The Superfest 2023 ReidPlay

October 11th, 2023  / Author: T.Reid

Various stills from 2023 Superfest films, show a diversity of genres, types of disabilities, geographic regions and more. Text reads: Superfest Disability Film Festival.

I’m a fan of Superfest Disability Film Festival and I think you will be too if you’re not already.

I could have written and or recorded a post about the festival, but I decided to replay an episode from 2020 so you can find out all about the history of the festival, the process of selecting films , the meaning of disability 201 films and more about the longmore center.

! Superfest is the longest running disability film festival in the world. Since 1970, it has celebrated cinema that portrays disability through a diverse, unabashed and engaging lens.

Now, in its 37th festival, hybrid for the second year, with new levels of access.
* View the 2023 lineup of 15 incredible films here.
* The festival will run virtually October 19th through 22nd with all 15 films available for screening online.
Check out more details about the virtual screening and access. Passes start at $0!

Whether joining in person or online, reserve your pass here today!



Show the transcript

Greetings! R Double M Radio Family!
I know I told you I wasn’t planning on producing any more episodes for the year.
But, I also suggested you stay tuned because sometimes I get a bit of inspiration to say something.

Well, I thought I’d drop a replay or as I like to call them,
a Reid Play or
Reidpeat or ReidBroadcast…

See, I like to add my name to … ahh! you get it!

I wanted to ReidMindsome …
[You’re doing too much bro!]
and let others know that
In just a little over a week from the publishing of this episode,
the best disability film festival on the planet will begin!
I’m talking about Superfest Disability Film Festival!
The oldest festival of its kind,
Superfest brings a Disability 201 approach to
disability storytelling in cinema on
October 19through the twenty second with in-person and virtual viewing options.

Featuring 15 films from a range of genres, geographic regions, and intersectional identities,
there’s something for every viewer,
presented with advanced access features to make that possible.

And of course that includes Audio Description!

passes start at 0 dollars so that no one is turned away for lack of funds.
That includes access to the films and panel discussions.

If you can, go ahead and pay a little something or a little something’ something’!
It’s worth it!

I can’t hide it y’all!
I’m a big fan of Superfest as well as the Longmore Institute on Disability

That’s what inspired me to share this episode from 2020 called
Superfest Disability Film festival: Going Above & Beyond

It gives you a look into the history of the festival,
an explanation of how films are selected,
the meaning of disability 201 films and more about the longmore center

So check out this episode then go on over to

Tell your friends and family. I mean, if you love them.

And now, let’s go back to 2020. Well, you know what I mean.

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music


My name is Cathy kudlick and I’m Director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University. I should spell out Longmore because so many people here it as lawn mower, but it’s Longmore. It’s a disability cultural center. We try to kind of get people to think about disability in new and creative and innovative ways.

I’m a History professor in addition to my role as Director at the Longmore Institute and I teach Disability History among other things and I come at this largely as somebody who grew up with a serious vision impairment and was in complete denial through much of my life trying to pass and pretend and all of those things and then a random encounter with somebody and then started to read more about blindness tuff and disability stuff and all of that led to kind of start to say hey there’s nothing to be ashamed of here so why not embrace what’s really cool about this and think about it in new ways.


Thinking about disability in new ways. We’re going to come back to that.

If you’ve been riding with Reid My Mind Radio, you’re probably thinking we’re about to dive into Cathy’s journey. It’s obvious, Cathy’s story falls in line with this podcast’s mission. Well, for now that’s not the case. She has however, agreed to come back to share her story on a future episode.

Today’s episode is all about the…

(Audio: “Super, Super Super, from Super Rhymes by Jimmy Spicer)

Superfest Disability Film Festival.

Also here to take us through the festival is Emily Beitiks the Associate Director at the Longmore Institute on Disability.


I’m the Coordinator of Superfest. I work with the film makers each year to help them audio describe their films and work with the audience each year as we kind of learn from them what works what doesn’t work and bring Superfest into other arenas to kind of broaden the reach of where our films are seen and introducing people to audio description for the first time when I do school assemblies or go to libraries or not your traditional Superfest audience. I’m a non-Disabled accomplice in this world. My mom had a disability since before I was born so I’ve been really passionate about bringing my own experiences kind of straddling both worlds experiencing disability discrimination and also participating in it as being a non-disabled person.


Let’s start with a bit of history.


Superfest was started in Southern California in Los Angeles in 1970. It switched hands to various organizations over the years and migrated up to the Bay area where it was run for many years by Culture Disability Talent. It was a really well loved grass roots effort volunteer lead.

Running an event like this solely with volunteers can be a challenge. In 2012, Superfest found a new home with The Paul K Longmore Institute on Disabilities and The San Francisco Lighthouse.


It was just kind of a very exciting match because the Longmore Institute was just getting started in a new sort of way as our founder Paul Longmore had passed away and Cathy had come on as Director and Lighthouse was a really established organization but focusing more on direct services and was interested to kind of push their boundaries by doing some more cultural programming.

We partnered up and ran Superfest for the past seven years.


The festival, which originally was not an annual event, is now headed into its 34th year. This will be the first time it’s solely run by the Longmore Institute, as the Lighthouse leadership decided to focus on other programming.


We were really lucky to have that partnership with Lighthouse for many years because they just had a sort of organizational structure for like getting the bills paid and the reservations booked that moved a lot faster than we were capable of when we were just getting started. We’re really lucky that they waited and gave us a lot of warning because now we’ve been up and running for some time and we’re ready to run the ship by ourselves.


The other thing that kind of got thrown into this that makes it less hard to measure what the big change is you know with Covid how much of this is ultimately going to be online anyway. We’re still trying to decide. We don’t quite know if the venues we want to have it at in mid-October are going to be open and ready and all that. So it’s hard to measure exactly what a new Superfest without Lighthouse is going to be like.


Fortunately, Superfest in October won’t be their first go at managing events online.


For the last few years, we do an annual event called the Longmore Lecture in Disability Studies and we had started to experiment with using Zoom to live stream that event to be able to bring it to people that by nature of their disabilities they couldn’t come or geographically they couldn’t come in person. When shelter in place hit and we’re here in San Francisco which is one of the first places in the country that got the official lockdown, we kind of saw it as a real opportunity, we’re like oh, we can do online programming. We’ve had experience with this and we could figure out how to bring it to a festival environment.

The challenge in presenting films online is the threat of pirating.

Audio: Scene from Pirates of the Caribbean”

“You are without doubt, the worse Pirate I’ve ever heard of.”

Jack Sparrow: “But you have heard of me”


But I knew I’d worked with enough film makers over the years who I could reach out to that their primary mission was just for people to see their films. So the risk of possibly somebody making an illegal recording was just not as big of a concern. The more people that see this film the better.


Some of the films included work from Reid My Mind Radio family members Cheryl Green & Day Al-Mohammed.


People really need this right now. People are cut off from their community and at the same moment that there’s so much hurtful and ablest rhetoric circulating around disability. And so to be able to spend an evening or an afternoon watching some disability films it also really brings people together and celebrate disability and get at the nuances of life with a disability that certainly the mainstream media doesn’t always get, just felt like a really important possibility.


My initial interest in featuring Superfest here on the podcast began with access. I was really impressed with the way they just for me at least, appeared to come out of nowhere and start providing content for the disability community. The way they do access; not only did I feel included, but knowing others were also able to participate just felt like something I should share with the Reid My Mind Radio family.

I wasn’t the only one reacting.


One person was like I’ve never been able to participate in any sort of film festival in my life because I spend most of my time in the bed. They said this was just incredible to get to be part of this. Another one that stood out was a guy who stayed up super late to watch in Kenya with a group of friends and was like that was absolutely worth staying up for. Now I have a group of friends and we’re going to watch all your programs. And he certainly has.

So just being able to bring this program to people that don’t have what we have in the Bay area has been really exciting.


Emily thought to do another really cool one which was Superfest Kids which was kind of a nice home schooling moment I guess, with disability awareness and it was all geared towards kids. How many people did we have on that one? Do you remember?


We had about 150. A number of people were like my kids are supposed to be on a Zoom call with their class right now but this is a more important lesson.


A lesson that more of us need no matter our age.

For the unfamiliar, the idea of a disability film is something like;


Oh Disabled people are people too and isn’t it great that they’re there and this is a positive happy uplifting story. It’s not a depressing one whatever. Those are fine, but we highlight what we think is disability 201 – films that share the creativity and the ingenuity or the unexpectedness or the intersections of disability with other kinds of identities.


Identities like race, gender, sexuality

Considering the idea of Disability 101 versus 201, you may think those new to disability should begin sequentially. Cathy however doesn’t see it that way.


I would say go to Superfest right away because if you’ve even thought about disability for five seconds or anybody around you has thought about it, chances are they’ve seen some version. It’s usually some films by a family member or friend that just thinks wow you know it’s really great that so and so with fill in the disability and then fill in what they did. They either traveled somewhere or they climbed a mountain or they went to school.


The 101 or 201 classification isn’t about good or bad. The distinguishing factor between the two is 101 films aren’t often made with disabled people in mind.


We want people to sort of think about disability as experimental and as interesting and as passionate and not just as yet another feel good story about somebody climbing a mountain because they started to be more comfortable with their disability or they needed to prove themselves. We want to ask them to think about well what happens when that person comes down from the mountain. What’s their life like after that?


That’s another difference. The 101 films feature a single disability experience.

But the 201 version would have them speaking to other disabled people and kind of bonding. There would be some sort of connection and some sort of excitement and engagement. It’s not just like one person being show cased all by themselves.

It might be that they have a quirky view on things and they change the thinking of other disabled people or they changed the thinking of people around them to give an unexpected perspective on the world around them.


The 201 films like Superfest, really center disabled people. And at the end of the day, as Emily explains, the goal is pretty simple.


We’re just trying to not have them be bored. Even if you are new to finding your disability identity, typically a 201 film can just go a lot farther with pushing people’s buttons and thinking like wow, there’s this whole world of thinking about disability that I haven’t seen before.

A few years back we came up with a list that we kind of think of 10 things that define disability 201 and what Superfest is all about. Things you’re going to find at Superfest that you’re not going to find anywhere else.


These are things like;
People with disabilities as the main characters
Intersectionality – people with disabilities aren’t just white men as often portrayed in movies. So at Superfest, you’ll see representation from Black, Latinex, and LGBT people with disabilities.

I’ll include a link to these ten categories on this episodes blog post at

At Superfest, all screenings include open Audio Description. So unlike when you attend a film at your local theater and you request the headset and receiver to privately stream the audio description, these films have the description streaming with the main audio. As Cathy notes, this does require some introduction for an audience unfamiliar with AD.


You’re going to hear this and you’re not used to it. Think about it as a new way of watching films. I’ve often thought of it as in that context of when they introduced talking to silent films. It’s another layer that people weren’t ready for and then suddenly like woh this is very new. The problem with that though is it can be sensory overload for people that have processing or cognitive stuff going on


A challenge of producing a film festival like Superfest is the idea that creating access for one group of people may unintentionally exclude another group.

For example, Emily talked about a film called To Be or not To Be. It featured a young man with Cerebral Palsy in Kazakhstan. The film which was in Russian, required translation. For sighted users, printed sub titles along the bottom portion of the screen will do the trick. Blind viewers require over dubbing.


The focus of the film is really his incredible acting abilities. In making it accessible to the Blind we were then losing hearing this actor with CP and his own voice telling his own life story. So it was a really tough example of like a competing accommodation of wanting to bring access to the Blind but not wanting to lose this man’s voice.


This particular film worked out because it had enough quiet space that the description and dubbing was staggered to allow the actors voice to be heard. For this very reason, Superfest now determines which films are better suited for open description but offers closed description for others.


So much of our work is working with these film makers to teach them, think about the problem and have tough conversations as we do it so that hopefully people are thinking about it in advance of making their films.
[TR in conversation with Emily:]

So what is that process like, of teaching the film makers?


Well, when they apply to participate in Superfest, there’s a requirement box that they have to check that says that they’ll get their films captioned and audio described.


Most of those who apply are in agreement with this philosophy. In some cases especially for independent film makers, the cost of captioning and describing, while small in comparison to other production costs, can present a challenge.


A lot of our film makers are able to get it done. Other times we have to work and get creative about finding funds ourselves to be able to cover those expenses or find funders that are willing to do it for them. With each film kind of think it through with the film makers and sort of talk through the strategies.


Funding is just one of the challenges. Some films may just be packed with dialog and visuals leaving little space or no space for description. Emily and Cathy explain how one such instance was managed and how the result can be a win for all involved.


And so we were like we’re going to just have to add pauses to the film to do this right and get some of that Audio Description in. There were going to be visuals that like everyone in the crowd who was sighted was going to laugh at that and we didn’t want to risk that people would not get to experience those jokes. And so we built in those pauses and I think this film maker was super up for it.


You know when audio description’s done badly it’s horrible, it’s like suffocating on something that’s beautiful and something that’s not. But when it’s done well it kind of coaxes out some great stuff that’s already in there and enhances it. So she got somebody to audio describe the film that had the same snarky tone that the images did. So it totally enhanced the images for everybody.


We’re introducing it to them for the first time but we’re also really trying to empower them to be advocates for what the final product is and be like you know your film best. You know if that visual right there matters or if that was just some B roll you needed to fill the shot. The more active that they can be in the audio description process if they do outsource, the better the results have been.


To me that’s the dream of a Superfest audio description experience where the film maker says woh this made my film better!


Currently, English and American Sign Language (ASL) are the only supported languages. However, an online festival offering multiple links for various languages would simplify the process in comparison to a live physical audience.

Getting that audience whether in person or not takes work.


Shout out to our wonderful student assistants. Every time we have an event they get an email from me like okay, here’s the audience for this one, think of everybody you can and send them this email. We have like a big list of disability organizations all across the country, but then with each one we’re like who can we reach that would not have any interest in attending a disability film festival but because of this new sort of twist on it right, might be interested.


Selecting the students, or Longmore fellows, as Cathy refers to them is not about finding interns to get the job done.


We try to hire as many students with disabilities and put them in the majority as our kind of student workers but also we’re educating them and bringing them into community with each other about new ideas around disability.


The students are experiencing the mission of Superfest, advocacy, education and community building. All done through the phase one judging of the films.


It’s almost like a class but we get paid internships for students with disabilities to come and basically watch like 190 – 200 films and have to Weddle it down to like 10 or 15. And we teach them and they teach each other and they become advocates and learn about representation of disability and all these things by working together.


Both Cathy and Emily lead the interns in discussions about the films. With each of the students coming to disability from different angles as you can imagine, the conversations are rich and engaging.

For more on Superfest jurors, check out episode 76 of Alice Wong’s Disability Visibility Podcast. I’ll hook you up with that link on

While much of the world got caught flat footed during the pandemic, we see how the team at Superfest was in a position to quickly respond.


We have always evolved with new twists and turns each year.

Emily & Cathy:
There’s always something!


The BART Station right by the venue was down. We created a bus bridge to another BART station. We found out like that morning at the festival.


One year we arrived at one of our venues and the night before they had painted a wall like right outside the entrance to our auditorium. So the fumes were going to be a serious problem for anyone with chemical sensitivity. We’re like, alright great let’s figure it out. We’re going to get some fans in here. We’re going to reroute and everyone’s going to enter through the back.

We’ve been giving advice to some of the other film festivals not just disability film festivals but film festivals period with how to do online programming. I think that’s a great example of like when you’re in the disability community you’re used to things not being made for you because of ableism. That gives you this adaptability and flexibility and like our festival has that spirit.


The Superfest Film Festival will take place on October 17 & 18, 2020.

With 15 films all falling within the range that Superfest aims to include.


Different disabilities featured, a mixture of documentaries that look at some of the honest hardships of life with a disability and others that are light and hilarious and really get at some of the funniest moments insider humor inside the disability community. A lot of really incredible artistic films that explore the beauty that comes with disabled bodies and disabled dance movement.


This year’s set of films consist of 14 short and 1 feature film.


Called God Given Talent that explores a local Oakland based artist who’s Black and Blind. Really looking forward to sharing that more local story.


And yes, you are going to hear more about that particular artist in an upcoming episode right here on the podcast.

For more on the films included in this year’s Superfest lineup visit
You can learn more about the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at
They’re on Twitter @LongmoreInst and Facebook
Or, just check out this episodes blog post at for all the links.

Superfest sounds like much more than a film festival. In fact, I see it as a resource for those adjusting to blindness.

Chances are those new to blindness or disability in general haven’t spent much time critically thinking about disability. Being new to the experience is an opportunity to examine all that’s been accumulating in the sub conscious over the years. The films featured in Superfest encourage us to move our thinking about disability to a conscious level.

Take a look at the list of 10 things defining the 201 films and Superfest. They resemble some of what I’ve been learning along this journey of adjusting to blindness. Like;
* Recognizing the various ways disability intersects with other identities
* Exploring disability as a political and social issue, not just medical
* Seeing ourselves throughout all aspects of society and finding friendships within the community.

In fact, now that I think about it, Superfest sort of reminds me of how I feel about this podcast.


People need to know about this. it’s just such a great opportunity and it’s kind of great that it’s gone under the radar for so many people for so many years but on the other hand it just would be so great to have it be really, really well known. It’s so beloved and people are so excited about it and every year people come and they’re just like woh, we never thought of this. This is so amazing.


I’m just sayin’!

While I’m looking forward to Superfest being online this year because I personally get to attend, I know there’s no replacement for that in person experience. I look forward to one day being able to participate in person. I get the sense that it could be a similar experience to my first blindness conference. That sense of belonging or community.

Audio: It’s Official…

Cathy Kudlick…
Emily Beitiks…
And Superfest…

Its official! You know you’re part of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Come hang out with yours truly and the rest of the cool kids watching some fun, interesting and thought provoking films. Head over to to check out the lineup and grab your ticket. Don’t forget the snacks and drinks. (You gotta have the snacks and drinks.)

Subscribe wherever you get podcasts!
Transcripts & more are over at And yes, that’s R to the E I D
(Audio: “D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Outro


Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: NO ONE WILL SAVE US Part 2

September 27th, 2023  / Author: T.Reid

Graphic: Amidst the isolation of a barren island and beach, an eerie scene unfolds. The darkness is punctuated only by the desperate silhouette of people, grasping towards a distant beam of light in the starry night sky. The text reads: NO ONE WILL SAVE US.  PART TWO

Joining me to discuss some of the challenges facing the production of quality audio description are Eric Wickstrom, Director of Audio Description at International Digital Center – IDC and Head of Studios at Descriptive Video Works, Rhys Lloyd.

We’re not just talking about the problems. These two offer some real tangible solutions to many of the most pressing obstacles facing broadcast & streaming audio description.

I couldn’t think of a better way to conclude both this two part episode and the 2023 Flipping the Script season.

If you haven’t taken a listen to part one, pause here and check it out. When you’re done, come right back…glad you’re back!! Let’s go!



Show the transcript

Last time on Reid My Mind Radio

— Audio Transition
— From Flipping the Script on Audio Description: NO ONE WILL SAVE US

Now that we heard from someone quite familiar with captions, do you think that’s the bar we as advocates for audio description should be striving to reach?

Think about that while I bring on our next guests

— Music begins, a bright mid-tempo beat!
Hi, my name is Eric Wickstrom. I am the director of audio description for international digital center. pronouns are he him?

Hi, my name is Rhys Lloyd. I’m the studio head for Descriptive Video Works. My pronouns are he him.

When anyone asks me for examples of quality audio description tracks for networks and streaming platforms, IDC and DVW are the two I tell people to check out.

Are their others? Yes. But they don’t check off the boxes that these two do.
Let’s keep it real! IDC helped kick off the inclusion and hiring of Blind narrators. Their not the first, but to my knowledge they’ve done the most. If I’m wrong, please educate me –

DVW also is doing the same and employs Blind QC.

— Audio Transition
Welcome back to Reid My Mind Radio.

We’re in the final episode of the Flipping the Script on Audio Description season or part two of No One Will Save Us.
We’re taking a look at the current state of audio description in order to determine how
we can best advocate for improved quality and a wider adoption.

If you haven’t listened to part one, pause here and take a listen. We’ll wait!

Ok, you’re back? Let’s get it!

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro


When I invited Eric and Rhys to join me on the podcast,
I asked them each to bring three to five issues that most threaten the future of AD and some thoughts as to what we can do about them.

I mean, there’s a few things that stand out. Obviously, TTS synthetic speech, however you want to phrase it, I think that’s a problem.
It impacts our voiceover folks. But it also affects every area downstream for audio description.

A lot of companies that have no business being in this space are in this space. And they’re in it in major ways.

I don’t have access to enough quality writers day in and day out. Sometimes I feel like really, truly great writers. So if I don’t have access to it, these companies definitely don’t. But somehow they’re managing to crank out absurd amounts of audio description, with people that have no business writing it or being involved in it.

The quantity is more than it’s ever been. And because of that the quality is lesser than it’s ever been, which is a sad reflection on it.


While there’s definitely a relationship between TTS and the influx of companies less concerned with quality, we’ll consider these as two separate issues.

And then we have ongoing problems, in my opinion, with a lack of folks of color, being involved in the writing process, and in the voice over process.

I think the fourth thing that’s problematic right now still is the lack of involvement from members of the blind community in the process of creating audio description, whether it be voiceover writing, QC, what have you. I don’t think many companies are doing a good enough job still involving folks in the community.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
Cool. Rhys?



TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:


The only thing that sits outside of that, that I would add to it is that we still haven’t solved this devilish problem of accessibility content, traveling with the content and moving from service to service

I feel like this is my sort of, DaVinci Code like I’m trying to solve this, this and solvable mystery, and I think the answer is that there that that is really, really straightforward. because it’s so straightforward, it’s remained unsolved.

And then maybe one other thing I would throw in is that I don’t think there’s enough people in prominent positions in audio description that are thinking about what it could be, who are pushing the industry forward. I think there’s Eric, there’s the folks at DVW that I work with, but I don’t sense pressure coming from behind to make me go, oh, I need to be even more on it. Because there’s other people who are like really pushing the envelope out there, both whether it’s creatively, or whether it’s like looking at the broad reach. We’re really, at a really early stage of audio description, if you think about how visual our world is, and how inaccessible that is, including all the video content that exists on the internet that is untouched.

Let’s start with the problem of the pass through or the idea that audio description should travel with the content.
This would eliminate the problem of turning on one channel to watch a film that you know had AD in the theater or on a different streaming network,
but it’s not available on the current platform.

This is my opinion, Rhys , you can correct me if you think I’m wrong. Unlike captioning, which is mandated federally to be on everything, everything has to have captioning, we’re still picking and choosing based on I don’t know what criteria is, what has to have audio description, and what doesn’t. So it’s only when that content comes into the worlds of the big top cable networks at the top streaming services, places where they’re being legally mandated, where they have to commission those files. So those files, then live at that individual streaming service, or that individual network, instead of living with the content from inception, like it should. Like the captioning does. captioning has to live with the asset before it goes anywhere.

So if we can get audio description being mandated on every asset level, like captioning, that would solve that problem entirely.

The other way to solve that is networks communicating.

Doesn’t that seem like a simple solution; communication?

I think the simplest answer is, it’s too much still left to the individual networks to deal with, instead of having it being, you know, inherent to the assets at inception every time.

I would totally agree with you on that.

I sort of see the solution to the pass through being that instead of it being a pull, it has to be a push instead of the downstream content rights holder, remembering to ask for it. It should be pushed with all the other assets, it should just be automatic. If those who have the asset and are licensing it to someone else, we’re just to go, Hey, here’s the AD track. I mean, I don’t know what happens in those negotiations. But I can’t imagine the cost of that being exponential given the investment. I do see a push model works better than a pull model in this case.

With all of the technology available to us today, communication shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s such a quicker fix compared to enacting legislation.

I’ll take a slightly more optimistic view.

I don’t think it necessarily requires the legislation to be enacted, I think people like to get ahead of legislation because they don’t want to be slammed by the requirement and have no idea what they’re going to do. And because I think this is a relatively simple problem to solve, I think it any hint that this is going to be included in future legislation would probably Unbreak that dam.

I’ve had this dream of like getting everybody in a room and going can we all have a grown up conversation. There are impediments, but none of them are insurmountable, and just require somebody at each of these organizations to focus on it. And, and then however we up making that happen, as an industry remains to be seen.

The other issue is, quantity is important but we need to focus on quality because, you know, if we mandate that every network has to have audio description, I can promise you, Rhys and I are not going to get much busier, but there’s gonna be a bunch of companies that are going to be slammed with work and doing a very poor job.

It’s important that everything is accessible, but it needs to be properly accessible.
There has to be a quality product otherwise why are we doing it in the first place? Take some pride in it.

Next up, let’s talk about getting more Blind people involved in every aspect of the AD production process.

I go a step further. It’s not just about the production aspects of this. I think that there’s all too many people involved in the creation of audio description, whether that be our clients or the companies that produce audio description, who’ve never met a blind person, never had a conversation with a blind person about audio description.

It’s also I think, incumbent on companies like ours that specialized in this field, to elevate the voices of the community and to put people in positions where they’ll interact with the clients. And so that that is an opportunity organically, to start to hear from the community.

I’ll just say that I think it’s shameful in our industry, how few companies are actively trying to hire, Blind talent. The impediments not significant, and I think both, I don’t want to speak for Eric, but I know that he’s been open about sharing information with me and with other companies, I’ve been the same in terms of like, the talent that’s out there, the approach the how we work in the recording booths, how we work with blind QC talent, and, and so it’s not like there’s this like, secret sauce, that we’re all keeping hidden. We were both out there talking about it. Because we want other people to do it.

I think the secret sauce is the understanding that the impediment is not significant. It’s the willingness to go beyond the current process and consider accommodations.
That goes beyond anything Blind talent can bring to the table.

It’s almost understandable when you consider how from it’s start, the production of AD has closely aligned with a charity model. Like rehab or social services where the so called experts who studies blindness
determine what Blind people need with little to no involvement FROM THE COMMUNITY.

I will say that I think more blind involvement raises the quality of the audio description, simply because it getting that voice into the creation. And it’s making sure that perspective is represented in the creation. And if you don’t think that’s important, then you don’t think quality is important.

100%. What I’ve said many times is that I don’t think there should be anything proprietary about accessible workflows, I think that that if you figure something out, share it.

Actually, Thomas, to your credit, if we’re going to go even one step further back through talking to you and onboarding you, and working through our first project together and developing the workflows to work with blind voice over talent, I learned a lot. And then I worked with other folks, and they wanted to do a different way. So you know, over the course of the first year and a half, we had four to five different workflows that we just developed. And Reese called me up, and he said, tell me what’s up. And so we did, we got on a call. And we talked and I made that same offer to half a dozen other people and only one other person has ever taken me up on it.

While not many companies reached out to Eric, there were some who were still interested in working with Blind talent.

Personally, I don’t want my accommodation to remotely approach being an over burdening task for someone.
Then again, over burdening is in the eye of the beholder.

Remember, during the pandemic, the workflow changed for everyone.
AD Narrators were scrambling to setup home studios.
Scripts and voice files were being delivered via the internet. Whether that was through some secured proprietary system or via cloud services like Drop Box, the workflow was similar.

Here’s the thing, once a company realizes it’s process is inaccessible to assistive technology
and refuses to adjust or accommodate for that,
that company is making a decision to exclude Blind professionals. Period!

just three weeks ago, Thomas I had a phone call or an email from another company seeking to work with a blind talent. But telling me, they’re not set up for it. They’re not planning on getting set up for it. So would I mind doing all of the work to record the talent, s them the raw stems, they would then take credit for the project and put it out there like look, we’re working with Bline people, but they didn’t want to do any of the legwork to actually set themselves up to do the work.

They wanted me to do all the work so they could take all the credit this happened like within the last month, and
This is a big company. I’m not going to name names But I could, but it’s a big, much bigger company.

The conversation was embarrassing, but they felt no shame having it with me.
I don’t know if it’s coming across that it’s frustrating. I’m annoyed by it.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
A little bit.

I appreciate that frustration.

This conversation is specifically about audio description, but as we approach National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, we need to consider that whatever is at the core of keeping Blind people out of AD is applicable to every other industry.

What can be done to change this?

I engage on social media. But it wasn’t really until you and I connected Thomas, where like, it started becoming this, this really accelerated workflow, to try to get people involved in the process, But in fairness, that’s because Liz Guttman and I had that conversation, hey, we think this is important. We need to start doing this.

And then as soon as we started doing it, I think Rhys kind of around the same timeframe. He was like, Yeah, us too.
I thought that after we did it, everybody will be like, Yeah, let’s all do it, and not the case, which is incredible.

To that point, I think part of the reason we would have had that expectation is I think it coincided with an increase in the quality of work that both our companies are producing. I don’t know if that’s coincidental or directly related, but I think that’s true. And also, I like to be perfectly blunt, it’s more interesting and more fun to do it this way. And why wouldn’t you try to make the work you do more interesting and more fun, and more meaningful?
It’s a little bit of additional thought. Your thoughts are free, so spend a bit of that thought.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
The lack of BIPOC writers and narrators.
How does this get resolved?

I think anyone with a conscience and a sense of things can step back from AD and recognize that we have a representation issue is industry. I think that the vast, the overwhelming majority of speaking only about English audio description, but the English audio description that’s being produced is being written by white people.

I know that every AD writer strives for some level of objectivity. But the reality is that everybody sees things through subjective lens.
I think we are getting homogeneity of description, just demographically.

In terms of what can you do about it?

That’s a little bit more complicated. It requires a little bit of investment, and willingness to spend some time digging, willingness to find allies willingness to push harder, and to call out that it’s a problem and then do something about it, instead of just calling up that its a problem and walking away from it.

When it comes to this issue of representation, if we really want to fix it, it can’t be a patch work approach. It needs to be a part of the foundation.
And with all do respect to those who laid the AD foundation, cultural competence was never a part of that core structure.

I’ve been asked why it’s important. What is the value of having culturally appropriate casting in a show?

One aspect of it is not discord for the audience, that’s important. But the thing is, the actual work done is going to be done better by somebody for whom the content is meaningful. And the experience of working on that project for everyone involved is going to be better if the content is meaningful to the people who are working on it. You actually elevate the product. Not only are you not doing something wrong, you’re doing something better.

As far as the writers, Rhys and I are gonna have some cross pollination on this one.

So there’s a film festival out of Philadelphia called the BlackStar Film Festival, that we’ve worked with at IDC for a couple of years now doing some tracks for them. And last year, they did a Writing Lab, where we were not involved with. But then after the festival, I reached out to the organizers of the festival and Liz Guttman , and I talk to them.
So this year, Liz did level one training with them. And then I got wind that the next step was going to be Rhys , taking them in the fall and doing a level two.

We’re launching an initiative to train some writers from underrepresented communities in the AD scripting community where that’s happening in September.
It’s an internal initiative. We’re doing it on our own dime. These AD writers will come up with strong training and be available for anybody to hire. There’s no like, they’ll become DVW employees so that there’s opportunities for Eric to benefit from that for any of the other AD providers to benefit from that.

It was something where I tried to figure out this problem was like how do I like leverage this for my Helping companies benefit for years. And then I realized, you know what the rationale is? I don’t I just need to do it for the services benefit. So we’re trying to increase it, or at least we DVW are. And I know IDC are very much aligned with us on, from this perspective, trying to increase the number of different voices that are allowed to participate in this conversation about AD.

Meanwhile, IDC continued to work with the BlackStar cohort of writers. They even received some level 2 training from IDC head writer Liz Guttman.

And they got to work hand in hand with Steven Christopher, one of my writers, and one of the best QC guys in the business and did really in depth feedback on all the scripts.

some really took to it well, others obviously needed some more work, like anything, but it was really encouraging. I think there was eight to 10 people we got to work with. And I think the vast majority are going to be going on now to DVW and continuing on into more training. I actually onboarded one of them this morning officially to write something for Netflix for me, which is super exciting.

And coincidentally, a documentary based around the black experience in America in the history of racism. So like timing wise, it’s exactly the kind of project that we’ve been clamoring to have folks from the community available to write to reach this point. Today, because it’s important for the perspective and the point of view.

It’s been something that I know I’ve been personally frustrated about because we’ve tried over the years we have tried outreach, we’ve on boarded folks. This has been an ongoing pursuit for the last couple of years. And I think we finally found a pipeline through Blackstar to do this.

I for one am excited about growing the AD space to include more representation. But let’s be clear, that’s not a replacement for cultural competence.

just because you’re white doesn’t mean you can’t write something that’s sensitive, and proper that focuses around black issues, you just have to be curious enough to want to do a good job.

There was a movie a few years ago called The harder they fall on Netflix, that Liz wrote. And she spent a lot of time researching the clothes in the hairstyles and reaching out the people and saying, How would you like that to be described?

Really trying to do a good job to the point where it actually got written up on a blog for being so well done in terms of representing skin tones and hairstyles and being called out for members of the Black community for being so culturally proper or sensitive or trying to do a good job in those regards.

Now, at the time, do we wish we had a writer of color to write that script? We absolutely did. But that doesn’t mean that we can take the excuse of like, Oh, we’re just white folks. No, you have to still try to get in there and honor the material and be proper and respectful of it.

It’s worth taking a look at how that curiosity works to strengthen the final product.

I always credit when I hired Liz, to write for me, I had a great base of writers. But that’s really when we took the next step to becoming what I feel like we’ve become one of the leaders in the field.

A lot of what made Liz great and makes her great now, is her curiosity. She’s constantly going to workshops, she’s constantly talking to members in the community. She’s constantly reading research papers and things that I can’t even my brain, I just glaze over.

She’s always digging deeper and figuring more stuff out.
How do we make it better? How do we get to the next level.
And again, it’s never good enough for us, we want to be better.
We don’t always get there when we try.
If that’s not your goal every day getting up going to work. Like if you’re not taking pride in your job every day, like I’m going to do a great, I’m gonna do better today than I did yesterday, then you should find something else to do that fulfills you in some way, because clearly this is not it.

I think there’s a dearth of people in our field that are driven by curiosity. I think we need more people who are looking broadly at like, what can be done, or is the industry ready for this? What little steps can I take today to get the industry ready for that tomorrow?
And so whereas I think, and justifiably so to some degree, the vast majority of people who work in our field are very production focused. We are because the production deadlines are intense. The expectations of our clients are quite substantial. And there’s contractual obligations that we have to hit. But at the same time, sometimes, especially in a field like ours, which is still really in a nascent stage, the ability to step back and go, oh, like, I wonder about this. I’m curious about this. I want to find out more about it. We need more people being able to do that. We need more people driven by the interest in doing that.

That’s writing AD. What about cultural awareness when it comes to narration?

There’s just no excuse, like.
The reality is that there’s a vast array of voice talent that’s out there. It’s not all equivalent, right? There’s some really kick ass scenario, here’s and there’s some less skilled ones. But there is no excuse not to find a narrator that’s a appropriate cultural match for the content that you’re describing.

You can get really, really down in the weeds about it, if you want to, we’ve gone to great depths to try to find somebody who’s very specifically aligned with that skill set. And we’ve had some successes and some where we came up a little bit short, but that’s because we try we pushed it out there as far as we could.

Could I find a Kurdish narrator in the UK who’s deaf to just do the narration for this track? Well, no, but I did find a Kurdish narrator in the UK. And so that was a win in that respect. We found somebody who’s culturally appropriate for the content that we were describing. And that was the first very specific project.
Thoughtful casting cost you nothing to think about.
And not every show requires thoughtful casting, there are very generic shows that can just be relatively generically assigned, but there are shows that demand it. And if you as an AD provider, don’t take that responsibility seriously. Why not? What is your impediment?

I mean, come on. It’s at the point now where it’s, it’s literally embarrassing.
I had well over a dozen narrators of color on my roster. I probably posted 20 At this point between Latin and black backgrounds in Caribbean and you know, down the line, East Asian.
I have a wide collection of narrators. Again, anybody listening? They’re available, you just have to email me.
Rhys has called me before and hey, is this person available? And then I s the email address and he reaches out and they go from there.
These are freelancers, they are available. So if you’re stuck and you need somebody, call me.

It’s now August 2023. And there are no good excuses. There was no good excuses five years ago for this and now it’s pathetic.

If your basis of diversity in your voiceover roster is still man woman, the end, you’re a clown.
If you’re justifying that to anyone that that’s good enough, you’re a clown, and you deserve to be called out for it.
I would be embarrassed to do some of these things that some of these companies are doing. It’s shameful. And I hope more people shame them publicly, because I don’t know what it’s gonna take just to do the minimal right thing. I don’t get it.

By the way, this being an audio format, there was some vigorous nodding.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
So far, the quote of the day is you are a clown!

we needn’t stop it like culturally appropriate casting of people of color.
People of color can narrate the generic stuff too.

Oh a thousand percent!

You won’t find those great narrators if you don’t work with them.

That’s a great point Rhys . Thank you.
If you’re a narrator of color working with me, you will work it’s like the stuff that is meant to be voiced by people of color. That’s the stuff exclusive to that part of the roster.
right, like people like me are not going to narrate things, you know, from the Black community. But, yes, you can cross pollinate to any other generic content.


Eric shares some additional advice for voice over artists who traditionally
choose not to disclose their various identities in hopes of having their voice judged on it’s quality alone.

Don’t be afraid to put a picture on your website, or put a little thing in your bio, about your background, whether it be your nationality, LGBTQ we’re looking for that.

Make it easier to find you. I think more companies are now scrambling, pathetically, to try to catch up a little bit. Now standing out is actually I think, a good thing in some cases.

We reached our final two categories;
the influx of companies less concerned with quality or as Eric so eloquently described them,
You’re a clown.

And then there’s the dreaded TTS.

Since the clowns and TTS are so closely aligned, we’ll discuss them as one.

The clowns are companies that first, saw the need for audio description production as an opportunity.
While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, based on their actions and quality of production,
it’s apparent, that’s their greatest concern.

So they look for cost cutting like hiring anyone to write the scripts and
skip parts of the process like quality control.

All of this to undercut competitors and offer below market rates for AD production.

it’s a free market, right.

The issue you run into is that companies come in and throw a wide net out there, and they say, Hey, give me bids.

And then you have other companies out there, streaming services and stuff that’s coming online recently, that don’t really put any effort or any, any research into trying to identify the good providers. They don’t try to narrow it down to five or six providers that do good work, and then set a rate. In a perfect world, that’s what would happen, every company would have a set group of providers they work with, they would set the rate internally, across the board. So nobody can undercut anybody or has any real incentive to undercut anybody. And that would be it. But we’re in a free market. And we live in North America.

— “And now it’s time to play everybody’s favorite game show, Say the Word!” Audio from Sesame Street

Can you say capitalism?

The truth is, everywhere you look, there’s someone trying to make a fast dollar by cutting costs and sacrificing quality.

Remember Economics class? Caveat Emptor or Let the buyer beware. Consumers of all types should be educated enough to know the value of what they’re buying.
In this case, we’re talking about large companies, networks and streaming services that frankly have no experience with audio description. So, how can they even begin to define quality AD? Yet still they’re procuring millions of dollars in AD for old and new content.

They’re being misguided, misled because they’re talking to the clowns. They’re talking to people who are trying to sell them on something. They’re not necessarily talking to the audience.

I always encourage them, Are you sure, have you spoken to anybody about this? Has anybody told you by the way the audience doesn’t like this.

But the other part of this is an AD providers. If you’re confronted with that conversation, what do you do? Do you just go? Yes, sir, we can do it? Or do you go and take that opportunity to talk to them about what they’re asking for, to take that opportunity to go? Are you sure that the experience you want your audience to have of your content? That is your precious, precious item is a subpar experience? Because it doesn’t need to be.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
Wow, so you telling me that companies come to you? And they say we want TTS?

100 percent.


So it’s not just that these platforms are being sold TTS,we’re in a place now where they’re actually shopping for it.

There’s this thing with some companies that are starting to divide what they think is important content, and what they don’t think is such important content.
A lot of kids programming is being thrown into that not as important pile where synthetic is being used. And that, to me is a complete bummer. Because if anybody needs a real voice to engage with, and if anybody’s gonna get turned off by a computer voice, it’s a kid, and especially kids on the spectrum, kids with ADHD, they’re immediately going to just walk away from that content.

Too often , I hear members of the community who seem to feel these distinctions are warranted.

Just because you may not have an interest in specific content, that doesn’t mean it’s less important.

And quite honestly if you’re not of the intended audience and don’t require AD to consume visual content,
perhaps you should speak less on it and pass the mic so the community can speak for it’s self.

There are people out there that are pretty big in the industry in terms of visibility, saying TTS is okay, for certain things for backfill or movies that are more than 20 years old. And we should just be happy that things are getting described.

I don’t think anybody should be happy getting scraps and crumbs to make up for the fact that they weren’t fed 30 years ago originally.

I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry! And I know I deserve a full hearty delicious meal.

There are clients coming to us that have produced some of the great, I’m talking some of the greatest content in the history of television in North America. And they’re talking to me about synthetic.
And I’m like I would feel bad putting a synthetic track on this.
I feel bad, you should feel worse, because it’s your content, you should have more pride in getting this described properly.

The cost difference for companies like us to do synthetic versus real Voicing is minimal.
for Rhys and I, companies that really care, the cost difference between TTS and real voice. It’s not worth it. It’s not a huge number, where the cost saving is so extreme that a client should even really want to entertain at this point, in my opinion.

We spent so much time in this conversation talking about diversity of casting and thoughtful casting, and then you give me a computer program that has three usable voices. Well, what am I supposed to do with that? How thoughtful can I get about the casting of A, B, or C voice? I can’t.

Now, they’re starting to do this TTS stuff where they have black voices, quote, unquote, you know what I mean, and it’s just this, like, over the top, almost character voice.

This idea that like, black people sound the same, white people sound the same.
There’s dialects and there’s accents, and there’s nuance.
It’s like this generic voice, it’s quasi racist in all ways. It’s silly.

And it goes beyond just the sound of the voice, right? Great narration track is often done by somebody who’s connecting to the material. Well, you know, who doesn’t connect to material? TTS doesn’t connect to the material, there’s no lived experience of being LGBTQ for a TTS voice. Whereas you get the human narrator, skilled, who’s doing content of that type, in the connection that they come through, it’s not performative, but it’s subtle, but it’s there, and it’s present. If you’re an adept listener of audio description, you can hear it, that person gives a crap about what they’re doing. And
we stand to lose all of that.
Does TTS serve a function in audio description? 100%.
How to videos on YouTube, go for it. That’s an entirely reasonable application for TTS. But if you’re taking premium content, what is it you’re trying to achieve by doing that?

The answer all your questions in life is money. That’s the old cliche.
It’s a pathetic thing that I have to say, but that’s really the answer. It’s always comes down to money.

For some reason, no one’s been able to figure out how to make money on AD at this point, which I don’t understand. There’s still a very big void and lack of audio description in commercials, which I think you know, how we never as a business came around to like, Procter and Gamble sponsoring this AD track.
Figuring out a way into product placement into the AD track, kind of like they’ve done in movies over the years.
There should have been a more thoughtful approach to monetizing this art form years ago, and that would have solved a lot of these problems, but were the horses out of the barn and made a left and it’s for four farms over at this point.

I liked the idea here Eric of an AD narrate or drinking a grimace shake while narrating mentioning that that’s what they’re doing.
sponsored AD track, I like this,

It sounds a little silly and out there, but McDonald’s is gonna want a high quality product to go with their product.

We see that in live audio description, a lot of the times we’ll have a corporate sponsorship, whether it’s the Olympics or an award show, there’s no reason that that couldn’t trickle down.

It sounds like a natural fit, especially for network broadcasters who already have relationships with advertisers.
But I’m sure the streaming services like Netflix, Max and others could make this happen.
Then just leave it to the accountants to identify other financial benefits for the company.

From the consumer position, we’re already used to sponsored ads and programming.

With all of the issues we identified and discussed today, it’s extremely important that we as consumers are fully aware of our power.
And we shouldn’t be scared to flex or put it to use.

Thomas, the first time I was on your podcast, I talked about this. Streaming companies, businesses in general, yes, they are forced to respond to negative things, but they would much rather not deal with negative things. And the best way to not deal with it, is to just give the consumer a product that they just enjoy, and that they’ll just be quiet about, right.

I want to keep encouraging people, hold all of us accountable. Like Eric and I are out here talking the talk, hold us accountable for walking that walk if we do something that you think is subpar, or could be done better.

We make mistakes, we know, but we want to hear about them. That’s why we put our names on our tracks. That’s why we’re out there on social media. That’s why we’re reachable.
It’s telling, the circus providers, the clown shows, they don’t put their names on tracks.

continue to call out the bad stuff, and especially stuff that’s not being culturally appropriate because That’s disgraceful.

I think equally important, highlight the good, because it will matter, it will filter more that work to the companies that are taking pride in doing it well.

And that’s the goal. The goal is to get the product to be as good as possible. And so sometimes you just kind of have to shine a light and push the client towards that direction.

There’s sort of historically been the mindset of gratitude. Thank you so much for giving us audio description. And I get that because it wasn’t there. And now it’s more prevalent, but it’s not enough.

The focus on gratitude should shift into, what makes good AD. There’s different schools of thought, we’re not all going to agree on everything. That’s fine. But I think we all should have some accountability to producing that quality AD.

From a consumer advocacy standpoint, I’m glad people are grateful for the access that they have.
But access isn’t enough, it has to be better access.

It’s not much harder to perform this work well than it is to perform it badly. It’s not that much more of a time investment, it’s not that much more of a money investment, and the audience deserves better.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
Has there ever been any conversation about the post production companies, the AD production companies coming together?

bringing everybody to a summit and saying, here are the problems? Let’s solve this?

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:

Yeah, that’s an idea! (Chuckles)

It’s a great idea. I’ve proposed it numerous times to numerous entities, that I thought it had more ability to sway that I won’t name them.
It’s problematic, but I think there are ways in which it could happen.

I think we’re nearing a point where more of these organizations, the content owners, the bigger studios have people who actually are focused on caring about the quality of their accessibility. Individuals within their company were tasked with it, not just project managers on a given title, but like actually overarching people who are looking at this within their organization.

The more that that exists, the more likely we are able to have productive collective conversations.

there’s a collegiality amongst this group, those who actually care about it, and those who are invested in it, to help elevate the product. And to push each other.

I pay very close attention to what Eric is doing. I support it. But I also want to know if he zigs, I want to make sure that we’re also zigging at the same time, because philosophically, there’s an alignment.
If he uncovered some awesome new thing I want to make sure we’re doing it too. And I think vice versa.
That’s where I’m also hoping others can join this idea and get behind us and start pushing Eric, and I to think in different ways, and I’m very open to that sort of level of competition.

Big thanks goes out to Eric Wickstrom and Rhys Lloyd and of course Michael McNeely from part one.
Gentlemen, I truly appreciate your time and honesty.
I’m not sure if you know this but you are each official Reid My Mind Radio family!

— Airhorn

If you want to reach out to Eric and or Rhys,
you can do that first via the formerly cool app known as Twitter now annoyingly called X.

at IDC underscore, Eric, E R I C (Spelled out.)


RazLoyd R A Zed that’s my Canadian, or for those of you in the states are a Z Lloyd (spelled out)

Find them both on Linked In

Eric Wickstrom

Rhys Lloyd R H Y S L L O Y D (Spelled out).

Or reach out via their respective companies.

I DC is our corporate website and you can always send a message there, it will filter to me.

info at Descriptive Video
We do answer those emails.

After reviewing all of these issues and their proposed solutions,
it still feels like…


But, if I modify that slightly, it can feel a bit more optimistic and potentially something we can solve.

No one, will save us.
So we all need to work together.
We! As in:
* AD consumers and their loved ones
* Anyone involved in the AD process (writers, audio engineers narrators etc. )
* Those in solidarity, no matter the access need
* Film makers, storytellers, producers – who want their creative work consumed and appreciated
* Broadcasters, streaming platforms

We, can each do something.

Broadcasters, streaming platforms

Hire a dedicated person and or team of individuals responsible for content accessibility. Preferably from the user communities.

Caveat Emptor – Let the buyer Beware
Can you imagine going to a car dealership and realizing there’s only a five percent difference
between the used beat up car with a hundred thousand miles, torn seats and a crappy mis match paint job versus a brand new shiny Mercedes Benz?

Unless you have a thing for hooptie’s , I’m pretty sure you’re leaving that dealership in the Benzo.

So why in the world would you purchase AD for your content that’s the equivalent of a hooptie, a lemon, junk?

How about getting together with other content platforms to assure you all play nice and share the existing AD tracks. There’s no reason titles with AD shouldn’t have AD everywhere.

Film makers, storytellers, producers – who want their creative work consumed and appreciated

Learn about AD. Consume accessible content. Consider it’s benefits to your storytelling process.
Make your content accessible, reach out to the community and increase your views.

Those in solidarity with others no matter the access need

Share! Experience AD for yourself, tell other people about it. If you have a platform invite others to talk about it.

Anyone involved in the AD process (writers, audio engineers narrators etc. )

Meet and talk to a diverse group of consumers who are Blind or have low vision. Reach out to a local organization of the Blind. Ask for input and feedback on AD. You never know, you might make a new friend.

Hopefully you are or have consumed AD.

Take pride in your work and like any career, keep getting better and don’t be scared to innovate.

— Sample “Say it with your chest!” Kevin Hart

Take the pledge – sign on to show your commitment to culturally competent AD.

If your organization isn’t currently or in the process of making space for Blind professionals in the production process,
I guess I have to just ask; how do all of you in those big red shoes fit in that little car?

AD consumers and their loved ones

First, I got a message from the gratitude gods. They said enough is enough. We deserve true access.

For those who want to accept sub par anything, that’s your choice.
But be quiet. Say less! Your not helping anyone.
Some of us know our value and we’re not lowering our standards.
Why in the world would you advocate for that.

Advocacy comes in so many forms. I know lots of folks who struggle because they feel there’s only one way.
For many, that’s through some formal organization.
Yet, some of these organizations aren’t equally welcoming
Some seem as though they exist to maintain their existence.

Some of you are great letter writers
Why not put that skill to use to seek support for the
Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act.

Advocacy is taking place when we provide real feedback.
As Eric and Rhys said, that’s holding everyone accountable and sharing both the good and bad. Do it publicly, we have the tools.

Advocacy is keeping people informed. I think of Stanley Yarnell, the Sherrif of the Blind Posse.
If you haven’t heard of them, it’s a crew of AD enthusiasts who appreciate audio description in museums and galleries.
The Sherrif sends out email blasts at least monthly informing the posse of events online and in the Bay area.

Feel free to let me know what you’re doing in your area.

After hearing from Michael McNeely in part one, I’m convinced,
the state of captions are not what we’re trying to attain.
Yes, there’s a greater level of awareness, but the take away lesson to me, quality has to be the goal.

Hopefully, you can recognize that quality is something I try to pour into every episode of this podcast including
this season of Flipping the Script on Audio Description.
This is the last episode of the 2023 season and I already have some things I want to bring you next year.

Due to some existing commitments, I’m not producing another season this year.

But I truly recommend you stay tuned in because sometimes, I just get inspired.
And I’m hoping we will have more Blind Centered Audio Description Chats to share in the feed soon.

So make sure you rock with Reid My Mind Radio by following or subscribing wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at
Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!
— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be.” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!
— Reid My Mind Radio outro

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description: NO ONE WILL SAVE US

September 13th, 2023  / Author: T.Reid

Graphic: Amidst the isolation of a barren island and beach, an eerie scene unfolds. The darkness is punctuated only by the desperate silhouette of people, grasping towards a distant beam of light in the starry night sky. The text reads: NO ONE WILL SAVE US.

Going beyond the mainstream audio description conversation is the objective of Flipping the Script. But if that conversation is promoting advocacy, then it just makes sense for the podcast.

In this two part series we’re looking at what we, all of us who appreciate AD and want to see it improve, can do about those things jeopardizing it’s future growth.

Today, we deal with what seems to be the inevitable comparison of audio description to captions. Michael McNeely, a Toronto based Deafblind lawyer, joins us to talk about captions. Are they really the North star that should be guiding how we advocate for audio description?



Show the transcript


What’s up Reid My Mind Radio family.
Thanks for joining me this week.

In thinking about this episode, I decided to open the vault.

— Sound of a large vault door opening/ closing

— Music begins; a joyful fun mid tempo groove.

This podcast has been in existence since 2014 so yes, I’m referring to the archives as the vault because I think there’s value in what’s going on 9 years of episodes.

In 2015 when all of the episodes were really being produced for Gatewave Radio, I produced a couple of episodes on audio description. One was about Marvel’s Daredevil and what many believed was a bad move by Netflix in releasing the series without providing access for Blind viewers in the form of audio description.

We learned later that behind the scenes, even before the release of Daredevil, there were conversations taking place that helped lead to the success we enjoy today.

Less than ten years later, the future of AD doesn’t feel as bright as it did back then.

Who do we turn to? What do we do?

Sometimes it feels like “NO ONE WILL SAVE US”!
That’s up next, but first let me protect the archive and close the vault!

— Sound of vault closing as the kick drum of the intro music.

— Reid My Mind Theme Music

Today’s conversation, ultimately is about advocacy.
And we know this isn’t new.
It feels like so much of what we as disabled people want;
access to employment, art & culture, transportation… you name it, requires a significant amount of advocacy.

This is Flipping the Script so we’re specifically talking about audio description,
but personally I feel there’s lessons that go beyond AD and apply to us all no matter the specific disability.

One form of advocacy is making space for the conversation.
That’s not a one time thing. It requires re-visiting and hopefully bringing in new people and new ideas.

Sometimes, we have to challenge the ideas that are put forth.

Like when in conversation with other Blind people on the subject of improving and increasing audio description, someone inevitably says something like;

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Why can’t audio description be more like captions?

What’s your response to that idea that oh the Deaf community has it all together captions are great, blind people need to learn from that to get audio description, to meet that same sort of level?

Yes. That’s a great question. I think, first of all, it’s one oppressed group talking badly about another. I think an oppressed group is doing better than they are, which, unfortunately, is one of the hallmarks of oppression in general. So when jealous of someone else with a disability, then that’s part of the problem. Secondly, I don’t think captions are as commonplace as they should be. I really do try and advocate for both captions and audio description. And both of them just need advocacy throughout.

That’s Michael McNeely.

I live in Toronto, Canada. I work as a lawyer for the Department of Justice. I’m also a filmmaker and a film critic. I provide film criticism for AMI TV, which is a new station in Canada.
I have about 6000 listeners for my film criticism. And I have also released a film today. It’s called advocacy Club.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Tell me about it.

It’s a documentary about my former work place which is called Canadian Helen Keller Center. It’s also located in Toronto. It’s a training center for people who are Deafblind. And it’s a residential center.

I was an advocacy instructor. And now I’m just a lawyer on consult.

I was helping clients with any issues that they had with regard to just standing up for themselves, or advocating.

It’s about why these people need to stand up for the issues that they keep having in their lives, and how we became closer together as a result.


According to the film’s web page, Michael is the first Deafblind person to direct a film. You can learn more about the film at

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Tell me a little bit about your relationship to disability. I don’t get too much into the diagnoses and all that, but whatever you want to share around your relationship with disability.

I don’t even remember my diagnosis. I just remember that my geneticist is really excited about me, because she seems to have discovered a new disease. I told her to name it after me.

As far as I know, I’ve always been disabled my whole life. This is who I am. This is what you get. I’m actually fascinated by how other people perceive my disability.

So sometimes people think that being deafblind is the saddest thing in the world. I don’t think it’s the saddest thing in the world. There’s a lot of things that I do have privilege. And I’m happy to use my privilege for the common good.


If only more people thought about their privilege that way. That’s another story, but for now back to the question, are captions really the north star for access?

So in Canada, we have movie theaters that are mostly run by Cineplex, I would say they have a monopoly set up that uses the CaptiView machine, which is a device that you can put into your cupholder and watch captions that way. Not all movies work with this.
So it really depends on institutional knowledge, as well as the movie has been made compatible with the technology. Unfortunately, for a lot of people with vision challenges, the CaptiView device, would not be accessible to them, since it’s quite small. So you have to be able to read the words in the caption of your machine to gain any benefit from it. Let’s talk about open captions.


Open captions don’t require any specialized technology, they’re on screen for anyone to see.


Just like when you go to the gym, people can’t hear the TV. So you read the caption.

I think open captions will change the dialogue of captioning in general. Because you should be able to see a caption anytime you watch a movie.

That visibility normalizes access.
No longer is it hidden away and others will be able to report when captions aren’t working properly or even available.

Similar to many of our experiences with AD, captions aren’t always available. Sometimes it’s the technology, other times it’s a film that was delivered without them all together; in theater and at home.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
How about the streaming captions?
Good question. So I’ve been buying a lot of different subscriptions to streaming services, and I cancel them.
If I remember, within a trial subscription period, but I try and do that just to see how good the caption is, and how reliable it is. I think Disney plus is pretty good at that Netflix is doing captioning very well. Amazon sometimes does not have things captioned. But I emailed the customer service. I’ve asked them to put captions in. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they haven’t. I try and make an argument that if I pay for a subscription service, than I’m paying for 100% accessibility.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Amazon’s subscription service is tied to Prime. Nor do I think it’s a coincidence that Michael has experienced a lack of captions on the platform.

For many disabled people however, cancelling a service like Hulu is much easier than cancelling their Prime account.

The latter makes purchasing all sorts of products accessible and extremely convenient. And I don’t doubt that they are fully aware of this.

We discussed access in movie theaters , at home on television and streaming… film festivals?


Some are better, and some are worse. I’ve actually filed a human rights complaint against the film festival that was not attempting to be accessible.

You just want to know how much of the content is accessible. So if you can say 100% of the films have closed captioned in 30% have audio description now might be a good way to advertise before buying tickets for it.

One of the recommendations I’ve made was can film festivals to provide discounted passes for people with disabilities, not just because people with disabilities t to make less money, but also because the content is less accessible. So for example, if the Toronto International Film Festival has 300 movies, but only 200 of those movies are accessible , I suppose then should only be paying for those 200 movies instead of a full market price.


Advocating with our dollars as well as our voices. I support it!

I’m starting to think that ubiquitous captions aren’t actually a thing.
And even though captions which are indeed more widely available in comparison to audio description, similar to AD, it doesn’t guarantee quality.

Yes, quality and consistency isn’t now. But I know it’s not the captionist fault.

I have great respect for the Captionists.
I’ve seen them work in person, especially in the court system. They probably don’t have time to think about the content. They just have time to type in as fast as they can.


It’s not about blaming one party. Every role in the process plays a part. Executives set the standard by creating a climate of inclusion. Insisting that access is a part of the culture from the beginning. Making sure to include the community to determine what’s good access.
Choosing not to procure services solely by price and paying attention to quality.

As Michael said, we can use the power of our dollars by not supporting services offering poor quality. And sometimes that just means walking away altogether.

I stopped watching reality TV, and I stopped watching news, because the captions wasn’t doing it for me.


One of the things with watching live entertainment is that the captioning doesn’t keep up.
I was watching the news. And I was reading in the caption that a serial killer was on the loose and had killed a few people. When I looked at the TV I was interested in what the segment was about. It was a senior quilting festival so I thought maybe there was a serial killer loose at the seniors quilting festival.

I haven’t been able to watch the news since.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Wow. Wow.So the captions were that bad, frequently?

it’s better to watch a documentary. Because you know that there’s been Yes. post production done with it.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
What about automated captions?

Oh my goodness. We use the automated captioning on Zoom. And I can tell you that it never gets it right. It is one of the most distracting things I could ever imagine. It comes up with the most ridiculous things that I’ve never said or would ever say.
For example, it said something about a whale’s anatomy. I wasn’t even talking about whales or anatomy.


One of the problems around automated captions is context. Even when it does properly transcribe what someone is saying, it doesn’t include the speakers name.


So that can be hard sometimes. As a lawyer, I need to know who I’m speaking to sometimes.

as you probably noticed, I have an accent, I have a deaf accent. So sometimes the captioning doesn’t understand my accent. And it can be insulting. Because it reminds me that I have an accent, it reminds me that I have speech problems. So it’s one of those things that makes me feel like I’m taking a step backwards.

On another note, if you’re asking someone who’s deaf or hearing impaired to try and interpret the caption you’re asking them to make themselves tired before 10am.

if I play , let’s guess the word Thomas said, the game gets pretty old, there’s no prize. I don’t know if I win or not.


I feel similarly about watching content without AD.

I can try to follow along as best I can but I won’t know unless I’m in conversation with someone who had full access or research online. Not really the way I personally like to watch movies.

My choice? Well crafted culturally competent description written with love that centers the Blind community. And the best way to make that happen?

Making the film at the beginning with an awareness of descriptive audio.

Let’s say I was going to make a slasher film. And what I did to ensure that my audience understands what’s happening, I’m probably going to put in some pauses, I’m going to put in some reflective periods, I’m going to not have that action happen all at once. It’s never going to be a bit longer movie, but it’s going to be more accessible. And it’s going to make the point that everyone can enjoy this kind of film. We don’t expect blind people to go see this slasher movie, but perhaps they can if it was accessible for them.


That’s audio description not only as access, but something we promote here quite often; seeing audio description as a creative tool rather than a mandated requirement.

When you’re talking about compliance, it’s already too late to actually make much of a difference.

If you’re talking about compliance, it sounds like you’re leaving it to the last minute. it just comes off as not caring enough about people with disabilities. It’s just checking off something. It’s just doing something that a computer does, by itself. It’s not actually useful unless you go in and check it yourself.

See how the lines just got blurred?

This is true for both audio description and captions.

We talk about the opportunity to be more creative with AD and have seen a range of examples of that. Opportunities exist for captions as well. For example, color coded fonts to represent different people or emotion. However, some of the creative ideas like moving the captions off the bottom third break access.

Because if you don’t know where the words are on the screen, then it’s not really helping anybody.

Imagination is unlimited. But one of the challenges is, how can you be creative and accessible in the center?

TR in Conversation with Michael:
I also heard about the lack of description of all things sound in captions, would you say there’s like a need for improvement there? So for example, when music plays how descriptive are they about the music that’s in the background? Do you get that at all?

If there’s a fight scene, and the caption says birds chirping in the background, I’m like, who cares? Unless the bird is actually involved in this fight.

I’ve seen captions that when there’s a person walking on the street, it says street sounds. When the person driving, it says driving sounds. Obviously this person’s driving, and obviously that’s making sounds so give me some new information about that.

It’s that classic philosophical question. How do I describe blue to you as a person who is completely blind? How would you describe sound to me?
Not every person is the same.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Right. Depending on what the film is, when he’s talking about describing blue, is the color blue important? Or is it more about the feeling?
Is this relating to the Blues as in sadness, or is this something else?

100% I’ve just been learning about the color aspects of filmmaking. If you want someone to feel relaxed then they use lots of greens and blues. If you want someone to feel angry or violent you’d probably use red. That kind of thing.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
So, what would you like to see more from caption writers?

Let the caption writers introduce themselves at the beginning and provide a contact.

I think that’s always something that made me feel better when I was at court , because I knew it was Joanne that was doing the captioning. And Mark , that was doing the captioning. And it was a human being.

It’s not surprising that those companies producing solid AD t to include their company name and both writer and narrator in the credits. One has to wonder why this isn’t standard practice for both AD and captions.

I think it’s about accountability, providing the service.

I think we just get this tendency where people with disabilities are supposed to just accepts what’s given to them, just because we don’t have anything better.

We assume that everything we receive is okay, everything that we receive, gives us the equal playing field, it gives us better advantages than other people in life. That’s definitely Because there’s a lack of transparency and communication about the accommodations that have been delivered.

Michael even suggested a feedback form where folks could comment on the quality of the captions.

I talked about something similar for AD during one of our BCAD Chats.
That’s Blind Centered Audio Description Chats which you can find in this podcasts feed or head over to

Shout out to my fellow BCAD Chat partners Nefertiti Matos Olivares and Cheryl Green.

I have some pretty good ideas around how such a feedback form, well really a full website could function. Providing not only a means for feedback but community as well.
Anyone wanting to finance such a project, hit me up at

Now that we heard from someone quite familiar with captions, do you think that’s the bar we as advocates for audio description should be striving to reach?

Think about that while I bring on our next guests

— Music begins, a bright mid-tempo beat!
Hi, my name is Eric Wickstrom. I am the director of audio description for international digital center. pronouns are he him?

Hi, my name is Rhys Lloyd. I’m the studio head for Descriptive Video Works. My pronouns are he him.

When anyone asks me for examples of quality audio description tracks for networks and streaming platforms, IDC and DVW are the two I tell people to check out.

Are their others? Yes. But they don’t check off the boxes that these two do.
Let’s keep it real! IDC helped kick off the inclusion and hiring of Blind narrators. Their not the first, but to my knowledge they’ve done the most. If I’m wrong, please educate me –

DVW also is doing the same and employs Blind QC.

I asked each of them to bring three to five issues that most threaten the future of AD and some thoughts as to what we can do about them.

That’s next in part two of this episode of Flipping the Script on Audio Description I’m calling;

Big shout out to my guest, Michael McNeely , for shedding a little light on captions.

Make sure you tune back in for part two of this conversation.
The best way to do that;
Follow or subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.
There’s transcripts and more over at
Remember, you got to spell it!
That’s R to the E, I D!

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

Like my last name.

— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

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FTS Bonus: Andrew Slater Making Sound

August 23rd, 2023  / Author: T.Reid

This is the last bonus episode which stems from the Flipping the Script on Audio Description: What We See episode where I linked visual hallucinations, trust and the participation of Blind people in audio description.

Andrew Slater and I talk about producing audio description, hallucinations, synesthesia and more.

A couple of standout Quotables that I hope will resonate with those new to blindness:

“There’s no shame in the cane”
“That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s just my reaction to ableism”

Check out this article from the Washington Post that features Andrew following his public request on Tick Tock for someone to describe the Alabama Brawl.


Show the transcript

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio family?
Can you believe the summer is almost done?

Usually that would also mean we’d be wrapping up the Flipping the Script season. Not this year.

Today, I’m bringing you the final FTS bonus episode.
As a reminder, each of the bonus conversations were used in the What We See episode where
I linked discussions about visual hallucinations, trust and Blind participation in audio description. Hopefully you checked that out and you dug where I’m coming from.
I decided to share these semi raw conversations because the three gentlemen Carmen Papalia, Collin van Uchelen and Andrew Slater had lots of good information and ideas to offer.
Semi raw because I did just a bit of cooking or editing to make it a bit easier to digest.
But these episodes aren’t representative of what we usually do here at Reid My Mind Radio.
Meaning, there’s no narration or analysis, sound design or music.

Today’s episode features Andrew Slater.

By the way, shout out to Andrew who was recently featured in a Washington Post article following his
public request on Tick Tock for audio description of the Alabama brawl.
The result proves to be some awesome examples of creative description.

I’ll link you to the article over at this episode’s blog post at

Since we’re in the middle of celebrating 50 years of Hip Hop, I’ll drop another little reference for those who know…

Now, Reid My Mind Radio is this podcast’s name
Andrew Slater is his…
I’m T.Reid It’s like that and that’s the way it is!

Reid My Mind Radio Intro

Andrew 00:00
My name is Andy Slater. I am a sound designer, composer and accessibility person professionally. My pronouns are he him, I’m a middle aged white man with dirty blonde hair, a full red beard with some gray. Right now I’m wearing a red t shirt with white lettering that says I am not Daredevil. One of my favorite personal traits is that my left eye turns inward. So I see double a lot and I’ve got big bushy wizard eyebrows.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 00:32
Two things. Number one, love the t shirt. Just letting everybody know. Do they stop you and ask you, “Excuse me?”

Andrew 00:40
Just point to the shirt.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 00:45

So Sandy blonde hair and red beard? I’ve never heard that.

Andrew 00:49
Yeah, yeah, it’s uh, I mean, when I was a kid, I was strawberry blonde, I believe was the term which is kind of a reddish blonde, and then my hair got more brown, but I’m a ginger from like, the ears down. You got the salt and pepper beard. But mine’s like, salt and cayenne.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 01:11

You know, I don’t get too much into this. But briefly, tell me a little bit about your relationship with disability,

Andrew 01:16
oh, gosh, well, my relationship with disability, I like a lot of visually impaired people that maybe their sight has, has gone downhill gradually took a while to not necessarily, I don’t know, admit or accept my disability, but to realize that I was disabled. You know, I realized when I was a kid, I couldn’t see. But I didn’t really know what any of that meant, you know, it was the 80s. Right? It kind of wasn’t until I was a full time cane user, which was about 2009 When I started just never leaving the house without it. And kind of fighting with that stigma, having the white cane and people messing with me telling me that I’m not blind or, you know, faking it and that kind of thing. And realizing that I’m not going to be able to avoid or ignore this. So I started becoming more of an advocate for myself. And still not even necessarily knowing anything about people with other disabilities other than blindness in my own relationship to the lived experience of other people that I’ve met. And I’d say like, about 2014 15, or something. I met some people local to Chicago, that are involved in Bodies of Work, which is like a disability arts culture sort of organization that does a lot of arts events, and, you know, some support, and they work with through the University of Illinois Chicago Disability Center there. And I met somebody named Carrie Sandor and Sandy Yee, who are both disabled scholars, and artists and stuff. And they were like, You got to come and meet some of our folks. And so I met a whole bunch of really cool, sort of rowdy radical disabled people and was like, these are my people, I can swear and drink and be just myself and say, you know, screw this and screw this person and all that other kind of stuff and just learned about ableism and then the, the aesthetics behind being a Crip. And that sort of thing, which, you know, made me realize, you know, what, man, Andy, you are who you are, just keep doing that. Since then, I’ve been a loudmouth for myself and others really big on access for everybody. I collaborate a lot with people with disabilities different than mine. And then, of course, you know, other blind visually impaired folks. So now, I, you know, could have said 20 something years ago, I’m 48. Now, maybe yeah, 20 maybe even earlier, I would have been praying for a cure every day. And now it’s like, I’ll wait. I’m happy with my life. I have a career doing what I do. And it’s a lot of it is based around my lived experience. My own disability knowledge and being cured isn’t as important as it once was.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 04:13
Awesome. That was a great answer. You know, every time I hear someone who has the, what I’m gonna call now the luxury of being around a Disability Cultural Center. Yeah, I’m just like, always fascinated, man, because I’ve never been in that space. Like physically. I’m involved with disability culture online, but it’s like, wow, that just sounds fantastic to be able to just be in that space physically.

Andrew 04:41
Chicago’s got a we have a bunch of different resources in groups. I mean, even like, the Chicago the Mayor’s Office of People with disabilities have some real radical cool people in they’re not just like, people that pity who their clients are and like the mayor’s are office isn’t like that. And there’s also a place called Access Living, which is not at all like that either Bodies of Work and like the Chicago disability art scene here is just, it’s just so dope. Everybody here is so supportive, not one person would have, like a gallery show or a performance or anything, like a reading or something that wasn’t accessible. Nobody does an art show that doesn’t have image description. Nobody does a performance or theater that doesn’t have audio description, or ASL or CART. Often, there’s like sensory chill rooms. You know, we all got each other’s back. And I think it has to do with a lot of people that like, we’re involved in that sort of like, disability rights and advocacy in art and stuff, like in the 70s and 80s. But you got to city, not up in the mountains. Yeah, got a lot more people. Were going to places much more mobile. But yeah, these kinds of spaces, you know, I’ve run across them, like, even internationally. And usually, it’s like, you got the cool people in there. You go into like, a blindness convention. It’s cool. But the biggest problem is that there’s an agenda and there’s no chill time. These spaces are, are wonderful. And even, like, virtually, but like, having that personal local connection is like, this is real important. Yeah. And it’s total, it’s a total privilege. You’re right, total privilege.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 06:23
Tell me a little bit about your work, how you came to work with sound and, and everything that you do.

Andrew 06:28
I was like, 15, or 16, right. And I got a Tascam, four to seven, like multitrack cassette recorder. And I was in this really horrible industrial punk band. I was like singing and my parents wanted to buy me an instrument, for whatever reason. And I was like, I want this tape deck. And I got that and I started messing around with like, doing sound collage stuff and more like what I found out to be like, you know, music con Cret, sort of like, using a bunch of like, found and appropriated sounds I took from like, sound effects records and audio books and TV, I used to draw and paint a lot when I was a kid. And when my, my vision in high school started getting to the point where I could no longer do what I wanted to do, I got discouraged, but then I realized, like, oh, I can just make some weird sound art stuff, you know, without really known what that was. And so I started doing that. Eventually, it was time for me to get up out of Milford, Connecticut and move away and go to college. And so I moved to Chicago to go to the school, the Art Institute, because I had a sound department and learned all about audio, more so on the creative side than the vocational side at the time, you know, like using a lot of like analog synthesizers, and early samplers and learning on reel to reels and going through like a dat all the way up to Pro Tools. And then you know, a whole bunch of other stuff. I realized now that my work was, you know, informed by my visual impairment but not about it. And I dropped out of college and I went back like a decade later to get that degree, and kind of picked up where I left off, but started thinking more about like my disability because my vision had gotten I guess worse. It started also thinking more vocationally than creative, like paying more attention on how to maybe go and record a band in a way that was more organized and more professional than whatever I was doing with my dirty four track and some basement, right. And I started getting more into sound design for like filming videos, collaborating with some other, you know, with some artists, friends of mine and doing stuff, recording a band that I’m in, started experimenting with, like, you know, what, how do you make a psychedelic funk band sound the way that it should? By yourself without really knowing what the hell you’re doing? And I figured that out, right? And that was like, oh, yeah, music is cool. As long as I have like, complete control over it. At that time, I was just doing what I wanted to do. And then having a really hard time navigating Pro Tools, which I use, you know, zooming in a lot magnified, and never even like, tried to use it with the screen reader because I wasn’t even trained in that. And eventually I did. I got training from this program called IC music on how to use Pro Tools with VoiceOver. And my workflow was like super fast, I get all this stuff done. And I started realizing that I no longer have headaches from zooming in all the time. I can just get all this stuff done so quickly and started thinking you know what, I really need to consider this more as a career and not just weird Andy stuff. I started doing a lot of field recordings with my cane, going from one place to the next using these sounds, activate acoustic spaces and just do these kinds of weird collage sort of things composed from these sources and then realizing that I don’t know anybody else that does this. You know, I don’t know any other blind folks that use their cane sort of like as a sound maker or an instrument or even just to kind of end up using like the acoustic space at As an instrument itself, and since I realized that Shure microphones makes an app that’s accessible on iOS, it’s when I started doing field recordings again, you know, all that digital stuff, like all the early zooms, and everything like that, where everything was digital, and I could no longer see that little box and menu dive and stuff. You know, I was kind of like, you know what, I got the Shure MV88 plugged in into the phone, walked all over the world with it and made these recordings and thought I was, you know, I was happy doing that. I’m doing really, you know, crappy jobs, but getting social security at the same time, then I kind of found out about like, Ambisonics, unlike immersive spatial audio, stuff for like VR, and extended reality and all that other stuff, I decided I wanted to go and get a degree at Northwestern. And so I went and did that in the sound arts and industries school with a focus on the sort of like immersive, more media arts sort of stuff that is a medium itself that’s still growing and progressing. And then wanting to work in that finding out all of these like access barriers, finding workarounds and such. But then realizing that it would be really cool if I learned this and then got in the industry. And as all this tech and all these, like, you know, this Metaverse or whatever they want to call it. Now, as that grows, I want you to like want access to kind of grow parallel with it. So in my current job, my job job not like my personal private commissions and stuff, I work for a company called fair worlds. And I do you know, sound design stuff, whether it’s from like, user interface, like UI, like bleep blurb, sort of dunk, dunk kind of things, like you press the button, and it makes that sound kind of thing to compose and music to sound effects to you. VoiceOver and dialogue, editing and all this stuff for our apps and videos and whatever the projects may be. And then also working a lot on like spatial audio and applying these to the apps where if it’s gameplay, and the audio spatialized, it’s kind of easier for a blind or visually impaired person to play these games based on where the sound is, you know, all those kinds of things, being able to work within the industry where we have clients, and we have some of the companies that we work with, using their software, beta testing their software and stuff, having the ear of those people in those companies on how important access is like, you know, you could make your thing accessible. And all you got to do is this, having those conversations and some sometimes they go somewhere, sometimes we just got to show them like No, no, here, you know, it’s really, really kind of easy, you just really need to know what you’re talking about. And trying to get in there as a as a creator. And then also, as a consumer of like, this is accessible tech and these sort of things being both, like you know, trying to play video games, but then also trying to make the video games kind of gives me a this perspective that not a whole lot of other people have. But then some of the other stuff I do is like for my own art commissions, I’ll do stuff for performance and gallery, I exhibit a lot. And then I’m also doing like accessibility audits for some websites and museums and stuff. And then I’ll also work on creating like access content, like image description and audio description for like film and museums and, and that kind of thing. So it’s like, that is also still a big part of like my art practice. My art is now like, becoming access for somebody else’s project, but then also also for other people’s products. Our last project, this app that’s launching next week called Space Time adventure towards like, it’s specific to the Seattle Center. It’s about like the 1962 World’s Fair. My sound designs are all vintage retro sci fi like using the Theremin and then all these robot sounds and all this like really fun sort of stuff, and, you know, cool jazz and surf music and stuff, all the stuff that I used to do in the 90s at school or even as a kid. I’m now getting paid, paid to do this. I was always a kid was like, making these sounds just because, you know, undiagnosed ADHD and such. But now I get paid to do that. It’s really important. And it’s really cool. And it’s like, Man, how did I do this? Oh, a lot of it has to do the fact that I decided to go to grad school against my, well, at the time, I was like, this is going to cost an arm and leg. I don’t know. It’s gonna be really bad. This is going to break me. But I went and you know, the place I work for now is where I had my internship in 2020. So I’ve been there for like three years and the house is wonderful. And I wish that more blind folks have these kinds of opportunities and I think they’re there I think we just need to get that tech right to where it is and then get people that like education and training like like it I see music. I learned Reaper too all the key commands conflict with my Pro Tools. My memory, so I just like, I know how Reaper works. But you know, you know, I chose Pro Tools, but, you know, it’s like the Reaper community is huge. And and these are things that, you know, I think if we you know, we get more and more these sorts of tools into blind people’s hands and, you know, get them to be the creators because you know, I mean, I don’t want to say we’re the experts in sound, but I would trust a blind person with sound more than I would a sighted person. And I’m biased, but I truly believe that. So I’d love to see more people get these kinds of jobs. That way, I don’t have to take everything that’s offered to me, because I’m afraid it’ll never get done. If I don’t

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 15:44
tell me about your your first experience with audio description first, as a consumer.

Andrew 15:49
You know, I was thinking about that the other day, like, what was the first film that I ever saw in the theater, and I don’t remember now, but I do remember my first experience was, like Christmas time, I want to say maybe 20 years ago, maybe even longer than that. The Foundation Fighting Blindness used to show It’s A Wonderful Life with open audio description, on TV, whatever channel and I always thought that was wild, I thought that was great. At the time, I could see well enough where I didn’t think that I needed the audio description, but I paid a lot of attention to it. It was an old movie where the sound was at this big Boombastic. Michael Bay mess, the audio description didn’t really mess with the sound of the film, and it kind of like elevated over but still mixed in kind of thing. And I really took to that. And I think that one of the first films I saw in the theater had to have been, I want to say 14 years ago, whatever it may have been, the movie theater made me give them like my ID or something like that. And I was like, Oh, this is cool. I’m digging this in those early years. And I mean, I guess still to this day, you still got to always double check with the theater, like, does this thing work? Do you have the right one, give me two Behling the listening experience hasn’t really changed much other than I think the quality of the audio descriptions better, I still have to cover an ear sometimes to in order to like hear the description. But I can go and do that stuff with my family. You know, um, it might have been something like, Captain America movie or something like that. That’s why I was loving going into the Marvel and then Disney movies and stuff like that, because it’s like, I know that their audio descriptions on point, like Pixar, they really kind of champion that stuff early on the stuffs on point. And it’s always gonna be there. So okay, brand loyalty to, you know, corporate overlords. There we go. It’s like I love apple and Disney and Marvel and such because I feel invited and I can use it. And then, you know, I kind of got into these opportunities with working with other artists are navigating, like, Hey, Andy, how do I how do I do this? For my own work? But the time I didn’t really know how, what if there was a book of what to do and what not to do. So I just started being like, I don’t know, this is art, let’s be weird. You know, you can be subjective man, like, make it another art piece and play a parallel or whatever, keep experimenting, the ACB audio description project, really great examples there, love that database and stuff. But I’ve also come across people citing that as the end all be all, you know, and it’s like, yeah, it’s to the point, it just totally depends on what the project is. My favorite experiences is watching like, The Video Game Awards, or the Game Awards, or whatever that thing was called, like, two years ago. And they had to describe stream, which was live and the woman reading it or narrating it was just having a blast. Here’s the animation of Mario and like, Mario is on a turtle. Oh, and then laser, you know, like that kind of stuff. But then they had like a category for most accessible game. And I think that’s when the last of us to like pretty much won everything, but the fact that they have that, that was kind of an audio description joy for me. You know, that was like the next level of oh my god, audio descriptions, you know, the movies. And then here’s the game that’s accessible. It’s a little too damn hard. And I got I’m like, you know, read a book on how to play it. But here’s the Game Awards, taking this thing seriously. And, you know, and then trying to get gamer culture involved in it was like, you know, a real cool step.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 19:38
You mentioned that you were soda invited to start thinking about it from the perspective of a creator creating audio description. Can you talk a little bit about the roles that you fill in the process of creating ad?

Andrew 19:52
My roles originally just started kind of as a collaborator or an advisor on projects. I wasn’t comfortable With maybe recording my voice, I’d work with other people to write stuff down. Since my vision is impaired, sometimes it’s a boundary. Sometimes it’s not. There’s a guy locally named Victor Cole, who does a lot of like audio descriptions for local performances and like award ceremonies and all these other cool stuff that the Chicago disabled arts community employ him to do that, started talking to him about his process, and like picking up on that, and then realizing that my role as a blind person to create this is probably going to be different than how Victor approaches it. Which is cool, because that means you have like more voices and more opportunities to give different perspectives of stuff. And so there’s some like, performance artists and dancers and choreographers and stuff locally that were like, you know, we want to do this live. But we also want to, like pre record some stuff, mess with the stereo sound for AD and kind of move the AD around in like an open audio description sort of situation, which I think is cool, because I wish I could control where I wanted to place the ad when I’m listening to it right in the stereo field, and then doing sound design within the AD. So kind of going from that direction of making sure that the people that I work with understand that access from the get go is the way to do it, especially when you’re coming around with like audio description, right? It’s like, think about the amount of space that you can take up and how much you can maybe need to cram in there with the ad, as long as it’s either on your mind or even just part of the script or something like that, then it’ll just be so much easier to complete, as opposed to like, oh, no, we got an audio describe this thing. Now, here, you got three days kind of thing. And I’ve been in those situations. But I’ve also been in situations where I’ve had a very long time to kind of digest and work and stuff. So first started off as me being like an advisor, and then you know, like a collaborator and then helping produce an edit, and mix AD tracks, maybe early as like 2017 or something like that I started, you know, doing this kind of stuff. But at the end of last year, I got the opportunity to write and record the audio description for feature. And that was a film called the Tuba Thieves. By Allison Oh, Daniel, who was a deaf hard hearing director. And that thing debuted at Sundance. And so that was really cool. A great experience, because 95% of the film, the dialogue is ASL. So like my wife, and I, my wife is autistic, and I’m visually impaired. And we wrote the AD and I narrated it, I was able to hire these three disabled voice actors to read basically the subtitles in the captions, and kind of, you know, bring them into this where they had done some some of this work on before. And they’re all actors and performers and stuff. But never for something that was essentially, I don’t know, everybody is disabled on this on this thing. So it’s like, yeah, you know, we brought, you know, we’re, we’re all showing up as we as we should. And so what was cool about this film is that this film is, like, the sound itself was so incredibly descriptive, and all very referential, and all sounds that I think, you know, so many of us would, would get that, you know, the, the actual audio description that I read and recorded, was real minimal. And there’s a lot of silence in the film. So I kind of shut up, you know, it was like, it’s like, oh, I have to make these decisions. Now. This is a weird experimental, sort of almost documentary style film. I have done so much like experimental audio description, sort of stuff with like, I don’t know layered voices and sound and sound design and weird, poetic sort of approaches to stuff. And I could still bring some of that energy, but certainly didn’t want to, you know, make a huge mess out of it. And I’m happy with how how it worked out. It was really cool. Knowing that as it travels around on tour, it’s playing in theaters that offer audio description, and all the promotional stuff that I see for it says, you know, audio description is also available and also has open captions. So it’s really this kind of like, cool thing where it’s like, hey, here it is. We’re all here, right? People asked me if I’ll work on their films, and it’s like, it’s so time consuming, as you may know, especially if you’re asked to do everything, the literacy of this sort of like audio description, these other access points. A lot of the times people come to me not knowing enough, and it’s like, do we want to sit here and have a four hour meeting of me explaining what it is that you need to do? Or do you want me to do at all because you still don’t understand what it is I need to do. And then when it comes to like, compensation, it gets kind of hairy. You know, but I mean, there are a lot of people that really want this filming. Viewers, especially disabled filmmakers, but for whatever reason people are afraid to do it. It’s funny when I see, you know, other disabled artists and filmmakers and stuff, afraid to do this, because they don’t want to mess it up. It’s like, look, I understand that, but we have the same, you know, lived experiences on a lot of situations, right? And just think about it like that. It’s like, experiment with it. It’s it’s common sense. I honestly think just, you just got to watch like, you know, a handful of different, you know, films with audio description to really get what you want to do. I don’t want to have to explain it a million different times. I know I sound crabby, like crabby old man over it. But it’s time consuming. And, you know, you want me as a consultant or an artist, or what, because there’s a different pay rate. Yeah. You know, you know, and it’s very true, absolutely. Sound like capitalist about it. But you know, it is kind of
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 26:08
it’s your time.

It’s my time,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 26:08
you said that you and your wife wrote the AD for the film. So you were participating in that process? You were you a writer?

Andrew 26:17

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 26:08
Okay. Cool.

Andrew:Yeah, yeah, we watched the movie. And then we kind of went, we didn’t have a script for this. So we kind of, we watched it, we took notes, you know, put it on the timecode. And that sort of thing. Yeah. And I don’t know if this is a process that other people do. But you know, we just got, we sat down here. And you know, we put it on the big monitor. And based on how Tressa would describe what’s on screen, sometimes I could see it because a lot of the movie is slow, we take notes of what’s on screen, we’d go off some of the notes that the producer gave us, I would just kind of reword it, you know, or edit it. So it was more interesting to kind of match the energy, especially the energy of these captions, these captions were out of control, awesome, and weird and abstract at time, I didn’t want to be just normal sort of insights as interpretations as to what was going on on screen. But then also using like, my own artifacts of my vision, also where it’s like, I got tunnel vision. So I can see like, what’s up on the right side of the screen. I could focus on some weird thing here. And then Tressa would point out what else was going on? You know, and it’s a cool film it has people talking about when Prince and the revolution played Gallaudet University to have like a whole hundreds of Deaf folks.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 26:08
Oh, wow.

Yeah. And there’s like, there’s these photos, because there was no film. You know, nothing but like photos of it, being able to describe these photos. Like this one, I think it’s black and white. I don’t know, you know, it’s from like, it’s from the Purple Reign tour. On the left is the band rocking out. And you can see that Prince has his like white Stratocaster up high and he’s just jamming and you know, he’s wearing purple even though it’s black and white. And then to the right is like, it’s like hundreds of deaf people all signing I love you, you know, with the with the index, the pinky in the thumb up. And like, being able to see that spend time just like even zooming in and like pausing the film and then zooming in. Like that photo and another one of prints where he’s, you know, given I love you sign with this, stand next to this kid, this huge grin on Prince’s face where you just like, Man, I got like, all emotional How do I describe this, because this is just beautiful. And it’s like a still photo on screen for five seconds. And that’s something that I realized, like, this is really, this is got to be really, really tough for people. When you have like this wonderful photo that you want to spend a lot of attention on that you got, like, five seconds. Yeah.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 28:58
You know what’s crazy? I have a Purple Rain shirt on right now. (Laughs)

Andrew 29:03

That’s not crazy. That makes a lot of sense, you know, it’s like, of course…

I don’t really know the process of people, you know, like down the line where you have, you know, a sighted person, kind of write it and take notes. And then I know blind folks like Robert Kingett, who like takes those notes and kind of writes it. And then somebody else like reads that or edits, like whatever that chain of events is, I just kind of was doing it intuitively thinking like, you know, this works. This works for this application of a weird art movie. And that’s the thing is a weird art movie. And then you have these other elements. It’s like, I have to be serious because this is some serious shit. And I don’t know how people that do that sort of thing more often than I do professionally. Like, I don’t know, I don’t know how that works. You know, I don’t know if the studio is like, Nah, don’t pay attention to that. But you need to pay attention to this or if people are just given you know, blank check to go and create it however they want.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 29:58
No, yeah. I think that first I mean, there’s a combination, right? There’s the the decisions that they’re making, and it’s following the plot. And but it’s somebody’s it’s somebody’s decision. I think what changes is that is the approach, right? So you were mindful of the, the tone of the film, right? And following the aesthetic of the film and all of that. And I don’t think, especially if we talk about mainstream aging, right, it’s just about the film. And I’m not saying anything bad. I mean, there’s, you know, there’s, there’s levels to this, right, the good ones are, they’re putting in some time and figuring out what the plot is. But I think some of them that I’ve spoken to, at least, you know, really do similar to you wanting to describe that Prince pitcher is often those times where they’re like, Man, I wanted to spend a little more time on this, but yeah, you know, it’s sort of a side thing, and we just can’t do it. Yeah.

Andrew 30:48
And, you know, I mean, when you got a broader, you know, mainstream audience, you can’t get super weird, right? I mean, you can, but one of my favorite audio description moments is Deadpool movie, which has a character Blind Al. She’s not played by a blind person. She’s played by Leslie Uggams, who is a wonderful actor. So Deadpool, so he’s a jerk. And it’s a really raunchy film. And so he goes to Blind Als house, she’s talking and while she’s talking and not clearly not seeing him, he lists up a trapdoor on the floor. And there’s three items in there. One is a, like a pill bottle, and other is a bag of coke. And another is a gun, Deadpool opens up the hatch, and there’s a, you know, a bag that says dead pulls cocaine, and then there’s a gun. And then there’s a pill bottle that says “The cure for blindness”, he takes the gun and the coke out shuts the door, and I’m laughing my ass off and the film, and my wife did not know that. That’s what you know that that pill bottle said, the Z sort of things where it’s like, I’m glad for the comedy that that was, you know, that was that was put in there, right? And that’s when I realized like, oh, not everybody gets these details. Yeah, there’s another show. My flag means death, which is a funny movie, or a funny show about, you know, pirates and stuff. There’s a character called Calico Jack. And there’s a seagull named illite that they call Olivia. And he’s like, floating away in the water. And he’s talking to Olivia, and he says something stupid. And then, you know, the audio description, says Olivia. Olivia gives him the side eye as like that seagulls not giving them the side eye. But that was a great use of, you know, nailing down the tone of that thing. And I want I want more of that.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 32:34
When you creating AD and you work with a filmmaker, what role does trust play? In your process? I think of this as with AD, like, as blind people, we’re forced, in a way, you know, we have to trust, we have to trust that this Narrator This, this writer is giving us the information that that we need. As blind people, we trust that our technology is giving us that information that we need, right? Yeah, but I feel like as creators, especially around audio description, we’re not given trust. I don’t feel like it overall, we’re questioned when it comes to blind folks doing AD, we’re very much questioned. We see that right now. There was this whole certification, this whole thing about blind writers like figuring out if we are allowed to do this. I mean, that’s the way I’m gonna interpret it. Yeah.

Andrew 33:25
Let’s say like, in my situation, working on the Tuba Thieves with with my wife, right? We were there was no NDA, right? We actually got complete trust. And I’ll talk about that a little bit. But it’s like, say you gotta sign an NDA. People are like, Why don’t want this, you know, this other person that’s going to help you this like sighted person to help you work on this. We don’t want them to leak these secrets, either. It’s like, well have them sign an NDA. Have somebody within your studio work with the blind writer? It’s just another case of like, they don’t trust us to do something for us. That’s wack, you know. And it’s like, they don’t trust us to the point where you’re going to be underbid to somebody that knows how to type, you know, like somebody that can do like the the text to speech thing. Or somebody who’s a voiceover artists or actor or whatever, and gets all these commercial gigs and stuff and just kind of like, oh, yeah, no, I can do I can totally do right audio description. It’s just what’s on the screen, with no training, you know, it’s like you, you still need to know how to address this. The fact that this medium of the industry isn’t yet, I guess, run by us, the people I know involved are, you know, it’s, it’s probably just, you know, it’s just a different side of things because I know, I know them all from being blind. And they, you know, they’re not just like, here’s a gift. It’s like, Hey, I made this in community and collaboration with blind people. If I’m sighted there were blind people involved in this where A lot of the times he feels like it’s, it’s like, oh, what you don’t like sound quality? Oh, you don’t like how it’s written? Well, you know, you should be even lucky that we’re doing it. You know, like that kind of thing. I don’t like that attitude. I feel like people don’t trust us with anything. When people don’t trust that I can cross the street. People are like, don’t even trust that I can tie my shoes. You know? Like, like, wait a minute, let me ask you sighted people. Do you look at your shoes when you tie them? Do you look at your teeth when you brush them? Because that’s just weird. But that’s, that’s the answer people give me. Um, but you know, it’s like, so what was cool with working with with Alison Oh, Daniel, is that since she’s deaf, she’s a disabled artist and filmmaker, she just trusted that we would do what was best, and that we would do it and it would be cool and creative and not some rope, sort of boring ass thing. And so like we got that trust, because the person who hired us was cool. I don’t think I could say that somebody from Paramount, or whatever would sit down, meet me and be like, yeah, no, you know what you’re doing. I trust that you’ll get it done. Because studio people are used to given notes, right? And they want to have control over everything. And it’s just like, man, just just let us do this. We’ll get it done. We all realize that we don’t want to send out some jalopy sort of audio description out for our community, because it’s just a sellout move. Or just cynical, like, you know, I was under the gun, I had to get this done in a day. And it’s like, yeah, well, you could also say, No, you need more than a day, a job as a job. But it’s also kind of like, we all have our convictions. And all the people I know that work in AD, just like, will keep that in mind. When you’re doing work, like who comes to you who in like the studio chain, or the production chain hires the audio describers,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 37:06
there’s usually an AD director, usually, that will probably be the title. That’s the person who’s sort of making the decisions. They’re serving as a project manager at that point. And so they’re assigning it to a writer, they’re assigning it to a narrator, etc., etc. For blind narrators, it’s still that level of trust, because not everybody wants to work with blind narrators. And some of them use the excuse that they have specific software that they use, for example, where maybe you have to dial in and whether it be to download the script, or whether it be to use the recording something I think you can record, right there even remotely or something like that. But whatever they say the software isn’t accessible. And so you know, we know that’s not the only way to get something done, right? Because these other places where you don’t use a software, you email me a script, I send you a link to the file that I just produced for you. It’s not a big deal. That’s excuses.

Andrew 38:03
Sighted people are so narrow minded, where it’s like, it’s like, Yo, if this was a disabled person, they’d be like, Yo, you know how to adapt, you know, that workaround? Right? It’s like, I know, you can’t see that street sign up there. But you know, how to get around whatever’s going on here. And maybe it’ll take you next day, maybe you’ll get it done sooner than any other, you know, and those folks in those positions don’t have don’t understand those aesthetics. Right. They don’t understand that way life. Yeah. And that’s just that just kind of hurts.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34
Can you talk about, like, your thoughts about sort of experiencing the world, non visually, but and when I say non visually, I’m not coming from the place where I’m trying not to use the word blind or anything like that.

Right. Right. Right. Right.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34
Right. I’m coming from that place where specifically, you’re not censoring vision. So for example, like the piece that you did, where you specifically had the image description, and, and there was no image at all. That was like not censoring their vision.
Right. Right.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34
That was just totally saying, This is how I experienced it. This is how you’re gonna experience it.

Andrew 39:13
Oh, yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, it’s just kind of like, look, if I tell you that this is what’s going on, this is what’s going on. That piece is like I wrote down a description for a painting that doesn’t exist, it was just something that was in my head, a lot of blind people may not be able to, you know, I talk about color and stuff like that. But you know, some folks may not have reference points to it, and that sort of thing. But it’s like that kind of work is meant for a sighted audience. Talking in their terms, using color is basically like an access move. So that sighted people can be engaged in the image description for you know, the invisible ink, they can see like, yeah, you can you can kind of have fun and do weird stuff when you’re describing things. So it’s totally like visually centered for that. But then when I do this Questions of some of my sound work, it’s never visual. But did this recording what I did texture, smell, touch, vibration, you know, an emotional sort of stuff with a lot of metaphor, because, you know, that’s how you got talked about sound some time, but I still think visually sometimes and describe things with sight in mind and image in mind. But that’s mostly just for communication. We’ve all trained ourselves to, you know, use sound for you know, navigating, and, you know, cooking and you know, whatever our daily life is, I rely on and trust my ears, obviously, more so than I do my vision. I have all these like weird, like artifacts and like flashes and like hallucinations and stuff like that. I don’t care anymore. I used to care that I bump into stuff, I’ll go to the bar that I know where everybody knows me, and I’ll know that they’ll tap me on the shoulder or say my name when it’s time to order, right? And if I go someplace, and I’m ignored, then, you know, I’m ignored. I’ll do what I what I can, but it’s like, I try not to rely on my vision. Even though sometimes I do have my eyes open. And I might be seeing something, but it doesn’t always process right. So it gets kind of like psychedelic and weird or these Oh, there’s lights in that corner of the room. But I kind of see a blob, I kind of see that still doesn’t help me with the perception of where that corner is. Or if that’s a person or a Christmas tree or, you know, can of dog food. I go Mr. Magoo style kind of thing and just like bumble around sometimes and figure it out, knowing that this is normal for me, a sighted person might be, you know, watching me like what is this crazy blind person doing? They’re going to break everything. I better make sure that they don’t knock something over. When in reality, it’s I’m pretty nimble, like I’m a big dude. But I’m pretty nimble. Like the only time I bump into stuff is that my house because I’m overconfident. Like, listen to my phone, I’m cracking open soda, and then also telling the Echo to play, you know, Run DMC, and then I’ll walk into the wall. I hate feeling like I’m on display. Yeah, you know, to the public, but at the same time, it’s like if I hid, if I didn’t do anything, I’d have no joy in life. You know, like, there’s no shame in the cane. No shame in me, you know, doing what I got to if I come off with having a chip on my shoulder. That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s just my reaction to ableism

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 42:32
when you were describing, like how this painting didn’t exist, sort of reminds me of talking about these hallucinations, so not necessarily that blob well that could be the Christmas tree or the really big can of dog food by the way. (Laughing)

Andrew 42:46
Real big, like Costco like

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 42:51
you experience hallucinations as well. Talk to me about what you see.

Andrew 42:55
Okay, and I’m gonna preface this with yesterday was 4 20Oh, and I live I live in a state where it’s legal. Carmen visited Chicago a couple of weeks ago and he gave me these THC capsules that he made with a strain called LSD and he was he was like this he’s like this to me inhibits some of the hallucinations I have a times when they may not be happening because you know like we both have RP and sometimes you know our eyes aren’t doing all of this like right now my eyes are doing some things so the scribe that he gave me this weed these edibles because he’s working on he’s working on some stuff where he’s trying to to create a strain that kind of emulates the hallucinations that he gets him and his brother’s brother also has RP and went to band practice and you know had one of these you know, Carmen edibles as little capsules. And it cleared my vision up. issues I was having. Yeah, I was like, Oh, well, okay. It gave me like this. This like kind of awareness of the space of the room and sometimes like feels like my field of vision is widened. And I’m like really confident or like get up like, oh, I don’t have my cane. But I’m outside now what happened right? I don’t necessarily like taking edibles because they will totally obliterate what I am seeing and not in a fun way. stuff. Like when I’m exposed to a lot of light, you know, like it’s my pupils are dilated. So get the sort of a lot of after image you walk into like a camera flash right for me that will stick around forever, like at the strobes, right? These these sort of strobe flash are sort of things and then everything is kind of like a I’ll say like an electric Deep Purple, or some weird kind of green like neon but kinda like the echo from Ghostbusters and stuff and I’ll get these other things that I’ve seen like my whole life. aren’t that they’re, they’re kind of gray, purple, green, whatever this weird thing that’s like the shape of like a Cheeto Puff like a sea kind of thing. And they move from one eye to the next. And when I close my eyes, I still see them. And it’s kind of like, how’s it going through both eyes is this is something where my brain is shooting off, you know, like, I don’t know, weird electric shocks into my eyes, I have no idea. I don’t consider them like interruptive anymore as I did when I was a kid. When I was a kid, I was really, really, really night blind right now it’s kind of flipped, where I’m totally photophobia like light. I hate it. I hate the bright light and like a gremlin or something like, when I was a kid, I think it’s something where your color preceptors or your light preceptors can’t do what they’re doing. So I would get these weird visions that kind of look like fireworks or something like that, right? Like when you rub your eyes real hard. People experience those kind of colors or like flashes or fireworks sort of explosive sort of like weird shapes and stuff. Those just kind of pop up for me, and it’s cool. But if I’m trying to do something, where I am needing to use my vision, this just misses me off. They do kind of become a hindrance. And I know that Carmen invites them. He likes them. But for me, sometimes it’s a reminder of, oh, well, you know, that thing you were gonna do? Now you’re gonna be distracted. And you might as well not do it, because it’s totally distracting. But sometimes they’re cool. I like doing mushrooms. Do those every once in a while and I do a lot of writing. I’ve done a lot of like sound descriptive work, writing about what I hear in my own work. And then some other artists have commissioned me. And with that, it’s like, have these different hallucinations. I don’t know if they’re different. I don’t know if it’s something where I’m having the same kind of effects that I always have. But psychedelics start to make the move and take shape and dance around and all this kind of stuff and, and that’s cool. You’re not a narc, right?

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34

If you’re a narc, you got to tell me like, yeah, I find it really, really cool. And it really kind of like makes it so like, oh, I can I can actually enjoy this. Yeah. So these are just like I said, like artifacts of like my retina probably imploding. But sometimes back to the giant dog food that’s like my brain trying to process what I’m looking at. But sometimes they’ll just be stuff that I think I see that isn’t there. And that’s kind of new, like within the probably the past 10 years. I don’t know if it’s the Charles Bonnett stuff. I don’t know if it’s shadow people. I don’t know if it’s like there’s a tear in that space time, whatever. But sometimes there’s stuff that’s there. And sometimes it’s not. I’m into it, because I don’t know what it is. Yeah,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 47:56
so you question, do you have to question a lot or you know when, ok, I need to question this. Well, obviously a big ol’ can of dog food, like that you’re gonna (laughing) know. (Laughs….)

Andrew 48:05
Yeah, I’m just gonna put that in my bag to go home with it. Like, this is my Yes. Sometimes. I’m like, if I’m by myself. A lot of times I won’t question it. And then you know, it’s like, like, let’s say it’s a street at night and under a streetlamp. There’s something whether it’s like looks like it might be a box, or person and it’s not moving. But I’ll just assume, well, it’s supposed to be there, whatever. Maybe that’s my neighbor. And then I’ll like walk five, five feet up. And yo, that thing isn’t there anymore? Was my brain trying to say that it was there when there really wasn’t, you know, or am I being hunted? You read all the Oliver Sacks in the world, and he’ll explain it as plain as possible. But I still don’t know if it’s my brain or if it’s my eyes. It’s cool. But it’s also disarming at times. But you know, I’m I’m a strong dude. I guess. I’ve never experienced any paranormal anything. You know, so like, I don’t I don’t know if that’s if that’s real, real or not. But yeah, so know if it’s a lost memory.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 49:19
It sounds like you do sometimes think a little bit more about them as opposed to just okay, this is just something medical happening with my eye. Like when my child has been a for example, and I know it’s not because somebody ruins it for me and gives me the medical explanation but I’m like, wow, I should I be looking at these shapes and these things that I’m saying and really thinking about it. How does this relate to my mood right now? Wait, is this some sort of internal communication and I talking to myself through these images, like am I trying to tell myself you know, it’s I get into it. It’s like, and it’s quite enjoyable. Again, mine is Charles Bonnett , and I never heard anyone who has that. The experience of Charles Bonnett is usually it’s those people usually report little monsters type images.

Andrew 50:06
Yeah, terrible.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 50:09
Yeah. That was like waking up from a bad dream. I could wake up gradually, and then I’ll see a face. And it’s usually like a creepy looking. It’s not a real face, right. But it’s like a creepy looking animation or something like that. And then it might be like you described sort of neon ish electrified. And it’s just, and then I just stare at it. And then it goes away.

Andrew 50:31
You ever had sleep paralysis? Oh, no. Yeah, when I was a kid, it was, it was kind of bad. And I would experience something very similar to that. But I think it was, you know, in a dark space where like, the color receptors or whatever things would swirl around, you know, and then like, maybe there’d be a shadow of a tree. And I would just be like, sleep paralysis, but I’d be seeing this stuff. I mean, that sounds a lot like the situation where if you wake up from a bad dream, and there’s like, this, you know, image that you see that, you know, looks like a face to you. And you were dreaming about maybe falling through the ice. But then there’s like this face, it’s like, Are you being faced with this being that’s controlling your mind? I mean, there’s like, so when you start thinking like that, I mean, cuz, you know, thinking scientifically, on what all that means is, yeah, yeah, whatever. But you think holistically or like how your body’s reaction is, maybe it is your mood, maybe it’s your body communicating to, you know, like, how the hell the science? No,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 51:35
no, I definitely think there’s a relationship. I know, there’s a relationship between my body and what I see. Because when I’m tired, it’s hazy, it’s very blurry. And when I’m, wake right up, I’m like, if I took a little 20 minute cat nap, it just starts to get just really clear and vivid. It’s like, Okay, I’m ready to go now. I’m good.

Andrew 51:53
Yeah, when I’m tired. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that you know, my, everything’s hazy. And, you know, it’s, it’s, I started thinking, like, it’s just like a visual migraine. I heard people talk about those. So I started taking, like, prescription strength, aspirin or ibuprofen, or whatever, and it cleared it. So I’m like, wait, maybe this is a migraine? Or maybe I just convinced myself. It’s really psychedelic. It’s also disarming, but then at the same time, sometimes you feel like you have control over it. And you can change it. Yeah. And I can’t explain it. Other than that, you know, it’s like, you know, so many of us have these experiences, and they’re all different. But like, are they based in memory? Are they based in like, the degradation of your, you know, the cells in your eye or your brain? Or, you know, the substance that you may have ingested? Who knows, but, I mean, it’s definitely something that would scare the hell out of somebody who’s never experienced that to wake up and say that someday?

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 53:06
Do you have synesthesia by any chance?

Andrew 53:08
I do. That’s another thing that I never really get to talk about. The only person I ever talked to about synesthesia was this woman I went to school with their reaction was numbers, they would get these hallucinations or visions of different numbers. And with me, it doesn’t happen as often, which I’m bummed about. You just see colors, or you sense movement, and all these things based on sound in music, like when I hear something, there’s a color. In my head, I don’t necessarily see an image all the time. Sometimes I do. But it’s like, I was listening to Underdog by Sly and the Family Stone earlier. And it’s like, every time the horns hit that was like a yellow, like a fire yellow with like an orange bass. And then that drum came in. And it was kind of like, headlight white, pulsing on that beat and that sort of thing. So like these kind of like Sonic qualities, and these tambours to me, sometimes relate to color. And I don’t even know if it’s the right color, because I do have some colorblindness, but I’ve done stuff when I used to work in the studio, especially when I was recording my band, I’d be in this room for hours, and sometimes other people would be in there sometimes not. And I’d listen to stuff like what does this mix need? This guitar needs to look more like a paper bag. I need that Brown, I need paper bag Brown. And like, you know, that’s what’s in my head. And so I’d mess with it like with the EQ, or whatever kind of processing until I felt like that color was attached to that sound. It’s how I started thinking and it was like a wonder if I knew how to blend color and I understood color more if that would affect how I mix or listen. It’s pretty cool. It’s really wild. So

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 54:48
when you were looking for the paper brown bag, you were just sort of changing EQs you were playing with different ones or do you know to go to certain places?

Andrew 54:54
At that point, it was I was just messing with EQ and I was using the EQ on the eye On the board like the parametric EQ, I was trying to do it physically because this place had some outboard stuff. But sometimes you know if I’m like mixing something I’m putting like, like a reverb on it. That’s color coordinated. As far as I’m concerned, like space, whether it’s like real space or it’s like, you know, synthetic space like a reverb, there’s color, I was working on something earlier. And I was like, eating an ice cream sandwich. And I was listening to the reverb chain. And I was like, this seems cold because, you know, sometimes you have these other sort of like, emotions to music, or, you know, sensory reactions. I finished a sandwich it no longer seemed cold. But then it was, it was like, thinking about it as like a strawberry in a pool of lavender is what I heard this reverb chain of just this like Drum and Bass silly thing that I was doing. And I started thinking about maybe I gotta figure out what colors go with strawberry lavender, and then try to mix the rest of it. So it looks in my mind like that. And if that would be at all interesting, you know, it’s like, Pharrell did a record. That was all based on his synesthesia. I don’t know if it was a Neptune’s record or if it was,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 56:10
I think Kanye is also supposed to have synesthesia.

Andrew 56:13
Yeah, and you know, weirdos, you know, that happens. A lot of times people don’t even know what it is. Yeah, you know, you can always you can have any kind of like sensory, like experience like referential to anything. But then when it’s like, you start getting deep and thinking about and studying it, it’s like this is actually kind of kind of magic. And really fun. I wish that there was a more natural way to kind of activate my synesthesia, but it seems now it’s really, I mean, maybe I need to eat more of these ice cream sandwiches, but sometimes it seems….

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34
Talk to Carmen. Talk to Carmen to make you a strain. (Laughs)

? Yeah. get some, get some some that LSD hash oil or whatever, in my sandwich. Good lord. Like in 2013. I was doing a lot of sound work and mixing based around that because it was really active at the time. And I don’t know if it’s something where I just not allowing myself to do it. So overworked and stressed about stuff, like maybe that’s the thing, maybe I need to just chill and I can let my body communicate the way it wants to. Yeah. And like Andy has some have some fun here. Just listen, listen to this, as a case record and just listen to the color.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 57:25
That’s funny that you chose that you said Isaac Hayes, because we were doing I do some classes with Cheryl. And we did this thing where I wanted folks to describe so we you know, we talk about audio description in a creative way. And so I said, Well, I want y’all to describe a song. Right? And so I used Isaac Hayes, because I love it. It always works for me, “Hung Up On My Baby.” And the Ghetto Boys use it or whatever. They’re so different. And that was part of why I chose that song because that same riff, the interpretation when you hear it in the Ghetto Boys, it doesn’t give you that same feeling. As “Hung Up On My Baby”.

Andrew 58:01
Their . Narratives are so much more descriptive than what was going on at Stax. Yeah,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:06
I wish I had those colors because I always try to match it with what I’m seeing. And I don’t, I don’t find any sort of relationship except for the clarity. That’s the only thing that the relationship for me is that clarity.

Andrew 58:18
Clarity is something that I mean, that’s definitely something to strive for. You know, it’s like you got clarity. I mean, damn, I wish

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:31
Where can folks, check out what you’re doing and stay in contact with you.
Andrew 58:35
Yeah, my Instagram Tik Tok website, YouTube, everything like that.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:42
You’re on Tick Tock huh, what are you doing on Tick Tock?

Being an asshole!

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:42

Andrew 58:45
I had a viral video like last year like million something like maybe three or four

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:55
Oh, yeah. See, I don’t do tick tock. What are you doing?

Andrew 58:59
It was it was footage of a guy in the in the street in the middle of the night telling me it wasn’t blind. I shouldn’t be using grabbed it. And yeah, and so it started a huge discourse of people thinking that you know, the whole thing of like, how do you use tick tock if you if you can’t, you know, like all that stuff where they all came out of the woodwork. It’s like you’ll Google is free. My life is not a q&a.

I’ll put up fun videos of like, you know, me messing with like access stuff or just like me walking around and videotaping my cane on different surfaces and making sound.


I love that, “Making sounds on surfaces”.

Salute to Andrew Slater, I appreciate you bro!
Remember, we’ll be back in September and it’s always the second and fourth Tuesday of the month when we’re publishing episodes.

Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Hide the transcript

FTS Bonus – Collin van Uchelen’s Finger Works for Fireworks

August 9th, 2023  / Author: T.Reid

In this bonus episode, one of the raw conversations used in Flipping the Script on Audio Description: What We See I speak with Collin van Uchelen. A community psychologist out of Vancouver Canada, Collin talks about his experience with Scintillating Photopsia, his work defining a means of effectively describing fireworks as well as his own journey becoming a Pyrotechnician. Hear the story behind “Burning Tears” & more!



Show the transcript


Greetings Reid My Mind Radio family.

It’s me, Thomas, this week bringing you another bonus episode as promised.

In case you’re new here, this episode isn’t representative of the way I drop interviews. This is pretty raw, where I usually organize, chop out selected sections I think best support the narrative,
add some thoughts to move it all along and then add some sound design and music for a bit of flavor!

In an earlier episode titled, Flipping the Script on Audio Description: What We See, I used segments from multiple interviews with three individuals; Carmen Papalia, Collin van Uchelen and Andrew Slater.
I thought each of those interviews alone were too valuable to let sit on the cutting room floor or whatever the digital version of that is today.

If you haven’t checked out that episode, please give it a listen. I think you’ll dig it!

For now, enjoy this conversation.

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

My name is Collin van Uchelen. I am a community psychologist and Pyro technician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I am white with gray green eyes and light brown hair. He him his

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Tell me a little bit about what you were doing before blindness.

My sight loss has been incremental. And while I found out that I was 20, I was in university at the time and I went through university and I entered a program in clinical community psychology, a doctoral program, loved swimming, the outdoors, fireworks, my sight loss was incremental. As I lost eyesight, the kinds of activities that I would do would change gradually over time as well.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
But you were in pursuit of your doctorate and it sounds like you achieve that?

That’s right. Yeah, I was in at the University of Illinois in Urbana Champaign, and it was in a clinical and community psychology training program. And so I was there for quite some time and then came out, returned to British Columbia, I was born here, to pursue my clinical psychology internship at the University Hospital out here in Vancouver, have been here ever since.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
So I want to talk about the visual hallucinations, or I believe you call them scintillating photo Sia. Did I remember that correctly.

Yeah, that’s right scintillating Photopsia . (Pronounced Fo-tope-sia) what I was told, it’s an interesting phenomena, it started to occur as my sight loss was decreasing. What it essentially is, is that I see visual phenomena, day and night, and whether my eyes are open or closed. And so they’re somewhat like, hallucinations, I guess. But I really wouldn’t call it a hallucination in that strict sense of the meaning. Let me describe what I see. It is a continual flickering and flashing of light across my whole visual field, it reminds me a little bit of, for those who are sighted, what it looks like when the sun is low on the horizon. And it’s setting over a big lake or the ocean or a body of water with all kinds of little waves. And so you just get this sea of little flashes and flickers of light, it’s a little bit like that not quite as bright as it is with the sunlight. But that’s what I see 24/7 Now in my visual fields, and then on top of that, I have some moving kind of images and shapes that occur. And that vary a little bit from time to time. One of them is a little bit like a slowly rotating propeller blade like a propeller from a ship, or like the old sweep of radar that goes around in a circle and leaves a little trail wave of light that ripples out behind it. And these things rotate about one rotation per second, and I’ll see it rotate 567 times, and then it almost comes flying off its axis as if the propeller has just become dislodged, and then it disappears off in the distance, most of time they’re rotating clockwise. And, and I, I can’t do anything, really to create them or to make them stop. Another effect I have is also something that moves across my visual field. And I describe it a little bit like a gummy worm. It’s a band of light that’s somewhat curved. It’s usually kind of a bright purple, kind of a whitish purple, and it’s very, very bright. And so I have these band, it’s almost like in a couple of arches that that move across my visual field, sometimes left to right, sometimes bottom to top or top to bottom, and it just kind of sweeps across my, my visual field.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Do you think that’s similar to the floaters? I know folks describe floaters. I had that long time ago. floaters.

Yes. Yeah, very, very much. Because as I try to focus on one of these things, and and like try to track it, then it keeps moving, you know, outside of my visual field, just just at the edge of what I would be able to see. And it’s interesting because I really see almost nothing. Now, I can tell you know, whether there’s light or dark, a little bit of light perception, but most of my functional eye sight has deteriorated. I think in terms of this, this phenomena one of the most interesting things that I see often occurs early in the morning if I wake up from a dream or wake up in the middle of the night. It’s almost as if I’m looking at how it looks when if you look at a dry bottom of a lake bed or a stream bed where the water has receded in the sun has dried everything out. And then you have these little cracks that separate these little clumps of land, you know, they’re like little islands. And what I see is these kinds of little islands, but they’re all illuminated, and they’re kind of a bright greenish color. And then around them it is just black. And these little greenish islands have all these little scintillating, or they’re flickering, sometimes with these kind of purple sparkles in them. And these islands seem to grow in size, or divide in size and get smaller, and then sometimes clustered together. And sometimes these big clusters will form in kind of a purply. Color in it’s beautiful to look at. And it kind of reminds me a little bit of film, I used to see when I would see lava as a kid on TV, and I would see a lava flow that had sort of a crust of rock on the surface or, you know, hardened lava on the surface. And you would see in the cracks, you know, the bright orange glow below and just had that same kind of movement and, and breaking and coming together and splitting apart.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Wow, that’s cool. Like yours sound like it has a little bit more texture than mine. And what I noticed is the movement, I don’t have movement, like the floating that does not occur for me. So that’s really that’s really interesting.

Yeah, yeah, yeah,

TR in Conversation with Collin:
yeah. What do you feel about this phenomenon? Do you think there’s anything to it? Or is it just random? Do you make any connections ever?

You know, I think there is a lot to it. But that’s just because I have a from my training in psychology and understand a bit about, you know, how vision works in the brain. And our sensory information is kind of combined in through the photoreceptors of our retina. But I think for me, and in terms of other kinds of meaning that it has, I don’t mind it, in some ways. I describe it a little bit like ringing in the years, you know, if you’ve been to something that’s been quite loud, or you know, for folks who have some hearing loss or whatever, like that, it’s constantly going, it’s difficult to escape from, but it’s not unpleasant. For me, it’s just part of the background of my day to day life. And I find it somewhat interesting, insofar as it also reminds me a little bit of fireworks. As a pyro technician, and training fireworks is an art form that I’ve always loved long before I knew I was losing my eyesight, and I still like it, the flickering of it, the brightness of it, the high contrast of it. And that is an effect that you wouldn’t otherwise see every day. I think in terms of meaning, it’s kind of about that. And sometimes it just makes me smile. If it’s, you know, particularly vivid, like sometimes I’m just like, Wow, it’s amazing that I’m able to see this in the context of not being able to see much of what’s around me anymore due to my sight loss. And then sometimes if if I sneeze, it’s almost like they’re activated, or the intensity or speed or brightness is, is increased. And so I’ll get these earlier, I described these these, like worms that will move, you know, across my visual field, like moving arches, and they will sometimes, you know, repeat one after the other 1 2 3 4. And they’re all rising up in succession, and they’re quite bright. I think there might be something just a reflection of the physical stimulation that’s going on at that moment.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
I didn’t even think about the fact that you were a psychologist, because when I was thinking about these visions, I start to sometimes look at at the shapes and stuff. What is that called the Rorschach, the Rorschach test with the ink blocks,

and the Rorschach inkblot.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Yeah. And I started to like, try to figure out okay, what am I, what am I seeing in this shape? And I’m not gonna get into what I see.

That’s called a projective test, because you’re projecting into the image you’re looking at, you know, whether their interpretation, and it’s supposedly reveals a lot about your inner work.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Yeah, that’s why I’m not gonna say what I see.

Fair enough.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
But it sounds like scientifically that there’s probably no because like you said his project. I mean, you could project on anything. .

Sure. Yeah. I don’t think so. It has, you know, particular specific meaning. And so in that regard, I think it is somewhat random kind of activation of, you know, our nervous system to fill in, fill in the space that’s left behind with the degeneration of the photoreceptor cells,

TR in Conversation with Collin:
but it’s kind of fun. I sometimes wonder, is it related to something that I’m feeling is it related to you know, anything about my life? Is this something that I’m not consciously thinking about? I guess scientifically, that’s probably not the case. But, you know, I kind of still like to hold on to it like and wonder.

Sounds like a whole line of psychological research that we could get into. Very interesting.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Has your feeling changed about these. The way you feel today? Was that the same way you felt in the beginning?

No, I think at the beginning, it was a bit more of an annoyance. It was almost like a see through a screen that was between me and the outer world that I was still able to see at that point, you know, so I could see mountains and trees and faces of people. And then I would have this sort of display in the foreground, over the top of it have this constant shimmering and flicking and whatnot. So it was a little bit more annoying at that point, because it couldn’t shut off. But now as the rest of my visual field, my capacity to see what’s out and around me has diminished. This has become more of okay, well, this is what I have available for me to see now. It’s really not an annoyance. It’s just feel so familiar. It’s always there. There’s really never a moment when it when it stops.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
If you woke up and they were gone. Would you miss them?

I would think oh, I’m in trouble. (Laughing) Right? Am I alive? Yeah, like that might not be a good sign. Would I miss them? I don’t know. That’s an interesting question. Because it would be I imagined, like quite dark. Or maybe not. Maybe everything would appear kind of white or light gray or who knows.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
So you mentioned you are a pyrotechnic in training. So let’s talk a little bit of fireworks. What’s your earliest memory of enjoying fireworks?

It’s kind of neat. It’s one of my earlier visual memories. I was about four. And I was living in Portland, Oregon at the time, and they had an aerial fireworks display. This was the first time that I remember ever having seen anything like that, where there were all these colored points of light that were gorgeous, red, and green, and silver and in gold. That’s my first experience. And I was hooked. From that moment on Yeah, I didn’t have much occasion to see them frequently based on where I live. But I do remember, you know, having the experience at Disney Land. And then when I came to back to Vancouver here for my internship work. It just so happened that every summer in Vancouver, there was an event where three nights in the end of July and beginning of August, they would have a 20 to 25 minute Pyro techniques display where the fireworks were all synchronized to music. And they are launched from a couple of barges that are anchored out in the English Bay Harbor here in Vancouver, which is a gorgeous location and it’s rimmed with beaches all along and you would get two to 300,000 people come out and sit on the beach, you know, in the evening, watch the sunset and take in the fireworks display. In the center of it, they would even have a big PA system where the music was broadcast out on the beach. And then people who were farther away could tune in using their radios. And this was all simulcast then, and so they could see how the music was represented in the form of light during these displays, and it was just fantastic. And I remember the first one I saw, that’s when I returned here in 92. And I was I was, I was blown away. I’d never seen anything so impactful and so huge and so engaging as that because it’s not just the music. It’s not just the light of fireworks, but it’s also that the sound of the firework and the echo of that sound and how it kind of bounces around you. And the sort of immersive quality of the whole experience was was tremendous.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Have you ever experienced fireworks on television where you don’t hear the actual explosions? You just see the fireworks and the accompanying music. Does that have the same effect on you? Oh, no,

no, no, not so much. You know? And it reminds me actually of the little blurb that they had at the end of the you know, the Disney show way way back. Oh, yeah. They’re really young kid, you know, like, yeah, the fireworks going off around the council. It’s pretty to look at that the immersive nature of that multi sensory engagement is something that I really experienced when I’m close, as close as possible both to the firework display and to the music system. Here in Vancouver when these events occur, you know, there’s a one kind of it’s sort of like the quote front and center place, you know, at English Bay where English Bay Beach where You would go down and the crowd is very, very full there. So when the beach is full, you were sitting knee to knee on the beach 10s of 1000s of people all in close proximity, you know, would be very difficult even to walk around on the beach, you know, right prior to the display, because it is so full. People are all there for the same purpose, you know, to kind of experience this particular event. That’s pretty incredible.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Yeah, so you can smell the gunpowder at that point.

Sometimes you can, you can smell the smoke. Yeah, it depends on the direction of the wind, you know, and, but it’s really, it’s, it’s kind of that that Sonic engagement. And, and I tell you, there’s another part of this that that I think is really interesting, because it’s it’s a feeling sensation to. And that’s, it’s about what I call resonance. And I think it’s these are these moments when the artistry of what I’m beholding or witnessing touches me in a way that it just gives me goosebumps. If I can tell you just a bit of a story about how this occurred to me once here that just really got me to pay attention. I was at English Bay I was with a close friend and fireworks describer, Brad and you know, with 200,000 people on the beach all around you. You know, there’s a lot of chatter and conversation that goes on during these firework shows. But there was a moment when the music was kind of quiet. And the fireworks are kind of quiet to kind of muffled, sizzling sound and muffled kind of the the sound of the shell breaks as they were breaking in the air. And the crowd grew entirely silent. I had this feeling like that something amazing was going on. And nobody was saying a word. And so I leaned over to my friend Brad and I whisper and I said, Brad , like what’s happening? And he leaned back into me, and he said, it’s burning tears. It’s thousands of burning tears just slowly dripping down from the sky. Ma Yeah. Do you feel that? Yeah, yeah, yeah. So that that feeling I have, and I have it now just saying the story again, of that, that kind of tingles that went cascading through, through my spine, you know, and over the surface of my body. It’s that kind of experience that I love. That’s the kind of experience that I have often in, in the moments of tremendous beauty in like in the presence of art, whether it be music, or a fireworks effects, such as this one, which was these kind of long, orange, reddish tendrils of light that were just dripping down, all through the sky. I call that resonance because I think there’s something out there that is touching something inside of me. And I feel this kind of moment of connection and communion with it. And I think these experiences are heightened when we’re in the presence of other people who are witnessing the same or experiencing the same kind of moment together with us. And I think there’s this kind of transpersonal energy field that’s created by it. For me, I love it. So I will seek out experiences where this is likely to occur, going to performance, so one of my favorite musical, you know, groups or go into the fireworks or whatever, you know, communal shared, singing, you know, choir, that kind of thing. It’s about feeling a, it’s a feeling we, that gets activated in us. And so it’s, it’s not just the what’s happening out there. It’s about sort of our, my own sort of connection to it that I love in so I think that’s one of the big drivers. For me, one of the reasons that I love this art form is I often get that feeling.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Wow. You know, it’s funny, because I think that answers this next question in a way, what led you to believe that you can enjoy fireworks without sight? And so the fact that you can feel it? And you still get that feeling? Sounds like it but yeah, what led you initially, to think that

I was involved with an organization here in Vancouver called Vocal Eye Descriptive Arts, and they describe artistic and cultural events usually like performance art, to make it more accessible to people from the blind and low vision community. Primary for them was describing theatrical performances, which would be great because folks with sight loss would be in the audience and have a little headset on and would hear audio description of the action that was occurring on stage that was important, but that they might not be able to see with a describer, you know, near event as the action unfolded. So I approached the executive director, Steph Kirkland, and I said, Hey, Stef, would you be willing to come down and describe the fireworks and she was up to the challenge and she’s, you know, we of course, talked about how this was an unusual thing, but she did a bit of study about it. And by this time in my life, I had also assembled a bit of a vocabulary list and a glossary of terms. And so I would coach describers, who were going to describe for me what the different shapes and names were of specific effect types. There’s one that’s called the chrysanthemum. And that is a spherical effect where you see little trails of light behind the stars, as they move out from the center point, a little bit like a dandelion that’s gone to seed, if you’ve ever seen one of those, there are other effects that are more like a shooting star, you know, with a long trail of sparkling light. And these are called comets, and some are called willows, because they look a little bit like a weeping willow tree, or a palm tree. And so each of these characteristic effects has a unique label and or term that kind of refers to the form or shape that the firework takes in the sky, you know, albeit quite briefly. So coming back to Stef, so she came down to the beach to work with me, and she was describing the effects. And she was using the vocabulary that, you know, we both understood and describing the color and the changes of color, and these things are all very dynamic, right and changing quite quickly over the course of a display. I often use a metaphor, it’s like describing a flower bouquet, where the flowers are constantly changing size and form and shape and color and arrangement. It’s impossibly difficult to do in words, but just even focusing on one flower, or one particular kind of arrangement is is worth it if you’re losing your eyesight. And I think for me, I was yearning to stay connected with this art form that I so appreciated, but was losing touch with just because of the ongoing demise of my eyesight. And so there was this one moment on that that evening that Steph was describing kind of a little cluster or clump of stars that seemed to be slowly drifting down. And I was trying to kind of comprehend well, okay, how quickly is that moving in the sky, and I asked her to trace it out on my skin using her fingers. And so she traced it out on my forearm, the speed of this descent to this cluster of stars. And just her doing that gave me goosebumps at that moment, because I thought, This is how to do it. Because with that tactile gesture, she could convey the movement and the speed and somewhat of the character of the light in ways that words were unable to capture. And we spoke about that. And she too, had a comprehension of that. It’s just through that physical gesture of the movement that there was some potential to explore. And so over the course of the next year, she explored that, you know, in collaboration with me, and that was the genesis of the description technique that subsequently became known as finger works for fireworks. And they would use their fingertips to trace out the trajectory of the fireworks patterns on our back, and then use words to describe the characteristic colors changes and colors, or particularly interesting patterns and shapes, the words would kind of fill in the space between the gestures, between the two of them, hearing the words, feeling the tactile description on my back, and then hearing the effects of the fireworks themselves in the sky. Coupled with the music, the soundtrack for it, it was a really nice way it kind of started to reconnect me with the art form, in ways that were helping to compensate for my sight loss. They didn’t replace vision. Yeah, I would prefer to see it. But it was a way to stay connected. And so that’s become a foundation for my continued exploration in what I call cross sensory translation. It’s like how can we translate something from the visual modality into non visual modality so that we kind of stay connected with it and maybe brings a new perspective on it and new way of engaging with it as someone who’s such as myself, who is now blind,

TR in Conversation with Collin:
with the finger works, would a describer reflect intensity with the weight of their fingers on your hand? Or are you getting intensity from the sound of the explosions,

the sound of the explosion doesn’t necessarily map on to the intensity of how bright the effect is, you know, and unless it’s like what’s called a salute, which is just like a big bang, you know, like those are the and those often occur at the finale of the show. But with the intensity of the touch of your fingers. Yes, you can convey that the brilliance, the brightness of it.

I once had a pianist, a classic, coldly trained professional pianist, do this kind of description with me. She was married to one of the pirate technicians who was helped setting up the display at this mall. moment, I didn’t have a describer with me and I said, Hey, Jen, would you be willing to do this? And she said, Well, how and so what let your fingers be the conduit of the energy of the light. And she was great at it. Even without using words, she was able to convey, convey so much of the character and the color and the emotion of that display, based on her touch and the elegance with which he was able to use her fingers in their movement, and that the delicacy of the touch at moments that were really kind of delicate in terms of the the effects, you can convey so much in that way. Yeah, that’s a good question.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
The way you sort of approach this, you tell me, it doesn’t sound like you were ever seeking a replacement. It sounds like you were clear that you were not going to replace that. But there was something that you were looking for to gain from the fireworks.

It was reaching for anything to to enable me to stay connected with the art form. And so that that morphed over time, you know, so it just started with friends who are giving sort of the verbal description, you know, and at that time, I was still able to see the colors, but couldn’t really distinguish some of the shapes of the dimmer a fact teaching the vocabulary, and then kind of that description got more and more involved than bringing, you know, Vocal Eye on, the tactile gestures. And then, when Brett had that phrase, burning, tears dripping down, that just really opened up the window to kind of also comprehend what is possible with evocative description, you know, that’s almost like poetic in that way, that can still sort of activate my own sense of my own resonance with the art, it was always sort of reaching for and then doing work to kind of CO create the access tools that were necessary for me to continue my engagement with this artform and I’m continuing to do it to this day.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
How important would you say that is this whole thing was in terms of your adjustment to blindness?

Well, it’s, I, I think what it reveals, to me most clearly, is the value in having some agency about developing an approach to do stuff that I want to do that might not be already existing out there in the world. As far as I know, no one was into describing fireworks for the benefit of people who are blind at that moment. And rather than me like wishing and hoping that someone would invent this kind of thing, to say, Hey, this is what I’m imagining, this is what I would like to do, Hey, would you trace that out on on the surface of my skin, and it’s through those kind of moments that are really quite generative. Little did I know, where it would lead that one experience where that could possibly go, and that it would have interest for other people too, in terms of my own adjustment to blindness, I think this is one of the ways that works for me. and blindness is terribly inconvenient. And I wouldn’t wish it upon anyone, it slows me down it, there’s a lot of stuff I don’t do and can’t do and I don’t want to spend the time to do. But this is one of the things where you know, I still have that, that desire that I’m going to work at this, you know, and I’m going to do whatever I can to stay connected with this art form.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
I’m hanging on to that word agency. (Overly exaggerated and sarcastic) )What in the world Collin makes you think you can move from being a consumer of fireworks, you know, just enjoying them into actually creating them? What gives you the nerve to do that?

(Laughing) That was actually a really nice question. And in what I’m doing is really quite unreasonable. I am a Pyro technician, I am learning about not just like how fireworks look and how they function, but actually how they’re constructed, what the components are, how they are assembled, all that the technical details of the art form, and I’m not doing it because I’m blind or like, Hey, I’m blind, like, you know, like, I’m gonna do something crazy. I’m doing it because it’s just, it’s a natural reflection of my curiosity, in interest in this particular field, and I just keep learning more and it was really at the beginning of the Torah COVID lockdowns that a chunk of time freed up in my life that it was no longer you know, getting dressed and going to the office and with transit and this that and the other thing, you know, it’s like, oh, my gosh, I have a little bit of time. And there was an encounter with a an artist at one of these events at English Bay when fireworks were being described with this technique and Carmen Papalia. He said, calling you you should really do Something with your interest in Fireworks is because he said what you’re doing here is amazing. And he said, it really sort of changes the discourse about accessibility as kind of a quote service or a one size fits all type of thing into a more relational realm where this is kind of negotiated between someone who is not using their eyes to perceive the world, you know, and someone who is able to be a guide or interpret the visual world with us and where we have some agency about how that works. And so I, I do that with my own describers. Now to like, if I’m with fireworks, and they’re giving me too much words, that’s okay, you know, less less words, or slow down on what you’re doing in terms of your tactile gestures, simplified, but just show me one thing, clearly, I want to be a little bit in the driver’s seat about how that description works. And I think it’s that same kind of desire, that is informing my own training within the pyrotechnics, as an art form. So I’m learning and I’m seeking out to work with people who are experienced and who understand way more. And the more I learned, the more I realize how little I actually know about the complexity of this. It’s a combination of physics and mathematics and chemistry. And then there’s a little bit of artistic creativity and in the fall tend, in all this, you know, to be combined in the tablet synchronized to music, and be Arial and all the random factors that affect it, such as the wind and humidity, and, you know, whatever else might be on the go the variability from one shell to the next. It’s just incredible that any of this works, let alone to have it work in such a way that gives the viewer goosebumps is just astounding, and I want to learn how to do that. And I want to learn to be part of that. And I want to co create that. And of course, I can’t do what I can’t do. And I’m not trying to do what’s impossible. But I’m trying to do what’s within my realm of possibility where I do have some agency on designing something. And so that’s my current ambition is to design a pyro musical display, from my standpoint, as someone who has sight loss is ridiculous, but but I’m loving it.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
This might sound like a weird question, but I’ll relate it, who gave you or who can give you permission to do this?

Yeah, who gave me permission to do this? I tell you how this came about. First of all, no one gave me permission, per se, I do do the proper certification to understand safety and legal considerations. And that was a chunk of work to make that happen. But in terms of the kind of permission to pursue this as an area of interest. It was a conversation I had with a pyro technician here in British Columbia, Bill Reynolds, it was at this moment that, you know, I spoke with Carmen, he said you want to do something with your interest in pyrotechnics. And I was, you know, looking for somebody who had a bit of a proper Vocabulary List of fireworks effects that went along with, you know, images of what those look like that I could use for training purposes. And I managed to be referred to Bill and I spoke with them. And we had this conversation and I said this is what I’m looking for, you know, for what I’m doing with description of fireworks, you know, to make them more accessible as viewers to people who are blind. And then at the end of the conversation like, oh, by the way, I just thought I should mention, you know that I have this like crazy ambition that one day, I want to design a firework display of my own to a pyro musical to my favorite song. He heard that and I felt like oh, god, he’s gonna hang up on me or laugh or whatever. And he said, Well, do you want to fail at that? And I thought, Well, no, no, no, no, no, I don’t know, I actually kind of think it’d be really cool to do. And he said, Well, Collin, then you have to do it. Because if you don’t do it, you will most certainly fail. And you told me you don’t want to fail. So there’s one option, and that’s to do it. And he said, and I suggest you do it now. And it was one of those moments that just gave me goosebumps, you know, and it just my heart started to panic. And I started to kind of get sweaty and I thought like, and I just knew like, he’s right. You know, like, he’s right. If I’m going to do anything with this crazy dream, which have been floating around my head for years, you know, like, oh, one day wouldn’t it be cool if ya da da da da, in the meantime I’m going blind and it’s this kind of lovely fantasy, kind of a bucket list type of thing but never really, really seriously thought, yeah, I can actually didn’t really believe in myself that I could do this. Yeah. And I think it was him that kind of kick started me into seeing. Okay, well, what would it take to make this happen? And so I wrote some grant proposals with the assistance from people who knew way more about the arts field. And as Carmen told me, he said Collin you’re an artist. And your biggest problem is that you don’t know that, you know, and I kept thinking, Yeah, I thought I was a psychologist. And he said, You need to just embrace your artistic side. And he said, and I think you can go somewhere with this. And so I wrote some grant proposals, and lo and behold, they were funded. And each step of the way that I talk, doing the next kind of unreasonably ambitious thing, the door would open up for me, and step by step, person by person, contact by contact, communication, but communication, I’ve just been led forward, going deeper and deeper into the heart of the very thing that I want to have come together in my life. I’m in the midst of it now. And it’s, it’s just amazing. And it still feels completely unreasonable to be doing what I’m doing. I’m not doing anything unsafe, but it’s just like having that agency about, okay, what can I imagine in terms of translating music into light? And then the challenges? How can I translate that to my sighted coworkers, who will be working with me who are going to help me navigate what specific firework effect would create that kind of a pattern of stars or that kind of feeling or that color of sparkle without, you know, delay and or the length of time it stays visible in the sky? And that’s where I’m relying on on people who have that kind of wisdom of experience and knowledge to work with.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
You mentioned you had to get some sort of certification in terms of safety. Outside of that, is there any other certification any other governing body that’s getting in your way of trying to do what you’re doing?

No, no, the reason I did it, it for my own knowledge and credibility.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Right now in audio description. There are people out here who really frown upon, and who doubt the abilities of blind people to participate in audio description, in many ways. But the most obvious and the most thing that gets a lot of conversation is about blind folks who want to write audio discretion. And they question their abilities. And they question the fact that they have accommodations. And part of those accommodations are specifically you need someone to give you some of that initial description. And then they form sentences instruction all that time. But the main point around that is that there’s a big restriction on right now it’s we’re talking about audio description, but this same thing happened for blind folks who, who teach O & M (Orientation & Mobility) instruction, people doubting our abilities.
That’s right.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
And that’s what it comes down to. Any thoughts on that?

Many, many, because I do think that that doubt, in our own ability and our own agency, to make choices about how we want to engage with the world around us what we want to teach what we want to do how we want to have access to information or experiences in our life. Yeah, I think we’re often looked to as sort of an independent position or role, I still experience it today. If I go somewhere, and I’m with a sighted person, the handler, the ticket taker, the gate agent, whatever, whoever they talk with, they talk with a sighted person, even if it’s about me and my own access needs, I think people just default to talking with an able bodied person, because we’re they’re accustomed to us needing to be managed and handled and taken care of in some way to keep us safe or out of trouble or whatever it might be that they think. I think that’s a large part of the context. And I think some people just aren’t even aware of how much they do that on a day to day basis. And I think they may even believe that they’re being respectful, you know, by talking to the person with eyesight about our needs, you know, so it was not to, quote offend us, or whatever it might be that they’re imagining. For me. I think with the work I’ve done both with the initial description work, and with a subsequent development of my own interest in the pyrotechnical arts, it really was about charging forward and doing something that I thought worked for me fundamentally, and it has the added benefit of networking for some of my peers as well. Even with the description work that I do with Vocal Eye Descriptive Arts here in Vancouver and the Finger Works for Fireworks technique, when there was interest in it from The media, they would always go immediately to Vocal Eye about sort of as the source as the genesis for this word. And I was the one who said, Hey, how about describing fireworks? Hey, how about tracing this out on my arm. And so how quickly we forget about that kind of narrative in the surface of other people helping the blind to see and not to discount the huge benefit and import and and gift that that is that there are people who will describe for me and with my peers and for my peers and, and you know, bend over backwards to open up experiences and possibilities to us that we would otherwise miss. I think it’s lovely. I do. And I think that there are ways that we, ourselves also can have agency in navigating what that can look like. For me. I just started to develop what I was doing. And with fireworks, I started to experiment with how can these things be represented in tactile three dimensional models? And I found volunteer to work with and say, Okay, I have a blocked Styrofoam here, we have a bunch of pipe cleaners and these little sticks and plants and whatever to represent shapes are different fireworks, and what can we do to represent the shape of effects so that they work for me, and that might work for other people in terms of telling people how to recognize one firework from another? I think it comes down to agency, you know? Yeah. And that sometimes we just have to do it and, and people will like, Hey, wait, wait, you can’t go there. Watch me go. Here I go.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Yeah, we go. How can folks watch you go? How can we stay in touch and stay in tune with what you’re doing and learn more and follow along and all of that,

while I do a tremendous amount on my own, one of the things I haven’t really well developed, is any kind of a presence on social media or the like, my hope is one day that will come together.

The display I’m working on will be called awaken in light. Awaken is the name of the piece of music. It’s by the progressive rock group, “Yes”, written in 1977 in light comes about because of their representation of this music in the form of light. It’s not going to be your ordinary, short, top 40 piece of music. It’s a long song. It’s complex, has many different movements and many emotions to it. I would say when this is taken shape, it’ll be awakened in light as what you’ll need to look for.

I do have a website which is called Burning tears dot C A

This is a website where we talk about the power of words to describe dynamic art, such as fireworks in my exploration of it and a project that I’ve been working on over the past year and a half


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