Posts Tagged ‘Advocacy’

The Accidental Activist – Alice Wong

Wednesday, April 10th, 2019

Alice Wong, and Asian American woman in a wheelchair. She is wearing a black jacket with a black patterned scarf. She is wearing a mask over her nose with a tube for her Bi-Pap machine. Behind her is a wall full of colorful street art
Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project, Alice Wong shares her story of becoming a Disability Activist out of necessity. Her love for stories, people and natural curiosity eventually lead to the Disability Visibility Podcast.

In this episode we talk:

  • Disability, it’s not a one size fit all
  • The origin of DVP & Story Corps
  • What is an Activist anyway
  • Importance of people of color in disability & social Justice movements
  • Why we podcast

Finally, press play and here how Twitter helped Alice and I become friends!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s good Reid My Mind Radio Family.

back with another episode and this one right here is a goodie! Before we drop that intro music and make this episode official, I want to take the time to welcome any new listeners. Come on in and make yourself comfortable. Mi podcast es su podcast!

If you are new here and I haven’t scared you away yet,, my name is T.Reid producer and host of this here series of audio files transmitted over the interwebs right to your earholes! And since we’re about that accessibility here, we send it via transcript to your Braille embosser, oh and your eyeballs too.

Specifically, I’m talking about stories and profiles of compelling people often impacted by some degree of blindness, low vision or disability. Every now and then I share my own experiences of adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

I’m excited about this episode and you should be too.

We have a true well respected superstar disability activist who joined me virtually on the Reid Compound, that’s home of the RMM Laboratory, where you can find me with my audio microscopes, beakers and chemicals mixing up some new concoction.

Honestly, you’d enjoy this one uncut and raw. It’s her work and output that make her dope.

But I’m in the lab, therefore I have to add a drop of this and that because it’s what I do. It’s my way to be sure it gets through the veins a bit faster and right to that brain. This one hopefully will also touch your soul.

Let’s get it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

AW:

Hi, my name is Alice Wong. I’m the founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project. I’m a Disabled person living in San Francisco, California.

TR:

If you’re on Twitter and especially tapped into the #Disability neighborhood, you heard of Alice Wong, @SFDirewolf.

Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility project which means she’s tapped into much of the latest disability related information as it relates to politics, justice and culture. She’s all about amplifying the voices of people of color with disabilities. We’ll get into all that but first I wanted to get to know her a bit more.

AW:

My parents immigrated to the United States in the 1970’s. I was their first kid in America in a new land.

Shortly after they had me my mom noticed other babies my age were crawling. She noticed that I wasn’t crawling the way other kids were.

I was diagnosed with a neuro muscular disability similar to Spinal Muscular Atrophy.

I guess I would also say that because my disability is progressive meaning that my body has changed a lot during my life. I used to walk. Then I used a walker then a wheelchair. And for people who are listening my voice sounds a little funny because I’m wearing a mask over my nose and it’s attached to a ventilator and that’s to get me support when I breathe.

I think this idea of adaptation and constantly trying to adjust and make the most of what I have I think that’s the relationship I have with disability.

TR:
If you’re familiar with Reid My Mind Radio then you should know how I feel about adaptations. In my opinion, it’s just one of the ways that I think non-disabled people could learn from people with disabilities.

It’s the mistake I think the able bodied world makes every day in overlooking a community of problem solvers and creative thinkers.

AW:

Disability isn’t static.

Whether you acquire it during your life or whether you have a chronic illness progressive disability like mine, all of us are evolving, we’re changing and society is changing. We’re entering and exiting different environments . How our disability interacts with those environments, with attitudes with institutions that’s always going to be a variable.

I think that’s kind of exciting in a sense, that we’re constantly learning. It’s not a very simplistic linear experience. For example, blind not blind, disabled not disabled. It’s a lot more complicated
than that.

TR:

Complicated indeed. Just ask someone with Low Vision.

To the casual onlooker, they appear (awh dang, I’m going to say it!) normal). So when they put their face close to an item on a shelf or pull out their handy dandy magnifier they’re faced with the questions. Or they struggle to ask for assistance. Of course there are those with the unseen disabilities who experience similar struggles.
Complicated from both internal and external effect of ableism.

Managing her own disability proved to be an early lesson to Alice’s activism later in life.

AW:

Sometimes it starts with being able to speak for yourself and fight for what you need. That was kind of my experience in junior high and then High School.

Getting angry at things that were happening to me to realize that I had to push back, I had to speak up and fight for myself.

I didn’t think of that as activism. As I got more connected with the disability community in my 20’s. I moved out of Indiana where I grew up to San Francisco and I really found people and culture that really welcomed me. That really opened my mind to like the variety of the disability community and learning more about the history of disability rights and activism. That’s when I really started to realize that being an advocate for yourself is all well and good, but it’s really about changing the system. It’s only through changing systems and cultures that you really make an impact. I definitely feel I’ve been an accidental activist.

TR:

Well what exactly is an activist anyway?

According to Merriem Webster:
a person who uses or supports strong actions in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue

The example used is that of a public protest. But who gets to say one version of activism is superior.

AW:

There are people who definitely look at online activism, social media as second rate, not as real that you’re not as hard because your bodies are not on the line.

Audio: Multiple news clips of disability rights protesters over sounds of protesters chanting.

AW:

There’s that very narrow idea of what it means to be an activist.

AW:

I really do take to social media a lot I do realize my own usage is a real privilege.

There are people for various reasons who find social media incredibly inaccessible and overwhelming and I totally get that.

I have privilege in terms of not really having a lot of access barriers the way some people do depending on what platform you’re using. I have access to a laptop and an internet service. All of these things cost money and there’s a certain amount of skills. So those are my privileges that I readily acknowledge.

TR:

Get in where you fit in!

There’s room for all types of activism.

AW:

There are some people who lets say they’re not able to leave their beds and they are just as bad ass organizers and activist than somebody who goes and locks themselves at a sit-in. But I think there’s all kinds of methods and each one of them are valuable.

TR:

Valuable, like the work taking place at the Disability Visibility Project.

Before DVP was known as an online community dedicated to creating, sharing and amplifying disability media culture, it was a means to collect and archive oral histories of people with disabilities.

AW:

It was 2014 and this is the year before the 25th anniversary of the American’s with Disabilities Act in July 2015. I remember around this time all sorts of people, all sorts of disability organizations they were all kind of gearing up for this big event. It was a major milestone.

Back then I didn’t work for any nonprofits, I wasn’t part of a group or anything and I really thought what could I do as an individual. How can I contribute to this? I went to a Story Corps event in San Francisco and they talked about community partnerships that they have in the San Francisco area

##TR

Story Corps’ mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.

They began collecting stories in 2003 at a story booth in Grand Central Terminal in New York City.

After hearing about the various partnerships in San Francisco, Alice went right up to them and was like:

AW:

“Oh do you have any with the Disability community and they said no we don’t”. I thought ok this could be my little way of doing something.

##TR
Little way? Maybe in the beginning but check out the progression.

AW:

I spoke to them about the possibility of forming a partnership with them.

So originally the DVP was going to be a one year campaign to encourage people with disabilities to tell their stories.

Not only are our stories not told they’re not considered as part of the larger American story. You have Civil rights, all the different movements, people with disabilities have been part of those movements.

We’ve also been part of our own movements. That to me is what really motivated me because we all know about Helen Keller and FDR. What about the history of now. What are everyday people doing? What are their lives about? What do they care about. I think that’s what a lot of us don’t realize is that every day we’re making history and the idea of recording a few oral histories and having them archived at the Library of Congress because that’s what Story Corps does, this to me was really exciting because it’s really a gift for future generations.

TR:

By the end of 2018, about 140 oral histories have been recorded as part of the DVP archives.

There was a natural progression from gathering oral histories that lead to other outlets including a blog and podcast.

AW:

I love talking to people. I guess I’m just really curious. I’m always interested in what other people are doing.

the idea of podcasting is like a radio show that’s topical, that’s current that’s really exciting. I was thinking about doing one a few years ago but it seemed really daunting. I wasn’t sure what’s involved, how much will it cost and just whether I would be able to figure it out.

TR:

Well she definitely did that.

She offers some good steps that I wish I thought more about early on.

AW:

Planning, budgeting. I really took my time to have a clear idea of what the podcast would be.

TR:

Since 2017, consistently podcasting publishing episodes every two weeks, The Disability Visibility Podcast is a great resource for conversations about politics, culture and media from a disabled lens.

AW:

Each episode is roughly 30 minutes. It’s divided into 15 minute segments or maybe just a longer extended conversation. I’ve also had episodes where I’ve had a group conversation with two interviewees. Those are fun too. Basically conversations by disabled people about a whole range of topics.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
And it’s cross disability, correct?

AW:

I’m also very open about what I don’t know and my own kind of implicit biases. I want this to be an opportunity to highlight and really just give space to all kinds of disabled people. And also just to not have me dominate or drive the conversation but to really have them being the ones who drive the conversation.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
I think that’s something that you and I share, that curiosity about things.

I don’t know a lot about a whole lot, (laughs) but I know I want to know and the idea of being able to talk to people and just do that and present it in a way. That’s just really cool.
AW:

Yeh! We think of the guests as the experts. I think of the guest as the expert. I want them to shine. My role is to pick the subject and really do the prep work and hopefully ask good questions. That’s what really gives me joy. When I’m in conversation with somebody and you feel the energy when two or three people are in a room and we’re kind of like Jazz, just riffing , improvising and just vibing off one another. That’s what’s so exciting about disability culture it is a shared experience. Whether we are exactly the same or not, but very often just the lived experience. Sometimes there’s a lot of common themes and when we see that reflected upon one another no matter how different we are it just makes us feel more empowered I think.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
Absolutely!

There’s so many different topics and you’re broadening the scope of disability for many people, including myself. I was happy to see you had just recently, the B-HEARD Project and Talia Lewis talking about the prison industrial complex and how that affects people with disabilities. That was a really good episode.

AW:

Yeh, that was kind of a part two of another episode I did earlier, the year before on police violence because I believe they go hand in hand.

There’s the school to prison pipeline which we all know disproportionately impacts Black and Brown kids, but also Black and Brown disabled kids in particular.

There’s mass incarceration, the whole prison industrial complex and the way it really does capture so many people with disabilities. And then there’s the other aspect too. In terms of the everyday violence that happens to people with disabilities but at the hands of law enforcement. There’s a lot of layers I feel like these are issues that sometimes we within the community don’t talk about. We really need to continue flushing that out in as many ways as possible. And to make it as personal as possible so that people can really get a sense , a visual sense of the cost at the heart and the impact.

TR:

In 2018, Alice expanded that storytelling to include the self-published Resistance and Hope anthology.

AW:

the truth during the 2016 presidential election I think I panicked, I freaked out like a lot of people when we realized Trump is our president.

Audio: Clips of 45th POTUS (TR does not say that name.) on disabilities. Includes comments on Paralympics “hard to watch”, comment on Senator McCain being captured and mocking disabled reporter.

Audio: Prophets of Rage, Public Enemy

AW:

I thought to myself ok, what can I do.

We’re going to be entering some really dangerous times under this administration and we know, marginalized folks always knew what the consequences of this president.

What are some of the wisdom and the knowledge and expertise by disabled people who have always been resisting.
This didn’t just happen two years ago.

Audio:
“46,000 year old skeleton of a Neanderthal man, who had significant Cerebral Palsy. Other Skeletons have been found with missing limbs”

AW:

Disabled people have been surviving and thriving and resisting for centuries. Since time began.

Audio: Multiple clips on disability history:
* Aristotle has been said to have been an advocate for Eugenics and the killing of disabled children… let there be a law that no disabled child shall live”
* “Romans mutilated deformed people and just through them into the Tiber River”
* :”Just this past century we had Eugenics and freak shows… that planned to eliminate or denigrate such individuals respectively. Mental disabilities and Dwarfism in Medieval Europe were considered the produce of possession and sin and were often treated as such. With their only opportunities to survive in society as court jesters and fools.”

AW:

The idea for this anthology was really a chance to ask people that I personally admire, that I learn a lot from . people like TL Lewis, Leroy Moore, like Vilissa Thompson, like so many people

It’s an E-Book featuring 16 essays by 17 disabled people.

[
I would say that pretty much
]
All but one person is a disabled person of color. So that to me was also a really intentional thing that I really wanted to center to the voice of disabled people of color.
I really think that there aren’t enough representation and enough attention paid to disabled people of color.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
Why is that important to you. What does that lend to the overall disability movement.

AW:

While I’m thankful for the people who were part of the first, male movement, the independent living movement in the 60’s and 70’s but it was a predominantly white experience. These folks became leaders, formed organizations. They’re the ones that are often noted in history. They’re the ones who are seen as Icons.
I know this in my bones that there were disabled people of color and other marginalized folks that were not given their due. I think that has always been part of the problem of who gets to tell the stories?

It’s always about power. It’s about privilege. As somebody who is proud to be Asian American disabled woman I’m cognizant of the sexism, racism that’s a part of our community. I think that’s something we don’t talk about enough. That we have to like step out be as we have to always hide those parts of our experiences in order to get along. It’s prettier to homogenize our experience and we’re so different, we’re so diverse. Those who enjoyed some privilege in terms of representing our community have really missed out in terms of what we could all learn from each other. I always kind of known that my own experience was very much situated within my culture, where I’m located in terms of growing up in the Mid-West. being a product of immigration. I’m going to see various issues very different from others. I think there’s so much in terms of living with all of these different intersections that give really valuable perspectives. Let’s face it those that set the agenda aren’t really the ones who are the most kind of at the margins. So their idea of what disability rights is may not be what disability rights is for somebody else. So that to me is why I’m very intentionally try to widen the center. Rather it just be white, physically disabled experience.

# Community

TR:

That’s the other aspect of the Divisibility Visibility Project, building community.

AW:

I grew up disabled in the 70’s and 80’s pre internet. It was a pretty lonely experience. I didn’t feel comfortable or confident until much later. I think not only because I didn’t have people like me whether in person or online but I also never saw myself reflected in the media. So that’s another huge reason why right now this time we’re living in is kind of amazing because people are using online tools like Twitter YouTube, Tumbler. We are all creating our own content.

I think it’s a really exciting time to be alive in 2019.

TR:

Through the use of online tools like Twitter and their hashtags DVP coordinates and hosts regular Twitter chats. These are conversations in the form of structured Q&A’s where the community is asked to answer questions on a specified subject.

The beauty of these online public discussions is that others can easily be brought into the conversation or discover them. Plus their archived.

Information about past & future chats are published on the VVP website and shared via the Twitter account @DisVisibility

As far as the future for DVP is concerned,

AW:

The Affordable Care Act, Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, housing , transportation, education. Almost every one of these areas there have been a real attempt at going backwards in terms of advancements for civil rights and disability rights.

Overall I think it’s been a war against the poor, immigrants, people of color, against the LGBT community and against women – you know reproductive rights.

There’s a lot to look out for.
[TR in conversation with AW:]
This is probably one of the hardest questions Alice. With 45’s (Note – TR does not say that Trump name) and all that, what do you see in the future that’s hopeful?

AW:

Delay – ooh!

[TR in conversation with AW:]

Laughing . Unfortunately that’s a hard question, right? More laughs.

AW:

Yeh!

You know I do find, it is really hopeful to see so many people engaged and politicized in ways they may not have been before. That to me gives me hope that people realize oh shit, we all are in this together.

My friends, my neighbors, they are all going to be hurt. It’s up to all of us to speak against hate, bigotry, and to call it out.

That to me is hopeful to see people not give a fuck anymore. Put aside this whole idea of respectability politics. Oh we gotta be civil, we gotta be polite, we gotta work within the system. Well you know what, sometimes you can’t do that. Sometimes the situation calls for direct action, it calls for people to be angry and to really show that anger. There’s some hope in that. People are hopefully coming to terms with our relationship to what kind of world do we want to live in. What kind of leadership do we want and deserve. Last fall the wave of women and people of color elected for the first time. That’s kind of exciting. People are galvanized. People want to do something. There’s a lot of potential with that.

Audio: “Well you’re quite hostile!” from “Prophets of Rage” Public Enemy

[TR in conversation with AW:]
What is that you like to do when you’re not fighting Ableism Alice?

AW:

Oh so many things Thomas.

I love coffee, I love good desserts with coffee, I love going to bakeries cafe’s, I have a love affair with fried chicken and French fries, I love really really good southern food but also just watching TV, watching cat videos, Netflix. We all need to find things that give us joy. Talking to my friends, being lazy, love to sleep in lay around. Those are things that keep me going.

##TR

Lazy? Do not get it twisted. Let’s take a look at what Alice and DVP turned out in 2018.

Hit me!
Audio: I Go to Work” Kool Moe Dee

I’m going to need the right vibe for this one.

She’s written article for multiple publications on topics including;

the California wildfires
plastic straw bans and accessibility
an essay on the visibility of Senator Tammy Duckworth as a disabled mother of color
HR 620 and disability rights
representation of disabled people in entertainment
for Teen Vogue.

– Published 5 oral histories of some movers and shakers in the disability community in partnership with Story Corps. 

Lots of blog posts including guests posts, Q&A’s

Produced and hosted 26 episodes of the
Disability Visibility podcast
with her team:
co-audio producers Cheryl Green, Geraldine Ah-Sue, and Sarika Mehta.

Multiple media appearances including:
United Shades of America with W. Kamau Bell
on CNN
– Featured in the
Bitch 50,
(I didn’t name it!)

a list recognizing the most impactful creators, artists, and activists in pop culture influential feminists by Bitch Media and
Colorline’s 20 X 20,

Multiple presentations and talks:
the 2018 Longmore lecture at the
Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability
– Co-presented a workshop on reproductive justice and disabled people

Co- hosted a couple dozen Twitter Chats
for DVP and several other organizations and groups.

Don’t forget she Published and edited
Resistance and Hope: Essays by Disabled People
available on Amazon
and free in multiple formats

To find out more about that and how you can share your disability story and have it archived with Story Corps visit the DVP at DisabilityVisibilityProject.com
Follow them on Twitter @DisVisibility
And definitely make sure you follow Alice if you want to be in the know about disability issues and culture at SFDirewolf.

All these links will be on this episodes show page at ReidMyMind.com.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
Alice Wong yawl!

Salute to you Alice. I think you do some wonderful things and I know I’m learning from you. So I appreciate you.

AW:

Well I am learning from you. And I’m so happy that, again it’s through Twitter that brought us together.

[TR in conversation with AW:]
Yeh!

AW:

That’s what’s really awesome We may have never come across each other in real life but thanks to the internet I could call you a friend.

[TR in conversation with AW:]

Absolutely, absolutely! I truly appreciate that. I truly appreciate you and the fact that you just called me a friend I’m very happy about that! Because I hope to continue this. I honestly do learn a lot and I appreciate that because this is part of my growth and you know finding where I fit in with disability and how this all works and I appreciate it.

AW:

Me too you know It’s all part of the journey, and you’re part of it.

TR:

Tell me who wouldn’t want to be on a journey with cool people, bad asses getting things done and doing it from a good place. I guess could be summed up by a hashtag from another project of Alice and two other disability champions Mia Mingus and Sandy Ho.
#AccessIsLove.

Audio: Music… “It Just Makes Me Happy”, DJ Quad (No Copyright Music)

One thing disability has taught me that applies to just about everything; there’s no normal. There’s the way we’ve been used to doing something and if anybody tells you it’s easy to just change that, they haven’t been through anything.

But we can adapt. We can find a new way and sometimes that new way, even though it’s not the one you would choose, it may be the one you needed and may prove to bring you where you’re supposed to be.

A few things I want to highlight before we get out of here.

No one gave Alice permission to start Disability Visibility Project. She didn’t need a board of directors, she didn’t need a large organization behind her. She made the decision to make it happen.

We can all do that. And if you have to change it up cool!
If you don’t enjoy it that’s cool too. Just start it if you’re thinking about it.

psst… I’m talking to you!

Like if you’re thinking about subscribing to this here podcast, I suggest you follow through with that feeling!

Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio or wherever you get podcasts.

You can always send me feedback or recommend a guest or topic all you have to do is hollaback!

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 would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

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

Peace!

Hide the transcript

The Art of Access with Cheryl Green

Wednesday, March 27th, 2019

The camera catches Cheryl & Cynthia from a jaunty angle. Cynthia holds a beautiful plaque for Superfest Disability Justice Award for New Day Films’ Who Am I To Stop It. The plaque has text, Braille, and raised lettering. Cynthia smiles at Cheryl as she burst into excited laughter at the passer-by who shouted “Superfest, whoo!” she holds a bouquet of sunflowers by her face.

Meet Cheryl Green, a filmmaker focusing on disability identity and culture and making media accessible.

She began making films after acquiring disabilities from brain injury. Her media combine personal narrative and activism to create
dynamic tools that critically challenge misconceptions and stereotypes of disability, celebrate pride in disability experiences, and amplify marginalized
voices. Cheryl works to create a platform for people to use the arts to increase connectedness and to promote dialogue and change within the larger community.

Hear why Cheryl views Captions and Audio Description as an artistic part of the film/media and a means of achieving disability justice and equity.

Her latest film Who Am I To Stop it is a documentary on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury.

She’s a fellow Association of Independence in Radio New Voice Scholar… hit play below and hear how that worked out for yours truly!

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

Audio: “Fellow Americans, it’s with the utmost pride and sincerity that I present this recording …” PSA, Jay Z (Just Blaze)
— Beat rides underneath…

TR:

Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.

Audio: “Allow me to reintroduce myself, my name is…” PSA, Jay Z

TR:

T.R E I D, Moving podcasts by the GB!

. I’m your host and producer of this podcast.
Bringing you stories and profiles of compelling people impacted by all degrees of vision loss and disability. Plus, I occasionally explore my own experience around becoming blind as an adult. I try to present that in my own way blending my words with audio and sound design.

Before we get into it, you know movin’

Audio: “Moving’ doin’ it you know” Sex machine, James Brown

I want to send a shout out to those of you who subscribe to the podcast. I truly appreciate you. That simple act of hitting that subscribe button especially if you subscribe via Apple Podcast, increases the chances for others to discover the show.

Audio: Music stops…

I don’t know why, that’s just what they do!..

Music re-starts…

One of my main goals of producing this show is to hopefully reach those who are new to the experience of blindness, low vision, vision loss I think the people across the Atlantic refer to it as sight loss. Maybe you are recently experiencing some form of disability. I think there’s something for you here.

It’s a shift in attitude that is not based on changing just to change but it’s based on experience. Experience from people who have been where you are right now and worked their way through it. People who accepted what they were given, people who didn’t feel the need to overcome but rather embrace and continue.

Hmmm!

If you are new to disability let me send you a very warm welcome. A virtual hug going out to you. I’m referring to anyone impacted by disability. Whether you are Blind or Low Vision or maybe you are the spouse, parent or child or even the friend of… we got something for you right chere. And yes, I said right chere!

So with all of that said, I hope you are ready because I want to introduce you to a new friend of mine who brings a different perspective to how we view accessible media content.

I just hyped myself up and I hope you can feel it too!

Let’s go!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro

# Cheryl Intro

My name is Cheryl Green. I am an independent documentary producer and audio producer.

TR:

She’s also a strong advocate and maker of accessible media content including subtitles, captions and audio description.

As an independent film maker, we see that’s just one of the unique perspectives she brings to her work.

# On Disability

[TR in conversation with CG:]
What is your relationship with disability?

CG:

I like that question. It’s so much nice and more nuanced then what’s your disability and what’s your diagnosis because disability experience is so much more than medical diagnosis.

One of my relationships to disability is political. I’m always looking at cultural and political things from a disability rights and disability justice platform. Another relationship is that almost all of my friends and significant people in my life are disabled people. And then because I like things in three’s; my relationship to disability is that I have multiple invisible disabilities, but I’m not sure that invisible makes sense as a term. Non-apparent or easy to hide. Some of them are acquired and some are stuff that I was born with that has shown up later in life from kind of living as a knucklehead and now it’s coming up. Laughs.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs…

Oh boy there’s a lot of stories right there. In that one statement, living as a knucklehead. Oh boy!

CG:

Laughing…

But it’s funny because that’s the one that I was born with. It’s a connective tissue disorder and for me it’s very mild , but I have dislocations and I have chronic pain chronic tendonitis, ligaments that are over stretched. I was born with it. The knucklehead part is that I over did it as an athlete through most of my life. So just chronic injuries and stuff but it’s nothing as fun and exciting as you know…what did she do?

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs…

# Captioning

## TR:

Cheryl also experienced a Traumatic Brain Injury that she says is indirectly related to the complications of the connective tissue disorder.

Our conversation however, focused on accessible media content. Beginning first with captioning.

Now I know most of you listening are way smarter than me but I needed a clarification between sub titles and captions.

CG:

Subtitles are just a typed out version of what people are saying. It’s just words on the screen as the words are being spoken. Captions also provide descriptions of the sounds music, whether there’s traffic going by, dogs barking. When possible you can add in a description like whispering or tense voice . There’s all sorts of descriptors you can add in there.
They should identify who’s speaking and when the speaker switches.

The thing about subtitles is that they actually assume that it’s only hearing audiences watching a film that has subtitles because there’s no indication when the speakers change. And if you’re looking at a sunrise and two people are off screen talking and you just see sentence after sentence after sentence there’s actually no way to know who’s talking and when the speaker’s switching. And to me I don’t see how you can follow what’s happening if you don’t know when the different people are talking.

TR:

Maybe you can’t tell yet, but this subject has a special place in her heart. It’s not just about words on the screen.

CG:

I love captioning more than anything else that I do. One thing that I love about captioning is that it is so precise, detailed, tedious and repetitive. That just works for me.

I look at captioning as part of the art. I do not think of it as a piece of accessibility that you have to add or want to add at the end. To me it’s artistic. Translating things. I can’t literally caption every single sound that is in a piece of art. That doesn’t make sense it’s not even possible. So I have to make creative decisions based on what I think it most important from the creator’s perspective and what I think audiences will want to get from something. I don’t want to be like “Speaks slowly, whispers quietly, birds chirp” I want it to be rich and lush especially when the film or the show is rich and lush. I feel like it’s my duty to make the captions as interesting and beautiful and artistic as the film is.

For me captioning is something that I can do in a move towards justice and equity. It is access to information. Whether that’s the news or pure entertainment or something that’s informational or somethings that’s on a social issue. it’s about equity. It’s not just about meeting compliance. I love doing it and I love what it can bring to people and how it can include more people in media and in conversations.

# Audio Description

TR:
Captioning eventually led Cheryl to find an additional way to make media more inclusive and engaging.

CG:

Through one more piece of access that’s very artistic , very subjective and hopefully integrate it into the art itself.

TR:

Maybe that’s not the way you’re used to thinking about or even hearing Audio Description discussed. . but that’s what she’s talking about.

Cheryl recalls first thinking about AD after providing captions for a client and then reading their Facebook post which read;
CG:
“Hey my video has captions now it’s accessible to everyone!”

## TR:

This just wasn’t true!

CG:

You have to be able to read quite well and quite quickly to follow captions. No, captions are not accessible to all people because not everybody can read in whatever given language there in but also I looked at that and thought well these captions are just visible on screen and if you’re not
looking at the captions there not there.

TR:

There’s all sorts of benefits gained from captioning and Audio description. And not just for the consumer.

CG:

I think it takes a lot to acknowledge you know what, I made a great film here but I recognize that not everybody can access it because of the way I made it.

There’s a big piece of acknowledging this film is not complete until more people can come in.

From a capitalistic sense if you have great content and you want an audience why not make your content available to a bigger audience. It just makes sense.

But I hate capitalism so I do also value more of a disability justice and social justice and equity lens to say people need to be participating in civic engagement, arts, culture, entertainment and all of it. And What can I do to make that more accessible and available to more people.

# Film

TR:

She’s answering that question from multiple points of view. That’s a Caption & Audio Description provider and as a film maker.

Following the brain injury which impacted her ability to cook as well as organize she did what anyone would do;

CG:

I made a comedy film about it and it took off.

Audio: “Cooking with Brain Injury”

TR:
Okay, maybe that’s not what everyone does.

That first film was called “Cooking with Brain Injury”

A short film looking at daily struggles of life after traumatic brain injury with dark, honest humor.

CG:

I sold many copies of it. I’ve taken it to state and national speech therapy conferences. I’ve done Continuing Ed. trainings around it and it was totally impairment based. It was a window into my world.

TR:

After other films around brain injury, she decided it was time to close that window.

Audio: window closing

CG:

I realized I need to get out of the spotlight and get behind the camera and do more. Over the years my films have become much less about impairment and much more about disability experience, marginalization, self-empowerment, autonomy and decision making. I do a lot of cross disability work now. It was all brain injuries in the beginning but that didn’t hold my attention because it can be so impairment focused.

TR:

Cheryl’s first film didn’t start out with Captions or Audio Description.

CG:

I didn’t know about access at all when I started, but as soon as I found out I could copy down the spoken words and put them up on the screen; it didn’t look good , but those words were on the screen. And I loved it!
Then I got educated about Captioning software

TR:
She became quite serious about the craft.

CG:

I read up on the FCC guidelines. I love it when the FCC issues new guidelines new recommendations. I’m there with those white papers reading them to make things the best that I can.

I have seen some people criticize the FCC guidelines for example saying, “I don’t care what the guidelines are I want to know what Deaf people want.”

Number one, Captions are not just for Deaf people. There’s a lot of different kind of people who want and need Captions.

Number two, there were Caption users on the committee that wrote the FCC guidelines.

They’re really good guidelines . They make for beautiful Captions They included actual consumers actual Caption users in their creation and that’s another reason I really value them.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

You really are a Caption nerd! Laughs…

CG:

Laughs… I’m such a nerd!

TR:

Deep passion for a given subject. That’s what separates the nerds from the rest.

In this case, the passion is all about inclusion, social justice and equity.

CG:

I have a lot of clients a lot of filmmakers who come to me for captioning and they have a lot of complaints about the way captions look. Or they make requests that I find unreasonable. They’re unreasonable because they are centering that hearing filmmaker who doesn’t actually know what Captions are or can’t really articulate what Captions are for. And I say, your aesthetics around Captions are not what I’m working with. I am working to serve Caption users and I have very explicit reasons why I make the choices that I make. I’ll negotiate with you. I’ll talk with you on the phone but you have to understand that Caption users come firsthand I’m not interested in your aesthetic choices around the Captions.

If you want access you would make captions the most accessible that I know how to make. I get into fights with people all of the time and it’s so much fun!

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Laughs!

TR:

Don’t worry, know one’s out here recklessly out starting fights. This is all about advocating for the user.

CG:

IF content creators always included Caption users and Audio Description users in their minds and their target audience then it wouldn’t be a thing. But it’s specifically because people whether it’s willfully or they just have somehow remained oblivious through their careers, they don’t even consider people who would benefit from the access as part of their target audience. That’s why I harp on it . I would love to get to a place where it’s just we have to do color correction, we have to do sound sweetening, we have to trim off 35 seconds on this, we have to add the Audio Description. Boom, boom,boom boomboom!

When it’s just part of the practice, yeh, I won’t have to be so political and I won’t enjoy fighting with people. But until we’re at that day for whatever reason I enjoy being super fired up and political about it.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

The order in which you laid that out where you said ok, they have to do some color correction, do this and let’s add Audio Description. I want that thought about in the writing because to me the end result would be better. I still think that when it comes to things like Audio Description and Captions, there’s a charity model that starts off the process.. Let’s do this because you know (the following said mockingly) it’s a good thing to do for the people. Let’s give this to them so they can be happy.

If they thought about it has what you said which is it’s going to make our film better Not just because more people are seeing it but it actually may do something better to the film Meaning, if you think about Audio Description at the time of writing it at the time of producing that film chances are you’re going to think of something that’s going to enhance it.

CG:

Oh, hundred percent! Oh my gosh, I just got interviewed yesterday they were like what’s the one take home message that you 3want filmmakers to have.

I say, you put access in your budget in the pre-production phase. You put it in your budget so there’s no “oh we didn’t know”. And then you always consider it. You don’t just get the supplementary footage or the daily footage.

There’s kind of this idea that you find something beautiful you hold the camera on it for at least 10 seconds, get a good shot. You know what? Do it for 40 seconds because then when we’re editing there’s the opportunity to say let’s stretch out this shot a little more because then we can put the Audio Description in.

I am totally with you that if you are considering this stuff from the beginning you’re going to film it differently. You’re going to edit it differently. It is going to be better.

TR:

This is coming from an experienced film maker.

CG:

When I filmed my documentary and I was still new to this, I told my Director of Photography, “Don’t ever do extreme close ups. Ever” I don’t want any extreme close ups. Even with the mouth off to the side because we are going to have captions in every version of this film ever shown. I told the Editor, “I need you to put in spots, stretched out spots where Audio Description can come in.”

Now unfortunately I wasn’t trained in Audio Description back then, and so we didn’t nail that as well. We didn’t have enough stretched out spaces and the Audio Description isn’t as lush as it could be.

We did some re-editing and we added in more space. I re-wrote the script, the original Audio Description script, hired other voices to do it. As you watch my film progress over time the same film different versions Audio Description becomes more lush, more engaging more honest because now I understand Audio Description a little better. So there were things that were a little vague in the description.

TR:

For many such re-writes would feel like a chore.

Like her latest production, “Who AM I to Stop it”, a documentary film on isolation, art, and transformation after brain injury, was selected for Superfest International Disability Film Festival.

The longest running disability film festival in the world – co-hosted by San Francisco’s Lighthouse and the
Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State.

Superfest is one of the few festivals worldwide that is accessible to disabled filmgoers of all kinds.  
CG:

I got an email from the director, hey we love your film it got in, it got an award, but we had to stop during the screening a few times because our Blind jurors felt left out by a joke in the film. It wasn’t described well enough. She said I’m sorry I don’t mean to be negative but are you at all available to re-record.

TR:

I suppose it’s viewing this process as art that produces Cheryl’s response.

CG:

Negative, this is the biggest gift in the world are you kidding me let’s go.

I rewrote several parts but I specifically rewrote the part that people felt left out by. My Blind Audio description teacher helped point out some spots where she still felt a little bit excluded or maybe even confused about what was happening. It’s just more descriptive. That’s how art should be. As you learn and develop your skills it gets more wonderful.

Audio: Basic Able

TR:

Wonderful, like the time she described an improvised dance segment for a video podcast. It featured Antoine Hunter

CG:

He is a really phenomenal person. He’s a dancer, choreographer and healing artist. He teaches dance. He’s marvelous. He’s Deaf and he’s the Artistic Director I think, of the Real Urban Jazz dance Company.

I’ve never done dance before. It was so fun and it was so exciting to try and get the dance moves and match them. And because he’s Deaf he incorporates some sign into the way he dances.

I’m not fluent at all, but I’m familiar with Sign language and I’m familiar with the role that facial expression plays in the grammar and expression of Sign language. So I was able to make references to his hand gestures as being Sign and references to his facial expressions.

I think I said his facial expressions mirror the expansiveness of his bodies motion.

Audio: from podcast if available…

TR:

Hopefully, by now, you too should at least start to see the art. It’s the familiarity with the culture that enables Cheryl to recognize such detail.

CG:

Everything that I do has something about disability or Deaf culture in it. I engage with it seven days a week. Whether I’m making something or reading or watching something. I try to immerse myself in the cultural aspects of Deafness and Disability. That brings a more lush Audio Description

TR:

That level of detail and equity goes as far as seeking input from those being described.

CG:

I sent Antoine the script because it wasn’t going to be in the captions for him to read. He really liked it and he corrected one part that he didn’t like. It didn’t feel fair to him and he gave me words that not only feel more fair to him, but were more beautiful than the words I had chosen. It was so collaborative and so beautiful.

When I’m describing what somebody’s body looks like or how it moves I send them my script. I ask them what they think about how I wrote it. or I tell them I’m going to audio describe this please tell me how you want time to describe what you look like. Sometimes people will send me a description that’s actually not very visual.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Like what?

CG:

Like when I say how do you want me to describe how you’re moving? And the response is a man with Cerebral Palsy. That doesn’t give me a sense of how you move, but I asked and you answered. And I respect your answer. But it is tricky because the point of audio description is to give people a flavor of the visuals and man with Cerebral Palsy that’s not very visual is it?

[TR in conversation with CG:]
No, not at all.

CG:

If it’s your content and I’m describing you and that’s all you give me ok, that’s what I’ll use.

When it’s my content I’ll use their words as the starting point and expand to make it more descriptive and more visual oriented.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

Give me an idea of the types of things that you would include in a description of someone.

CG:

I try to always describe something that relates to race or ethnicity. If I know how the person identifies then I can use those terms. If I don’t then I might be more descriptive. for instance, I describe myself as a white woman, which is kind of descriptive but not really because my skin tone is darker than any of my white friends. I’m the darkest person I know in my circle of white friends so it’s not super descriptive to say that I’m white. But it wouldn’t be useful to say I’m a brown woman because I’m white. I just have kind of light brown skin. If I don’t know their ethnicity I might say someone with a dark skin tone, someone with a fair skin tone. Sometimes I’ll defer to hair. A woman with bright red hair.. She’s probably white if she has bright red hair. now not necessarily of course.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

(Laughs…) Now-a-days!

CG:
There are different reasons why someone would have red hair regardless of their ethnicity.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

What would make you choose their hair and what would make you include that in the description. I wonder why would they say that? Why did they now tell me that this person is a Black person or whatever. And I’m like hmm, let me see if this is going to be really necessary to the story line.
CG:

Yeh!
[TR in conversation with CG:]

Sometimes it is and sometimes it isn’t. And it leaves me wondering why they made that choice and why they didn’t describe the white person.

CG:

Ok, get ready!

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Yeh, ok! (Laughs.)

CG:

Oh my! I cannot tell you how with you I am. I’m going to describe something if it feels relevant to the story or for political reasons.

Just end my career now if I ever put something out there where I say the black person and the person meaning white. I don’t know if I would ever recover from my remorse.

I don’t do, a wheel chair user and a person. Huh! No! If there’s a wheelchair user and there’s someone else standing. One person sitting in a wheel chair and one person standing. I make political choices If one person’s race or ethnicity or nationality becomes relevant to the story, I am going to make a point to name everybody’s so that I’m not singling one person out as the other or the weirdo or the outsider.

There is no way that someone is ethnic and some other person is not ethnic. I just cannot even wrap my head around … I don’t even know what ethnic food means, what on earth, what? (Said with a lot of annoyance!)

What food doesn’t come from a culture? What? (Said exasperatingly)

No, I will name them all or I will name nobody. And it really depends on the content creator, what they’re going for, how much time there is and yes is it relevant. Is it going to make a difference to the story for me to know something about the ethnicities of the people involved and is there time to get that in there. And if I can’t describe them all then I can’t describe any. or sometimes I will tell somebody, you need to stretch out that first scene because I have got to get that description in there. I have to!

TR:

Movies, television are often a reflection of society. It’s not surprising that the politics of the world impacts the way we think about and create access to content.

There are many who believe the best approach is to ignore race or ethnicity all together. As Cheryl points out, the results don’t lead to equality.

CG:

I think when Audio Describers are shy, oh I don’t’ want to say those words, as an Audio Describer your comfort and discomfort are not supposed to be part of this. You’re censoring it for the viewers.

You know I was really moved by your episodes around Black panther. There’s the access piece, but also one of the ways we white wash is to pretend like white people are neutral and just people. And so whatever we think is important is what’s important. And yeh, they had some cool costumes in Black panther, but ok, cool costumes whatever. That’s not fair. It’s so beyond not fair, it really is a show of white supremacy.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Mm Hmm! (In agreement)

CG:

To neutralize overt displays of culture that are not white, you erase them, you ignore them. That is white supremacy. And it’s not ok.

If the film maker did not erase culture then the Audio Describer or Captioner really should not erase culture as well.

[TR in conversation with CG:]
Absolutely!

CG:

Some people feel like it’s just the detail, no. We’re talking about humanity and we’re talking about dehumanizing people. Willfully dehumanizing people when we leave stuff out

TR:

Cheryl says the same occurs in captions.

Not only is she creating films, accessible content through subtitles, captions and audio description, Cheryl produces the podcast Pigeonhole.

As described on Apple Podcast:

Pigeonhole challenges the stereotypes that disabled people are all white, straight, middle class people in search of a cure for their bodies and minds
the way mainstream media would make it seem. Made by from disability community, and centering disabled people as audience, Pigeonhole interrogates the
assumptions and biases we hold about disability and embraces all parts of people’s identities. We uplift disability culture, celebrate identity, and break
out of the narrow pigeonholes people attempt to stuff us in.

She’s a fellow recipient of the New Voice Scholarship warded by Association of Independence in Radio.

Receiving that scholarship puts us both in a very exclusive group of some of the best audio makers currently making radio and podcasts.

Audio: Microphone and other equipment collapsing during my conversation with Cheryl.

[TR in conversation with CG:]

We are having operating difficulties, please stand by

TR:

Well, maybe not all of us!

You can find Cheryl online at WhoAmIToStopIt.com She tweets under that same name, which again is her latest production.

Her films are available through New Day Film.com.

Checkout Cheryl’s podcast Pigeonhole – that’s P I G E O N H O L E. I especially like the episode titled “A nap and a bird.” It’s a short well told story that says a lot.

# Close

Audio: “As we proceed”

We’re continuing to advance our ongoing conversation around Audio Description and content access in general.

Considering captions & AD as art? Why shouldn’t it be. It’s the written word that has some pretty strict requirements including the time constraints and a need to quickly convey a message. We’re talking about talented writers and voice actors/narrators.

Let’s spread this way of thinking about accessible content.

Let’s push for content creators like Cheryl whether independent or in the major studios to see it as a tool to improve their storytelling. Then maybe we’ll see it become a part of the pre-production and be more of a reflection of the film’s conceived vision.

Looking at content access through a social justice lens feels like it leads closer to inclusion.

A big shout out to Cheryl Green! I enjoy speaking with her and appreciate her perspective. I guess I’ll go ahead and put this right here… I hope you will hear more from her right here on the podcast in the future.

You know, I still hope to hear more from you the listener. I’m not looking for you to write me long messages about how much you love the show or how funny you think I am or how much you like the production, or how much you think this podcast should be the top podcast on the charts or how it makes your day when a new episode publishes… no who would want to hear any of that!

I just want to know if it made you smile, gave you an idea or maybe encouraged you to do something.

I send myself fake messages about all the other stuff so I have that covered!

Seriously, holla back!

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 would really love voice messages that I can share on the podcast. If you don’t want to call, you can grab your smart phone and record a voice memo and email the finished recording to ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

I’d love to hear and share the voices of those who are listening. If you want to send a message but don’t want it shared just say so and it’s all good.

So make sure you Subscribe!
Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast Sound Cloud
Audio: Bring the audio to a screech!

## TR:

if you mainly listen to the podcast via Sound Cloud I’m hoping you will continue to listen but I am moving away from that platform. I’ve been tolerating their interface in order to avoid the move to another service.

I may decide to keep one or two episodes available, but the best method for staying caught up is to subscribe via Apple Podcast, Spotify, Google Podcast, Stitcher, Tune In Radio and wherever you get podcasts.

You can always visit www.ReidMyMind.com

So there’s no confusion, that’s R to the E I D like my last name!

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!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace

Hide the transcript

Reid My Mind Radio – Hey Stacey, This, Is Black History

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016

With talk about Black History Month and the comments of Stacey Dash and anyone who believes serving an disenfranchised population is somehow racist… well I felt the need to share what’s on my mind and give my view of Black History Month.

 

Do you think you know where I fall in the argument? Only one way to find out… Hit Play!