Archive for the ‘Descriptive Movies’ Category

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: We Are Worthy

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

In vintage tan and black film, the words "Flipping the script on audio Description in capital letters &  “We are worthy” underneath. Framed in center is a photo of Nefertiti wearing a red top with light makeup on her brown eyes and full lips. She has clear brown skin, brown highlighted hair, and smiles toward the camera. Underneath the photo in capital letters reads, Reid My Mind Radio.

I’m excited to shine a spotlight on Nefertiti Matos Olivaras. She’s a bilingual, Blind Voice talent specializing in Audio Description. In addition to narration, Nefertiti is a Quality Control specialist, workshop facilitator and AD advocate and writer.
Unfortunately, it’s that last role, writer, that still continues to be a bit controversial. It’s expected that those with no understanding of blindness would doubt your ability, but receiving that from those within the community is another thing altogether.
In this series, it’s our objective to explore the exciting things taking place in the world of Audio Description that are less likely to be discussed. Perhaps the conversations we have here can filter through and effect the overall discussion. With that said, it feels like a great time to remind or inform; Blind people started Audio description. Even though several people have been trying to make this fact understood, I’m still not sure it is a part of the general AD conversation.
Today, I’m less interested in proving to the mainstream society that Blind people are fully capable and possess lots of talents. It doesn’t feel right having to convince people of our own humanity. However, I do understand that because these ablest ideas are so engrained into our society, many of us who are Blind or have low vision can unknowingly internalize these ideas and project them onto each other.
In this conversation, we talk about Nefertiti’s early experience with inaccessibility, ableist thoughts and the impact it had on her own life, her decision to pursue a passion and the response from the AD community when it was announced that she was writing description for an all Blind AD production project…
Hopefully, this conversation can filter through to all of the non-believers; we are worthy!

Want to continue the conversation? Join the Audio Description Twitter Community.

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Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

Audio:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/fjtp3f1mwxog5gb/Draft-Nefertiti-001.mp3?dl=0

TR:

One Two! One, Two!
Greetings, beautiful people. And welcome back to another episode of Reid My mind radio where we continue with our second season of 2022. Flipping the script on audio description.

[drum beat fades in]

If you’re new here, it’s very nice to meet you. I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer of this podcast. And I’m glad you found it. If you’ve been rocking with ReidMYMindRadio Let me say sincerely and from the bottom of my heart. Thank you. And I truly appreciate you.

Have I ever told you how much I enjoy hearing from listeners? Sometimes it’s just finding out how you learned about the podcast. Some people like to let me know they enjoy it, and why. Others tell me a bit about who they are just let me know they support what we’re doing here.

All of that is fantastic. And I truly appreciate it. If you ever want to reach out please reidmymindradio@gmail.com is the email address. Feel free to holla at your brother.

I don’t know if y’all notice. But the Reid my MindRadio family is truly around the world. We’re not just in the States. We get some love in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, Africa. That’s right. We on the motherland. Oh, yeah, and I’m definitely not forgetting my people up in Canada. I truly rock with y’all Canada.

I’d love to hear from more of my Caribbean brothers and sisters.

[shouting over a beat]

Puerto Rico! DR! Jamaica! Trinidad! Haiti! Come on. I know y’all out here. This is a podcast so we don’t deal with boundaries. We deal with energy. And there’s no border patrol for that. We don’t need no stinking passports.

Reid My Mind Radio family! Come on! Have you told friends about this podcast? What kind of friend are you just holding all this goodness to yourself? Sharing is caring. Baby girl. Tell them what time it is.

audio clip of TR’s youngest child:

Let’s start the show. One, two, three, four.
[RRMR intro]

Nefertiti

Hi, I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, I am a bilingual voice talent and professional audio description Narrator quality control specialist and writer. I also do a lot of work in museum accessibility. Everything from writing scholarly articles, to representing my Latino heritage at the first of its kind, Molina family gallery, at the National Mall, the Smithsonian Latino Center. I advocate a lot for health care, assistive technology, Braille literacy. These are our lifelines on a lot of cases.

I spent a long time teaching folks sort of helping them, even the playing field in their own lives a little bit through technology too. I keep busy,

TR [singing]:
She’s a hustler, baby, she just wants you to know. It ain’t where she’s been, it’s where she’s about to go.

[talking]

If hustler has a negative connotation for you, and swap that with entrepreneur, go getter driven, motivated, for Nefertiti it’s rooted in the quest for more access.

Nefertiti:
I live and breathe this sort of thing every day, the accessibility of a world that was not built for me, and having to constantly make my own space, just about everywhere I go. I believe in my innate worth as a human being. I know that I have a lot to offer. I claim my power and my value and I take that with me everywhere I go, and hopefully make waves so that other people behind me can trump on into the river to and get what they need to get out of this life and be their best selves. As cliche as that may sound.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Can we talk a little bit about early life experience within accessibility, if you want to mention anything about your blindness.

Nefertiti
I was born fully sighted and everything was okay till around three and a half years old, I started exhibiting some odd behaviors. I had an astrocytoma, a brain tumor, and it was stopping the blood flow to my optic nerve. They were able to remove it ultimately, but it came at a price.

TR:
The result was blindness and no other complications. Growing up in New York City. Nefertiti attended schools for the blind through high school.

Nefertiti:
I knew there was a world outside of that. I have a sister and I have cousins and I knew there was mainstream stuff, but I kind of enjoyed being a big fish in a little pond. So I didn’t feel like I was missing out on anything in the blind schools. Plus, I could be in sports in a way that I knew I was never going to be allowed to be in a mainstream school. In the schools, I was able to be a cheerleader and Run, track and be on the swim team and all these things. Then college came around. And it was a very different experience, I had to really reckon with my blindness now that I wasn’t protected anymore now that I wasn’t around everybody else being like me.

TR:
Unfortunately, this story is not unfamiliar, leaving the comfort and generally accessible environment of the School for the Blind, and answering a college, Mount St. Vincent’s about an hour and a half from home. Nefertiti first realized not everything is built for her.

Nefertiti
By the time I got to college. Braille wasn’t a thing. This was a private school, they barely had any funding for a disability office, heck Thomas, the first year I was there, there was no disability office, it came into play because me and another blind student joined. And then there was a student who identified as having a learning disability. And so they had to put something together.

TR:
She was forced to largely find her own way

Nefertiti:
To figure out what technology would scan my books for me, learning screen reading technology, more than I already had in high school, upping my typing speed, I had to do that pretty drastically because I was doing a lot of papers and even just the campus itself. It was some such Rocky, hilly terrain. And at that time, I was refusing to use my cane. I never used it in the blind school because in the blind school, I was considered somebody who had some sight. But in the real world, I’m blind. In a setting like that one. In the dark, especially, I had some really close calls, and some really kind of dangerous situations I found myself in. But because I was too proud, and too embarrassed, and too ashamed. I didn’t use my cane while I was in this school.

TR:
Living on campus, not using a cane definitely still has some valuable lessons.

Nefertiti:
That stress I put myself through just because I refuse to put that cane in my hands and how much easier it would have been for me, if I had accepted myself as a blind person back then.

TR:
Then the image of Nefertiti that I have is one of a strong, confident, proud woman

Nefertiti:
That finally did come. But I put myself through quite a bit. Before that happened. I had internalized a lot of ableism in my life, I just decided something had to give. And if this is the body, I have, and these are the things I have to put up with.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Things like additional health challenges and relationships.

Nefertiti:
And that’s when I put myself in therapy and went back to school and got myself in better shape. I was a triathlete for a time, there’s got to be better. And if there’s going to be better than I’m the only one that can make that happen for myself. That’s really what has transformed my life and to what it is today.

TR:
Today, Nefertiti is playing a role in flipping the script on audio description. That’s both on this podcast and more so by using her voice in various ways, as far as AD goes.

Nefertiti:
And then pandemic, that’s what happened, the pandemic happened. I’m not unique in this, a lot of people had found themselves rethinking and reevaluating situations in their lives, and I was no exception. And one of the things that I found myself really thinking about was my job at the library and the fact that I was there already for seven years.

TR:

That’s the Andrew high scale, Braille and Talking Book Library, a branch of the New York Public Library over in my old stomping grounds on 23rd Street, shout out to Baruch College, City University of New York.

Nefertiti:
I was teaching blind people mostly but anybody with a disability and mainstream folks to how to use technology. In the case of blind people and people with low vision, it was teaching them how to use the accessibility features in their mainstream devices like iPhones and things like that. I would also teach screen reading technology.

TR:
She facilitated workshops on HTML code, working with Google products, like docs and calendar, iOS apps, and even more lifestyle centered workshops on getting more active. Oh, and by the way, that’s an English and Spanish tambien.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
And you did one on games because I attended it.

Nefertiti:
Ah, that was a fun one on games that you could do on iOS, like accessible gaming.

TR:
Over her seven years working at the library, I imagined she was able to really directly contribute to helping lots of people not only learn their technology, and more, but really provide a foundation for their career and personal pursuits, but she was ready for something new.

Nefertiti:
Honestly, I really believe in making room and making space. I wanted someone else to have my job. I don’t believe in scarcity. I think that there is a myth around scarcity that once you have you need to hold on for dear life, or that you need to continue accumulating. I think there’s enough for everybody that goes for everything. I just got to a point where I felt like I’ve learned everything I’m going to learn here I’ve gone as far as I’m gonna go. I want to leave this open, hopefully even better defined than when I started and with more possibilities for growth for the next person to come in.

During the pandemic, I did a lot of soul searching and a lot of therapy. Therapy has been a constant thing in my life since I started taking it seriously. Accepting the fact that I wanted to do something else, I wanted to leave a space for someone else to be employed a blind person, a person with a disability, leave an employment opportunity open for someone else to come in with their own flavor and their own view on things to continue the work because it’s very valuable, very important, crucial, beautiful work. And I decided to pursue a passion. And that passion is specifically for audio description, but more generally, voiceover work.

TR:
I know what you’re thinking, leave a good job, you’re disabled 50 to 75, maybe 80% unemployment rate, anywhere on that spectrum is bad. She admits it was scary.

Nefertiti:
Again, the pandemic happened. And I was like, let’s get real here, you’re not really happy. And I didn’t want that to affect my patrons. And I didn’t want that to continue affecting me. So I did take the jump, I did leap. And I’ve been pretty fortunate that so far it’s working out really well. But it was kind of scary to do. But I think that a lot of things in life that are worthwhile are frightening, but still worthwhile

TR:
Pursuing a passion, you won’t get any argument from me on that. Since taking the leap. Nefertiti has been doing AD work on projects like Netflix original short film, Heartshot. New York Times, op docs selection, My Disability Roadmap, and several other projects, including the Jennifer Lopez documentary, titled halftime, currently on Netflix.

Nefertiti:
AD is a bit of a gig economy, unless you’re employed at a company, staff writer or staff narrator and they can make a living with that maybe as a nine to five but audio description in my life, it’s very much a gig economy. That’s something that I think is true for any type of arts job, you have some boom times and you have some downtimes. But I thought that audio description as my passion was a little too narrow. So then I decided to explore outward and sort of make myself even more employable by trying to do more generalized voiceover work.

TR:
The gig economy, in general is a hustle. You have to constantly think about and act on generating your next assignment. It’s far different from being an employee. You’re more like a farmer. You’re cultivating the land, planting seeds and watering them. You respond to nation and do whatever you can to assure a rich harvest. Not bad for city kid, right?

Similar to farmers, I’m not talking about those corporate conglomerates. The harvest doesn’t automatically mean a set payment. That often depends on other factors, many of which are bogus, but out of their control in the freelance environment, those seeds planted generate opportunities to work, which should lead to payment. I say should because well you might be surprised how often free or extremely undervalue labor is expected. Honestly, that’s another episode yo, if you have stories about being expected to work for free, email me reidmymindradio@gmail.com. I need to hear from you. Seriously.

Nefertiti:
Can I go here? Is it too sensitive? I don’t know.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
You go wherever you want to go.

Nefertiti:
Okay, the pay in the audio description space is so unregulated, you could work for four or five different companies and they have different methods of paying some pay by the minute, some pay by the hour, some pay by the project, and some pay, not a lot. Some others pay out of other countries. And so by the time you convert, it’s not a lot of money here in this country. Hopefully the audio description viewer gets a quality product and enjoys the show, and has all sorts of access. But in the meanwhile, the folks who made that happen, are not even able to make a living.

TR:
That’s why you have to be a hustler, someone who can find multiple opportunities to make use of their talents.

Nefertiti:
I had the real privilege of going to Montclair State University to present to our lecture/workshop for Professor Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino. She is this professor of language studies. And she’s built into her curriculum, this entire semester of audio description. It is a beautiful example of what’s possible when somebody is really dedicated and believes in something.

TR:
Hey, stay tuned to hear more about Professor Maria Jose in a future episode.

Nefertiti:
I lectured for an hour, took questions and answers from some really engaged, excited students. We broke into a hands-on workshop, I brought a movie trailer, which only really consisted of some music and some drumming. And I challenged the students to break into groups and describe the first 30 seconds of the trailer. What we had as a fun thing was somebody of the group designated to stand up and do the description, with the trailer playing in the background. And once that was all done, and we discuss what was good, what can be improved upon, we watched the trailers which had been already described in both English and Spanish to give the students an idea of how did you compare to a professional rendering, and I’m happy to say that they compared pretty well, Maria Jose, you’re doing a great job with your students. And again, it was a real privilege for me to be able to do that.

TR:
In addition to workshops for those interested in AD she’s presented to film students and more.

Nefertiti:
I participate on panels, I moderate panels, I facilitate workshops, did it in my tech job and continue to do it here. It’s one of my favorite aspects of this field that’s getting more and more recognition.

TR:
And don’t forget, that’s in English and Spanish tambien.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
In addition to us both being blind at narrators, we both come at this from intersectional space. So, ¿tú eres Latina? ¿Dominicana?

Nefertiti:
Sí! Dominicana! Me gente!

In terms of my more Latino side, I actually learned Spanish before I learned English. Some people have a hard time believing me, but it’s true. I’m first generation born American but I’m very Dominican. So I’m very lucky, not something I’m very proud of. Unfortunately, though, there doesn’t seem to be much by way of Spanish audio description, quality Spanish audio description, it’s getting better slowly but surely. But historically. And still right now, at the time of this recording. Spanish audio description is nowhere near as buttoned up as English audio description is and some people have complaints about English audio description. So imagine the condition of Spanish audio description. It is nowhere near as equitable as English audio description, this idea of more Latinos being on screen in movies and in TV shows documentaries about us. And that’s fantastic. We’re proliferating the cultural consciousness. But wow, I hear a lot of white people describing this stuff. And it’s like white people. Hey, you got enough to describe where are my Latinos at.

[In the Heights trailer begins playing in the background]

Nefertiti:
In the heights. It is by Lin Manuel Miranda, he of Hamilton fame. This was his big claim to fame before Hamilton actually. And it’s a play based in Washington Heights right here in New York City. I’ve got family living in Washington Heights. The person describing it in the American version, because there is also a UK version, I believe is a white woman. And I don’t agree with that choice.
She has a lovely voice, very clear, her diction is beautiful. She does a wonderful job. This is not a reflection on her as an artist, a narrator. You mean to tell me there wasn’t a Latina woman or even a man that could be casted to have done that job. I have a really hard time with that. That speaks to the cultural competency. Like we’re seeing more diversity on screen. The audio description should also reflect that diversity. It should match not just the script to the vision of what the director is trying to make happen trying to engender in viewers but also the narrator who is saying these things. Being part of that community and yes, the writer should also be I think of that community.
If I may give an example of the harder they fall. Excellent. I think audio description down to the point where they describe microbraids. They describe the different skin color. A really good example there of writing that clearly researched everything from what to call the different skin tones to the different hairstyles, all things that are of important to blind people of color other people to I’m sure, particularly since historically we haven’t heard about us, we haven’t heard about ourselves, having people who match the content to make a quality, audio description script and narration is, I think, crucial, and really speaks to the cultural competency that is still lacking in a lot of ways in this field.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Personally, I like to see more people in the blind community, more people of color, talking about this issue. Do you hear the conversation?

Nefertiti:
I really don’t. And I think that’s part of this idea of, well, let’s just be grateful to even have it at all. Let’s not stir the pot, because they know that audio description is a thing. So many people aren’t aware that audio description exists? I know I live in sort of in this bubble where everybody knows what audio description is, of course, right? I’m in the field now. And I’m a consumer and all this and all my friends know about it. My family knows about it. Everyone I talked to if media comes up, I talk to them about audio description. So in my world, it seems like everybody’s aware. But in the grand scheme of things, there are many, many, many who don’t even know that this is an option for them. And those who do a lot of them don’t even question the fact that they don’t hear details such as hair texture, or skin color, or different types of clothing, etc. They just default to this all must be a white narrative. Unless we hear like an accent or something like that. We may not know.

TR:
As consumers of audio description. It’s our place to provide critical feedback. That includes those things we like and don’t.

Nefertiti:
Access access, access access to information. I want to hear about skin color. I want to hear about set design, I want to hear about lighting. I want to hear about steamy sex scenes. I want to hear about gender stuff that’s going on. If there’s space for it, I want to hear about it. It’s getting better. But historically, audio description has been very sanitized and in my opinion, almost infantilized. I don’t know if it’s because there’s this image of like, oh, protect the poor blind people. I don’t quite understand why that’s the way it’s been. People are waking up and people are listening and taking note to the fact that we are well rounded individuals, we are of this world. And so race does matter. representation matters.

TR:
Back on the professional side of AD networks, Nefertiti and I got to work together on multiple projects, including an appearance right here, where she provided the audio description in a YGBD episode featuring Latif McLeod. She was the AD narrator during the ACB Awards Gala, which I had the honor of hosting, and I had the privilege of narrating her AD script for a film by Syed Dyson titled Say His Name: Five Days for George Floyd.

Big shout out to Steven Lentinus, one of the films composers himself an AD consumer. He got the buyer from both sides to produce an AD track for the film. He contacted Roy Samuelson who curated the all blind scenes to produce the track.

Nefertiti:
This was a really fascinating opportunity. I as the writer, Serena Gilbert as the quality control specialists, the one and only Thomas Reid as the narrator, a combination, I believe, a team effort between Byron Lee and Chris Snyder, as the engineers, all blind folks, we have the opportunity to come together as an all blind team to make this documentary accessible by way of audio description. And I think we did that beautifully. It is something that I will always be honored to have been a part of, especially holding the role, the controversial role of being a writer, while blind.

TR:
It’s not the first time we talked about this here on the podcast. I think I’ve been talking about this idea before I even knew of a blind person writing AD. It’s understandable that some people, especially those who are not blind, would be curious as to how this is accomplished. I can see how other blind people would be interested to. What’s not cool is the fact that it became controversial.

Nefertiti:
Controversy came from both sides from the sighted folks who I totally expected to get some blowback from, but also my fellow blind people who couldn’t fathom how it was done. When you don’t understand something, I guess it’s human nature to question it or to maysay it or doubt it, or what have you. But through the use of technology and a sighted assistant and my skills as someone who writes, I was able to do it. And I’m very proud of the job that I did. Blind people, yes, they can write visual experiences.

TR:
I would think it would hurt when it comes from inside the community.

Nefertiti:
Yeah, when your own community, the community, you’re trying to represent the community, you’re trying to uplift the community, you are trying to model what’s possible for, says to you, you can’t do that. When your own community turns the ableism that the whole world slaps you with every day. That is very hurtful. And that is very discouraging. But for one thing I had already committed to it. And when I commit to something I see things through. I mean, there has to be a real tragedy for me to not follow through on something I committed to, like, My word is my bond. That’s true. I wasn’t going to let you and the rest of the team down. And I wasn’t going to let myself down. Yeah, it hurt. It hurt. There were Facebook posts and things on Twitter, and even people in my own life questioning and the like, and I just I decided I was gonna turn it around.

TR:
From my conversations with Nef. I don’t think she has a problem with questions. It’s more of the assumption and the insinuation or downright claim that she can’t, which by the way, you know, translates to we can’t.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
You were getting negativity before you even did it?

Nefertiti:
Yeah.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
I didn’t know that.

Nefertiti:
Yeah. Ableism is real and internalized. Ableism is real. I got a lot of positives too. But the aspect of all this, that hurts is the negative coming from your own kind, if you will. Very sad. It was a bit of a rude awakening for me. I’m glad I had it, because I’m definitely awake now. But at the time, yeah, it was bewildering. Honestly.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Yeah, sorry, I didn’t deal with that. But at the same time, it’s one thing to deal with it when it’s done. But when you’re going in, like you going into the fight, quote, unquote, and everybody thinks you can’t do it, you can either start to believe that and it messes your whole stuff up. Or you can take that as fuel. Let’s see, I got this, I’m gonna show yall.

Nefertiti:
Belief itself I think is is a big part of it. The thing is that it was published early on to Facebook. And I was alerted to do you know, what’s going on on Facebook? And there are these comments available in. I log on, and I see this post and I see these comments. And I’m like, Okay, I’m in the fishbowl. Now, I guess I had to deal with it. I was fielding these questions and these negative comments and dealing with a lot of anger as well that I didn’t want to let show because that’s just not professional. I’m not about making enemies or what have you, a lot of keeping it to myself and venting to family. And having a quality product. At the end of it all. People out there if you have the opportunity, don’t squander it. Check this documentary out. It’s really beautiful work and a real example of what’s possible when folks come together with a shared passion and skills and a dedication. And we just happen to be blind. Big deal.

TR:
I have to tell you, I respect the way Nefertiti handled this situation. She’s classy. Word to the wise, be careful what you say on social media. Not everyone is as classy. Just saying.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
What did you take away from the experience?

Nefertiti:
Sometimes when you are trying to like maybe break a wall down or, or do away with a barrier or do something unorthodox. People who are in this field, who you would think are less encumbered by ableist thoughts and ablest ways of carrying themselves, a superiority complex. There were a couple of people who showed their real colors, I think throughout that situation of what, a blind writer That was a lesson for me to that just because you’re doing something that doesn’t mean that you are necessarily of that thing.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
You and some folks created a Twitter group for AD. What’s that all about?

Nefertiti:

It’s called the audio descriptions Twitter community. If you use the website and the Twitter app, you can participate in communities and these are spaces where people come together who are of like mind and I and my partner cofounded the audio description Twitter community and this is a pretty rapidly I’m very proud to say growing place for all things description, audio description, image description, self description, we want to know about all the panels the latest what we call #ADNews. Some companies announce oh we just did this, we just did that now on Netflix with audio description now on Amazon without a description etcetera and so we post that we post reviews of audio description that we’ve seen. We talk about the quality of audio description everything from mono audio to surround sound, all that sort of thing, jobs as well, in audio description, get posted on there, classes. It’s for all things ad and it’s on Twitter. Please join us. You just search for audio description.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
I’ll link to the group on this episode blog posts at reidmymind.com.

Nefertiti:
Whoever you may be professional consumer, it doesn’t matter we want you.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
continuing with that energy of sharing. Nefertiti offers advice for other blind AD enthusiasts interested in pursuing opportunities in the field as well as for advocates.

Nefertiti:
Be aware of what you’re getting into. It’s beautiful work. But like with anything, it does have its pitfalls, prepare yourself for those. But also really focus and celebrate your successes and improve on your craft. If you’re a voiceover artists coming into this, keep studying, keep learning. If you’re a writer coming into this, study other people’s work, and if you’re a consumer, consume as much as possible, let these companies know that you’re out here. Let them know what’s going wrong, but also let them know what’s going right. Remember, accessibility is a human right and part of accessibility is access to visual content. And audio description is one of the best ways to make that happen for us. We need to advocate for it. We need to through our collective voices amplify our cause. We are here and we are worthy.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
Where can people learn more about you follow you, find you.

Nefertiti:

You find me on LinkedIn. I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. I’m on Twitter at Nef Mat Oli. Email me if you’d like to NefMatOli@gmail.com.

TR in Conversation with Nefertiti:
That stands for Nefertiti Matos Olivares. All right. If there’s anybody out there who doesn’t realize this, let me let you know right now. Nefertiti is an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family do not get it twisted. She is official!

Nefertiti:
And I got the t-shirt to prove it!

TR:
In addition to freelance work, Nefertiti is a part of the social audio description collective. Thats a group of diverse individuals who write QC, narrate, record and mix audio description for a variety of projects.
You can check out the episode featuring social ad from the 2021 flipping the script season, which I’ll link to on this episode’s blog post.

We’ve grown since that episode. Yeah, we. They had rule for our brother, and I’ve been wanting to hang with them for a while, a bunch of go getters. I’m just really honored to be a part of the collective.

I hope you all really felt the vibe of this episode. I’m sure many of you are contemplating breaking out on your own moving forward with your passion. Of course, be smart about it, but also be brave. That doesn’t mean you won’t have fear. It just means that you’ll do it anyway. On that note, I want to send a big shout out and thanks to my guy, Tony Swartz. For the audio editing assist with this episode.

I’ve been a bit nervous about finding a team to help with some production but Tony honestly made the process fun and easy. What the heck was I scared about. You know, it’s nothing to be scared about subscribing to read my mind radio. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. In fact, we’re even available where you may not get your podcast. I’m talking about YouTube. For those who like to consume content on that platform with no visuals just the podcast artwork and the audio.

We’re available via your smart speaker too just ask it to play Reid my mind radio by t Reid on your favorite podcast app transcripts and more over on reidmymind.com. Well actually this could be the scary part you have to make sure you spell it correctly that’s R to the E… I… D.
Audio sample: (D! And that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

[outro music]

Peace.

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description: In the Making

Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

Light blue lab with series of beakers and two large flasks with the initial A in white on the right flask and The letter D in white on the left flask.  In the middle is a chemistry formula with movies incorporated in the cell. Jurassic on the top Avatar2 in the second and Popeye in the last cell.  Audio description in white letters on the top of the page and Reid My Mind Radio on the bottom

I’m excited to kick-off the 2022 FTS season with my friend and colleague, the Access Artist and Reid My Mind Radio Alum Cheryl Green. We’re talking about compliance based AD versus a more creative approach to developing description.

We hear from Prof. Arseli Dokumaci of Concordia University and the Director of the Access in the Making Lab in Montreal Canada who first invited Cheryl to help her and the AIM team explore the value of the creative approach to Audio Description.

We hear directly from workshop attendees about their projects and some of the many benefits of viewing AD through a creative lens.

Today, we’re going to pull on the edges a bit and explore how AD itself is not only artistic, but how it can be that inspiration, a catalyst for a new work of art.

Rather than talking about making AD, we’re talking about AD in the making!

Because, in this series, we’re going beyond the mainstream AD conversation.
We’re Flipping the Script on Audio Description!

PodAccess Survey – If you’re a Deaf/Disabled Podcaster or content creator or a consumer of Deaf/Disabled content, you’re going to want to know about this.

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Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Welcome back to the second 2022 season of Reid My Mind Radio.
My name is Thomas Reid and I’m the host and producer of this podcast which features compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

This season we continue with one of my favorite subjects, Audio Description or AD.

For those new to AD, you may understand it to be that additional audio track on your SAP channel or your favorite streaming app. Perhaps you experience AD live in a theater. That could be a movie or a live play as well. Either way, that additional audio is providing information about that content that is otherwise only communicated visually.

This includes museums, national parks, art galleries; there’s so many opportunities to add audio description to all sorts of art that enables access for those of us who are Blind or have low vision.

That’s why I say, “Give Me AD on everything.”

But we know, AD is about much more than entertainment!

Audio description is like a swiss army knife. At first glance you think it’s a tool with one function. But pull at its edges a bit; all of a sudden out pops another tool, another use, another benefit.

We know all sorts of reasons non-Blind people use and appreciate AD. However, the take away from curb cut affects or the idea that access for one group ultimately benefits others, isn’t to forget where it originated, but rather to remember that creating inclusive environments should be the goal in all we do.

Today is less about AD from the access perspective. It’s there, no doubt, but we’re gonna pull at the edges a bit. We’re exploring how AD itself is not only artistic, but how it can be that inspiration, a catalyst for a new work of art.

Rather than talking about making AD, we’re talking about AD in the making!

Because, in this series, we’re going beyond the mainstream AD conversation.
We’re Flipping the Script on Audio Description!

Let’s get it!

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Arseli:

My name is Arseli Dokumaci. My pronouns are she/her/hers. And I’m a female presenting person in her early 40s.
I have short black hair, black rounded glasses. I’m sitting in my office.

I was born and raised in Turkey and immigrated to Canada a few years ago.
I live in the unceded territory of Kenya and the Haida nation here, who are the custodians of lands and waters that give us life and I’m grateful to the Kenyan, bahagia nation, also known as Montreal.

I’m an assistant professor in Communication Studies Department in Concordia University. I am also Canada researcher in critical disability studies and media technologies. That’s a long title. I’m also the director of access in the making lab at Concordia.

TR:

Before we can get to Audio Description in the Making, we have to first begin with Access in the Making or AIM.

Arseli:
Access in the making lab is an anti ableist, anti colonialist lab, mainly run by students, community members who are disabled artists and activists. We are a group of around like 15 people right now.

Shout out to Prakash, Roy, Jesse, Diego, Raffaele, Nikolas, Amy, Sabina, Yolanda, Dres, and Salima. These are the wonderful people that are making up the Access in the Making Lab.

We are basically interested in developing creative and critical approaches to access. How can we think of access not as a checklist, but as a starting point for doing research differently for being in the work differently, and as more as a creative and critical intervention in the given order of things. To kind of shake up people a bit.

TR:

Hey, I want to shake people up. Just a bit!

Back to the lab.

Arseli:

Which is considering access as this kind of process without an endpoint as something that is continually being made and made, remade which is also open to failures and mistakes, and learning from goals and being accountable.

TR:

When we apply this idea to audio description, you can see why it’s the opposite of what takes place in the mainstream world where the final product is so heavily affected by constraints like time, guidelines and budgets. The AIM Lab is an environment that encourages experimentation.

Arseli:
The people of the AIM lab are doing amazing work. We kind of push this together collectively.

I have been working on creative approaches. I experimented with some formats like freeze framing.

I use this crip time method of like freezing the frames and inserting the audio description as something that is intervening in the video itself as a kind of almost a statement saying let the audio discussion take the time it takes.

It was always in the back of my head, like, how can we kind of further this creative approach to audio description. I’m obviously not the first person to do that, there are people doing amazing work on creative approaches to audio description.

TR:

Some of them have been featured right here on the podcast.

Arseli:

We were developing various posters, and we were also thinking about our visual identity as a lab and so on.

We realized that, even when you’re developing a visual identity for something like developing a logo, that logo is visual, and there is no description. And we were stuck with this question of Oh, we did the logo, but where’s the description. This need for audio description kept coming up that we need to do something about it, like we don’t have the, the answers, but the need, literally the need to and to learn more about it to experiment with it. So that’s where the idea of doing this workshop came about.

TR in Conversation with Arseli:
What made you reach out to Cheryl, how did that come about?

Arseli:
That’s also another story of relationship building, which goes back to 2018 actually. When we organized a symposium in Montreal called Vibe a symposium for Deaf and Disability Arts. And Cheryl was also a participant in that symposium, that’s where we got to meet.

TR:

That’s my friend and colleague, the Access Artist, Cheryl Green.

Cheryl
I am a captioner and audio describer. I also do some video and audio production.

I am a white Ashkenazi Jewish woman with a poof of curly dark brown hair and big black plastic glasses and olive complexion.

It’s still a little chilly in Portland, Oregon, where I live. I am sporting my Reid My Mind Radio hoodie, just the most comfortable hoodie that I own. Wear it all the time, except for laundry day.
I’m very excited to be back on your show Thomas.

TR:

That’s right, Cheryl is official. I’m sure you heard her name here before. In fact, there are other guests on this podcast that I only became aware of through Cheryl. Oh Man, I just introduced you to my connect.

Arseli:

Cheryl came to one of my courses and gave this beautiful lecture on audio description.

We also had you Thomas for that class as a listening material one of our podcasts so I had already this connection in mind and then we were really like, looking forward to doing something together.

So I reached out to Cheryl, we met, we discussed what we can do. Raffaele, our lab member, was also helping me to organization. And Cheryl had the idea of inviting you. And we were like, super excited about it. That’s how all this started.

Cheryl:
I told her that the best way for me to lead a workshop on audio description would be with a blind or low vision co teacher, it wouldn’t make sense for me to do it solo. And she needed zero convincing. She was completely on board with that, because she’s Arseli and she’s rad.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
What is it about including a blind consumer, a blind person, specifically in the process that’s important to you?

Cheryl:

I have taught workshops, by myself as a sighted producer of audio description and image descriptions. I have done that in the past, I’ve changed my ways now. Because it’s not fair.

And it’s not good enough for me to say, I am the ultimate authority. No sighted audio describers the ultimate authority. No one consumers the ultimate authority.

It’s a subjective artistic field anyway.

So it benefits the students to have more than one teacher first off.

Second of all, the subtleties and the nuances that a blind or low vision person brings to the discussion. It’s stuff that I’ll never think about on my own. No matter how hard I think about the wording, I’m still looking at the picture, I still see it. And I’m always writing from the perspective of what did I just see?

TR:

I so appreciate that honesty. It’s counter to what we’re taught in society and in business where’ it’s all about branding yourself as an expert. Yet, so often, lived experience is overlooked and under appreciated and x amount of hours in a room discussing the topic is considered more valuable.

Cheryl:

I think there’s a lot in the world of accessibility that’s modeled after the world of health care and rehab. Where ostensibly non disabled people are the authorities and the experts. And they give this thing to the user, the person who needs something. I’ve had clients literally refer to audio description as Services for the Blind and like, No, tI’m adding an artistic translation to your film. Is your film services for the sighted? No, then audio description’s, not “services for the blind.”

Co-teaching with a blind person helps remind the students in the audience that this is about collaboration, and artistry, and community building, and that the wants and needs and desires and perspectives of the ultimate consumers are super valid. And really what we should be focused on, who cares if I like the script. If the people using audio description don’t like the script.

So I told her that I would reach out to Oh, God, what is his name? I can’t remember this guy’s Thomas something. Yeah, I told her. Let me just check with this Thomas guy, might be decent at something like this.

TR:

Ok, yes, I have some opinions on Audio Description as many of us do. I like discussing the subject as it’s a gateway to larger conversations. But this specific idea that Cheryl approached me with felt like a way to test this idea that we’ve been promoting for a while; AD can improve your art.

Cheryl:

What if people took their artwork, wrote an audio description, threw away the artwork and made something brand new, based on the audio description instead of the audio description being based on the artwork.

She loved the idea right away. We called you and you said yes, and the end. And then we did the workshop, the end.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Good night, everybody.

TR:

Mm mm, we’re taking our time with this one. In fact, the process is where you find a lot of the art and beauty. That’s why the lab is just the right environment for such a workshop. Here’s Arseli.

Arseli:
I didn’t come with a lot of expectations, I honestly wanted the process itself to take us to somewhere and see where we were going together. I totally trusted in the abilities of all the members and their commitment to access, and especially you and Cheryl’s work. So I knew that things will organically develop.

TR:

When I hear this, I can’t help but remember how I once approached just about all aspects of my life. It was a very corporate, productivity centered way of thinking. If you weren’t presenting a project plan with gantt charts, you were artsy fartsy to me.

I still have some of that way of thinking ingrained in me, but I also know and believe in organic creation and letting time do its thing.

Arseli:
I was just waiting to see the magic happen.

We had so much fun. It already created this atmosphere of being comfortable and being gentle with yourself. I feel that there’s this anxiety around doing access work or audio description work. If it’s an unknown territory for newcomers, they’re like, “What if I say something wrong when I’m working on tonight.”

All that anxiety was lifted away.

That was a great starting point. To start from that comfort zone, so to say, and knowing that you will make mistakes, and that’s okay. The question is not to make mistakes, the question is, okay, I’m gonna make mistakes, I might say something not okay. But I’m going to like, learn from it and take accountability and grow along the way. I think that was the whole atmosphere that I really appreciated and took away from the workshop.

TR:

And Cheryl’s expectation…

Cheryl:
Yeah, I really wanted people to take away from the workshop that that people with poofy hair can partner really well with bald people. It’s okay, we’re in an era now where we can just like

TR in Conversation with Cheryl: 10:41
Oh, this is News. Wait, audio description. I’m bald?

##TR:

Cheryl and I can get a bit silly. But yet serious.

Cheryl:
The real takeaways.

It’s valuing the teaching and perspective of disabled people.

the amazing, endless artistic possibility of audio description. I love anything that gets away from the compliance conversation. People are always asking me to do workshops or trainings or be on panels and talk about well, “what are the specs? And how do you do this? We want to be more compliant, we want to be more accessible.” Why? Why they never told me why. Why are you doing this? And if you don’t know why you’re doing it, then you’re going to live in that compliance based because we’re supposed to because we don’t want to get sued or it’s the hot thing to do right now to be accessible.

TR:

There’s that maximize productivity thing again. Tell me how to quickly implement this thing so I can get the biggest bang for my buck. All along, missing the opportunity, the experience, the beauty.

Cheryl:

It’s this negotiation, it’s this process. It’s a collaboration, it’s community. How can we talk about audio description in a way where we just don’t have to bother with compliance? We’re going to make stuff in this workshop, maybe it would be compliant, maybe it wouldn’t be. But let’s have fun and not be scared of audio description. Not feel like it’s a burden, or we have to do this. But how do we make it work?

I wanted people to get that playground vibe around audio description. I also wanted people to have fun with bringing any parts of themselves to the work. So this is not going to be an objective thing. You’re going to build the world that you want to build in your audio description. And it’s going to be yours, whatever you bring to it.

TR:

That approach allowed us to let attendees sometimes slightly modify the assignment. Some chose not to create new independent works of art but rather develop additional components supporting the original described piece.

Arseli who also attended and participated in the workshop came prepared to describe the Access in the Making logo and left with multiple components including audio…

Arseli:

and a textual component. And I had an idea of like a food component but that will happen if we ever meet in person. Don’t we all love food?

TR:

Heck yeah!

Arseli:
I worked on the logo of the aim Lab, which was created by our wonderful designer researcher Roi Saade.

We have been as the aim lab working with Roi for about a year to develop that logo. It was an ongoing conversation where Roi really pushed us to think about what is the access In the making lab? What would the characters of the aim lab be if it were a person? And how do you describe your approach and all these exercises with us to kind of better understand what we how we foresee this collective. And it was a long that idealogical process that Roi came up with this beautiful design of the aim lab.

TR:

The logo itself starts with the letters of the lab’s mame, AIM; Access in the Making.

It includes dashes between the first letter of each name representing the missing letters.

Arseli:

Which is maybe very simple. But when you think about it, we were literally thinking of access as something that we work towards, that we are committed to. We are in no way considering ourselves as the experts of access or that we will tell what access is or should be. But we are literally interested in experimenting, we are aspiring towards access and working towards access without big promises. And we are always thinking about what if we do this? What if we do that? What if we speculate and think about these new openings of access. So that kind of Roi designed around those dashes and letters reflected this approach. I wanted that story to be told.

TR:

There’s also the audio component representing the logo.

— Audio of AIM Logo

TR:

These dragging beeps sort of illustrate a dash or hyphen.

Arseli:

I looked for a way of translating what the image tells into a sonic version. It works in that sense. And it might not work in other senses. But of course it might sound entirely differently to another audio describer. And that’s the whole pitch of it. Not being objective, as you said, but giving room for all the subjectivity we could give and opening up new versions of that. That was a sonic version.

And I’m not an expert in audio editing. It was just the trial, I didn’t mind risk taking and trying it out.

TR:

Then there’s the second component, because really why should anyone be restricted to just one way of absorbing conceptual ideas.

How about poetry?

Arseli:

The poem, I guess it felt A bit more intimate. In the sense that I wanted to reflect on that journey we had as a lab together, how we reached that logo and what it meant for us as the aim lab as our values, our principles, what we are committed to this idea of leaving nobody behind, which is coming from Disability Justice committees, and I kind of really valued that. As the AIM we value that.

Where are the missing letters, right? Have they gone? And how can we hold space for the missing letters for the things that we don’t know, for the access needs that we will perhaps never know. So not hope not having assumptions, but keeping space holding space for the unknown.

TR:

Once again, I’m going to point out that I know this concept may make some uncomfortable. Especially if you only think of description as a word for word explanation of what something looks like. But audio description, image descriptions can go beyond that.

Arseli:

The audio description of that logo does not supplement the logo, it literally works with the logo together. And it brings everybody into that story of that logo making that we had with Roi, it tells that story.

So I find it beautiful. And also a way of like opening up new roles, telling the stories that are not otherwise told. And providing those openings to people like, Okay, here’s what we did. And audio description is enabling that story sharing and storytelling.

TR:

Enabling story telling and sharing that once again, goes beyond entertainment.

[smooth lounge music soothing your soul]
THOMAS: Hi. I’m Cheryl Green.
CHERYL: And I’m Thomas Reid. Uh, that do…. You don’t look like Cheryl Green.
THOMAS: What do you mean?
CHERYL: Well, I mean Cheryl, she’s got hair on her head, kind of curly, medium length brown hair and black-framed glasses and olive skin.
THOMAS: Okay. Now that you say that, you don’t sound like Thomas Reid. I think he’s a brown-skinned Black man with a shaven head and wears shades and has a full beard and might be wearing like a Wu-Tang Clan t-shirt or something like that.
CHERYL: But we are both disabled podcasters.
THOMAS: Do you think we should say podcasters with disabilities?
CHERYL: Oh, you know what? Let’s do a podcast about that.
THOMAS: Hmm. Good idea.
CHERYL: Actually, Thomas and I are working on a project that’s all about disabled podcasts. It’s called. Oh, wait, we don’t actually have the name yet, right? What should we call it?
THOMAS: We should call it Project Project?
CHERYL: Yeah, I love it. Project Project. Or like, I don’t know, POD Access.
THOMAS: Okay. We’ll go with POD Access… for now. With funding from the Disability Visibility Project, we’re creating a space for disabled podcasters or content creators to connect with each other and maybe be discovered by audiences who are interested in your content or share skills and resources.
CHERYL: So, we want to hear from you, current or former, Deaf or disabled podcasters, deaf or disabled people interested in starting a podcast, or consumers of content about disability or deafness.
THOMAS: We created a survey that should only take about 20 minutes to complete, and we’d really love your feedback.
CHERYL: You can find the survey at https://bit.ly/PODAccess. On that survey you can sign up to receive more information about Project Project as it develops.
THOMAS: Again, fill out the survey at https://bit.ly/PODAccess.
CHERYL: Good. Nice job, Cheryl.
THOMAS: Oh, you too, Thomas.
[smooth lounge music fades into the future]

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Were there any highlights from your perspective of the workshop?

Cheryl:
It was one of those things that was like non stop, highlight. Shout out to Arseli and your students and your staff.
One highlight is that the stuff that they made which you can find on audio description.access in the making.ca.

Every single piece is radically different from every other piece. They’re just so unique and distinctive and original. And that’s a real highlight for me. There were a lot of great questions. There was so much engagement.

TR:

It wouldn’t be right to ask Cheryl to pick a favorite project to discuss. I realized that after I asked Cheryl to pick a favorite project to discuss.

I did however reach out to one of the workshop attendees and creators.

Salima:
My name is Salima Panjwani. I’m a multi sensory artist based in Montreal in Canada. I would describe myself as a brown skinned woman with big curly hair, who laughs a lot and loves to have coffee around me at all times.

TR in Conversation with Salima:
Talk to me a little bit about any existing knowledge or experience with audio description. So prior to attending the workshop.

Salima:

I actually learned about Cheryl at the vibration symposium and Montreal in 2018. And I fell in love with her approach. I fell so madly in love with audio description, when I saw her speak. She shared some of her work. And I just thought it was so beautiful how she didn’t think about audio description after the fact. Like she really included it from the beginning of the process. I was really inspired by that.

So when I created a piece called the cost of entry as a heartbeat, in 2020, in Budapest, I decided to create documentation that included audio description planned and from the beginning. I included it in the performance film of the piece. And it’s been getting a lot of really good feedback. I love the process, Thomas like it was so much fun.

I love using language and that way of finding ways to describe things that aren’t just visual, but like really, the energy or the feeling.

TR:

Workshop attendees were asked to group into teams of two, possibly three and choose something to describe. That could be a picture, an object perhaps something not even visual like a song.

The team would then create a new piece of art totally based on that description. That could be anything, a poem, a two minute play, a dance. You can actually check out some of the creations at AudioDescription.AccessInTheMaking.ca.

Salima’s project began with a description of the fermentation process.

Salima:
The name of the project for the audio description workshop was iridescent constellations. And it was with Diego Pacheco Bravo.

Salima:

We didn’t know each other at all. So it was quite a funny process for me. Because we just kind of met and started talking about honey and fermentation. And I thought we were going to, like scientifically describe the process of fermentation.

What is fermentation? Like what does it look like? What’s going on?

I just thought that would be interesting in itself to really slow down that process.

I was very surprised when Diego came back with the full story.

I didn’t want to change anything, because I’m honoring his creative process and his writing process.

But what I did add were the audio descriptions.

TR:

The initial description of the fermentation process for creating mead, which is an ancient alcoholic beverage like wine, inspired a story.

Salima:

About two beekeepers in their 20s who kind of have some tension building as they’re caring for the bees and enjoying Mead together and it gets a bit sexy.

I actually love that because sometimes I feel like disabled folks aren’t considered as like sexual beings. And, and that whole, like erotic fiction audio described piece that we made, I think, speaks to that in a way where we’re not forgetting that like disabled folks also want to listen to sexy things.

TR:

Uh oh! We’re getting grown and sexy once again on the podcast! If you missed that episode from 2021 Flipping the Script series you should really check it out.

Salima:

I am really pleased with how it turned out. And even though I didn’t write the story, I wrote the audio descriptions that go with it. And so it’s my voice and Diego’s voice playing off each other using words like smacking and bubbling and the descriptors that add to the tension building up and releasing, and that’s complemented with a soundscape that I developed. That includes a lot of bubbles, and rustling of leaves and some voices and some moaning and a lot of different sounds that bring the peace to life.

TR:
In no way is this episode an advertisement for the workshop. If anything, it is a PSA for considering new approaches to how we think about audio description and access in general.

Salima:

I feel like when we think about accessibility, there’s so much fear of screwing up. Both you and Cheryl really created this environment where, like, I personally didn’t feel scared of screwing up at all, I just felt free to experiment and explore. I don’t think I would have necessarily felt as as open to create like an audio described erotic audio fiction piece with said stranger that had never met before.

I feel like it’s so important that people realize it’s okay to make a mistake, and then go back and repair, create the opportunities for repair.

Workshops like this, and the, and the pieces that are created through it kind of model what’s possible. And the more models we have, it opens up opportunities to kind of show like some different ways of looking at things.

Arseli:
Why not think of audio description or any other form or medium of access, as something that could be created, opening up new paths, not something restricting us or frightening us, but something that actually opens up our minds to things that we would otherwise not notice?

To me, that’s the difference between the two different approaches to audio description and access in general.

TR:

You know, this isn’t just for those new to Audio Description.

Cheryl:
I was losing my motivation, I wasn’t sure where to go with the artistry thing. And this workshop, getting so much enthusiastic buy in for bringing your full identities, bringing your full creativity, letting your heart break open, just soaring and playing.
It was the kind of validation and confirmation I needed for the creative side to audio description.

Arseli:

If you think about this creative aspect, and doing audio description in a creative way, and not pretending to be objective, or unbiased, which is awful, like admit it right? Nothing can be objective, we know that. So let’s just stop pretending about this all presumed objectivity, and actually being reflexive, consciously reflecting on the fact that it is you actually describing the work, not rejecting that subjectivity, that standpoint. But accepting and recognizing and actually cherishing that, and being accountable for who you are. And what you’re describing.

That’s really, that’s was one of the key takeaways that I got from our workshop together and learning from you and Cheryl is acknowledging your positionality as the describer.

I will make certain choices along the way because of my social positioning, my upbringing, my assumptions and privileges.

I will tell you certain things and I will not tell you certain other things. Being transparent about you as the describer.

TR:

There are people who are comfortable with the established or mainstream compliant approach to Audio description. Some perhaps even have a stake in solely promoting that perspective. I didn’t however realize there are some out here just straight hatin’…

Cheryl:
One thing that I’ve heard said is, if someone came across one of these very creative, very artistic, nonlinear things, and they thought that’s what audio description is, they might be turned off from audio description, and not realize that you can go out there and find this professionally made stuff that’s much more informative, and much more standardized.

Nobody’s in here saying, this is the only way to do it. And frankly, if people enjoy the creative audio description, then why would we withhold it from them. And I think that audio description is really good when it matches the tone of the piece.

TR:

As an example, Cheryl and I talked about a Netflix special called “The Twist.”

Cheryl:

Catherine Cohen’s stand up comedy routine.

It was just outrageous. Her outfit was so audacious and so phenomenal. It was like high society, Dallas meets New York, Jewish American princess meets, like 60s, go go boots. I mean, it was just outrageous. And you didn’t get to hear about any of it.

And the describer was like,

[softly]

“And here I am describing the visuals.”

Which did not match with Katherine’s like super over the top, loud, boisterous musical theater presentation.

I really feel like hers would have benefited from the creative style. Now it’s Netflix, maybe they can’t do that. It’s why I like to work independently. Not that Netflix has asked me to work for them, but it’s not like I’ve said no to them.

TR:

I always want to make sure y’all know, this isn’t shots against the AD writer, narrator or even Netflix. This is about constructive criticism, recognizing opportunities for growth and generating conversation within the community.

Cheryl:
The name of that comedy show was The Twist dot dot dot
If you don’t get a description of what she looks like, what on earth does that title even mean? Did you have a sense of what she looks like?

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
No, not from that. No.

I didn’t watch the whole thing I turned it off.

TR:

I’m just saying.

Cheryl.
The audio description script identified her as wearing a pink dress. She was most assuredly wearing a romper. A very low cut romper.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Actually after that description, she said she was wearing the romper. It was confusing. It was like, Well, why did you describe a pink dress? Did she just switch?

Cheryl:
You want to talk about following the rules. You got an inaccuracy in your second sentence. She’s not wearing a dress. She’s wearing a romper. They could have used that point to mention that it’s extremely low cut that the shorts part of the romper is they’re like really short shorts. She’s got knee high boots on. This is the most ludicrous outfit, it is so outrageous.

To wear a low cut romper as a person who’s not real thin, is a fabulous political statement that you don’t get.

TR:

The political statements continued.

Cheryl:

I had to look her up because like Catherine Cohen, what Jew names their kid Catherine, what is this about? So one of her parents is Jewish, when I figured that one out and the other is Catholic. Okay. Catherine Cohen, she has kind of the stereotypical Jewish knows that, by the way, is gorgeous.
In general, in the United States, not the nose, you see on models, fashion magazines. I know people with that nose who have really spent their childhoods being made fun of and feeling really self conscious about the nose. When you add those pieces together, she’s not a real thin model. She’s got this Jewish nose. Now all the sudden, the title of the show means something different. The twist is gorgeous.

To me it’s also a political statement as a Jew, especially in this time when those guys with their tiki torches think we’re, you know, gonna run them out of town.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how you would effectively in one sentence, get that whole description that I just gave. But if we don’t have any understanding of the size of her body, in this low cut tiny romper, and then the Jewishness of her face. It’s such a disservice to this entire show that she wrote and choreographed.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:

I wish I could remember his name.

It was a guy who worked for WGBH. And he was the only guy that I ever heard really get excited about a building blowing up in an action movie. IThe first time I heard that guy I was like, Oh, I love this. He’s like “an explosion!”
I’m okay with that because it matched. My problem would be if if he was doing that all the time. on things that didn’t even call for it, “oh, what a beautiful puppy!”

Cheryl:
Why is that a problem. I feel like audio description is a translation of the film. It’s not a thorough, complete translation of everything, because then the one hour movie with less 18 hours, and who wants to listen to 18 hours of description of every single thing that’s, like, that’s not what it’s about. But you want to do a faithful translation, and you want the audience using audio description, to come away with the story and the vibe that the people not using audio description got.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
If anybody’s listening from Netflix, from HBO, from anywhere. Create a little space like a sandbox. Let’s have an audio description sandbox.

TR:

A place to experiment?
Oh, wait, a lab.

Cheryl:

I mean it’s not that different from kinetic light, and their Audimance app where many tracks that are provided and you choose which audio description you want, what kind of description of this dance performance Do you want to listen to?

I love this idea of like beta testing it.

TR:

Let me be clear, something like this requires funding. I’m not expecting anyone to donate their time. Audio description is not a charity.

Recognizing the artistic possibility in AD, the curb cut effect or the additional benefits it has outside of the intended users, what we’re talking about here is investing in an exploration. More than likely, resulting in a new way of thinking about Audio description.

Cheryl:
We can stop having two camps of creative versus compliant. And you could just have one camp that is creative and compliant.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:

I think a lot of times when we talk about AD as art, even consumers, I think probably are a little bit leery about that.
I don’t want to watch an action movie and have spoken word as the audio description.

[Cheryl laughs]

I don’t want that. I wonder if people think that that’s what is meant by audio description and art?

Cheryl:
Smoke, ash falling falling falling into my eyes. Oh, it burns.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
That was really good.

TR:

So where do we go from here?

Cheryl:

My fear is that if I or we tried to do the same workshop, because it was so amazing the first time, it would just be like a total failure the second time, or you’d get that group who doesn’t get it, and you’d spend the whole time answering compliance questions.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t ever want to teach the workshop the same way again, because it was just this perfect little thing.

Why not do something totally different every time? Or has some differences every time? I don’t know, if I wrote a book on audio description. I wouldn’t keep putting out the same edition for 20 years.

I would change it to not only keep with the times, what’s happening, what’s trendy, what’s current, what are people asking for. But also, you want to meet the people who are in your workshop. So if they’re not ready for the creative stuff, because they literally don’t even know what audio description is? Well, let’s start with something basic, but it will still be creative. So I would love to co teach more of these classes.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Who do you think this workshop is right for? So is it for folks who want to get into audio description? Or is it for some other group. Artists?

Cheryl:
I think it can be adapted for any group, what I would really love to see people who are already trained in audio description, maybe even already working in that field, who feel like they got kind of a more standardized education in audio description. You’re an objective neutral observer. Folks who were trained in this would be nice to shake it up a little bit and broaden the way they look at it.

TR:

Cheryl sees the benefits for those not interested in directly creating AD.

Cheryl:

I’ve had the opportunity to speak in a filmmaking class recently.
One hour basic, little bits of information about captioning and audio description, not necessarily even how to do it, but what to consider in terms of high quality, accessibility, culturally responsive, culturally sensitive accessibility.

Just so that they know there’s resources out there, there’s people who can do this.

I wanted them to have that sense of relationship and conversation about accessibility.

So a workshop like this can also open that up, maybe you won’t do more audio description.
But I bet you will remember this workshop when you make your film or podcast or whatever, and be more mindful about, can you be creative and accessible in the piece, even more than you are going to be?

TR:

We’re talking about AD not only as a creative tool for artists such as filmmakers, musicians and designers, but what about its role in education.

Arseli:
Not many courses, not that I know, at least in my university are like thinking of audio description as an important project, pedagogical tool or an intervention in the courses being taught, and we have departments such as film studies or communication studies. I think that’s the kind of important intervention that such fields could have from the Disability Justice committees, disability activism, the kind of work that you, Cheryl, and wonderful other receptive disabled artists and activists are doing, how to think of the curriculum differently, how to think of the pedagogy is differently.

Anti ableist approaches, creating work that is more accessible in the future.

TR:

As a teacher, Arseli recognizes value in audio description.

Arseli:
You made me think about the work of Georgina Klieg, a disability scholar. She does this like audio description as creative pedagogical practice in her courses. And she wrote an article about that, which I also like using my courses, asking students to do audio describe things and how that actually itself becomes a process of learning for them.

But it is actually transforming the person doing the audio description in the process, as well as the viewer. The person describing it starts to see things themselves in certain ways perhaps they didn’t see before.

[fun funky music plays]

TR:
Audio description or any access in general is an experience.
It’s about the creation and the result. That strictly compliance approach treats AD like a chore and the end result often reflects that energy.

If we could only tap into the energy that Salima describes after attending an event where all, well most, access needs were considered and met.

Salima:

It felt like there was like sparkles in the air. And I’m not too sure if there were actually sparkles in the air. Just kind of felt like it. That’s how I feel about the disability arts world here.
I think I want to focus on being able to create that feeling of or that question of like, “Are there sparkles in the air or does it just feel like it because everyone’s cared for?”

TR in conversation with Salima:

I like that. I like that a lot.

TR:

Those sparkles, are the visual representation of where that access originated.
Shout out to Alice Wong, Mia Mingus and Sandy Ho. They have the term or the hashtag to be exact; #AccessIsLove.
Where accessibility is understood as an act of love.

You can’t mandate love!

I want to send much love out to all my wonderful guest:
My friend and colleague the Amazing Access Artist Cheryl Green.

Cheryl:
My website is whoamitostopit.com
I have a media access page. On that page, there’s a link to a Google form where people can tell me about their project and tell me what they’re looking for for access.
And that’s whoamItostopit.com/media-accessibility.

On Twitter and Facebook I’m at @whoamItostopit

WhoAmIToStopIt is actually the name of a documentary film that I made. It became my big film and I’ve only made a few very small films since then.
So I kindI moved all of my stuff onto the whoamitostopit website instead of maintaining two websites one for this film and one for my business.

TR:
Director of the Access in the Making Lab at Concordia University in Canada, Professor Arseli Dokumaci.

Arseli:
you can go to our website which is AccessInTheMaking all together as one word .ca
All the information is there and our lab members are there and our emails are there so just come on with that and reach out to us. Our doors are open to anyone.

TR:
Multi Sensory Artist, also up in Canada, Salima Panjwani.

Salima:
People can check out my website, which is www.CargoCollective.com/salima.
There’s the audio described videos of the cost of entry as a heartbeat there. And a lot of my other multi sensory work.
Instagram is @PictureSalima

TR:
Thats right you’re all official members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

— Airhorn

TR:

Now don’t get confused by this idea of AD in the lab .
There are some who are thinking they’re experimenting with AD. I’m looking at you Amazon!
You are, but I don’t feel the love.

Let me see if I can frame this in a way that you’ll understand…

— Shift to a synthetic voice saying the following:

You’re starting from a place of how can we save money, how can we reduce human involvement but still be compliant
And I’m not fooled by the okey doke.
That’s where you say it will lead to more AD… don’tcha want that?

TR:

I want my AD like I want my food. Made with love!
The whole experience just feels better.

By the way, I appreciate synthetic speech, it’s what gives me access to my computer and phone.

I just don’t want it on a movie because Jeff Bezos wants to go to space.

Synthetic Speech:

Damn, T! There goes that Amazon sponsorship!

TR:

The AD lab that I’m thinking about is an environment where we can start with love, respect and creativity.

Am I taking this lab idea too far? I’m thinking of how I can apply it to my life in general.
A place for considering new concepts, ideas, free from judgement? A safe space to just try something new…?

For those of you who are new to blindness or any disability, I’m envisioning a safe space for us to confront new thoughts around things like ableism, our human experience
I remember how my early thoughts after disability were mostly about getting back to “normal”.
Wanting my prior life, as if that’s the only way to live. As if the only way to experience the world is visually.

Am I going to far with this lab thing? I’d love to hear what you all think. I’m at ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

Here’s a cool experiment, go on over to ReidMyMind.com for transcripts, links and more.
But make sure you use the right formula;
That’s R to the E I D!
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick)
Like my last name.

— Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Black Art White Voices: A Flipping the Script Prequel

Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

A row of yellow light bulbs against a red horizontal border above and below the white movie screen. You are invited to REID MY MIND RADIO ENTERTAINMENT under the red frame. Black Art/White Voices: Flipping the script prequel on the following line in Bold Black capital letters. The picture is of a theater with red velvet chairs facing a white screen with movie images of Black panther, Insecure, Judas, and the black Messiah showing an all-black cast. There are two pictures of a blurry white man and a blurry white woman underneath the movie images.

Ever since producing the episode on Black Panther where among several critiques about the audio description, I voiced my complaint about using white narrators to voice what are obviously Black films. In general, AD narrators that are not from the culture of the film, where it’s obviously culturally specific, feels extremely disruptive and insensitive.

There’s been a significant amount of discussion on this topic here and elsewhere. It’s something I was hoping to see the Audio Description industry improve. To some extent that is the case, but when I finally sat down to watch Judas and the Black Messiah, a film about the FBI’s murder of Fred Hampton – Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, I couldn’t believe what I heard.

Black Panther? It’s starting to feel like a conspiracy… Here we go again!

Plus:
* Hear how you can help make a change
* Here about the next season; Flipping the Script on Audio Description.
* PodAccess Survey – If you’re a Deaf/Disabled Podcaster or content creator or a consumer of Deaf/Disabled content, you’re going to want to know about this.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Music begins, a pulsating ominous synth that opens up to a dramatic mid-tempo beat.

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio?

We’re in between seasons but I wanted to share some thoughts with the family.

Truth is, I wish I didn’t feel obligated to share these thoughts on this particular subject.
I’m hoping one day it won’t be necessary.

Several years ago now, I produced this episode that has really sort of attached itself to me.
It’s the Black Panther episode.
The episode I almost threw away. I didn’t think anyone would care.
I published it anyway.

People cared!

I think.

I’m just ready to move past it.
Meaning, I would love to see those who say they understand and support the need for Audio description to be more culturally aware and competent, put it into practice.

but, it’s like…
Audio sample: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” From The Godfather.

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro Music

Sounds of a thunder and rain storm.

TR:

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.

— Thunder clap

At least that’s how I felt before the phone call.

A day, I’ll never forget.
It was a Thursday.
Damn, it could’ve been Friday.
Either way… I don’t normally answer calls from unknown numbers.
Yet, this one evening, my cell phone rang and Voice Over told me to answer the phone.
Yo! That freaked me out.

Then, I realized after answering the phone that I heard it wrong.
The caller id really said Ann Sur Fonne. I think it’s French.

Wherever she’s from, she called to tell me a bit about the AD Illuminati.

— Thunder clap!

Well, sort of…

This mysterious phone call came on the same day my daughter Riana and I finally had the chance to sit together and watch Judas and the Black Messiah.

It’s a film that explores the FBI’s murder of Fred Hampton. The 21 year old Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party who was in the midst of uniting black and other organizations focusing on advancing rights and opportunities for Black, brown and other marginalized people.

The movie was first released in February 21 both in theaters and on HBOMax. I’m not certain about the theater release, but I do know that HBO Max did not yet provide audio description. My daughter refused to watch the film until it had AD and she could watch with her Dad. That’s me y’all!

It wasn’t until sometime during the summer of 2021 that the film received an audio description track on HBO.

Almost a year since its release, January 1, 2022, Riana and I sat down to watch the film.

As far as the movie goes, the two stars, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, playing Chairman Fred Hampton and the sell out under cover Bill O’Neil respectively, were both amazing.

It’s never easy to just watch a movie like this as if it were just a story. It’s not. It’s a reminder of a not so distant history a sobering acknowledgment that those in power won’t hesitate to kill when their way of life is threatened.

History shows, that’s often, when Black people are seeking their freedom, standing up for their rights and when there’s a hint of creating a unified front that challenges the establishment.

In 2018, I published an episode that focused on my response to the audio description in Marvel’s Black panther. If you never heard that, I’ll provide a link and hope you’ll take a listen. In summary, I discuss my reaction to the selected narrator. The episode actually goes into much more, but that’s often what’s recalled. I refer to the narrator as the voice of the colonizer – a British white man.

Unlike Marvel’s Black Panther, Judas and the Black Messiah doesn’t originate or belong to the MCU or the Marvel Comic Universe. This story is real. It belongs to us, this is the Black People’s Black Panthers.

I found it pretty ironic that , once again a film featuring a Black Panther is described by a British sounding white man.

— A mix of movie scenes with a dramatic “No” Including “Back to the Future” and “Independence Day”.

I always feel obligated to say, I have nothing against this person as an individual, he’s probably a nice guy.

Truth is, I really don’t have to. This isn’t about one person. It’s about an entire community of people being overlooked.

Anyone choosing to focus on individuals should really ask themselves if they’re really trying to deflect and avoid the real conversation.

— Cell Phone ringing

Not long after my daughter and I finished our post film review and conversation, my cell phone rang.

Yeah, that’s really the ring tone I use. I guess I’m nostalgic for telephones with actual bells on them.

Voice Over saying Ann Sur Fonne!

So I just had to pick it up.

TR in Conversation Flashback::
Hello? (Says hesitantly)

Ann:
What did you think of the AD?

TR in Conversation Flashback:
Excuse me?

Ann:
What did you think of the AD?

TR in Conversation Flashback:
Who’s this?

Ann:
I’m sorry Thomas, this is Ann Sur Fonne, you don’t know me… (Continues talking but fades down to an unintelligible murmur, with narration taking over)

TR:

She went on to explain she’s been listening, watching and reading the things that I and others have been talking about audio description and the need for more inclusion and proper representation of voices in all films especially those that are culturally specific.

She wouldn’t say exactly what power she had but she said she’s on the inside and wants to see change.

Ann:
Have you heard of the AD Illuminati?

TR in Conversation Flashback:
I have but always just thought that was a joke. I thought it referred to [beep]

Ann:
Thomas, whatever you do you can’t say those names out loud or use on your podcast. Your life is in danger if you do.

TR in Conversation Flashback:
What the heck! It’s audio description.

Ann:
Thomas, you said it before and made a damn t-shirt, it’s about more than entertainment.

TR:
Ann talked a bit more. Each time I tried to get more information or even some hint of why using Black voices in films about Black people is an issue, she’d just talk about how much she likes the podcast.

Ann:
I really like your podcast.

TR in Conversation Flashback:
Oh, thank you! Continues talking but fades out and narration over takes it.

TR:

I really need to work on not being easily distracted.

I did get to ask her if there’s any specific connection to Black Panther? I mean

I can’t tell you is all she’d say. Continue to be aware, pay attention and look beyond what you see. I reminded her I’m Blind. We laughed.

Ann:
But seriously, continue to be observant. There are things happening and people claiming they care and want to see change. But as you know now, the AD Illuminati is real and right now, their goals don’t align with yours.

TR in Conversation Flashback:
What exactly are their goals?

Ann:
Nice try Tomas, but I’m already risking my life calling you. I’ll be in touch when I can. Whenever you hear your phone say Ann Sur Fonne make sure you answer. No matter the time of day or night.
Goodbye.

TR:

And that was it, she was gone.

I didn’t mention this to anyone for a day or so because I was just shook.
I finally decided to tell my wife. She just stared at me. I took my phone out to show her my call history.

There was no record of the call.

“I didn’t dream it! I didn’t dream it!” I muttered to myself as I walked off to be alone.

Classic Radio Announcer:
“We interrupt this program for a special news announcement”

Hi, I’m Cheryl Green
And I’m Thomas Reid

Cheryl: That… wait, you don’t look like Cheryl Green.

Thomas: What do you mean?

Cheryl: Well, I mean Cheryl she’s got hair on her head, kinda curly medium length brown hair and she’s got black framed glasses and olive skin.

Thomas: Ok, now that you say that, you don’t sound like Thomas Reid. I think he’s a brown skin Black man with a shaven head and where’s shades and has a full beard and might be wearing like a Wu Tang Clan t-shirt or something like that.

Cheryl: But, we’re both disabled podcasters.

Thomas: Do you think we should say podcasters with disabilities?
Cheryl: – Oh oh, you know, let’s do a podcast about that.
Thomas: Mm! Good idea!

Cheryl: Actually, Thomas and I are working on a project that’s all about disabled podcasts…
It’s called… Oh wait, well, we don’t actually have a name just yet so we’re calling it… oh wait, we don’t actually have the name yet. What should we call it?

Thomas: We should call it, project, project!

Cheryl: Yeh, I love it! Project, Project or like I don’t know, PODAccess.

Thomas: Ok, we’ll go with PodAccess, for now.
With funding from the Disability Visibility Project we’re creating a space for disabled podcasters or
content creators to
Connect with each other, maybe be discovered by audiences interested in your content or share skills and resources

Cheryl: So we want to hear from you…
Current or former Deaf or Disabled podcasters, Deaf or Disabled people interested in starting a podcast or consumers of content about disability or Deafness.

Thomas: We’ve created a survey, that should only take about 20 minutes to complete and we’d really love your feedback.

Cheryl: You can find the survey at https://bit.ly/PODAccess
On that survey you can sign up to receive more information about
Project Project as it develops.

Thomas: Again, fill out the survey at http://bit.ly/PODAccess

Cheryl: Ah, nice job Cheryl!
Thomas: Ah, , you too Thomas! (Laughs)

Classic Radio Announcer: Now back to our show.

TR:
I needed something light to take my mind off this for a while.

I decided to watch the final season of Insecure also on HBO Max.

— Music begins, an anxious melody that continues of a mid-tempo Hip Hop beat. Hip hop

HBO did not provide description for their shows until 2021.

prior to this final season, Blind folks interested in watching Insecure with audio description would need to find an alternative way of accessing the series. Allegedly available somewhere.

If you’re not familiar with issa rae’s Insecure, according to her the show “examines “the complexities of ‘Blackness’ and the reality that you can’t escape being Black.”

While the show is a “black show” it’s characters and subject is universal and relatable.

Sort of like what people with disabilities like to think about disabled content. But you know many non-disabled hear that word and are like oh, that’s not for me!

Similarly, white disabled can hear black and disabled and say, oh boy that’s not for me.

Anyway! Humanity, right?

Insecure is a well done series. Young black people just living their lives searching and figuring out who they are and where they want to go. From Black law firms to the streets , all sorts of Black.

Well, guess what wasn’t Black?
That’s right! The audio description narrator.

And here’s where it gets tricky for me personally. I like and know the narrator. She’s been on the podcast y’all. That makes her Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Let’s be clear, I’m not trying to put people on blast or shame someone for their decisions. To return to the Godfather for a second…
“It’s not personal Sonny, It’s strictly business.”

That being the case, I won’t drop manes, but feel free to look it up. In fact, go ahead and watch the show, it’s entertaining and I support Black content creators.

I really wanted to call Ann Sur Fonne. I wanted to ask her what could be done about this. Does this at all relate to the AD Illuminati?

No need. I’m sure she’d be vague or even worse tell me how much she likes the podcast to distract me.

I really do need to stop falling for that one.

She did encourage me to continue to speak on it and suggested I do the same for others.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Is there really an AD Illuminati?

Is all of this part of some conspiracy?

I believe that those in charge are doing what they know. I recognize that it’s not malicious or done with bad intentions. Folks have jobs to do and deadlines to meet and all sorts of limited resources.

This has been the way it’s been done for years. It goes back to the early decision makers in audio description. They did great things, but they also bear responsibility for where we are today. They chose to not see color. They chose not to seek out culturally appropriate voices. They taught and some still teach the newbies. Has the curriculum been updated or is it the same ol’ thing. You know, that good Ol’ AD!?

I know for many, this isn’t a big deal, in comparison to other issues of injustice or representation. But I disagree! I think it’s just another one. One that will never grab the attention of the mainstream.
It’s black and disabled.

What they don’t see are the core elements that make up the other injustices;
White supremacy
Systemic racism
Ableism, It’s for the Blind so they’ll be happy with whatever we give them.

Ouch!

Yes, hard to hear? Well, it’s not easy to say.

Music begins, an optimistic, bouncy Hip Hop groove.

I offered some possible solutions in the Black Panther episode from 2018.

One worth repeating is seeing the selection of narrator as a casting choice and therefore a responsibility of the director and production team.

If content creators were more aware and involved in the audio description process, I don’t believe we’d have as many of these issues.

I don’t think Issa Rae is aware of the voice providing audio description narration for her show.

, when asked on the red carpet of an award show who she was rooting for, famously and unapologetically proclaimed;

Issa Rae: “Everybody Black. I am. Betting on Black tonight!”

Here’s another consideration for addressing this issue. Individual responsibility.

It’s not just the narrator, audio description is a team sport. No matter where you fall within the audio description life cycle, you play a role.

As I am aware of the process today, broadcasters who commission the AD track have the majority of the power. They are the true shot callers. They dictate what they want the script to look like and the type of voice they want to hear.

AD Directors, Managers, decision makers in general, it’s time to retire the excuses;
“we don’t have anyone on our team.”
“We had such a tight deadline to produce this track”
“We don’t know where to find qualified talent”
All of these excuses just represent the problem. It’s time for you to expand your network, recruit talent and be aware and prepared.

I’ve seen people find qualified voice talent … open your networks, they’re out here.

AD professionals, you have a choice.
If you’re aware of the inequity and say you want to see the change, well, recognize your power.

Narrators!

I find it really hard to believe that you don’t recognize when you’re not right for the project. Rather than finding a way to personally justify that with yourself, why not use your influence to suggest that someone else is hired for the position? Perhaps it’s someone you know and recommend, but in general, speaking up about the subject, being an ally, well that’s powerful.

— “You will not replace us” Chants of Alt Right Mob.
TR:

Is this call for equitable representation threatening?

When it comes to the voice of the narrator on films that are culturally specific, we’re talking about a small piece of the pie. The total number of films and television shows that are focused on BIPOC stories is still a fraction of the total films made today.

White narrators get plenty of work. I don’t see any reason for them to feel threatened by these comments.

This issue is just one part of a much bigger problem.
It goes beyond films like Black Panther or In the Heights. Shows like Insecure. It goes beyond the voice. It’s about the visibility of Black and other people of color

That’s seeing and acknowledging color on screen and stage. It’s recognizing that Blind and Low Vision includes people of color.

Writers!

If you’re assigned to a project, recognize your limitations and ask for help, seek the proper input or suggest that you’re not right for the job.

We don’t need color blind writers.

No silly, I’m not talking about those who can’t see red green or blue, but rather black and brown.

It’s one thing to see Black and brown people when we’re in the majority. At that point, I guess you can’t help it, right?

What about the other films that have a so called diverse cast and include BIPOC characters. The lack of audio description erases them from the Blind consumers screen; rendering people of color invisible.

For Black people and others of color, striving to be seen, heard and in general represented takes place in all aspects of life. What we experience in audio description isn’t unique, it’s a part of that systemic problem that persists throughout society. We can’t wait for it to be resolved outside of audio description and then trickle down. Why not do what we can to address these underlying issues that we’ve all inherited. At the very least acknowledge their existence and commit to doing better.

That’s what this episode is all about today. Doing better…

Music begins, a dramatic piano riff leads into a strong steady beat.

I reached out to some people who I know feel strongly about this issue. Audio description providers who already commit to this idea fully. The Social Audio Description Team who I featured here on the podcast last year.

Together, we’re drafting a pledge that we will invite everyone to sign. That is, everyone who believes in making audio description a representative, equitable and fair space. Those who want to truly see the world in all of its beautiful identities, shapes, sizes, abilities, ….

Do I think a pledge will resolve this? Not necessarily. Right now, I’m interested in eliminating the excuses. We’re in 2022, if you’re not interested in the proper representation of people of color then be firm in your stance and say that.

Don’t tell the community you’re for something while your actions say otherwise.

If you’re in support, raise your volume. I’m talking to consumers as well as AD professionals.

— From Judas and the Black Messiah:
“The whole neighborhood came out. Pushers, grannies, Crowns”
Fred Hampton:
Anywhere there’s people, there’s power”

TR:

I’m hoping to have this pledge published shortly and plan to report back to you. I’ll definitely link to the pledge from ReidMyMind .com and share on my social media pages; Facebook and Instagram @ReidMyMindRadio and
Twitter that’s @tsreid.

Join me in pledging to make audio description or our little microcosm of the world into an example of what we want this place to be. We can’t wait for the rest of them.

In the meantime, according to Ann Sur Fonne, she’s been putting me in position to meet people who want to see audio description recognized for the art it is. People ready and willing to help make AD better for all. People you’re going to meet in this upcoming season of Flipping the Script on Audio Description.
We’re talking:
AD in the lab; Creative approach or Compliance – do we have to choose?
Blind AD professionals, stand up, ya better recognize!
Get some AD to describe this outfit… Blind people are fly too!
And get ready, I’m bringing you La Professora…

The Flipping the Script on Audio Description season kicks-off Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Come rock with Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com
Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be.” Slick Rick)
Ann Sur Fonne:
“Oh, like your last name Thomas!”

— Reid My Mind Radio outro
Peace!

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description – Blind Grown & Sexy

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

“Let’s talk about sex…” ~ Salt-n-Pepa

When we talk about describing movies and television, eventually we have to discuss sex. Whether a romantic love scene in a film or adult content including racy images to porn videos, Blind adults who want access to this content should be able to get it.

Yet, for many people who are Blind or have Low Vision, their experience with this content has been less than stimulating. In fact, leaving some downright frustrated.

In this second to last episode of the FTS series, we’re talking to my new friends over at Alt Text as Poetry, that’s Bojana Coklyat & Shannon Finnegan. These two are all about encouraging everyone to have fun with descriptions while recognizing the art. We also hear from Danielle Montour who began exploring descriptions and all that has meant for her personally.

We kick off the episode with Pratik Patel who shares his opinions about the way adult content in films are currently described. But as we know, conversations about description always lead to much larger issues like infantilization of Blind and disabled people, sex education, consent and more.

You don’t actually have to be Blind to listen to this one or even consider yourself sexy, but it is for grown folks.

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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!

— Pulsating Swoosh Transition sound

Welcome, to another installment of Reid My Mind Radio. i’m your host Thomas Reid and thank you for joining me.

In this second to last installment of the Flipping the Script on Audio Description series, we’re discussing topics related to sex.
— Music begins, a slow, sentuous R&B track…

I’m not saying it’s X rated, but I am saying its for the Blind, the grown and yes, (– An orgasmic “Yes” from “When Harry Met Sally”) the sexy!

You don’t actually have to be Blind or even consider yourself sexy, but I do want you to know that in this episode, we say some words, discuss and suggest some things.

— A woman’s orgasmic moan. From “When Harry Met Sally”

Let’s get it on!
— Reid My Mind Theme Music

— A scene from Fifty Shades of Gray where a man is undressing a woman… being described

TR in Conversation with Pratik:
I think it was December of 2020. Do you remember?

Pratik:

I kind of generally remember the, the gist of what I was tweeting out. I remember watching a Netflix show. And there were a couple of sex scenes in it. And the narrator of the audio described content, basically used the same phrase again and again. They kiss passionately, they kiss passionately, they kiss passionately

Even though from the context you can tell that there was some other things going on. And I found that to be a bit stale.

TR:

This is Pratik Patel.

Pratik:

I am a 43 year old Asian cisgender Male. I have someone medium length, dark hair, brown skin. I’m five, eight. And on the thin side these days.

I own a small business that deals with digital accessibility in different products, websites, applications, as well as working with companies and in different organizations on integrating people with disabilities in their employment contexts.

TR:

Access, employment, hell yes, that’s grown and sexy!

Sex scenes in film and television have become way more prevalent especially with providers like HBO, Netflix and others who
are pushing the boundaries of what is acceptable on screen.
So what does that mean for Audio Description consumers?

Pratik:
I found a significant gap in what should be conveyed while describing a sex scene, and what was conveyed while describing a sex scene perhaps because it was the narrator not being comfortable. Or rather, the idea that disabled people or Blind people don’t really need description, even though, that may not be stated outright, it’s an idea that can still persist in people’s minds.

TR:

Hey, come in close, I have a secret to share with you. Blind people, Disabled people are sexual.
But, let’s take our time here and explore that gap.

Pratik:

I was looking at a review of a movie that I had just watched basic instinct 2, it had come out in 2005 2006. It had descriptions in the UK, and that was how I first encountered it.

It has quite a bit of sexual content in it.

There’s this scene between the main female character Catherine, played by Sharon Stone. And the main male character was a psychiatrist providing her therapy.

In one of the scenes, she is speaking to her therapist, and she knows that the therapist is attracted to her.

TR:

A highly sexual being, Stone’s character that is, is dressed in a short skirt.

— Audio from scene in Basic Instinct 2:
AD Narrator:
“She glances over her shoulder with a smoldering predatory expression, then drags the chair into the middle of the room. She straddles the chair with the with the back in front of her and hoists her dress up revealing her thighs.”

Sharon Stone Character:

“When you think about fucking me and I know you do…”

TR in Conversation with Pratik: 10:12
So she’s sitting with her legs open.

Pratik:10:16
Yes.

She has this entire monologue with a therapist. And in the background, you hear a sound, a rhythmic sound.

— Sample from the scene plays in the background.

And at the end of the scene, the narrator says…

— From Basic Instinct 2 AD Narrator:
“Suddenly, she stops touching herself.”

Pratik:

In some ways, the US version is even worse, because it doesn’t even tell you that she was touching herself.

In some cases, when the scene is moving really fast, and there isn’t enough time between dialog, I can understand that you leave out some information.
But it’s not the case in this and other shows or movies that I’ve seen. There’s plenty of gap.

TR in Conversation with Pratik:
no pun intended with the gap. Sorry.

(TR & Pratik share a silly laugh)

TR:

Ok, I never said I was grown!

Maybe you have experienced watching a film with a sighted person who can easily point out these gaps.
That’s the difference between what’s taking place on screen and what’s being described.

Pratik:

It brings up multiple points not only not having that information, but the context the artistic expression of that scene, you know, sometimes sex is sex is sex, but other times especially in movies like that sex is used for effect right? And not describing that is a bit of a travesty. I think.

— Music begins, a slow, sentuous Hip Hop groove

TR:

Let’s flip this, and explore from another angle.

Bojana:

I feel so often, when I’m reading alt text there isn’t much joy or delight. When there could be.

I have started to use Alt Text as Poetry as a lens to look at everything else that I’m engaging in.

TR:

That’s artis , Bojana Coklyat.
One half of Alt Text as Poetry,
who focus on getting people to think creatively when it comes to descriptions and access in general.

Fellow artist Shannon Finnegan makes up the other half of this dynamic duo.

Shannon:

We talk a lot about this idea of attention to language and just being aware and intentional about what the tone of the writing is, or what words are you using, jargon or slang.
Thinking about how that tone relates to the tone of the material or the image?
Trying out different things and learning from each other and not defaulting to one way of writing.

Some people have an association with poetry as super flowery language or kind of inaccessible. We don’t mean poetry in that sense. Access is at the core.
It’s more about bringing an intentional and creative mindset to it rather than writing a sonnet.

TR:

Shout out to Reid My Mind Radio alumni and family member, Cathy Kudlick who pointed me to Alt Text as Poetry.

The two each bring valuable perspective to this subject.
Bojana herself is a person living with low vision.

Bojana:

I am also a project manager at the museum of Art and Culture Access Consortium.
I am a white woman with short brown hair cut into a bob. I’m wearing a black cardigan. A red shirt with white polka dots behind me is a boring tan wall.
I use she her pronouns.

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon: 01:17
Shannon?

Shannon:

I am disabled, but my disability is physical. So it mostly affects my kind of walking and movement. I’m sighted which I think is important to clarify in the context of Alt Text as Poetry that I approach this material in terms of cross disability solidarity.
I am a white person with short hair. I’m in my studio. So I’m in the middle of a big art project. So I’m dressed for comfort.
I use they them pronouns.

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon:
You two superheroes, Tell me about the origin story of Alt Text as Poetry?

Bojana:

I love it. So can we make some outfits? I want some outfits.

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon:

Yeh, you should. And you have to describe them! (laughs)
Bojana:

Oh, yes, exactly. And they have to be tactile…

I was working on my master’s focusing on disability studies and art administration. Kevin Gotkin was trying to organize something around disability nightlife. So I went to that event. Me and Shannon, chit chatted a little bit. And we connected from there.

Shannon:

I was a resident at a place called IBEAM, that focuses on like, artists thinking about technology, and had just started formulating this idea of Alt Text as Poetry and felt like Bojana had a lot to add to the project.

We kind of came to this idea of Alt Text as Poetry, in contrast to the compliance oriented way of thinking about access generally, and certainly alt text that feels very dry and perfunctory and kind of like minimum effort and really doesn’t feel engaging or truly welcoming.
— Music ends

We started talking about this project as a way of creating time and space for conversation about text and image description. Not coming to it with like, Oh, we know all the answers about how to write the best image description, but much more like, wow, there’s a lot of questions and a lot of interesting things that come up in this process. And it would really be great to hear from other people.

Bojana:
I don’t have anything as exciting as like, you know, being exposed to gamma radiation and giving us Alt Text powers.

TR:

Well, we’ll see some of that power in description. Whether alt text or AD.

For now, Bojana shares some of her experience with what she describes as a sexy , romantic period drama, Bridgerton.

Bojana:

They never mentioned nudity. The love scenes they never really described very sexily.

I think it was like the final movie moment where the Duke and I can’t remember his love interest name, but they’re finally together in bed. And like, we’ve been waiting for this for how many episodes …
The audio describer is like , and the Duke is thrusting, repeatedly. Staying thrusting. And it was like the most detached, non sexy description of two people who have been so intensely attracted to each other. And I will never forget it.

Pratik:
I find that describers aren’t always conveying the context when it comes to describing sex scenes.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the 50 Shades of Grey trilogy. Terrible movie by the way, and terrible set of books. The only one I saw was the first one. I saw the UK version, I didn’t compare it to the US. But mostly the describer does a fantastic job of conveying the information of the movie, the context, and the sex scenes. But I found that the narrator was a bit shy. It felt like she was cringing when describing the scenes.

TR:

I could imagine the narrators comfort level could affect some Blind consumers.

Pratik, who was involved with early advocacy for the CVAA,
recognizes the difference between the quality of the movie and that of the audio description.

But what other aspects impact a viewer?

TR in Conversation with Pratik:

Let’s say it was really good description, would it make a difference for you to get that description from a man or a woman?
Pratik:

That’s a good question. I don’t think so. The accent does make a difference though.

For me, I find the UK accent to be highly sexy, especially female UK accents.

TR in Conversation with Pratik:

What about the texture of the voice? You know, tone?

Pratik:

The tone, ? Yeah.
TR in Conversation with Pratik:

So it does make a difference. So you wouldn’t want Roseanne Barr? (Laughs…)

Pratik:

No. Okay. Some people might find that sexy.
TR in Conversation with Pratik:

Woooo!!
Okay, no judgment!
Pratik:

When we talk about quality, I’m talking more about the content itself. Not the person delivering it. That’s highly subjective.

TR:

This is consistent with what we say, the most important piece of audio description is the writing.

Pratik:

What do you include in the kind of detail of two naked people that could get you the same context, that can give you the same information that’s being conveyed to the sighted people.

TR:
Shannon has some thoughts on this.

Shannon:

What’s wild to me is I have experienced very sexy descriptions in books. Right now I’ve been listening to the audio book, Red, White and Royal Blue, which is like a romance novel. And it’s extremely sexy.

Going back to the bridgerton example. It was a book that was adapted into a TV show and I haven’t read the books, but I was actually thinking recently it would be interesting to do that.

I’m sure there’s licensing and copyright issues around why maybe some of that language couldn’t be brought into the audio description, but how cool if that could be mixed in?

TR:

So we do have examples of language to fill the gap!

Shannon:

It’s just somehow that’s not when it comes to it as an access practice. There’s a different frame or something. I think for me, it also pushes up against this thing of like, a kind of infantilization of disabled people that always feels very dehumanizing to me.
Bojana:

Just remembering something in a book by Georgina Klieg, in “More Than Meets the Eye: What Blindness Brings to Art.” She was talking about a movie, I can’t remember what it was called.

TR:

The book is available on BARD and I’ll link to it on Bookshare on this episode’s blog post.
The movie is “The Sessions” and during a love scene, Helen Hunt’s character takes off her clothes.

Bojana:
I think it says she takes off her clothes, but does not describe her naked body at all, when other things have been described.

I think it’s the infantilization. And also the stigma attached that, oh, why would Blind people be interested in that. They’re not thinking about sex. That’s not something we should be talking about, maybe it could be offensive.

I think sighted people assume that human beings can only take in information through their eyes, and ears, and they forget about the other senses, and how important those are.

There’s real value in not only recognizing the ways we take in information but also all the ways we communicate.

Shannon:

Podcasts or books or literature or hearing from a friend about something they saw on vacation or things like that, like description is really all around us. And somehow all of that creative energy isn’t always getting there when it’s specifically around access.

— Music begins, a bass heavy, pulsating groove

Pratik:

When we talk about sexuality, there’s such variation in people’s preferences in terms of what they practice and in terms of what they’re attracted to, that it’s hard for us to say, this is what we should describe first. But I think the best way for us to look at and the best way for us to think about it is to look at different communities, sex positive communities, and to advocate for getting more description from individuals who posted and just different groups. For example, I know that a lot of kink communities tend to be pretty aware of disability issues. And when you point it out, they’ll start to think about how to make those spaces accessible.

Danielle:

Hi. I’m Danielle Montour. I am 24. I work primarily in accessibility and sex education. I’m getting into the kink education space as well.

TR:

Danielle and I share something in common.

Danielle:

I was born with bilateral retinoblastoma. I do not have any eyes anymore.

Let’s see, image description.

So right now I’m probably a little bit lighter than olive. So I have a warmer undertone type of skin. I am relatively petite. But I have a curvy build. I have hazel eyes, I have hair that goes almost to my waist, but it’s about to be cut by the end of the week. So it’s only going to be a little bit above my shoulders.

I am wearing a very, very bright smile. And my hazel eyes are kind of crinkled up the corners because my smiles are often big enough that my eyes do that.

TR:

Warm undertones, eyes that crinkle up on the sides,
she began exploring visual concepts through conversations with sighted friends who happened to be artist.
Learning the importance of detail.

Danielle:

What does my hair look like? What facial features are most noticeable? What do you see when you look at me first?

Does something I’m wearing bring out particular features.

I’ve tried to think of all the different pieces of information that sighted folks would get. And honestly, my image descriptions can be a paragraph long sometimes because I’m just trying to put all of the information that I would have possibly wanted to know about the picture. And if I want to know I’m sure somebody else might want to know, and if they don’t, they can just keep going.

TR:
Sharing these descriptions can be infectious.

Bojana:
So I make sure I have it in alt text and in the caption, so everybody can see the image description.

Sometimes I’ll see my friends start to right image descriptions.

Whoa, where’d you learn that?
I learned that from you.

At least people on my Instagram or my Facebook feed start to see examples of it and kind of reflect it back.

Shannon:

Some friends and colleagues, john Harmon and Molly Joyce did a dance and music performance and they had a director of audio description. It was Andy Slater, who’s a Blind artist and writer.

Putting someone who’s blind or low vision, in charge of that creative process makes a lot of sense in terms of setting the tone, and kind of making the plan and thinking about what the approach to it is going to be.

— Music ends – smakcs into…
— Audio from Radical Visibility Collective

TR:
Marginalized communities are producing progressive examples of audio description
weaved into performances. And even keeping it grown and sexy.

Shannon:
actually, I thought of a really good example. The performance by radical visibility collective. It’s put on by three people, it’s also related to queer and crip nightlife and, and the audio description is in music, and it is so fun. It really has that feeling of a dance party of the kind of ways that people are showing off on the dance floor. For me that was a kind of experience where I was like, Oh, right, okay, like this can be really fun, really sexy, very much in the same feeling of the performance in general.

TR:
Earlier in our conversation, Bojana mentioned an accessible Cabaret on a barge in Brooklyn.
I was intrigued and had to ask for more because parties and night life, that can be sexy!

— Audio from Radical Visibility Collective ends and smacks into…
— Music begins, a thumping club dance track…

Bojana:

I’m really glad you asked.

There was music, poetry being read, everything there was done with access. So everybody was wearing a mask.
There were non alcoholic beverages available. It was a very like relaxed environment.

It was just a way of being together in a space that would not just like, oh, it had a ramp or like a no barrier to entry. But there’s also the attitudes. So often you can go into a place that might be, quote unquote accessible as far as like the built environment, but you get there and you feel like, Oh, this person is acting a certain kind of way, because I’m disabled, and they’re not.

Shannon:

Our friend and colleague Kevin Gotkin has been doing a lot of research and planning around disability nightlife and also planning remote parties that happened over zoom, where there’s a DJ set, and there’s audio description available.

There’s sound description, so thinking about captioning, but also thinking about someone who’s describing the feel of the song that’s on.

TR:

So what are the implications of all this sexy access?

Danielle:

It kind of puts out a statement that our access matters. And it really kind of changed my perspective and thinking.

Now I’m kind of someone who is always going on and on about image descriptions and the art that can be involved in image descriptions.

I’m always asking blind people, why are you not describing your images at all, they will post images with no description.

It’s just a conversation that we have to continue having. And just recognizing that a lot of folks are where I was several years ago, in terms of audio description.

TR:

Danielle learned how she could benefit from accessing this visual information.

Danielle:

I started being able to kind of understand, like the facial expressions and kind of the silent things that were happening with the mood of the room

I just ended up finding that I had so much access to things. I didn’t realize that I could ask people about the colors of the decorations in the room, or how exactly somebody space looked, or how their face would pinch before they felt really ill. I didn’t know.

It kind of started setting me on equal footing with my sighted peers who had access to all these things for so long

TR:

Access to things like sexy advertisements that can let’s say arouse one’s interest.

Bojana:

As a person with low vision, who never has driven and never will,, I don’t think about how cars look, I don’t think about the design of cars.

I read this description of this one car, feline, like a panther about to strike. I was fascinated because the picture was right there. And they weren’t writing this description for access, they were writing this description to enhance the image or in order to draw people in.

— Sound of a Bugatti engine roaring like a feline…

I looked at the other descriptions of cars, and it wasn’t anywhere near as delicious.

I want to go to a car museum now. Like, let me touch your cars.

TR:

Imagine if online descriptions of clothes, shoes and other products were as sexy or captivating. Cha ching!

The need for access to sexual related content actually has implications that begin earlier in life.

TR in Conversation with Pratik:
What was your experience? If you care to talk about with sex education growing up? Was that something that you felt was accessible to you?

Pratik:
No. It wasn’t accessible.

I had a couple of good teachers in high school who were good enough to describe the content, but it still wasn’t enough.

And the book we were using for sex ed wasn’t brailled In fact, I think there are a bunch of copy pages. They played a couple of videos not accessible. You know, the typical banana video but I think the most difficult thing about that course was Male and female anatomy and what discussions that were around different anatomical parts.

I found that part to be missing in my education. It wasn’t until later in life when I started exploring that I figured things out. That’s a major problem in our current education system. blind students don’t have enough information.

Danielle:

I did not learn a lot in my sex education in school, I learned a lot from books. I got one when I was eight, and one when I was 10.
I was the one telling people what pelvic exams were when I was eight, because they were in a book that I read. It’s called, it’s perfectly normal and it was in Braille. I think the NBP,national Braille press, Brailed it.
Pratik:35:58
The male teacher was not comfortable having that conversation. I had a female teacher who did a health and wellness course, that was somewhat different than your normal health course with sex ed attached to it. She was a student teacher, young hip teacher, she was far more comfortable talking about sex. Not only generally to students, but she actually spent some time with me. Outside the course, with the itinerant teacher, working with me to talk about some sex ed issues.

And it only happened because I was persistent enough to ask questions. Not all students are comfortable enough to do that.

Danielle:

I didn’t get to learn a lot about 3d example of anatomy until I was out of my own house, even then, I only knew mine, until I started my phase of getting around and experiencing other bodies. And that’s when I learned a lot about what penises and vaginas look like.

I think it’s really healthy for people to have an idea of what different vaginas and penises look like, even as children because sighted kids get to see it.

I don’t think that we have to single out blind kids by giving them really super extended image descriptions or models that the sighted kids don’t get, I think we can actually give everybody access to those models and let everybody experience them.

And that sets the stage for really important access expectations for everything else later on, too, because kids are really good at learning that stuff. It’s the adults who are shitty at it.

Pratik:38:25

I don’t think we should be shy as a community using sex toys to demonstrate different things to blind students. There are some realistic models available.

TR in Conversation with Pratik: 38:57
Wow. If the male teacher was just nervous about having a conversation with you? (Laughing….)

Pratik:
(…Laughing) I can just imagine,.

Communities and parents have a role to play in this as well. And oftentimes, I think that’s where a lot of suppression comes in. Parents don’t see their children as having desires. Wanting sex. But I think the more we accept that disabled people are sexual beings, the better it is.

Danielle:
It’s called blind positive sex ed, the community group that I work in. They talk a lot about making realistic models.

Right now it’s more about genitalia. So different states of vaginas and penises, a flaccid penis, circumcised uncircumcised . Vaginally, we have some where it has been subjected to genital mutilation. All of these different things that we really have to think about.

That’s the beauty of models, just like the audio and image descriptions they can convey so many different points.

TR:

Points that go beyond the individual.

Danielle:
I work a lot in talking about consent, and consent in terms of sexuality and kink. All of these things I learned because I’ve had so many descriptions being thrown at me that I get to enjoy the art, but the person who described it does not belong to me and I have no ownership of them or their time.

I think conversations around sexuality and just sex and just all the raunchy things like everything, literally everything, talk about what a money shot is talk about what it looks like when somebody squirts talk about all these things because sighted people have access to that stuff, if they want it, blind folks don’t.

TR:

Of course, it’s more than access.
Danielle:

I think particularly in blind communities, access to this information is so new that there’s not a lot of examples of us conducting ourselves with respect in these ways. I might be the first rather sensual image description that a blind person has ever seen. Meanwhile, most sighted people I know, have seen 10s, hundreds 1000s of sensual pictures. And they’ve had a lot more practice having to try or not try to conduct themselves with some decorum whenever they see those pictures. So I think that’s all part of consent education, and what we talk about when we start opening up equal access to a lot of this information.

My intention is not to lambaste the blind community and be like, they’re all terrible for this and nobody else because like, we all know, sighted folks are just as bad with consent.

boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

Bojana:
People don’t understand boundaries, they think it’s out there and it’s there, right? Or their privilege to just comment on whatever they want to comment on.
People feel more anonymous online and they can do these things.

It’s hard to say where the boundary should be for people who are commenting.

If somebody wants to write a sexy and grown description, they should have that. Absolutely.
I think like anything with the internet you kind of curate it.

Try something out you see if that works and maybe you get a response you don’t want you kind of try to peel it back and edit yourself.

I’m thinking about how I describe myself
if there’s a picture of me and maybe it has some cleavage I’m probably won’t for that very reason. I don’t want to signal something.
I don’t know

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon: 54:39
So you would leave it out of the description? You’re censoring blind people. (Laughing…)

Bojana:
Oh, no. Strike that Thomas!

I feel like I’m reinforcing the sexiness of it. Just by writing it by noting it by marking it.
Shannon:
This gets to such an important topic in image description, there is always this prioritization and filtering, that happens, because you’re never gonna describe every single thing.
So you’re choosing certain things. There can be a mismatch, where it’s the thing that’s most important to me about sharing the photo, there may be something that really stands out to someone else about it, but I might gloss over that.

This also comes up against some issues around consent and description.

You’re describing an image of yourself, you get to make a choice about what parts of your body and how you want to name them and what you feel comfortable doing and what you feel you don’t. Certainly if you’re describing someone else, thinking about consent and that situation. If you know them, checking in with them about how they want to be described, or researching online about language they used to describe themselves.

I think especially for marginalized people, there is a potential for harm there.
Going back to boundaries or crossing a boundary and that of course, is this like Delicate Balance with like, not withholding information or like hiding something or not naming it because of a describers discomfort or unease. But also, being aware that there can be like power imbalances like talking about someone’s cleavage may make them feel vulnerable in a way that they shouldn’t have to be. Right.

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon: 1:00:27
Bojana when you said strike that Thomas we use, were you serious?

Bojana:
No. I’m just joking, joking around.

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon:

I thought so. But I just want to make sure.

Bojana:
thanks for checking.
TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon:
Yeah, absolutely. Get your consent. Cool.
(“consent” echoes for emphasis and transition)

TR:
sex education, understanding how to fit in society,
I’m telling you, Alt text, , Audio Description is more than entertainment. That access goes deep.

Danielle:
I never , in my image descriptions describe myself as an indigenous white woman. I don’t know what that means.
Often my skin tone is not the same shade year round. At its widest point, it is an olive tone. At its darkest. It’s many, many, many shades darker.

Sometimes I’ll notice when my skin gets darker, how I’m treated. Sometimes it’s just like, who talks to me when I’m in public. White women in general really will approach me a lot. I noticed that they start avoiding me the darker my skin gets. When I’ve gone to other places like Florida I will have folks start speaking Spanish to me thinking I am Latina.

TR:

Body and facial features are tied to identity. The implications aren’t just how we’re viewed in society.

Danielle:
As a disabled person, my body was always public property for people to make remarks on. In the summer, it got so much worse, and people would make so many jokes about my skin, and what I looked like, and my body shape and everything. And I thought, for the longest time I thought it was because I was showing more skin, and that I was just genuinely ugly. I did not realize that my skin was getting darker and darker and darker, the longer I spent outside.

Because I was on my mom’s side, primarily white, my father’s side wasn’t really in the picture all that much. I am by far the darkest in my family. There were just a lot of jokes made about that, even in passing, whether it was by my family members, or just by people around me. They would always make remarks about how dark I was.

It’s a whole big thing that I’m still working through, honestly, in terms of my racial identity.

Shannon:
I went to this audio description workshop that was put on by a UK organization called Whiplash. And they were talking a little bit about how self description can fall a little bit heavier on marginalized people, marginalized in various ways.

I felt that a little bit around gender identity, I’ve had like a shifting understanding of my gender and it’s hard to put that into words or to kind of like process that or update that in real time. It also has been really helpful to think about what my gender presentation is versus how my gender feels.

— Music Begins, A sexy , smooth melodic Hip Hop track
TR:

Alt Text as poetry offers some great resources for those interested in stepping up their description game, including workshops.
Shannon:

We basically get together with small groups of people, talk to them about what alt text is and talk about this idea of Alt Text as Poetry and then practice together.

And then we’ve also created a workbook, a self guided version of the workshop. And we also now have a blog as part of the project called alt text study club, where we gather interesting examples of alt text, again, in that spirit of learning from other people and thinking about different approaches or ways of writing.

Bojana:

One of the things in the workshops that I love, is just when people have the chance to share.
Maybe we’re talking all about the same image. And people have so many different perspectives.
Just giving people a chance to share and learn from each other, I think is just one of the more beneficial parts of the workshop.

People sometimes get so caught up in writing text correctly and perfectly, instead of just doing the best they can and having some fun with it and adding a creative flair. I think that’s something that we also talk about and encourage.

TR:

So whether we’re talking about describing love scenes in film, subjective images that we deem sexy like
those featuring the curves of a woman’s body to those of a stylish sports car, having fun and being creative is a great place to start. Who knows where it will take you.

Bojana:
Thomas, if all of a sudden, all my decisions get a lot sexier. She’s talking about cleavage and… (Laughing)

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon: 57:00
Just point them to this episode. (Laughing…)

Bojana:

That’s the Grown & Sexy episode.

TR:

Big shout out to my grown and sexy guests;
Alt Text as Poetry, that’s the dynamic duo of :
Bojana, who you can find on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram

Bojana:
at bojana Coklyat. That’s B as in boy, O J A N AC O K L Y A T as in Tom.

TR:
Shannon!
Shannon:
at Shan S H A N and then my last name, Finnegan F I N E G A N. So that’s for both Instagram and Twitter.

TR:

Danielle

Danielle:
I’m Danielle Montour on Facebook. I think i’s still Can’tC4Shit on Instagram
Can’t, letter C, number 4, shit…

TR:
You’re funny for that one Danielle!

And Pratik Patel is on Twitter @PPatel

Pratik:
Spelling it out… PPatel

TR:
I need you all to understand, you are each official members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!
— Air horn

Subscribe wherever you get podcasts and join the family.
We have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com.
I’ll let you in on a family thing…
That’s R to the E I D…
— Sample “D! And that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick

TR:
Like my last name!
— Reid My Mind Outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

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!

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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.

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* Leave a voice mail at 570-798-7343
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Listen

Resources

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;