Posts Tagged ‘Accessibility’

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

Doing Your Thing With Disability: We Play Too

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

An old fashion television in black and white with an antenna that has purple tips.  The outline of the Television is in the color teal and the knobs of the TV are purple.  On the screen is the game, Pong. The puck is in the middle and on the right is a chalk figure of a blind person with a white cane playing against a chalk figure of a person in a wheelchair on the left.  Above the figures is the score of 8 to 1 and on top of the score is the word pong in between white thick lines.  Above the TV is the Reid MY MIND Logo and next to the logo the wording says “Doing your thing with Disability. Under the TV says We play too!
From all sorts of sports and activities to video games; people with disabilities find ways to not only play, but excel. In this latest episode [Accessibility Consultant Brandon Cole](http://BrandonCole dotnet/) joins me to talk about the various barriers, adaptations and finally, accessibility, being built into video games.

We’ll hear from players like Orlando Johnson. Once an avid sighted gamer who even owned his own arcade version of Mortal Kombat and now benefits from adaptations and access. Eron Zeno talks to us about his experience as a gamer with mobility disabilities. In each case, all of my guests continue to do their thing, specifically, video games, with their disability.

Listen

Resources

Jerry Lawson – Father of the video game cartridge

Transcript

Transcript

Show the transcript


– Sound of Pong

TR:
No! There’s nothing wrong with the audio.
You’re listening to the OG of video games, Pong *Pong noise* from Atari.

Growing up, whenever my mom would announce that she had to go to Sears or another department store with an electronics section, I’d get excited and ask to go with her.

When we’d get there, I’d make a B-line right to the electronics department and hope no one else was already planted in front of the television playing Pong.

— Space Invaders sounds

That later turned into going to a local Five & Dime store called “Lamstons,” which had two or three arcade games in the corner of the store. Space Invaders… that was my ish!

I thought nothing could ever beat getting Space Invaders at home when we finally got our Atari system.

-introduction from Duke Nukem

Years later as an adult, I played games on my computer, Duke Nukem. At least, until that awful day.

Following one of my marathon sessions, I stood up after playing for maybe about two hours and nearly collapsed. The room was spinning and I was nauseous.

I figured I overdid it. I stopped playing for a few days and the same thing happened the next time, only sooner. I tried changing the perspective from a first person view to something else. It just wasn’t fun!

A few years later, I thought I’d try again, this time with a Playstation. Grand Theft Auto, Madden. It was good for a while, but ultimately, I didn’t have a choice, I just wasn’t able to play. Gaming was literally making me sick.

I believe the reason was monocular vision and the lack of depth perception.

Ironically, today, after becoming Blind, I have more opportunity to actually play video games.

— “Let them play!” (The phrase continues as more join in) Sample from The Bad News Bears

For years now, the call for developers to make their games accessible to disabled gamers has grown louder.

There’s been lots of things happening!

Welcome to Reid My Mind Radio y’all! I’m Thomas Reid. As we continue with our theme, Doing Your Thing With Disability, we’re talking about gaming, because we play too!

–“Time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of gum!” Duke Nukem

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Brandon:
Video games are life! I’m a pretty hardcore gamer these days.

The idea to me, that my past self had was, “how can you play video games, you’re blind?” is really kind of based on the same philosophy that some sighted people who don’t understand blind gamers have.

“How can blind people play games?” I didn’t understand it. Because I didn’t realize that audio was such a big part of games, such an important part of games that you could use that, to learn patterns and to learn what things meant and to figure out how to play a game.

TR:

This is Brandon Cole, an award winning Accessibility Consultant

Brandon:

He/him. I have black hair. I am six feet tall, exactly. Just an awesome looking dude.

TR:

Well, we have something in common.

Brandon:
I was born with a type of cancer called Retinoblastoma. Totally blind. From the age of two months.

TR:

His introduction to video games began with his older brother.

Brandon:

He was like, hey, Brandon.

–Mario Bros coin collecting and upgrading sounds

You want to go play some Mario Brothers on our Super Nintendo. And at the time, little six year old me was like, what, how? That’s a video game, which means I can’t play it because I can’t see the video.

That was past me. I used to not think the way I do now.

We begin to play and before you know it, I’m breaking bricks, and collecting coins and extra lives and saving princesses and defeating bosses. And it’s amazing and I’m feeling this great sense of accomplishment!

And the game ends. Yes. Somehow I beat the entire game in one shot!

TR:

Then?

Brandon:

My loving brother handed me the unplugged second player controller while he played the entire game, the entire game.

I mean, what do you even say to that?

TR in Conversation with Brandon:
That’s an older brother.

TR:

Of course, he felt crushed. He thought he was somehow in the gameplay, just like his older brother.

But all wasn’t lost. The experience made him realize something.

Brandon:

I did learn that I could follow sound effect patterns.

I decided that I would one day, beat a game without his help.

From then on, I just started trying games and seeing what I could learn about games and seeing what I could do. Eventually I did it! And the first game I beat without my brother’s help, was the original Killer Instinct for the Super Nintendo.

And I never looked back since.

TR in conversation with Brandon:

There you go. Older siblings.

Brandon:

Take that!

Brandon:

Once I started gaming, I never stopped, I just kept trying different games.

I tried a lot of games that I couldn’t play. Sometimes I just flopped completely, depending on how complex the game was. But like, there were plenty of games where I would start to play the game and I would start to figure out some of the things that might help me get through some part of the game.

TR:

Take the game Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation One as an example.

-– Metal Gear Solid music plays

Brandon:

That game is a stealth game, where you’re not supposed to be seen, you’re supposed to hide all the time. So it’s not easy if you’re blind, because you can’t see the guards , but you can hear them and they have very audible footsteps. You can hide from the guards based on where your location is versus where their location is.

TR:

Brandon’s step Dad couldn’t get past a certain level during the game.

Brandon:

It’s a room that is filled with infrared lasers. And if you break any of these laser beams that are going all across the room, up and down, at different intervals, the doors slam shut. The room is flooded with gas and you die and there’s nothing you can do about it.

TR:

So step Dad let Brandon figure it out.

Brandon:

I spent maybe two hours working that room, failing over and over and over again. But little by little, figuring out the amount of steps to take before I had to stop to wait for the beam to move again. Then when I had to crawl when I had to walk to get past the lower beams or higher beams. I trialed and errored my way through that entire room and made it to the other side eventually without breaking any of the laser beams.

Technically, it wasn’t an accessible game. It’s just that I managed to figure out a way through that part.

TR:

Failing over and over again, but continuing to work at it. Crawling, walking to get past laser beams. Trial and error to make it to the other side?

Qualities many disabled people seem to have in abundance.

This isn’t just about gaming, we’re talking about the real skills behind leveling up in life.

But honestly, we shouldn’t have to do all that. We just want to play too, right?

Let’s take a look at the inaccessibility faced by disabled gamers and some of the creative adaptations they find in order to be in the game. Let’s start with blind and low vision gamers.

Orlando:

My name is Orlando Johnson, I am an African American male approximately 46 years of age, bald, I have a beard.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Shout out to the black bald beard gang. Let’s go.

Orlando:

Let’s get it!

TR:

Again, I have something in common with my guest.

Orlando:

And also love spending time with my family and my grandchildren. Every time I get to spend time with them is a joyous moment for me.

TR:

Ok, for the record, having something in common with the host isn’t part of the criteria I employ when selecting guests.

In this case, I was really just looking for the perspective of someone who once enjoyed the games visually.

–Music Begins, an 8 bit game melody that morphs into a Hip Hop beat.

Orlando:

Let me take you back to Christmas back in the 80s. I got my first Atari 800 video game console.
That first year my brother and I that Christmas morning, we played Donkey Kong all morning. Space Invaders. That started the love of the games right there.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:
In terms of the Atari, let me just test your knowledge for a second, brother. How do you repair a cartridge? How do you fix a cartridge?

Orlando:

First thing you do is take it out and blow on it.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

There you go! He knows what he’s talking about!

Orlando:

A matter of fact, I have an interesting little anecdote about cartridges. And it’s about a gentleman named Jerry Lawson – an African American engineer who helped design and engineer those video game cartridges.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Talk about it!

Orlando:

I would like to expose more people to that knowledge of this gentleman. I’ll send the link to who this gentleman was and what he accomplished in the video game industry.

TR:

Check out this episode’s blog post for that link over on ReidMyMind.com.

Orlando:

I’ve just continued to evolve with the gaming industry. Back in 2001, I purchased a full size Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine and I kept that thing for over 10 years. And played it all the time. I loved it.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

That is so cool!

TR:

I think it’s fair to say he really enjoyed and invested in his gaming.

Orlando:

April of 2015, I experienced a lot of migraines and didn’t know what was causing them. After my wife and I got back from our honeymoon, we just got married the year before. I wound up going to the hospital two weeks after the honeymoon. My brain swelled up and it crushed my optic nerves. And that was it for me for sight.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

What did that mean to you, when you could no longer play that Mortal Kombat?

Orlando:
You want to be a part of the community of your friends, everybody else is doing things. And when you’re not a part of that community, you feel isolated. And that isolation can drive you crazy. That’s one of the things that I needed to change. I’m like, I got to explore different ways for me to play games. It’s not just that I can’t play games, I have to find a way that I can get back into playing games.

TR:

And that’s exactly what this former Las Vegas bouncer has been doing.

Orlando:

Technology was always my jam.

After I was done with bouncing, I went over and started working in the telecommunications industry, and I worked for Sprint for about eight years.

Then the smartphones took over. I went to work for Apple for a little bit. Six months into the job at Apple, I went blind.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Did you know about voiceover at the time?

Orlando:
No, I didn’t. Not when I lost my sight. A week or two in the hospital, I had a second generation iPad. My wife, she did a little research and said “hey, you should check out this thing called VoiceOver.

And that was the first time I heard of it or heard anything about it. And I figured since I knew how to use an iPad as a sighted person, Voiceover thing shouldn’t be that difficult. Well, when you’re first starting out, it is difficult.

TR:

Orlando not only learned the technology, but later shared that knowledge as an Access Technology instructor. His advice for anyone getting back into gaming after any degree of blindness? Learn your technology!

Orlando:

I had to master that first before I can start playing a video game. On a computer, if you don’t know how to insert a drive and copy a file from somewhere or unzip something, you’re not going to play the game that you want to play.

TR:

No matter the platform you choose to play on, computer, console like an XBox or PlayStation, smart phone, inaccessibility is there.

Brandon:

There’s things like navigating the games menus. And it’s a challenge we overcame in the past by just memorizing the menus.

TR:

But even first reading the menu requires some work.

Orlando:

In my journey in playing games, one of the workarounds I found is, anybody thats aware of, apps that help blind people see things like Seeing AI or Super Sense.

One of the things that I used to do was load up that app on my tablet. And I would stand my tablet in front of the monitor. And I would listen to the OCR coming out of the app, so I can make the choices on the screen for the game that I’m trying to play.

Brandon:

I use NVDA. Since I stream games, I have a capture card. Even if the game was a console game, I can still send the game’s video feed to my PC, because I have a capture card anyway.
I will then scan that image with NVDA as OCR and read the text from there.

I even play entire games that way, there’s a visual novel called The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. It has a little bit of voice acting, but not much voice acting. It’s almost all text. But it’s literally OCR that allows us to play it, because we can read the text with it, and it reads out pretty well.

TR:

Gamers with low vision used magnifiers to enlarge on screen text. Today there are more games including zoom mode, text enlargement, contrast modes and multiple color blind modes tested by people with varying color blindness. More games are being shipped with menu narration making that process accessible to those who are Blind or have low vision.

Brandon:

The biggest challenge I’d say these days, though, is navigation of the game itself. The game world itself.

The thing about video games is they’ve been a growing industry for years and years and years. When I say growing, I mean, everything about games has grown, the production value has grown, and the size of the game worlds have grown significantly.

Games these days have huge open worlds filled with buildings and giant areas you can explore and find new quests and new things. Thats a big challenge these days.

Games aren’t simple anymore. Games used to be easy to work around in a lot of cases back in the day, because there wasn’t much to them. Nowadays, it’s a much bigger task to try to find workarounds like that.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about folks who are deaf or hard of hearing?

Brandon:

The actual spoken dialogue is a huge part of games these days. Because story and narrative have become so much more important these days than they used to be in video games. Games are telling very, very deep stories now.

TR:

Complex narratives and the sound design that is useful to Blind players, can help Deaf and Hard of Hearing players by incorporating both subtitles and captions.

Brandon:

Subtitles would be like, character dialogue, speaker names followed by what they said. Whereas captions would be everything else.

More and more games are starting to support this nowadays. You will have a caption that appears. Like, “wooden floorboard creeks.” And it will have an arrow that points to the location of that sound. Where that sound took place in relation to you, the character.

That arrow pointing down? You’re like, oh, god, there’s something behind me.

You have to do it right. You have to fill the appropriate screen space with it, because you don’t want to block anything else on screen while you’re captioning things.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about language? I’m assuming most of these games are in English,?

Brandon:

Sure, a lot of these games are in English, but many of them have alternate language choices as well.

A little bit of a shout out.

So the Last of Us Two, and you’ll hear me do this a lot because I really loved the work that we did on that game. The Last of Us Two is available in 14 different languages.

So when we worked on that game, we decided that any language the game was available in for people to play in general, then the text to speech narration that the game has should also be available in that language. So I’m happy to announce Last of Us Two is available for the Blind in 14 different languages, because narration is supported on every language that the game is supported on.

Boom!

–Jazzy hip hop music begins to play

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about mobility? What about folks with mobility related disabilities?

Brandon:
As games have become more complex, so have their controls.

You have controllers these days that have 12, 13 buttons on them. Those who have mobility issues can’t always press every single one of those buttons when there’s something they need to do with those buttons.

Eron:
My name is Eron Zeno. He/him. I’m a light skinned black man. A bit on the larger side, a bit hefty.

–laughs

I rock a Mohawk 24/7.

I am missing my right arm completely. And the left is more of a nub. I have the upper part of my left arm, I’m missing my forearm, and my wrist and elbow are connected. I only have one finger. A fun fact, through X rays and examinations, it has been deemed by my physicians my middle finger actually.

TR in conversation with Eron:

–Laughing

Nice!

TR:

Eron is also a wheelchair user.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

Why don’t you tell me a little bit about when you first sort of got into gaming?

Eron:
I was born in August. When I was brought home, it was very close to Christmas. We were all sitting around and opening presents and everything. And one of my brothers got a Super Nintendo. And I was actually in his lap and he was trying to put the controller under my feet to get me to play. I was too young to realize what was going on. But that was my first introduction. Through some happenstance, I actually wound up inheriting that Super Nintendo and that was my first console.

TR:

Coincidence? Or is there something to be said about gaming and the opportunities it presents to bond with family?

I’m sure there are other benefits.

For Eron, as a child doctors suggested removing the nub on his left side in order to fit him with a prosthetic arm. Yet one doctor specifically had alternative views.

Eron:

He suggested a lot of children actually grow up using both the nub and their feet to a better availability than having no arms at all. So he suggested instead of trying to coax a surgery around that, it would be better to one, get me used to my finger, and then also promote the usage of my feet. And I mean really promote.

So anything you would give your child normally like a rattle or toy or anything like that. He said, give it to his feet. Make his feet known as his compatibility to the world.

One of the things that was suggested by the doctor was video games, they built hand eye coordination very quickly.

TR:

If game controllers were made specifically for hands, there has to be lots of challenges adapting them for use with feet.

Eron:
When I first started with the SNEZ controller, there’s a D pad and two buttons, that’s easy. It’s straightforward.

My second console was another hand me down, I had an N64 drom my uncle.

Now, that controller has the worst background.

–Laughs

Just the convoluted layout that makes no sense. And for a person with hands complaining, giving it to a person with no hands, only maybe 30% of the controller was usable for me.

I made my way around that. And years went by, I got into the GameCube, and the PlayStation 2. And I actually stopped using consoles around the Xbox.

TR:

Eron realized there were lots of games he just couldn’t play. Some involved using a controller with a trigger.

Eron:

I managed. I liked video games, but I was just kind of disappointed at how far it was moving from my capabilities.

That’s actually when I started getting into PC gaming.

TR:

At first, he found games that didn’t require complicated controllers.

Eron:

My first introduction to PC gaming was actually RuneScape. There’s not a lot of controllers required. It’s right click and left click. That’s it.

Years later, I actually found out that you could download programs to your computer that allow you to rebind keyboard controllers, mice even.

My first introduction to that was actually a program called X pattern. I actually found that at the end of its life cycle. And that allows you to implement key bindings on a controller. And most people they’re like, “Well, why aren’t you just using the controller on a computer?”

Well, most developers don’t allow for rebinding the controls. And the controller is actually really easy interface for me to use on my feet. The keyboard you can imagine, a little painful.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

So what is your setup?

Eron:

I change out a lot due to certain games or setups or things I need, but by default, I have a controller front and center on the floor right in front my office chair. I do sit at a desk.

My keyboard is plugged into my computer but led down below the desk on the floor, next to the controller. I use my right foot to type and only my right foot. It’s a pain to use both feet.
You gotta balance on your butt and hover.

I use both feet for my controller, but what if I need to type.

On my desk, I do have a mouse that I use with my aforementioned nub. I can’t use the mouse buttons, but what I do is I have a setup where it’s a bunch of zip ties and cat collars essentially. And I MacGyvered a harness that I can attach to my hand and move the mouse around.

My mouse actually failed on me a few days ago. There’s something with these new braided cable wires and they give out way too easily. But I’m using an art tablet right now as a mouse. Same setup, a bunch of cat collars and zip ties.

–Both Thomas and Eron laugh

I make it work, though.

TR:

Like MacGyver, finding off the shelf supplies and just rigging things together. It just works for him.

Eron:

You’ve seen tablet holders? It’s like an arm you can adjust in your car or on your bed rest or whatever. You can have it hold your tablet up to your chest. I have one of those kind of coiled up into a stand that I hold a cutting board on. And it’s at an angle just so I can reach it.

Because I don’t have full arm length. I can’t even reach my desk from sitting up straight. So I have this like brought right up to my chest. I have that for mouse movement and stuff.

TR:

Although Eron moved away from consoles when it seemed it surpassed his capabilities. today he finds himself playing again.

Eron:

One thing I found out is that you can buy adapters that can enable you to use other controllers on the console, as well as mice and keyboards.

I bought a switch a while back. I love the thing.

I’ve been using an adapter to play shooters and Legend of Zelda and all that stuff. And it’s really nice to be able to use a mouse to aim instead of fiddling with the joysticks.

There’s still no controller bindings. I’m talking about third party controllers. If you buy a pro controller meant for the Switch, you can actually rebind the bindings on a Nintendo Switch controller.

I have one. But for sizing reasons, I can’t use the whole thing with my feet.

Brandon:

The accessibility conversation has been happening, and things like button remapping now exist.
Some games even go so far as to have a one touch option. It’s more difficult than you might think. But it is fantastic when it happens.

We have accessories now like the Xbox adaptive controller, which allows mobility, disabled folks to basically attach whatever switches they want to use, or their controller, they can attach it to that controller, and configure buttons however they like, based on whatever switches they have.

Eron:

It’s this giant disc jockey looking table. It’s got like two giant soft pads on it that look like records.
But they’re actually just giant buttons. They figured you have a large surface to hit, you don’t have to be necessarily that accurate with your buttons.

If you plug in a controller, it actually only lets you use half the controller. They expect you to be so disabled, you cant use a full controller. Which made no sense, it’s like if this is for adaptability, everybody’s got a different thing they can do. Why not enable it so that you can split up something or you can use the whole something? Instead of assuming everybody is bound to “oh, I can only use this specific apparatus.”

TR in Conversation with Eron:

Are you in touch with any other gaming companies? Do you ever reach out?

Eron:

The few times that I have, I’ve gotten kind of copy pasted responses. So I don’t really bother. I find my own solutions at this point.

TR:

Some other challenges include what’s known as quick time events. These require holding down or rapid tapping of buttons.

Game developers are slowly becoming more inclusive when thinking about game play.

Implementing skip puzzle options, for example, in order to help those with cognitive disabilities who may need a bit of assistance advancing to the next level of game play. Time pressure for some can be really difficult as well.

Brandon:

They’ll be in a situation where they have three seconds to make an important game decision that will affect the game story.

When you’re in the middle of a game story, and you become attached to the characters and you really care about what happens to them and then you have to make this life or death decision. “Okay, this person lives and this person dies.”

If you’ve grown to care about them, that’s intense pressure to put on someone.

Some games these days have the ability to either extend timers like that or remove them entirely. That’s great. That’s a really, really good move.

TR:

Okay, Not a gamer? Perhaps you felt the pressure when using an automated phone system and trying to quickly enter your date of birth before the time expires. How many times have you just wanted to throw your phone? Come on, I know it’s not just me.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Are there any considerations for folks with monocular vision today?

Brandon:

I don’t know anything specifically for monocular vision.

There is the ability these days to remove screen shake from games, so a lot of games have special effects. You do this really big hit and the screen shakes to make you feel like it was a big hit. You can turn that off nowadays.

Games use an effect called motion blur. So if things are moving very quickly, they will kind of blur as if they’re moving fast to kind of give you that illusion of speed. Some people can’t handle the motion blur either. And so these days, you can either dull that or turn it off.

Some people get headaches afterwhile if they see those effects or some people get sick to their stomach, or they see too much screen shake.

TR:

Headaches, nausea, not the result you want when trying to relieve a bit of stress or having a good time while playing video games. But that’s not life threatening.

Brandon:
These days, there is actually a required warning in video games when something in a game could spark a seizure.

This recently came into controversy because of a game called Cyberpunk 2077, which didn’t very clearly outline this, and did have a sequence that actually did cause people to have seizures. Their outline was buried in their license agreement, you know, the thing that no one ever reads?

That’s where they put their warning, instead of putting it in the front and center of the game when you first load it up which is usually what is required.

When you load up a game, if there is something that could cause a seizure, there should be a warning right away. And most games that have these things will do that.

Although I will say in the case of cyberpunk, because of all the backlash, they actually patched the sequence itself. The video in question where that lighting sequence was shown that caused those seizures actually changed it to be a different pattern of light that didn’t cause seizures.

TR:

Would you be surprised if I told you there’s a segment of the population that is just straight hatin’ on adaptations.

Brandon:

Some people complain about accessibility features, saying that they make games too easy and blah, blah, blah, blah, and they’re cheating and whatever.

It’s not that people like to use them as cheat codes, although some do that too, I’m sure. But people tend to complain about them, because they feel that it’s dulling the game itself.
My response to that is, it’s better to allow people to actually play the game and experience it than to worry so much about how hard the game is.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

It’s not really impacting them, though, right? They don’t have to use it.

Brandon:

Right, right. That’s what I don’t understand.

Especially with single player games. If a game isn’t multiplayer, then what does it matter to you what other people do to complete the game? It doesn’t matter.

TR:

That goes beyond gaming, doesn’t it? Some people don’t want to consider that they themselves may have an advantage or a privilege. Working senses, dexterity, financial means to afford the equipment, games, time to play. These overly competitive types of dudes have no desire to be in the same class as a disabled player.

But who has time for them?

Fortunately, companies like Microsoft recognize that we game too! They’re making sure that we’re included from the start or out the box.

Orlando:

With the XBox Series S it’s one of the newer generation consoles that were hard to find for a while, but I managed to get myself one. The setup of that, I watched videos of Brandon Cole and other people on YouTube, they were discussing, the unboxing experience. When they said it has Braille on the thing, so you know where to plug things in at. I was impressed just with that level of accessibility.

I set it up all by myself. And it was so easy to set up because everything talked to me. There’s a QR code on the screen and you just aim your phone at the QR code to set up your account login. And it was just super simple.

TR:

And he tried a lot of platforms.

Orlando:

I’ve done everything from retro gaming on a Raspberry Pi. Gaming on my MacBook, gaming on a PlayStation four, Xbox console, Apple TV, I’ve tried to do all of it.

I’ve got it set up to the point right now where I don’t have it hooked up to a computer or a monitor. I played my Xbox console through the Xbox app. I’ve paired a controller to my phone or tablet. And then I log into the app and I remotely access my console through the app.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Why?

Orlando:

Well one, I can go anywhere around the house. I can go to the backyard and play videogames if I wanted to.

It opens up that freedom of just movement. I don’t need to be bound to a television now. I’ve learned to embrace the audio side of things where you can just go sit down at dinner and you have your controller and some headphones, you’re still playing your game and everybody else is doing their thing.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Now that’s not appropriate during family time. Come on!

TR:

It is cool though!

Notice what actually is happening here. He not only accepted the tools he has to game with, but he continues to seek out ways to really make it work for him.

It sounds like maybe a metaphor about adjusting to disability?

Hmm? I mean, we’re talking about more than fun and games here!

As if video games could provide some other benefits.

Brandon:

There’s an app, called Microsoft landscape. It actually takes your Google Maps idea and projects that in 3D audio around you. You can have a real life beacon that you set that plays in 3D audio, while you wear headphones. And you literally follow that beacon, like the same way you would in a video game that will take you to your actual destination.

TR:

There’s games to help make exercise fun.

Rather than forcing yourself to get on your treadmill, why not gamify that experience by playing a game that transports you to the Zombie Apocalypse.

–Sounds of shooting and dialouge from Zombies Run plays in the background.

Brandon:
There’s a game called Zombies Run. Its a game that has a story.

It’s literally a game about you running. Your character is called a runner. And runners are the ones that are dispatched out to get supplies for the base.

You’re running. The better you do at the running. You won’t get eaten by zombies for one thing, but the other thing is…

TR:

You’re working out. Getting that heart pumping for real and increasing those endorphins!

Brandon:

The same effect getting an achievement on Xbox or a trophy on Playstation has on people just getting a little reward spike.

TR:

The gaming industry has changed a lot since Pong, huh!

As accessibility continues to become part of the game, it’s important to recognize future technologies. Virtual Reality for example.

Eron:

It’s not really off the ground yet. There’s some things that are cool, some things that are like, eh that’s not really working right now.

If anybody’s familiar with the Half Life series. We got the first one, the second one was great. And then the third one comes out. And it’s a VR game.

What’s the problem with that? Well, the first and second ones were first person shooters, you got a mouse, you got a keyboard, or you’re on a controller, you can manage that. You can rebind controls to make it suit your needs.

A VR setup, besides the headset in the immersion and all that. You have two controllers.
There’s no way to interface the controllers. You have to use the two motion controls. And those are purely for hands. There is no foot or nub or stumped interface. It’s just you got hands or you don’t.

TR:

That all too familiar feeling that accompanies any sort of technology. Access gained rarely feels permanent.

Eron:

A lot of my friends actually jumped into VR, and they’re like, “oh, man, you gotta check out like, VR chat, new half life, this MMO or that?” And I’m like, how?

“Bro you could put the headset on and let your wife play?”

wha… What?!

TR in converswation with Brandon:

Why do they always go there?

TR:

Newsflash y’all, family members are not personal assistants.

As if they’re just sitting around waiting to play a game for you, describe the latest picture that the sender could have easily described.

Eron raised some other good points about the financial cost to access for those with mobility disabilities. Adapters have a real cost to them that not everyone can afford. Would you want to pay more for an accessible game?

But there are other reasons to be excited.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about the process of creating? Do you know about the accessibility of that? Do we have some blind folks who are actually developing games?

Brandon:

We do have blind game developers out there. Primarily those developers are working on audio games.

I will say that there are some advances coming to blind game development in the form of at least one engine that is made for the blind to develop games, although this engine is geared towards role playing games specifically. But there is an engine called Sable that’s coming out. Hopefully, in the next couple of years.

And that engine is literally designed so that blind people can create their own custom made RPGs, role playing games.

TR:

That’s what I’m talking about! Not only do we game too, but we make as well.

Ok, Reid My Mind Radio family, I know some of y’all are TVI’s or teachers of the visually impaired. Please, make sure you put this information into the brains of your students. I want to play a game in the not so distant future, that is truly FUBU – for us by us!

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about, in-game audio description? Is that something we can look forward to?

Brandon:

I think it’s fair to say that the future is bright for video games and audio description. I think people will be surprised at the level of quality you’re going to get when that happens.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The developer has to be involved in that.

Brandon:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah heavily.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The audio quality right there has just been raised, you know, exponentially because they’re gonna care.

Brandon:

Oh yeah, they are, for sure are.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Yeah, so that’s fantastic.

Brandon:

The future is very bright. I cant say much more, I wish I could. But oh man, are things coming up that are going to blow peoples’ minds.

TR:

In the meantime, you can check out Brandon doing the narration for several video game trailers.

Brandon:

For a game called Rainbow Six extraction, I did the Audio Description narration for most of those.

TR:

I’m really thinking about getting back into gaming. I’ve played some audio games on my IPhone. I’m wondering if it’s time to try some titles on the PC or maybe even get an XBox.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out if it’s really going to feel as entertaining as it once was?

Orlando:

I would say that it depends on the person and the level of enjoyment that they’re looking for. Yes, there will be those frustrations.

If somebody’s brand new to something, they don’t know, there’s always a learning curve. If you’re somebody that likes to learn new things, accept the challenge of trying to play a video game, because that’s going to be the ultimate learning curve right there.

You have to learn, where does the character need to go, because if I think I’m moving forward, it might be going on a spiral staircase, or something like that. Whereas I’m thinking north, south, east, west, on my controller, I can get around, but visually, the interpretation may be something different.

The frustration part is part of the learning, I feel.

You got to learn where to balance those things out to balance out the frustration levels, where it’s not as frustrating for you.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

It doesn’t sound like we’re just talking about gaming any more, man.

Orlando:

I don’t want to be left out of things, I want to be involved. For me, the way I apply it is, if I want to eat something, and I know what I want to eat, and I’ve got the ingredients, I can put it together.

But do I need to get other assistants to put it together? No.

Or do I need to deal with the frustration of maybe burning myself or hurting myself while I’m trying to do it?

In the end, the result should be better than the experience. You got to go through it to get to it.

It’s something I applied to everything that I do in my life.

TR:

Being included means welcoming people with disabilities into all aspects of the industry. From development, gameplay, marketing and more. And being recognized for our contributions.

Brandon:

The Last of Us Two is officially the world record holding, most awarded video game of all time, in terms of general awards. Some of the awards that it won are accessibility related which I, happen to be, a ginormous part of.

When the PlayStation five came out. In 2020. I was given, by Sony, a special award PlayStation five, with an inscription on a perspex case that they have sent.

Perspex, it’s kind of like a combination of like plastic and glass.

The inscription was essentially thanking me for teaching PlayStation that play is not just about what we see, it’s more about what we hear, about what we feel.

I consider that one of my greatest accomplishments. And I consider that of an award of its own from PlayStation itself to make something that’s just for me.

And by the way that message was in Braille on the perspex case.

TR:

That’s, Brandon Cole AKA

Brandon:

SuperBlindMan on Twitch , YouTube and Twitter and even PlayStation Network.

If you want to add me as a Hearthstone friend, you can do that too. When I was making that account, I didn’t realize there was a character limit.

So on Battlenet I’m SuperBlindMa.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

SuperBlindMa?! M A?

–Laughs….

Brandon:

Yes, yes. M A.

Brandon:

SuperBlindMa#1859 is my Battlenet tech tag.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

And they could battle you to a game or something. Right?

Brandon:

They sure can.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

If they want to lose!

Brandon:
You can find the blog at Brandon Cole.net. If you want the blind perspective on accessible gaming, that’s where you find it.

The podcast is at breakdownwalls.net/podcast If you want an easly link to that.

Break Down Walls is a movement that I started with my fiance. The idea is to break down the barriers between sighted and non sighted and disabled and non disabled gamers and human beings. Basically just make us all one.

TR:

Orlando!

Orlando:

Peachy Zatoichi on Twitter, my email address is PeachyZatoichi@gmail.com.
That is spelled; P E A C H Y Z, as in zebra, A T, as in Tom, O I C H I @gmail.com

Tr in conversation with Orlando:

And that was a Japanese Blind swordsman, right?

Orlando:

That’s exactly right!

TR:

And of course Eron.

Eron:

My twitch is X A N O D I A @ twitch.tv

It’s mostly just me gaming, talking to people. That’s about it. But yeah, it does turn into a rant occasionally.

–Laughs

TR:

Now, in order to be a player, you have to be in the game. These gentlemen are true players and they’re all official…

-Airhorn

…members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Eron:

Dude I’ve got to say, I checked out an episode the other day, loving it.

TR:

It’s not just about the opportunity to play that I’m happy to see. It’s about the change in mindset that’s taking place.

Game developers are slowly creating inclusive spaces where everyone is welcomed. The truly successful ones are seeking input from the community to figure how we can play with our disability.

Accepting people where they are, allowing them to work with what they have and enabling anyone to be in the game. Because yeah,We Play Too!

If you want to be sure you can play all new episodes of Reid My Mind Radio, all you have to do is subscribe wherever you get podcasts.

We have transcripts and more over on ReidMyMind.com

You don’t need a cheat code to level up, just remember, it’s R to the E I D
— (“D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!
Audio: Reid My Mind Outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – A Hip Hop Approach

Wednesday, September 29th, 2021

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

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

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

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

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

This episode is dedicated to all the Hip Hop pioneers.

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

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Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

Greetings y’all!

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

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

Let’s kick it!

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

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

– Reid My Mind Theme Music

Nathan:

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

I picked up a lot of movements like really quickly.

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

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

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

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

— Music ends

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

TR:

In case this sounds like using disability as a gimmick.

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

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

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

So what does Nathan do?

Nathan:

I again turned to hip hop.

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

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

TR in Conversation with Nathan::

Explained to me the name rationale method.

Nathan:

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

TR:

The Rationale Method also includes poetic elements.

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

The applications go beyond dance and artistic performances.

Nathan:

It can be used to describe like sport.

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

It’s gonna be big. It’s gonna be big.

TR in Conversation with Nathan:

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

Nathan:

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

— Music ends.

TR:

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

— Audio from Still a Slave

TR:

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

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Another key element of the film is the setting.

Nathan:

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

I was harnessing the energy from that space.

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

TR:
The response from the Blind Community?

Nathan:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I appreciate you family!

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

TR:
Back to the episode!

— Music ends

TR:

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

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

No headphone and receiver? Open Audio Description?

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

It was just a massive hit.

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Nathan:

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

(Tr & Nathan share in a hearty laugh!)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Sample: “Play on Playa”
TR:

Haters are always gonna hate.

— Sample: “No diggity, no doubt!”

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

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

TR:

Talking technology!

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

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

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

— Sample Hip Hop Hooray

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

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

A beatboxes best friend can be a loop station.

TR:

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

The applications can go beyond beats.

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

TR:

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

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

— Music begins, a bouncy, upbeat Hip Hop beat

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

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

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

TR:

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

Nathan:

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

This is a hip hop approach to accessibility and inclusion.

TR:

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

Tr in conversation with Nathan:

you are now official.!

TR:

Member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family!

— Air Horn

Nathan:

Dope, dope!

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

Nathan:

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

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

On Instagram it’s RationaleArts, RationaleMethod or NathaGeering.

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like my last name.

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

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Ajani AJ Murray – Starting with Imagination

Wednesday, March 4th, 2020

AJani AJ Murray , a Black male with short haircut & facial hair seated in a wheelchair. He wears black & white print baggie pants with a blue long sleeve hoodie with words printed in black: "Young, gifted, black and disabled."

Pursuing your passion can take you down a road filled with all sorts of obstacles. Ajani “AJ” Murray knew from an early age that he wanted to act. his first school was television which he studied intently.

His latest role is in Best Summer Ever, screening at SxSW later this month

Hear how television and movies provided much more than entertainment for him and his family. His methods for navigating the obstacles along his journey and how he’s making his own place in an industry that isn’t always welcoming. In each case, imagination was at the start.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


Ajani AJ Murray:

Our friend that we have in common, Cheryl green, told me about you and I’ve been listening to your podcast and I love it! It’s so dope and fresh. I’m kind of a Geek so I watch like a lot of PBS and I listen to NPR and so it reminds me of like radio documentaries. I particularly enjoyed when you were talking to Leroy about the Black History especially from the disabled perspective. I did something like that on my Insta Gram and some of my friends were like keep it coming AJ. So now you’re a resource.

Ajani Jerard Murray, a lot of people call me AJ.

TR:

And me, I’m Thomas Reid
producer and host of this podcast.

I usually reserve the opening of the episode for me to
tell you a bit about what this podcast is all about,
but as you’ll see in a minute, AJ is a media connoisseur,
so I was like man, everyone needs to hear his review.

I like to let new listeners know that here,
we bring you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability,
told in a way that sounds

Audio: AJ “Dope” “Fresh”

And I do always hope Reid My Mind Radio can be a

Audio: AJ, “Resource”

For anyone especially those adjusting to vision loss.

And with that said, let’s do this!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme

Audio: Tom Joyner show…

AJ:
I became a big fan of radio because of Tom Joyner. We went to one of his Sky shows in Atlanta and it was at Greenbrier Mall. It was the whole cast and we listened to the S.O.S Ban. From that point for about 2 or 3 years I did a mock radio show.

TR:

A youngster at the time, AJ study the format of the now retired
Tom Joyner, host of the number 1 nationally syndicated urban
(that’s code for Black) morning radio Show.
AJ created his own show which he put on for his family.

AJ:

To make a long story short as I told you earlier I can really talk and go on long.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
Laughing…

AJ:

I kind of sort of gave up on going into radio because I realized that in mainstream FM radio you don’t really program your own shows. You’re basically playing the same music and also to get to where I really wanted to be and the kind of radio that I would do is something that you have to be in the game for years and years for, like a Tom Joyner.

TR:

AJ knew his true passion.

AJ:

I’m a huge, huge fan of the screen big and small. From the time I was a very little kid I was always just enamored by the screen . I grew up on three camera sitcoms; Cosby Show, A Different World, Facts of Life, Different Strokes. As I got older there was the Fresh Prince era, the TGIF era, the Martin era, the WB era. My love for television in the very beginning was the sitcom.

TR:

Of course, there’s the big screen.

AJ:

My mom loves film. When it came to film she wasn’t really restrictive on what we could watch. Now we couldn’t watch everything, there were certain films I couldn’t watch but like it was 1989 I remember actually going to see Do the Right Thing. I had to of course cover up my eyes during the Mookie ice scene.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
Laughs…

AJ:

TR:

Shout out to Rosie Perez!
If you don’t know the scene let’s just say Ice cubes are for more than chilling your lemonade on a hot summer day.

AJ:

I appreciated that several years later.

TR:

Now, I’m from the era where parents let you ride in the front seat with no seatbelts,
where you were encouraged to leave the house and explore so
I cannot judge.
[TR in conversation with AJ:]

You know the movie Death Wish? Charles Bronson. I saw that at 6 and nobody cared (laughs) and nobody cared.

Audio: Scene from Death Wish: Knock at door and unsuspecting woman says she’ll anser it. She asks who is at the door and the intruder replies he’s delivering her groceries…

TR:

Don’t open it! He’s lying!

(exhale)

Fortunately, there’s a lot of good that can come from family movie outings.

AJ:

That’s one of the ways we connected as a family.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
Very cool. So it was the whole family going?

AJ:
My mom and my two sisters. In my house it’s three women and me.

We’re all very very close. That’s one of the ways we bonded. Sometimes we’d listen to classical music or something really peaceful because I grew up in a very peaceful household.

TR:

Television & movies can also initiate conversations about all sorts of topics and
even ways to explore culture.

Just be careful about that last one there, we know Hollywood doesn’t always get culture right. (Ahem!)

AJ:

I always had this dream of being an actor. It was something that was always looming in the back of my mind. It was always in my spirit, but I didn’t know how to physically make the connection. I couldn’t necessarily afford acting classes at the time and I wasn’t in high school at the time to be a part of an acting club.

TR:

Financial accessibility, we don’t often talk about that in our conversations around access.

AJ, made use of what was in his reach.

AJ:

The screen was my classroom! Anything I could get my hands on or watch or any old interview s. I really appreciate actors that do interviews like I stay stuck on the Biography channel, on Actor’s Studio. Any time there was a documentary series about behind the scenes I’m all over it!

TR:

Screens bring their own access challenges.

AJ:

when I watched re-runs of television in the 50’s and 60’s even like 20 years ago, 30 years ago, they always had like a voice over guy read everything. One of the things I always laughed at is like watching re-runs of the old Andy Griffith show. the announcer says it’s the Andy Griffin Show, starring Andy Griffin and I always laughed because I’m like didn’t he just say it’s the Andy Griffin Show.

But I realize he said that because he was reading the opening credits. Everything was announced. it really helps me as a visually impaired person.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

People think Blindness is an on or off, so you see everything or you don’t. I know that there are real specific challenges for people with low vision when it comes to that.

AJ:

I’m glad you brought that up. There could be things that I can see one day and the very next day I won’t be able to see. I look like I can see and so people they start laughing or they think you’re lying or they think you’re not looking hard enough. I’m like I can’t see this.

Even when I’m in my power chair I would rather like walk behind someone so it could be like a human guide.

TR:

AJ’s vision loss is related to his Cerebral Palsy or CP.
It impacts all four limbs so as he described to me, he needs physical assistance with most things.

Most things physical that is…

AJ:

If I was watching Happy Days or Laverne and Shirley or Three’s Company or All in the Family I would create a character, none of it is written down because I’m not able to physically write.

If I was watching Three’s Company, if Jack and Larry were going down to the Regal Beagle well I was too. If I was watching Law and order , no I couldn’t be a detective but I could help Jack McCoy as one of his assistant DA’s. I just made myself a part of the cast.

TR:

AJ’s imagination was open.

His opportunity to hit the stage came in high school.

AJ:

I had such a ball in high school. It was such an atmosphere of like were going to support you and you’re a part of us. My favorite drama teacher his name was Dr. McMichen. I was thanking him for making sure the stages had ramps and I was included in on all the trips.
He let me know, you are a part of this club and a part of these plays and it’s because you are good not because you are in a chair. And that made me feel so good.

TR:

following high school he continued working on his craft by attending workshops and finding a community of other actors.

AJ:

I would say over the last three and a half years I’ve gotten the opportunity to be on screen.

the first thing I booked when I got my agent was, we did an episode of Drunk History. And that comes on Comedy Central. That episode was actually about 504Act. That’s kind of the precursor to the ADA.

Then I was able to do an episode of ABC’s Speechless. I played a character named Charlie.

I was able to do an independent film called Bardo Blues. It’s an interesting very nonlinear artsy film that talks about depression and bipolar. I play the neighbor to the lead.

Audio clip from film…

TR:

His latest role is Best Summer Ever, A Musical.
It takes place in a high school.

AJ:

It’s a romantic story and all kinds of teenage angst ensues. I play the older brother so I’m not involved in the teenage angst but I do sing in the film.

TR:

The film consists of a cast of over
60 disabled actors as well as those without disabilities.
It’s being screened at South by South West on March 14.

You can also see AJ in Becoming bulletproof.
Every year, actors with and without disabilities meet at
Zeno Mountain Farm to write, produce, and star in original short films.

Audio clip from film…

AJ is the focal point of the doc.

AJ:

I also did a documentary, it’s called Take A Look At This heart. So I talk about my experience around my sexuality and dating. So it’s an ensemble so It’s not just me. I believe that’s now streaming on Amazon.

TR:

AJ’s getting some roles and definitely
making a name for himself by judging film festivals, hosting events yet
he found himself in a dark place.

AJ:
Heavy dark! Like I was really, really down.

I was on a walk with my mom. I was in California at the time and it was a beautiful sunny day. It came to me, instead of being down about not getting auditions or you know nobody’s calling or you’re having a hard time with employment; why don’t you write what you want to see?

TR:

By now you can tell AJ puts a lot of thought into what is on the screen,
big or little. So of course he would do the same for his script.

AJ:

A lot of characters that we see it’s either one person with a disability and I’m not saying you don’t ever see it, typically they don’t have any friends. To my experience I have a bunch of friends with disabilities. Not just CP, but all kinds of disabilities.

I just want to lend my voice to reflect that on screen.

TR:

Think Living Single, Friends or the Big Chill…

AJ:

These group of friends, People with disabilities in a more adult context. All with different types of disabilities like CP, like me. He also works. Then you have another character who has CP they walk with a gate. Another character she has a traumatic brain injury and she’s very athletic…

[TR in conversation with AJ:]
And may I lobby for a Blind guy who likes audio and…

AJ:

If we get picked up brother I’ll write you in a couple of episodes.
[TR in conversation with AJ:]
There you go man, there you go!

TR:

Alright, fine, it’s not about me.

In order to physically write his words, thoughts and ideas AJ has a very special writing partner.

AJ:
My mom helps me a lot with a lot of stuff behind the scenes. We’re actually working on a book and that’s going to be out sometime soon and we do public speaking.

TR:

The latter is done under the name, I Push You Talk. What a powerful statement.

Pursuing your passion can really be hard.
There are always reasons to throw in the towel or change course.
Legitimate reasons that wouldn’t in anyway classify someone as a quitter.

For example…

AJ:

Just because you perform in school, that doesn’t mean that it’s going to translate to the screen or you’re going to have this career.

TR:

There’s also the physical pain that comes with his CP.

AJ:

I’ve been in pain since my early teens to pre-teens. As I’ve gotten older sciatic pain and nerve pain over the years have like sort of advanced to like more of a chronic level as far as nerve pain.

My love for everything that I experience and everything that I’m going to and want to experience has to be bigger than my pain.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

You don’t probably see people with disabilities in many of these films that you are watching.

AJ:

That’s a hundred percent accurate.

[TR in conversation with AJ:]

So it doesn’t sound like that dissuades you.

AJ:

I didn’t necessarily have this as a child but with the combination of my mother speaking to me and my imagination, I just had this sense that it was put inside of me so I’m supposed to be doing what I’m doing.

There’s people of faith in my family so I do have spiritual background. With all those things combined because of my atmosphere, I’m the man you’re interviewing today.

Audio: AJ Scratch… Ladies singing “AJ” while beat rides under…

TR:

That’s Mr. Ajani Jerard Murray.
Actor, Writer, Speaker, Consultant and soon to be Author Producer &…


AJ:
Things sort of have this way of coming back around full circle. I’ve gotten into podcasts and I want to start a podcast and I want to do it with a group of people like a morning radio show. Sometimes my dreams are very big and lofty, but I have a lot of faith and I believe it could happen.

TR:

It really does all start with imagination.
And it continues with that determination, persistence and faith.

AJ, brother, thank you for letting me share your story!
And you know what’s up, you are officially a member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family.

You can reach AJ via social media at:
Twitter – @GotNextAJ
Instagram: @AjaniAJMurray
Ajani Murray on Facebook

You can catch both
Becoming Bulletproof and Take a Look at this Heart
streaming on Amazon.
For those with that prime membership it’s included.
Unfortunately they don’t have Audio Description, however Becoming Bulletproof does at it included on the DVD.

Best Summer Ever is screening at South By South West so if you’re hanging out there go check it out.

I’ll have links over at Reid My Mind.com to AJ’s social media and more including a web series on YouTube.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know AJ as much as I have. I look forward to continuing our conversations and I have a feeling based on his thoughtful insight that you’re going to hear from him again in this space.

If you agree that what we’re planting here on the podcast can provide some nourishment or maybe a sweet treat, please share it with others.

Ya dig!

If you want to help it grow a bit, you can even go on over to Apple podcast and leave a rating (5 stars, a review would be pretty cool too!

Please, , do not apply water to the podcast, that will not help it grow at all!

Reid My Mind Radio is available wherever you get your particular flavor of podcasts. Remember links and Transcripts are at ReidMyMind.com.
That’s R to the E I D
Audio: Slick Rick, “D, and that’s me in the place to be!”

TR:
Llike my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!

Hide the transcript

Joe Strechay: When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019
A picture of Joe Strechay with his cane in hand, standing in conversation on the set of See.

Image Courtesy of Apple

An RMM Radio O.G (Original Guest) is back! Joe Strechay, former Director of the Bureau Blindness & Visual Services of Pennsylvania and Blindness Consultant tells us all about his work on the new series See from Apple TV Plus. Yes, he found himself hanging out with See cast members like stars Jason Momoa and the legendary Alfre Woodard, but the job required some real sacrifices.

Jason Momoa as Baba Voss stares out past the camera. His eyes are white, face is scarred. See from Apple TV Plus

Image Courtesy of Apple

We dive in to see exactly how the events from his past lead him to being the right man for the job. Let’s just say he has a particular set of skills!

But his adjustment to blindness wasn’t all glitter.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Welcome bac to the podcast.

First time here? Cool. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Thomas Reid host and producer of this podcast. This is the place to be if you want to hear from compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness or disability in general. They all share one thing in common; their dope!

Not because they’re doing anything magical. No, their human. In fact, many of them have been where you may find yourself right now.

If you’re uncomfortable with those words, blind, disability, that’s ok for now. But take a listen to how comfortable my guests are with these words at their current place in their life journey.

Your journey will be different, but you’re definitely on one. And the R double M Radio family and I are here for you.

I think there’s only one way to bring on this one; lights, camera, action!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

Scene from See…

TR:

This is a scene from the premiere episode of the new series called See available on Apple TV Plus.

Audio: Scene includes Audio Description Narration

TR:

yes, there’s audio description.

Here’s the synopsis from the opening scene

Audio Describer: Following the outbreak of a deadly virus in the 21st Century, the Earth’s human population was reduced to less than 2 million humans who survived all emerged Blind. Now centuries later the idea of vision exists only as a myth. To even speak of it is considered heresy.

TR:

Well RMM Radio you should be proud because in a six, well three, degrees of separation sort of way you are each connected to this new series. No, not because you yourself may be blind, but because one of our family members are let’s say, associated with the production of the show.

JS:

I’m Joe Strechay, I’m a Blindness Consultant for Apple TV Plus’s See, which is a streaming television show. And I’m also a Blindness Consultant out in the world outside of that working with organizations around blindness.

TR:

That’s right, our brother is back! He’s and O.G. in the R double M R Family.

Audio: Air horn

I couldn’t let 2019 end without discussing See and the role Joe played in its production. And even more in tune with this podcast is looking at his life path and how embracing his blindness helped his journey.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Why don’t you catch up the family, because you’re part of the Reid My Mind Radio family big time!

JS:.

Definitely!

My favorite podcast around blindness! You heard that, favorite one!

Audio: Joe singing “Radio”

Last time you heard from me I was the Director of Blindness & Visual Services for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, overseeing the services for people who are Blind or Low Vision. I’d been working in the entertainment field part time over the last years.

TR:

That includes working with writers of the shows like Royal Pains, The OA on Netflix and of course Marvel’s Daredevil.

Audio: Clip from Daredevil episode.

While working as the Director of BBVS Joe was presented with an opportunity.

JS:

Apple TV Plus’s See Production in their infancy days reached out to me to see about working on the show. I had an interview first with the creator of the show Steven Knight and Jenno Topping who’s the president of Chernin Entertainment one of the studios involved. I think one of the Executive Producers involved was on the line as well. And then I had to do a Skype interview with Francis Lawrence who’s an Executive producer and the Director for episodes one through three. Once I cleared Francis I was able to land the position. We kind of talked about it and I talked to the production staff and it sounded like it was full time. And I’m like I’m going to have to leave my place of employment.

TR:/

His responsibilities first began with part time work. Consulting on scripts and exchanging ideas via a secured platform and conference calls in the evenings.

A day or two after his final day at the Bureau

JS:
I flew to British Columbia to officially start my full time job.

TR:

So what exactly does a Blindness Consultant do in the making of a series like See?
Audio: available on Apple TV Plus.

There’s the pre-production work like reviewing scripts and providing input…

JS:

We prep’ d for almost two months in person. We worked with a movement director like a choreographer type person and a team of choreographers.

I have lists of these little aspects of blindness that most people don’t know about. You’ll see more and more of that in the scripts I would say four through eight and maybe most people won’t notice them, but they’re in there.

Walking through some of the set pieces and saying oh, I think I would do this. Meeting with the set dressing department who puts out the objects that are set out in the space. Where I would put stuff, how I organize things.

Ideas for props. Even the weight of the props. How they might use that prop. Kind of help create the world with this amazing creative team.

TR:

A world, Joe points out is not of blindness.

JS:

It’s a Science fiction world probably somewhere between now and 100 or 200 years from now somewhere in there, a viral apocalypse happens. Kills off the majority of the population of earth. There are just a few million people left on earth and then those individuals emerge blind. Our show takes place centuries after that where civilizations have built out different environments.

It’s not a world of blindness, it’s a world of See really.

TR:

Definitely not a real world and therefore not a true depiction of how Blind people live. But representation matters. You know, sometimes you just have to take a stand!

JS:

There were definitely times. We did a lot of exploration around these people and making them different, each group different. Even differentiating the posture of people for their environment and like how they do things. There were times when I was yeh, I don’t think we’re gonna do that!.

TR:

Yet the science fiction format is known for exploring social and cultural issues.

JS

Our show battles with Ableism purposely at times.

TR:

Specifically, exploring, what happens when a set of twins are born with the ability to see in a world where everyone is blind

JS:

What people with vision might think versus people who are Blind. In a world where everyone else is Blind. Seeing that battle, seeing where people who are Blind are better at some things and people with vision are less than. I love that aspect. Everyone has different skills.

TR:

Multiple members of the cast are actually Blind or Low Vision. Again, representation matters.

JS:

One of the things I was really proud of in our background and some of our actors had other disabilities. We have background who are Deaf or Hard of hearing, a gentleman with Cerebral Palsy, all kinds of different disabilities. Our show embraces that. We want to make sure people have opportunities. These were talented interesting people that we could include in our show. There are people with other disabilities that you’ll never know that are within the show and even behind the scenes in production. It’s not because of their disability, it’s because they’re talented individuals.

TR:

As the majority of See’s characters are Blind, Joe is working closely with each. This includes the show’s lead, Jason Momoa.

Audio: Scene from see featuring Baba Voss played by Jason Momoa.

JS:

He’s super nice. He has a big heart and he brings so much consideration, energy, enthusiasm ideas. I’ve never met someone so creative. He sees things in the scenes. Most actors they see their role and their part in the scene, but he sees the whole scene at many times like where other actors are and what kind of story you can show with the angle. He’s directed.

TR:

Directed, co-wrote and starred in Road to Paloma a 2014 Drama thriller.

Also starring in the series is the 4 time Emmy Award Winning Alfre Woodard.

Audio: Scene from See featuring Paris, played by Alfre Woodard.

JS:

She taught me so much and continues to. Brings so much to our show and just as a person is an amazing friend as well.

That’s the thing I didn’t just make professional relationships it’s like so much bonding. We spent like six weeks at least in remote areas if not like 10.

TR:

That’s Joe with the cast of See

Audio: available on Apple TV Plus.

JS:

So Nesta Cooper, Archie (Madekwe), Mojean Aria, Hera Hilmar and all of them became my friends.

We spent time in an isolated area in British Columbia which is in Vancouver Island. There was a pub at our hotel and pretty much was the only place you could eat or drink! We’d have like an hour and forty five minute ride to set and back each day, so long days. You’d go to the pub and hangout.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Now you’re there full time so you’re living there while you’re working. Were you the only Blind person there?

JS:

Yeh, at first I was the representative of Blindness originally, working through the setup of the show in person. I was there for 9 months originally and then another month for re-shoots. I became part of the Blindness community in Vancouver in British Columbia. The community really invited me in. I started going to audio described theater in the area. There was an international Goal Ball tournament I went to. I went to this organization’s Blind Beginnings events. Met with CNIB, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Blind Sports Association of British Columbia and Canada. They were fantastic. Going to fundraisers for different groups and going to see the Blind Hockey team practice. They actually started becoming part of our background in our show.

TR:

Away from home for about 10 months, eventually Joe moved into an apartment after spending about three months in a hotel.

JS:

Right next door they had one of the best breakfast or lunch places . I met a couple of people out at this Ramen shop in the neighborhood who work there. I was eating Ramen and having a beer and we just started chatting. We became really good friends. Charlotte and Sebastian. My wife hung out with her too when we came in. I met so many people in the community. I was definitely in the community doing things. Going snow shoeing with friends.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Laughing…

Ok, so I kind of want to move this to your career. And what you just talked about I think is probably an important aspect, especially from what I know about you. Networking, but really I don’t want to just call it networking because I feel like you’re a relationship guy. How important has that been in your career? Like that aspect of your personality.

JS:
You know throughout my career I moved up and down the East Coast to places where I didn’t know anyone at all.

I literally make an effort to go out places and sometimes it’s tiring you know, you worked all day, but that’s how you meet people. That’s how you become part of the community. That Ramen shop I went to a lot, I love that Ramen shop. they know me by name there(laughing). I also stick out, I have long hair, a beard and white cane so…

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Laughing…

JS:

But it has been important. I’m careful to ask people about what they do, their life, what they want to do. The same stuff we do in career counseling. That’s a great thing about blindness, I don’t judge a book by its cover. I just met someone and I talk to them . For the better or worse and typically for the better. Once in a while I get screamed at from some random person for no reason but you know everyone’s dealing with something.

TR:

Whether it’s moving to Florida for his Master’s degree or West Virginia where he ended up meeting his wife;

JS:

I meet people, I get to know them, maybe exchange information. If we click as friends or if I can help them I’m always willing to help people and connect people.

Yeh, I’m a relationship guy for sure!

TR:

Looking back, we can see signs of Joe’s interest and early preparation for a career in the entertainment industry.

JS:

I love television and movies. In high school I worked my four years at a video store, a VHS store.

TR:

For those too young to recall, A video store is like having a bunch of Netflix’s oh wait my bad, Apple TV Plus, in stores in every community. Rather than opening an app and making your selection, you’d have to leave your house and get to the store. You’d search the shelves for the movie that you wanted. If it’s there cool, take it to the front desk and pay to borrow that for a day. Now hurry home and watch it but don’t forget to bring it back the next day or you’ll have to pay additional fees.

Whew! Hooray for technology!

JS:

In college I never thought about working in film really, but I took a film and literature class. I enjoyed it.

TR:

His studies included the portrayal of minority characters as well as gender roles in film.

After receiving his Communications and Public Relations degree hhe went out into the world.
JS:

Worked in Public Relations right after school but I didn’t fall in love with the product side of it. I’m mission oriented I want to see things succeed.

TR:

Joe even came pretty close to landing the coveted job of a NBC Page.

JS:

I made it out of they said 10,000 or so. Six people on a panel interview with four people interviewing us. And it was like Valedictorian of Howard University, Valedictorian of another or a guy who worked on 20/20 already. Legally Blind since 19 and I had that opportunity to be part of that six.

I didn’t have all the skills I should have had to be successful at that point. I learned from it too.

TR:

Audio: I have a certain set of skills…Scene from “Taken”.

Joe’s particular set of skills include his Master’s degree in Orientation & Mobility.

But skills are only a part of what it takes.

JS:

When I had the opportunity to work with entertainment programs a little bit at American Foundation for the Blind and then more so with Netflix’s Marvel’s Daredevil which I did outside of my work at AFB. I had to complete all of my duties plus all my work so I was travelling all over the country, using New York City as my home base. There’s a lot of sacrifice.

TR:

Sacrifice is leaving a comfortable position and putting yourself out there for possible disappointment.

JS:

I’ve been offered other entertainment opportunities for movies. They want you to leave and be full time for like 2, 3 months at the most. To leave a full time position to go do that is a gamble. It was a big decision. My wife Jen and I discussed it and weighed the options. I sought advice from friends I worked with on other productions. When it came down to it, it just seemed like a unique opportunity. A game changer to impact the world but also they were committed to hiring actors that were Blind and Low Vision as well and wanted me to help with that. Making sure that there was accessibility and figuring out what that was. I never had that opportunity. I worked on other shows but it always just involved the portrayal of blindness, scripts some set advising and props s but this was a full time doing all that and so much more. We were figuring out what my role was as we went. It just kept expanding.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
How important was Apple? Was that a big factor in you making the decision to leave BBVS and go there?

JS:

It was a huge factor. When you throw the name Apple out in our community, the blindness community the disability community, it is like the gold standard.

Since 2009 and the third generation iPhone and even right before that with the Nano iPod where it had Voice Over embedded into it. It changed the game in accessibility. I have multiple Apple TV’s in my home, my Apple keyboard on the table here, Air Pods, iPhone 11 pro here and a iPod Touch over there so when Apple was connected to it I’m like this is going to be something!

TR:

When it comes to Joe’s real motivation, I think it’s pretty clear to see!

JS:

I’m very passionate about the portrayal of blindness in entertainment. I wrote an article about how disability is portrayed for AFB Access World years ago even before my time on Marvel’s Daredevil

Our show shows people as heroes, villains, good guys, bad guys, warriors, lovers. Things that you don’t typically see people who are Blind doing. Living their lives in a community cooking, building all kinds of things like that. That means something to me.

TR:

Did you catch that?

Audio: Rewinding Tape Deck

JS: “Things that you don’t see Blind people typically doing”

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Now you’re on set, working side by side with the Director? That’s pretty cool man! Explain that.

JS:

We had been talking and meeting a little bit. I gave him some ideas and suggestions. He wanted to make sure the world brought some reality of blindness as well and there’s interesting ideas that most people wouldn’t notice. And he’s like I want you next to me at every shot! It was unreal. I learned so much from all the directors, Francis, Lucas and Steven and Fred and Sally and all these amazing directors. They’re all so different and preparing in different ways and how they manage the set and each shot is different. So I learned a lot about how they setup things and their process and how to give input.

As the season goes on there were scenes that have no individuals who are Blind in it that I have input on that made it into the show. It wasn’t just the blindness that I was helping with.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Are you interested in directing? (Laughs) You’re standing right next to the director man, like you’re already getting all this info.

JS:

You know I could see co-directing with someone.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Now I know you have your YouTube channel so is this your preparation for being in front of the camera? (Laughs…)
Are we going to see you in See? (Laughs…)

JS:

I had a cameo or two . It hit the editing room floor – some of the scenes got cut. And it wasn’t because of my work. Who knows maybe in season 2.

TR:

Do you hear that optimism? That belief in anything is possible? Don’t get it twisted, that’s a process. Joe wasn’t always feeling that way. Like when he was 19 and diagnosed legally blind.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

If you could go back to some of that initial reaction. What would you tell yourself, your 19 year old self now?

JS:

When I first lost my vision I went through depression and I got counseling. They helped me guide through and understand that blindness and disability is not to end my life or anything. It changes and it changed how I viewed life. I would say embrace all of it.

It would be introducing myself to successful people who are Blind or Low Vision. Go someplace and learn how to use a white cane and learn the skills of independence as a person who is Blind.

People are always going to tell you what you can and can’t do as a person with a disability as a person who is Blind. They like to say no or you can’t do this. Don’t let them say no. During our show most of the things that you see people who are Blind do, I did as well. To figure out or feel. Climbing cliffs, hiking through different areas all kinds of different things that you see , I’ve done.

My buddy Dan Shotz, the show runner will tell you like early on people were like uh, I don’t think he should be doing that. I’m like, are the characters who are Blind doing this, then I’m going to do it. They embraced it. Dan pushed it and really allowed me to put myself out there and show them how we can do things. And if I didn’t have the expertise you know Erik Weihenmayer sent videos about climbing that I shared with Jason Momoa. I reached out to people such as T.Reid, Thomas Reid to share about their life and that was shared with all of our casts and production. Every couple of weeks I shared videos about people who were successful who were Blind or Low Vision from various types of work, backgrounds, life experiences.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Hold on you’re telling me that Alfre Woodard saw that video?

JS:

Oh yeh, Alfre Woodard saw your video.

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Alfre Woodard saw me? Laughs…

JS:

It’s true, it’s true. Yup!

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Ahh, that’s cool!

Joe Stretch! Dude I told you that I think your story in terms of your hustle and what you’re doing is just so cool and inspiring to folks and to me personally. I definitely salute you, what you’re doing and keep doing it Bro. You’re doing your thing! I’m happy for you.

JS:

Thank you brother. You know how I feel about you and your podcast.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Yes Sir… laughs…

JS:

Can I say it again?

[TR in conversation with JS:]
You can say it again!

JS:

My favorite podcast!

[TR in conversation with JS:]
Your what?

JS:

My favorite podcast around blindness is Reid My Mind… (Singing) Radio!

[TR in conversation with JS:]

Laughs…Yeh, there it is!

JS:

Woo!

TR:

See

Audio: available on Apple TV Plus.

was released with 3 episodes and subsequent episodes dropping weekly.

Creating See as a premier show for the launch of their network (Apple TV Plus) could be viewed as a risky move.

First, Apple has such a positive reputation with the Blind community. I’m sure they wouldn’t want to risk offending or having negative press like what we saw earlier this year when the CW launched “In the Dark” and the NFB responded with #LetUsPlayUs.

Yes, it’s Sci-Fi but blindness is real. Anyone who understands the power of media knows that it does impact how people view others.

but it appears they made every attempt to get it right.
Apple’s influence on accessibility goes beyond their own products.
When a clear leader of design and innovation makes such an open commitment to access, well it’s clear that others follow suit.

Leading off the launch of their streaming service, Apple TV Plus,
With a show built around a world where
blindness is the norm,
in an actual world where the thought of being blind is so feared.
I don’t know, that to me sounds like Apple once again being bold and let’s hope setting some trends.

This episode sort of made me want to look at whether I’m challenging my comfort level, putting myself out there enough, taking risks. As
people adjusting to blindness, disability I think we should be doing that.

It doesn’t have to be climbing mountains and what not. Those days are done for me. My back just hurts thinking about it. But there are definitely other ways. Who’s with me!

Joe’s experience is a great example of what’s possible.

I know there are some who hear Joe’s story and say he’s lucky. Well, I’ll agree with you. If you’re working with the same definition of luck. That’s when preparation meets opportunity. Because that’s when things happen.

[TR in conversation with JS:]
The coolest thing about watching the first episode was that right when it’s over and then ran the credits and I hear my man,
Audio: “Associate producer, Joe Strechay”, Audio Describer from See.

TR:
Dude I’m on the treadmill and I’m like yeh Joe, yeh! Laughs!

TR:

You can check out See (Available on Apple TV Plus) right now. Just open that TV app and you can get right on it. You can even get the first episode for free.

You can check out Joe on YouTube, his channel is called Joe Strechay. And he’s also on Twitter and Instagram under that same name.
That’s S T R E C H A Y!

TR:
I think this is a perfect way to officially close out the 2019 season.

I may drop an extra holiday episode, but you know there’s only one way to make sure you get that… Subscribe on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts or where ever you like to get yours.

The podcast will be back in 2020 in time to help make things clear for anyone adjusting to blindness.

In the meantime please help spread the word. I hate to think of another young 19 year old who doesn’t get that help and have the same opportunities to reach their potential

Feel free to reach out and say hello. I love hearing from listeners.

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

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

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

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

TR:

Peace!

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