, what accommodations Do you need, and it can be anonymous. And you can create a space that is welcoming. That’s taking an action that’s being an ally.

4TR in Conversation with Catarina:
You see what you did there? You still teach Academy.

— Catarina and Thomas share in a laugh.

TR:

That’s the value of experience. The ability to apply what we learn throughout our lives in different areas. That’s wisdom.

Showing the world who you are. All aspects.

Catarina:

One of the reasons that I started Blindish Latina was to show that I am here, that I am a professional, disabled, Latina woman and I exist. I don’t think there’s a lot of representation of all of those dimensions of people who are disabled and are not white, of people that are disabled and are in the workforce, especially for people with blindness. I feel like there’s a lot of assumptions that blind people cannot work. And there are many of us in the workforce. So that’s why I use that term professional. Look, I’m here educated. I have two graduate degrees. I was Valedictorian of my mph, like, Come at me.

TR:

Better come correct!

You can check out all of the content including best practices, informative videos with captions, images with alt text and more on Insta Gram @BlindishLatina. You can also connect with her via Linked In by searching by name, that’s Catarina Rivera (spelled out)

Catarina:

And I have a website as well. CatarinaRivera.com

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

So, I don’t know if you know, but the fact that you are on the Reid My Mind Radio podcast. That means you are now officially part of the Reid My Mind Radio family.

You perfectly aligned with what we are doing. And so, if I could borrow your turn because we’re trying’ to smash it up too.

(Laughs…)
— Smashing sound…

Catarina:

Love it!

TR:

Some great take aways in this one y’all!

Like using our experience, talents and interests to create impact.

Shout out to Catarina! We’re rocking with you Sis!

Continue to follow what’s happening here on Reid My Mind Radio wherever you consume your favorite podcasts. I hope we can one day make your list.

In the meantime, tell somebody you love or at least like a lot or even if you have no real feelings for this individual, let them know you are part of the Reid My Mind Radio Family. Let them know we have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com. Now this can be a challenge for some so be patient and no matter how long it may take, explain that it’s R to the E I D…
(“D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!

— Music ends into the outro

Audi o: Reid My Mind Radio outro

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