Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Becoming Critical

Who should determine what qualifies as good or bad audio description?

What’s trust got to do with AD?

These questions and more. All from a Blind centered point of view in this part one of two.

Join Us Live

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

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


Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

Editors Insert
THOMAS: Greetings! Before we jump into this edited version of our live Blind Centered Audio Description Chat from April 5, 2023,
we wanted to let you know that we’re editing this discussion into two episodes.
The next episode will feature a Blind film critic who reviews films both with and without AD, in order to highlight the need for audio description.
Here’s Cheryl kicking off our discussion!
CHERYL: We were inspired to talk about what does it mean to critique or even analyze or assess or publicly or privately give your opinion about a film and about the audio description, because there seemed to be some feelings of barriers about who’s allowed to share their opinion, especially if they say, “I didn’t like something.” Who’s gatekeeping that? And who’s doing the gaslighting when someone does present their opinion, and someone else says, “No, that’s clearly wrong.” So, those were some of the things that came up. And I know Thomas, you wanted to talk about some of the ways that you do critique or comment on films.
THOMAS: Yeah. And so, even before that, I kinda wanted to go back in. ‘Cause something I’ve been thinking about is based on this conversation that we have several times, not necessarily here, but folks, we have these conversations in many different formats. And so, it’s like, you know, we often want to hear from other people, right? Other blind folks, other folks with low vision, other AD users specifically now, and sometimes we don’t really hear back. And I started thinking about that. Like, why is that? Why aren’t we hearing back from the community as much as we may like to? You know, that could be on the, for the purposes of advocacy. And by advocacy, I’m talking about all aspects of that: reaching out to AD producers, reaching out to the streaming companies, broadcasters. Even back when we were trying to get the CVAA passed, you know, reaching out to your representatives, all of that stuff. And we always wanna hear from people.
And so, specifically now, thinking about the process of talking about AD from the user experience, why don’t we hear back from them? And I think there’s a lot of things that we have to remember. Number one, AD, even today in 2023, is relatively new within the last maybe five years, maybe even a little bit more than that, maybe less than that. But five years, I think, is probably the most amount of consumption of AD that we’ve had in probably in our history. So, whether that be five years, ten years, it’s probably definitely within that last year since the CVAA has been passed. And so, in that sense, watching films with audio description is a new experience.
And I know me personally, when I started watching films with audio description, I was excited about every single film that came out because I had access. So, it wasn’t so much that I was watching this movie to critique the audio description. At that point, to be honest with you, there was many films, there were many films that I was watching that I wasn’t even critiquing the film. I was just freakin’ happy to be able to watch this film and enjoy it. And I think that is probably the same for a lot of people. Anytime someone would ask me about a film, I would always say, “Hey, look. I’m gonna tell you that I’m gonna rate this film high already because I had access.” Like, I was already giving one thumb up. [laughs] You know what I’m saying? I was already giving one thumb up just because it had audio description. And I feel like there’s probably a lot of people like that, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. I really don’t.
I think it’s gonna take some time for the community to become more critical about audio description, and I think it’s gonna take more time for the community to become more critical about all aspects of that, right? So, the writing, we always talk about the writing. And we know some of it is better than others. But then also the film itself, right? Being more critical about what you’re watching. Because, you know, we have to do both. We’re watching the film, and audio description is that filter. So, we’re processing all of that at one time. And that in itself, you know, can be a lot of work, and not everybody comes to audio description to do that work. Most people wanna watch television and films and whatnot as their form of entertainment, you know, just to chill. And so, we might be expecting more from the casual AD user than we should, right? ‘Cause most of us who talk about AD who are really caring about it, most of us who show up here, who, you know, who advocate for it, we’re not the regular AD user. And so, I just wanna, me personally, be mindful of that because I don’t wanna see a situation where we’re sort of blaming and putting all this extra stuff on the community, like we go, “Aw, you gotta get out there, and you have to!” And it’s true. We do. We do need to do that. But when we talk about, “You gotta get out there, and you gotta voice your opinion on the audio description,” well, you know, that’s public speaking. Whether it be in writing, whether it be on a forum like this, that’s public speaking. And we already know that’s something that’s scary to a lot of people.
And then you add on to that it’s being critical. And we know this is a subjective thing, whether it be the audio description, whether it be the film. These are people’s opinions. And you know how we get. Just think if you’re one of those people who argue about sports and stuff like that, it’s just anytime that it differs, you can get into an argument, you know. Someone could come and say, “I really enjoyed this audio description. I liked the narrator. I thought it was great. They did a great job.” And then you get someone coming out and telling them, “Well, I don’t know what you’re listening to. That sucked! And let me tell you why it sucked.” Damn. That’s kind of, ugh, you know? [laughs] Who wants to give their opinion after that? Who wants to get into that fight? So, these are things we have to think about. And, you know, eventually, I think we’re gonna see a lot more of us being critical about AD and about films, but I think it’s gonna take some time. So, I wanna throw that out there for some food for thought. I don’t know. Maybe that’s a…. I don’t know if it’s a steak. Maybe it’s a little Chicken McNugget. I don’t know what kinda food that is.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Maybe it’s just a snack. I don’t know. Whatever. But if anybody wants to talk about that, Cheryl, Nefertiti, if y’all still there. Maybe I lost connection, and I’m talking to myself. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh, no, we’re here. We’re here.
THOMAS: So, what do you think?
NEFERTITI: I guess I’ll chomp down on the snack a little bit.
THOMAS: Yeah, chomp.
NEFERTITI: I’ll just quickly say, you’re absolutely right that there is more than a handful, I think, of us, but definitely a certain number of us who are very vocal and who do stick our necks out there. I’m one of these people who critiqued something recently, rightly so. These were verifiable mistakes and things that were happening. And, you know, I was accused of not uplifting other talent and all this stuff. And that’s not, was not at all my intention. But when you play favorites, right, and you have your favorites—we all do. I certainly do—and somebody points out a flaw or something like that, there are some people who might take offense to that and let their opinion, out there. So, what do they say? “Opinions are like mmhmms. Everybody’s got one?”
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Accusing me of not uplifting other talent? That’s just, that was… That was incorrect. And I don’t think anybody else saw what I said like that, but that person did. So, does that mean that that person is incorrect? Yeah, I and others think so, but it’s still their opinion. So, Thomas, when you say, you know, somebody was like, “Oh, I think this is great,” and somebody came back like, “I don’t know what you were listening to. It sucked,” I think both opinions are valid.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
NEFERTITI: You know? But just it doesn’t have to get personal. It doesn’t. You know, if the person that just said, “Oh, that’s interesting ‘cause I’ve listened to the same thing, and I thought it was terrible for this and that reason,” then that would’ve been perfectly fine.
NEFERTITI: I think it gets murky and nasty when you make it personal. Like, “I don’t know what you were listening to!” You know, like, there’s no need for that. So, maybe a little decorum, a little bit of manners could go a long way. But I think everybody’s opinion is valid.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: And I think it’s super important that for those of us who are advocating and who are not afraid to say possibly controversial stuff, one, we have to have thick skin, right? And two, not everybody’s going to always agree with us. Feelings might get hurt, you know, for sensitive types out there. You have to expect with anything that when you put yourself out there, there might be a little blowback from people who don’t necessarily agree with you. And that’s okay. I think a lot of good discourse can come from that. Different perspectives can come from that. I always say that I love to hear from people who don’t agree with us.
THOMAS: Mmhmm, mmhmm.
NEFERTITI: ‘Cause it might teach us something. It might give us something to think about.
THOMAS: Yeah. That’s your favorite. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: It is. That is my favorite thing. I agree with you. Some people just wanna watch a film and lose their mind in that film and then forget about it. Not everybody’s an advocate. Not everybody is outspoken. But I do think that we do need more people to be comfortable with being critical, not just this, “I’m grateful that it exists at all! So, let me not say anything bad about it, because what if they take it away?!” No, I strongly disagree with that.
THOMAS: Mmhmm, mmhmm.
NEFERTITI: I think audio description is here. It’s not going anywhere. It’s here. And I think the more en masse we present, the more unified we present as a community, the more seriously we’ll be taken and the further we will move the needle. I’m not afraid of it going away or, like, having repercussions that because we speak up so much, you know, it’s gonna be— I don’t believe that’s true. I don’t believe that will happen.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. No, absolutely. I 100% agree with you. For my own, and for a lot of other people I’m sure, when I say I was just happy to have access, I was not coming from the perspective of, okay, I’m gonna give this thumbs up or whatever, because I’m scared it’s gonna get taken away. No, not at all. It’s just about, you know, you have to remember that for grown folks, you know, and even some of the younger folks, this is, these last few years are almost like this sort of Renaissance in terms of what they have access to, in terms of film.
THOMAS: And to expect folks to be able to just be really critical, we might be expecting too much. And I think what you said about the venue in terms of where they voice it, you know, if you’re doing that in social media, if you’re doing that in a closed, which I’ve noticed, too, is that in a closed sort of forum like a Facebook audio descriptions list or something like that, right, or an email list, there’s probably gonna be more of that taking place because it’s a somewhat controlled environment. There are rules around there, right? We invite people to come in here, and when they step in here, we’re not gonna take any nonsense. We’re gonna keep everybody, “Hey, no. We wanna hear from you if you have a difference of opinion. We’re gonna respect that.” So, this is a controlled environment.
THOMAS: But if you’re thinking about— ‘Cause I often wonder, like, I don’t see as much on an open forum like Twitter, where I think it is important to have it because that’s when other folks are gonna see it.
THOMAS: But I’m realizing that might not be a safe space for people. People don’t feel that that’s a safe space. I gotta understand that and remember that. Yeah, that’s true. That might be true for people. So, but I still think it’s important for folks like you, whomever else, you know, say what you gotta say. But yes, be respectful. But, you know, you can’t control it. And like you said, if you put it out there, just expect that something’s gonna come back. Something’s gonna come back. There’s all the other -isms that come into play where people think they can just say something to somebody, and they wouldn’t say that to someone else.
THOMAS: And so, unfortunately, you might get more. You might get more than I would get because I think people might check themselves.
NEFERTITI: Oh, yeah. As a brown, blind woman.
THOMAS: That’s a good thing to do. That’s a good thing to do, by the way. Check yourself if you’re gonna come to me. I’m just letting you know.
NEFERTITI: [huge laugh]
THOMAS: I’m just letting you know!
NEFERTITI: Check yourself before you wreck yourself, okay?
THOMAS: Yeah, exactly. Yeah.
NEFERTITI: [chuckles] Yeah, no. It’s absolutely true. Like, as an outspoken brown, blind woman, you know, like, yeah, some people just, some people attack just because, you know?
NEFERTITI: Just because. So, I do expect it, and I’m thick-skinned. Some things do get under my skin, but guess what? You’ll never see it. I won’t show it to you. I might talk to Thomas. I might talk to Cheryl. I might talk to my partner. I might scream into my pillow.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: But that’s not like the kind of thing to give these sorts of people the ammunition to keep on, you know, attacking you. But also, because if you’re sure of what you’re saying and you stand behind it, I think that’s very brave of people to do.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
NEFERTITI: And I think it’s really important that we just don’t accept the status quo. If there’s a show that you really like that clearly did not go through QC, what’s wrong with saying, “Hey, this is not okay. This is why blind QC is so important.” And QC for that matter, for some of the quality that’s being put out there these days. Any QC would be an improvement over this. Some people would take a lot of offense to that, right? You know, I think it’s important that we let these things be known, that it’s being noticed, that there is a community out here watching this content and paying attention. And if you’re not doing something right, you’re not doing, you know, putting in the care that it deserves, then if you get shamed, I think that’s okay. Maybe it’ll motivate them to do better next time, you know? We deserve that. At the very least, we deserve to have care in the access that we, you know, literally paid for, right? A lot of these streaming services, we’re paying for this stuff just to get a crappy…. I’m sorry I get so speechless with this stuff because it’s so infuriating to me.
THOMAS: What’s your experience with film before AD? Did you get personal audio description at home? What was your? I never asked you that. If you wanna share here.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, absolutely. You know, it’s interesting because these days when I watch something that I’m really into…. In fact, let me give you a real-world experience or, yeah, an example. So, my partner and I really like Family Guy.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: And we’ve been going through the seasons. There’s like 20-some-odd seasons. Season Nine is not described anywhere that we could find, and we tried. We tried recently to watch an episode from that season, and we had no idea what was going on! There was so much music with very little sound effects, very little dialogue that we were like, “Well, if this is the first episode of this 20-odd-episode season, you know, we’re just gonna have to go without because there’s no way that we can follow along.” And it got me to thinking, how were we watching stuff before audio description? And so, he and I had this whole conversation about we really don’t know how we got on without audio description before audio description! I think we just made do. I love the show The Golden Girls. Absolutely love that show. I started watching that show when I was nine years old, and it was only recently that it got some description. I’m realizing, based on the description, that so many of the scenes I thought I knew what was going on, I was completely wrong!
NEFERTITI: My brain filled things in, and I was wrong so much of the time. But how do I know that? Because I now have description. I spent years thinking the wrong things were happening in the show. They made sense in my brain.
NEFERTITI: But it’s not what actually was happening.
THOMAS: How do you know that what you’re being described, what’s being described is correct?
NEFERTITI: Honestly?
NEFERTITI: You don’t. You have to trust and have faith—
THOMAS: Aha! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: —that you’re being told, giving, being given accurate information.
THOMAS: Uh-huh.
NEFERTITI: For example, let’s say in a scene, right, I thought one of the characters was, I don’t know, stirring some pasta in a pot. Turns out that actually, she was, like, I don’t know, serving a dish at the table, right? So, not a huge difference. It was still in a kitchen. It was still an action of some kind, but it was different. So, from my making up oh, she must be stirring the pasta in the pot ‘cause they’re talking about food to the describer not telling me, you know, “She stands at the table and serves from a platter,” I have to trust that that’s true ‘cause I’m assuming that nobody’s gonna lie about something visual simply because they’re saying it presumably to a person who can’t see it for themselves. But, yeah, the truth is that I don’t know.
THOMAS: That’s right. You don’t know. And you just said it, and I’m so glad you said it: trust and faith. Because that’s exactly what it is. Now, factor in when we ask folks to give us their opinion, and you’re nervous that someone else might tell you the opposite or disagree with you. And then sometimes, you know, it comes down to, well, damn, how do I know? Even your opinion is based on this audio description, is based on trust and faith. And then when you’re arguing with somebody or even when you’re just discussing something, maybe this, has this ever happened to you? You might be discussing a film or television show with someone who’s sighted, and then your interpretation of what happened was off?
THOMAS: So, why in the world would you want to talk about films or anything in public again? So, you see the fact that we have to do that, and we’re using our trust and faith, right? And we already have all of these other things sort of, you know, again, with the idea that you’re somewhat new to film in a way, for a lot of people.
THOMAS: I don’t necessarily consider myself new to film. I was watching before I lost my sight, but I watch differently now.
THOMAS: And so, sometimes, I’m, I still might be really hesitant, or I’ll do, before I talk about it, I confirm. I might confirm things with other people. “Hey, is this correct? Is this what you see? Is it?” You know what I’m saying? I might do some of that to make sure to have things right. But yeah, that’s another part of it. Trust and faith is the way we experience content.
CHERYL: And Thomas, I think there’s also a trust issue—I’m gonna come from the sighted audio describer perspective—I think there’s a trust issue, too, where there are some audio describers who inherently don’t trust the opinion of the blind consumer.
CHERYL: I’m not sure why or where that comes from. It could be, you know, “I don’t trust anybody unless they’ve gone to this institution and are credentialed or certified.” I don’t know what it is, but I have, it’s not universal, but I’ve noticed some people have a bias toward, “Well, I’m trained, so my opinion of what was good or bad audio description is more valid and better informed and more useful than opinions of the AD consumer.” And I think that’s a real problem. And I think that on the non-blind side, we need to check that bias, notice that bias, and do something about it, and really say if the end user is the person whose opinion matters most, then that’s who we should always be asking. So, you’ve talked about some barriers people may face to wanting to give a critique, and I think this is another one that’s real important. Not that somebody’s gonna take your audio description away, but that you’ll be discredited or ignored or talked about behind your back about, well, you know, “What does Thomas know? He’s blind! He doesn’t know what good audio description is.” And that is a bias that I think for any sighted people here listening to this or listening to the recording, stop and ask yourself if you might have that. Because you won’t know until you stop and ask yourself. And it’s something that I think really needs to be addressed in the community of people who provide audio description.
THOMAS: Mm. Absolutely.
THOMAS: Absolutely. And [big sigh] if that person, right, so, if a user of AD has a good experience, they walk away from that film, that television show thinking, “Wow, I enjoyed that.” And then they hear someone telling them, “No, that was bad! You shouldn’t have enjoyed that,” that really is…that’s awful. [laughs] That’s awful. And it kind of goes against…. [sighs] Like, I’m all for better AD, that it meets certain criteria. But I also know that this stuff is subjective, right? And so, I’m not talking about the AD that breaks the quote-unquote “rules.” Like, the AD that’s telling you that the phone is ringing when you hear the phone ringing. I’m not necessarily talking about that. But it feels like, you know, the name of what we do here is Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats. And that scenario that you gave, Cheryl, is totally not centering a blind person, right? It’s centering the person who’s providing the service. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Mm, mmhmm.
THOMAS: And I say that on purpose. The person who’s providing the service. The service provider. Mm! The person with the certification. Yeah, that’s interesting.
NEFERTITI: Well, I’m one of these people. And here we go with a controversial opinion. Just ‘cause you may have a letter or three or ten behind your name doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily the smartest or the most, mm, appropriate person in the room to speak on whatever. I understand that those, we put so much stock in, you know, yeah, certification. And, you know, those things are supposed to say, “Hey, yeah, this is what qualifies me to be here and say these things.” Just like at the top of our gatherings here, we say, “Hey, I’m Nefertiti Matos. I do this, then the third. I’m Thomas Reid. I’m Cheryl Green.” And you know, to let you know, hey, we’re here. We do this. Hopefully we know what we’re talking about, and yet we don’t have letters behind our names. And I think we’re some of the smartest people, most with it people out here. And yes, that is an opinion, and I’m totally biased.
SCOTT: Hi, everybody. I’m Scott, consumer of audio description and dabble in quality control in the field as well and have a day job in a non-profit blindness organization. So, it’s so interesting, Thomas. You were talking about how things changed. I was thinking back to in the early aughts, in the early 2000s, I would look for, and sometimes be successful finding, scripts online, like a complete movie script. And that was the closest I could get to audio description for some films, and I was thrilled with that experience. And I look back on it now and all the time that I spent searching those things out and still knowing that my access was not the same, you know, it just, it proves the point that we are beings in motion and that we’re constantly, hopefully, changing to some extent, learning, getting better, and looking for better.
There was also recently a discussion—it’s still going on, actually, I would say—in an email forum about audio description about synthetic speech versus human. And I had to kind of check myself because one of my initial reactions was frustration with people who just said, “I’ll be okay with something rather than nothing.” Because I think we’re all at different points on the journey, right? And there are people who have been used to a certain thing for so long that change can be challenging. But I also feel that it’s really important to continue to advocate. And I think we can advocate and show by example, and people will start to catch on to that. And I think it’s also a point that in that same conversation that was happening on an email forum this week, there were a number of people asking like, “What can I do? What can I do to get more involved?” And even that, I think, is a huge improvement. I think that the Renaissance, like you called it, Thomas, that’s a good word of what’s been happening in the last six years, five, six years, we are seeing a little bit of a wave building of people wanting to get more involved either professionally or even just to advocate. So, we keep setting the example, and I think we’re going to see good things coming.
THOMAS: You know, what Scott was talking about, it was really interesting, though. That’s amazing. Like, you’re going and searching for a script of the movie.
SCOTT: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: What made you do that? What was it about that particular movie that made you just need to know about what’s going on?
SCOTT: Honestly, I think I did it with most of the movies I was watching, and I was watching fewer movies. I mean, listen, at the time, 2005 versus now, let’s say, to me in my mind, there are a lot more things to watch now.
SCOTT: I don’t think it’s arguable that that’s the case. So, I would do it by default with everything.
SCOTT: How did I start? I don’t remember. I just remember that like, I was trying to find any way I could to get to know more about the movie.
THOMAS: Mmhmm. But was there a specific reason in terms of that movie that?
SCOTT: No, I did it with a bunch of movies.
THOMAS: You did it with a bunch of movies, okay.
SCOTT: I probably, I don’t know, I would say my success rate was like, 15 or 20%.
THOMAS: Oh, wow.
SCOTT: Why were there complete scripts online? That’s a great question, too. I have no idea. That was maybe something that shouldn’t have been happening. But it was great ‘cause you got the scene setting and the scene transitions, the camera angles, and everything.
THOMAS: Right, right.
SCOTT: So, it was a form of audio description.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
SCOTT: But [laughs] would I do it now? Probably not.
THOMAS: Yeah. Aha, yeah. That story, Scott, reminds me of like, you know what they say about water.
SCOTT: Yeah.
THOMAS: You know, water’s gonna, water’s gonna get through. You’re gonna find what it is that you’re looking for. You’re gonna find a way, which is audio description.
SCOTT: Yeah.
THOMAS: I mean, you know, the fact that blind people wanted access, and we find a way, we’re gonna find a way. Like, that, that is the thing, man.
SCOTT: Yeah.
SCOTT: Water will take its shape, find its way.
THOMAS: That’s right. That’s right.
NEFERTITI: I love that.
THOMAS: I’m gonna have to look up some scripts.

Swoosh audio effect and music begins.

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

Hide the transcript

Leave a Reply