Posts Tagged ‘Low Vision’

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Talking Training

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Adding on to our last conversation, we continue discussing how more Blind people can get involved in Audio Description. What are the available training options and ways to find opportunities?

Join Us Live

The BCAD Live Chats can take place on a variety of platforms including Twitter and Linked In.

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* Cheryl Green
* Thomas Reid

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Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

Music begins
THOMAS: Welcome to the Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats. These are the edited recordings of the Blind-Centered Audio Description Live Chats!
CHERYL: The live is the most fun part! We get together, we start with a question, and then we invite up anybody from the audience who wants to come and chat with us, agree, disagree, shed light on something that we hadn’t thought about before, which is Nefertiti’s favorite. [electric whoosh]
NEFERTITI: I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I’m a bilingual professional voiceover artist who specializes in audio description narration! I’m also a fervent cultural access advocate and a community organizer.
CHERYL: I’m Cheryl Green, an access artist, audio describer and captioner.
THOMAS: And I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer Reid My Mind Radio, voice artist, audio description narrator, consultant, and advocate.
SCOTT B: Hi, I’m Scott Blanks. I’m a passionate advocate for the highest quality audio description in all of the arts. I’m the co-founder of the LinkedIn Audio Description Group and the Twitter AD community.
SCOTT N: Scott Nixon here. I’m an audio description consumer and advocate, hoping to be an audio description narrator very, very soon. [electronic whoosh]
THOMAS: Hey, Nef, why don’t you tell people how they could join the live recording?
NEFERTITI: That’s really simple. Just follow us on social media to keep up with important details, such as dates, times, and what platform will be using. On Twitter, I’m @NefMatOli. Cheryl?
CHERYL: I’m @WhoAmIToStopIt.
THOMAS: I’m @TSRied, you know, R to the E I D.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Scott?
SCOTT B: I’m @BlindConfucius. That’s Blind Confucius.
SCOTT N: And you can catch me on my social media, Twitter only. That’s @MisterBrokenEyes, Capital M r Capital Broken Capital E y e s.
[smartphone selection beeps]
CHERYL: Recording now!

NEFERTITI: Hello, everybody! I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. I am your Mistress of ceremonies or Spaces, whatever tonight! And I’m here with Cheryl Green and Thomas Reid and the two Scotts: Scott Blanks and Scott Nixon, moderators of the Audio Description Twitter Community, which as I always say, if you’re not part of it, what are you waiting for? Get over there.
Tonight, we are going to talk about training. Let’s talk about training, pulling back the curtain on audio description trainings for blind people. Yeah. Thomas, kick us off.
THOMAS: Cool, cool. Well, hey, everybody. Yeah. So, the idea this week was to talk about, more about training and really sort of pull back the curtain about getting started. That was, I think that was the theme or something like that, right?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: So, I have a couple of segments here that I think we can talk about. And we don’t have to use these, but these are just some suggestions ‘cause I was thinking about it. And one, the first one I’m calling “know thyself.” And I’ll go into them, but let me just tell you about the other ones before I say it. But the first one is know thyself. And I think it’s a real, real important part to get started. And then we’re talking about the fundamentals. The second part is really talking about the fundamentals that we need to really be aware of when we’re talking about audio description—I mean, really, to be honest with you, anything, any sort of profession that you want to get into as a blind person—but specifically audio description today. And then we’ll go and talk about some of the things that you could be doing right now that you don’t have to wait for. And then I wanna talk a little bit about your interest in AD or the various places that we can go when we talk about AD. ‘Cause right now, I think we’re only thinking one area, and there’s multiple areas within AD that we can really, really talk about and think about getting into and how to and explore that.
So, the first idea of knowing thyself, okay? The one thing I wanted start with is we really need to understand that audio description, even before we go any further, you need to know that audio description, I don’t think right now I would be able to classify that—and Nef, you jump in, you tell me—but I don’t think we can classify that as a job. I think we can call it maybe, you know, for-hire work, freelance work, or something like that. But it is not a job. And therefore, there are some things that you should really sort of know about yourself if you really are trying to pursue this. Would you say AD is a job, Nef?
NEFERTITI: I would say that audio description is firmly in the gig economy. It really is, “Hey, I’ve got this series, movie, whatever, and I think you’d be a good writer for it. Are you available? Yeah? Okay, here you go. Have it to me in three days, one day, a week. This is what you’ll get paid.” And you keep it moving ‘til the next one. Same for narrator, same for QC. Engineers, that might be a little different story. I’ve met a number of on-staff engineers. And there are staff writers. There are.
THOMAS: Yes, yes.
NEFERTITI: But for the most part, what I have found is that it’s absolutely just gig, not like a 9 to 5.
THOMAS: Right. So, the fact that it’s not a 9 to 5, the thing that you have to ask yourself is, well, do you like to hustle? And I’m not talking about the dance from the ‘70s. And yes, I like to do that hustle too. [laughs] But do you like to hustle, meaning sort of get out there and find the work on your own? Because that’s a lot about, you know, that’s part of it. You have to sort of market yourself. And so, that’s a hustle. And that’s not, quite honestly, if we think about the way we as a society sort of think about careers and jobs, that’s not, we’re not raised like that. And so, if you’re sort of coming out of the traditional work environment or even school or whatever the case may be, you really have to give that some consideration ‘cause there’s lots of things that are involved with that.
I think another piece of that is to really sort of figure out what your goal is because with that freelance, maybe, you know, maybe you just kind of wanna, you wanna dip your toe in the water a little bit. You just wanna try AD. That’s cool. That’s, some people just freelance once a year with a certain type of project on something that they wanna do. That’s perfectly fine if that’s your goal. But really have a good understanding of where you’re trying to go, you know? Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if you wanna add anything to that, Nef, in terms of the hustle. What do you think? What would you say about the hustle of AD?
NEFERTITI: I would say that coming into this space, you have to remember that, yeah, this may be something that you wanna do as a career, and that aspiration is perfectly reasonable and fantastic. And we wish you all the luck in the world. But yeah, it’s, again, unless you get a position at a company as a staff writer who does narration or what have you, it’s important to be clear that this is something that’s gonna take a lot of drive on your part. And yeah, if you have that sort of entrepreneurial spirit, I’m gonna put myself out there, I’m gonna, you know, let myself network, and all that stuff, then all power to you. But I think that’s something that we have come across with blind people who come to us for guidance and advice, Thomas, right, where they have this idea of a more traditional kind of work setting, and that’s just not how it is necessarily.
SCOTT B: Hey, Scott B. (Cut 13:47 through 14:01.) So, I can only really speak to my very limited sort of time with audio description, and I agree. It feels giggy. It is that. And I think it’s important for us to do what we can to help educate people that it is not a space, an arena where you can say, “I am gonna grow up and be in audio description.” Doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but there’s some practicalities there that you need to think about. It doesn’t also mean that it cannot be a field that supports, can be more supportive of someone putting most or all of their energy into that field as a job, as a career. But we’re not there. But I think, just in short, what I see is this field is not set up for especially for blind folks to be well versed in the many parts of audio description. It was talked about earlier that there’s kind of an emphasis on certain aspects of it, but there’s really four or five that are critical. And there are no…there are no training supports in most of those areas. And we’re gonna talk more about that today, I’m sure. But this is Scott B. Done speaking for now.
COLLEEN: Hey, guys. So, interesting about kind of training and education and audio description. Obviously, this is a passion of mine, and this year, I became the owner of Audio Description Training Retreats. And I’ve now started teaching kinda the fundamentals of audio description and practice in scripting and, you know, kind of primary inline description. And that sort of level-one base class I teach with Liz Gutman, who is an employee of IDC. She’s also a very good friend. And Melissa Hope was another one of my former students who works at Descriptive Video Works, and we teach a class that is all about writing for the screen, anything that’s specifically to do with technology, screen wise. So, video games and film and television and broadcast and all that jazz. I am currently in the process of developing a live theater and performance class with another former grad, Louise Victor, who is kind of the head of one of the live AD providers in Pennsylvania near Penn State.
So, I’ve got kind of like the three main core things, and we normally allow eight people in each class so that you’re provided ample practice time and any accommodations that you need, and everyone gets quite a bit of time and feedback and networking with each other. The thing I realized was that I want to be able to teach more people, and I wanna be able to educate on a larger scale as well as have it more accessible in a way. What I wanna do is kind of create modules online, like a curriculum of classes you can take in all different areas of audio description so that there would be online courses. And sort of some of the static information about audio description that doesn’t change much is what could be taught there in collaboration with me, and I would wanna collaborate with different people.

CHERYL: Hey, Colleen?
COLLEEN: Yeah?!
CHERYL: This is Cheryl. I wanna jump in just for time’s sake ‘cause we do try to hold to something around a two-minute limit.
COLLEEN: Oh, yeah. Go for it. Go for it.
CHERYL: Yeah. I hate to interrupt you, especially as you’re getting into those really valuable details. But I wanted to also add in there that I am a sighted audio describer, and I often run into people who are asking me, “Where can I get training? Where can I get training?” Not once has anyone ever come to me and said, “Do you know where I can go to a training where there’s a blind teacher or a blind co-teacher?” I just wanted to throw that out there. I don’t think that’ll be a surprise to anybody here who’s listening, but we talked about narrative shift last time. I don’t think the blind community, well, hmm. I don’t wanna make grandiose assumptions, but I do think the non-blind audio description world needs to listen better to the narrative shift that’s already happened. And I think that we need to be asking that question more: “Is there gonna be a blind teacher? Am I gonna be working alongside blind people?” Yeah, so, I’m gonna leave it there and see who wants to speak next.
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti. Thank you, Colleen, for telling us about your offerings. What I didn’t specifically hear was any catering to blind people. Here in this space, we wanna center blind people, right? Like, that’s our edict. And would love to hear more, along with Cheryl saying, we want a blind teacher. Here we have Colleen. But I wanna hear more about, and I think our audience would love to hear more about, are there any trainings that have blind people in mind for all aspects of audio description? Whether that be writing, as controversial as that can be, QC. I’m a firm believer in blind QC. Narration, teaching folks how to use their technology, what their different DAWs, digital audio workstation, options are, the accessibility of same, etc. I don’t hear much about that at all. There are plenty of classes/courses. But I’m not hearing anything that caters to blind folk. And more to the point, does there need to be something specific for blind people, or have blind people out there—anybody in the audience, you’re welcome to jump in and let us know about your experiences with any classes you’ve taken—have you found that you haven’t really needed to have anything catered to you or tailored to you as a blind person? That’s what I’m interested in tonight. How about you, Thomas?
THOMAS: Yeah, Nef, I think you just raised a fantastic point about does there need to be anything specific to blind people? Because if, you know, Colleen mentioned something around making the training accessible. If making the training, if the trainings were accessible, I think that is part of what it is, what needs to be done. But also, accessible not only from the point of view of the technology, but just in terms of the methodology, right, of really, really including that. Because when people ask, they always, when people find out you’re a narrator—and I’m sure you experience this, Nef—it’s always like, “Oh, we really wanna talk about your process.” And I almost feel like, wow, I’m really gonna disappoint you because the process is not much different from what your process is except, I use a screen reader. And so, I think you touched on something that’s really, really important there, Nef, because that’s a shift. It’s a shift in the way we think about this, ‘cause there is always this thought that there has to be something really separate. Even for us, getting involved in audio description, it’s always viewed as it has to look at this thing as something separate. But it’s not that different.
NEFERTITI: Something different, something that needs to be accommodated.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Does it? Does it though?
THOMAS: I mean there are accommodations. Those accommodations are specific. Yeah, there are some accommodations. Absolutely. And there is nothing wrong with an accommodation.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely.
THOMAS: But I’m saying, does it have to be separate? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I really don’t think so, because the training, again, if it’s accessible, and if we are considered, right, if we are a, if we are a customer of this, I mean, and you’re considered, your needs are considered, it might not have to be anything specific. But what does have to happen is that the industry has to be ready because we can have all of this training, but the industry has to be ready. And again, there are things that we can do. And that’s what I really wanted to focus on today was all the things that we can do because we have to, we as a community would have to wait for the accessibility to be implemented. We would have to wait for the technology to be made accessible. We have to wait for the industry, in the meantime, because not everyone is ready. A lot of folks want it, but you’re not ready. You’re not ready. And I put myself in that category, right? At points in my life, I wasn’t ready. There are certain things that I wanted last year that I was not ready for and may be now getting ready, right? And so, those are the things that we can control. And that’s what I wanna focus on, because, again, we’re centering blind people. So, let’s talk about what we can do.
NEFERTITI: Thomas, I think you’re…. Goodness. Yes, yes to everything you just said.
THOMAS: So, one of the other things, you know, I talked about earlier in terms of, and we talked about a little bit the last time, in terms of learning our technology and making sure we’re comfortable with our technology, right? Figuring out the things that we want, you know, figuring out our goals and all of that type of thing. What exactly do we wanna take out of this? I think there’s, the one thing that it doesn’t even matter what career, what profession you’re going into, but I think we need to think about it as professionalism, right? That idea of being professional. And, you know, this is not to throw anybody out there or anything like that, but, well, to embarrass anybody. But Nef, one of the first things that I noticed, your professionalism, on point. On point. And so, that was why I was like, “Oh, no, yeah. You got what you need to go.” That was one of those things. You had the hustle and the professionalism. And so, what I mean by that is I notice how you conduct yourself, right? So, not just in terms of the presentation, the oral presentation, but in just follow-up, doing exactly what you said you were gonna do. “I’m gonna send you an email. I’ll send you that.” She does it, right? These are the things that we need to make sure that we’re doing that too often we know it doesn’t happen. Now, again, no one is perfect. Everyone slips up. I know I slip up. Things fall off my radar. But I know that when they drop back on my radar, I’m gonna apologize, and I’m gonna get back to the person. Like, these are some of the things that we individually can be working on and making sure that we have tight before we even try to go ahead and get into any industry, but definitely AD.
And the reason I say definitely AD is because I’m not saying there is any sort of conspiracy out there. Please don’t take this like that, right? And I’m not saying that anyone is actually even maybe even consciously thinking about, “Oh, we have to keep them out,” right? But you better believe. [laughs] Well, you don’t better believe. But I’ll tell you that I truly, honestly believe that not everyone wants us there. You could apply that to any career. Not everyone would want blind people there. Not everyone wants a person with a disability there, okay? And so, you’re going to be looked at differently. That is just factual. So, you better have your stuff on point. That’s what I’m saying. And so, these are the things that we can be working on today in addition to the fundamentals, knowing our technology. And that’s what we talked about last time, so. Go ahead.
NEFERTITI: Nefertiti again. I 100% agree. I think of these as like soft skills.
THOMAS: Mm.
NEFERTITI: But in a very real way, this is what is going to move you along, literally. Yeah. You say you’re gonna send an email, make a call, do that. You’re gonna audition for things, do that. You know, you’re gonna focus on learning your technology so that you’re better at Word and Excel with your screen reader, do that. Same goes with learning any DAWs program. I’ll tell you, when I first got into this, and I went to Thomas for advice, he told me point blank, like, “It’s okay if this turns out to be something you don’t wanna do, but if it is something you’re gonna, you know, you wanna do, you’re gonna have to do and learn X, Y, Z thing”. For me, the hardest thing has been the audio aspect. You know, if I could just be the writer, the quality control specialist, the narrator, and I just show up, say, to a studio or sit in front of a computer and type away and say my lines, it would be a wrap! But it’s not that simple. You’re not just a voice artist anymore. You’re also an engineer now, a lot of the time. So, learning that for me has been a great learning curve. But you have to do it. Like it or not, you know, it’s like with any job, right? No job is perfect. There are aspects of everything that we do that aren’t necessarily 100% to our liking. But you have to do what you have to do. And in this case, I 100% agree with Thomas. Have good follow-through. Have a driven nature so you can network. Don’t be afraid to say, “Oh, hey, hey! You got, you know, you got any voice work for me coming up? I’m out here. I’m available,” like, you know, what do they say? The squeaky wheel gets the grease or whatever it is?
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, that’s part of it, too. Not being shy, putting yourself out there, and being willing and able and dedicated to learning. Super important even before you get into training and the like. I mean, I think those are sort of trainings in and of themselves, life skills.
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you said something, Nef, no job is perfect. And I just wanna point out again, and we’re not even talking about a job. You can get to a job, and you have on-the-job training.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Jobs, employers might send you to a training when you have a new system, you’re getting on a new project, you need to learn a new language, coding language, whatever the case may be, right? You’re going to go to a training, and you’re getting paid for that. It ain’t working the same way [laughs] with the freelance work. It does not. You have to cover your own training costs and time.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: And it’s just really, really something. And again, I don’t wanna sound like I’m trying to scare anybody away ‘cause that is not, that is not why I got into this, because I really want…I really wanna see more blind people at every level.
NEFERTITI: No, we wanna proliferate this with blind people. But we need you to be prepared.
THOMAS: Right. But I want you to ready.
NEFERTITI: Yes. We want you to know.
THOMAS: Yes, yes. Because the worst thing, the worst thing is to have that opportunity, and you’re not ready for it, because then you might— And it’s not to say because nothing is finite like that, right? It doesn’t mean that it is the end-all, but man it sure does make it harder. It will make it harder. And so, be ready. Be ready with all of these things, you know?
NEFERTITI: 100%.
CHERYL: I wanted to just ditto to what you said, and I wanna add another detail to Nefertiti’s just amazing professionalism, and yours too, Thomas, is being collaborative and collaboratively minded. And I have worked with both of y’all on many occasions. And if there’s something that you can’t do or you don’t have time to do, you just let me know, “Hey, could you do this?” And likewise. And Thomas, I’ve been on calls with you talking about something else, and I bring up a tech issue I’m having, and you just give me the solution right there on the call, and then you’ve solved my tech issue. We’re constantly in these conversations, and we want to collaborate and build each other’s skills up. So, I think, you know, Thomas, you keep saying, “I don’t wanna scare anybody from getting into the field,” and I’m glad that you’re saying that. I think part of building up the skills is being in conversation with people who can give you the shortcuts like you do, so you don’t have to take, you know, watch a whole 20-minute tutorial video and take notes. Somebody can just give you the shortcut. But I really think knowing your strengths, knowing your limitations, and talking to your collaborators about it really goes a long way.
NEFERTITI: Cheryl, 100% to that as well. I think that’s where the networking part of what I talk about with people comes in. Build your community, build your network, join the audio description community, join the Audio Description Facebook group, use the hashtag #AudioDescription, and find other folks who are doing this. Listen to these Spaces. If there are Zoom gatherings that have to do with audio description, attend those. Trainings, again, a bunch of them. But one place which I don’t necessarily consider training, but that you can learn a heck of a lot, and they’re just wonderful people, VocalEye out of Canada does these Describer Cafés once a month. And you learn so much, and you can come away with having made a friend or two there as well. So, I think that is hugely important, so you have people to talk to, to ask questions of, to run things by. So, yeah, just wanna stress that point that I think you’re 100%, Cheryl. Thank you for that.
SCOTT B: Hey, it’s Scott B.
NEFERTITI: Scott B!
SCOTT B: Hello. So, a couple things. Just rewinding to the conversation around the soft skills or emotional intelligence or interpersonal skills, all of that, it really is something that whoever you are, blind or otherwise, whatever field, AD or not, you’re getting into, it is so important. Earlier in my career many, many years ago, I was a vocational counselor, a very dry term, but I helped other blind folks look for work and navigate the interview process and navigate the meeting your employer for the first time and going to the job site for the first time, all of those things. And invariably, those skills of socialization and interpersonal activity and engagement, those were the ones that if they weren’t…if they weren’t polished, that is what would, more likely than anything, impact someone’s success on a job. The technical’s important, the mobility’s important, things like that, if you’re a blind person. But those other things really, it’s that social thing of kind of being able to navigate different situations. It is really important to do that.
And I think what a lot of people will ask, what a lot of people ask us when they hear this is, “Okay, so, where do I get those skills?” And the truth, unfortunately, is there are not a lot of resources for it. They are out there, though. And sometimes, frankly, it depends on where you live geographically. There are resources, some places that are rich with them, others that are deserts in terms of access to services. But I just wanna say sort of publicly, as somebody who works at a non-profit organization, that there are options out there if people have questions about how they can improve those kinds of skills, group, myself included, I think, are resources that you can come to that you should feel okay to ask questions of out on Twitter and Facebook and kind of wherever you might be connected with us. Because as a blind person who has moved through various careers and who’s had many of these struggles that we’re talking about, I know that it’s real, and it is something that you need to, that you’ll need to navigate. And we should be able to be that network, that mentoring network for other people, ‘cause that’s another way we’re gonna see and uplift other blind people into this field and other fields. So, that’s it for me.
SCOTT N: Just quickly to go back to what Scott B. was just saying about some areas being an oasis and some areas being a desert when it comes to training, welcome to Australia. We’re a great big honkin’ desert when it comes to this sort of thing. I have been looking around madly for the past two weeks trying to find audio description training and things like that in my area, and there’s just nothing here. So, at the moment, the best plan I’ve been able to come up with so far as I take my first steps of my audio description narrator journey is to hook up with like AD Training Retreats over in the States or one of the groups in Canada or Britain or something like that. And I’m gonna have to completely change my sleep schedule because we’re talking, you know, their day is my night. So, I’m gonna have to go vampire mode for a little while in order to try and learn because I don’t wanna go into this halfcocked. I wanna come into the job having as many of the skills as I possibly can. And it’s just really difficult in my region to be able to get them. So, you know, facing a lot of barriers at the moment, but hopefully with the help of you guys and other people in the space, I’ll be able to do it because it’s, you know, I’ve been thinking about it more and more over the past two weeks. And this is something I really think is, I don’t wanna say it’s my calling, but it feels like it’s the right path I need to be on at the moment.
THOMAS: So, Scott, I’m glad you said what you said. And so, this is for Scott, and this is, again, for anyone who’s listening. But Scott, you mentioned this. And so, the next thing that I wanted to touch on, and so, I will ask you, and not to put you on the spot, but I’m putting you on the spot. [laughs]
SCOTT N: [laughs] Thanks, man. I appreciate that.
THOMAS: Yeah, no problem! So, you mentioned that you wanna be an audio narrator. Okay, cool. So, my question to you— And again, and Nef could attest to this because this is, if any, anyone I talk to who wants to talk to me about this, this would be what I ask them. So, I will ask you. Have you recorded anything? Have you recorded yourself yet?
SCOTT N: I have recorded myself a couple of times doing some basic AD work, but I have over 25 years’ experience in the radio and broadcast industry. So, I know my voice, I know how to prepare, and all that jazz. So, I’ve got the experience there at least.
THOMAS: Okay. All right. Excellent. So, you have experience. So, you edit? Do you do any sort of editing, basic editing?
SCOTT N: No, I haven’t done any editing up to this point. That’s probably the next thing I need to learn how to do. I briefly spoke to Nef yesterday, and she gave me a couple tips on programs to use. So, I need to get my hands on one of those and start practicing and learning how to do that sort of thing. But I also have several opportunities here in Melbourne where I’m going to be able to have an engineer come in and work with me. And while I’m there, I’ll say, “Look, could you just teach me how to do this, that, and the other thing?” So, I might be able to do a little stink around there, but editing it myself will be something that I will be learning, yes.
THOMAS: Okay. Excellent. Because, again, the idea of just recording yourself, the first point, so many people just sort of miss that. Because this could be a great way to figure out number one, if this is gonna be something that you like to do. It sounds good often enough, but sometimes it just might not be what you like. You may end up figuring out that you don’t like it, and you might be able to find that out even if you were just recording with your iPhone. Now you’re going to have to upgrade from an iPhone if you want to go that route of the professional, right, that professional AD. And when I say that, I’m not just talking about the Netflixes and the Amazons and all of that. I’m really saying if you want someone to pay you, then you should be upgrading from your iPhone. Absolutely. That’s my opinion.
SCOTT N: Oh, of course. Yeah.
THOMAS: Okay. So, yeah. So, you wanna start to, first of all, right now get familiar. You own a PC or laptop or something? You have that?
SCOTT N: Yes, I’ve got a running laptop here.
THOMAS: Okay. And so, we already talked about having all of those fundamentals and all of that stuff and the proficiency with your thing. So, really right now, then, if you’re comfortable there, it’s really about you having some sort of a setup to do that at home and start recording yourself in the way that it would be. Now, the thing that I’m wondering is, and I would say this to anyone again, is what difference—there is difference—but what difference do you think if you have done you said 20-something years of some broadcast, or it was broadcast?
SCOTT N: Mm. Yeah, 25 years of radio and podcast broadcasting.
THOMAS: So, what makes you think you’re not way more, like you sound like you’re, you sound like you’re very close to being ready to go to do this. Like, let’s take out the idea of needing to have yourself recorded. Like, if you had an engineer accessible to you, what is it that makes you think you wouldn’t be able to do this right now?
SCOTT N: At this stage, it’s simply a matter of learning, for lack of a better term, the pattern of work, learning how to properly read the AD that someone says will be in a spreadsheet or through a Word document or whatever like that. Just learning the patterns, learning the method of doing pick-ups, going back and rerecording stuff that may be not correct or needs to be punched up a little bit or something like that. Just really learning the pattern and the flow of the work, I think that’s the next barrier because doing, reading an advertisement is a lot different to going live on air and interviewing someone or doing a prerecorded interview for a podcast. They’re all very different animals and learning how to do them are very different things. And I haven’t had much experience when it comes to reading a script. So, really, that’s my next step to get my hands on an actual AD script. I noticed earlier that the fantastic Liz Gutman from International Digital Center is one of our listeners today. And hey, Liz, if you could send me just one of your old scripts or something so I could practice, that’d be super! Scott out.
THOMAS: Okay, so, Scott, so I’m glad you brought that out. If Liz’s here, shoutout to Liz all day. Scott, you don’t need a script. And I tell everyone this. Why do you need a script? You need words in the format so you can read it. So, if you’re gonna use JAWS, whatever your screen reader is, if you use a screen reader with Braille, you need text.
SCOTT N: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: You have access to text. It doesn’t matter what you read, right? You can download any sort of script. You can read the dictionary! As long as you know how to read in the format, you know, in an accessible way, that process is going to be the same regardless to what the actual text on that screen is. Does that make sense?
SCOTT N: Yeah. Good point. Yeah, it’s a very good point, Thomas. It’s an excellent point. Thank you very much for kind of, you know, smacking me upside the head and saying you don’t need to do everything the same way!
THOMAS: It’s always my pleasure to smack you upside the head, Scott.
THOMAS: and SCOTT N: [laugh]
SCOTT N: Okay, guys.
THOMAS: Virtually, of course. Virtually, of course. I’m not a violent person. But no. But that is really, really honestly true. Copy whatever it is. Read a book. Read whatever it is that you want to read and narrate that and record yourself in whatever facility you have right now. But that is the skill that you need to be working on.
SCOTT N: Right. Thank you so much, Thomas. Thanks, everyone. I’ve really gotta bounce. Just quickly, Star Wars Andor now available on Disney+. The audio description for it is fantastic! Go and listen to it. Okay, guys? I’ll talk to you next time.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Scott! Always great to hear from you. And let’s keep in touch about your progress. I wanna hear about any breaking news.
THOMAS: We gotta start getting money for the commercials.
NEFERTITI: Oh, yeah. [laughs]
THOMAS: We gotta get money for that commercial right there. Disney ain’t paying us. Come on. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh, that’s true. I didn’t even catch that. I’m just happy that something’s being done right. Yeah. Wow. Does anybody have any sort of concrete resources you think we should shout out for folks listening to this Space and wanting to get their hands on or their ears on something? For example, I’d like to shout out the ADP, The Audio Description Project. I think they’re @ADPWebmaster on Twitter. Huge resource of all sorts of things that are being described, but they also have a section on training, different trainings, and I think they’re pretty good about keeping all of that updated. So, how about you, Cheryl, Thomas and Cheryl, Scott B., if you have any resources or a resource you think would be good for people to know about?
THOMAS: I mean, the…. [sighs] I’m not gonna give out a resource just yet. And I don’t really have many. I’m really on this. And again, this is sort of, this is my style, but this is the style that I think is necessary. And I think it’s not just my style. I think it’s because of what’s available. I just think we have a lot of things that we can do right now to really work on preparing ourself for that. I don’t know of anything specific to blind folks or that is accessible enough and that centers blind people or even considers blind people in the training process. I don’t know about that. I really don’t.
NEFERTITI: I don’t either.
THOMAS: And so, I don’t wanna endorse it.
NEFERTITI: Like we said, well, like Cheryl said specifically, blind folks at the helm. Not just as participants, but actually teaching this stuff. I only know of one person. But again, I’m not so sure that even that training caters to blind people. So, I’m not so sure. But I do think I will sort of double down on my recommendation. The ADP is a great resource for everyone to know about. It’s sorta like a repository of information there. And from there you can decide. But we are saying, I think Thomas and I are saying, and Cheryl, feel free to chime in here, there isn’t anything that we know of that we can confidently point blind people to and say, “This is good. Go do that. Reach out to this person or that organization.”
THOMAS: Yeah.
CHERYL: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: And that’s pretty sad.
CHERYL: Yeah. It is. Cheryl here. I would say I am always pointing people to my favorite continuing education, I call it, which is Thomas Reid’s podcast, Read My Mind Radio. There is a tremendous amount—talk about centering blind people—but there’s a tremendous amount of formal and informal learning you can get from the… [laughs] Turning the, turning? Flipping the Script!
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Flipping the Script. Turning the Switch!
CHERYL: No, somebody has called it Turning the Page on Audio Description.
THOMAS: Yeah. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh yeah? [laughs]
CHERYL: That sounds rude!
NEFERTITI: Wow!
CHERYL: But Flipping the Script. Thomas Reid’s Flipping the Script on Audio Description. It’s a series that’s been going on for several years, and you were talking about AD well before you started that series. And that is a concrete place to go to gather information, to listen to AD consumers and AD professionals. And I just encourage everybody go there, and that would be centered on the community.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Cheryl. And thank you for shouting out Thomas. I kinda hesitate to shout you out, Thomas, ‘cause I know how humble you are. But heck yeah.
CHERYL: Yeah, I don’t care about that part.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: But that’s a resource. All right. Cheryl’s cool with it, then I’m gonna be cool with it, too, Thomas. Prepare yourself.
SCOTT B: Scott B.
NEFERTITI: No, but it’s true. Excellent resource. Yes, Scott B.
SCOTT B: I’m gonna challenge people who are working in this space, because I think as a blind person, again, I’ll preface just saying that my sort of impressions about audio description or a career or whatever are fairly limited. But what I see is that no, there are not trainings, technical trainings, that are catering to blind people either as writers, QC artists, narrators, mixers, engineers, etc. We also need a field that is going to have those opportunities for people to learn and get better at the craft or else we will always struggle for more than a very few blind and visually impaired folks to be successful in it. And we know that there can be more. But it does, you know, this, a full, complete ecosystem involves everything. And that includes the training. Right now, it’s very heavily oriented towards writing, and it’s very heavily oriented towards writing for people who are sighted. But we need a lot more than that. And I would challenge everyone who’s involved in any of these resources that’ve been mentioned to think more broadly about including blind people as prospective audiences and learners in those spaces. Thank you.
NEFERTITI: And also teachers! Remember, folks, nothing about us without us. Centering blind people. That’s our whole ethos here, so.
THOMAS: Definitely. And real quick, because this was the last point that I wanna say, is that open, you know, broaden your horizons when we’re talking about audio description. There is more to audio description than Netflix and Amazon. There are so many opportunities, I think, in independent projects. And maybe we can talk about this. There are folks out there who do this where I know that they have worked with apprentices. That’s a old-school thing, but that’s a very awesome opportunity if you can find someone who you can apprentice with and who does independent work. Or they might do, you know, whatever, the bigger stuff too. But it’s AD, right? AD is happening in education. AD is happening on YouDescribe, right?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: You can get on these platforms and do these things and build up a résumé, if you will. It’s a way to go about it. It absolutely is a way to go about it. So, broaden your horizons when we talk about audio description, because I’m telling you, there’s a lot more going on than just Netflix, etc., etc., so.
SCOTT B: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: 100%. And it’s ripe for the picking, y’all, so.
THOMAS: Let’s go get it. Let’s go get it.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, let’s go! Get it! All right!
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Well, speaking of getting it, I gotta go get my next gig, y’all! ‘Cause it’s a hustle economy, right? A gig economy.
THOMAS: See? Yeah, no doubt.
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
THOMAS: No doubt.
NEFERTITI: It’s 8 PM in New York City, and I’m off to my next thing!
THOMAS: Aight. There it is. Peace, y’all.
NEFERTITI: Everybody, thank you so much. As always, it is such a pleasure to share this Space with you all. [collar and tags clink and clank as a dog shakes its head] For audiences— Hello, dog in the background! [chuckles] For audiences, thank you for tuning in. And we will be back in a couple of weeks with another fascinating topic.

THOMAS: Cool. Well, that concludes this week’s conversation. Why don’t y’all keep the conversation going on social media.
CHERYL: Use #ADFUBU, for us by us, #DescribeEverything, and #AudioDescription.
NEFERTITI: And hey, you know we’re out here, right? Mmhmm! Gathered and galvanized y’all. If you haven’t joined us yet, what are you waiting for?! You can find us in the LinkedIn Audio Description group and the AD Twitter community. We know that your participation will only make these spaces better.
Music fades out!

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Blind Professionals in AD

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

Prior to this live chat, we polled the AD Twitter Community to see which one of three pre-selected topics most interested the people… The winner… Blind professionals in the audio description business. Whether we’re talking about narration, quality control, audio editing and writing, many want to know how they can get started. During this conversation we hear about the importance of having a foundational skill set and exactly how that goes beyond audio description.

Join Us Live

The BCAD Live Chats can take place on a variety of platforms including Twitter and Linked In.

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* Cheryl Green
* Thomas Reid

Listen

Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

Music begins
THOMAS: Welcome to the Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats. These are the edited recordings of the Blind-Centered Audio Description Live Chats!
CHERYL: The live is the most fun part! We get together, we start with a question, and then we invite up anybody from the audience who wants to come and chat with us, agree, disagree, shed light on something that we hadn’t thought about before, which is Nefertiti’s favorite. [electric whoosh]
NEFERTITI: I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I’m a bilingual professional voiceover artist who specializes in audio description narration! I’m also a fervent cultural access advocate and a community organizer.
CHERYL: I’m Cheryl Green, an access artist, audio describer and captioner.
THOMAS: And I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer Reid My Mind Radio, voice artist, audio description narrator, consultant, and advocate.
SCOTT B: Hi, I’m Scott Blanks. I’m a passionate advocate for the highest quality audio description in all of the arts. I’m the co-founder of the LinkedIn Audio Description Group and the Twitter AD community.
SCOTT N: Scott Nixon here. I’m an audio description consumer and advocate, hoping to be an audio description narrator very, very soon. [electronic whoosh]
THOMAS: Hey, Nef, why don’t you tell people how they could join the live recording?
NEFERTITI: That’s really simple. Just follow us on social media to keep up with important details, such as dates, times, and what platform will be using. On Twitter, I’m @NefMatOli. Cheryl?
CHERYL: I’m @WhoAmIToStopIt.
THOMAS: I’m @TSRied, you know, R to the E I D.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Scott?
SCOTT B: I’m @BlindConfucius. That’s Blind Confucius.
SCOTT N: And you can catch me on my social media, Twitter only. That’s @MisterBrokenEyes, Capital M r Capital Broken Capital E y e s.
[smartphone selection beeps]
CHERYL: Recording now!

NEFERTITI: So, everybody, hello. I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. And this is the Audio Description Twitter Space all about what? Audio description! Yes. And we are so glad you are here. We wanna welcome you tweeps, and so glad for those of you who are with us live. And if you’re listening to the replay, that’s cool too. I am honored to be your MC this evening, and I’m joined by my capable, classy, and at least in one case, curly haired co-host. That’s Cheryl, ’cause Thomas got that smooth, bald head thing going on, right, Thomas?
THOMAS: Yeah, but if I let it grow back it’s curly. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Okay. Me too! My natural hair is curly too.
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: You know what? We’re all curly hairs here. But you know what? I’m getting into self-description. So, before I get too get ahead of myself and start describing people, always remember that this is a space that prides itself in centering blind people. Audio description was made for and by blind people. By blind people for blind people. And so, our focus will always be blind people. That’s, of course, not to say that sighted folks aren’t welcome. Absolutely. We love our sighted allies and colleagues, but always the center will be blind excellence. So, with that, Thomas, would you like to reiterate our question for tonight?
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it was posed, you know, it was posed to the people. The people had options, and the people have elected [chuckles] and selected. And what they came up with is what we wanna talk about today is specific to blind professionals. And the specific question is what is the outlook for blind professionals in this audio description industry? Yeah, that was pretty much what it is if I recall correctly. So, we could start there, and then we can get into some, see where that conversation goes. So, I don’t know if we wanna- Nef, you said you don’t wanna talk too much, but you know, you can start it off if you want. Like, if you wanna mention some of the what you think the outlook for blind professionals in this industry is and we go from there.) And since we’re gonna use our words to end our statements, I’m gonna take it back because I like the throwbacks. So, I’m gonna take it back to Audi 5000. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Huh. What’s that?!
THOMAS: One of my favorites. Oh, yeah, you a young’un. You don’t remember the old slang. That’s the old slang. Audi 5000!
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
SCOTT B: I remember it.
THOMAS: So, what do you think about the, or if anyone else wants to jump in, yeah, what do you think about in terms of the outlook for blind professionals in this industry? Let’s talk about it.
NEFERTITI: Sure. I’ll be happy to get us started. I’ll keep it nice and short. I think that it is bright. There’s definitely work that needs to be done as far as folks already in this space, whether they be established narrators or writers making room for blind professionals in that we are capable, we do have skill sets, we have lots to contribute, and who better than us to do this for us? So, there are some folks who still need to sort of come around to that and be more open to that. But I do think that there are people, and especially companies, a couple of companies, who are very forward thinking in that regard and are open to and making strides towards allowing blind professionals to enter this space and be successful in this space. We need more allies, and we need more opportunities, to be sure. And I think that’s a really big part as to why we’ve started these Spaces, so that we can come together and speak truth, right? The truth is that there are blind professionals in this space, but there needs to continue to have room being made for us. So, yes! The outlook is bright, but we need to fight. There you go. That’s the logo.
THOMAS: MC to the fullest right there. You actually rhymin’.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
THOMAS: Yeah, nice. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Droppin’ bars, man. [laughs]
THOMAS: Very nice. Very nice.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Cheryl? Do you have anything to share?
CHERYL: I do wanna hear folks in this group, especially blind and low vision people here in this group talk about what you already raised, Nefertiti. Yeah.
THOMAS: Very cool.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
CHERYL: Audi 6000! [laughs]
THOMAS: Oh, my gosh! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh my gosh! Listen. That might be the, “I’m out, I’m done, I’m complete” phrase of the night. I did not say it. I’m sorry. I’m not following my own rules.
THOMAS: Yeah. It’s really fine. Cheryl just changed it ’cause it’s 5000. I don’t think Audi made a 6000, but whatever. [laughs]
CHERYL: Well, but, so whoever goes next can close with Audio 7000.
NEFERTITI: I’ll be 7000. [giggles]
THOMAS: Oh, okay. We’re gonna, let’s see where we end. That’ll be the thing. What number will we end on tonight? [laughs]
NEFERTITI: There you go! [chuckles]
THOMAS: You know, at some point, though, I wanna come back around. Not yet, but ’cause Nef, you mentioned we need more allies.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: And I wanna talk about what do allies really look like? What should we expect from allies? What do we wanna see from allies? So. But for now, let’s hear from the people. We got anybody who wants to speak?
SCOTT B: My experience with audio description has until recently been as a fan, as a consumer, and only in the past few months has it sort of developed into a little bit more of the getting to know the professional side. The AD field sort of breaks down into a few different things. We’ve got, we talked about this last time too. You’ve got these different phases, right? You’ve got writing, you’ve got the narration, you’ve got the mixing, QC, the recording. And I only know about a couple of those relatively in depth. And what it seems to me is looking at each of those phases, each of those pieces on its own is one way that we might sort of start feeling like we can get our arms around this thing that might otherwise feel kind of big.
The question of allies is important too, but for example, the work that someone does to handle the QC phase of audio description, it seems like that work is often conducted in various online platforms. And those are the kind of the power behind the QC is a lot of online platforms, some of which are navigable and accessible and a number of which are not. So, unfortunately, we’re dealing with much the same thing that many industries are where we have inaccessible tools. And so, to me, to the question of allyship, what it looks like to me is we need allies in positions of power who can have influence to say to developers, “This matters to us that blind people be able to exist in this profession. And in order to do that, we need to develop these tools in a way that allows screen reading technology, magnification, Braille displays, whatever technology you might be using to interact with and move through those workflows without being blocked.” I’m done speaking. Audio 5000. I’m staying old-school because I remember it. I remember it, Thomas!
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Thank you, Scott. Thank you. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Excellent points. Thank you. And how about you, Scott N.? Would you like to speak?
SCOTT N: Certainly! It’s…. I see the audio description space for blind professionals at the moment kind of like a cookie, okay? You’ve got all the different ingredients that have to come in to make the perfect cookie. You’ve got your base, you’ve got your flour, your sugar, your chocolate chips if that’s your jam, whatever. And all these things need to come together to make the perfect recipe. And at the moment, we don’t have all the ingredients quite the way we wanted to have, particularly in regards to scripting, making sure that scripts are accessible to people, making sure that if a blind professional wishes to do some editing and stuff like that, making sure that the editing software is all accessible. Quality control, once again, is a huge thing, making sure that that is a streamlined process, like Scott Blanks said, on platforms that are fully accessible to people. And, you know, with the, it’s really just a top to bottom thing. And I’m really, really encouraged at the moment. I’m working with, I’m in preliminary stages of working with one of the big audio description providers possibly to set up a branch of their organization here in Australia because there is a desperate need for audio description here in Aus. And we’re currently working on it, and I’m gonna make sure that blind professionals are fully centered and fully catered for and fully looked after in this space when we open the branch here in Australia because-big announcement, people-duh duh duh duh duh duh! I am going to become an audio describer.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: Oh. Oh, yes. Model-T Ford. I go really old-school.
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
THOMAS: Well, I think you can get a [imitates air horn blasting].
NEFERTITI: Heck, yeah!
CHERYL and NEFERTITI: [imitate air horn]
THOMAS: Yeah. For your entry into audio description. That’s awesome.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
SCOTT N: Thank you.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. Cool. I wanna hear more on that as it progresses.
SCOTT N: Oh, absolutely. I’m gonna be doing a sort of diary thing through the community with Scott and Nef’s permission, and I’ll be letting people know how the journey goes as it goes.
THOMAS: Very good.
NEFERTITI: Excellent! I’m sure there are plenty of people who will love to be on that journey with you.
SCOTT N: [chuckles] Thank you.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Okay. Well, Thomas, we haven’t heard from you yet.
THOMAS: Well, I’m just really gonna echo everything all of y’all are saying, but also, I wanna throw in that, you know, we mentioned the accessibility to all of these things, a lot of software. And it also, it should be noted that just like in other industries, when accessibility, when access is an issue, there’s accommodations. And there are lots of available accommodations in this space, but not everyone considers them. Not everyone employs them. And so, that’s a part of, again, that whole allyship, right? So, making, you know, yeah. Okay. “Currently, this is the process that we use.” “All right. Well, this process that you’re using is a roadblock. There’s a roadblock in this in the way for blind folks to get involved in here.” “Okay. Well, how can we work with that,” right? That’s what we need to hear. And like you said, Nef, there are some people in some companies who follow that, and that, to me, that makes them true allies. Absolutely. Because, they want us in the mix, and we wanna be in the mix, so.
NEFERTITI: Thomas, I’ll say that, yeah, there are companies and entities who have a vested interest and a proven record of giving blind people opportunities. But there are also those who, like in the example you posed, “Well, how can we make this happen?” Really, what we hear is, or what I have heard, I’ll speak from personal experience, “Oh, we just don’t have the necessary software or the know-how to change our set-up to make it accessible for you, but we’re working on it. We’re working on it.” And then you never hear from these companies or these entities, these people again. When you check in, they’re still working on it. It’s a perpetual working on it when it’s really quite simple, you know. Send us a script in Word format or Excel format.
THOMAS: Right.
NEFERTITI: We don’t need any specialized software beyond Word in a lot of these cases. But they are, they’re resistant. It’s one of those mentalities of, “This is how we’ve always done it, so this is how we’re gonna continue to do it. And it’s nice that you blind folk wanna come in and do this, but, you know, we’re resistant to change.” And that can definitely be a roadblock for our success as blind people who really don’t need much in this space to have room made for us.
THOMAS: Absolutely not.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely not. And I beat around the bush, but I feel like I don’t think there’s anything wrong with naming names, especially when they’re positive. I won’t necessarily name the name, I’m not gonna ask you who that company is or anything like that. But I do wanna name the names of folks who are being allies, folks who, because I think it’s important for anyone here or anyone listening later on, if you’re looking for opportunities, you should know where to go. It’s not something that I wanna keep a secret. And I think most people who are looking for that information, it’s pretty easy to find it. So, the number one, in terms of the big industry that I’m gonna shout out is IDC. I’m gonna shout out Eric Wickstrom and IDC because-
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn]
SCOTT N: [sings] Hallelujah!
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
THOMAS: Because right now, I mean, for real, when people ask me, “Okay, what’s the outlook? What are the opportunities?” You know, there’s a lot of talk about QC and certification and pursuing a career or opportunity, whatever sort of opportunity. It may not, you know, it could be a career. Absolutely, it could be. It takes a lot, but what I tell folks is, “Yeah, contact Eric Wickstrom.” Because number one, he’s asking you to contact him. He’s looking for that, right? He wants to hear that. So, he’s the one who grew their particular, their roster. They have a roster of probably like over 15 blind narrators that they use. They use folks, blind folks, QC.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Limited opportunity. So, there’s a lotta talk about certification for QC “jobs,” but I don’t know where you gon go. [laughs] I really, I really don’t. I’m really not sure. I will also shout out DVW because they also give opportunities.
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn]
THOMAS: Go ahead! Yeah. Is there a Canadian version of that? [imitates air horn] Eh?
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: Yes!!!
SCOTT N: [imitates Canadian accent] Sorry, they don’t have one, eh?
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Yeah, Yeah.
NEFERTITI: I love that, though! [imitates air horn] Eh? [giggles]
THOMAS: Yeah, there you go. They get that one. That’s right. Shout out to Canada, because I mean, they also hire blind narrators. They also hire blind QC folks. So, I think that’s all of them.
NEFERTITI: Yes. And DVW also has an advisory council made up of very accomplished blind people. And it’s a consistent meeting and always tapping into the community: “What do you think about this? What are your thoughts on that? Are you willing to join us for this focus group or that consulting opportunity?” So, they are the real deal as well.
SCOTT N: And Nef, you might be hearing my name a little bit more in those consulting meetings, because they’re the people I’m gonna be working with to branch out into Australia, so.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Excellent! I had a feeling it might be DVW, but of course, you know, didn’t wanna jump the gun. But I’m so happy to hear that. And I 100% agree with you, Thomas. I think that we need to absolutely call people out on their BS, but also, just as hard, if not harder, shout out the positives and the people who are putting their money where their mouth is. Literally, because this is all paid, everybody. This is not volunteer, as beautiful as volunteering is. These are legitimate jobs where your skill set is put to the test, and you are being paid, you know, that money you use to eat, that you need to eat, that you need to put that roof over your head. This is happening. So, definitely International Digital Center, Descriptive Video Works. Do we have any others?
THOMAS: Now, let me, so, let me just say it like this, right? I’m judging this based on numbers, based on people, not person.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Because I think there are folks who might think they should be included because they have a person on their roster or a person they work with. I don’t necessarily agree with that because one isn’t, one is about that one person, and that’s fine. That’s nice. That’s great. But if you’re really going to be about this, right, meaning you’re supporting blind professionals, you have to make that a plural, right? So, there has to be more than one. And so, those are the ones that I can definitely. There are some others maybe. I’m not sure of their numbers, but I can speak to these two specifically.
CHERYL: Thomas, do you wanna name any particular cars?
THOMAS: Oh. Oh, yes. Audi 5000.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
CHERYL: Oh, my god. Okay. I wanna jump in about narrative because…and going back to the training. There seems to be, in some audio description training-I have not taken all, so I don’t know how they all work-but I do see this overarching story of, “Hello, sighted people. We will train you to help the blind.” And then there’s a lotta statistics about like, vision loss and how many people in this country have this and that. And this is the narrative, at least that I was trained on is, you get to earn money helping this community that needs your help. And when I hear Thomas Reid talk about the origins of audio description, it is the same as what Nefertiti said in opening today’s Space, which is this is a practice, a line of work that was created by and for the blind community. And so, when you have the companies that are like, “Sorry, this, you know, our scripting software, we haven’t made it accessible yet. We still have to sort that out,” you can sit and talk about accessibility all day long. We all know if that software exists in one place, it could exist in all the places. So, that is not the barrier. Getting the technology is not the barrier. I think it comes from attitude and this mistaken narrative that the non-blind people are here to help and serve. And so, I want to hear more people in the community accepting the narrative of audio description as by and for and be an ally in that way of helping to share that narrative because that is part of the foundation that the other changes will be built on. [sighs] I had a Dodge Grand Caravan SE.
THOMAS: [laughs]
CHERYL: That is the only car I’ve ever had. So, I’m gonna wrap up with that fun fact.
NEFERTITI: I love it!
CHERYL: Yes, it’s a minivan!
NEFERTITI: I love it. We can all fit. That’s great. This is Nefertiti. And Cheryl, I could not agree more. Audio description as an art form, as a science, as a way for folks to keep up with their favorite shows when they have a migraine or they’re driving or doing dishes, as a means to learn a language better, as a means to understand the emotional context of what’s going on maybe a little better. I mean, I’ve heard all sorts of ways that audio description is used and will hopefully continue to be used. But it’s never been thought of, or at least by me, as a charity. It’s not a charity. I hear you, like what you were saying about this is to help. You know, this is to serve. And that’s great. But can’t that be said about everything that we do for one another? And audio description is not…it’s not, you know, it’s not the Lord’s work, shall we say.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: It’s not a charity. And I agree with you 100%. The narrative definitely needs to shift. And I think through conversations like this, it will shift into audio description is an artform, a science. And I know I’m repeating myself, but it bears repeating. It is not a charity.
SCOTT N: Absolutely, Nef. Scott Nixon, if I could just add.
NEFERTITI: Please.
SCOTT N: With regards to allyship, explaining that to people and showing them that audio description is serious business. I was talking to someone a couple days ago, and I brought up audio description. They asked me what it was, so I gave them a brief description. And they just stood there and went, “Aw! That’s cute!” And I’m like, “No, it’s not cute. It’s vital. It’s important. It’s how I engage in fandom. It’s how I talk to my friends, you know, the way I talk to my friends and engage with my community, stuff like that. It’s not cute. It’s what we need.” And being able to explain that to people and show them that it is such a vital service, I think, is the really important thing that we need to keep pushing towards as time goes on. Michael Keaton’s Batmobile.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Love it! Love it. My out is gonna have to be no car. No car. That’s my, ’cause I don’t drive, obviously. I know how to, believe it or not, but I don’t. So, yes, thank you, Scott. I think that’s absolutely essential. Yeah.
THOMAS: Yeah. I just wanted to mention, to Cheryl’s point that I think was really fantastic, like, we really do need to change the narrative. Like, if you look just within the community specifically, it’s us in the community who do a lot of harm sometimes in the way we talk about audio description. We do. I’m saying “we.” I don’t necessarily do that, but I’m just talking about in terms of the community. We do speak about it in a charitable sense because we show so much extra gratitude around it.
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh.
THOMAS: And I think you’re absolutely right, Cheryl. If we started to just refer to it as in a way that was like, acknowledge that foundation, right, so that history as well as the current, what’s happening right now. I’m trying to see a renaissance happening right now. You know what I’m saying? Like a blind renaissance within audio description of folks getting involved. But if we talked about that more and we expected it, I think that would make a really big difference. I don’t know what it is. You know, I’m thinking of maybe we should throw out this hashtag, but I really do think it’s like ADFUBU. I don’t kinda wanna bite FUBU because that was used, a whole clothing line and where that comes from. But it’s for us by us, right? And that’s sort of how we need to talk about this. I really do like that because yeah, that shows the support, that shows what we’re thinking about, that shows support within the community, which we don’t necessarily always see. I think that’s another piece of this whole conversation of where we go from here. Because the companies that we mentioned, well, there’s a bunch of other companies. What if-what if-the community actually got together and was like, “Hey, let’s write to these other companies and say, ‘Yeah, we want more blind narrators. We want more blind QC. We want that’.”
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: What would that do?
NEFERTITI: And not just the providers, but the folks who issue the contracts to these providers.
THOMAS: Yes!
NEFERTITI: The HBOs, the Amazons.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Netflix is at the forefront of all of this. But even Netflix continue to reinforce that they’re doing a great job. But even, again, even Netflix hires the less-than-stellar companies, less-than-stellar in the audio description that is produced, but also in hiring blind people as part of the workflow, even QC. And I am a big believer in quality control being done by blind people.
SCOTT N: Mm!
NEFERTITI: Big into that. QC folks or QA: quality control, quality assurance. This is the step of the process that comes in after a script is written and a blind person, in my perfect world of audio description structure, would come in and make absolutely sure that everything that’s written makes sense to them in addition to choosing the proper wordage and all that stuff. But QC, absolutely essential that it be done by a blind person or blind people, and a lot of these companies don’t even have that. It really has devolved. The more audio description has become part of the general, “Oh, there’s money to be made here.” It’s cheap and fast, or good but fast, so not cheap. You know, we all know that whole you have to pick two out of the three, right? You either want it cheap or fast or good. And no matter what combination you do of those three options, something’s gonna be left out. It’s inevitable. So, yeah, advocating to the big boys, the big guns that contract out to these companies, letting them know en masse we are out here, and we don’t like this. Or we love this, we want more of it, and we wanna be a part of it. I think that would be a huge sea change for this community and would bring about employment and involvement and all sorts of good things. Nefertiti…red Lamborghini.
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT B: Oh, look at you.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: Mmhmm. Fancy! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, baby! [laughs]
So, anybody is welcome to come up, and let us know where you are in this process of AD. If you’re a blind professional trying to get into this field or are already in it, be you blind or sighted, what your ideas are insofar as improving the AD workflow to be more inviting to blind professionals, allyship. We’ve touched base on narrative and sort of the change we wanna see in the community. ‘Cause I, man, Thomas, that is the dream, right? That we come together en masse…
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: …for something and develop communication strategies for letting our collective voice be heard and make a difference that way and make things better.
THOMAS: Absolutely. And we don’t really have roadblocks for that. There’s no real access issues that are keeping us from doing that. The only thing that’s keeping us from doing that is us.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
SCOTT N: And also the thing is, yes, on our end, we have got the drive and the capability and the accessibility to be able to do that. But at the other side of things, you come up against these huge conglomerate companies that just don’t wanna listen or just wanna give you lip service. And in this case, I will call out a substandard system. The Paramount+ streaming service are absolutely 100% hopeless at dealing with any sort of request, concern, or complaint from a vision impaired audience member. I have sent them many emails over the past few months complaining about their service, everything from quality control to the standard of the app and so on and so forth. And all I get in return is these pro-forma emails, “We listen to your concerns,” yadda, yadda, yadda. And the most action I’ve ever had from them is them writing back to me and asking me to catalog the problems and send them to them, in other words, doing their job for them. So, I just went [chuckles] uh…no. And let’s see. Flintstones pedal car.
THOMAS: But you see, Scott, you did the thing that you can do. After you did that, it was out of your control, right?
SCOTT N: Yeah.
THOMAS: And so, we can’t control what the response is gonna be. But I can tell you that if there’s enough complaint, enough action there, it’ll move it. It will move it. So, if it was more than you writing to Paramount, if there’s a bunch of people who are doing that and/or making it public. Make it public. You know, @ them right there on Twitter or whatever the case may be. Folks doing that, yeah, they will change their tune. They will change their tune.
SCOTT N: Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I did, Thomas. Every time I come up against these roadblocks from Paramount+ or content isn’t passed through to the Australian audience and is readily available to a US or Canadian audience, I always make mention of it on their website and personally on my Twitter feed and with the simple, but I think quite effective hashtag, #ParamountDoesntCare. Because at the moment, they don’t care about their blind audience.
THOMAS: Well, no, they don’t care about you right now! I don’t mean that in a bad way. But it’s you, right? Not personally you. Meaning it’s just one person. And what I’m saying is that what you did is absolutely what you should be doing and what more of us should be doing. I’m just trying to say that that result should not stop anyone. And I’m not saying it’s stopping you because it’s not stopping you, right?
SCOTT N: Aw, no.
THOMAS: Right. It’s making you go harder. We need other people to do the same. And so, when we have the conversation about us taking action, yeah, the conversation is about us taking action specifically, not what the end result is going to be. We don’t know what the end result is gonna be, but we know that if we take a lot of action, right, isn’t that like sort of a, isn’t there some sort of Einstein theory about this, you know? Like the amount of pressure you put or whatever the hell it is, you know?
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: But y’all know what I’m talking about, right? So, if we continue to put pressure, or if we put pressure-I don’t wanna say continue-but if we, we, the community, lots of us put pressure, We’re gonna see a response. We’re gonna see a response that is in our benefit.
SCOTT B: They need those numbers, yeah.
THOMAS: I know that for a fact. I know that.
SCOTT B: They need it in big numbers, and that’s exactly right, though.
THOMAS: They need it [unclear]. Yes.
SCOTT B: They need it at a scale that’s going to matter to them, which means they get enough of those tweets-sorry, this is Scott B.-enough of those emails, and they will, their customer service people will start to notice it, and it will be taking up more of their time. That’ll get pushed up, and I think that we’ll see it may be incremental, and may take longer than we want it to, but it is. We see this in so many aspects of advocating for something, whether it’s related to blindness or not.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
SCOTT B: And it’s, it is true here, just as it is in many of those other things. Scott B. Big Wheel. I’m done.
THOMAS: Ha!
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Big Wheel, yes! [laughs] Aw, man.
NEFERTITI: Yes. Now, I just check. Do we have anyone from the audience who wishes to speak?
THOMAS: I want a Big Wheel again.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
SCOTT B: We did get a reply in the chat from Bruce Cameron, who says, “Good evening. First time listening in. I’m a sign language interpreter and always wanting to learn.” So, welcome, Bruce.
NEFERTITI: Welcome, Rebecca!
REBECCA: I am loving that you guys are talking all about quality control, because that is what I am trying to get into in this industry. And I am about to do my second training course with Colleen of Audio Description Training Retreats, and I just wanna say that it’s hard getting into this field! It’s been a challenge. And I wish that it was easier.
THOMAS: Rebecca, this is Thomas. Hello, first of all.
REBECCA: Hi.
THOMAS: Nice to meet you. What was your first course? You said this is your second. What was your first?
REBECCA: Yeah, my first course was with someone named Bonnie. Yeah.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay. And so, were these courses specific to quality control?
REBECCA: No.
THOMAS: Or were these general- Okay.
REBECCA: They’re audio description. I would love to take a quality control course for audio description.
THOMAS: Okay. So, you’re a consumer?
REBECCA: Yes. Trying to get into quality control.
THOMAS: Okay. So, you’re already quality controlling, I’m assuming.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: Yes. Tell me about what you’re doing right now when you watch content with audio description. How do you sort of pick things out, identify issues, or whatever?
REBECCA: I really, I’m an author, so I’m used to critiquing written word. And I really listen to the script, and I also listen to the amount of audio description that is in a TV show or movie. I recently watched a show on Disney+. And it was one of those shows that has 12, like, they’re two episodes in one, so each was like 12 minutes. And the first 12-minute segment had two lines of audio description. Two. And I counted about 20 different spots there that could have had it that needed it.
THOMAS: Hmm. Okay. And so, you’re a author. You’re a writer.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: You already are doing audio quality control on your own in a way, because that’s what you’re doing. ‘Cause you’re interested in it.
REBECCA: Yes! Yes.
THOMAS: But what do you think someone can teach you that you probably don’t know already?
REBECCA: Well, I recently took a quality control test.
THOMAS: Uh-huh.
REBECCA: And from one of the companies that you guys were talking about.
THOMAS: Okay.
REBECCA: And…I did not pass.
THOMAS: Okay. Do you recall the issues that were-
REBECCA: Yes. They said that I needed to be more detailed.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: And I went into this kinda knowing what I was doing, and I caught most of the mistakes. But I didn’t know to listen for some stuff because I wasn’t told. Like, I didn’t know that I need to really pay attention to the beginning credits. I didn’t know that the names in the beginning credits were said wrong. Because when I watch a film or a TV show….
THOMAS: You don’t pay attention to credits.
REBECCA: I did not know that I was supposed to be listening for the credits. Like, no one told me. And then when I did another, they sent me another test. But this one was, it was a movie trailer. And it was without the recorded, you know, without the narration. And they sent me the script, and they wanted me to just see what stood out to me. So, I gave them notes, and they never said anything about….
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: They never said anything about it. And then they emailed me and said that I needed to be more detailed and that I needed more training. So, yeah.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: So, that’s…. Yeah. So, it was just really confusing because I wasn’t really told what I was, like, I mean, I knew what to do, but I didn’t in a way.
THOMAS: I got you. I totally understand. So, it sounds like what you’re looking for from the training is very, very specific to QC.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: And so, yeah, and I don’t know if there are any QC trainings that exist, but-
REBECCA: There isn’t.
THOMAS: Okay. So, that’s why I’m, yeah. So, I would be sort of reluctant. And I’m not trying to dissuade you from taking any sort of training, but if your real goal is that. But what I would, I wanna go back to Nefertiti or anyone else who sort of. Scott, I know you do QC as well. What could you say about that?
SCOTT N: [sighs] It’s a very sticky wicket. Sorry, I’m going all Australian on you again. It’s a very difficult thing. Rebecca, I’m very sorry that the people giving you these scripts didn’t properly or correctly explain to you what they wanted or were expecting and then didn’t give you the feedback before failing you. really giving you the scope of what they wanted is a really sucky way to do things.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT N: Yeah. Because-
REBECCA: Yeah, they gave me notes on the first part. Sorry.
SCOTT B: Mm. No, go ahead.
REBECCA: I did get notes on the first part, the first part of the QC test, just not the second. And I’d never, up until I did this test, I’d never seen an audio description script.
SCOTT N: Right.
REBECCA: This was my first time ever seeing an audio description script! And then the template that they sent me to write my notes in wasn’t accessible. So-
SCOTT N: Ugh.
REBECCA: [chuckles] Yeah. So, it was in a table in Word, which is not accessible when you’re using a screen reader. You don’t know where you are on the page. [laughs]
SCOTT N: Yeah.
REBECCA: So, I had to get them, [laughs] so, I had to get them to send me it again in a different format that I could actually do.
SCOTT N: Mm. Yeah. You see, this is a thing. And this actually warrens us back just a little bit in the conversation to something Thomas was saying. And with all due respect to Thomas, one of the kings in the biz, not everyone is as computer literate or as fluent in certain programs like Word or Excel that as other folk.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT N: So, a little bit of extra training in those areas and being able to make the people applying for these training courses comfortable enough to be able to put their hand up and say, “Yo, I don’t exactly know 100% what I’m doing here. Can I get a little bit of extra support?”
REBECCA: Yeah!
SCOTT N: You know, making people comfortable to be able to come in at, for lack of a better term, Level 1 and giving them a base level, which is actually, “Okay. Do you know this? Do you know this? Do you know this? It’s okay if you don’t. We will show you. We will give you a little extra time. We can maybe set up a training module or something like that to give you that little bit of extra support to give you.” ‘Cause really, one of the biggest discouragement-and I personally, I don’t mean to steal your thunder here, Rebecca, at all-but one of the big things I have, one of my concerns coming into the audio description space is am I actually going to be able to do it and from a technical point of view? And it is a really big source of anxiety for me, and it sometimes makes me think maybe I shouldn’t, you know? But then I keep, just keep pushing myself. But yeah.
THOMAS: So, Scott-
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti. Oh. May I just quickly say? I think the two of you, Rebecca and Scott N., are talking about something very real in the blindness community in general.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: As somebody who has quite an extensive background in assistive technology, teaching it to folks, I spent years teaching people who came from all walks of life, whether they be congenitally blind or went blind later in life. And the aptitude in technology varies so much that yeah, maybe a table in a Word document is something seemingly insurmountable for someone. And another person might come in and be like, “Oh no, this is a breeze. I got this.”
REBECCA: Yeah, yeah!
NEFERTITI: “This is no problem at all.” So, I happen to know-and I don’t think I’m at liberty to name names yet-but I know that there is a company who is diligent-blah, excuse me-diligently working on creating an area for QC for blind people, and training is definitely part of the getting ready for employment with this company. Because not only is it they’re gonna send you scripts in Word and Excel, and you need to know those, but you also need to know the platforms you’ll be using for, say, QC for Netflix. It’s different from Amazon. It’s different from Disney.
REBECCA: Yeah!
NEFERTITI: So, all of these things require some type of training, not necessarily hand-holding. So, I do wanna make that clear to people. You do need to come into this with some basic knowledge of your screen reading technology, of your magnification software. Whatever your access technology needs are, you do need to have that base. So, if that’s something you’re a little wobbly on, work on it because it’s only going to benefit you.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: These companies are there to train you on audio description and QC, narration, whatever it is. They’re not necessarily there to teach you your technology. That is up to you. That is up to you.
SCOTT N: Mm.
THOMAS: Nef, that was exactly what I wanted to point out. And so, to get back, and again, I’m just using your case, Rebecca, to help others.
REBECCA: Yes.
THOMAS: But at some point we need to sort of reflect and say, okay, what is the training that I can do right now that is going to help me in the long run, right? And so, if your intention is to do QC, okay. Then, now maybe, maybe-and I’m not saying this directly at you-but maybe it is, “Okay, let me get more familiar with Word. Let me get more familiar with my screen. Let me get more familiar with the tools that I’m going to need to be really comfortable in order to do whatever it is in the thing.” Because when I’m approached by folks who wanna know, in terms of doing narration, I tell them this exact same thing, like, “Look. You’re going to get, you might get things in Excel.”
REBECCA: Yes!
THOMAS: “So, you should be very comfortable in Excel. And if you’re not comfortable in Excel, well, then you should be comfortable in taking, in exporting from Excel to a format that you’re comfortable with.”
REBECCA: Right.
THOMAS: Because every time that we ask for-not that it’s wrong-but every time that we ask for some accommodation, even if the accommodation is not a burden, we know that that is looked upon as a possible nother reason to not utilize us.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: And we do not want to give these folks any more ammunition!
REBECCA: No!
SCOTT B: Right.
REBECCA: No.
SCOTT B: Scott B. real quick. So, I, like Nefertiti, I used to be an access technology specialist trainer. And I equate this to I used to teach a bunch of people going into training at Social Security and IRS here in the States, two federal government agencies, right? They had very in-depth training programs that taught people about how to be customer service reps or claims reps or whatever the jobs were. That stuff was part of the job, but people had to come in with a certain amount of aptitude in the basic office applications that they were using. But the challenge with audio description right now is we don’t have that yet, but it is coming, where there will be more sound and built out training programs that people can take part in.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT B: And the good news, too, is that there are resources if you need support on, if anybody needs support on, let’s say, just operating in Windows or the Mac or using office productivity tools. There are a lot of resources out there, both online, in your local area, and even textbooks and things like that, that can help give you that stronger baseline for entering into this or any other industry, really.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT B: I’m done speaking.
THOMAS: I think this is a great place to end because it puts the power back in our side of the court, right?
SCOTT N: Mm.
THOMAS: We do have power, but we have to make sure that when we, you know, when we walk into this building, that we’re ready, that we’re equipped.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
THOMAS: So, do what you can right now. Don’t necessarily run out there and sign up for this and for that. Think about all the things that you can do. I always tell folks, “Hey, you can start doing audio description right now.” You can take an existing film or a show, whatever it is that you like and note the audio description. This is for folks who wanna do narration. And then go record it on your own, right? Just record those same lines. It doesn’t even matter what you record. It really doesn’t. Are you comfortable recording? Are you comfortable speaking those lines? How do you think it sounds when you compare it to what the other person did, right? How did that feel to record it? You can do all of this stuff. You can get yourself prepared. Because the worst thing to happen is when you get the opportunity and you’re not really prepared for it.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
THOMAS: That sucks. That sucks. It’s a awful feeling. So, do all of those things, you know? Do all of those things, and then you go for it. Then you go for it.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. I wanna tell folks that Thomas has been my mentor in all of this. This is Nefertiti speaking. And he gave me that same advice when I was exploring, is this something that I want to dedicate myself to? Do I have the skill set necessary? And one of the things he told me was to get very comfortable with, my DAWs, the digital audio workstation, which for me as somebody who is not technical at all, if it were up to me, I’d do the writing, the QCing, I’d be the voice, and that would be that. But as a voice actor now with a little home studio and the like, it’s so much more than that, you know. It’s learning that digital audio workstation so that I can record myself, so that I can make myself sound good enough for auditions or a studio quality recording that I’m sending in for these narrations, right? Same for QC, as an example of what we were talking about, you have to make sure that not only do you know the mechanics of writing and the like, but also that you know audio description. But that you literally know your screen reader well enough or your technology well enough to get in there and be able to edit those scripts, make notations, etc.
So, there is definitely some preparation that goes into this beyond just sort of honing up on the skills of what you ultimately want to do. There is some prep work that needs to go into it, and I agree with Thomas 100%. When you get that audition, when you get that role or that opportunity to QC or to write a script, you gotta be ready. ‘Cause like it or not, we all represent one another, and again, we don’t need to give these folks any more ammunition. They try it with one of us and we flub it, like it or not, they’ll think that we will all flub it. So, if that’s a little pressure on folks, I’m sorry. That’s just the reality of things. I think we all walking in this space of disability know that we are out there being ambassadors, like it or not, advocates, like it or not. And so, yeah, my advice, and I guess in closing for me-everybody will have a chance to close out too if you’d like-is get ready so, you know…. I guess stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready kinda thing, right?
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah.
NEFERTITI: Hone your skills and make sure you’re on top of your game, and then go for it. Rolls Royce. [laughs]
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: I’m a bougie.
THOMAS: Apparently!
SCOTT N and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: I said I’m a bougie bitch, okay? Okay. [laughs] Anyone else have anything to say before I say our little closing?
SCOTT N: I just thought with all the Spaces we do within the community just at the very end as we’re all signing off and so forth, we all just mention one audio described title that we have watched this week or are planning to watch this week just as a way of promoting the business and just showing that we’re all engaged in the community. So, just before I throw mine in there, I just wanna thank Thomas and Nef there for the advice about building up the skill sets and getting the fundamentals down before you go headlong into it. It has given me a fair bit to think about, and it’s something that I am going to have to go and assess and make sure that I do have everything sorted out before I take my next step. And that’s on me. That’s something that I have to do. But I really wanna thank both of you for reminding me of that. And just a big thanks for Rebecca for putting her hand up. She was absolutely . And thanks to everyone for coming today. I am off to watch the second half of this season of Cobra Kai on Netflix.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: So, that’s me, guys. And let’s send off [trills lips like a big raspberry].
SCOTT B: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: With a sound effect and everything! Thank you, Scott N. Thank you so much. I love this prompt. Anybody wanna say something they’re watching with audio description or maybe working on if they’re willing to say.
SCOTT B: If you’re allowed. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, we know there’s a lot of NDAs and such.
THOMAS: [chuckles] Yeah, definitely not saying what I’m working on. I’m actually not even watching anything this week, but I do wanna shout out, Year of the Tiger by Alice Wong.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!!!
THOMAS: Y’all need to get that.
SCOTT B: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Go ahead and get that book. Yeah, I’m reading that on Audible right now. Although-
SCOTT B: Is she reading it, Thomas?
NEFERTITI: Is she reading it? Yeah.
THOMAS: No, no, no.
SCOTT B: Okay. I wasn’t sure.
THOMAS: Oh, I did start watching, it’s a old thing. I’m actually going back to like, I’m looking for series that I can get into. So, I’m watching Silicon Valley on HBO Max, I think it is.
SCOTT B: Yes.
THOMAS: That series. And I missed it when it first came out ’cause it was not described. So, it’s like, oh, I’m gonna go back and catch all of these things that I missed back maybe ten years ago now [laughs] that they came out.
SCOTT B: Right.
THOMAS: So, I’m watching that. It’s kinda funny.
NEFERTITI: Funny you should say that, Thomas, because Scott and I are currently working on something which was not described when it was first released back when was it, Scott, 2010?
SCOTT B: Yeah, that’s when it started.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. It’s a show called Tremé.
THOMAS: Oh! On HBO!
SCOTT B: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: On HBO with one of our favorite writers.
THOMAS: Oh, excellent, ’cause I wanted to watch that. Oh, I can’t wait.
NEFERTITI: He wrote The Wire, one of my all-time favorite shows.
THOMAS: Yes! Yes!
NEFERTITI: What is it, David Simon?
SCOTT B: Yeah, that’s the one.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
SCOTT B: It’s got, you’ll recognize some of the voices. You’ve got, like Clark Peters, who was in The Wire, a couple of other people. Yeah, and it’s about New Orleans, post-Katrina.
THOMAS: Yes.
SCOTT B: All of the music and the beauty and the sadness and the rebuilding. And it is a beautiful show. We’re only through the first season. But I also have to give a shoutout to the description, though we can’t say who it is because we don’t know. There is no attribution on HBO, which was a little bit of a surprise. Most of the HBO content I’ve encountered there is, there has been attribution, but not this one. The narration is fabulous. And the script is really a top-notch script.
THOMAS: Really? And there’s no attribution? Huh.
SCOTT B: None. None at all.
NEFERTITI: No.
SCOTT B: I know. You would expect [laughs] something else.
NEFERTITI: We think, you know? But we don’t wanna say incorrectly.
THOMAS: Okay. Do you know who the narrator is?
NEFERTITI: No. No.
SCOTT B: No. We haven’t determined that either.
NEFERTITI: We think that we know the company. We’re not sure.
THOMAS: POC? POC?
SCOTT B: I don’t think so.
THOMAS: Agh! All right. Got a problem! [laughs] Okay. Go ahead.
NEFERTITI: No, no.
SCOTT B: Yeah, I agree with you. I think it’s a problem on this one. I mean, New Orleans is a diverse city, so you’ve got folks all over the place there. But yeah, the cast-
THOMAS: The cast, yeah.
SCOTT B: -being predominantly people of color.
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT B: I don’t, you know, we could be wrong. That’s the other thing, too, is there’s really no way of knowing. First impressions? I don’t think that the narrator is a person of color. But again, how could we know?
THOMAS: Okay. Right, right, right, right, right.
SCOTT B: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: Interesting. Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s being described, so.
NEFERTITI: Yes. And well, which is of the utmost importance. Cheryl, anything to share?
CHERYL: Well, sure. Nefertiti, you and Thomas and I have been working on audio description in various roles for three films for Superfest International Disabilities Film Festival.
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: Whoo!
CHERYL: So, we have been working on three titles for that. Tickets went on sale today. They are sliding scale all the way down to zero for anybody who wants to attend but doesn’t have the funds. But they are a non-profit, so if you’ve got the funds, please pay for a ticket if you want to. SuperfestFilm.com. All of the films have captions and audio description, and we are super excited about the three that we worked on.
THOMAS: If you’re not going to Superfest, you need to do something about your life. Okay?
CHERYL: Thank you. [laughs]
SCOTT N: [laughs]
THOMAS: If you’re not going to Superfest, check your life. I’m just sayin’.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
CHERYL: Because it’s in-person and online. [laughs]
THOMAS: And online. You have no excuse except check your life.
NEFERTITI: That’s right. SuperfestFilm.com. And that was done through the Social Audio Description Collective that we three are a part of!
CHERYL: [imitates tiny air horn]
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn] Shameless, not so shameless plug.
CHERYL: [imitates more enthusiastic air horn]
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Well, listen, everyone who has listened and who will catch this on the replay, thank you so, so much for joining in the conversation even if that’s just through listening. Please spread the word that we’re here. Remember, we are considering doing a cross-platform type of situation. So, the next time we get together, it might be on some other platform that isn’t Twitter. So, stay tuned for that. We also want to again remind you audio description was made by blind people for blind people. Let’s make room for blind people in all aspects of audio description. And yeah, stay tuned for the next time, likely in two weeks with your three co-hosts and hopefully the two moderators, Scott B. and Scott N. from the Audio Description Twitter Community. And about the Audio Description Twitter Community, if you haven’t joined us, what are you waiting for? Communities. Communities. Audio Description. We are there, and we’d love to have you join us if you haven’t already.
THOMAS: Right. Get your life in order. [cracking up] Join the Audio Description Community.
NEFERTITI: Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughs] Love it. All righty, everybody. Thank you so much.
THOMAS: All right, y’all. Thank you.
NEFERTITI: We’ll talk again soon.
SCOTT N: [imitates the cartoon Bugs Bunny] B-deep, b-deep, b-deep. That’s all, folks!
NEFERTITI: Hang on. Hang on. I’m so sorry. One last thing. I do wanna let folks know tonight, because of the interest, we did focus on blind people being professionals in audio description, and we talked about the workflow and all of that. But we had two other conversation topics, and we want to assure you that we will cover everything that we put out there to folks. It’s just a matter of priorities and what’s most important to the community. But next time we might talk about training opportunities or self-description or something else entirely. So, stay tuned to the community and to our individual Twitter handles, and we will continue to engage with you all. #ADFUBU, I love that. And now I am done. Uh…I don’t know…uh. Mercedes Benz.
THOMAS: Nef, Audi 20,000.
NEFERTITI: Audio 2,000.
THOMAS: 20,000! We got up to 20,000.
NEFERTITI: 20,000!
THOMAS: Come on. [laughs]
SCOTT B: [singing] Bugatti. Bugatti.
NEFERTITI: I’m not fast at this. Sorry!
THOMAS: Oh, Bugatti.
THOMAS and SCOTT B: [laugh]
THOMAS: All right, y’all.
NEFERTITI: All right, you guys. Have a great weekend, everybody. Till next time.
SCOTT B: Take care, y’all.
SCOTT N: Hasta la vista.
NEFERTITI: Bye-bye.

THOMAS: Cool. Well, that concludes this week’s conversation. Why don’t y’all keep the conversation going on social media.
CHERYL: Use #ADFUBU, for us by us, #DescribeEverything, and #AudioDescription.
NEFERTITI: And hey, you know we’re out here, right? Mmhmm! Gathered and galvanized y’all. If you haven’t joined us yet, what are you waiting for?! You can find us in the LinkedIn Audio Description group and the AD Twitter community. We know that your participation will only make these spaces better.
Music fades out!

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Our First Twitter Space

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

"Blind-Centered" is written in white at the center of a deep-dark blue square. The words sit just above the standard AD logo in white of three sound waves radiating off the initials AD. Above "Blind-Centered" is a small speech bubble poking up and toward the right with "chat" inside it in bright golden letters. To the left of the speech bubble is a small set of over-the-ear headphones.

The following recording is an edited version of a conversation from August 26, 2022 on Twitter Spaces.

A week or so prior to this recording, Nefertiti Matos Olivares, Cheryl Green and I (Thomas Reid) decided we wanted to hear from others in the community in regards to the many important topics we discuss around Audio Description.

It is always our intention to create an environment that encourages respectful discussion and welcomes all opinions. While we welcome all those interested in Audio Description including professionals, stake holders and generally interested parties, it is crucial to us to always center the perspectives and experiences of the Blind and Low Vision community; those who require and make the most use of AD.

The Blind Centered Audio Description Live Chats are not limited to one platform such as Twitter or Linked In. We hope to schedule on different days of the week and times of the day in order to help provide more opportunity for live participation across the globe.

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* Cheryl Green
* Thomas Reid

Listen

Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

Exciting high energy music begins!

THOMAS: Welcome to the Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats. These are the edited recordings of the Blind-Centered Audio Description Live Chats!
CHERYL: The live is the most fun part! We get together, we start with a question, and then we invite up anybody from the audience who wants to come and chat with us, agree, disagree, shed light on something that we hadn’t thought about before, which is Nefertiti’s favorite. [electric whoosh]
NEFERTITI: I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I’m a bilingual professional voiceover artist who specializes in audio description narration! I’m also a fervent cultural access advocate and a community organizer.
CHERYL: I’m Cheryl Green, an access artist, audio describer and captioner.
THOMAS: And I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer Reid My Mind Radio, voice artist, audio description narrator, consultant, and advocate.
SCOTT B: Hi, I’m Scott Blanks. I’m a passionate advocate for the highest quality audio description in all of the arts. I’m the co-founder of the LinkedIn Audio Description Group and the Twitter AD community.
SCOTT N: Scott Nixon here. I’m an audio description consumer and advocate, hoping to be an audio description narrator very, very soon. [electronic whoosh]
THOMAS: Hey, Nef, why don’t you tell people how they could join the live recording?
NEFERTITI: That’s really simple. Just follow us on social media to keep up with important details, such as dates, times, and what platform will be using. On Twitter, I’m @NefMatOli. Cheryl?
CHERYL: I’m @WhoAmIToStopIt.
THOMAS: I’m @TSRied, you know, R to the E I D.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Scott?
SCOTT B: I’m @BlindConfucius. That’s Blind Confucius.
SCOTT N: And you can catch me on my social media, Twitter only. That’s @MisterBrokenEyes, Capital M r Capital Broken Capital E y e s.
[smartphone selection beeps]
CHERYL: Recording now!

NEFERTITI: I’ve noticed-and let me know, folks, if you have noticed this too-but a lot of things, like there’s a lot of fervor when something happens, and you stick something in our craw, and we get all up and like, aggh! And then the next thing happens, and it kind of just stays there.
SCOTT N: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: I think it’s high time that we stop doing that as a community, whether you be a blind consumer or a blind professional, a sighted professional, a sighted consumer, it doesn’t matter. Whatever AD means to you, we wanna talk about it here throughout these conversations, always ensuring top notch quality is at the forefront with, of course, you know, ’cause if you know anything about Cheryl, Thomas, Scott N. and I, Scott B., and I think I can say this about you, Scott N., as well, we are anti-racist, anti-ableism, anti-anything that keeps anybody out, including access to information.
SCOTT N: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: And that’s audio description. So, that’s my little spiel.
THOMAS: I know we all here have our own opinions on what makes up quality audio description. I wanna hear from other people. What does that mean? What are the elements that make up quality? And so, we know we start with the three basic, right? The script, the narration, the audio mix. But what else makes up quality audio description to you?
SCOTT N: I’ll start with what my idea of quality audio description is. And like Thomas said, it’s the basics. It’s the script, the engineering, I think. But the proper choice of narrator is absolutely paramount. And there’s been a big discussion, I know Thomas has been speaking about it quite a bit recently, about the cultural side of having the right narrator to the right material. And a brilliant example of this has recently come up with our friends at Descriptive Video Works who did the audio description for the new Predator movie, Prey, over on Disney+. When they did it, they had a very tight turnaround on the audio description track. And then the director of DVW was horrified to learn that the lead in the film was a member of the Cherokee Nation, and they didn’t have someone culturally appropriate providing the audio description. They’ve written to Disney+ and offered to redo the audio description with the right cultural sensitivity in at least the script, if not the narrator itself. And so far, Disney haven’t gotten back to them. So, that’s a really good example of the company being proactive and forward thinking and willing to do the work to get it done, because that cultural sensitivity and competency really does enhance the work of audio description. We all know, for example, what I call the Black Panther disaster, where a movie entirely produced by African-American filmmakers was given a very bland British narration. And I’m just sitting there going, “Did someone colonize audio description over here or what?” So, yeah, that’s my two cents for now. Scott out.
SCOTT B: So, this is Scott B. speaking, and…it was interesting, Thomas, you talked about the three basics. And I know that you-and we all know about it-but I think you left it out intentionally so someone would pick this up, which is I wanna point out two things. One, when you write a script and you have a narration, there needs to be a balance, a check and balance of quality assurance, and it needs to be in that process somewhere. It can be in a couple of different places. We can get into the technical about that. But there needs to be QC. And I am going to say that I think, as this is an artform and an accessibility tool that has been developed by and for blind people, quality work is a very good match for blind professionals as a job, potentially as a career or part of a career. Every piece of audio description that is created, brought into existence needs a QC balance. That’s point one.
Point two, just as a general comment about audio description quality. I think a lot about acting. Acting is an art, and it’s something that has been going on for as long as we’ve been around. And they didn’t just start acting and say, “All right, we’ve done it. This is as good as it gets. We’re doing it. We’re just gonna keep acting and doing exactly what we’re doing here.” There are schools. There are schools of thought. There are method acting. There are as many different things that have continued to evolve acting. Audio description is here, but we don’t stop. We make it better. And what making it better means might be a no, it is a subjective question, but it is undeniably something that can be made better on all counts: writing, QC, engineering, narration, all of it. And that’s Scott B. for now. I’m done.
NEFERTITI: Nefertiti speaking. Beautifully said, all of you. Thank you so much. And since I did invite Robert and Colleen up to the space or into the space, let’s hear from them. How about you get us started, Robert? Welcome.
ROBERT: Hello, everybody. I’m a blind audio description writer, and I’m kind of biased when we talk about audio description quality because I think that the script is like the main foundation that makes up the beautiful cake, right? So, when I think of quality, I start with the script and then work out from there. Recently, just as an example, as a totally blind person, I’ve been really thinking about how do describers, how do they put sizes into words that a lot of people can comprehend? Like, for example, if you’re congenitally blind, you don’t really have a point of reference for something like something is “gargantuan” or “gigantic.” So, what I’ve been trying to do in my previous few scripts is use terminology like, “it is the size of a locomotive” or something tangible like that. So, that kind of thing could also go into quality control. But those are just a few of the thoughts I’ve had about quality, and are writers really reaching the audience that they’re writing for? So, that’s it. I’m all done. [delighted chuckle]
NEFERTITI: Colleen!
COLLEEN: So, hello. My name’s Colleen Connor. I am…I am an advocate. I do a lot with audio description, but I primarily run Audio Description Training Retreats, which is developing virtual curriculum for all different types of audio descriptions and categories of audio description. And I’m also on that weird subject matter committee [laughs] of people in the US that’s working on creating a certification for audio describers and trying to sort of get it moving and get it…I feel like…. I don’t know how many people have sensitive ears here, but I recently just was like, “Do I have to be the bad bitch of audio description?” I don’t, I might have to be the [laughing] bad bitch of audio description.
NEFERTITI: Be the bad bitch, okay?
COLLEEN: And so, I am trying to bring lots more voices to the table. I’m trying to, you know, specifically bring as much education and keep things up to date and involve my former students and stuff like that. So, unfortunately, I haven’t done in-person training in a while, which was always lovely. The reason we’re called Training Retreats was because we used to take people to a lake house in North Carolina and do an entire retreat situation while you learned audio description. But the pandemic sort of threw that out the window. The benefits of that are that I have now reached way more people across the globe. And similar to this meeting, it was, “What time do we do? Okay, it’s 2 AM where you are. Thank you for joining us. I’m sorry.” [laughs]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
COLLEEN: “You’ll be learning an activity that is very nuanced and challenging. Congratulations.” [laughs] So, yes, that’s me. I’m happy to answer any questions. I am not shy or easily offended, so.
SCOTT N: Colleen, it’s Scott Nixon here in Australia. I just wanted to congratulate you on the work that the retreats have been doing over the past couple years. And I just wanted to mention, I sent you Allyson Johnson a few years ago. You’re welcome. [laughs]
COLLEEN: [gasps] Yes! I am welcome. Yes. She, I’m so happy. So, I follow you on Twitter, of course. You know this.
SCOTT N: Mm.
COLLEEN: And I was wondering if it was the same Scott Nixon that she had mentioned. And I was like, I’m not sure!
SCOTT N: Yeah. For those of you out there who don’t know, Allyson Johnson is a very well renowned audiobook narrator who has done literally hundreds of audiobooks over her career. And a couple of years ago, I reached out to contact her ’cause I was such a fan, and we’ve become very good friends. And she was talking to me about how, you know, what else I do with my life. And I mentioned audio description one day, and she said that she was looking for something to branch out into to get a bit more work and give her life a new direction and everything. And I told her about audio description. She found Audio Description Retreats on her own and went to them, and the rest is history. And now she’s done some very good work. Queen Sono on Netflix and also Jupiter’s Legacy on Netflix are both two shows that she has audio described and did absolutely magnificent jobs on both. So, go check her out. And the movie Arrival as well, the sci-fi movie, yeah. So, yeah. Nixon out.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Oh, my goodness. Well, Colleen-
COLLEEN: I’ve had a lot of….
NEFERTITI: -it’s so good to have you.
COLLEEN: One of my, one of my things that I’m really, really passionate about especially is as soon as the student reaches out and is of color or of something different [laughs], I am like, “Hello! How are you? What’s your financial situation? We’re gonna figure it out because you’re coming in.” [laughs] Because it was…. I started in 2015 with the company with a friend of mine, Jan Vulgaropolis, and it was just this, you know, sort of what we touched on before, the cultural awareness of it was, it was still be colorblind, meaning we don’t wanna offend anyone, so we’re not gonna mention anyone’s race at all unless it’s relevant to the plot directly. And then in the, in lieu of being, okay, well, we don’t wanna offend anyone ever, so we’re not gonna say anything. So, we’ve also erased everything as well. And I don’t…. [laughs] So-
NEFERTITI: That is the consequence of that, right? If you say, you know, if nothing, if nobody is nothing, then where are we? Where is everyone? The default becomes the majority, and for a lot of us, that’s just not the reality. What happens with all that?
COLLEEN: Yeah. My brief, very long-sorry-thing would be just the, hilariously, brevity and conciseness in description. I think one of the main quality points is even if you are doing extended description, [typing in the background starts] it is how do you get across what we need to know without extra? And how do you prioritize-especially if you are doing inline description, standard, in between the dialogue description-you don’t want the narrator speaking 100 miles an hour, and you don’t want to have two words and dead air where we wonder, did the track stop? Did….
NEFERTITI: Right.
COLLEEN: What happened? So, I think prioritizing. And like I said, just how do you, brevity, you know. Each word meaning something and not like fluff.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. I don’t know if you’re hearing that, Colleen, but I hear somebody typing.
THOMAS: That’s me.
NEFERTITI: So, someone’s out here taking notes.
THOMAS: That’s me.
NEFERTITI: Is that you, Thomas?
THOMAS: That’s me, that’s me.
NEFERTITI: Okay.
THOMAS: I said, I’m gonna write down all of the things that people say for quality.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
THOMAS: And so, I just wanted to write that. I meant to mute myself. So, sorry.
NEFERTITI: No, no. This is, I’m loving that we’re hearing that because we want y’all to know we’re taking this very seriously. We are writing this down. You know, we are taking notes. [laughs] So, keep this gold coming.
COLLEEN: So, over and out. But I’m happy to answer questions, contribute, whatever y’all want. I’m glad I made it in. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Me too. I’m glad.

THOMAS: Cool. Glad you came, Colleen.

CHERYL: So, I have a question around quality, but specifically about passthrough, which may sound like a technical term to folks new to audio description. But the idea that, let’s say we provide audio description for a film, it’s gonna have a screening, and then it goes to a festival, but they don’t pass the audio description through. Or you know, we do a film, and then it gets on Netflix, and they redescribe the whole film with a Netflix-approved vendor or something. So, it’s a real issue in the industry that different platforms and distributors and festivals are not passing through the audio description. And so, the question is, can talking about quality be a way to incentivize passthrough? Like, why even make it good if it’s gonna be used once and thrown away and then redescribed at the next screening? I mean, I think it should be good, but it’s a question. Like, why are, what is the role of quality in relation to passing through the audio description and keeping it as part of the film?
SCOTT N: Oh, Nefertiti, may I speak on this for a moment, please? [conspiratorial chuckle] I have strong views on passthrough. [sighs] The fact that a audio described program or film’s audio description track is not automatically made available to all services, all platforms, whatnot who wish to stream it or broadcast it or whatever I think is a travesty! This garbage excuse that broadcasters and streamers put out of, “Oh, it’s licensing and copyright issues,” that should be null and void because all it is, is restricting access for people who want audio description.
Just for example, I’m only gonna use this as a pure example, the new Game of Thrones prequel series, House of the Dragon. It is only audio described on HBO in America and HBO Max where available. We don’t have HBO Max in Australia. We are never going to get HBO Max in Australia. The broadcaster that airs the program here in Australia have an actual company policy that audio description will never be provided unless the government legislate that it has to be because they don’t deem audio description to be a cost-effective strategy. They don’t think that they’re going to get enough blind subscribers into their pay TV, into their cable service to justify the cost of setting up audio description. So, and this is with a lot of shows, not just House of the Dragon, with a lot of material. The Paramount+ streaming service do not pass through any of the audio described content that they have on the service in, say, the Americas and the United Kingdom. Well, actually, the United Kingdom are in the same boat as us. They just don’t pass it on and palm us off by saying, “Oh, it’s because of licensing issues,” and things like that.
So, passthrough is very, very important. It’s something that needs to be looked at desperately. And as for Cheryl’s comment about it being rerecorded, that is something that I think needs to be looked at as well, because it can be a quality control issue. Perhaps the original audio description is something that Netflix or Disney+ or whoever don’t believe is up to their standard, and that’s a discussion for them and the vendor who originally audio described the content. And I think there’s a way that they could work together to make the script better and so on. But yes, passthrough is one of the biggest bugbears that I have in the industry at the moment. Nixon out.
THOMAS: Hey, this is Thomas. I wanted to jump in with a thought about passthrough. And Cheryl, you just kinda stirred this because the same way I personally would have liked to see Black Panther not pass through and someone have an opportunity to redo that. So, what happens when, yeah, when it’s not up to par, passthrough is an opportunity to actually fix it, right, to make it better. Also, Scott, and I’m wondering what you think about this because say something is described here in the States, and there are some differences in the language used to describe things in Australia, for example, you know, those of us who have experienced AD from the BBC, y’all know what you get it from. [laughs]
SCOTT N: [laughs]
SCOTT B: Mmhmm!
THOMAS: You know, we’re familiar with “boot,” you know, and “the lift” and all of that.
SCOTT N: Yes.
THOMAS: Does that, how important is that to you, having the local language, local references?
SCOTT N: I do believe it’s something that can be looked at, but you have to think about the audio description landscape in Australia at the moment. You guys are the Jetsons. We’re the Flintstones.
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT N: We have no audio description on free-to-air television. Two of our government’s funded stations have it, but only for a maximum of four hours a day. There is no streaming service that provides audio description, no Australian-based service that provides audio description. And the audio description companies that do operate in Australia are on shoestring budgets, screaming out for money, and just don’t have the time or the capability to do what they want to do. I would love a world where audio description could be done for American and British programs with an Australian voice. I think there is a market for it in some aspects. But at the same time, the Australian landscape has been so saturated with American and British programing over the years that quite a few of us would be more than happy to deal with the American or British versions of the AD as long as we actually get it. And we’re not actually getting it. That’s the thing. Prime Video, Netflix, Disney+, those are the three places you go to in Australia if you want audio description on a streaming service. That’s it. Nixon out.
THOMAS: Okay. So, let me, I just wanted to ask another one just again, thinking about this, is what would y’all think about a service where you got to choose the audio description? So, for example, you have a film, and there’s multiple versions. So, all of these versions that were created, they sit on a repository somewhere, and you choose the one. And maybe that would have, let’s say it had the producer’s name, the writer, the narrator. And based on those things, based on your history with that, you would choose which one you wanted to hear.
SCOTT N: Oh, that…
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT N: …that my friend, would be the dream. Again, [laughs] that is, that is beautiful.
SCOTT B: Yeah.
SCOTT N: If, say, I was able to go to Disney+, pick out Star Wars episode For a New Hope, you’d have the current version read by Miles Neff, you’d have a modern version read by Jedediah Barton, and you’d have an Australian version read by Scott Nixon. I didn’t say that out loud, did I?
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: I’ll listen to that!
SCOTT N: [laughs] You’d be able to pick that. I really do think that is a fantastic idea, Thomas, particularly since we are now reaching the point where we do have multiple versions of an audio description track for a film or a TV series floating around out there. Because whilst our community does not endorse in any way the concept of online piracy, we do know that it does exist out there, and there are places where you can get three, four, even up to five different versions of a film with different narrators. And there are times when you go in and you go, “Ah, I like this version, but this version is way better.” Or you get more from version A than you do version B. It’s all about writer, narrator, and so on.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. Okay.
SCOTT B: This is Blanks. We’re going by last name. Is that what we’re doing, Scott? Okay, I’ll do that.
SCOTT N: Yeah. [laughs]
SCOTT B: I can do that. I have my little flask of water that I’m gonna throw on this just a little bit, I guess, with the question, which is we’re seeing all of the non-passthrough that’s happening now, and this is a beautiful idea. But how do you get all of these people to work together on something entirely new when we can’t get them to work together with the platforms and the systems that are already in place to even pass these things through?
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT N: Yeah.
SCOTT B: I mean, this is why we’re here, right?
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT B: This is why you’re here to try to answer some of these questions, ’cause it breaks my brain quite a bit to think about how does that happen? How does that happen?
THOMAS: Yeah. And I’m not, yeah, throwing it out there. But I’m also throwing it out that for the next part of this, which is, and it kind of goes back to what I think Cheryl was talking about, because that would be a wonderful way of really getting into this comparison and seeing, well, what is quality? Getting back to that whole subject. Which one of these are really quality audio description? Because you can have one, you know, and all of it is subjective, right? All of it is subjective. But there are things. I mean, there’s good scripts, and there are bad scripts. There’s bad writing. We can agree on that.
SCOTT N: Mm.
SCOTT B: Sure.
THOMAS: I think the subjective part is mainly like, or the objective part, rather, is mainly the voice, right? Wait. Did I say objective or subjective? [laughs] So, yeah. So, basically, everyone has their own opinion on whose voice they like. So, that’s sort of that side of the thing. But I think we can agree on the script. But that would be, it would just be an interesting comparison to kind of weed out what is quality and all of that.
So, I mean, I know we talked about keeping this to about an hour, and so I’m wondering if we could get into some conversations of what we do, what can we do to influence…influence the industry? Because we didn’t talk about the fact that, well, how do we get the industry to really center blind people and blind and low vision people? Because right now I’m not sure if that is the case when it comes to audio description. I don’t always feel as though we are at the center of this. And there’s many reasons that I feel like that. Number one, I think this conversation about quantity and quality really does come down to who is being centered. Because when we talk about the quantity and really going for that, I think quantity, that whole, that kinda relates back to the whole compliance, let’s just get it done because the government is telling us we need to get it done. And that, to me-
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm. Checking that box.
THOMAS: Yeah. That, to me, brings about the Amazons, the AI, and all of that.
SCOTT N: [growls]
THOMAS: That’s what that’s about. And I think we all, the majority of us probably agree that that’s not really quality, you know, and we’re not centered in that conversation. That wasn’t about us. That wasn’t about bringing a good product to the people. That was more about, again, checking that box, like Nef said, and just making sure our numbers, and we do it efficiently, right? We do it on the cheap. That’s what that’s about. So, we’re not centered.
NEFERTITI: Do it on the cheap, do it at scale.
THOMAS: Do it at scale.
NEFERTITI: And check that box and, you know, keep it moving.
THOMAS: Right. And make sure Bezos could get to space. That’s what that was all about, right?
NEFERTITI and SCOTT N: [laugh]
THOMAS: So, we’re definitely not at the center of that, right?
NEFERTITI: No.
THOMAS: But the quality, the quality conversation, we’re at the center. I think that’s really about us because we’re the ones determining what the quality is. We should be the ones who are determining what the quality is. So, how do we do that?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
SCOTT N: It’s a really, to use a desperately Australian term, a real sticky wicket to be able to get everyone to the table and explain to them, “Yo, you guys work for us,” type thing. ‘Cause at the end of the day, they’re all, a lot of the companies are squabbling amongst themselves, trying to churn out product as best as they can. There are some people out there who are low balling and cutting other people’s lunches, so to speak, and taking work when they end up churning out a product that we as consumers don’t find acceptable. But the, [sighs] the problem with that is, even if it is a crap…a crap turn out of the service, we are still going to listen to it because we need, because we need to be able to listen to the audio description to enjoy the program. If it’s something we want to watch, let’s face it, we’ve all put up with an AI at one point because we’ve just wanted to hear what something is like and be more part of the experience. So, it’s really turning around to these companies and saying, “Yeah, okay. You’ve done it. You can do better. Let’s show you how you can do better and show you that if you do better, we will give you more money. We will come to your service more often. We will recommend it to our friends.”
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh.
SCOTT N: So, yeah, that’s pretty much where I stand. Nixon out.
NEFERTITI: Hey. I just invited Darius, who requested to speak.

DARIUS: Hello!
NEFERTITI: There you go. Welcome!
DARIUS: Howdy, everybody.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
DARIUS: How fantastic. I just woke up and saw this on my phone. I was like, oh, wow. It’s audio description chat. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Where are you from?
DARIUS: I’m from Australia actually. I’m from Melbourne. So, hi there.
SCOTT N: Hey! One of me!
DARIUS: [laughs] Hi there, Scott. I think I’m following you on Twitter actually. At some point I’ve been following.
NEFERTITI: He’s very popular, Scott N. [chuckles]
DARIUS: So, I’m working in film production, and I run a post-production house. We do a lot of feature films. And audio description is something that we do a lot of putting them into DCPs and things like that for cinema screenings. And I think just talking on the point of how do you kind of center quality, I think two observations that I’ve sort of made, ’cause we’ve just recently had the Melbourne International Film Festival has just wrapped up. And I noticed that in the usage of audio description devices in the cinema wasn’t sort of really being tracked at all. And I think that there’s a sort of a missed opportunity for them. And so, I suggested to them, I was like, “Hey, we got to, you know, we should actually be looking at some stats on what’s the usage of these.” Because I think that when you think about, going back to passthrough as well with like, organizations going, “Ah, we don’t think it’s gonna be useful enough,” I think it kind of comes down to perhaps a lack of information from them. Because I think that if more people knew, I don’t think audio description has been used that much if at all, I think it’s because nobody really knew that, actually, a lot of the sessions at MIFF had audio description.
And on the other side around quality, I’m always with this sort of new frontier stuff, we’re thinking about how I can convince directors and producers of things. And I think a lot of directors, at least in Australia, the audio description’s like, it’s very much like a, it’s part of the contractual delivery requirements. They don’t really understand what it is. They’ve never used audio description before or tried listening to it on Netflix or using a device in the cinema. I think that a lot of them would be sort of mortified if they heard some of the degree of quality that the audio description is being done for, because ultimately, they’re the biggest champions of their content that they’re putting their life and blood into. So, I think that that’s probably one of many different facets of improving quality is education for the directors, because they’ll champion it as well, because they want everyone to experience the film or their content in a strong way. Darius out.
SCOTT N: If I could just jump in here for a second. Darius, will you marry me?
SCOTT B and SCOTT N: [laugh]
SCOTT N: But seriously, mate, that is-
SCOTT B: Yay!
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
SCOTT N: That is the, I couldn’t have put it better myself when it comes to the Australian industry. Please, DM me once the Space is over. You and I really need to talk.
DARIUS: Yeah, I would love that. I would love that, Nixon.
NEFERTITI: Oh, my gosh. That’s what I’m talking about: bringing people together. Yes.
SCOTT B: This is Scott Blanks. And it’s really interesting. I think the data, the point about data is really important. There are a lot of people who will hear more if we can communicate with data as well as with stories, as well as with the impactful stories of audio description.
The other piece that I think is important here is it’s not, it’s nothing really innovative about it, but we know in the sort of the big group of big players in streaming or networks, there’s some good work happening. In fact, there’s a fair bit of good work happening. And some of those companies might be models that we want to think about ways to get some of these other streaming companies or networks or movie studios to somehow follow. I don’t know how that happens, but I think one of the things that makes it possible is we bring people together. And how do you bring people together? You have to establish, well, something like this Space, and it has to be an ongoing Space, and people have to get to know it and have to think about it as a place where they can come together and talk and learn [FaceTime call rings] and be challenged and be okay with that. We have, there are good cultures of accessibility and audio description quality happening in some places. There are people in those places who want to help move this along. They will be our allies, and they will be support for this. But they know just as well as that we need them, they also need us. They need blind people, they need professionals, all of it to come together. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take a lot of tenacity. I think we got that. Blanks is done.
NEFERTITI: Scott B.!!!
ROBERT: Wheee. We did it. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Wow.
ROBERT: Hello, this is Robert Kingett again. I had a couple quick things, and then I actually have to jump off here, sadly. But in terms of how to improve, how to improve the awareness of audio description, I wanna see more open audio described screenings, like at movie theaters and everything.
SCOTT N: Hmm.
ROBERT: And also, I wanna get screenwriters involved in the audio description process. I really think that would also help as well. In terms of quality, I just would like to briefly talk about the pay rates in the industry. They are very, very, very low, extremely low. And I think that if we’re talking about quality, I think we need to also talk about how do we pay our workers fairly and make sure that we’re not taking advantage of labor? So, that’s it. I’m done. [delighted chuckle]
SCOTT B: Very well put, Robert. Very well put.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Robert.
COLLEEN: This is Colleen. There’s a few…. So, I wanna do 25,000-million things. There’s a giant list. But basically, one of the things I would like to do is talk to the filmmakers and the screenwriters. So, that would be establishing a group or, and again, these are things like, I’ve had time to start some of these and just not time to start others. But talk to the people on the front end, so the producers, the writers, and the directors and the filmmaker side of things so that they’re aware of audio description from the beginning. Ideally, I would like to make some sort of curriculum and partner with a school so that there would be a screenwriters’, like you would take a class that included accessibility in production from the beginning and not retroactively in post.
SCOTT N: Hmm!
COLLEEN: The other is, as I mentioned, I’m on the committee of people that’s trying to establish a certification, and I recently [chuckling] just shook up the table. So, I have made a couple proposals that I think they’re going to accept, one of which is I want to have an organized open forum with the committee members need to sit there and listen while we invite other people who are not us, who are not on the committee to speak and to explain some things to them and to answer questions and to, you know, it needs to be structured. But basically, there are a few big, big people in this group. And I think part of the issue that I run into the most with trying to start action is that there is several big people at the top who are like, “I have done audio description this way. I was one of the first audio describers. This is the way you do it. And I’m right, and I wanna bring everyone along with me.” And it’s like, okay. So, audio description is both an art and a science, and you can only regulate it, you can only test it or put it in a box up to a certain point. And so, the idea, I think the best thing we can do, action-item-wise, is connect with each other like we’re doing. Have, you know, continue to tweet and social media and @, like tag things for both the good and bad.
SCOTT B: Yes.
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
COLLEEN: So, Nefertiti asking, you know, asking questions, “What do people think about this,” and comment on it or, “what do people,” you know, “what are your thoughts on this?” And try and get engagement, but also, if something is very good, @ that, and if something needs improvement, @ that.
The other thing is getting…getting some sort of…. Oh, my God. It left my brain. Dang it! I had one more thing, but there’s, I have, I have a big list, and it’s just like I’m one person. And I’m like, no! Chronic illness, why? [laughs]
SCOTT N: Don’t worry, Colleen.
NEFERTITI: Listen, Colleen.
SCOTT N: We all got your back.
NEFERTITI: Yes! As one person with chronic illness too, now there’s two of you. And over there, there’s Scott Nixon and Scott Blanks and Thomas Reid and Cheryl Green and Darius and Robert. And there’s a lot of us out here who are feeling that one size does not fit all. It never did. It’s just that now we are gathering and galvanizing and actually speaking up and saying, “This doesn’t quite fit the bill.” And it’s okay. Let’s just meet these needs in other ways. It’s not that, as you were saying, the people up at the top, you know, like, “Goodbye. Get out of here.” No, there’s a place for everyone in this, but I think that’s the whole point. At least in my world, there is a place for everyone, right?
COLLEEN: Yes.
NEFERTITI: There’s this hashtag, DescribeEverything? Well, one population, or one segment of the population cannot describe everything. They are not everything, no matter how much they may have been, right?
COLLEEN: Yep.
NEFERTITI: Like, that’s just not the case anymore. We are here. We are not going to be quiet anymore. And in terms of quality, that’s what quality is all about.
COLLEEN: And-
SCOTT B: Everything counts or nothing counts.
COLLEEN: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
COLLEEN: The other thing, I remembered what I was going to say. Hurray, Nefertiti.
NEFERTITI: Yay!
COLLEEN: Is that educating people, because one of the things the report that I sent to the committee was how do we respect the past and progress to the future?
NEFERTITI: [light applause] That’s me clapping.
SCOTT N: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah.
COLLEEN: So, yes, you brought us here. You got us here. Fantastic. It’s, you know, we’ve gotta keep moving.
SCOTT N: Mmhmm.
COLLEEN: There’s all different kinds of people.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
COLLEEN: Everyone has a different life experience that they bring to this. And the idea, they are, I think, a lot of people similar to in learning more about white privilege and the different sections of my life that became very apparent, people are terrified.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
COLLEEN: I think they’re honestly, they feel very threatened because they’re like, it’s just that difficult conversation that people do not wanna have, and they don’t wanna be, “I’m not. I’m not. I have a Black friend. I have a Black, blind friend!”
NEFERTITI: Yep.
COLLEEN: Like, just this panic of, like, you know, the fact that, hey. No, it is okay. The important thing is we have a safe space to have the conversation, we apologize, and get forward. Because that, I think, is part of the holdup for some of the larger names in AD is just they are older white men. And they are, that is, you know, not to throw old white men under the bus, but it’s just been, I have seen them respond to me the most with immediate defensive and like, “Well, I know you can’t be entirely objective, but it is, you know, as a describer, you are objective. And you” dah dah dah. And it’s like, it’s okay, it’s gonna be okay. So, I think part of it is remembering, bringing the passion to it, but also having to toe that line, walk that tightrope of respecting the past and moving forward-
NEFERTITI: Yes.
COLLEEN: -especially when threatened and frustrated. And they don’t get it. They just, they can’t wrap their minds around it, or they haven’t had that light bulb moment. It’s like, just, you gotta have conversations, dude. So, yeah.
NEFERTITI: And if I may just say, Nefertiti speaking, hopefully they do have that light bulb moment. But in my world, whether they have it or not, it’s like if you have it, great, let’s go! If you don’t, I’m leaving you behind.
COLLEEN: Uh-huh! [guffaws]
NEFERTITI: Because I respect you. I respect you, absolutely. But I also gotta keep it moving. And I also wanna hear about myself. I wanna see more people like me. I wanna hear more people like me in everything.
COLLEEN: Mmhmm!
NEFERTITI: And that absolutely disclude-, includes audio description. I’m sorry, you guys. I’m very tired. This is like a 16-hour day, so my words are a bit meh.
SCOTT N: Nah, you’re doing fine.
NEFERTITI: Thank you!
ROBERT: Amen, girl! Hell, yeah. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, I gotta go to bed, but, yeah. Like, come with us or get out of our way, okay? Because-
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT N: Scott here, just quickly. Guys, it’s been a pleasure. It’s an honor to work with all of you. And I think we have really started something magnificent here. Let’s keep it going. Let’s keep it moving. But I have been sneaky, and I just had my own light bulb moment. We need to petition Disney+ and Deluxe who do any audio description for the Marvel movies to get our boy Thomas Reid in to redo Black Panther 1-
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT N: -and do Wakanda Forever. Do it seriously. You would crush it.
NEFERTITI: Oh, my God. You know, the Social Audio Description Collective has been wanting the same thing. So, Thomas?
SCOTT B: Clear your schedule, Thomas.
NEFERTITI: I think so.
SCOTT N: [laughs]
THOMAS: Aw, I appreciate that. I appreciate that. Yeah.
COLLEEN: I’ve been talking about that since 2018. Don’t think I ain’t in on that, guys.
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT N: So, yeah, guys, it’s been magnificent. And for me for now, follow me on @MrBrokenEyes, and I’ll talk to you guys next time. Peace.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely!
SCOTT B: So good to hear you, Scott.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Scott Nixon!
THOMAS: This is a great start. And these conversations are definitely what we need. We need to get more people involved because the more I think about it, there are definitely organizations doing what they do and doing certain things when it comes to audio description. But obviously, it can’t be everything, but it doesn’t always need to be them doing the work. And I mean that by, you know, like, sometimes I think we leave it up to an organization to do certain work, right?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: And I think there’s pressure that needs to come from within, and then there’s pressure that needs to come from without. And there’s some of this work is not gonna get done by the organizations. And I don’t mean that in a bad way. I just mean that’s what happens sometimes. Sometimes it’s not the organization’s place to do it, and sometimes they’re just not built to do it because they have other objectives.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: And so, some of this stuff has to come from the people.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: And we are the people, and we need to put some of this pressure and keep this up. And so, I think having these sorta conversations are absolutely great. And I think we also need to take a look at what we mean by support from the community, because to me, support is conversation. Support is not falling in line with what someone says. Support is conversation. Support can be disagreement and just discussion and doing that in a way that is for the greater good. Because I truly believe that we all wanna get to the same thing, right? But the way we get there is a little bit different. Some of us, you know, [clicks tongue] some of us wanna be a little, some of us are just tired. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: [chuckles]
THOMAS: Some of us are just tired, you know what I mean? We don’t have that much time.
NEFERTITI and SCOTT N: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: We need to see some things. And we’ve seen a lot. And even if it’s a, you know, it might not be just, you know, it’s not just audio description. Because as we see, again, it’s not just entertainment, all of that. Yes, it’s true. It is not just entertainment. This is big. This is big. This has really serious implications.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: And so, we need to remember that. And I think if we’re gonna be a community who’s gonna support one another, don’t think we have to always agree, but we do have to be civil about it and have these conversations and be respectful. And I don’t see anybody, I see most of us having that, doing that and being respectful. So, just keep that in mind. That’s all I’m saying. If that made sense, I hope it made sense.
SCOTT B: Mmhmm.
NEFERTITI: That made absolute sense. Love each other.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: Even if you don’t-
THOMAS: Respect.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Even if you’re not coming at something from the same perspective, or even if you might diverge from someone else, there’s no need to be rude or point fingers or degrade. There’s no need for all that.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: I think Thomas is absolutely right: We all have the same end goal, which is to improve, to enhance, to make it better, to make it more inclusive, to make it less gate-kept, right?
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: And again, there might be different ways that we get there, competing, sometimes conflicting priorities. But to someone, it might be about Dolby Atmos. To someone else it might be having people of color describing films that are of people of color. You know, it could range on what our priorities are. But ultimately, I think it comes back to what we first started talking about here: quality. We want the quality of audio description to improve and to be better every day.
THOMAS: Yeah. And let’s salute those who are actually doing that right now, because not everybody’s doing it. And I think we know. I don’t necessarily have to go through the list of companies who are doing it, but I think we need to start recognizing those who are doing it, those who put their name. Notice who doesn’t put their name. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: [belly laugh]
THOMAS: There’s folks who, you know-
NEFERTITI: Very telling.
THOMAS: -their names just aren’t there. That’s very telling.
NEFERTITI: Very telling.
THOMAS: And if you can find out who that is, you’ll notice that means something. So, when the names are there, notice if that correlates with quality. Like, that’s real. That’s real. And then shout these people out because the HBOs, the Netflixes, I really do think that we’re the ones who should be, we should be determining who they work with.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: But right now, it’s the dollar that is determining who they work with.
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh.
THOMAS: And so, I think we have power to be able to shut that down by just bigging up the folks who are doing it right. And let the Netflix know, “Hey, these guys do a good job. These guys you hired over here today? Uh…you know, they’re okay, but maybe not for this one. Maybe for something else.”
NEFERTITI: That’s right. Yeah.
THOMAS: “Maybe for something else.”
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: So, I think we need to explore that a little bit too.
NEFERTITI: We are the drivers of that.
THOMAS: Yeah, let’s drive this for real, for real.
NEFERTITI: I think we’re going to try to have, aim to have conversations with folks in positions of influence, I would say.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Power and the like. Because, yeah, we are the voices that need to be heard, right?
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: Audio description by blind people, for blind people. We are blind people!
THOMAS: Yeah. So, what you’re saying, Nef, is that this is not just a, this is not a one and done here? Is that what you said?
NEFERTITI: Oh, no! I certainly hope not!
THOMAS: [laughs] Aight, cool. So, be on the lookout.
NEFERTITI: Like we said at the beginning, hopefully this is the first of many, and hopefully we will have many more people join us, whether you’re a listener or a speaker, a host at times, though, you know Thomas and Cheryl. Cheryl at the beginning of the said that she had a fan club for you and me, Thomas. I’m in the fan club for you and Cheryl, so.
THOMAS: I’m, pssh. Come on. Come on. Y’all know where I go. I’m Cheryl and Nefertiti all day. Come on. Come on. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: [giggles]
CHERYL: I’m president. Not just in the fan club. I’m president of both y’alls fan clubs.
THOMAS: [laughs] Well, I am definitely president, CEO, and Chairman of the Board of both of y’all!
NEFERTITI: Here, here.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: I’m Prime Minister, bitch. Okay? All right. Who was it, Colleen? She said, “I’m gonna be the bad bitch!” I love that!
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yes! Yes.
COLLEEN: I’m the, I, I, I’m gonna have to be the bad bitch of audio description. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: I love it!
SCOTT B: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: I’ll join you. I’ll join you anytime, girl. Anytime.
DARIUS: Thank you so much for organizing this. This was fantastic. I’m very excited, and I feel very inspired. And I look forward to engaging in conversation with all of you ongoing. I had no idea it was even happening! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
DARIUS: I literally woke up. I rolled out of bed, and I was like, oh, there’s an audio description chat happening. Fantastic.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
SCOTT N: The more you know, Darius, the more you know.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [chuckle]
SCOTT B: I just wanna say, this is Scott Blanks, I just wanna say we’re, yeah, we’re only getting started. There will be more. We’re gonna do these at different times, on different days. As we can clearly hear and see, there is a lot to be done and a lotta people who wanna do it. So, we have a lotta cause to be back here again and again. And I think that’s what it’s gonna take for us to see some of this change. So, thank you all for putting in the effort and for the effort that’s going to come I’m sure. It’s all really appreciated, and it’s gonna pay off. I feel that.
THOMAS: Excellent. Excellent.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: Yeah!
THOMAS: I salute y’all.
NEFERTITI: Galvanize, y’all. Gather and galvanize.
THOMAS: There it is. [laughs]

Outro music begins
THOMAS: Cool. Well, that concludes this week’s conversation. Why don’t y’all keep the conversation going on social media.
CHERYL: Use #ADFUBU, for us by us, #DescribeEverything, and #AudioDescription.
NEFERTITI: And hey, you know we’re out here, right? Mmhmm! Gathered and galvanized y’all. If you haven’t joined us yet, what are you waiting for?! You can find us in the LinkedIn Audio Description group and the AD Twitter community. We know that your participation will only make these spaces better.
Music fades out!

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled: Supporting Our Sisters

Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022

On a brown tweed and tan background is the  text, REID MY MIND RADIO in bold capital letters. Underneath reads Young Gifted Black and Disabled: Supporting our Sisters.   Under the wording on the left is Lisa Bryant: A dark-skinned woman with shoulder length highlighted locs sitting outside on steps. She is wearing dark lipstick and her smile is closed. In a slightly tilted pose, one hand rests underneath her chin while the other is atop her crossed legs. She is wearing a blue and wine collared paisley collared shirt with beige slacks. On the right is Heather Watkins: A smiling light-skinned Black woman, hair in a bun atop her head, blue button earrings, makeup with red lipstick. She is wearing a olive-colored blazer and blue and white patterned blouse with a long necklace of various blue-colored pendants

As we close out the 2022 season of #YGBD, I’m passing the mic to my sisters!

Boston based Disability Advocate Heather Watkins and Lisa Bryant, a Philadelphia freelance journalist join me to discuss just some of the challenges affecting disabled Black women.
We’re talking career, relationships, parenting, healthcare and more.

Plus, don’t forget to check out the ACB Audio Description Awards Gala hosted by yours truly along with one of our RMM Radio sisters, Nefertiti Matos Olivares.

While this is the official last episode of 2022, be sure to subscribe or follow Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts. You never know when I might get in the mood to drop a special holiday episode.

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Transcript

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TR: 00:00
Greetings, family, and welcome back to the podcast. That’s right, I got candy in my mouth. Should I take it out? Or should I just do the whole podcast like this? (Mumbles unintelligibly… ) You know? I’m not recording am I?

— Tape rewinds
— Music begins: Snare hits increasing in volume into a smooth R&B instrumental…

Welcome back to the podcast featuring compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability in general. My name is Thomas Reid, I’m your host and producer. We’ve reached the last episode of the YGBD 2022 Season, you know, that’s Young, Gifted, Black, and Disabled. Some people ask me, Thomas, why Young Gifted Black and Disabled? My first reaction? Why not? Then I’m like, Nah, that’s not polite. Am I lying.

Now, if you just caught what I threw down and responded, either in your mind or out loud, “No, you’re quite right,” you and I share something that has nothing to do with blindness. However, that thing we share could also make our experience of blindness different from others. In this particular case, my reference was to an early rap song by Doug E Fresh called “The Show”. Just one of many Hip Hop references you will find in the history of this podcast. While Hip Hop isn’t necessarily an identity, one can make a good argument for being one. I personally will always identify as being hip hop. Black is definitely an identity. That intersection between Black and disabled has its own unique experiences that need to be discussed, even for the sole purpose of centering the experience of Black disabled people in the disability conversation. That’s of real value to me.

Then there are the additional levels of identity. Last year. We closed out YGBD discussing masculinity. We went places I didn’t know we were going, but I’m glad we did.

— Music stops

So this year… (repeats in an echo effect)

— DJ scratch
— Music begins: Snare hits increasing in volume into a smooth R&B track.
R&B crooner sings, “Ladies… Beautiful Ladies!”…
– “Ladies” Lee Field and the Expressions

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

TR:

allow me to introduce you first to Boston based advocate, Heather Watkins…

Heather: 02:20
I self identify as a Black disabled woman, born with a form of Muscular Dystrophy, who didn’t always use mobility aids like I do now. I’ve been using them for the past 15 years including a cane and on occasion a manual wheelchair and also a ventilator to assist compromised respiratory muscles. I am a mother, blogger, author and I serve on a handful of disability related boards and projects including as a former chairperson for the Boston Mayor’s Commission, for Persons with Disabilities Advisory Board, the Disability Policy Consortium, the National Research Center for Parents with Disabilities and Open Door Arts. My pronouns are she her hers.

TR: 03:06
Also joining me today co host of the white stick Connect podcast from Philadelphia, PA, Lisa Bryant

Lisa: 03:12
I’m a Black female, dark skin with locs. And I’m currently a freelance journalist. And I’ve written for few local platforms but also looking to expand my reach, looking at some national opportunities. I was just recently appointed to the board of the Pennsylvania Assistive Technology Foundation

TR: 03:35
Two Black women with different disabilities, each bringing a unique experience of disability.

Lisa: 03:41
In terms of identifying my disability, I struggle with using the white cane but I’ve had to do that a little more of late. I went most of my life without having any difficulty. I was still driving. Then along came 2011 things took a turn and I had to stop driving and adjust to being legally blind.

— Music begins: A piano melody leads into a slow, dramatic groove.

TR: 03:59
If I asked you what does it mean to be a woman? Perhaps you have a list of things that come to mind. Maybe you even strike up with images that represent that. What does it mean to be a Black woman? What comes to mind now?

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
I want to start here with what did you learn about being a Black woman as a child? What were the lessons that you were getting, whether they be from adults in your life, even from the media, like what was sort of the things that you were learning about being a Black woman, Heather you want to start it off?

Heather: 04:30
I grew up in the city of Boston, we lived in a section called Dorchester, which is one of the predominantly Black areas. Roxbury Dorchester Mattapan.

It was definitely a matriarch. My grandmother lived on the second floor. Aunties lived on the third floor. There was always family around. I was surrounded by strong women and bringing that up from the Greenwood Mississippi. All that wisdom sort of poured into me from my grandmother having grown up in the Jim Crow south. She laughed and joked, but she did not play. We didn’t have everything afforded to us. You kind of get inventive? I learned, if it’s not there, we’ll figure it out

TR: 05:11
pretty valuable skill, especially necessary as a disabled woman

Heather: 05:15
in terms of disability an being a Black disabled woman, Across the media landscape, I didn’t see that reflected back in ways that I found meaningful. Flip through beauty magazines, I didn’t see Black disabled women openly identified that way. That message was like, Where are we? Why is that hidden? What I didn’t see in the media I saw within my family.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
Lisa, same question.

Lisa: 05:41
My family images were very strong women. But I definitely remember as a very young girl, being more influenced by media and even classmates, when I was growing up, dark skin was not necessarily appreciated. We were teased about being dark. I didn’t like being teased. I was an only child, my imagination sometimes got very creative. I had an imaginary friend and she was exactly opposite of me. She was lighter skin, long, long hair. That was just what I did. And that was just how I imagined. I guess the way I sort of internalized that I just accepted that as No, that’s kind of the way it is. I don’t know that I remember even having meaningful conversations with my parents about that. I think I probably just kind of tuck that away. Later on. I thought, wow, how about that kind of self hate.

TR: 06:44
I really admire and appreciate Lisa for being so honest, and sharing that with us. It’s hard being vulnerable, that something only really strong people can do. That hate doesn’t start from inside us. It’s just another tool of white supremacy. A systematic approach to establishing power, by convincing Black people in others of color to feel inferior. It’s anti-Blackness at its finest.

Internalizing negative beliefs. That’s not just about race or color.

Lisa: 07:12
Fast forward to becoming legally blind, like Heather said, When did you see, on the cover of a magazine, someone very proudly, in a wheelchair, or proudly using a white cane?

I had absolutely no one else to relate to until becoming a member of the local NFB chapter. And even those that I did see some of the elderly people like in my church who vision was failing, I was so much younger, and I still had usable vision. So that was just a whole different world, the age I think, alone being like the big kind of barrier. So then it’s becoming a matter of, well, let’s see how we can fake this without making this announcement about my disability. It’s funny how much you just kind of internalize and live through things, and accepted as normal, even though it’s really not.

— Music ends.

TR: 08:13
Actually, I think these reactions are quite normal. I don’t think anyone wants to feel less than, unfortunately, what has been normalized is the idea that beauty is one thing. Disabled anything means inferior.

We can keep on with other things like age, gender…

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
I’m wondering whether your experience with disability, how did it impact the definition of Black womanhood? Can you talk a little bit about that?

Heather: 08:38
Sure. I think it definitely evolved. So when we talked about disability, what back then we would say, quote unquote, handicapped, your handicap, but your healthy. So it was spoken about like that. The exposure that I got, regarding disability at that time was through MDA camps, Muscular Dystrophy Association camps, and like clinics. But still, I wasn’t seeing all the Black disabled kids. I saw maybe one during summer camps.

TR: 09:09
Every summer for about a week, Heather, as a child would stay at these camps for children with muscular dystrophy in the New England area, a chance to get away from the city environment.

Heather: 09:18
It was just like one, or maybe another person who was of color, or certainly only like one Black kid. And the messaging there too, was like, I have to go outside of my community to see other kids with visible disabilities. It was hard to really connect and have that kind of support system where you can connect with other kids in peers, who are disabled to talk about your life experience, but also to talk about frustrations because that’s important to getting tips and resources. Those weren’t things I discovered until much later in advocacy circles, so important in terms of building your own self awareness and even sharpening your advocacy skills.

TR:10:04
As a child Heather never really had the chance to form any sort of relationships with other Black disabled children.

This reminds me of the time in 2020 when clubhouse was new, and the 15 Percent Club was rockin. We hosted an event to discuss Black disability experiences. There had to be 30 people or more predominantly Black. Read my mind radio alum and CO producer of the first YGBD episode, AJ Murray famously remarked that it was his first time being in the presence of that many Black disabled people. There were several others who acknowledged it being their first time as well.

Lisa: 10:40
I had a similar experience when I went to a national convention. So this was 2019. I knew of other Black people in the Federation who were blind, but I had never been in the same circle with them. That was the first time and it was like, wow, I went a long time without really having anyone else who got me not just being female, not just being Black, but being visually impaired female or Black, or at least two of the three. It was a long, long, long, long time.

Heather: 11:15
What if we were exposed to cultural icons in grade school, who had disabilities? How that might have shaped and impacted our awareness? I’m talking about like Fannie Lou Hamer, and Harriet Tubman, Brad Lomax Sojourner Truth, all of them had disabilities, and it also impacted their life, how they govern their lives. Imagine learning that at such a young age or even being newly disabled, how that would shape your awareness and your concept of disability.
We get so many messages that downplay or erase disability because people generally assume that it’s synonymous with negativity. It has a much wider lens, it’s actually very comprehensive.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 12:01
Heather’s describing what we mean when we talk about disability isn’t what you think it is.

Consider how disability is talked about. Often from the perspective of a diagnosis. It’s used as a metaphor, often to indicate negativity:

— Music begins, melodic, dramatic strings…
TR in a mimicking over dramatic voice
“, she was blind to what was going on around her.”
TR in a “Financial commentator” voice
“That will cripple the economy.”

Heather: 12:20
Who would I be, without having a disability and the evolutions and the twists and the turns and all of the folks that I’ve met in advocacy circles, especially diverse advocacy circles, who really has been a mirror for me, in validating that and raising that ceiling, where I was often capping my own potential.

So I often like to say I’m a woman in need of care, a caregiver and a community builder, all at once. But if you redact any part of that bio, then you reduce my community contribution, and visibility. It impacts every aspect of your lived experience in determining key quality of life areas. housing, health care, education, employment, how you live, how you shop, dine, socialize,

— Music fades out.
— Sounds of a woman walking down busy city street.

TR: 13:15
let’s get into these lived experiences, beginning with relationships.

Lisa: 13:19
I was walking down the street with my cane, and I just kind of had an image of myself. And I just had a thought, Well, I wonder what attention I don’t get now because of this cane.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 13:33
So you walking down the street looking cute. You got the white cane? I don’t know what your status is dating, married, not sure of your status. But how has it affected that part of your life?

Lisa: 13:45
I have not been actively dating. So I’m not on any kind of dating website or anything like that. There’s certain places where I’m very familiar with my surroundings, and I may not have it right out. The sort of compliments or whatever I make it. I don’t think I had the cane.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 14:05
So they try to holla when you don’t have the cane?

Lisa: 14:08
Yeah.

Sometimes I hear people say, well, blindness doesn’t define you. I know what they mean by that sentiment in terms of, they don’t want it to define you in a negative way. But at the end of the day, it is a part of you. It’s just as much a part of you as anything else about you your name your hair color. So let’s not sort of suppress that. There’s got to be a way to embrace it, put it out there, but in a way that just lets you know, people know like, this is who Lisa is, in fact, it’s an integral part of me because it does define my world. I navigate my world as a visually impaired Black woman. People probably see the ladder first.

Then there’s the cane.

TR: 14:49
The cane we know serves multiple purposes. First, an aid to orientation and mobility.

Lisa: 14:57
It’s just as much for me and my safety. but it’s also an identifier. It’s a way of saying to the world, you may think I see you, but I may not. Or I may only see you til you’re right up on me. I need to accept that it may sort of reduce some dating opportunities. But then, at the end of the day, are those really people I’d want to date anyway. Maybe one day, it’ll actually attract the right guy.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 15:25
Heather, what do you think

Heather: 15:27
I was so ambivalent, for a while to use a cane 15 years ago, because I was thinking I was quote, unquote, giving in to my disability, it’s gonna make me appear weak and old. Then it dawned on me that this is a mobility a that is quite liberating. It’s helping me get from point A to point B, giving the nod that yeah, I’m in charge of my life here. I’m not sitting idly by, I’m actually moving and grooving. Those are the kinds of epiphanies and internal dialogue that I had to have, in rooting out that internalized ableism. So much of our gaze comes from a non disabled viewpoint. You’re not even conscious of it until you are and then you’re like, oh, wow, I’m comparing myself to all the non disabled peers and counterparts. And it’s just so self injurious.

TR: 16:23
It’s not only canes and adaptive equipment we use in public.

Heather: 16:27
I especially felt that when I started using the ventilator, and it looks like scuba gear. And I’m like, how sexy is that? Because it feels like a robo breather. I’m like, what partner’s gonna see that as sexy. I had to really think about all of those kinds of things in terms of dating and being attractive to the opposite sex and what that means for me, in terms of acceptance, it goes back to not having those kinds of images across the media landscape where the storylines are informed by disability, from a comprehensive viewpoint, where the person is a love interest, maybe they’re running a business, maybe they are parents, maybe they’re out and about moving around in the world, making really critical decisions. We are starting to see more of those images now. And the first thing I think of is on Queen Sugar. It’s informed by Ava DuVernay because she has lupus. And so Aunt Vy has lupus and is a matriarch, she’s married. She’s a business owner, community builder. When you have those kinds of storylines, mirrored in that meaningful way, you can best believe those get absorbed by people. And then we have new ideas and people can conceptualize disability in a much grander way. I’m thankful for shows like that. Echoing all of those thoughts and the ideas of what beauty is. Sex, sexuality, pleasure, kink? How often do we hear that all juggled in the same sentence with disability? There are quite a few Disabled Parents, including myself. And guess what, those kids, you know, were conceived the old fashioned way.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
(Interrupts)
Not immaculate conception!

TR, Heather & Lisa chuckle!

Heather:
So we exist.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 18:22
So let’s go there.

— Music begins: A slow vibrato synth, leads to snare hand claps and a driving confident Hip Hop beat

You said that being disabled really has informed your parenting? Talk to me about that?

Heather: 18:29
Sure. I had to leave my job due to progression of disability. And that was probably when my daughter was like around nine or 10. I was so nervous about the fact that what does this mean for me? What’s the next step? So I really had to contemplate the trajectory of my life. It was doubly scary for me because I had these little eyes watching you, right? And they absorb everything around them had to get real clear. Take that internal deep dive and figure out, what would you like to do next. And I said to myself, you know, you need to provide a blueprint, an example for how it would be for your daughter, and not that she needs to be at home, but be more empowered to make her own decisions and choices. I just moved very slowly and methodically. I started thinking about what I was passionate about. I was thinking about disability advocacy. I ended up taking a class that the State offers. It’s called the Massachusetts office on disabilities, Cam training class, Community Access Monitor. Little steps I was taking to figure out where I wanted to go next and how I wanted to impact the world. I didn’t just want to instruct her. I want to give you an example. What to do when how to be a person that contributes to your own community. Disability impacted my parenting by being more mindful and intentional about all of my life’s choices.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 20:03
How old is she today?

Heather:
She’s 28.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
Okay, what’s the impact on her life?

Heather: 20:08
She is a very strong willed empowered out and proud member of the LGBTQ community, her seeing her mother be involved in, in advocacy circles. It made her more open to just being herself in a very big and loud, authentic way.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 20:30
There’s sort of like an “outness”, about disability.

Heather:
Yeah.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
I dig it!

TR:
What about the impact disability has on a person’s career?

Lisa: 20:38
That is a very important question. And in my case, it’s just starting to turn around. Before my vision became more complicated. And before I even knew all of the resources, assistive technology, I was a senior development officer at a local nonprofit and doing very well in that. But it just got harder and harder to see my work got harder to see on the computer, I couldn’t drive at night. And some of these one on one donor opportunities would be in the evening outside of the city, which meant small streets, maybe dimly lit, and I just couldn’t do that. I actually ended up mutually separating from that position. And it was a long time before I could really figure out okay, what can I do?

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 21:34
I have this thing about that question. What can I do? I mean, I know a specific,

Lisa: 21:39
What can I do on a computer? What could I do where I wouldn’t have to drive and I could just get easily to places on public transportation?

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 21:45
It’s very practical. But there’s a larger question.

Lisa: 21:48
I remember the day when I thought, what do I want to do? I want to do something a little more creative. During the pandemic, I went to school for journalism. This has just birthed , well, maybe rebirth, something altogether new in me. I just think that that writing bug was there for a long time. But just dormant.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 22:10
Journalism was a real interest of leases in her college years.

Lisa: 22:14
I just kind of tabled it all those years ago. Although I really did love journalism. I didn’t like the career paths that were available then. So I just went in all kinds of different directions. Now. I can work remotely, I can do human interest stories. I don’t have to cover murders and fires and burglaries. There’s so much more out there. I can cover the nonprofit sector I can write about in justices. I absolutely love it. And I love that I can do something that’s mentally challenging. Sometimes it’s nerve wracking, but I get to talk to people the same way I did when I was in development, because that’s all about cultivating relationships, you have to know how to communicate to all different types of people. So I think I’ve found my fit. However, I have yet economically to be at that level.

— From ABC News broadcast: 23:07
Today marks the day, the average Black woman working full time must work into 2021 to catch up with what an average white non Hispanic man earned in 2020.
Let me Repeat that. Today, August 3, 214 days into the year is when an average Black woman worker will have to catch up to her white male counterparts. 2020 pay. According to the National Women’s Law Center, Black women are paid 63 cents for every dollar made by white men across industries.

— Music ends

TR:
Yet!

Lisa: 23:39
I’m much more fulfilled than I had been in a long time since 2011, when I was declared legally blind.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 23:47
I’m just curious, do you see that as an opportunity that was presented by disability?

Lisa: 23:54
I guess the disability has kind of opened that because it’s allowed me to do it on my terms. I could do it from my computer and I could use 12 time magnification if I need to. And nobody has to know you know, I could have my screen reader on nobody has to know. So yeah, yeah, I suppose it has.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 24:16
Okay, good. Good.

Heather: 24:18
How many similarities? Wow, I’m a Mass Comm major. My daughter was very young when I graduated. So I was going to go to school full time, be a mother full time, but I couldn’t, you know, add on the internship part of it. So when I left college, I started working for a health insurance company. It wasn’t until years later that I got involved in writing and blogging and doing freelance work like that. Disability definitely impacted that sort of rebirth and rebranding you were talking about being online and using the internet. Hasn’t that been such a great equalizer in that way for so many disabled persons? I’m not only talking about obviously a parent, but not a parent in chronic illness, folks who, for one reason or another may not be able to get to a brick and mortar location for being online, they have access to remote work or flexible hours and balancing work life.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 25:15
Meanwhile, there are real benefits for hiring and retaining disabled employees.

Heather: 25:20
So many of us have higher sensitivity levels. Have adaptive and analytical skills, logistical skills like nobody’s business, we know workarounds, contingency plans, so many of us are out of the box thinkers. I tell people all the time, you want disabled folks in your employ, in your planning committees, event committees, your communities, your corporations, because there’s a lens and a lived experience that you’re not tapping into that that asset to your organization.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 25:53
Do you see any sort of examples that say, okay, yeah, I see some of this taking place now?

Heather: 25:58
The pandemic, really put that into overdrive, right? So many people were saying, Oh, no, we can’t accommodate you in this way, for remote work and being able to access even entertainment and theater, then all of a sudden, voila, overnight. Everyone has access. So it wasn’t a question of why it couldn’t be done. It just couldn’t be done for y’all!

TR: 26:21
One of several things revealed during the pandemic is the inequity in health care,

Lisa: 26:26
I was thinking of an Article I just wrote on Black women in breast cancer, the death rate is much, much higher for Black women. Nationally, it’s close to 40%, which is ridiculous. So there’s that in general disparity of health care for Black women. But then you add this other layer of having a disability. Now I am in the two worlds.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 26:53
That second world, if you will, is this ability.

Heather: 26:56
It’s been 32 years, since the Americans with Disabilities Act signing, we’re still having to advocate so much for the smallest of rights, it really is daunting and exhausting. nearly 62 million in this country identify as having some form of disability, one out of four people 25% of the population, nearly 1 billion globally, it’s a sleeping giant of a demographic that needs a much better marketing plan.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 27:28
So when someone who is blind, for example, walks into a medical establishment,

Lisa: 27:32
I generally am carrying my white cane. And it’s amazing to me how they’ll see the white cane and still give me a clipboard. People just don’t get it. They only know this is what I do. I’m the receptionist, this is what I do. You come in you tell me your name, I give you a clipboard. Look, I can’t fill out your little iPad. I know it’s cute. And it’s like the way to go here. But that’s not going to work for me. And there have been times when they’ve been helpful. And there have been times when I’ve been dismissed. Some of the same challenges can be addressed if there were more sensitivity and people to help. Because it’s not only vision, it’s not only physical, their language barriers, there’s not being tech savvy,

Heather: 28:19
lack of cultural competence regarding disability, gender, and race, especially when you have providers who are not very knowledgeable about disability, but also, maybe the hospital or healthcare setting is not outfitted for receiving you in a very physical and literal way. Maybe the doorways aren’t wide enough, maybe you can’t access the bathroom because it’s inaccessible. Or if you’re someone like myself, who had difficulty getting on the exam table, because you needed a hydraulic one. And so you had to forego your GYN exam, because you couldn’t access the table that resulted in me filing a complaint with the patient advocacy department. So the next time my follow up visit, that hydraulic exam table was there because along with that complaint form, I included a copy of the part of the Americans with Disabilities Act. That said I had a right to accessible medical care.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 29:16
So you have to advocate just for you to go to the doctor and give them money.

Heather: 29:22
Had to do it more than once to a different providers office. You’re not always believed, so many stories of pain management, managing the variety of disabilities, whether they’re a parent, not a parent or include chronic illness, we should all have the right to have medically accessible care that is done with culturally competent providers.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 29:43
That’s medical providers that are not only familiar with the differences, but also value them. That’s reflected in process policy and services.

Heather: 29:52
When I was younger, I was only considering apparent disability and our families. How many of us have died At heart disease, I have died from complications of diabetes. My father, he ended up dying of kidney disease. I took care of him for the last 11 years of his life in our home, just an interdependent relationship, because he’s helping me physically. And I’m helping manage his entire health care, all while raising a daughter. And then also having my nephew come into my home through a DCF kinship placement, Department of Children Family Services placement as a older teenager who had intellectual disabilities.

So many of us live interdependent lives. And when juggling so many responsibilities, we are practicing those kinds of advocacy skills in real time. That’s the real commentary for a lot of Black disabled women.

TR: 30:47
All you have to do is follow disabled Black women on social media. And you’ll know that we’re just touching the surface of the many challenges they encounter on a daily basis. And yet, they see hope.

Lisa: 30:59
The small things can mean a lot. I have had to say that I’m visually impaired I use assistive technology. I’ve got well, how can we accommodate? Do you need us to send you things in some other file? I went through a seven month long Fellows Program for journalists, and they were absolutely wonderful. Like they just insisted that like, look, we don’t want this to stress you out. It’s not as off putting, as it used to be.

I said earlier, I had to leave my job. Because they just didn’t know what to do with me. It’s really changing for the better. I mean, you have media platforms that are exclusively devoted to people with disabilities. Are we there? Absolutely not. But there is hope.

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
Cool.

Heather: 31:45
I love it when I’m able to connect with more Black women with disabilities, whether it’s a parent non apparent or includes chronic illness, if their parents, whether they’re into the creative arts, I love being able to connect with them and just learn more about their lived experience and how that evolved over time. Because I always feel like I learned every day, that helps me, in my own self awareness, become a better advocate

— Music begins: A melodic synth piano opens to a inspiring mid temp heavy kick Hip Hop beat.

TR: 32:15
today, passing those lessons on to others.

Heather: 32:19
It wasn’t until I got heavily involved with repeat exposure that I began to deliver how vast and wide that disability is, there comes a culture of political movement, history constituency, there wasn’t an indictment. It’s an identity marker. And even the word itself, disability, the di s prefix is not only not an option, but has a Latin and Greek derivative, meaning dual into so hence another way of doing and being in the world, and so much easier to adopt that first person language and say, Black disabled woman. This is why there will be no ambiguity in that meaning, because I’m not shying away from any of those things. You know who I am is the amalgamation of all my choices. And that doesn’t mean that I’m glossing over any frustrating aspects of disability because for sure, they are there to give a full bodied expression in meaning of what it means to live with a disability to have a disability or to be disabled. It is a very comprehensive, layered experience.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 33:33
Full bodied expression. That’s what I’m talking about. Can you handle all of this greatness? Now I need you all to check out and support our sisters. That’s my fellow Libra. The new addition to the Reid My Mind Radio family from Boston. You see how I did that? New Edition, Boston.
— “Cool it Now” New Edition

Heather: 33:56
My website’s SlowWalkersSeeMore.com. So that’s like my condition and my personal mantra.

TR:
Facebook, Twitter and IG.

Heather:
at h Watkins nine to seven.

TR in Conversation with Heather & Lisa: 34:10
You can find Philly’s finest Lisa Bryant on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Lisa:
@ByLisaBryant

TR in conversation with Heather & Lisa:
Appreciate y’all for coming here and sharing your experiences. And you know, that makes you official, members of the Reid My Mind Radio family. So salute y’all, I appreciate you.

Lisa: 34:28
Thank you, Thomas. This is great.

TR: 34:31
Big shout out to all our sisters out there doing your thing. In fact, that’s how we began 2022 doing your thing with disability. We then had to flip the script on audio description. You know how we do it. And by the way, don’t forget to check out this year’s ACB Audio Description Awards Gala, hosted by yours truly. This year. I’m happy to say I have a co-host one of our Reid my Mind Radio family sisters and alumni, Nefertiti Matos Olivares, who is also providing audio description. We had some fun filming and I hope you all check it out. No spoilers. It drops on November 29 2022 On Pluto TV and of course ACBADAwardsGala.org.Check the site for times and official information.

So this is the last episode of The Year y’all but I feel like spreading some holiday cheer this year. So make sure to keep a watch out for a special episode. The best way to do that is to make sure you subscribe or follow wherever you get podcast. And we have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com.

All you got to do is remember it’s R to the E I… D!

Sample: “D and that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick
NS be in a place to be
TR:
like my last name!

— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

TR:
peace

Hide the transcript

Doing Your Thing With Disability: We Play Too

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

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

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

Listen

Resources

Jerry Lawson – Father of the video game cartridge

Transcript

Transcript

Show the transcript


– Sound of Pong

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

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

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

— Space Invaders sounds

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

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

-introduction from Duke Nukem

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s been lots of things happening!

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

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

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

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

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

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

TR:

This is Brandon Cole, an award winning Accessibility Consultant

Brandon:

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

TR:

Well, we have something in common.

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

TR:

His introduction to video games began with his older brother.

Brandon:

He was like, hey, Brandon.

–Mario Bros coin collecting and upgrading sounds

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

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

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

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

TR:

Then?

Brandon:

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

I mean, what do you even say to that?

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

TR:

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

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

Brandon:

I did learn that I could follow sound effect patterns.

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

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

And I never looked back since.

TR in conversation with Brandon:

There you go. Older siblings.

Brandon:

Take that!

Brandon:

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

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

TR:

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

-– Metal Gear Solid music plays

Brandon:

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

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

TR:

So step Dad let Brandon figure it out.

Brandon:

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

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

TR:

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

Qualities many disabled people seem to have in abundance.

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

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

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

Orlando:

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

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

Orlando:

Let’s get it!

TR:

Again, I have something in common with my guest.

Orlando:

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

TR:

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

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

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

Orlando:

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

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

Orlando:

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

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

Orlando:

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Talk about it!

Orlando:

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

TR:

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

Orlando:

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

That is so cool!

TR:

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

Orlando:

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

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

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

TR:

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

Orlando:

Technology was always my jam.

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

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Did you know about voiceover at the time?

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

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

TR:

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

Orlando:

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

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

TR:

But even first reading the menu requires some work.

Orlando:

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

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

Brandon:

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

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

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about folks who are deaf or hard of hearing?

Brandon:

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

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

Brandon:

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

A little bit of a shout out.

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

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

Boom!

–Jazzy hip hop music begins to play

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

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

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

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

–laughs

I rock a Mohawk 24/7.

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

TR in conversation with Eron:

–Laughing

Nice!

TR:

Eron is also a wheelchair user.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

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

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

TR:

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

I’m sure there are other benefits.

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

Eron:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

Now, that controller has the worst background.

–Laughs

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

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

TR:

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

Eron:

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

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

TR:

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

Eron:

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

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Eron:

So what is your setup?

Eron:

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

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

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

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

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

–Both Thomas and Eron laugh

I make it work, though.

TR:

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

Eron:

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

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

TR:

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

Eron:

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

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

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

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

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

Brandon:

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

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

Eron:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Eron:

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

Eron:

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

TR:

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

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

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

Brandon:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Are there any considerations for folks with monocular vision today?

Brandon:

I don’t know anything specifically for monocular vision.

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

Brandon:

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

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

TR:

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

But who has time for them?

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

Orlando:

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

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

TR:

And he tried a lot of platforms.

Orlando:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Why?

Orlando:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

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

TR:

It is cool though!

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

It sounds like maybe a metaphor about adjusting to disability?

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

As if video games could provide some other benefits.

Brandon:

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

TR:

There’s games to help make exercise fun.

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

TR:

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

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

Eron:

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Eron:

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

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

wha… What?!

TR in converswation with Brandon:

Why do they always go there?

TR:

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

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

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

But there are other reasons to be excited.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

Brandon:

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

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

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

TR:

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

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

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

Brandon:

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

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The developer has to be involved in that.

Brandon:

Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah heavily.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

Brandon:

Oh yeah, they are, for sure are.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Yeah, so that’s fantastic.

Brandon:

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

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

TR:

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

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

Orlando:

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

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

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

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

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

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

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

Orlando:

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

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

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

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

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

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

TR:

That’s, Brandon Cole AKA

Brandon:

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

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

So on Battlenet I’m SuperBlindMa.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

SuperBlindMa?! M A?

–Laughs….

Brandon:

Yes, yes. M A.

Brandon:

SuperBlindMa#1859 is my Battlenet tech tag.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

Brandon:

They sure can.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

If they want to lose!

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

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

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

TR:

Orlando!

Orlando:

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

Tr in conversation with Orlando:

And that was a Japanese Blind swordsman, right?

Orlando:

That’s exactly right!

TR:

And of course Eron.

Eron:

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

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

–Laughs

TR:

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

-Airhorn

…members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Eron:

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

TR:

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

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

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

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

We have transcripts and more over on ReidMyMind.com

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

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Audio: Reid My Mind Outro
Peace!

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