Posts Tagged ‘Audio Description’

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: La Professora

Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

Headshot of Professor Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino
We’re wrapping up the 2022 FTS season with a bright red bow! Professor Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino of Montclair State University joins us to discuss her 400 level class on Audio Description in both English and Spanish.

A fully immersive course where students;
* choose a concentration – theater, museum or film
* work on real world projects in the community
* earn and practice both creative and compliance approach

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If you believe Audio Description should be culturally appropriate, include Blind people in the production process and in general support quality access to visual content for all those who are Blind or have Low Vision;
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Resources

Montclair State

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR: 00:00
I had an art teacher when I was in elementary school who made such an impression on me that I’ll never forget her. I decided I’ll always mention her whenever I can. She seemed to take many opportunities to point out that I was not very good at art. Insisting that my cutouts were sloppy, my glue game was awful. And let’s not talk about coloring or painting. She never once asked or considered why. She never made an attempt to help me improve. I wasn’t blind at the time. But I did have real trouble seeing the lines. I literally couldn’t color within them.

It wasn’t until late college that I realized I not only couldn’t see myself as a creative, artful person, but I couldn’t believe anyone who said otherwise. Then I met Professor Wilson who also singled me out in class. This time using my essays as an example of thoughtful, creative writing. I remember thinking he must be confusing the papers. He said my name, but he’s probably referring to somebody else.

Teachers make a big difference.

That elementary teacher, she didn’t care about me. She just cared about staying within the lines. Professor Wilson recognized something in me that unfortunately took a long time for me to see and believe in myself. Did I mentioned teachers make a difference y’all.

My name is Thomas Reid. I’m the host and producer of this here Podcast. I’m bringing you a bit of a PSA. Be mindful of who you choose as your teacher. They may not be worthy of you.

Let’s go.

Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Maria Jose 02:07
I’m very excited to be here. My name is Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino. I’m from Spain. I am professor at Montclair State University in the Department of the Spanish and Latino Studies. I teach audio visual translation and audio description in Spanish and in English. I am a middle aged woman brown curly hair with glasses.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 02:30
How did you get into audio description.

Maria Jose 02:32
My three siblings in Spain in Madrid, they work for the O.N.C.E which is the National blind organization. One of my siblings is legally blind. So I have many friends and acquaintances who are visually impaired. And I wasn’t aware of audio description but not so much until let’s say 10 years ago. And I became really interested in the field and how to incorporate that to my teaching, because I teach a language and that’s a perfect linguistic application right there, among other things, so I decided to get more information and more training on audio description.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 03:10
that began with the ACB audio description project training class. Then she started consuming her content with description when available, and even found ways of incorporating the practice. And of course, she taught on audio video Translation and Subtitling. All of this led to her first class dedicated to audio description in both Spanish and English held this spring semester 2022

Maria Jose 03:32
We are using the Visual Made Verbal by Joel Snyder and more than meets the eye what Linus can bring to art by Georgina Kleege . We want to have a combination of the more standard rules of restriction, and also the more creative subjective way. The class is divided in three groups of students who are working in three different fields. I have students who are working in audio description for the theater for live performances. I have another group of students who are working in art museums. And I have another group of students who are doing short films.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 04:07
Already this class distinguishes itself from other an AD trainings, which are often very specialized. teaching the course in a university setting over several months really allows for an immersive experience. Students choose their focus from the areas of concentration, theater, music, and film. They’re then grouped into teams and work on real world projects. Plus, Maria Jose is combining the creative with the compliance. So you know, she has my attention. For more on what those differences mean. Make sure you check out the episode earlier in the season titled Audio Description in the Making.

Maria Jose 04:43
The group that is working with the audio description in the theater, we just had our play in the repertory Espanol, which is an off Broadway theater in New York City. They show plays all in Spanish. And this is a partnership that we started In 2019, this is our third play with audio description in Spanish for them. It was on Saturday, April, that period, it was a group of eight students, they did everything. They prepare pre show tactile experience, which was wonderful. One of the students reach Maralis, he made a replica of the stage with all the furniture stick to the floor so that the blind people could touch them without moving them. So he replicated everything.

TR: 05:30
We’re talking about the full set design down to the roses in a vase which play a symbolic role in the play. Notice this tactile pre show component is considered part of the full audio description experience.

Maria Jose 05:41
The students also of course, prepare the script. And I supervise them they have multiple meetings, many hours of rehearsal with this great because of course, it’s like performance, we needed to prepare in advance. So we had a video of the play that could give us an idea of the spaces that we have in between dialogues to describe one of the students or the guy you’ll find, yeah, she was the voice over talent. And she was in the booth with another students Gabriela vinco, who helped her they did a fantastic job. This is a live performance. So they had to improvise some things and omit others and add some information that they didn’t prepare in advance because they didn’t know that from the video.

Sample AD in Spanish06:31

TR: 06:45
Following the performance, there was a Q & A which included the theaters Executive Director Raphael Sanchez, the plays director Lemma Lopez and the entire cast.

Maria Jose 07:00
So he’s saying that this is something that should happen in all the theaters doesn’t matter off Broadway on Broadway in New York in Spanish planning.

TR: 07:08
While the Q&A is important to gain real feedback in order to continuously improve. It can prove to do even more for relationship building,

Maria Jose 07:16
for example, people from the cast after the Q & A, they were interacting with us with the students asking questions. Then we went for drinks with them. Right next to the theater, there is a bar. So we come with a conversation there. And it was fantastic. The vibration, the energy, the energy that was between the students, sighted people, non-sighted people, the cast, the director, it was amazing. And one of the actresses was so impressed that she came to campus yesterday.

TR: 07:48
It’s worth noting that the full class is about 20 people. Again, they’re not all working on the same projects. Therefore, each group is responsible for presenting their projects to the full class.

Maria Jose 07:59
The challenges, the difficulties of the project and how they solve it. So this actress Sandra will meet you. She came to campus, she was one of the actresses in the play her feedback, her comments and her presence there yesterday was amazing. It was very nice to have her because it’s like the two ends of the process. The creative people doing the play, and then the creative people doing the audio description together.

TR: 08:23
The students working on describing the play dedicate a significant amount of time to the project. Travel to NYC alone can be an undertaking. Maria, Jose has options for those who perhaps have tighter schedules.

Maria Jose 08:35
It’s up to the students. So people who didn’t want to go to New York wanted to work at home. It’s very easy to work with short films. So I propose a collection of short films in Spanish and English and they can choose sacrifice fluency working one for children in Spanish. Another one is working with Banco Santander, one of the short films that they have done to promote a banking campaign, which is a science fiction film, actually. Another is doing a short film, which is a brand film for our brands Larios, which is a gene like a drink so it’s more like advertising. So there are different types of short films, all of them from 10 to 15 minutes.

TR: 09:16
The second area of focus students can choose is museums.

Maria Jose 09:20
It’s a recent partnership that we have done with the Montclair art museum. So we have three students working with the art gallery in the university. And we have two students working with the Montclair Museum in two different projects. The two students who are in the moped Art Museum are doing something that is pretty cool. Very, very, very difficult. It’s a 30 minute video only visuals.

TR: 09:45
The video consists of abstract images, family photos, sound design, and music, but absolutely no dialogue.

Maria Jose 09:52
So the audio description has to be made in a very particular way. Because you don’t want to interfere with the sound too much. This is not at all like The other group of people are doing Museum in the art gallery. They are describing representational paintings of people and landscapes. I encouraged the two students who are doing this. Michelle Robledo Moreno and so it Omitsu to be creative, to be led and be guided by the emotions they experience when they are watching and listening to the video. There are parts of the video which are very scary, and there is tension. And there are parts that are playful and whimsical and joyful. But some parts are like Hominem and it scares you sometimes to hear those sounds. So I encourage them to create and to mimic those visual effects with their voices.

Sample of student project 10:52

TR: 11:11
Another group of students worked with the university’s George Segal gallery to provide description for a series of paintings by artists Jamal coho, titled Black Wall Street, a Case for Reparations, the paintings out of the memory of the black men, women and children from the thriving Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, murdered in 1921 by white terrorists during what’s considered one of this country’s largest racially motivated massacres.

TR in a filtered voice:
I mean, if you’re not including slavery, the Middle Passage, the genocide of Native Americans You get the picture, right?

TR:
The paintings were inspired by Olivia hooker a Greenwood survivor coho was able to interview before she died in 2018 and 103 years old. For the series of paintings, coho called on black professionals from his Brooklyn neighborhood to represent the people of Tulsa. He designed the sets and wardrobe paying homage to a reimagined pass where this Black independent community thrived.

Maria Jose 12:06
Three of my class students are doing nine paintings. And other paintings are going to be done by students in the Disability Studies program in the Department of Anthropology, under the supervision of Dr. Elaine Gerber, who is also a colleague of mine, and very involved in the audio description movements, and practice and of course, their historical context, which is the main objective of the exhibition to raise awareness and to let people know what happens. The title of the exhibition is Black Wall Street A Case for Reparations

TR: 12:41
students even had the opportunity to hear directly from the artist. e

Maria Jose 12:45
We met him two weeks ago in the closing ceremony, introduce him to my students. And he was so thrilled, and we were asking him questions about what would you prefer to say, because we are gonna be providing two or three minutes only. So you have to be very selective. There is so much that you can say about this painting. He said, You have to mention the historical context. And you have to mention what happened. And I remember some of the paintings have like a smoke underneath. And you have to mention the smoke because it makes an allusion to the bombs and the massacre. He introduced us to the models, who were there in the closing ceremony, the models of the paintings was amazing.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 13:27
This is all within a semester.

Maria Jose 13:29
Totally. I mean, I am so overwhelmed. And because of that, like so many things going on so many connections for the students is like mind blowing experience, because they are meeting so many people from different fields, music, arts, theater, and then it’s an opportunity for them for future career paths, and future job opportunities at the same time.

TR: 13:53
This is not the type of class that an instructor can just show up and repeat the same lecture year after year. A big part of the class not only encourages, but originates with relationships.

Maria Jose 14:06
Why the short films are not my connection. The short films are short films that I found interesting. Visual and liquid people probably ascription for example, the theater Yes, the theater was a partnership that we created in 2019, with a repertory Espanol and I sent an email to the director. He was the artistic director, profile sunset, and now he’s the executive director. You have all your plays in Spanish with no description, we want to make these closer to the Spanish speaking blind community in New York. We can collaborate.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 14:39
The opportunities for collaborating are often within reach, starting with the areas that are of interest to you. For Maria Jose, that’s her love of art.

Maria Jose 14:48
I started my training as a docent five, six months ago, from the very beginning, I said that my interest was to train other docents in audience picture for the museum. They weren’t totally on From the very beginning, they didn’t have any experience at all with audio description. In March, I had my first two as a docent with a group of blind people from the vision loss Alliance in New Jersey, they are very active with cultural events. So a group of 1215 Visually Impaired visitors came to the museum. And we had an exhibition with an explanation of this picture. More like in Georgina Kleege’s approach of interactive audio description, participatory audio description. not the typical like the Dawson’s gives the speech and all the visually impaired people are listening in silence. No, this was a conversation.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 15:41
Is that something that you plan to do periodically?

Maria Jose 15:44
I would love to. Maybe it’s not something that I can do, like every month or something like that. But at least once or twice per semester?

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 15:52
I need to know about this. You’re not that far from me. Read my mind radio, road trip. What do you think family? That could be an amazing episode. I mean, sharing is caring. Right?

Maria Jose 16:05
I try always to involve my students. For example, when the vision loss Alliance, they came for the tour, every single time I’m doing all these little things, I always share them with my class. Sometimes nobody can sometimes two, three people, I always invite them,

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 16:21
La Professora also sees the value in road trips.

Maria Jose 16:25
There is a movie theater in Montclair, that I am part of the disability committee. They have everything with a description. And they’re very good with the equipment we review a couple of times this semester after the class, we have gone to the movies as a group and I say to the manager, listen, Mark, we’re going to be tonight or we gonna next week. Do you have 20 equipment’s? Sometimes they don’t have 20. So he said, Yes, Maria Jose. So give me a couple of days, I can bring them from another movie theater or whatever. So they have the equipment’s prepared so that they know that we are coming, and we’ll listen to the movie with the audio description. And then we had dinner after the movie theater and we comment from the quality control point of view. Do you think this option was right was wrong? Why? So this course is very applied. We have fun.

TR: 17:18
In addition to the road trips, Maria Jose invites guest lecturers with real and diverse practical experience, adding even more value

Maria Jose 17:26
Nefertiti Matos Oliveras, you know her she came to the University gave a wonderful lecture followed by a workshop. I met her from the first place that we did, we did a Victoria spaniel in 2019. I met her when she was working for the New York Public Library. Thanks to Nefertiti we could have all the programs in Braille for the play. And she also made that possible in this one last Saturday,

TR: 17:53
not surprising when you know of Nefertiti’s commitment to access to the arts and Braille literacy in general. If you haven’t yet checked out her episode, earlier this season. Let me tell you right now, I highly recommend it.

Maria Jose 18:08
She talked about the process of writing a script and doing the voice over doing that by blind people. That is something that Dr. Romero fresco from University of Vigo in Spain, he advocates for people with disabilities, it doesn’t matter close captioning or audio description , they should be involved in the process, creating the audio description creating the captions Nefertiti talks about that.

TR: 18:30
And it just so happens that Maria Jose has a blind student in her class.

Maria Jose 18:34
And what a coincidence. Her last name is Matos. She’s from Dominican Republic as well, but they are not related. My students who relate to what Nefertiti’s talking about being blind, being immersed in the process from the very beginning, creating the accessibility. And she was talking about the challenges of doing this and how she solved them.

Then this lecture was followed by our workshop, where students in groups of four or five people Nefertiti suggested to have four people doing the four roles of audio description; the writing of the script, the voice over the quality control, and the editing and sound engineering.

So we group four people, and they have to do the first 30 seconds of trailer of the last movie of Star Wars. Some of them did in Spanish. Some of them did it in English, after half an hour Nefertiti was going around, giving feedback. And after that, we compare the versions and you have the Spanish from Spain, Spanish from Mexico, Spanish from Argentina, (laughs) to compare. In my class, I have students from all different Spanish speaking countries. That was very interesting. We had a great time with Nefertiti. We learned so much.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 19:50
This is a 400 level course available to junior seniors and graduate students in Montclair University in New Jersey. So far, we see several benefits of learning AD in this environment, not only can it be fun with the right Profesora, but there’s attention paid to all of the skills involved in assuring quality audio description,

Maria Jose 20:09
The set of skills are diverse. So you know that they are part of the writing the script, editing, quality control voice over in the case of the theater, tactile experience, reaching out to the community, publicizing the events, interacting with people in the theater explaining to them how the equipment works. Some of the students in the group, they are very good with people, they are good at greeting people when they come to the theater explaining to them the audio description equipment, some of them are very shy and don’t want to be involved. They’re very good at writing, quality control, I can place them in roles that they feel comfortable, and that they are going to excel in those roles. But not everybody can do the same thing.

TR: 20:52
What if everyone not only brought their own set of skills to the table, but they also brought that love?

Maria Jose 20:58
Someone says once that if you really love what you do, you will not work one single day of your life and I totally agree with that.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 21:06
What is it about audio description that you love?

Maria Jose 21:09
I think there’s many things, the observational skills part, It makes or forces me to pay attention to details, or be more observant. The second thing that I love is the selective thinking in lexical choices. What verb are you going to use what adjective or what adverb is going to give you in a very short time? That image that you exactly want to convey? Linguistic aspect it’s like crafting the language.

TR: 21:39
Maria Jose uses AED as a learning tool in her early level Spanish classes as well.

Maria Jose 21:45
I play movies in Spanish with a description in Spanish. And I pass surveys to them. And I asked them if they understood the movie better with audio description , and why and what aspects? And most of the answer are yes, I didn’t know that this verb could be used for this action. Or I understand it better because it made me aware of parts that would go unnoticed. So, a Spanish language is improved through the restriction. That’s a pedagogical application of audio description to improve a second language.

TR: 22:20
Recognizing the opportunities that real world interactions present, Maria Jose makes certain to survey audience members. Feedback received during the live theatre performance at the Theatre Company in NYC as to what many of us already know, AD has benefits that go beyond informing those who are blind or have low vision from enabling multitasking to helping some recognize the significance of gestures or facial expressions. Some of Maria Jose’s research is examining what we can learn about cultural differences.

Maria Jose 22:52
Why you see a character in the movie, smoking a cigarette in the Spanish description. They don’t say anything in English or your kitchen. They say he’s smoking a cigarette. So different characterizations, depending on different cultures, because maybe in Spain everybody smokes. So it’s not such a relevant trait in the moment.

TR: 23:09
This research for an article she wrote titled Getting the Full Picture in English and Spanish where she examined the audio described characters in Netflix’s elite.

Maria Jose 23:19
I was doing that comparison between the English and Spanish description. If different cultures are gonna emphasize or highlight aspects of a character certain physical traits that in another language they wouldn’t emphasize. it interested me for someone who is always paying attention to Spanish and English nuances of the language.

TR: 23:39
This made me curious about the differences in Spanish dialects spoken throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain.

Maria Jose 23:45
For example, in the play, one of the main characters he’s wearing a jacket for this play is placed in the Caribbean, they will say Sacco and to Spanish people from Spain circle is another thing, but we want it to be in accordance with the character. So if the character says Sacco, we’re gonna say sacco. But of course, there is someone in the audience from Spain out of the context, you’re gonna infer that that’s a Jacquetta. That’s a jacket.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 24:10
It’s another example of cultural competence at that point.

Maria Jose:
Exactly.

TR:
Wow. Look where we ended up. I didn’t even plan that. It just proves what I will continue to shout.
TR filtered sounds as in stadium making an announcement to crowd:
“Audio Description is about much more than entertainment.”

TR:
When La profesora is not teaching the art of audio description, or any of her other classes for that matter. She’s making her own art.

Maria Jose 24:33
I discovered plain air painting five, six years ago. Wow, rich painting retreats, but outdoors, what they call Plein Air, which is what the Impressionist painters they painted outside to be able to capture the light in a fast way. So you have to pace very fast because the light that you have now you’re not going to happen in 15 minutes. I completely fell in love with the technique. You have to pay really fast to capture A moment you paint a landscape, you paint what you see. So, it has to do with description as well.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 25:05
Now, after you’re done painting, do you provide an image description for your painting?

Maria Jose 25:09
Maybe when I have my first exhibition, I will have everything with audio description in English and Spanish. Of course,

TR: 25:16
that’s right audio description on everything in every language, because blind people are everywhere. And we deserve access. If you want to learn more about this immersive and applied course, in audio description in Spanish and English, or maybe get in touch with Maria Jose, start with the Montclair State University website@montclair.edu.

Maria Jose 25:43
And within that, you can go to the Department of Spanish, Spanish and Latino studies have their own YouTube channel, YouTube and Spanish and Latino Studies,

TR: 25:52
I’ll have links on this episode’s blog post. Plus if you’re on Instagram,

Maria Jose 25:55
my name is GarciaVizCam. Garcia is GARCIA V as in Victor I Z as in Zebra. C as in Charlie, a. m like Maria.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 26:08
Well, let me tell you something professora. Oh, want to let you know that you are an official member of the Reid my Mind Radio family because you were so kind enough to come over here and talk about your amazing class. Personally, I think you should be teaching audio description to everybody.

TR:
On the day of our interview Maria Jose was feeling a bit under the weather. She was worried about coughing on the microphone. By the time we were done. I noticed she never once coughed.

Maria Jose 26:38
I was thinking about that. My cold literally disappears.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 26:42
Reid My Mind Radio we take care of calls to okay, maybe that’s going a bit too far. Read my mind radio cannot heal people in any way. But let’s take a look at what we did cover this season. And flipping the script on audio description. We went into the lab specifically, the access in the making lab where we examine this idea of creative audio description versus compliance. Spoiler alert. It doesn’t have to be any sort of competition. They really can work together.

If there’s one thing you can count on from flipping the script, and quite honestly, Reid My Mind Radio in general we want 100% without no doubt, support and encourage the participation of blind people in all aspects of audio description. That’s why I knew I had to get our sister Nefertiti Matos Olivaras on the podcast. A must listen for any blind person truly interested in getting into AD in any capacity. She’s dropping game if you’re listening.

Always interested in expanding the AD conversation. We reached out to actor writer designer podcast Natalie Trevonne to discuss access to fashion via audio description and more.

And wrapping it up with a bright red bow. Now Professor Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino, actually combining the creative and compliance approach plus making sure it’s done with love.

The season actually kicked off with an editorial from yours truly, once again sparked by the lack of culturally appropriate casting of AD narrate is still taking place in audio description. I mentioned I was drafting a pledge for all of those who see audio description as a microcosm of the world. We profess to have won a world that recognizes all of our beauty and strength without putting one group over the other. Perhaps this is the right time to take the pledge. I’m asking you listener, transcript reader, audio description consumer, professional, benefactor, all of us who really want to flip the script on audio description, head on over to https://bit.Ly/ADPledge where the ADP are capitalized, no spaces or drop in and ReidMyMind.com and I’ll link you to the pledge. add your name to the list and make sure you confirm your name being added by clicking on the link in the resulting email. If you don’t see the email, check your spam folder.

As I used to tell my daughter as I tried cooking something for the first time, baby girl. I don’t know how this is gonna turn out but we’re gonna try it anyway…

I want to send a special shout out to my man Tony Swartz for his help with editing this episode once again. I appreciate you sir, salutes!

This is the last episode of the season and I hope to be back in September but man a brother starting to feel like he needs a break. Maybe I’ll head out to a beach somewhere and sip a Mai Tai, but I lounge and my shorts and chancletas.

In the meantime, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to the podcast. I’d appreciate you going over to wherever you get your podcasts, including YouTube and subscribe or follow us you can get transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com. To get there, it’s mandatory that you spell it right. That’s R to the E I D!

Sample:
“D, and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick

Like my last name.

Music fades out…
Cell phone buzzing and ringing.

iPhone Voice Over:
“Ann Cerfonne”…

TR in conversation…
“What…”
“Hello?”

TR:
I guess I’ll have to tell you about that one, next time”

Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace.

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description: Fashion Able

Wednesday, July 13th, 2022

An image of a Yellow and Purple Gradient Daisy Petal.  The text: Fashion "Able" appears in the top petal with "Natalie Trevonne" on the second line. Pictured in the center of the daisy is an image of Natalie, a brown skin African American woman  with an oval face and long black hair sitting stylishly on the floor against a pale-yellow background.  She's wearing a yellow jacket, white camisole, and a jean skirt with a lengthy split which shows her long, lean legs and pale-yellow heels.

As we proceed!

Have you ever considered how much is gleaned by the outfit a person wears and when? The subtle implications of a person’s accessories?

[Natalie Trevonne](https://twitter.com › NatalieTrevonne › status) has and even wrote about it.

In today’s episode we speak with one of the host of the Fashionably Tardy podcast about the lack of fashion descriptions in films and television. Of course, you already know, it’s about more than entertainment. Plus we hear how Natalie’s pursuit of her interest helped her find her way into acting.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

Sample:
As we proceed…

[HipHop beat comes in]

TR:
With this latest season of flipping the script on audio description, we’re adding to the list of responses to the question: “how can we improve AD ?”
Hopefully, those who are in the position of creating AD or AD policy here and accept these critiques as they’re meant to be received. AD is really getting more attention and thought.

I’m seeing signs that perhaps we’re in the early part of moving past the stage where we need to convince broadcasters and other content providers that we’re deserving audience who should be valued.

Well, hopefully moving into more conversations where AD consumers and providers themselves are looking at the quality of the end product. I’m not saying this for us to get comfortable. We have a long way to go. It’s like we were in surgery. And now we’re being moved to the ICU. We still need to be monitored pretty closely. But at least we can start making some plans for the future.

My name is Thomas Reid, and I am not a doctor. I never even play one on TV. In fact, I don’t even know where the stethoscope goes. I am, however, the host and producer of this HERE podcast which by the way, technically means I make house calls. Welcome to Reid My Mind Radio yall. Lets get it.

Natalie01:35
Hi, my name is Natalie Trevonne, and my pronouns are she and her. I am a African American woman with brown skin, short black shoulder length hair with blue gray eyes, and I have on a white sports bra and orange FUBU joggers, bringing it back to the 90s because I’m on my way to rehearsals, dance rehearsals later, I am an actress, a model, a dancer with infinite flow Dance Company, a fashion and beauty accessibility consultant, and co host of the podcast fashionably tardy, and I am the marketing and PR lead for blind Institute of Technology.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 02:19
Tell me a little bit about how you became blind. And again, I’m not looking for your whole medical history?

Natalie02:25
No, you’re good. I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when I was one. My doctors had said, the inflammation that causes this disease could affect your, your other organs, like your kidneys, your eyes are part of your organs, right. So it was something that we knew could possibly happen. But we just didn’t know when, at 11 years old, I started to develop cataracts and started to see like these thick clouds kind of attaching themselves to my lenses. It was hard for me to read, I ended up getting glasses, got a couple of surgeries, things were good, I could see pretty well.

TR: 03:01
Through her high school years. This was a continuous process: surgery, some vision restored, then more loss.

Natalie: 03:07
I think I just got tired. I could keep going in and out of the hospital. Or I can learn to live with this disability and find some type of joy in the midst of what’s going on. And at least half peace. KI think I’m super blessed because although like my vision is bad, my arthritis isn’t bad. There are days when my bones ache, but for the most part, I’m able to be pretty active without it being an issue

TR: 03:34
With no access to peers or anyone else for that matter experiencing blindness. Natalie focused more on just pushing through, figuring out how to “be blind.” She learned how to use her white cane. She learned her technology and other rehab skills. But it was an opportunity to work at BISM that really made her see blindness differently.

Natalie03:54
BISM, which is Blind industry services in Maryland in Baltimore, Maryland. It just kind of blew my mind, like the amount of independence that we actually could have. Because I didn’t experience that here in California. These students were so advanced compared to what I was taught. Just their level of travel, they were being dropped at random places and finding their way back home. That was part of the training. They gave them like stipends to take trips on their own. And these people were really being independent and they had their own apartment. They live downtown and they would travel to the training program.

TR: 04:32
Maybe this experience let Natalie know she could pursue all of her interests. Among the many she mentioned in her intro. She’s also a writer.

Natalie04:39
I started writing for PopSugar. Late last year. My original article that I pitched to them was about the lack of image descriptions. There was unlabeled links and buttons on websites when it came to retail. Not being able to independently shop on these websites because they weren’t accessible right the fashion side but I’m writing about disability right and the issues that we deal with in relation to fashion that kind of came out of my work with Fashionably Tardy we’re two blind chicks bridging the gap between fashion and disability. I wanted to kind of widen that reach of like who we are talking to and who we’re trying to get to see the bigger picture. I told Melissa like, hey, like, I’m going to start pitching some stories to some fashion magazines or some online media that deals with fashion. And I pitched her quite a few people but Pop Sugar was one of the people that really got it right away.

TR: 05:37
While watching one of her favorite shows Emily in Paris. Emily, the main character who thinks she knows everything about fashion actually sort of sticks out in Paris, wearing really bright or loud colors.

Natalie: 05:48
I would even say shows like Bridgerton, the fashion is part of the show. The season where they try to find the diamond of the season is all about the look. The best dress, the best hair, the shoes and gowns, and there’s these intricate, beautiful colors and garments and big wigs. I don’t remember them really describing wigs. The way I know a lot about Bridgerton is really because of Cat Quinn, the Creative Director for MAC cosmetics and she does a lot of breakdowns of shows. As far as beauty and fashion goes on her Tik Tok and Instagram.

TR: 06:24
No surprise to the true AD heads out here. Having access to this information has implications that go beyond entertainment.

Natalie06:31
If you look at the show Euphoria, clothes sell out, immediately after each episode, people want to dress like what they see on television, if you don’t have any good fashion sense, and you watch television, you’re gonna know what’s in. I think it’s super helpful for somebody who’s blind and low vision because we definitely don’t know what’s hot, especially because there’s not accurate alt text, or no alt text. If we were to have better detail, fashion descriptions with for television and film, I think we would have a better idea of what goes together, what we could buy in the store and what really looks good, or what some of the brands that we could buy from, we need to get better about adding descriptions, especially when fashion is part of the show.

TR: 07:18
Fashion is part of the show doesn’t necessarily mean it’s part of the plot.

Natalie07:21
When I was writing this article, I asked on Facebook, like hey, are there any shows that are doing a good job about this, and people said, selling Tampa?

TR: 07:30
Seriously, this was a coincidence. But shout out to the crew at IDC.

Natalie: 07:34
I watched the whole season. And I would agree that time was taken to actually describe what the women were wearing on the show. And I found it to be extremely helpful. Brittany Koch, who’s mentioned in the article actually said she went back and watched the first matrix, and they did a very great job of talking about what people were wearing. And she said she even researched the fashion in the movie, it was a match. They actually did their homework, the clothes were being accurately described.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 08:06
What sort of feedback have you been receiving about this whole idea of describing more fashion?

Natalie: 08:12
I think some people working in AD like the comments kind of came from them, they were a little offended. They were like oh we’re doing the best. And there’s not always enough time. And it wasn’t an attack on AD really, it was just to say like, Hey, we do care about this, it was more of a invitation to work together. Let’s see what we all can do to make this better. With anything. You always want to know how you can grow and improve, because you never want to just stay the same. There’s always room to do better. And there’s always room to advance.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 08:45
Yeah, at least those who are really committed to quality. Those are the folks who want to learn, and are interested in saying, Oh, wait, tell me more about that. The folks who are not, they usually out themselves by just kind of pushing back and not even taking the time to listen. Forget them. And that was me putting in nicely.

Do you ever get any sort of opposite feedback from the community? Like are there people who are saying, “ Eh, I don’t want that?”

Natalie09:13
I haven’t seen anybody flat out say like, “Oh, I’m not interested in this.” I did see a few guys be like, “Oh, I never thought about this. That’s interesting.” One guy was like, “Well, I’m going to actually pay attention to that when I watch my next show with audio description.” So I think for guys, it was kind of like, you know, like, I didn’t think about it, but maybe now I’ll pay attention.

TR: 09:35
Fellas. Nice job. We should think about it.

Natalie: 09:39
Say a woman is going out on a date in a movie or TV show. If she’s putting on some red lipstick and have tight fitted dress. She’s either going on a date or going out or somewhere where she’s trying to make a statement. I think, yes, depending on the storyline that’s important that lipstick color is important because if I’m just maybe going out with friends and I might do more of a nude color. Even with makeup like I might do a smoky eye if I’m trying to be sexy, right? Or if I’m just like, just trying to go out for a nice day at the bare, I just might do eyebrows.

TR: 10:13
Natalie’s interest in audio description extends beyond fashion, as in her critique of a show called Abbott Elementary.

Natalie10:19
It’s about black teachers, mostly black cast in Philadelphia. It’s just such a great show. But because the audio describer is not a person of color, I feel like they kind of miss because there’s a lot of like, cultural things that we do and say, they really should try to match the audio describer with the tone of the show.

Sample from “Boomerang” Eddie Murphy & John Whitherspoon “Coordinate!”: 10:44
Well, the secret is you got to coordinate. Most people don’t coordinate, so you got to coordinate. That’s what you did.

TR: 10:51
I just assumed Natalie was always interested in fashion, or coordinating. She admitted she grew up as a tomboy. And it wasn’t until she became blind that she became more interested in fashion. That’s just one of the incorrect assumptions I had before our conversation. I also assumed she has been watching movies with audio description. Since her introduction to blindness.

Natalie11:12
I like got on the audio description bandwagon way later than I should, because I wasn’t around a lot of people who are blind. And so I didn’t really know that that was a resource, and people would tell me about it. But I was like, okay, like, I’ll try it out. I’ll try it out. One day, I really sat there and tried it out. And it was a beautiful thing. Because now I was able to really keep up with the movie, especially if there’s a lot of action.

TR: 11:35
no matter how long we as blind people have been consuming. Add this value in all of our experiences, especially when we’re solution based.

Natalie: 11:44
I think that it would be super helpful if we could work with AD teams on how to better include fashion detail. And I know they don’t always have a lot of time. But I’ve seen examples of where there’s some dead time that outfits could be described a little better. I’m not saying that it’s going to be like oh, she had on a shirt with a criss cross dip way loads are back and it was fitted like Nobody’s expecting that. At least like the color, the texture, was it short or long. Even if you said she had on a blue, strapless jumpsuit with the backout that’s still giving me a lot. At least color texture fit could be great.

TR: 12:28
Critically thinking about our access to vision related information will have real world implications. Even if you’re not interested in design. Natalie was invited to co design with a digital artist. Considering how little she sees representation of blind people in the bridal space. She decided to design a wedding dress.

Natalie: 12:47
I wanted to create this dress to kind of raise awareness about the fact that we are not represented in this way because people don’t expect us to fall in love or have families. They don’t expect us to be part of the real world. I was featured at meta Fashion Week. And next to some really cool brands like Dolce and Gabbana, Levi Tommy Hilfiger, Cavalli essence picked up the story, and they featured me and they talked about me being the first blind designer in the metaverse.

TR: 13:14
New to the idea of the metaverse? In all actuality, it doesn’t exist in full just yet. It’s a virtual world where people will work and play fully online, sort of like the games where you have an avatar that represents you. You interact with other avatars and participate in transactions, except these transactions aren’t for your virtual form, but rather a real world buying and selling of both digital and physical goods.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Describe the dress!

Natalie: 13:43
it was super important to me, even though that this is a digital asset that we played with textures, and that you could kind of see the different textures on the dress. It’s a very, it’s a very sexy wedding dress, actually. It’s a lacy, backless dress, and it’s strapless but it kind of has like these gold chains on the shoulder and then there’s one that comes across the back. Kind of a mermaid fit. With a see through middle. You can see my stomach and then it poops out into like a long train at the bottom. There’s some gold detail kind of going through the lace towards the bottom.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 14:25
Okay. Is it one channel as a crossing in the bag? Is it an X?

Natalie14:30
No, it’s just one chain that comes across.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Oh that’s fly. And what color?

Natalie:
It’s traditional white.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Oh duh! [laughs]

Natalie:
Well no it didn’t have to be. Its not a traditional dress, because it’s a little sexy, but we did want to keep the white the classic white of it.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 14:47
And what about the shoes? My wife’s a shoe lady. So I gotta ask about the shoes or their shoes in this picture.

TR:
If you’re interested in the shoes, a gold with thick high heels, but they’re hidden by the train of, the dress. Sort of how the lack of audio description hides visual information from us. Hmm.

Natalie: 15:04
Something that really hit me was that “well, how does my community enjoy this?” Right? I mean, they can read about it. And I can give an image description of the dress, but our able bodied counterparts are able to go click on this dress and get a 3d image of it front to back, view me spinning in it, the front view and the back for you, you can really get the full vision of this dress. And if you’re blind, you don’t get that. Obviously, you can’t add alt text to a moving image.

TR: 15:32
Maybe you don’t care about buying outfits online. What if everything becomes a moving digital rendering of a product?

Natalie: 15:38
I as a blind person should be able to hear that description of what is going on? What’s the future for NFT when it comes to the blindness community? I really do feel like it’s audio description.

TR: 15:52
podcaster, writer designer for the metaverse, Natalie actually had other plans.

Natalie: 15:58
When I graduated from college, I was pretty discouraged because I wanted to be a publicist, there were no blind publicists. And I just couldn’t find that one. And people looked at me weird when I would come in my cane to these big public relations agencies. I had to write internships. I went to school, I had good grades, I had the ability to do the work.

I just didn’t see a lot of people with disabilities in general, working behind the scenes in entertainment at all. By 2016. It had been two years and like, I wasn’t really breaking into entertainment, PR I was kind of working freelance. And then I met this lady named Whitney Davis, who was at the time the diversity manager at CBS. And she kind of took me under her wings. And it was like introducing me to a bunch of people hiring me to do jobs for her. She was so helpful. She’s like, “you know, I’ll back you up 100% with what you want to do,” but she’s like, “I really think that you should jump into advocacy because I don’t see any people with disabilities working in my department. And this is diversity, equity inclusion.”

TR: 17:01
At the time, Natalie wasn’t really in tune with the blind community. She knew if she was going to advocate, she should be more aware of what the community actually wants. She came across an ad seeking a blind actress who could sing. She’s been singing in the church for years. So she decided to pursue that opportunity without the acting experience.

[clip of a woman singing]

She got involved with a class of blind actors and realized:

Natalie17:23
“Oh well this is a way for me to be more blind people right?” And have fun doing it. I joined that group. Ended up falling in love with acting and being pretty good at it got scouted getting an agent. And the rest is kind of history.

TR: 17:37
Today, she has been in several commercials, including one from spectrum access, the audio description app.

Natalie17:41
I recently did some California connect commercials where I play art teacher even though it was about assistive technology. The focus wasn’t on me being blind. I was actually being an art teacher, and like painting stuff and teaching and it was a really cool experience for me. The one television show I was in was speechless on ABC. I played a film student one episode

TR: 18:05
She starred in three short films for the Easterseals film challenge.

Natalie18:09
The first one was Natalie’s point of view. And it was a documentary. That was the thing that year in 2020. And we made it to the top 12. We were one of the finalists.

Then in 2021 the thing was mockumentary we decided to do like a behind the scenes of this like made up Hip Hop icon they named Nay Nay Too Bomb. She was just like this very wild like hip hop to raise awareness for body positivity.

[Clip of woman rapping plays]

Clip from the mockumentary:
Growing up as a woman of color, you know, especially in the black and Latino community, we tend to be a little bit curvier you know so my little cousins and best friends was waking up like “suprise shawty!” and they had like a little extra in the back

Natalie:
We really went into that one just wanting to have fun. Didn’t really know where it will take us.

TR: 19:02
This brought them three nominations in total. Best film, Best Director, and Best Actor.

Natalie: 19:08
I took home the Best Actor award last year. This year we did a spin off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which is one of my favorite movies. And I played a slayer that just so happens to be blind.

Sample from “Seven”:
Male sounding character: 19:22
Seven, do you know what a slayer is?

Natalie:19:23
Yeah, you mean Rihanna?

Male sounding character:
I’m being serious.

Natalie:
Me too.

Natalie19:29
You only know that I’m blind in the beginning because I kind of walk into frame with my cane. But other than that, it’s just about a girl who is kind of dealing with the fact that she has to give up her normal life to become a slayer. I’m actually like boxing and like jumping rope and like kicking and doing burpees and like a lot of action stuff.

TR: 19:50
Did I just hear a metaphor for adjusting to disability?

Sample from “Seven”:

Natalie: 19:53
What exactly are we doing? I’m kind of in the dark.
Male sounding character:

Do you know who you are?

Natalie:
I think so.

Male sounding character:
You were born to be champion.

TR: 20:05
Once again, the film was nominated for Best Film and Best Actor

Natalie: 20:10
Clip from Easterseals Film Challenge Award Ceremony:

And the winner is Natalie Trevonne “Seven”.

Natalie:
And I was super surprised, but I’m super grateful.

TR:
Big shout out to her team.

The first year Natalie’s point of view I recruited my best friend name for Nay Nay Too Bomb and seven I worked with Marie Elise Rodriguez. And then Regina joined us again, for seven.

TR: 20:30
I used to see these sorts of stories of falling into something you really enjoy as luck. Today, I think I know better. For me, theyre the results of pursuing your interests. I know you’re wondering, Natalie says she’s currently looking into getting someone to have the film audio described. Easterseals Film Festival, with all love and respect, at least for the award winning films, audio description, captions. That’s an editorial from me with love and respect. For more on fashion and disability, you have to check out the podcast fashionably tardy.

From Fashionably Tardy:
We’re just two blind chicks bridging the gap between the disability community and the fashion industry by telling some amazing stories from some dope fashion creatives killing it in the game today.

Natalie:
We’re on hiatus. We are hoping to drop some surprise episodes in the near future. So just stay tuned. We’re @FTontheScene on all social media platforms. F t o n t h e s c e n e

TR: 21:35
To find Natalie,

Natalie21:36
I’m @NatalieTreveonne, everywhere TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, that’s @NatalieTrevonne, pretty much post all my articles and links. So whatever I’m doing on my social media platforms, so you can easily find my work on any of those.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 22:00
Well, Natalie, when folks come on the podcast, and they share the information, they share their point of view, I like to let you know that I appreciate that in the whole Reid My Mind Radio family appreciates that. And by you doing that, that actually makes you an official

[air horn]

Member of the Reid My Mind Family. I need for you to know that and let you know that we appreciate you.

Natalie: 22:25
Thank you so much. I really enjoyed speaking with you. And I’m all about our community. So any opportunity that I get to link up with other blind collaborators and creatives, I’m always for it because we are the future.

TR: 22:39
Being optimistic about the future is increasingly more challenging every day. The attacks on our rights from those in power may make some feel that conversations about audio description are frivolous. But I don’t think things are separate as some may think we are always at risk of losing our access as people with disabilities. For blind people specifically, digital access can truly be our lifeline. With every new emerging technology, we have to consider our place.

Natalie recognizing this issue of NFT access through audio description is just another example of how important it is to really speak from our own interest. I have to admit, as a former tech dude, I really don’t get NFT’s, Bitcoin, blockchain.
In support myself, I’ve been out of the game for a minute focusing on other things. What I do realize is that yeah, there’s lots of hype, but pay attention to the technology. There’s always going to be something new, and the earlier we assure our access and our involvement, the better. What’s your interest or area of expertise, or the opportunities or challenges that we should be considering? I’m always interested you want to share hit me up at reidmymindradio@gmail.com. You don’t have to wait for the future to subscribe or follow the podcast which is available on your favorite podcast app smart device or even in print as in transcripts which are available at reidmymind.com

That’s R to the E I D.
Sample Slick Rick:
“D! And that’s me in the place to be!”

TR:
like my last name.

Nay Nay Too Bomb:
Surprise Shortay!”

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

TR:

peace

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: We Are Worthy

Wednesday, June 29th, 2022

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

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

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

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

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

TR:

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

[drum beat fades in]

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

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

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

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

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

[shouting over a beat]

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

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

audio clip of TR’s youngest child:

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

Nefertiti

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

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

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

[talking]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:
She was forced to largely find her own way

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nefertiti:
Sí! Dominicana! Me gente!

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

[In the Heights trailer begins playing in the background]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nefertiti:
Yeah.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nefertiti:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nefertiti:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Like my last name.

[outro music]

Peace.

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: In the Making

Wednesday, June 15th, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s get it!

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Arseli:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Back to the lab.

Arseli:

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Arseli:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Arseli:

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

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

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

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

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

Cheryl:

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

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

It’s a subjective artistic field anyway.

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

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

TR:

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

Cheryl:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cheryl:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Good night, everybody.

TR:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

All that anxiety was lifted away.

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

TR:

And Cheryl’s expectation…

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

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

##TR:

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

Cheryl:
The real takeaways.

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

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

TR:

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

Cheryl:

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

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

TR:

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

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

Arseli:

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

TR:

Heck yeah!

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

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

TR:

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

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

Arseli:

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

TR:

There’s also the audio component representing the logo.

— Audio of AIM Logo

TR:

These dragging beeps sort of illustrate a dash or hyphen.

Arseli:

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

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

TR:

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

How about poetry?

Arseli:

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

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

TR:

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

Arseli:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

Salima:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

Salima:

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

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

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

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

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

But what I did add were the audio descriptions.

TR:

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

Salima:

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

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

TR:

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

Salima:

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

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

Salima:

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Arseli:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cheryl:

Catherine Cohen’s stand up comedy routine.

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

And the describer was like,

[softly]

“And here I am describing the visuals.”

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

TR:

I’m just saying.

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

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

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

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

TR:

The political statements continued.

Cheryl:

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:

I wish I could remember his name.

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cheryl:

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

I love this idea of like beta testing it.

TR:

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:

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

[Cheryl laughs]

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

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

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
That was really good.

TR:

So where do we go from here?

Cheryl:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Cheryl:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

As a teacher, Arseli recognizes value in audio description.

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

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

[fun funky music plays]

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

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

Salima:

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

TR in conversation with Salima:

I like that. I like that a lot.

TR:

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

You can’t mandate love!

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

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

On Twitter and Facebook I’m at @whoamItostopit

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Airhorn

TR:

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

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

— Shift to a synthetic voice saying the following:

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

TR:

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

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

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

Synthetic Speech:

Damn, T! There goes that Amazon sponsorship!

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

— Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Black Art White Voices: A Flipping the Script Prequel

Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

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

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio?

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

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

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

People cared!

I think.

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

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

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro Music

Sounds of a thunder and rain storm.

TR:

I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.

— Thunder clap

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

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

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

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

— Thunder clap!

Well, sort of…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— Cell Phone ringing

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

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

Voice Over saying Ann Sur Fonne!

So I just had to pick it up.

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

Ann:
What did you think of the AD?

TR in Conversation Flashback:
Excuse me?

Ann:
What did you think of the AD?

TR in Conversation Flashback:
Who’s this?

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

TR:

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

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

Ann:
Have you heard of the AD Illuminati?

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

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

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

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

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

Ann:
I really like your podcast.

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

TR:

I really need to work on not being easily distracted.

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

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

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

TR in Conversation Flashback:
What exactly are their goals?

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

TR:

And that was it, she was gone.

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

There was no record of the call.

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

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

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

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

Thomas: What do you mean?

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

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

Cheryl: But, we’re both disabled podcasters.

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

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

Thomas: We should call it, project, project!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic Radio Announcer: Now back to our show.

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

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

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

HBO did not provide description for their shows until 2021.

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway! Humanity, right?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I really do need to stop falling for that one.

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

So that’s what I’m doing.

Is there really an AD Illuminati?

Is all of this part of some conspiracy?

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

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

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

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

Ouch!

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

Music begins, an optimistic, bouncy Hip Hop groove.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narrators!

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

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

Is this call for equitable representation threatening?

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

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

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

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

Writers!

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

We don’t need color blind writers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

— Reid My Mind Radio outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript