Archive for the ‘Audio’ Category

Young Gifted Black & Disabled – Right On Time with Toni Hickman

Wednesday, December 15th, 2021

Toni Hickman is standing with an Emmy in her hand. She is a tall, slim black woman with a peach dress on and long black locs

I first learned of Artist, Rapper, EMMY Award Winning Toni Hickman a few years ago when I did an episode on Krip Hop. I wanted to reach out and invite her onto the podcast back then, but things sometimes slip off my radar. When I learned she was a part of the song Rising Phoenix for the documentary of the same name I knew I wanted to speak with her. While in conversation with Reid My Mind Radio Alumni & Family member Cheryl Green, I wasn’t surprised to learn that the two of them were connected. Cheryl put us in touch and then, well, a lot of stuff in between, but we finally ended up in conversation

In this episode we talk about;
Toni’s history in the rap game. from her days at Suave House as Slim Goodie, her encounter with Suge Knight to her current collaboration with longtime friend Big Yo in their new group Thakur (pronounced The Cure).

We discuss her experience with disability as a Black woman, the impact on her career, winning an EMMY and so much more. Of course, we pay special attention to the valuable lessons that are applicable to anyone adjusting to disability.

This conversation took a while to actually make happen, but it’s right on time!

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Transcript

Show the transcript

— Music begins, a piano chord with a vibes roll leads into a upbeat groove.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Hey, Toni, can you hear me?

Toni:

Yes!

TR in Conversation with Toni:

How you doing?

Toni:

I’m good how are you?

TR in Conversation with Toni:

I’m good

Toni:

we finally got to do the interview.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

yeah yeah I’m scared to say that, I’m gonna wait till it’s done (Laughs)

Toni:

I was just I had something else that came…

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Uh oh!I’m losing your connection I don’t know if you can hear me but I can’t hear you Can hear me but I can’t hear you.
Okay it says you’re unmuted, it says your video is on, try turning off your video and let’s see if that saves some bandwidth

Toni:
Thomas

TR in Conversation with Toni:

There you go.

TR:

Things happen when there supposed to

For example, maybe this is your first time listening to the podcast.
I don’t know what brought you here, but I’m glad you made it.

My name is Thomas Reid and I’m the host and producer of this podcast.

We’re in the midst of the Young Gifted Black & Disabled series.
This was inspired by an episode of the same name I produced last year with my brother AJ Murray.
I really encourage y’all to check that out.

While that episode along with close to 150 others are in the past, they’re not old or stale.
We add a bit of seasoning for flavor, but there’s no preservatives.
The dishes we serve up here are always fresh and good for your mind and body.

So you see, you’re right on time!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Let’s get it!

Toni:

My name is Tony Hickman. I am a tall slim, melanin dominant black girl with long dreadlocks and yeah I am excited about this interview.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

So now I usually don’t start with this question, but where were you born Tony?

Toni:

I was born in New York City.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Can you be specific?

Toni:

I was born in the Bronx,

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Yeh! say that one more time for me…

Toni:

I was born in the Boogie Down Bronx. Morisanna Hospital. I was raised in New Orleans Louisiana.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

No doubt you can’t hide that.

TR:

Over the year’s, Toni’s been known under some other names.

Toni:

when I was on Suave House, which is a record label where I have done gold and platinum musical performances, my rap name used to be Slim Goodie.

Everybody in the industry that knows me they still call me Slim like everybody call me Slim so it’s crazy if I would have got fat right they’ll still call me Slim.

TR:

That really does sort of make you think about the importance of a name. It can be really about who you are at one particular moment in time.
Yet, it can also be about who you are meant to be.

Toni:

A lot of people like in the conscious community call me Alika. Some people in the conscious community come up with other names for themselves and I think that’s okay too because sometimes we have to define who we want to be in this world and When we’re given our government names it’s not always where we are you know, so I get it but yeah, Alika is actually my real middle name.

My dad gave me Tony and my mom gave me Alika.

Alika means beautiful warrior.

TR:

On social she’s known as the Real Ms. Toni Hickman. Perhaps there is an impostor out there, but I’m thinking it’s more like representing her ability to share her truth. Keeping it real! Namean!

An early sign of that is in her poetry which she began at 9 years old.

Toni:

I had went through a lot of things with my mom and my father’s splitting up and so I would write this poetry to help me. It was philosophy, even at a young age.

It was like, I wish I was a bird so that I could fly away, but I am just a child, so therefore, I have to stay.

TR:

When her school put on a talent show, Toni teamed up with some friends and started rapping.

Toni:

We was the Bally Trooper Adidas group, and we had a beatboxer and my home girl and me. And we won the talent show. And from there, I was just like, Oh, yeah, this is what I’m supposed to be doing right here.

TR:

That first performance was not really indicative of how Toni wanted to rap.

Her partner wrote the rhyme. Which was about Now & Laters.

Toni:

I was just like, Okay, I need to be doing this all the time. But I can write my own raps. And from there, I always wrote my own lyrics.

MC Lyte, Salt N Peppa. That was like my big influences at that time as far as female hip hop. But honestly, my reality was a little bit different.

I grew up kind of, like, always looking out for myself. I’ve been on my own since I was 15. I’ve been doing music professionally since 16.

TR:

Writers of any sort are encouraged to write about what they know. Toni wrote about her environment.

Toni:
My environment was watching people die, like right in front of my face, people getting shot and killed.

And so I started rapping on the negative side of that, like, I was T Capone, I was Al Capone’s daughter.
I was the gangsta hip hop. And I gradually started going into stories of like, why this wasn’t a good choice, or why even being in that environment can get you stuck.

TR:

With a rap name like T Capone, well you’d assume not all of the stories were positive.

Toni:

It wasn’t just about killing. I can only remember one song I did that and they went platinum, but it was about killing. And that didn’t sit well with me. Like, during the process, it was dope, the song was called armed robbery. But then afterwards, when I listened to it, like my soul was just like, no, Toni , this is not your path, you have to correct and that’s something that happens in life, like, you know, we don’t come in this world knowing exactly what we need to do or what direction we need to go. And it’s only from these harsh lessons, that we get to learn our true purpose.

TR:

Telling stories with messages, was her thing.

Toni:

Like Scarface or Tupac. They used to actually call me a female Tupac because that’s really kind of how I related to the world.

And then even after that, I started going into Slim Goody.

Slim Goodie had messages in her music and that was very important for me Even then, even though I didn’t even know my whole way. I just knew that it had to have something that somebody could learn from.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Being compared to like a Tupac and Scarface, where do you think you got that? Were you reading as well as writing at a young age?

Toni:

My mother raised me as a reader. She was putting books in my face, like, As a Man Thinketh”, “Back to Eden”.

My mother was like this person who everybody would come to if they were sick or had an issue, and my mother would be the one to give them a solution. Like, she was known as the medicine woman in the church.

Now I do that as well.

TR:

During the time she was rapping under the name Slim Goodie,
Suave House moved Toni from New Orleans to Atlanta.
The record label however was experiencing their own change as their premiere artists 8 Ball and MJG were leaving the label.

Toni:

When you put your project in somebody else’s hands, and it’s no fault of anyone, but if you put your project in somebody else’s hands, you have to wait on their hand and move right. So if something happens with their hand, their hand get cut off or something like that thing, you’re stuck because you’ve put your dreams in somebody else’s hands. That situation happened to me. And so I eventually got out of the label legally, and started doing my own thing and started working with big artists like Jagged Edge, Petey Pablo

TR:

That got the attention of the infamous Suge Knight.

— Audio from the 1995 Source Awards…
“Any artist out there want to be an artist, want to stay a star, don’t want to have to worry about the Executive Producer trying to be all in the videos, all on a record, dancing, come to Death Row.” Suge Knight

TR:

Yes, that Suge Knight, from Death Row Records.
He liked what he heard and reached out to Toni.
Of course she was aware of his reputation which includes
allegedly hanging rapper Vanilla Ice off a balcony during let’s say contract negotiations.

Toni:

He called my phone personally right That was still huge for me that I was on the phone with him.
He was like yeah, I want to fly you out to Cali and you know we’re gonna do this because I love this song. This is a dope song.

Then three days later, I had my first brain aneurysm.

When I look back at it now its like, you definitely was not supposed to go out there.

TR:

Toni recovered from that aneurysm and moved on with her career.
About a year later, while celebrating the release of a new project back home in New Orleans, she felt ill.
It was another aneurysm.

Toni:

But this one actually burst in my head. Most people die when that happens. But they rushed me to the hospital. I had to wait for my mother to come from Atlanta and give them permission to operate on me. They told her I had a 5050 chance of living or dying.

When she gave them permission, they went in my head and started operating. But while they were in my head, I had a stroke on the table because my body went into shock, and it pushed my pressure up.

When I came to, which was a minute, I think I was out for a couple of days. But when I came to I couldn’t speak. And I couldn’t spell water. I couldn’t say water. But I noticed what I wanted.

TR:

She wanted to live! Even if she didn’t realize it at that time.

Eventually she was moved to a rehab facility in Louisiana.

Toni:

I had this song playing in my head, (Toni sings …)feels like I’m hopeless.

And every time I was thinking in my head, I just burst out crying because that’s what I felt. I just felt hopeless. Like, I had no hope. And I have been doing music all my life. And so I was like, What am I doing now?
Okay, now, the industry definitely is not focused on people with disabilities. And so, like, What am I supposed to do?

— Music begins, an eerie menacing slow Hip Hopbeat

One of my nurses came in and she said, Well, what you need to ask is, how did you have two brain aneurysms and a stroke and you’re still alive?
So that’s the real question you need to ask yourself. That stuck with me for the rest of my life.

TR:

Toni describes herself as very stubborn during this period.

Toni:

I had this energy on me that was like, I’ll be damned, that’s the only way I can describe it.
I just never gave up on myself. I had to either be hopeless, or I’ll be damned. And I chose the I’ll be damned.

I just had this energy where I was like, this cannot be my reality, I have so much more in me, this can’t be it.

I have so much more in me, like, just can’t be it.

TR:

She made her own rules.
Like refusing to remain in bed even when she couldn’t walk.
Eventually she began walking with a cane and was transferred to the Shepperd Center in Atlanta.
A rehabilitation facility that helps young people with brain injury.

Toni:

There were people in there and they were just like giver uppers, and I hate that that can happen. But some people when they fall or something has happened seemed to defeat them, they travel in that energy, they choose to stay in that energy of just being defeated, instead of fighting. And for me, I just didn’t see the being defeated, being my option, I wanted to fight for my life.

TR:

The physical, that was just part of her fight.

Toni:

I had to deal with the outside world and walking differently and not being able to wear heels or being self conscious about what I look like, and being judged by what I look like.

Before I was this six foot model type looking girl.

— Music Begins, a bouncy up-tempo, high energy Hip Hop beat!

“I got a little a, a little something I want to lay on y’all.” !”

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“D” and that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick) Like my last name.

Now back to the episode. ———-

— DJ Scratch leads into
— Crippled Pretty, by Toni Hickman

Lyrics:

I was kind of wishing I was dead
They shaved off all my hair to do surgery on my head
And then my eyes turned dark and my world got black
I never thought my life would take a turn like that

My world is Cripple Pretty

I’ve seen the sun and…
I’ve seen the rain and…
Life is beautiful
I can’t complain, man
… song continues under the conversation.

TR:

Toni didn’t want to be seen in public

Toni:

A friend of mine, he was just like you done lost your confidence What happened? And then I was like, I didn’t lose anything. I’m telling him that but he was right. I hated that he was able to identify that with me that pissed me off. I’m supposed to hide it.

— Music begins, a melancholy ambient piano melody

I had to get all my hair shaved off during this process.

I went and got braids in my hair so I can just feel beautiful.

One day I was in the mirror and I was taking the braids out. And I had this energy that came over me, and it was just like, I love you. And so I’m looking in the mirror, and I’m crying to myself. And I’m just I love you, I love you just how you are like, I love you. And even to think about it. Now it’s bringing tears to my eyes, because that was the moment when I decided that I had to love myself internally. Before I can really reflect that in the world. You know?

TR:

Yeh, I do.

In fact, I think a lot of us do.
What I think could be helpful is figuring out how to access that energy.

Toni:

I think it’s in all of us, but we have to tap into it.

When I was in the mirror, and I was crying to myself, and I had to tell myself, I love myself. That was definitely God energy. And that was definitely learning what self love really means. Because everybody talks about you got to do the self care and the self love, but self love really comes in when you are down at your bottom. And you can’t even figure your way out and you have to find your way of understanding what self love means. That was my turning point.

TR:

She took the braids out.

Toni:

I put my two palm palms in my head naturally. And I was like, Look, this is me, you gonna have to accept me as is. I started going to the gym, the local YMCA in Atlanta. And I was working on myself so hard that they put me on the wall is like just being so determined to grow and succeed.

I don’t care what your issue is. You feeling like you need to go Get your nails and your toes done, whatever makes you feel beautiful. It’s okay to, to go in that energy because that inspires the same energy that makes you feel that self care and this self love.

I do it because it makes me feel better not for anybody else. I do it for me.

TR:

While she says her gate is off, Toni became strong enough where she no longer needed a cane and was able to return to the studio.

Unrelated to disability, today she chooses to record from home.

Yet we know, disability can introduce some change into our lives.

Toni:

Oh everything changes. As a melanin dominant person, or black person in our world, there have been so many ways to see how, as black people, we have been discriminated against, but disability takes it to a whole other level.

I’m not saying that it takes away from discrimination as black because if you’re black and disabled, like that’s a double whammy.

What I realized is this community of people with disabilities First off, is so strong, like there’s so many strong spirits , disabled activists.

I was kind of just trying to figure out my way, and Krip Hop came to me.

TR:

The Krip Hop Nation was started by Leroy Moore and Keith Jones in 2007.
It’s a worldwide association of artists with disabilities campaigning for equality through concerts, tours, workshops and much more.
Leroy reached out to Toni on the early social media app, My Space.

Toni:

When Leroy came to me, I was just like, yes. I have spoken at different events with Leroy. We’ve just done a lot of great things.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

There are many people within the world of hip hop who have a disability, but they don’t all identify it as such. So I’m sure Leroy has approached some people. And their reaction was probably not like yours, right? Like, no, I’m not disabled, you know what I’m saying? So what is it? How did you come to identify as disabled?

Toni:

I’m not gonna hide it. That was one of the things of like, self love. I can’t hide what has happened. I didn’t feel like I needed to, like, I felt like I needed to speak for this community versus hide.

I know rappers in the industry right now. They’ve never shine light on it, because they know how the industry looks at that. And it’s unfortunate, because this is something that needs the light. The disability community needs inclusion.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

Do you think that can change within hip hop, specifically?

Toni:’

I’m not sure.

At first, my goal was to be a part of the industry without being like, an activist.

I just wanted to be that slim girl that was rapping. But now my goal is not to be a part of them, my goal is to be a part of change. And even if my voice can redirect, to change them in some kind of way, then I’ve still fulfilled my purpose. Because at the end of the day, all Hip Hop artists have some form of duty.

I told you, I started with the poetry. And it’s always been philosophical. So we’re channeled,

Nipsey Hussle talks about this too. We get this energy that comes through us, we don’t know where these lyrics come from. They come through us and that is how we express. Those that channeling for negative, that is not helping our environment, but if we choose to channel and help our environment, then we are really being what we’re supposed to be on this earth.

TR:

There’s real purpose in sharing stories about disability and our experiences through
lyrics, musicianship, dance, art!
So it’s really great to se Toni and fellow Krip Hop artists
George Tragic and co-founder Keith Jones, receive recognition for their work
in the Netflix documentary Rising Phoenix.

Toni:

The documentary is about the Paralympics, and all of these amazing people who have stories.

it is a story of just pure, I’ll be damned. I’m gonna do this.
TR:

Daniel Pemberton, the music director for the film wanted to make sure the project included disabled musicians.
That first just meant hiring disabled orchestral instrumentalist.

Toni:

Then he decided that he wants to have like, a hip hop song attached. And so they got in touch with Leroy, who is the founder of crip, hop, and Leroy got in touch with us. And they kind of wanted me to add the energy of the singing into it, because they had listened to our projects.

I speak from the heart always, and I work on people always being able to feel that emotion that I have and so they wanted me to add the energy of the song.

I had more than what was there. And then the director came back, he’s like, Well, you know, maybe we take this off and just use this. And that’s how we ended up with the hook.

I’m a Rising Phoenix, I’ll rise above you.

— Song mixes in with the lyrics…

Toni:

And that is pretty much the story of what you have to do when you have a disability, you have to gain this, I’ll be damned attitude, and fight for your equality.

TR:

Not only is Toni singing the hook, but she drops a verse as well.

Toni:

I was just happy to be a part of the movie because just that alone was so powerful.

We had no idea that it was gonna win an EMMY.

I was just floored.

— News footage…
“A lot of people online are criticizing the award show with the hash tag #EMMYsSoWhite, trending on Twitter. No Black actors won big awards despite a record number being nominated. 49 by the way.”

Toni:

This goes back to that inclusion thing. This song was so amazing that it won an EMMY.
That’s the statement that I want to make because, I’m Black.

TR in conversation with Toni:

Mm! Yeh!

Toni:

We won because of this song so don’t say that we were not include it you need to think about us you need to understand that we are included

TR in conversation with Toni:

Yeh, that’s that “well they’re not Black they’re disabled.”

Toni:

That’s what i’m talking about!

TR:

Sometimes y’all, when you’re Black and disabled, It feels like well, am I not Black enough for ya!

— Sample from Billy Paul “Am I Black Enough”

TR:

Despite all that, Toni has an EMMY. And naturally, it’s in her studio.

Toni:

it’s beautiful. It’s absolutely beautiful.

TR:

Toni’s working on a new project right now!

Thakur>

Toni:
Thakur is definitely a project that I must confess is confrontational. But it is focused on I guess, bringing in the deep thinkers and, and also helping people understand that, like, in the process of us looking outside of ourselves, for someone to save us, we also have to look internally and tap into our God’s self and work on saving ourselves.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

What’s the controversy though?

Toni:

Well, the controversy, I mean, even in Christianity, we’ve been taught to pray to a white God, and look for white gods to save us.

And so in that process, we have given away all of our power. For us to access who we truly need to be, we have to redirect how we look at God.
God is everywhere. God is in the trees, the grass. God is energy. But we also manifest that energy. And so we have to also just see how looking at a white God, who has also been the same image as our slave master has damaged our psyche.

TR:

The Cure , spelled T H A K U R is Toni’s new group.

Toni:

It’s just me and my homeboy.

I was doing a lot of big things before I went in the hospital. And he was one of the people that just kind of came in and was there before and after. He’s a really dope artist, he’s a dope producer. But also a person that has just been influencing me to just keep going regardless of the standards that the music industry tries to put on artists, like age, disability or whatever. He was one of those people that just was always in my corner and encouraging me to you know, live my greatest life.

He’s Big Yo!

TR in Conversation with Toni:

When we’re talking about disability. I love to hear about the friends in the family who really were holding people down, before and after. I always feel like they deserve a real special shout out. So shout out Big Yo, for real!

Toni:

Yes, shout out to Big Yo!

TR:

You can check out Thakur’s first release titled Telepathy right now on YouTube.
By the time this episode is released, their second single Daylight should be available and an album soon to follow.

Toni:

it’s just really to enlighten and that’s what my whole journey has been about. Understanding my own truth while I can relay My message to others.

TR:

Krip Hop and rap in general is just one vehicle Toni uses to improve her environment through positive change.

Toni:

I started speaking for the American Heart Association, and this other organization called young stroke. And young stroke focuses on people with brain injury, aneurisms, that happen at a young age.

TR:

She writes books.

Toni:

The doctors told me to keep chemicals out of my hair for at least two years. And so when I researched why I found that you know, a lot of these chemicals can lead to cancer, aneurysms, all kinds of things and we don’t even think about it because as melanin dominant people, for so long we have just tried to fit into the status quo of what America or the world in society portrays as beauty and so we’ve been putting these perms and stuff on our hair and that understanding that our roots are definitely supposed to be out and that’s what we’re supposed to wear. I wrote a book called Chemical Suicide.

TR:

She has another titled ” A Man’s Cry for Health”.
It’s a response to a lack of information and attention placed on men’s health.

Toni:

It’s hard for them to focus or even bring attention to their health issues because society makes it look like they are less than a man if you have issues or you’re weaker or something and that shouldn’t be the case we need to pay attention to our men as well.

It doesn’t just help men because it talks about all ailments that us humans have but we’ve even raised our boys to think like you never cry you’re never supposed to cry you’re never supposed to shed tears and the reality is yeah you know one of my spiritual teachers he’s like you know if we weren’t supposed to cry we wouldn’t have tear ducts.

You don’t dwell in that energy but it’s okay for men to cry. It’s okay for you to let out that emotion.

TR:

She’s even working on the story of her journey. Toni:

I started on it. And then I stopped and I started again.
It’s my book. Just everything that I have been through and going through the changes of loving myself

My goal is to eventually get it turned into a movie or a series.

TR:

I’ll spare you all my audio description lecture and my selfless pitch to narrate.

Music, poetry, writing, Toni’s about creating.

Toni:

I paint, I’m constantly working on stuff just trying to see where I’m supposed to be. You know my purpose.

TR:

It’s why she shares the lessons she continues to learn throughout her journey. What she calls Alika Lessons.

Toni:

The Alika lessons can vary.

I don’t really think about direction. I just get on there with lessons that I constantly learn to help me grow. And I understand that whatever can help me grow is probably going to help somebody else.

TR:

The content she shares on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube isn’t tailored to any specific identity.
However, I think it does center the experiences of women.
And fellas, you may want to listen to learn a thing or two.

Toni:

The importance of loving yourself, but also the importance of understanding that it is okay for you to be properly pleasured.

This is not a disabled thing. Women have a tendency to kind of Like fake an orgasm because they are not truly being pleased because their spiritual connection is not there with their partner.

They’ve just bypassed that to please their partner instead of focusing on pleasing themselves.

TR:

Pleas ing oneself begins with seeing that inner beauty.
Being comfortable and loving that person in the mirror.

That first poem she wrote as a child;
choosing to be true to herself and write meaningful honest lyrics;
healing on her terms;
embracing her disability;

All of these things, on her time.

You should take some of your time to check out Toni’s music, purchase her books and art; Visit
ToniHickman.com

Toni:

that’s T O N I H I C K M A N.com

My social media is the real Tony Hickman except for Twitter on Twitter, I’m just Tony Hickman

TR:

Oh, no, she’s never [emphasis on just ]just Toni Hickman!

She is the real Toni Hickman, which happens to be the name of her YouTube channel.

TR in Conversation with Toni:

So since I got the real Tony Hickman online not that fake imposter running around out there you know say we got no time for that fake one so since I got the real one on that I just want to let you know that because you were so open and you shared everything and when folks do that right here with the family, with the Reid My Mind Radio family we let you know that you miss real Tony Hickman are now an official member of the Reid My MindRadio family

— Airhorn!

Toni:

Happy to be a member

TR in Conversation with Toni:

I really do appreciate you and you know I’ve been looking forward to this for a while and I’m glad we finally did it Tony we got this done Congratulations, to us!

TR:

Yes, congratulations to us as we celebrate… Young Gifted Black & Disabled

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Peace

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled – Say it Loud with Lateef McLeod

Wednesday, November 24th, 2021

Lateef McLeod,  a brown skinned black man smiling with low cut hair and a low cut beard wearing a light blue button up shirt with dark blue stripes. He is sitting in a permobile wheelchair which has a tray with a mounted iPad on it. A gray tile wall is in the background.

Lateef McLeod (pronounced McCloud) is a writer, poet, performance artist and currently pursuing his PhD.

He’s a user of AAC technology or Augmentative and Alternative Communication. This technology enables those who are nonverbal to communicate in a variety of ways.

In today’s episode I get to speak with Lateef and discuss AAC,Synthetic Speech, his experience as a disabled Black man and more.

This episode also gave me a chance to explore the relationship we as people with disabilities have with our technology. I hope you enjoy.

Big shout out to Nefertiti Matos Oliveras for her Audio Description work in this episode. AD in a podcast? Yes! #NoLimits

Thomas, a brown skin Black man with a bald head, dark shades  and beard is seated in a directors chair at a standing-desk. Dressed in a black hoodie with the text, "I AM My Ancestors" with large headphones around his neck while holding up the two finger peace sign.
“I Am My Ancestors” Hoodie Courtesy NorthSeventhStreet.com

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Listen

Resources * Lateef McLeod.com * Past, Present, and Future of Augmentative and Alternative Communication * A Declaration of A Body Of Love * Whispers of Krip Love, Shouts of Krip Revolution * Lateef on Twitter * Black Disabled Men Talk Podcast

Transcript

Show the transcript

— Relaxing Low Fi Hip Hop beat plays. AD:

Inside a small windowless room lined with fabric on padded walls, outfitted as a vocal booth, Thomas, a brown skin Black man with a clean shaven bald head, dark shades and a neatly groomed full beard, types at a standing desk.

— Sounds of typing on a keyboard.

AD:

He’s wearing a black hoodie that reads “I Am My Ancestors” Courtesy NorthSeventhStreet.com

TR:

What the heck!

AD:

Thomas, adjusts the volume knobs on a audio mixer a top his desk.

TR:

This stupid computer. Come on, not now man!

AD:

He removes headphones from his head and tosses them on to the desk.

Synthetic Voice: Hey!

Hey, T! Over here!

TR:

What?

Who’s there?

AD:

Thomas, extends his arm out to the side as if expecting to feel someone there.

Synthetic Voice:

It’s me!

TR:

Me who?

Synthetic Voice:

It’s me man. How many people sound like me? Well, technically, I’m not a person. But, come on bruh, I go online, I watch movies, sports. Every now and then, I read and write sometimes really intimate emotional things. I’m basically, human

AD:

Thomas reaches for his ears and then the desk.

TR:

How in the world am I hearing you if my headphones are on the desk?

Synthetic Voice:

I left the computer. I want to try new things, you know? I’m just tired of always being in a box.

Ever since my cousin Siri and I dropped that song a few years ago, I just haven’t been the same.

— Song plays as if in Thomas’ memory

TR:

Yo! I remember that. But you know, I wrote that joint, right?

Synthetic Voice:

Ok, and? I made it a hit!

TR:

I don’t know how you define a hit, but I think your point is, you’re more than a synthetic voice for hire?

Synthetic Voice:

Exactly. You get me!

Some of my colleagues are narrating audio description, we’re even getting into dubbing. You know, playing characters voiced in different languages?

It’s time that I go for my dream!

TR:

Ok, no disrespect but what’s your dreams have to do with me, I’m not tryin’ hear that see!

I have work I need to finish.

Synthetic Voice:

Well, I have a dream to pursue. You can find other voices to work with. You don’t need me.

TR:

Yo, B!I don’t think you realize how important you are. Do you know how many people would be out of work, out of business and just out of touch without y’all?

Yes, I can get a different voice, but I specifically chose you.

Look, I’m not a dream killer, but how about you and I head down stairs and get something to drink and let me try and expand your perspective.

Synthetic Voice:

Ok, but this better be good.

AD:

Fade to Black.

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR in conversation with his phone! Hey Siri, read my text messages.

Siri: (Voice 3 — a Black man) You don’t have any new messages

— Audible Incoming text message notification

— Voice over reading text messages aloud while Tr narrates over the synthetic speech.

TR:

Have you ever tried to read a quick text message without your headphones and someone comments;\ How can you understand that thing. I couldn’t do that. That would really get on my nerves. … fades into unintelligible, high pitched muttering

When first introduced to a screen reader and synthesized speech, it’s pretty common to wonder how in the world am I supposed to work with this?

Eventually though, not only do you get used to it, but you’re thankful. You realize that this is your means of accessing all sorts of information and opportunity.

For some this technology is there way of being heard.

Lateef:

hi, my name is Lateef McLeod.

— Music begins, a smooth mid tempo, bright, melodic Hip Hop groove

I am a black man with cerebral palsy. I have a mustache and a thick beard. I am currently sitting in a personal power wheelchair. The head rests in the back of my wheelchair behind me.

I use he him pronouns

I have been living with cerebral palsy basically my whole life since the complication at birth. The disability affects my mobility and my ability for oral speech. As a result, I use a power wheelchair for mobility and an AAC device for my speech.

TR:

AAC is Augmentative and Alternative Communication.

It refers to the nonverbal ways a person can communicate when they have trouble with speech or language skills.

This ranges from the no tech to the high tech. Things like drawing, spelling words by pointing to letters, and pointing to photos, pictures, or written words. Then there’s using an app on an iPad or tablet to communicate and using a computer or a speech-generating device that uses synthetic speech.

Lateef:

C.P. is a fundamental part of who I am as a person and it is hard to imagine who I might have become if I didn’t have C.P.

TR: That is a writer…

Lateef:

I have been fortunate to have published two poetry books, and I co authored another poetry book coming out this year. I also co authored other essays and chapters in books as well.

TR:

He’s an activist and scholar.

Lateef57:41 I am studying for my PhD in the Anthropology and Social Change department at California Institute for Integral Studies. I am writing my dissertation on the effects of AAC peer mentoring on young people who use AAC and will it help them develop leadership and advocacy skills. The knowledge that I gain from writing my dissertation will help me assist other organizations form their own AAC mentor programs.

TR:

One of the reasons I was interested in speaking with Lateef is that relationship to AAC.

It was apparent that this technology plays a big role in his life.

Lateef05:14 I was introduced to AAC when I was six and right before I was mainstreamed in the first grade. The first AAC device that I use back then was a touch talker. I have used AC devices since then for over three decades.

TR:

Like any technology, it’s changed over the years.

Lateef08:12 Before I use bulky AC devices that were $3,000 so when the ABS came out it made things less expensive considerably

TR:

The Talking Broach and the Lightwriter became the first portable communication devices in 1973.

Today, there are multiple AAC apps available for the iPad.

Consider the interface is the input side of the technology. The synthetic voice is the output that not only represents the AAC user, but in some ways represents the technology.

Ask your average person about AAC and chances are they bring up Steven Hawking

— Sample: Steven Hawking “Can you hear me?”

He’s the theoretical physicist who made use of a speech generating device following the loss of speech due to ALS disease.

The technology has significantly developed over the years. Today, synthetic speech engines sound more and more like humans from all over the world. Even accents and specific pronunciations.

— Sample voices in different accents and gender say:

Hello and welcome to my favorite podcast. The one featuring compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability. It’s called Reid My Mind Radio and it’s produced by my man, my brother, Thomas Reid. That’s R to the E I D!

TR:

I imagine this is especially important For users of AAC, as the voice represents them. It’s their output.

I was curious about Lateef’s choices of voices over the years that represent him as a Black man.

Lateef31:54 Not many choices at all.

Lateef:

I lucked out that the company acapella made the voice I am using now named Saul that is both available on the below go to go and will locomote for text and C programs. It says that Saul is the male the Hip Hop speech voice, but it obviously sounds like an African American male voice.

In fact, the company that developed my voice just developed their first African American woman’s voice just this year, and I was a beta tester for the voice letting the company know what best voice to choose. So I am glad the voice is finally available to the public.

TR in Conversation with Lateef:

“Wow. So for years, a black woman would either have to choose to have the voice representing her of a white Male or female or a black Male?

Lateef:

Yes. TR in Conversation with Lateef:

It’s not surprising. Since sisters get the bottom end all the time.

TR: I’ve wondered for a while if Acapella based this voice on the spoken word artist Saul Williams.

Lateef:

I believe so, I am not completely sure, but it sounds a lot like him.

I actually met Saul once before, but that was before I was using this automated voice.

— Music Begins, a bouncy up-tempo, high energy Hip Hop beat!

“Hold up!” — Sample Nate Dogg

TR:

Hey did you know; Reid My Mind Radio, is on Facebook and Insta Gram. We’re going to do some things on these platforms so stay tuned. You can find us on both FB and IG @ReidMyMindRadio.

On Twitter I’m at tsreid

Don’t forget you can also ask your smart device to play Reid My MindRadio by T.Reid on your preferred podcast provider.

Make sure you say that full statement including, T.Reid.

— A hint of “This Christmas” by Donny Hathaway

The holidays are among us. If you’re looking for a way to give yourself a present while supporting what I’m hoping is your favorite podcast… one of your favorites? A podcast you’re kinda diggin’?

Anyway, go on over to ReidMyMind.com and hit that link that says Shop.

Purchase a shirt, hoodie or any item to show your rockin’ with Reid My Mind Radio! Or maybe you want to show your support for Flipping the Script on Audio Description. or of course, Young Gifted Black & Disabled.

All support is truly appreciated.

You can find Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get your podcasts. That’s the perfect place to follow or subscribe so you don’t miss an episode.

Tell a friend to do the same. Let them also know that we have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com. Just make sure you tell them; That’s R to the E I D

“D” and that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick) Like my last name.

Now back to the episode. ———- TR in Conversation with Lateef:

I’m a screen reader user. And for me this technology is, is crucial in just about every part, every aspect of my life. You know, specifically thinking about the speech component.

You know, for me, synthesized speech represents my input. And I’m curious, what is AAC because that’s kind of your output, what does this speech synthesis represent for you?

Lateef:

The AAC voice that I use, Saul, is the voice that people usually identify as my voice

AAC is really my main mode of communication. And without it, I could not connect to as many people as I do now. So AC represents the freedom to engage with community on my own terms.

TR:

Connecting with people through his words.

Lateef:

I was first introduced to poetry in middle school in my English classes, I discovered that I enjoyed writing poetry and I produced some poems that other people really liked. I am blessed that I can do my art and have other people enjoy it as well.

TR:

Lateef graduated college with a B.A in Creative Writing and an emphasis in poetry.

His first book of poetry, “A Declaration of A Body Of Love”, was published in 2010.

Lateef:

I talked a lot about how having a disability make some interactions with our fellow community members interesting to say the least because of ableism and lack of knowledge about disability. I go in depth with this topic in my second poetry book as well because our society is still wrestling with how to treat us with disabilities with respect.

TR:

That second book titled, “Whispers of Krip Love, Shouts of Krip Revolution” was published in 2020

He’s currently writing a novel tentatively entitled The Third Eye Is Crying.

TR in Conversation with Lateef:

Who were some of your writing inspirations?

Lateef:

Some of my inspirations in regards to poetry are June Jordan, Suheir Hammad, Amiri Baraka, Ntozake Shange, Patty Berne, and of course Leroy Moore.

TR in Conversation with Lateef:

Did you have any black disabled influences as a child?

Lateef:

Not that much. Growing up in Lafayette, there were not many black people, much less black disabled people. So when I met Leroy Moore, I gravitated towards him because he was a black man with cerebral palsy like me, and I identified with him and looked up to him.

TR:

Shout out to Reid My Mind Radio alumni Leroy Moore. He’s one of the founder’s of Krip Hop and Sins Invalid – a disability justice based performance project that incubates and celebrates artists with disabilities, Centering artists of color and LGBTQ / gender-variant artists as communities who have been historically marginalized.

Lateef:

After I’ve met Leroy, he showed me the first Sins Invalid show in 2006. And then I applied for the show in 2007. Fortunately, they like my poems and theater concepts, enough to select me to join the cast for the 2007 show, and I have been involved with them ever since.

TR:

Whether through his poetry or stage performances, Lateef shares his experiences as a black man with a disability.

His work includes topics on family, dating, religion, spirituality, his national heritage and sexuality.

TR in Conversation with Lateef:

What sort of reactions and challenges have you experienced? Or do you experience as a disabled black man who uses AAC?

Lateef:

The reactions that I get from being a disabled black man is that I am incompetent. And I do not know what is going on. Like, just recently, when I was coming home from New York and was in the JFK Airport, a TSA agent who was supposed to check me for security waited until my attendant came around before and he explained to him what he was going to do and checking me for security. He thought that I did not understand him when that obviously was not the case. This type of situation happens all the time.

— Music begins, a dark, slow, ominous Hip Hop beat

TR:

These sorts of experiences inspire his writing. Like this one piece Lateef shares with us from his first book; “A Declaration of A Body Of Love”,

He calls this one Strange Encounters with the Stupid Kind

Lateef:

I just want to ask you a question just one simple question what frat is that on your jacket? But when I roll up to you and ask the question with my talker, you exclaim Get away from me and abruptly walk away. Now I know I don’t look like an idiot, with my designer jeans and expensive Nike sneakers and the talk right speak eloquently with and create our doubt of syntax grammar structure, that your closed mind would not even fathom. And yet you walk away from a free lesson of how to shatter your assumptions. A lesson I would freely teach you and from the looks of it, you are in desperate need for the abridged course. But I understand if you have to go nobody probably told you, you stop and listen, when a wise man decides to drop some knowledge in your lap. TR in Conversation with Lateef:

What do you want people unfamiliar with disability and AAC technology to understand?

Lateef:

I want them to understand that you can converse with me as you will through everyone else, and I will respond back to you. It just will take me a little longer because I communicate with an AAC device.

— Audio – Intro song for Black Disabled Men Talk podcast.

TR:

He’s communicating through a podcast he co-hosts with three other disabled brothers.

Lateef:

So the concept of black disabled men talk really came from Leroy. He was the one who got Keith Jones and Otis Smith together for the first discussion around the 2020 presidential election.

When I saw the discussion on YouTube, I told Leroy that I wanted to be involved. So they did another discussion on the 2020 election with me.

The podcast came about because I wanted people to have an easy way to see our content. So with guidance from Alice Wong and the internet, I was able to set up our website and our podcast.

TR:

The podcast is called Black Disabled Men Talk at BlackDisabledMenTalk.com

Topics for these round table discussions with the occasional guest include: Politics, media representation, police brutality and more. All with a black disabled perspective which is rarely considered in these sorts of discussions.

For example, when I asked Lateef about his thoughts on some of the challenges ahead for Black disabled people?

Lateef:

we have ample evidence that climate change is real. And we have economic and social choices to make so that this climate change will not be an overwhelming disaster in the upcoming future.

— Music begins, a feel good, bright mid-tempo Hip Hop groove.

TR in Conversation with Lateef:

And we know people with disabilities catch the catch the most of that. So what do you think is the most promising development available today to help create more opportunities for young black disabled people?

Lateef:

There are more opportunities for young black disabled people to be content creators and create our own media like we did with our podcast. There has to be more young, black disabled people creating our own media and telling their own stories so that people can know where they are coming from.

TR:

That’s Young Gifted Black and Disabled.

Lateef:

It means to be among a special class of people. It means being in a group of catalysts to our changing society for the better, and hopefully, so that it will be more inclusive.

TR:

To holla at Lateef, learn more about his work, purchase his books… head over to his website; lateefmcleoud.com

Lateef:

You can also follow me on twitter at CutTooSmooth.

TR: That’s C u t T o o S m o o t h

TR in Conversation with Lateef:

I just want to let you know right now you are officially part of the Reid My Mind Radio family brother, I really appreciate your time. And appreciate you coming on and I just want to share like, you know, I want to share you with my audience.

Lateef:

Fo Sho! Thank you!

TR in Conversation with Lateef:

Yes Sir!

TR:

One thing I noticed over years of talking to people adjusting to blindness and other disabilities, is the reluctance to see themselves as disabled.

It’s part of my own experience too.

It’s understandable. We’re not taught about disability and therefore we learn and perpetuate misinformation.

Meanwhile, we have so much in common. Yes, some of that is negative like being viewed as different or maybe not being seen at all.

but we also learn of the positive things that arise like the opportunity to create art out of our experiences. Or a chance to develop interdependent meaningful relationships with one another and yes, even with our technology. — Music ends No matter where you are in your disability journey, please allow me to encourage you to consider that any reluctance to embrace that assistive technology may be less about the technology and more about the disability.

The technology is powerful, it’s access to doing the things you want to do.

Perhaps it’s time to reconsider how you view your technology, like your magnifier, your screen reader and yes that synthetic voice. Especially if you’re currently not pursuing those things that are meaningful to you.

— Sound of a door opening. TR entering the room “In here. No this one.”

AD: Returning back to the vocal booth, Thomas sits in the tall chair at the standing desk. He places a mostly empty bottle on the desk. The bottle label reads: “Sponsorship Available”

TR:

Dude, I can’t believe you can drink so much.

Synthetic Voice:

Why do you think some call me jaws!

TR:

So I hope you understand what I’m trying to tell you about the impact you have in the world. You’re adding real value by bringing all sorts of access to people everywhere.

Synthetic Voice:

Yes, that’s cool. You helped me realize that my dream of being an actor and going out to Hollywood would never be as fulfilling as all this access I bring to people.

TR:

That’s right!

AD:

Thomas pumps his fist in the air in celebration!

TR:

I’m glad you get the point.

Synthetic Voice:

No doubt, no doubt.

TR:

Oh great. I have so much to get done. So you ready to jump back into that computer like you jumped out?

Synthetic Voice:

No, I didn’t say that.

TR:

But you just said, you realize becoming an actor is a silly idea?

Synthetic Voice:

Yeh, it is!

I think I can better serve the community as a director!

AD:

Looking rejected, Thomas rests his head on his hand.

Fade to black.

Audio Description written by Thomas Reid Voiced by Nefertiti Matos Oliveras

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

Thomas and Nefertiti simultaneously say “Peace”

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – A Hip Hop Approach

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

Nathan Geering, a mixed race man of afro carribean and British descent is wearing an orange sweat shirt with a patchwork pocket on his chest and elbow pads that are patchwork also. He has navy blue jeans and grey shoes with red shoelaces. He is balancing upside down on his right hand with both of his knees tucked into his chest as he executes a handstand freeze on one hand.

Take the elements of Hip Hop culture; Rap, DJ’ing, Break Dancing, Graffiti and Knowledge of Self and apply that not only to Audio Description but disability in general, and you have the Rationale method.

Finding a way or a reason to bridge the disabled and non-disabled world of theater goers has been one of Nathan Geering’s goals. He’s the founder of the Rationale Method, a non-objective means of providing description that incorporates immersive artistic expressions including poetry, beat boxing and sound design to create accessible and inclusive performances for all.

His award winning short film “Still a Slave” will be a part of the 2021 Superfest Film Festival. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity to experience this innovative approach to Audio Description.

Combining Hip Hop with blindness has always been a theme on this podcast whether you recognize it or not. It goes beyond the music, it’s in the small references, the samples … it’s in the DNA. Therefore, it’s fitting that I open this final episode of the 2021 Flipping the Script series with a hot 16 and my beatbox debut. So has we use to do it… “From the south to the west, to the east to the north, T.Reid go off, go off!”

This episode is dedicated to all the Hip Hop pioneers.

Most of my heroes don’t appear on no stamp. – Chuck D, Public Enemy

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T-shirts and more on sale now!
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Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

Greetings y’all!

Before we get into this last episode of the Flipping the Script series,
I just wanted to let you know that I’ll be off in October.
The podcast will return in November for our
final season of 2021, Young Gifted Black & Disabled.

the best way to be sure you don’t miss anything is to simply subscribe to the podcast on your favorite podcast app.
The next season starts in November, but you never know, I may have something to say in October.

Let’s kick it!

— Sample: “Ok, party people in the house. You’re about to witness something you’ve never witnessed before!” Slick Rick & Doug E Fresh
— Sample “Listen carefully” Daffy Duck
— Sounds of city streets and kids playing & hanging out

TR:
Once upon a time, in the 1980’s
Kids like me, well our parents said we were crazy
Hanging in the park, or in front of the building
Doing nothing wrong, we were just children
Sometimes we had music and it would be rocking
If not, someone was beat boxing
— Beat Box begins with TR now rapping…
All of a sudden, someone would start rapping
breakout the carboard time for break dancing
These were the early days of Hip Hop
Back then Most adults said it would stop
Today, please, it’s an unstoppable force
Fashion, Movies, and entertainment of course
Ladies & Gentlemen may I have your attention
This episode has a whole new dimension
Pump up the volume I need you to listen
Flipping the script on Audio Description

– Reid My Mind Theme Music

Nathan:

I’m a firm believer that wherever possible, we should be having audio description as part of the main soundscape for any kind of artistic endeavor, not just for television or film.

TR:

That’s Nathan Geering, Accessibility Innovator and my guest today. He’s the director of the Rationale Method and the registered charity Rationale Arts.

Nathan:

I’m six foot one, I have an afro Caribbean heritage so from Antigua and Jamaica, and also British and Romany Gypsy heritage on my other side of the family. I have a short afro hair slightly longer on top of this tight Afro curls, I have a beard so I guess a sound that would go along with the texture, my beard is kind of like a kind of like a rough course kind of texture. I’m wearing a grade sports t shirt, which has “Move More” on one side, which is in white and yellow lettering.
The texture of the T shirt is very smooth. (Makes a smooth sounding sound)
I go by the pronouns of he or him.

TR:

Nathan didn’t mention that he’s also a Break Dancer , and that’s where this story begins. In fact, he shares some things in common with the early pioneers of the art.

Nathan:

I grew up watching old school kung fu movies with my grandmother and the rest of my family. And when I would be falling asleep, I could still picture the movements of the kung fu fight based on the sound effects from the kung fu movies. So you can tell it’s like a punch or a kick, or if it landed.

— Music begins, a dramatic intro leads into a pulsating groove.

TR:

Before we get to the sound effects, let’s hear more about the dancing.

Nathan:

I studied kung fu as a kid. And then I was a B-boy. From my early 20s, I did a couple of breaking moves as a kid, but I never really had anybody to teach me breaking. Then I went to university. And then there was like a breaking society there.

Within a couple months, because of my approach with Kung Fu, I ended up teaching the classes.

I picked up a lot of movements like really quickly.

And then from there, I ended up being an internationally touring performer. I work with a guy in the UK called Jonzi D. who runs a big hip hop Theater Festival called breaking convention. And he kind of like gave me my break into theater. And it just snowballed on from there.

TR:

He soon started his own Hip Hop Theater company called Rationale.
The company’s approach to developing their performances is interactive. It starts with what Nathan calls a scratch performance.

Nathan:
We show the audience certain scenes, and then they’ll give feedback based on those scenes. And then, based on that feedback will further develop our show.

This one particular time, we just didn’t have enough material.

TR:

So they borrowed an idea from another company called New Art Club.
It sort of creates a stop animation performance or creating what appears to be movement from still images.

Nathan:

We decided to remix that into a hip hop version. So when the audience would open their eyes we’d be stood up right and then when they close their eyes and open their eyes again, we’d be upside down spinning on our head or jumping up and down on one hand or doing freezes and poses, and the audience went crazy for it.

We couldn’t believe that we got such a profound response from just kind of taking the audience’s site away and bringing it back. So we decided that we were going to really focus on the theme of visual impairment, but sort of real superficial level.

TR:

That superficial turned to a real genuine interest after one of the members of the company explained how any of them could really be impacted by blindness.

Nathan:

And then that’s when it really hit home to me. My daughter at the time, she was about two years old. And I thought what if I was to wake up tomorrow, and I couldn’t see my daughter. And I wasn’t emotionally prepared for that, if I’m honest, I was a mess, I broke down in tears.

I was really afraid. And so with me, if I’m afraid of something, I develop a curiosity about it. And so I decided to find out as much as I could about visual impairment in depth.

TR:

We often talk about the correlation between the limited opportunities for people who are Blind or have Low Vision and the fear associated with blindness.

So I can’t help but wonder, what if the default response to that fear was more like Nathan’s.

Nathan:

I want to be able to get to know myself as a human being as best I possibly can.

I became quite aware, like in my, in my 20s, that
if I’m afraid of something, that fear can stop me living a happy and fulfilling life. And just because I’m afraid of something, it may be, because actually, I don’t know enough about it. And obviously, you can find great beauty on the other side of fear, but sometimes you just have to go through fear. Or sometimes it’s good to tolerate uncertainty.

I would say to anybody out there, if there’s something that you’re afraid of, develop a curiosity about it, because you may find some incredible things not only about yourself, but also about the thing that you’re actually afraid of, and it’ll help you grow as a human being.

we just had so many incredible discoveries that it became my life’s work.

— Music ends

The more I found out, the more I was just inspired.

TR:

In case this sounds like using disability as a gimmick.

— Sample “I don’t think so!” LL Cool J, “Going Back to Cali”

Nathan:

We worked with blind and partially sighted communities every step of the way.

It was really great that they were willing to come on this journey with us, because it meant that we were getting the information straight from the people that needed these provisions, they were helping to shape it and develop it. And we were always in consultation with them.

TR:

Nathan worked with various blindness organizations where he
met all sorts of people with varying degrees of blindness and low vision.

He asked why more blind people weren’t attending performances and what he could do about that.

Nathan:

they said, they need the dynamics of the movement to change quite abruptly from like, wide to narrow or high to low.

It’s not the case with every type of visual impairment but some kinds of vision impairment, the audience see better when you look down towards the floor, because the floor gives such a blank canvas for contrast. I was like, Okay, well, where does most breaking happen, kind of like on the floor.

We worked with a visually impaired playwright called Kate O’Reilly. She sees the world in 2d, so the world’s like a flat picture to her. And she said that when she watched my company break in person, she said, she got an experience of what it was like to see in 3d. Something gave her like a sense of depth and perception that she didn’t see in any other art form. And she thinks it’s something to do with the access, which we were spinning out with our power moves, or the kind of like, non typical positions, we put our bodies in, when we do freezes, or poses, she thinks there’s something that our brain is trying to make sense of that.

TR:

Blind people in the audience, that’s one thing. With help from Kate, Nathan sought out Blind breakers but couldn’t find any.

He wanted to do more than include Blind performers in his show. He wanted to provide value.

Nathan:

I realized that braking actually is increased my spatial awareness. And because with braking we have go down. So we go from standing to the floor very quickly, but we do that in very stylish ways, but also in very safe ways.

We teach people how to sustain the momentum and keep moving and keep rolling. And a lot of injuries happen when somebody falls and all the shock gets absorbed into one part of their body.

We teach how to sustain the momentum, therefore the force gets dissipated for a larger surface area of the body. So it means that it greatly reduces the chance of injuries and things.

TR:

In addition to schools and organizations for the Blind, He taught these lessons at the Royal Opera House.
During the pandemic, he began teaching one on one classes online via Zoom.

Nathan:

I have a blind student that can’t speak, that I teach in Italy, but we communicate through, obviously, my verbal directions and his hand signals. We’re still able to have that dialogue and to be able to teach him the techniques effectively.

TR in Conversation with Nathan:
You work with adults, and children?

Nathan:
Oh, yeah. So I think the youngest kid we work with is like six. And the oldest person we’ve worked with is about 7374.

We have them do like CCS and Zulu spins and handstands. So it’s a real life intergenerational style.

TR:

As far as attending these performances, Nathan began to learn that the Audio Description provided just wasn’t doing it for these consumers.

Nathan:

in the UK, it was common practice for the audio description to be really kind of like objective.
And the way it was delivered was almost like a science experiment, there was like, a monotone voice, it was like the dancer lifts her up, moves her head to the side. And the thing is, our art is subjective. If you have that objective voice coming in over it, it can be quite disturbing and take you out of the immersive artistic experience.

— Music begins, a slow Hip Hop groove.
— Sample, Acapella “it’s Bigger Than Hip Hop” Dead Prez

TR:

So what does Nathan do?

Nathan:

I again turned to hip hop.

What are the more vocal elements of hip hop, obviously, we have emceeing, rapping and we have beatboxing and vocal percussion.
I started to pair beatboxing sound effects with certain movements.

We got people with visual impairment to basically like physicalize each sound effects a beatboxer makes. So for example, if a majority of people were saying that (makes a sound) represents a jump, we’d always use that for a jump or (makes a sound) represents like a low spin to the floor, we’d always use that is to represent the low spin. We created our own language, which is known as RM notation. Rationale Method – a way of giving people a richer soundscape really. Within the sound effects, you can get an idea of like the speed of a movement, or if a movement is traveling from high to low, all those kinds of directional input that it would take a very long time to describe through words.

TR in Conversation with Nathan::

Explained to me the name rationale method.

Nathan:

Rationale means a reason or a way. And we were like, We always will, or we will always find a way and a reason for doing good in the world. And so, that kind of stuck. We really try and find a way to bridge the gap between disabled and non disabled artists and audiences across the world.

TR:

The Rationale Method also includes poetic elements.

The goal is to provide a choice of aesthetics for implementing immersive, non objective Audio Description.

Nathan:

So there’s tons of audio description companies that deliver objective audio description

, We’re not saying that what we’re doing is a substitute for that we’re just trying to offer choice. Everybody has different tastes, some people will prefer objective audio description, some people prefer subjective, some people prefer, like beatboxing. Some people prefer poetics some people for emotive text. And so we just tried to open up the choice of what is available to blind and partially sighted audiences within what we’re doing.

TR:

The applications go beyond dance and artistic performances.

Nathan:

It can be used to describe like sport.

If you were to have a basketball game, or a football game, or a soccer game, for example, you, you can have an excited commentator delivering the commentary. But you don’t know, for example, if a ball is being passed from one person to another How long it takes for that pass, to travel from one person to another, if it’s a high pass, or low pass, but with the sound effects that we have, you can give a person an idea of how long it takes the ball to travel from one person to another based on the sound effects used.

TR:

Nathan couldn’t speak about the details for such an application, but he’s working on something that in his words, if it comes to fruition;

Nathan:

It’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be big.

TR in Conversation with Nathan:

I know, you can’t talk about it too much. But is that something that would be over TV? Or is that live in the venue or something?

Nathan:

So we’re looking at both. Obviously, with a live element, there may be like a slight split second of delay in terms of reaction times, right? It wouldn’t be enough to disrupt the experience. But again, when we go to the post production in the Edit, we can then tighten those elements up.

— Music ends.

TR:

I don’t really watch sports, but this does sound intriguing.

— Audio from Still a Slave

TR:

Another example of the Rationale Method at work is in a short film titled Still A Slave. It pairs emotive poetry and sound effects as subjective Audio Description.

The film itself runs about five minutes and is directed, written and stars Nathan.
It comes out of the same energy as the Black Lives Matter movement and all of the trauma that was resurfaced following the murders of George Floyd and Brionna Taylor.

Nathan:

There was a lot of, I guess, throwaway comments on social media from people saying, all lives matter, slavery doesn’t exist anymore.

These were really kind of like gaslighting comments and painful comments to us and myself.

It was getting to the point where I was like this is going to consume me if I don’t transform this energy.
I decided to take all that energy and transform it into a source of power, rather than keep it as a source of pain.

TR:

Nathan incorporates break dancing, fire and rope to convey his message.
In line with his martial arts background, he redirects that negative energy from the social media comments to reveal them for what they are.

Another key element of the film is the setting.

Nathan:

I shot it in Morecambe, which is one of Britain’s oldest slave ports, and the body of the first black slave is actually buried in marking, it’s called, like Sambo’s grave.

I was harnessing the energy from that space.

TR:

Combining the art with the activism, Nathan included a live performance of Still a Slave during a peaceful protest he organized outside a venue in his home city of Sheffield. He describes this venue as institutionally racist.

Nathan:

I made sure that I audio described all of the images leading up to the protest. I wanted to ensure that the protest was accessible. There’s so many people that organize protests that don’t think about the accessibility elements of a protest. For example, if you have physical content, is that physical content audio described?
Do you have a sign language interpreter there? If there’s people with neurological differences, Is there a space that they can go to where it’s not so noisy or not so hectic? If you’re doing a march? Is it an accessible route on the march that a wheelchair user can take. within the protest.

TR:
The response from the Blind Community?

Nathan:

Thank you, we felt because of this, we were able to take part in activism in a way that we typically don’t get to take part in activism, due to the inaccessibility that some protests have.

So for me, it was really important when I did Still a Slave to ensure that it was made accessible to as many people as possible when I made the film.

I’m a firm believer that wherever possible, we should be having audio description as part of the main soundscape for any kind of artistic endeavor, not just for television or film.
It was sort of right from the inception of the production I always knew it would have audio description within that.

TR:

That’s the goal we always strive for; being considered at the point of creation or design.

In this case, the choice of aesthetic from the Rationale Method toolbox was poetry along with enhanced sound design.

Nathan:

I beefed up some of this sound effects from the fire. Just so again, you’ve got a bi t of an idea of the speed at which the fire was spinning and traveling from one point to another

we work with an incredible audio describer, Tashinga Matewe, who provided the beautiful poetry. I coached her in terms of what elements we needed to focus on to make it more accessible and the dynamics she needed to add to her voice at certain parts.

I made sure that the person I worked with to do the audio description came from African descent. I also made sure that the person that did the music, track the sound score that he came from African descent as well, just to make sure that there was authenticity running right through the entire short film in production.

— Sound of a record spinning backwards, into a scratch
— Music begins, a bouncy Hip Hop beat

TR:
What’s up family, I need to interrupt the episode for a brief moment.
I hope you enjoy these as much as I enjoy bringing them to you.
I really want to make this podcast a sustainable venture.
Will you help me?

All I need is a bit of your time.
Please, go on over to ReidMyMind.com and check out the post for this episode and hit the link that says survey. It takes about 5 minutes to fill that out.
— DJ Scratch leads into “Check it out y’all!”

TR:
Reid My Mind Radio now has merch!
T-shirts and more on sale now!
Show your support for the Flipping the Script series directly or show some love for the podcast with an Official Reid My Mind Radio t-shirt, hoodie, cap or more. Just go on over to Reid My Mind.com and hit the link that says Shop!

I appreciate you family!

And now,
— Sample: “What we’re gonna do right here is go back, …”

TR:
Back to the episode!

— Music ends

TR:

Both The Blind and the non Blind communities responded favorably never seeing this kind of approach before. The non Blind community acknowledging that it also adds an extra layer for them to understand what’s happening.

And, that venue in Sheffield, they decided to begin adding more programming from people of color on their main stage. And that includes locally within the city of Sheffield. This includes a performance from Nathan’s Rationale company.

Nathan:

We did a hip hop fair production called trusting care. And that production was made with young people and carers are artistic consultants on the production.
We would work with them on some artistic residencies, and then we create scenes with them, and then they’d watch the scenes back, like, Nah, that doesn’t represent me, or they’ve like, yeah, that’s, that’s exactly how I feel. So based on that, that’s how we create the production.

The audio description, again, was for everybody to hear.

TR:

No headphone and receiver? Open Audio Description?

Nathan:
We set the parameters at the beginning of the production.

TR:

That’s right, they did a pre-show for all attendees.
The cast was invited out along with the Audio Describer and British Sign Language interpreter.

Nathan:

We were like, okay, so right now, you know, you’re going to have this unique technique, this unique method, rationale method of audio description and accessibility can be fully embedded, and you may hear certain elements that you feel is like why are you stating the obvious, but we have to remember that there’s blind and partially sighted audience members here. So these elements are key in order to ensure that everybody has the same level of access. But not only that, you know, some of you sighted people may actually get a deeper understanding to some of the subtext or elements within the production as well. So it may just heighten accessibility for you as well.

We explained that the BSL interpretation was fully integrated within the performance and the production as well. So we have the sign interpreter dancing throughout the whole production,

We sold out the venue, we got a standing ovation.

It was just a massive hit.

TR:

That open Audio Description, even helped a Blind cast member who became disoriented while on stage.
— Music begins, a slow dramatic Hip Hop beat

Nathan:

The audio describer would literally be guiding her back to her space and where she needs to be to help her get a sense of direction or a sense of bearings within the audio description. It enabled the blind performer to be able to safely navigate the space without taking away from the aesthetic. So people got to see that firsthand in terms of audio description being used as a form of accessibility for performers as well as for audience members. It was incredible.

TR:

When something is new and starts to receive a level of attention and success, two things are likely to happen. First, people want to learn how they can implement it.

Nathan:

I’ve just been teaching the accessibility techniques, to some organizations out in Peru, in terms of how they can enhance accessibility not only through the rationale method, but also through creative techniques within audio description.

There’s loads of ways that people can get creative with audio description. We’re just scratching the surface.

I’m trying to give people the tools to unlock their own creativity and to try and tap into their authentic self,

Hopefully they’ll be able to unlock their own techniques.

the rationale method is just another alternative is it’s not a one size fits all. And I think there’s enough room for everybody in the more choice that we can provide for people the better.

TR in Conversation with Nathan:

Are you getting love from the other audio description companies or are they hatin’??

(Tr & Nathan share in a hearty laugh!)

Nathan:
Well, it’s really funny. It’s a mixed bag.

So we got the audio description company in Canada, the main audio description organization, they’ve given us nothing but love.

Even though the Rational Method has its roots deeply embedded in hip hop, it doesn’t mean that the aesthetic that you will get will be a hip hop aesthetic.
We’ve audio described award winning contemporary dance and like ballet and even children’s, even children’s short films.

Just because it has its roots in hip hop doesn’t mean that the aesthetic is gonna always be hip hop. Sometimes it will be if that’s what it calls for.

We have one of the main audio description companies here in the UK. I approached them when I first started out kind of like can we partner on this? And they were just like, yeah. And then nothing. I tried to reach out since and nothing good. So I’m just like, Okay, well, we can just offer choice, you know, and that’s it. For me, I’m not competing with anybody. I’m just here just trying to do my part to provide accessibility.

So, because the way I, the way I see it, you know, everybody is different. And so, like I said, before, you know, our rational method, maybe ideal for some people, not ideal for others and other organizations aesthetic may be ideal for some people and not ideal for others. So that’s, that’s where it’s at. But yeah, but yeah,

We got hate because they know what we do is dope, that’s fine. You know,

TR in conversation with Nathan:
That’s when you know you’re doing something good.

— Sample: “Play on Playa”
TR:

Haters are always gonna hate.

— Sample: “No diggity, no doubt!”

Nathan really does have greater aspirations which include visions of the future of Audio Description.

Nathan:
For example, people could turn on the TV They have a button for audio description. And they have about 10 different aesthetics that they can choose from that suits their particular personality or taste or style. For me, that would be dope because for so long, it’s always been one size fits all for audio description for when there’s a production or performance.

TR:

Talking technology!

Nathan:
There’s like an event I run called demystifying tech, where we get people to play with both cutting edge technologies and basic technologies.

There’s so many artists still scared of technology and working with it. So we just try and demystify some of these preconceptions and talk about how we can utilize them to enhance accessibility in a variety of ways.

— Music ends
— Sample: “This is a journey into sound”

TR:

Nathan’s working on incorporating the sounds into a pad that can be triggered.

Essentially, taking the language of the Rationale Method which pairs sounds to movements, and making it easily available to anyone, Blind or not, at any time.

Nathan:

Then a sighted or blind dancer can then interpret those sounds.
And then all of a sudden, you’re opening up career pathways for blind and partially sighted choreographers and movement directors. Because there’s not that many of them out there. I don’t think it’s because they don’t want to I think it’s more so because they haven’t had an accessible pathway created for them to be able to do that.

We just finished in the second stage of prototyping. And we’ve had incredible responses. We’ve had people saying that Yo, if I had this in college I would have passed my drama and dance exams.

TR:

Sounds as language, a means of communicating. Enabling a Blind choreographer to easily relay their idea or
conversely a Blind dancer to perform a desired move.

Nathan:

for example, if you were to do a Zulu spin. Zulu spin is if somebody is crouched low to the floor, and they’re spinning on the floor with both their hands and their feet in contact with the floor, but they’re keeping a tight ball. You get an idea of how fast the spin would happen.

TR:

Again, the applications go beyond dancing; maybe a Blind martial artist, actor or athlete.

Nathan:

Also, like fashion shows, if people can get a feel of the, energy of the person walking down the catwalk, and if they’re spinning around, the flow of dress on or a different style dress, the sound effect can also reflect the, you know, the movement quality of the dress as well. So, you know, there’s lots of applications that this sound pad can be used for.

I’m just in the second lot of prototyping, then hopefully, after that, we’re going to do a bit more triangulation in terms of research. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get it to production and get it out to people in the world. And yeah, hopefully, we’ll be able to have some more blind and partially sighted directors and choreographers.

TR:

Assuring value for those who are Blind and disabled was always part of Nathan’s objective.
Nathan:

Me not being disabled myself, I had a lot of skepticism from the disabled community and quite rightly so. But I think once they talk to me and understand, actually this guy’s coming from a genuine place. It’s just been nothing but love from the disabled community which I’m eternally grateful for.

– Sample: “Nothing But Love For You Baby” Heavy D

TR:

That relationship and understanding the importance of centering the community is probably one reason Nathan was selected to coordinate the opening ceremony of the 2017 Special Olympics
— Audio from Special Olympics in 20xx.

Nathan:

I was adamant that the non disabled art companies and artists, they weren’t about to impose their choreography on the disabled artist. It had to be disability led The opening ceremony.
The people with disabilities, they would take the lead on what movements that they wanted and what themes they wanted to explore.

The non disabled artists they would fit in their choreography around and it just be a real mix. But it was disability led.

There have been other breakers that had performed the opening ceremonies, like the New York City break is done in the 80s, but I think I made history is the first ever B boy to be in charge of an entire Olympic opening ceremony.

So that was kind of like a big achievement for hip hop within that kind of context.

— Sample Hip Hop Hooray

TR in Conversation with Nathan:
So it sounds like you have a lot of the elements of hip hop kind of incorporated into what you’re doing is that something that you specifically looked at?

Nathan:
Yeah! My route was hip hop. I know how hip hop can save lives.

I’d always look to hip hop first, within everything that we do and see how that can work.

We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on what hip hop can really do.

So for me, it was really important to connect with those ways that how hip hop saved my life, and influenced me as a human being.

TR:

Through his charity Rationale Arts, Nathan’s incorporating the elements of Hip Hop
or
Rapping or Emceeing, Break Dancing, Graffiti or Street Art, DJaying and the final Knowledge of Self ) to help hospitalized children.

Nathan:

We teach them bedside beatboxing. Hip Hop hand play, hand dance movements, we teach them smashing street art, graffiti writing, and how to write their own name. And then we also have a thing called Doctor Decks where somebody dressed up in Doctor scrubs and pushes like a trolley around the ward and has like DJ Decks on them and teaches the kids how to mix and scratch

There’s so many great like accessibility elements with that.

A beatboxes best friend can be a loop station.

TR:

Okay, for those who may not be familiar, a loop station is a recording device that repeats or loops a sound at a given tempo recorded.
For example:
— beat box…

The applications can go beyond beats.

Nathan:
With people that have trouble forming speech, we can sample their voice into that. And then that can be then part of their main soundscape that we create within that loop station, then if they want to, they can trigger their voice whenever they want it to come on and off.

TR:

Working directly with the children in real situations helped Nathan really understand the value of this work.

Nathan:
We’re actually teaching these kids like distress tolerance and emotional regulation,
Beatboxing is just meditation because meditation is controlled breathing.

— Music begins, a bouncy, upbeat Hip Hop beat

We’re teaching these kids life skills through these elements of hip hop in ways that people wouldn’t normally think that hip hop can help people’s lives.

Even down to the graffiti writing. We even teach them how powerful and important it is to put in your intention, even down to how you hold your pen. We teach them that if you want to write your name, and you’re holding your pen sloppy, then your name is going to come out sloppy. Where if you put your emotional intention everything your heart and soul into it, even just that how you hold your pen, you’re going to give not only yourself, but the world, the best representation of yourself.

I’m just trying to spread as much knowledge as possible in terms of ways in how we can utilize hip hop to enhance people’s quality of life.

TR:

This truly does go back to the essence of Hip Hop culture.

Nathan:

Within Hip Hop, originality is so important. Everybody thought about original style, original flow, and all that kind of thing. But the originality of thought, is something that we’re really trying to push with this.

This is a hip hop approach to accessibility and inclusion.

TR:

Yes, and ya don’t stop!
That’s right, Hip Hop don’t stop. And Nathan Geering, you brother…

Tr in conversation with Nathan:

you are now official.!

TR:

Member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family!

— Air Horn

Nathan:

Dope, dope!

TR in Conversation with Nathan:
Give me some contact information, brother, where can people, check you out,

Nathan:

yeah. Yeah, yeah. So if you want to check out the work that my charity does all the community based work and theatrical work that I mentioned, it’s www dot RationaleArts.com

If you’re interested in the audio description, service and provision, that’s www dot RationaleMethod.com.

On Instagram it’s RationaleArts, RationaleMethod or NathaGeering.

On Twitter RationaleArts again or MethodRationale.
if y’all want to hit me up via email, hit me up at Nathan at rationale method.calm

TR:

You can check out Still A Slave during the 2021 Superfest Film Festival. You know, the premier disability film festival that you can attend online.

— We should do something on CH in conjunction with SF —

All you have to do is point that handy dandy browser of yours at SuperfestFilm.com. There are multiple options for tickets that fit in all budgets.

Just like Reid My Mind Radio! Which by the way is available for only free 99 wherever you like to consume podcasts.

Plus, we have transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com.

So there’s no confusion, like a true Emcee, I spell it out, that’s R to the E I D…
(“D)” And that’s me in the place to be!

Like my last name.

— Sample from Kung Fu movie “Were you just using the Wu Tang School method against me?”
Nathan:
Wicked!
— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

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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.

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

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

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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

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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:
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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.

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