Posts Tagged ‘Audio Description’

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – Blind Grown & Sexy

Wednesday, September 15th, 2021

“Let’s talk about sex…” ~ Salt-n-Pepa

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

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

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

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

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

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TR:

Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Before we get into this latest episode, I need your help.
I want to take Reid My Mind Radio to the next level,
that’s making it a sustainable venture.
But I need to know more about you, the listener.
I’d really appreciate if you could take a few moments to fill out
a quick survey. Just go to ReidMyMind.com and hit the link that says , hmm, what should I call it?… Survey!

— Pulsating Swoosh Transition sound

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pratik:

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

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

TR:

This is Pratik Patel.

Pratik:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Pratik:

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

It has quite a bit of sexual content in it.

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

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

TR:

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

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

Sharon Stone Character:

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

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

Pratik:10:16
Yes.

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

— Sample from the scene plays in the background.

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

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

Pratik:

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

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

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

(TR & Pratik share a silly laugh)

TR:

Ok, I never said I was grown!

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

Pratik:

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

— Music begins, a slow, sentuous Hip Hop groove

TR:

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

Bojana:

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

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

TR:

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

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

Shannon:

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

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

TR:

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

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

Bojana:

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

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

Shannon:

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

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

Bojana:

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

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon:

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

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

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

Shannon:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

Bojana:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

But what other aspects impact a viewer?

TR in Conversation with Pratik:

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Pratik:

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

Pratik:

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

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

Pratik:

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

Woooo!!
Okay, no judgment!
Pratik:

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

TR:

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

Pratik:

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

TR:
Shannon has some thoughts on this.

Shannon:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Shannon:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

Shannon:

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

— Music begins, a bass heavy, pulsating groove

Pratik:

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

Danielle:

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

TR:

Danielle and I share something in common.

Danielle:

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

Let’s see, image description.

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

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

TR:

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

Danielle:

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

Does something I’m wearing bring out particular features.

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

TR:
Sharing these descriptions can be infectious.

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

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

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

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

Shannon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bojana:

I’m really glad you asked.

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

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

Shannon:

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

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

TR:

So what are the implications of all this sexy access?

Danielle:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Danielle:

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

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

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

TR:

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

Bojana:

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

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

— Sound of a Bugatti engine roaring like a feline…

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

Pratik:
No. It wasn’t accessible.

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

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

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

Danielle:

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

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

Danielle:

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

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

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

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

Pratik:38:25

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

Points that go beyond the individual.

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bojana:
Oh, no. Strike that Thomas!

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Bojana/Shannon:

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bojana:

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

Bojana:

That’s the Grown & Sexy episode.

TR:

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

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

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

TR:

Danielle

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

TR:
You’re funny for that one Danielle!

And Pratik Patel is on Twitter @PPatel

Pratik:
Spelling it out… PPatel

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

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

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

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description – Access 4 All

Wednesday, August 25th, 2021

“I came to this country to start leading the project and start putting all the technicalities together to start doing captions and audio description in Spanish, serving the Latino community.”

Headshot, Maria Victoria Diaz
Maria Victoria Diaz PhD, an Electrical Engineer left Colombia to help “Flip the Script” not only on Audio Description but access in general for native Spanish speaking people.

President of Dicapta & Chair of Dicapta Foundation, her efforts continue to prove that creating access for one group can benefit others as well. In this episode hear about ;
* The struggle for Spanish AD
* Access 4 All – Dicapta Foundation’s solution assuring Audio Description can be shared across platforms.
* Go CC – providing access for the Deaf Blind to content and emergency information
… and more.

It’s fitting that I open this episode with my own Spanish translation.

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just ask it to play the podcast Reid My Mind Radio by T.Reid on your default podcast player.

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Resources

Transcript

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TR:

Reid My Mind Radio Family! Before we get into this latest episode, I need your help.
I want to take Reid My Mind Radio to the next level, that’s making it a sustainable venture.
But I need to know more about you, the listener. I’d really appreciate if you could take a few moments to fill out
a quick survey. Just go to ReidMyMind.com and hit the link that says , hmm, what should I call it?… Survey!

— Music Begins A mid-tempo Reggaeton Hip Hop influenced groove.

TR:

Greetings, my beautiful brothers and sisters.
Welcome back to another episode of Reid My Mind Radio.
You know, the podcast featuring compelling people impacted by all degrees of
blindness and disability

TR in Spanish:
Saludos, mis hermosos hermanos y hermanas.
Bienvenido a otro episodio de Reid My Mind Radio.
Ya sabes, el podcast que presenta
a personas atractivas
afectadas por todos
los grados de ceguera y discapacidad.

TR:
We’re continuing with our Flipping the Script on Audio Description series.

TR in Spanish:
Continuamos con nuestra serie Flipping the Script en Audio Description.

TR:
By now, you should have an idea of where we’re going in this episode. If not, give me a moment for my theme music, and then I’ll introduce you to my new friend and she’ll make it clear.

TR in Spanish:
A estas alturas, debería tener una idea de hacia dónde vamos en este episodio.
Si no, dame un momento para mi tema musical, y luego te presentaré a mi nueva amiga y ella te lo dejará claro.
— Reid My Mind Theme Music

MV Diaz:
“I came to this country to start leading the project and start putting all the technicalities together to start doing captions and audio description in Spanish, serving the Latino community.”

TR:

That’s Maria Victoria Diaz.

MV Diaz:
I used to be Maria Victoria and now I’m just Maria, in this country.

TR:

I like people to feel at home around me.
And she said I can call her Vicky.

— Music begins –
MV Diaz:
I’m from Colombia. I’m Latina. I have tan skin and brown eyes, my hair is over my shoulders usually is how I wear my hair.

I’m the President of the Dicapta and the director of the board of the Dicapta Foundation.
I’m an electronic engineer. I’m hard of hearing.
My pronouns, she/hers.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Tell me a little bit about you. And let’s start with how you became interested in audio description.

MV Diaz:
I started working as an engineer in a television company in my country.
The first time that I saw captions in my country was working in television, and I was like, What is that for?

I started to be interested in captions.
Specifically being hard of hearing, that was like natural to be interested in that kind of service.

Then I started working, specifically researching about accessibility features, specifically, to make television accessible.

That’s where I started like, 20 years ago, trying to push in my country for some policy or regulations for captions to be included.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
How successful was that?

MV Diaz:
It was just good luck.

At that time, I had friends in the television industry, some of my colleagues from school, were the technical director of different television stations there.

TR:

Actually, that wasn’t the so called good luck. Those friends in high places didn’t make it happen. At least not until the government got involved.

MV Diaz:

So they came to me suddenly, one day, like, oh, there’s this new regulation that we need to comply, then help us please.
I think that one person, the government had a child who was deaf, and then that’s how they became interested. Sadly, that’s the reason most of the time.

And so I started doing captions for every single television station in the country and training.

TR:

What began as a two person team in 15 days grew to 20 people.

MV Diaz:

We needed to cover all the regulation that came at that time.

We help them to install the technical facilities for captioning

So the sad part of the story is that that regulation came at still the same 20 years after just like, two hours per week one newscast in the per channel.

TR:

Soon after that work began with captions, she met a guy who was Blind. He had a question.

MV Diaz:

Have you consider doing something for me?

And I was like, what kind of service Do you need, or how I can serve your needs?

And so he was telling me about Kurosawa’s “Dream” movie. And
he was describing for me every single scene of that movie, and I was like, how you can tell me those details about that movie If you don’t see. So I was so interested in his specific process.

TR:

That movie, Dreams, a 1990 film by acclaimed film maker
Akira Kurosawa was subtitled.

MV Diaz:

It was like a team effort, in a way with friends from his university.

I started researching how I can be involved in that field. It was like 20 years ago.

It was aligned with my interest in I wanted to be a musician, when I finished my high school, and I couldn’t because according to my doctors, being hard of hearing, it was not a good idea to be a musician.
I was like, Okay, I have to fight to do something else to overcome barriers.

TR:

At this point Dicapta, Vicky’s team of 20, was working on caption and Audio Description
when she was approached by one of the 2 private Colombian broadcast company’s.

They wanted to buy her out and control the market. Her response?

MV Diaz:

No, I’m not interested.

I started looking for options to serve to in Spanish in other places. And I found out that in the United States, services in Spanish were like really nothing available, not for captions, not for description at that time. So I decided to write an email to the Department of Ed asking how I can participate in your initiatives. And they told me, no, you have to talk to the television stations or to the channels. And you have to ask them. We’re not the right source for business.

TR:

Vicky’s response set her on a path and in my opinion says a lot about her motivation.

MV Diaz:

I’m not looking for business, I want to know how I can contribute in the discussion.

So they just mentioned it to me that they have a television Access Program. I’m talking about 15 years ago, 16 years ago.

TR:

It’s government, so that means lots of paperwork.

MV Diaz:

I can tell you that I was in Colombia, in my office preparing a proposal for the Department of Ed,

I had no idea how to do business in the United States… the right words to use or how to fill these forms. And I just started reading the forms , filling them up giving my ideas there.

I guess that it was a really good proposal, because we just got funded,

TR:

Come on, you know it can’t be that easy.

MV Diaz:

They call me but you can’t run a project, serving the Latino community from your country, you have to be here. And I was like, okay!

TR:

In about two weeks, she gathers her belongings, leaves Colombia and is in
the states.

MV Diaz:

I just really thank the Department of Ed gave us the opportunity to just try to add value, and to discuss and to tell what we think.

It’s wonderful for me that I every single time that I try to do it, sometimes I have to work a little bit more. I can talk with whoever I wanted to. And I can, I can just at least try. Most of the times the answer is no, we’re not interested. But it is okay. Just to have the opportunity to share what you think.

TR:
Thankful for that opportunity, Vicky uses her voice to continue her mission.

MV Diaz:

I came to this country to start leading the project and start putting all the technicalities together to start doing captions and audio description in Spanish, serving the Latino community.

TR:
While Dicapta is a for profit company, most of the work being done has been through the nonprofit Dicapta Foundation.

MV Diaz:

We really have some new partnerships doing dubbing in Spanish but most of the work that we do in audio description and captions is funded by the Department of Ed.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
So accessing audio description for television, and cable here in the States requires the sap the secondary audio programming.
And it just happens to be that that’s the same channel that delivers Spanish translations in for shows in English. So does this mean that it’s impossible for a person who speaks Spanish to be blind? Hashtag sarcasm?

MV Diaz:
(Laughs)
Kind of…

Spanish language television, They don’t have a Spanish in their SAP, they don’t have anything in the sap.
So we’re not competing with the Spanish translation in the Spanish television, we’re competing with the Spanish translation in the English television.

The big problem here is that the CVA didn’t include Spanish.

So the first thing is audio description in Spanish has to be mandated.

What I have learned is that the FCC is following the mandate from the Congress. So how to push for Spanish to be included? I don’t know Tom

TR:

Remember, the CVAA or the 21st Century Telecommunications Accessibility Act
requires local TV station affiliates of ABC, CBS,
Fox, and NBC located in the top 60 TV markets
to provide 87.5 hours per calendar quarter.

How’s this for a regulation; AD on everything!)

MV Diaz:

Telemundo Okay, they are part of NBC. NBC is under the regulation, why? Telemundo is not under regulation?

TR:

Hmm good question. But, bad answer.

MV Diaz:

No, because it is not. Period.

But why, if they are under regulation and Telemundo is part of NBC? No,

I became part of the disability Advisory Committee of the FCC, and I was like, I’m ready. This is exactly the place where we’re gonna change the story.

No, no, no, no,. (Said slowly with lots of frustration)

TR:
When it comes to advocating for Spanish AD, it often comes down to priorities.

MV Diaz:

We have different problems in our community, bigger than the accessibility, I have to say that.

We are in a different place in history right now. Our concern is more, jobs, education and immigration. We are trying to fight different fights. We don’t have Latino consumers as organize. The Blind Latino consumers that we have been working with, it is not enough.

I don’t know, my grandma said something, but I can’t translate. How is your Spanish Tomas?

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Well!

— Sample Price is Right loser tone!

MV Diaz:
My grandma used to say just one little bird is not able to call winter.

TR:

There’s power in numbers.

MV Diaz:

The consumer organizations, they know that that’s a problem.

If you have to go to the Congress, or if you have to go to the FCC, asking for specific questions, is going to be like priority number 10, maybe or, let’s say, five to be more generous.

, but is never going to be their first priority. I kind of understand now

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:

I think that can be said about a lot of communities.

There are definitely people who say, oh, why are you talking about audio description all the time, we need jobs. I get that. I also see a relationship between jobs and audio description, education and audio description.

TR:

Couldn’t these lower priority issues serve as vehicles to elevate those considered higher priority. Especially when putting into context?

That’s what I mean when I say, “Audio Description is about much more than entertainment.

MV Diaz:

Our a Latino community communicates in Spanish. We are trying to have that. In here. We are trying to find our space and our beliefs, our roots, our culture alive.

It is incredible. The amount of kids that are Spanish speakers coming from different countries don’t speak English yet need access and they don’t have the access that they need.

We are working with the DCMP and they are doing a really great job. And we are trying to include some educational titles there. But in entertainment we are really, really far

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
I’m thinking about the streaming companies, they’re not obligated under the CVAA. But they do decide to go ahead and stream audio description, Univision, Telemundo, none of them are interested in doing it at all? Have you not been able to talk to them?

MV Diaz:
Yeah, I have talked to them. I don’t know. They think that I’m just a girl trying again.

But no, the thing is that, for example, Telemundo at the beginning, what they told me like three years ago, they didn’t have SAP in the whole network.
So they didn’t want to provide the service for this kind of part of the audience and not to others

We have been working with funds from the department of Ed.

TR:

Those fund enabled Vicky to have one request.

MV Diaz:

We’re gonna provide you with the description. You just have to put it on there.

Even that is really hard tom.

We included audio description but the cable companies. Don’t pass it.

For example, Channel 22. They are an international television channel. They are in DirecTV, they are in

we provided Audio Description. we created all the audio track.

Okay, DirecTV, No audio description. Spectrum, no audio description.

TR:

Cable companies, you had one job!

But regulations do really go a long way.

MV Diaz:

Caption is not that bad. I can tell you because of the regulations. The FCC regulation includes Spanish captions. So we are safe there.
Just because the regulation is there, they just know what it is. They know what it’s about.

TR:
In the rare event that the cable company does pass the AD, you better catch it that first time being aired because it probably won’t happen again. Whether on that same channel or another.
The problem, many of us have experienced.

we know a show or film has AD,
maybe we saw it on one channel or on a DVD,
but another broadcaster or streaming network doesn’t pass it.

MV Diaz:

Let’s try to do it ourselves. And that’s why we started working in a different direction creating technology and creating Access 4 All.

TR:
Access 4 All is a central repository for any accessibility asset.
That’s the actual digital caption, audio description and ASL files for example.
No matter the language! They’re all stored in one location.

Access 4 All serves as a clearinghouse.

MV Diaz:
Dicapta is a really small organization. We need influential organization or powerful organization to believe in the value of a clearinghouse the importance of sharing the resource that we have.

That’s why we are creating like a membership model under the foundation. The idea is for people to come and say, okay, I created this audio description and no matter if you are in Mexico or if you are in London or if you are in Italy, that specific program is going to be accessible.

So that’s the big dream.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
When you say a membership, so for example, Netflix would come in as a member, the BBC would come in as a member, Argentina television would come in.

so they would have a membership. And they would upload all of their audio description tracks to this repository.

MV Diaz:D

So who’s member of this repository right now?
New Day films, some movies from PBS POV and the Spanish content that we are creating with funds from the Department of Ed.

TR:

Plus, it empowers us as users to access the assets ourselves.

MV Diaz:

You just download the app. You just can watch the program with audio description, you can read captions, or you can do the ASL version of the program if it’s available.

TR:

The app developed with funds from the Department of Education, is free!

Check it out!

download the app…

Start the film, while your app is open… And voila!

TR:

Right now Dicapta is working on creating a searchable catalog. Already, they have over 300 hours of content.

— Dicapta audio icon

TR:

That little tune or audio icon was created by consumers of audio description and members of the Dicapta advisory committee.
It’s formed by the notes D, C, A, and G.
D for Description, C for Collaboration, and
A Accessibility.
The sequence finishes with a G major chord that stands for Go!

It includes a graphical element as well.
It’s formed by two purple triangularly shaped capital letters “A”.
The letters are thick and slanted toward each other so that
the adjacent sides are in a vertical position.
A blue number 4 sits over the letter A on the left.
The horizontal bar that goes from left to right on the number 4 matches the horizontal bar that goes from left to right on the letter A and also covers a small portion of the letter A on the right.

MV Diaz:

What we are proposing is to add that icon at the beginning of the program or during our in them guide, just to show that is in the repository.

I have tried to talk to the big players in the industry. But it is not an easy conversation.

my invitation is this Okay, so that if you don’t have a solution, we have one maybe you can use these one or you can start trying it and see if it if it works and if not someone come with a better one, right? But today we don’t have any solution. We are not sharing, we are creating the same track twice instead of Sharing the one that is already created.

— Sesame Street Cookie Monster shares with Elmo

Elmo:
Oh, Cookie Monster would share his cookie?

Cookie Monster:
Yep, it’s against my primal instinct, but you share with me, and me share with you.

TR:

There are some who understand.

MV Diaz:

Nickelodeon. Latin America, we launched a project with them using “Access 4 All” and they did audio description for some shows. And then they are promoting the show.

Maybe that’s kind of the support that we would need.

TR:
There’s more to be hopeful about.

MV Diaz:

the world is changing. And I see a better scenario for accessibility now that the one that I found when I came 15 years ago, the conversation is different. More people knows about accessibility and about the descriptions. So I think that consumers are more aware of that. Okay. Maybe it’s possible. I just have to say, Tom, I really thank Netflix. They are, they are they’re showing different ways. To support accessibility, and they are including Spanish, they are asking for audio description in Spanish to be included.

Hopefully, if they are showing that the assets are going to be there, or maybe somebody is going to decide to share.

TR:
It’s probably worth mentioning that Apple too offers access in Spanish.

I know there are decision makers or at least some who have the ear of decision makers
who listen to the Flipping the Script series, and
hopefully the podcast in general.

I believe many of them are sincerely about providing access because they see it as fair and just.

If you are an independent content creator, I encourage you to talk to Vicky and get your captions, audio description and any access assets on to Access 4 All.

MV Diaz:
it’s supposed to be a membership.

For now Dicapta Foundation, we’re not charging anything to independent producers.

We have a basic agreement saying that you are donating for the Clearinghouse and you’re not charging the user to use. And in case that someone else is interested in having that, that specific accessibility, they’re going to contact the owner to say like, Okay, I’m interested in this audio description to be downloaded to put it somewhere else

I think that we Dicapta, we’re going to concentrate our effort in educational programming and in independent filmmakers.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Let’s talk about the work that you’ve been doing with a community that’s often overlooked, and that’s the deafblind community. Tell me how Dicapta is serving that community?

MV Diaz:
I invited the daughter of a friend of mine who is Deaf Blind to one of our advisory meetings. We were talking about television and about movies and about access. We were trying one app. We asked her for her opinion, oh, my goodness. She was like… Are you serious?

We don’t have access to television. I haven’t watched television in my whole entire life, how you think that I’m going to go to the movies. And it was really a bad moment in that room.

TR:

Come on, we know by now, Vicky turns these sorts of situations into good.
She reached out to more consumers for input.

MV Diaz:

And so we started trying to, to bring captions to braille displays in a in a way that that they can have some kind of access, those of them that are Braille readers. So that is a minority among the minority and the minority. But given access to the caption streams through braille displays, was the general idea to start working with. So it was like four or five years ago that we started working with that project, and we got funds from the Department of Health. And we were able to produce the solution but then again, the problems came and the industry and the practices

TR:

Of course they did!

Technically, captions on Braille displays is easy. The problem is when your captions don’t include the name of the person speaking. So it’s just an endless stream of words without context.

MV Diaz:

We try to push again, like, changing best practices just include identification of the speaker in the captions or streams just to serve the deafblind community. And so we produce documents and we spread the word in the industry in the caption providers to whoever is creating captions just provide identification for the speakers to make sure that no matter what technology is coming, captions are gonna serve the Deaf Blind community.
[
TR:

The service is called Go CC and provides even more for this community.

MV Diaz:

We work with FEMA to provide emergency alert information.

we work with the Helen Keller National Center. And that’s the reason why the product is as good as it is because we work with the consumers and they created what they needed.
It was not our invention, we just did what they asked us to do.

Next step in that is just to find a foundation or an organization that has all the capacity to share that into the community in a way that we can’t do.

TR:

Dicapta’s expertise is in solving problems and creating access.
MV Diaz:

We put together captions and audio description in stream text to make sure that the deafblind communities serve. So we’re doing that through Access 4 All. So if you use access for all you can use it from your Braille display too. And you can read captions, read the descriptions. And it is done. It is already there.

TR:

The challenge is the speed of that stream of information in relation to the actual film. It could be difficult to stay in sync.

Yes, someone could read the transcript and avoid the movie all together, if watching alone.

MV Diaz:

I don’t want you to go by yourself to the movies, I want to go with you.
Same thing with television, coming from our culture, we don’t do things alone, we do things with families all the time. So it is the idea is to have sync it with the movie, just to make sure that you can be part of a group of people watching the movie.

it is the experience of being with someone else. What is different,

TR:

Family. Friends. Community!
Sharing… y’all feel what’s happening here. It’s about more than access for Vicky.

That young lady who never had access to television, they’re on Vicky’s advisory team.

MV Diaz:

$
I’m here to show you that maybe I apologize. But we do we do better now and then try to do better things.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Congratulations. I believe you got a television access award. Is that what it was? Tell us about it.

MV Diaz:
Yeah. It is wonderful.

I have to tell that that the Department of Education hasn’t been recognized enough for their support to access. So those who have been working with them, we know that they have spent I don’t know how many millions of dollars supporting captions at the beginning before that, the regulation of captions and then audio description for years too.

But it was really not clear if they had plans to continue supporting description, especially after audio description is already mandated by the FCC.

The educational part of it is not as regulated for the network’s.
So that’s why the Department of Ed decided to continue the program.

We got one of the television access awards. We are so happy.

TR:
We should all be happy!

At least those of us who say we care about access.

MV Diaz:

We’re going to make sure that Access 4 All is a reality. Not just for our community, we’re working with English language content two. So every single hour of audio description or captioning that we create is going to be shareable in our clearing house, and is going to be accessible, no matter if you are watching it in one television station, or in any other is going to be accessible using their app

It’s gonna be five years collecting audio description, collecting captions, and asking others to join this effort.
So at least for the educational programming, I think that we’re going to have very good news to report at the end of these five years.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
Okay, so this is a hard question. What are you doing? When you’re not creating all this accessibility?

MV Diaz:

Laughing…

Oh, I’m playing my flute. I’m learning piano. Okay. They pandemia show me my piano in the middle of the living room.

My daughter’s used to play piano because mom wanted them to be the biggest artists. They decided that they don’t like to play.

TR in Conversation with MV Diaz:
they said that was you Mom, not us.

MV Diaz:
Yeah. So I had this big coffee table in the middle of the living room. Coffee Table.

(Hearty laugh along with TR.)

So I have to decide I have two choices. The first one is just giving my piano to someone that is going to use it. Or taking some piano lessons. Yeah.

And I love the music that you play.

I think that we would go to the same party.

TR:

If you’re throwing a party and
you want to invite a strong advocate and someone who is dedicated to access or
if you want to learn more about the great work taking place at Dicapta, open your favorite browser and point it to;

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – And the Winner Is…

Wednesday, August 11th, 2021

There’s a lot of conversation taking place about Audio Description. While Flipping the Script is less about the mainstream AD talk, I wanted to bring some perspective to this discussion.

I invited Roy Samuelson to share some of what he has been involved in as a means of creating awareness and advancing Audio Description. We’re both pretty passionate about this subject and while we may disagree on what will be effective, it’s clear our goals align.

Our conversation actually went beyond what we both intended. This version however, is mainly focusing on some news concerning Audio Description awards outside of the blindness organizations, some interesting news regarding The EMMY’s and implications for Blind Narrators and there may even be a special appearance from a Jeanie!

For a less abbreviated version check out The Audio Description Network Alliance or ADNA.org

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Transcript

Show the transcript

– “Recording in progress!” Zoom synthesized voice announcement

— Hip Hop Beat begins…

TR:

Greetings beautiful people!
Welcome back to another episode of the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

My name is Thomas Reid and I appreciate you hanging out with me.

Today, as part of the Flipping the Script on Audio Description series, I want to pause for a moment…

— Pause in the music

and discuss some things happening today to advance Audio Description in the mainstream.

For this, I reached out to Roy Samuelson.

Roy:

Hey, I think I’m here.

TR:

Come on Roy, you know I have to kick off the theme music first!

Roy:

Oh, so excited.

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro

TR:

If you watch movies with AD or you’re following the Audio Description space, chances are you know Roy. He’s a Voice Talent & Audio Description Narrator and Advocate.

We’re doing a sort of joint podcast effort here.

Roy:

Being a part of Reid My Mind Radio has been an honor from the first time that I learned about you and was a part of your conversation and in following all of the amazing podcast episodes that you released over the many years that you’ve been doing this. This is really great, I’m so glad that we’re doing this.

TR:

In addition to interviews with some of your favorite people in Audio Description, You can check out the full version of our conversation over at The Audio Description Network Alliance or ADNA.org.

Roy:

Putting a showcase on the voice, not only to celebrate those specific voice, talents, efforts, but also to give a language to people to be able to talk about audio description, quality and excellence, and give them something to anchor in on and starting with voice talents seemed like a great place to start strategically and see how that goes.

And as it grew into including writers, which it now does, as well as the engineers in the quality control specialists, it’s the audio description network Alliance. And so it’it’s become a lot more inclusive, specifically about film and TV at this point.

— Music begins – an upbeat, high energy Hip Hop beat
TR:

When it comes to Audio Description and this podcast, I want to showcase some of the interesting people and things taking place. I want to ask questions, but let me be clear,
I don’t propose to have the answers, nah, but I do have a perspective that I’d like to share. That’s as a consumer and advocate.

Advocacy, we know, takes many forms, like legislative work as in the CVAA or 21st Century Telecommunications Accessibility Act.

Roy:

I’m not speaking for anybody else, but I do feel that that mandate is an absolute necessity that having the FCC demand so many hours of broadcast television to include audio description has been so influential in where we are today. And it’s a necessity to continue being there.

TR:

Every time you inform a broadcaster, streaming provider or AD creator about your experience, you’re advocating and it makes a difference.

Remember, there’s never just one way to advocate.

Roy shares some information about some of what’s been taking place in his wheelhouse.

Roy:

SOVAS , is a society of voice arts and sciences. And they have
basically a awards for voice talents. It has nothing to do with audio description historically, but I was nominated for a SOVASS award for narration category. So it wasn’t audio description, narration, but it was an audio description narration that I was nominated for.

And over the past few years, I’ve been working with SOVASS , and specifically, this year 2021, I’ve been talking with the heads of SOVASS and sharing some of my experiences as a sighted person and what that means and to make sure that blind people are judges for audio description, when the audio description awards were a part of their categories for awards.

It’s just been amazing to see that connection, which is completely outside of the blind organizations, is now recognizing voice talents in this work. And I think that in a good way, it’s going to start bringing more quality.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
So let me just say that I’m not a big fan of awards, award shows in general.

Now, I admit it’s a great business. Move to gather the top celebrities and harness all of that attention. And brand yourself as the gatekeeper. That’s a great business move.

When I think of audio description, one of the first things that I usually apply to everything AD is, how does it impact the experience for blind people?

I realized that it could be direct at times, a one for one exchange, this happens, and then this happens. But sometimes that’s not the case. Sometimes it’s not necessarily obvious. So how does this help blind people?

Roy:

I think when it comes to celebrating the work of audio description, particularly in the SOVASS, they have found a way too, to share the performance in a way that celebrates it. And it is creating a competition in the sense of the people that are voting for the audio description, narrators are going to choose the best if there’s going to be a handful of submissions. Or if there’s going to be hundreds of submissions, they’re going to have to narrow it down and to narrow it down, they’re going to have to choose the best. And by celebrating which are the best that that’s going to impact our audiences.

This will lead to more quality, because people are going to want to have good voice talents to be able to be a part of this award ceremony, which will lead to better audio description. It’s almost a cart before the horse sort of situation.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
What I’m hearing, though, is that it’s still so dependent on for example, who’s judging? That’s a really big question in my mind, because I think the only people who should be judging audio description are the consumers really, I mean, are we the judges?

what is being judged, is it just that performance? We know that a big part of audio description also is The writing.

If we’re looking at just voice talent, well, it’s probably just going to be all the stuff that makes a good voice artist.

Roy:

The conversations that I’ve had with the leadership of SOVASS is that you can’t do this award without having blind judges, I’m assuming that the people who were invited who are blind have responded.
It is my understanding that that was specifically a part of this arrangement. That’s something that we made explicitly clear,
it’s like, because this whole Nothing about us, without us this entire audio description was created by blind people, for blind people, blind people need to be judging it that is absolutely essential.

In the same way that the ADNA started with voice talents, just to help people wrap their head around it, my understanding is that there’s going to be opportunities in the future for awards for writing, or for engineering that we can start to separate this.

When it comes to the attention being placed on the narrator. Yeah, there are narration skills that go into it. But I agree with you, it’s the writing that makes a ton of difference. And the example I like to use is let’s say, a Shakespeare play and you go through the first act, and it’s the intermission, and you’re just moved to tears by the performances that had happened in it, there’s something that really connected viscerally with the engagement of the different characters and how they were interacting with each other. And whatever thing that that story was, was telling you could be just moved to tears and almost be stuck. The same thing can happen at the end of the first act where you’re in tears, because you just want to get out of the theater. It’s the worst performance you’ve ever seen. You’re trying to figure out how to get out of seeing the second act, because it sucks so much. In both examples, the writing was equal. But there was something that happened. And it was most likely the performance.

It could have been the audio glitches that may have been happening if it for example, was in a big auditorium that had the microphones cutting out It could have been all sorts of other things that got in the way of the performance, but the writing was the same.

Audio description has so many different roles that the weakest link can make the whole audio description suck. That’s where everything has to be lifted up. And again, it is for the audience’s experience that by celebrating each of these different roles, we can celebrate audio description, excellence and quality.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I’m also concerned with the idea that when a lot of attention is placed on to who the narrator is, does that end up becoming something where again, we’re focusing on the narrator. And then we start to bring in, like, for example, celebrities to narrate. And I’ve heard that idea, floating around as though it would be of benefit. again, just taking all of that attention away from the consumer. I’m always thinking that the consumer, Blind folks should be centered in audio description. So anything that moves away from that, yeah, my Spidey senses are going up.

Roy:

I have to use my experience as a voice talent that
, celebrities never used to do commercials. Now that’s very common. Celebrities didn’t used to do animated features. And, you know, we look at Toy Story, which is now what 20 years old and there’s still a voice talents that are still voicing of animation that by having a celebrity involved in this work…

— DJ Scratch leads into “So What the Fuss” Stevie Wonder with AD Narration by Busta Rhymes

Roy:

I mean, as early as Busta Rhymes back in, what, 1520 years ago for the Stevie Wonder video with the fuss and that was the that was exquisite. The first time I heard that I’m like, Oh, this is so good. I can’t help but smile and nod my head. It’s so beautiful. It’s like, there was something that Busta Rhymes the celebrity brought to that, that brought that piece alive. Not every celebrity can do this. And if there are celebrities that do it, I would hope that the focus still remains on the audio description. But you’re right, there’s no way to control that. I don’t know how to address that.

But I do see that the possibility of that kind of exposure can only grow the quality of this.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

No shots to Busta.

— Sample: “Aight, here’s how it going down.” Busta Rhymes from So What the Fuss
— Music begins a countdown like intro to a driving slow ominous Hip Hop beat

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I think the celebrity might make a difference in terms of marketing, audio description. And again, that leads me to the place where it kind of who is this for? Hmm, this is for the blind community. This is not for others, to just come in and check out all Busta Rhymes is doing this. Oh, whoever is doing this? This is cool. Let me check this out.

That’s fine if it happens, but that’s not what audio description is for.

Roy:

What is the cost to the wide audience in the context that you’re talking about? Or maybe it’s the blind talent? I’m not sure.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Well, there’s both right. So there is the blind talent, because we’re already competing with non-celebrity talent. That’s fine. But there’s also like I said, just the quality, I’m not sure if the quality is naturally going to go up , right? Because folks can make that determination. That’s what happens with celebrity you let folks in there just to draw the name.

Roy:
Hmm.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

And it doesn’t make a difference. It may not make a difference. In some cases,

How often do celebrities want to get attached to something that just feels good, and then use it in their promo of themselves? It just gives me a really bad taste. And I don’t want to see audio description suffer because of that.

Audio description needs to stay about blind people now. You can create something else, right? So for example, when we talk about there are ways that other folks are using audio description, whether they be truck drivers, whether they be kids with autism, for example, and there may be some modifications that are needed. Absolutely. There should be that. But I don’t think it needs to come at the expense of blind people. So there’s room for all of this.

Sometimes I feel like there’s these fake choices that we’re given; Do you want more? If you do, then you’ll take this.

Why do we have to have that choice? That’s not the choice.

— Transitional sound

TR:
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In this example, I use Apple podcast as my default player, so the command would be;
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Of course, you can still follow or subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.
Transcripts and more are at ReidMyMind.com
That’s R, to the E I D
— Sample: “D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick

Like my last name

— Transition sound returns to the episode

TR in Conversation with Roy:

We want to see audio description expand. We both agree that we want to see more, and we want to see better quality. Like we’re in total agreement around that. And I think these questions and all of these things as to how do we get there, you know, are great, that they’re absolutely great. Yes. Because we have the same goal, you know, but I just think that we need to kind of think through these things. And even when we try, whatever we try, always come back to the idea of asking that question. Does this center Blind people? are we adding value for our audience? And if we’re not scrap it,

And, what about the Emmys? (Laughs)

Roy:
What about the EMMY’s Thomas? This is great.

(Thomas and Roy’s laughs fade out)

I’ve been a part of the television Academy for maybe 10 or so years. So relatively new and part of my contribution has been as performers, peer group, executive committee member, it’s basically a fancy term for all the different peer groups that represent different roles of television.

So letting them know about audio description, and how that has such an impact on television and how it can have an even greater impact.

And so those conversations have really evolved from the first time that I was approached by my mentor and saying, hey, you should really reach out here and being able to do it in a way that went from almost a dismissive Well,

you know, there’s really nothing that we can do about this, but Roy has a real passion for it. So, you know, keep in mind that whatever Roy talks about, it’s it, it’s probably not gonna happen, take it away Roy, to most recently. This is such a valuable performance, and it’s a skill and it’s an access that brings so much to so many people beyond blind and sighted people. Let’s hear about audio description. And that was the introduction, it was basically 180 degree turnaround time, simply because the culture has changed, as well as the awareness of what audio description is, and through some real advocacy within the television Academy.

The television Academy now recognizes audio description narrators as qualifying television credits to become full-fledged members to be able to vote for the Primetime Emmy Awards. And I think the implications of that are, are few First of all, again, representation, making sure that people understand about audio description, but also, as many blind people work in audio description as voice talents, this is yet another way for them to be included in this television Academy, whereas normally the opportunities might not be there as much. So that feels really huge.

TR:

Whether we’re talking about the SOVASS, the Emmys, in each case it seems to come back to increasing the awareness of Audio Description.

Roy:

Is there an audio description effect that you and I could both agree on when it comes to making sure the value is what it is. In the approach that I’m exploring, the strategy of awareness is an essential part because right now things have been so hidden, that people aren’t even aware of it. And I think as awareness grows, that that can create that very healthy competition of how great the audio description can be.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Yeah, so I think you’re right with the awareness. But when I look at awareness, I’m looking at awareness from the perspective of blind people, because I know a lot of blind folks who do not know about audio description. I know a lot of blind folks who think that audio description and television and movies are not for them because that’s the way it’s been all their lives. And then so steadily, and hopefully they’re starting to learn More about that. I think that audio description for students and looking at the results of how their learning and their sort of their involvement in the quote unquote mainstream, and their ability to relate to their peers, and those relationships that that happen.

I want to measure it by the relationships that employers and employees begin to have, because there’s more of that conversation. And then blind people are making more advancements, because we know that when you’re in a corporate environment, for example, you learn about new things, because you’re just friendlier with people, you start to trust someone else, and you just like to be around that person. You feel comfortable with that person. And so much of that happens from conversations about Game of Thrones, right? On Monday morning after Sunday.

I want to see blind people who are working as movie critics. Where it’s not just about the audio description, they’re really analyzing this stuff.

Blind people who are doing the work of audio description, blind people who are commissioning others to do that work.

Again, I’m centering Blind people in this.

I still consider myself relatively new to disability. But as far as I know, I have never heard of wheelchair users promoting wheelchairs in malls, because folks can just go ahead and walk there, you know, you get tired, so why not take a load off, just so we can increase the amount of wheelchairs, we can get better wheelchairs because more are using it.

I don’t think when captioning came out, and all the advocacy that they put into it, I don’t think they were talking about the curb cut effect before it happened. It just happened. I’m learning to trust the process, and we see it all the time, it will happen, right? We already know that. Yes, truck drivers are using it. And folks will find a purpose for it. But let it be that it doesn’t have to take away from our community, and it will happen. But let’s just build it up based on our needs. And then when we find something that will Oh, this would work for someone else. Absolutely cool. Bring it in, go do it. Go create it. Because we need to bring everybody in not just some people, we need to bring everybody in.

The technology that is available, and that is growing means we have more options, not less. So let’s not take away. Don’t try to take away my options. Nah, don’t do that! We just need to be included.

Roy:

And with that inclusion, is there a place at the table for blind people to be able to influence those decision makers.

When it comes to that, the impact of inclusion of society that is there not a case to be made, that the existing leaders when it comes specifically to television are a part of the television Academy that access to those decision makers right now specifically blind people to be included in that seems worthwhile.

Forget the awards.

TR in Conversation with Roy:
Okay, I like your kung fu there. (Laughs… fade out)

Yes, we need influence. And I get that. So if a way to get that influence is to be in the room. And if a way to get in the room is through being a part of an award show.

Roy:
I can hear your voice. I can hear the way you said awards talk about intention. You go on. That was great.

(Thomas & Roy Laugh)

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I mean, that part of it absolutely makes sense.

Advocacy takes place in the room. Advocacy takes place on the streets.

Roy:
Hm.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

So there’s room for all of that. And if we’re working together in the suites and the streets (laughs…) if we’re working together, and we’re coordinated and we’re all sort of, again, centering blind people.

That could be really powerful.

— Music begins, a somber piano ballad

Roy:
Thomas, if we could go back to what you said earlier about generosity in the context that you were speaking of generosity was a negative connotation in my mind, in the sense that it’s almost a condescending talking down. It’s it. generosity, and you’re caught in the context of what we were speaking about. It’s an it’s not good. It just it smells bad. I’m not sure how else to put it. What’s the opposite of that? What’s the opposite of that? Negative generosity, that almost looking down and I’m going to be generous to blind people. What’s the opposite of that? I’ve got my own opinion. I’m just curious.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah. I mean, the first word that comes to my mind when you were saying that is disrespect.

I think about it in the real world, in real life. Think about it when walking into a store. And, or wherever, and just the difference in treatment, what you know, being in a restaurant, and someone asking the person that a blind person is with if they’re sighted, what does he or she want.

As though I can’t communicate to them.

For me, it always comes back to respect because if someone is not looking at me as an equal, wherever we are, then that problem is not necessarily with me. But I do feel it. Because I’m not getting the service, whatever that may be. I’m not getting that equitable treatment. Right. It’s just not happening because of the way they view me. And it’s that that perspective that they have around blindness around disability. That is what I think the awareness that I hope I do. That if I wanted to reach out to folks to non-disabled people, it’s really in hopes that that is the message that they get that and in fact, I mean, that happens with blind people, too. It’s ableism. It’s ableism. It’s, it’s looking at disability in a certain way, as if it is less than as it’s not normal. And it is normal. It’s absolutely normal. And there’s so much that we’re missing out. Because we don’t respect and appreciate the contributions of disabled folks. And specifically, we’re talking about blind and low vision. And so, you know, if we really want to do something about it, hopefully that’s what we’re doing.

Again, that concern comes to me when we say if others become aware of audio description, for example. It’s not really helpful if they’re just looking at it. Oh, isn’t that nice? That’s great. Oh, that’s great. That’s wonderful that they do that for the blind people. That doesn’t help. It doesn’t help at all.

Roy:

Yeah. Yeah. Neck Hmm, makes it worse. Because that respect is disrespect. I get it. Yeah, that’s really, really clear.

— Music ends to brief silence

— “I Dream of Jeanie” Intro Song

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Laughing…

I’m gonna give you a genie!

Roy:

Oh boy, oh boy!

TR in Conversation with Roy:

with one Audio description wish, something that can change something about AD whatever it is good, bad, whatever? What’s your What are you going to ask of that Genie

— Music begins, an uplifting, happy Hip Hop beat.
Roy:
Parity to sighted audiences that when it comes to audio description, the experience of a blind or low vision person is as equal to a sighted person as possible, that they’re laughing at the same time that they’re able to turn it on as easily, as a sighted person, that they’re able to watch it at the same time that it’s released as a sighted person, that they’re able to go from cinema to streaming in the same way that a sighted person does, that they’re able to get the quality and excellence of the performances of the writing of the mix of the quality control that sighted people get with their track. That parody, in the sense of as equal as possible, is a part of audio description that is done. And by the way, by blind experts being paid for their value and their service. That those two things are, in are, those two things are so linked in my head that you can’t have one without the other. You can’t have the other without the one that there is no way that audio description, quality and excellence to be in parody decided audiences can happen without blind professionals being paid for their value. Those.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah. And you see, what’s cool about that is that I could wish for what I just said about respect. And I think we end up in the same place, because I think if you got your wish, I feel like my wish was granted.

Roy:

Because I don’t think that could happen without respect.

Well, and again, look how that would filter outside of audio description. Because that’s what audio description does, right? It’s not just about the film in the movie, it always applies to something bigger.

Roy:

Yeah. And that’s the model that’s like this little microcosm of audio description and how that can have a ripple effect.

TR in Conversation with Roy:

Yeah, yeah. And it does. Like, we can look at audio description and touch on. Lots of things. Look at how race, gender, all of this stuff about identity come into play.

Roy:

Is it time to as your podcast limited series is called flip the script? Can I flip the script and ask you the same Genie question

TR in Conversation with Roy:

I would really ask the genie to, to solve this problem, this issue that happens also often. And it’s just like, I just want to be rid of it that when my family and I decide just at the spur of the moment, to sit down and watch a movie, that we don’t have to go through about a half an hour because there’s no audio description. It doesn’t fail, it does not fail. And the, the feeling that I get is the same even though I play it cool. You know, and so I’ll just go ahead and watch it. I do it all the time. And they tell me No. And now the girls are older. And so they’re more bold with the way they tell me No. (Laughs…)

I can’t do anything about it anymore. But it still feels the same. And it’s not just me because they get frustrated.

I want the genie to resolve that for us.

— Audience Applause… “America, here is your winner…

TR:

So when it comes down to it…

I’m not just talking about the Reid family or even the Reid My Mind Radio family

— Crowd applause continues “Good luck both of you” America has voted… crowd applause continues in anticipation.

TR:

I don’t know what’s going to happen y’all, but it just has to be us!

– Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace!
— Applause fades out.

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description – More Than One

Wednesday, July 28th, 2021

Headshot of Alyscia Cunningham
Alyscia Cunningham is an author, photographer and film maker. Her latest book and documentary “I Am More Than My Hair” explores women’s hairloss. One of the subjects of the book and documentary is Marguerite Woods. Through this relationship, Alyscia became aware of the lack of access to the arts among Blind and Disabled people. It changed her approach to producing and thinking about art.
Yet, she couldn’t do it alone. It takes more than one…

In this latest FTS episode, we explore the power of one persons ability to spark an interest in access, help shape how we think about it and even create it. Once again, proving Audio Description is about so much more than entertainment!

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Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:
Your listening to Reid My Mind Radio.
Chances are, you know that already because you pressed play!
Duh!
This is where we examine this art form that in its basic essence, is making visual content accessible to those of us who are blind or have low vision.
But in actuality it goes way beyond that.
Today, we look at the power of one.
I know it’s the loneliest number and all, but really that’s only when it chooses to stay by itself.
This experience directly led her to her second book of photographs titled, “I AM More Than My Hair”.
It tells the stories of women who are bald.
Yet, according to Alyscia, the most common cause is stress.
And that can occur earlier than we may expect.
As part of both a marketing and fundraising effort, Alyscia recorded footage of some of the women included in the book.
She applied to Docs in progress – a nonprofit organization that fosters a creative and supportive community for documentary filmmakers.
— Music begins, a slow jazzy piano Hip Hop groove
That required her to contact some of the women featured in the book and arrange to capture their stories on camera.
I am bald, My skin is Mocha. leaning towards chocolate, and about five, seven. I normally wear certain shades. And I love interesting earrings. And so I normally have those on as well. I’ve got on a black dress. It’s sleeveless.
Her first experience began with Bustin’ Loose,
A film starring Richard Pryor and Cicely Tyson.
The description Marguerite says was horrible.
— Richard Pryor saying…
so it kind of took a backseat for me for a while. But the thing that really got me with audio description was I like to go to plays and conferences and music shows and that kind of thing.
TR:
We didn’t get into that for the purposes of this particular discussion, but that to me sounds like a case of a lack of cultural competence.
— Music ends
What is more of a part of this discussion is her response.
When Alyscia was looking for women who were bald to participate in her book,
she put the word out and heard back from a friend who told her about Marguerite.
Marguerite wanted Alyscia to understand that while she herself is blind she doesn’t represent everyone.
I’m always encouraging people to go to places where there are lots of other people that may look like me, because we’re multifaceted. We’re not all the same, just like sighted people we’re not all the same we are of all manner of variables and we’re diverse and in so many things so don’t just think you really understand what’s going on with blind people cause you’ve met me.
About two months following that meeting, Alyscia premiered her documentary at a theater.
Marguerite was there.
She realized the impact of the visuals based on the audience response…
Check out the Reid My Mind Radio family connection y’all!
That documentarian was none other than 2019 Reid My Mind Radio alumni Day Al-Mohammed.
— Music Begins – an up tempo energetic, inspirational Hip Hop beat
That’s my good friend and another 2019 Reid My Mind Radio alumni,
Cheryl Green, Captioner and Audio Description Writer and Narrator extraordinaire.
It’ goes beyond Audio Description and captions in the documentary.
Alyscia created an accessible exhibit on display at Sandy Spring Museum in Maryland.
My hope for this was having the exhibit and also having a panel discussion with Cheryl and marguerite, Judy and three other women was that this will be an example of how museums and artists can incorporate accessibility in their work and into their venues.
One of the main challenges from the perspective of the museums and venues is often funding.
Unfortunately, we know that sometimes museums and other venues and businesses want to see a return on investment.
But it’s not as simple as build it and they will come.
this can’t be a onetime thing.
it’s like now that you know How could you not do anything about it because now you’re aware of it. It’s in your space.
Did you get any feedback from non-disabled people?
— Music ends.
I’m sorry y’all, but sometimes I really do just have to laugh.
Spending time and energy advocating for something can be challenging.
I was more interested in her getting a sense of, of blind people, and that we are asking for opportunities to be able to relate to our world, just like sighted people are, and that she as an artist and a creative person would do whatever she would do with it. And that would be good enough.
Marguerite: 26:36
Just interact ting on different levels, and asking people to recognize, I’m here in this space, and I want to participate.
And sometimes, because people don’t know, you got to be in there, in their mix to get your conversation in there.
Marguerite herself is an artist. She is quite thoughtful and makes some deep connections between the More than My Hair project and well,
life for example.
Marguerite: 30:51
People tend to want to treat you like you’re less then because you don’t have the same access to vision that other people had. But
As an African American?
Most of us realize that we’ve grown up in a country that has not been kind or fair to any of us. And even if we don’t have the words to speak about, it’s a heavy burden, to exist and grow in this society. And when you know that the majority of the power structure is literally walking around with disdain for us, because of the color of our skin. You can put on a happy face and move around. And that’s fine. But I think that it’s deeper than a happy face, I think that there are some natural laws of the universe, that are, are at work all the time. And it would be beneficial to get in touch with what they are, and try to work your life from there. Because if you go with the laws that this country is offering, it’s telling a story, and I’m just given a message that’s not healthy. And it’s not about wellbeing, especially for my community and for me.
Totally unrelated to that project, she’s also working on a new project in the horror genre and says she’s making sure to build in the space for Audio Description.
She’s continuing to give panel discussions on how to make art accessible based on her experience.
Whether you’re a consumer who can help someone learn about access,
a creator who can make your content inclusive or
you’re someone who can provide the funding,
we all play a part.
— “One” Sample from Public Enemy Number One, Public Enemy
— Music begins, an upbeat bright Hip Hop funk groove
The I’m More than My Hair, accessible exhibit will be on display through September 5, 2021. Unfortunately, Covid restrictions have probably been a factor in the lack of feedback from the Disabled community, but Alyscia is hopeful that the restrictions being lifted will help bring out more people.
She’s currently seeking distribution for I Am More Than My Hair the documentary,
which at some point will stream online.
This is just one example of what we know to be true.
When creators learn that their content is not accessible to an audience, chances are pretty high that they will want to do something about that.
Well at least the cool ones!
— Sample – “What the hell are you waiting for” from “Encore” by Jay Z
— Sample (“D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)
— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description – Going Social

Wednesday, July 14th, 2021

Kensuke Nakamura wanted to write Audio Description but couldn’t seem to get in the door with any post production companies. Rather than sitting around waiting for things to change, they decided to just start writing.

Soon after starting this journey, they were introduced to other similarly motivated people including Voice Talent Barbara Faison and a Blind AD Writer, Robert Kingett.

Yes, I said a Blind Audio Description Writer…

Add two more voice talents (both Blind by the way) and you have Social Audio Description.

A perfect way to kick off the first of our 2021 Flipping the Script on Audio Description series.

Listen

Resources

Social Audio Description
All About Image Descriptions

Transcript

Show the transcript

— Record being rewind
— Impeach the President Beat.
— “Ladies & Gentlemen”

TR:

Greetings! And welcome back to the podcast bringing you compelling people impacted by blindness and disability.

As part of this conversation, we’ve been talking about Audio Description in some capacity since 2015.
It began when Netflix launched Daredevil.
It continued with topics like;
Critiquing the selection of narrators,
promoting the idea of using pre-show for film and television
Introducing you to several narrators, writers,AD Directors and technology developers.

Over the next several weeks I want to go beyond the surface conversations and explore how AD is so much more than entertainment. More than a voice in your headphones. More than access!

So it’s time, for Flipping the Script on Audio Description!

— “Check it out y’all, check it out…”
— Reid My Mind Theme Music

Episode Intro
— Sound of theater environment

TR:

Remember going to the movies?

I mean actually going to a theater, purchasing your ticket and getting the Audio Description receiver and headphones. Maybe getting your favorite snacks (unless you’re like me and bring your own. Don’t judge me for being a conscious consumer!)

You head into the theater and find some seats.

(No not that aisle, the floor is way too sticky)

you try to hold off on the snacks because you want to enjoy them while you watch the movie.

Suddenly, the trailers for upcoming films begin. So all your attention is directed at the screen.

— Trailer without Audio Description

Despite all of your movie going experience, for a quick second, you just know that finally, this time, the trailers will be described.

— Trailer without Audio Description

Then you realize, they’re not. You struggle to figure out exactly what’s going on, you lean back in your seat and play with the Audio Description equipment just hoping it’s working properly. Again, experience may have left you a bit traumitized from all the mishaps in the past.

With nothing left to do but wait for the film, you grab your snacks and hope you don’t finish before the movie begins.

(Ah man! I finished my Nestle Bunch a Crunch!)

Ken:
My name is Kensuke Nakamura, I use they them pronouns. I’m light skinned, slightly masculine presenting person with dyed red hair to about my cheeks. I’ve got about an inch of dark roots coming in. I’m just wearing a black hoodie. And I’m an Audio Description writer and editor.

TR:

Ken saw a need for description on movie trailers. They soon began providing that description and eventually grew a team of people to help with the process.

But we have to begin with their introduction to Audio Description.

Ken:
I got interested in audio description for selfish reasons, I met this very cool person at a party. And I became friends with him on Facebook, and was wanting to get to know them better. And one of the first things they posted on Facebook was that if I was going to be friends with them on Facebook, everyone needs to post image descriptions on all of their pictures. And that was just a price of entry. I was like, Okay, I need to learn about the image descriptions.

TR:

And that’s what they did. Their friend actually posted an article titled All About Image Descriptions, (You can find a link to that on Reid My Mind .com)

Eventually, Ken and their friend began going on dates. These included of course, going to movies. As many of us know, some times the AD doesn’t work.

Ken:

I ended up doing a lot of extemporaneous audio description in the person’s ear. Or sometimes we’d watch one of my movies like at home that did not have audio descriptions. So I got a lot of experience doing just fly by the seat of my pants, audio description.

About a year ago, during quarantine, I realized that I wanted to try to do audio description professionally.

I started off by just trying to do some scripts. So I picked several movies that didn’t have audio descriptions, and just wrote some audio descriptions for them full length on a Google Doc.

TR:

Wait! we must be missing a step. There’s no mention of approvals or permission. Maybe the fancy software?

Interested in writing AD as a job, Ken submitted samples to different Audio Description creators. Unfortunately, none of them responded.

Ken sought a way to continue developing the skills while possibly making a name for them self.

Ken:

it was around the time that the trailer for the Batman came out after DC fandom. And I saw that trailer and I was like, Oh, this is a very good, very interesting trailer showing us a new take on Batman showing how this one’s going to be different from the ones that came previously.

There was just a lot of really good visual elements. I was like this needs to be audio described. And of course, I checked in it wasn’t.

@-from later in section

At the time I would search you’d find maybe a handful of audio described trailers for the past several years.

trailers are something I’ve loved for a long time.

I remember the trailer for Spider Man, two early Alien vs. Predator, I probably watched a couple dozen times just really picking it apart. So it was something I was already interested in any way.

TR:

These trailers, are no longer just relegated to in theater or during television commercial breaks. There on YouTube and and available any time.

— The Batman Trailer Described by Ken

Ken:

I started off doing just the trailers. I don’t have any interest in becoming a actual narrator or voice talent. So at first, I was just doing it by myself, because it was easier. I didn’t have to schedule with anyone, but I’m not particularly good at it.

Barbara:
My name is Barbara j Faison. I am a mindfulness and meditation ambassador and voice talent and audio description voice talent.

I am a middle aged African American woman with short salt and pepper hair very close cropped.

TR:

Officially, Barbara’s been doing Voice Over work since 2018. However she’s been using her voice for years. Whether in the performing arts in school, Toastmasters and as a 10 year volunteer for the Georgia Radio Reading service.
Yet, like for so many people, it often begins with the one question. In Barbara’s case, it was a neighbor who asked.

Barbara:
Have you considered voiceover?

If you decide you want to do it, I’ve got a coach for you.

TR:

At the time, Barbara was on a sabattical from her corporate job. Her husband suggested she use the time to investigate if this was something she’d like doing.

Barbara:

I had this conversation with God. And I said, Okay, listen, God, if this is something I’m supposed to do, you have to give me a really big sign. I meditate everyday, but you need to hit me upside the head. So I said, I need you to give me a big sign.

TR:

Soon after, Barbara drives about 45 minutes for her first meeting with a coach, upon arriving the coach says:

Barbara:

Barbara, I just got an audition for an African American woman. 50 Plus, you want to audition? I’ll coach you.

I auditioned. That was Friday. Monday, we got an email. The person wanted to have me come in I recorded on Tuesday, I was done in 15 minutes.

TR in Conversation with Barbara: 08:27
Wow.

TR:

That sign she was looking for soon became her open for business sign in 2018.

— possibly somthing here to separate…

Barbara learned of Audio Description after her husband asked her about a narration he heard accompanying a show he was watching. She did a bit of research and found out it was called Audio Description. Further research led her to Roy Samuelson and ADNA.org the Audio Description Network Alliance

Barbara:

I reached out to Roy and it was like, I want to do this because it reminds me so much of my radio reading service days, and I had forgotten how much I really enjoyed doing that volunteer work, right. Although, of course, I want to get paid to do this as well. I just enjoyed that service and being able to offer something with my voice that was beneficial because my personal mission is to use my voice to heal, educate and inspire not just sell stuff.

TR:

She completed the AD Retreats training with Reid My Mind Radio alumni Colleen Connor.

Roy later suggested that she reach out to Ken to possibly contribute her voice to the effort of creating AD trailers.

Barbara:
I was like, Okay.

Ken:

And so she reached out and said, Hey, I’m interested in getting into audio description narration Can I work with you on these trailers? And I was like, Oh, yeah, absolutely love to have that work, take it off my plate. And that it that made it so much easier, because I would just write it up and then send it over to her. And then like a day or two later, it would come back. And she did, she did it in so many fewer takes. So it was a lot easier to edit her sound quality was much better. So I really loved working with her.

Barbara:

We did Aunty Donna’s big ol funhouse, which was hilarious.

The hillbilly elegy, definitely more of a somber tone versus anti Donnas funhouse versus the 355, which was an action adventure. So we also did the witches, which you know, was kind of more of a fun kids kind of thing. But you still had a little bit of foreboding in some of it. So I tried to have those tones, but not over play, you know, because I think of audio description as I’m walking you into a door, and here’s what’s going on, and the things that you can’t necessarily take from what you’re hearing, I want to just add a little bit of dimension to that for the listener.

TR:

The team continued to grow. It now includes two additional narrators, both of whom are Blind.

Ken:

There’s been a lot more awareness made of audio description, as you know, as a service as something that people can get and as something that people can do as a profession. So I think there’s a lot of people who are interested in getting into it. And I’m really glad that there’s a lot of blind folks who are interested in participating as well, because it shouldn’t be something that like sighted people do without the input or the hard work of blind folks.

TR:

This seems like a great time to either inform or remind you… Blind people created Audio Description and have been involved from the beginning.

That involvement can go as far as our own ingenuity. I’ve said in the past, Blind people can write Audio Description.

(Silence)

Yes, that’s often the response, silence! But maybe you just don’t have the right perspective.

Robert:

My name is Robert Kingett I am a white male, I am five feet six inches.
My pronouns are he him or them, whichever you prefer.
I’m a avid reader and writer of short fiction and novels, which I think really benefits me in the writers room when working on these audio description scripts.

TR:

Robert was introduced to Audio Description as a student at The Florida School for the Deaf and Blind.

He was assigned the task of writing essays where he would discuss the plots and themes of described movies.

Robert:

I didn’t know it was a career path that I could genuinely pursue. Number one because I do have a speech disability. So, I thought that I could never become a narrator. And number two, I thought that you had to have a perfect 2020 vision to write the audio description scripts, so I thought that I could never get in to the industry.

At the time I wanted to become a movie critic. So I would write mock reviews of audio described documentaries.

At the same time, I also thought that I could not make this into a long standing career. because I learned very quickly that the general population did not know aboutAudio Description.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

tell me how you actually started working with Ken.

Robert:

I wrote them on Facebook. Because I atempted to reach out to a lot of Audio Description companies. I asked them if I could become either a script writer or a script editor.

TR in Conversation with Robert:
So you said, you told them you were blind at that point? Why did you choose to do that?

Robert:

I chose to do that, because I thought that the Audio Description industry was relying too heavily on sighted experts.

I was hoping that these companies would kind of make the leap from providing a service for the blind and visually impaired to let’s hire a blind or visually impaired person to work with us to him prove our product. That did not happen.

The only person who wrote me back was Eric at IDC and we talked for quite a bit.

TR:

Unfortunately, there were real budget constraintsthat prevented Robert from being hire. With no other responses, robert took that as a sign.

Robert:

Okay, they don’t want me as a Blind writer, so why don’t I try to form some independent experiment.

So Ken was doing trailers, and I just had a hunch that they would accept me so I wrote them without any expectations at all. And they wrote me back and said, Yeah, sure!

TR:

The addition of Robert brings the Social Audio Description Team to five people.

Team Process>
Ken

I think of it as a cooperative, and I would like it to be like a non hierarchical collage collaborative. I currently do the writing with Robert. I’ll do a pass on it, and then send it over to Robert, and he’ll send me suggestions or corrections.

Then I send it along to the voiceover artist. They’ll record the narration on their own. And occasionally, I might send some things back and say, like, Hey, I just need to another pass of these lines. And then I do the editing, but I’m currently thinking about getting some other writers and editors maybe to join in.

TR:

I asked Ken, Barbara and Robert to describe what they would like to see come out of this work both for the group and for them individually.

First Ken, who says it began with a way to both practice and get his name out there, but describing trailers can have a real benefit.
Ken:

Blind audiences should have just as much access to trailers as a way of gauging whether they want to spend $20, $5, depending on where you’re seeing it on a movie, and spending, like, you know, 90 minutes, two hours of their lives watching a film.

There’s so many movies and TV shows that I’ve never seen, but I know plenty about and I have a general idea of what the story is, what the tone is, who the characters are, like lines from the movie, and I can get meems . I can participate in conversations . situations where like, if somebody makes some sort of reference to a thing, I can generally understand what they’re talking about. And it creates like a sense of camaraderie.

TR:

For Ken, this is also about starting a trend, but not just for his own benefit.

I don’t want to have a monopoly on this. I would love for like movie studios to pick up like, first of all, I love for them to hire me. But if not, that I would love for them to just be like, we’re just going to take what they’re doing and do that ourselves.

TR:

You hear that, the Social Audio Description team is open for business.

In fact, they’ve been hired to produce description for a webinar series and hopefully more to come.

Next up, Barbara.

Barbara:

What I would like to see from us as a team is us to become a team that is a resource for people that are interested in having projects audio described, I mean, I think we all know that there is a ton of available projects that could happen so I would love to see us as a team take on some more projects across the board from education to film and television.

I would love to get more exposure and experience and have some projects where I am working with people that are really looking at making audio description the best it can be because people deserve to have the accessibility that people who have vision have. So, plug anyone needing an audio description voice over talent (laughs) reach out to me because I would love to be involved with some projects.

TR:

Stay tuned, I’ll have contact information coming up. First, Robert.

Robert:

I would like to see our guidelines, same techniques used across the industry. I want us to sort of be the innovators of Audio Description.

I want content creators to think about accessibility as they’re creating the content.

I also want quality to become more of a conversation

I want the creator to be excited about soon hiring a very skilled visually impaired Audio Describer to make their content accessible.

TR in Conversation with Robert:
Now because you yourself are visually impaired? Correct?

Robert:

Yes.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

Okay,

Robert:
totally blind.

TR in Conversation with Robert:

Can you be given a film/some sort of content and write it independently?

Robert:

Given the chance Yes, I absolutely could write a full length Audio description script.

Okay, how would you do that?

Robert:

I would use my Wordsmith ability to mesh a bunch of amateur descriptions.

What I mean by that is a sighted person and I would watch the movie together I find that three people is an ideal number for me.

TR:

These are three friends. Think of it sort of like when you ask some friends to help you paint a room or move some furniture. You cover the cost of beer and pizza and they help you do some lifting. In this case their watching some content.

While their watching, Robert pauses the film and asks what they see. He records all of their answers.

Robert:

I would take all those amateur descriptions and then craft a sentence that fits in to that time code.

TR:

Robert ended up reaching out to another Audio Description provider, X Tracks and has since worked on multiple projects available on Netflix;
Brian Regan On the Rocks
Tiffany Haddish Presents They Ready
Fearless

Also happy to report that since recording these converssations, Ken has written an AD script for Good on Paper currently streaming on Netflix.

TR:

Three people, all from very different backgrounds. Each with a genuine interest in creating Audio Description but for whatever reason, unable to get access. So they do it themselves. At first, it sounds like that classic pull yourself up by your own bootstraps ideology. But it’s not that.

Rather, it’s team work. Each playing a position with a common goal. Yet, individually, they each have the chance to work on their strengths. Plus, they bring all of their experiences from marginilized groups which to me means even more added value for the final product.

Robert:

We all work collectively together. We provide Audio Description that reflects the real world.

For example, whereas others may refrain from describing ethnicity or skin tone we absolutely describe skin tone and ethnicity.

We tried to be as conscientious of our biases as humanly possible.

Ken
Obviously, I’m not the first person there are like other companies who are, you know, hiring blind voice talent and blind writers to help out with the creation of audio description. You know, they say nothing about us without us and I think It’s important, and I’m glad I can be part of that. And hopefully, you know, giving, giving marginalized folks the same stepping stone that I’m having to hopefully get into the industry.

TR:

That right there!

That’s what I respect and appreciate!

A big shout out to the Social Audio Description team. Ken, Barbara, Robert you know you each are official,
— Audio – Airhorn!

Reid My Mind Radio Family!

If you want to submit a suggestion for a trailer to be described or maybe you want to hire the Social Audio Description team to add value to your project, you can do that via the Audio Description Discussion Group on Facebook or via Twitter or YouTube.

Ken:

My Twitter handle and my YouTube handle is Kensukevic K E N as in Nancy S as in Sally, U K E v I C. And that’s a combination of my Japanese first name and my Polish heritage.

TR:

There’s Barbara

Barbara:

B A R B A R A F A I S O N S V O I C E.com that’s my website and
they can reach me at Barbara at Barbara faces voice anytime they’d like to I’m happy to talk with them.

TR:

And Robert.

Robert:

The social audio description, our website is
ADComrade.word press.com.

My web site is is blindjournalist.wordpress.com.

TR:

The Social Audio Description team, well they flipped the script didn’t they. They saw a need and began filling it. While they continue to do that, we as consumers need to support this effort by watching the videos.

I’m sure many Blind consumers are so used to not having access to movie trailers that you may not see the value of including Audio Description.

But consider sitting in that theater. If you want to feel fully included throughout the experience, supporting the effort of The Social Audio Description team could be a part of making that happen.

To make sure you don’t miss any of the upcoming episodes in the Flipping the Script series, be sure you follow or subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.

Transcripts and more are available at ReidMyMind.com.

And yes, that’s R to the E I D…
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be.)
Like my last name.

— Reid My Mind Outro

Peace!

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