Archive for the ‘Audio’ Category

The Art of Adjustment – Eyes Like Mine

Wednesday, February 14th, 2024

KrystleAllen,a rich brown Afro Latina smiles as her curly hair flows beyond her shoulders. Her hands on her hips in a powerful stance, with her Miss Newark USA Pageant crown and sash. She wears a rust orange dress knee length with black open toe shoes.

Meet Krystle Allen, Co-Founder and President of Eyes Like Mine Inc. At 16 Krystle became Blind and although she turned inward, eventually her curiosity and strong connection to her family, friends and the community in Newark, New Jersey helped her launch her non-profit organization.

From events like the Miss Blind Diva Empowerment Pageant, Dancing with the Blind and virtual support groups, Krystle demonstrates both through her life and her actions how adjusting is truly an art.

Hear more about Krystle, Eyes Like Mine and some of their events and programs. And of course, “Dancing with the Blind” set off my trash talking! Let’s get it!

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Transcript

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TR:
Welcome back Reid My Mind Radio Family, as we move forward with our Art of Adjustment season.
As mentioned, I’m doing something a little different with these series of 8 episodes.
Each episode featuring the conversation with my guest, will be followed by a separate episode more personal to me. Based on some aspect of our conversation that resonates with my personal experience of adjusting to becoming Blind.

The purpose?

A challenge to myself and us all to really find the ways we relate to others. I think it could prove to be encouraging.

You know, my guest actually breaks it down.

Krystle:
in order for you to move forward, you have to find within yourself to accept that maybe this is how I’m going to continue on with life, be visually impaired. And that doesn’t mean that I can’t have joy. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to live a full life. It’s going to be some challenges, of course. But it doesn’t mean that there is no life after it.

TR:
That’s Krystle Allen, from Newark, New Jersey.

Stand up Jersey! (Filtered voice as if on a telephone)

The co- founder of Eyes Like Mine Incorporated.

Krystle:
I am a short five, one and a half Afro Latina female. And I have curly wavy hair to the middle of my back. A nice round face, A rich chocolate brown complexion, a nice smile, dark brown eyes.

I am legally blind.

TR:
In addition to all of that, Krystle is the eldest of seven siblings and a proud aunty.

We’ll get into our conversation, but y’all know I need my intro music!

— Reid My Mind Intro

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
I want to first talk a little bit about adjustment in general, that’s a big part of what this season is all about. So, can you talk a little bit about the early days of your adjustment?

Krystle:
My adjustment to vision loss, it took a while to pack its punch at me.

Before losing my eyesight, I had never met anyone who was visually impaired or anywhere along the spectrum of vision loss.

Once that was given to me in different settings, from a medical perspective to just people I know who had the lived experience I began the process of accepting it.

TR:
I’m a firm believer in the power of people in our adjustment process.
While many different people play a role, there’s just something special about lived experience.

Krystle:
I think my family was going through it a little more than I was at first because they wanted to be there for me. And sometimes they were a little overwhelming with being there for me. But it seemed like they were going through whatever stages of adjustments originally more than I was, because I spent a lot of time with treatment for a year, with my condition in and out of different facilities. I was quiet at first, and very unsure. So, my family was very concerned about me being so quiet, because they didn’t know what I was thinking or how I was feeling about my new lifestyle now.

TR:
Still unsure of what it meant to be legally blind, Krystle, like so many of us experiencing blindness focused on how that would limit the things she’d be able to do.

Krystle:
Little by little, I just kind of tested myself, just because I wanted to try to begin being curious enough. I wanted to just like be the big sister and do the things that older siblings do for the younger siblings. And then I was also being a little selfish.

Music begins: A twisting synth opens up into a calm, mid tempo bounce.

My little brother, because he was turning six and learning his colors. I asked him do you know, red, yellow and green? And he’d say yes.

So when the light turns green, that means we can walk. When it’s yellow, we might have to speed up or slow down, or just stop. And when it’s red, we just gonna stop and he’s like, okay, okay, I was like, you have to hold my hand. He’s like, alright, so I wasn’t using a cane at the time.

TR:
Not unless her little brother’s name is Cain! (Chuckles) But she was a teenager, what do you expect?

Krystle:
And at that time, I was like the in house babysitter even more because my siblings were younger, my mother had to work. My grandmother was working. Everybody was out living their life.
When they needed a babysitter, it was me. So when me and Nick were alone, we would sneak out the house and go to the bodega and get us candy and junk and all the stuff we like, because one thing my family likes to do is give me a little change.

— Sound of change and money.

And then it turned to catching the bus downtown and going into stores to shop for clothes and I always made sure he had his McDonald’s and whatever.

And then one day, my mother found out me and Nick was out.

Sample Exhale… Ooh! You’re in trouble now.

Krystle:
That turned into one day my mom really really needed someone to pick up my other siblings from school and so she realized that I got back home thing, she was like, (in a voice as if imitating her mom) )”Krystle can you go pick up the kids from school?” And I was like, oh, oh now I can go pick them up huh?

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Chuckles

Krystle:
Being the oldest, I had to do a lot. I learned how to cook at nine years old.

My mother tricked me. She was like, (In a voice as if imitating her mom ) “Oh, you like scrambled eggs, right? (Chuckles) Do you want to try and make some scrambled eggs? So she’s showing me how to do it because I do need to know how to make it. And then all it took was that one time. “All right, Krystle, come make the breakfast for the kids.”

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Laughs

Krystle:
(Chuckles) Then scrambled eggs turned into baked chicken. But you know, my mom was giving me good tools to set me up for being just independent without having any vision loss.

That was kind of like me stepping into different stages of my independence again, because I was getting my role back as a big sister. I was learning me and my family was learning me as a person who was legally blind.

And then more and more things started happening with my adjustment.

TR :
Eventually losing even more of her sight, Krystle learned to use the white cane.

She used thick markers to start expressing herself in poetry. She began meeting others who shared tips for adapting. She was on her way to figuring it out.

Krystle:
I wasn’t sure of my vision limitations. It just took me so much longer to do things. But I realized that once I did try to see if I could still do what I would do regularly, that it was still achievable. I just had to either use a tool or figure out a different technique.

TR:
One of the things she figured out; Eyes Like Mine.

Krystle:
I worked in the field of different nonprofit non related to blindness in the support capacity. I have always been a part of community development. My dad’s side of the family. They’re very involved in community building in Newark where I live. My dad would pick me up and spend time with me, he would always take me to meetings. And then when I was at the meetings, I began volunteering. From stuffing envelopes to doing telephone banking, to canvassing around communities.

TR:
This exposed her to not only an understanding of activism and leadership but also influential people in the community.

Krystle:
Our current Senator Cory Booker, he was at my 21st birthday party. And he was very instrumental in me getting connected with the New Jersey Commission for the Blind to receive some of my blindness services. And I used to go to his meeting, volunteering, and canvassing and being a part of PSAs as a teenager, before my vision loss, and after my vision loss. So it was kind of like embedded in me.

TR:
Serving the community that is. Maybe it’s from observing other family members or being the oldest of seven, either way Krystle is a natural leader and problem solver.

While going through a breakup she came to a realization.

Krystle:
He’s not even thinking about me right now!

I called my friend, who we both share the same condition that led to our vision loss. And I just asked her, I said, Hey, you want to start a nonprofit organization? And she was like, Yeah I’m with it.

Neither one of us knew what was really going to happen. We didn’t have like a blueprint at first. And we were just thinking like, we’re young. We’re women of color. We’re visually impaired. But it wasn’t a lot of young people that we knew of at that time, in New Jersey, that were doing things to bring awareness.

In 2014, we were able to draft our bylaws and articles of incorporation. And in 2015, we received our 501 C three tax exempt status.

TR:
They began with events like a fashion show where they teamed up with an eye wear company and modeled cool looking shades.

Krystle:
We wanted to kind of like debunk the stigma of Ray Charles glasses. We want to be in style, but we also wanted to bring awareness to people about the importance of protecting their vision, and encourage blind people to feel good about fashion. We didn’t want to remain so event orientated because we really wanted to get to the nitty gritty of things where we can find ourselves connecting with other people’s stories in the blindness community to share their stories and our stories with our community near and far.

TR
That led to other programming including support groups, partnerships with the Lyon’s Club, the Miss Blind Dive Empowerment Pageant and Dancing with the Blind.

Krystle:
And some of these titles and names of programs might sound a little, I guess, funky, to some people, but they are heart feeling, programs and projects.

There were people who doubted us. People who said we should give our idea to other nonprofits under them.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Really!

Krystle:
Yep. And if we would have listened to them, we wouldn’t be making it this year to our 10th anniversary.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Wow. Well, congratulations on reaching your 10 years.

What was that about, folks telling you to give your ideas to other people?

Krystle:
It could have been many different reasons. Sometimes just the lack of understanding where we were going, what our vision was, everything is not for everyone. I understand that in the field of community development and nonprofit you’ll meet all types of people with different roles and agendas. I have learned that you’ll meet the “Taters”. The spectators, the haters, the speculators, the commentators. You know? (Laughs)

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Laughing…

Krystle
All of those taters. (Laughing)

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
The Tater Tots! (Laughing)

Krystle:
I just know that we have been very blessed. I’m still very grateful. Because I’ve learned so much. I’ve made mistakes within my nonprofit. But with those mistakes I’ve learned from them, and it’s given me opportunities to really grow as an individual and grow as a leader.

Every leader doesn’t know everything. And is the reason why we need communities to support us so that we can elevate and we can continue to enhance our impact.

Leaders need people not just to serve, but to guide them too.

Audio from a prior Miss Blind Diva Empowerment Pageant:
Co founder Naquela Wright Privo:
“This is about empowerment right? And so I wrote this song to explain my journey with my blindness and where I’m at now. Singing….
No more with the hiding, no more with the jokes, I’m going to face everything I don’t know
It’s time for me to live my life
And I can’t believe I found what I wasn’t looking for”
… continues under TR VVO

TR:
The Eyes Like Mine Miss Blind Diva Empowerment Pageant began first with an open call for nominations of a Blind woman who is a pillar in their community.
Someone who stands out.

Krystle3:23 AM Friday, February 9, 2024
In a way that made you want to connect with more women who are visually impaired and blind.

We announced her in our first year anniversary at a restaurant called Diamonds in the rough. Jay Z’s mom, Gloria Carter actually was one of the owners.

We were able to welcome Patricia Eboo (Spelling uncertain)as our very first. We crowned her and she gave a speech. We decided, to do a full pageant. And we knew that it would be the only one for blind women in New Jersey. And we just wanted to bring more attention to more dynamic women in the blindness community.

A pageant coach, we had a host, we had a DJ who is blind, Mary Kay, makeovers for our ladies.
Since 2017, we have had a pageant every year, even during the pandemic, where we had two virtual pageants in 2020, and 2021.

TR:
From it’s origin, Miss Blind Diva was never your typical beauty pageant.

Krystle:
We do emphasize the word empowerment because a lot of women who have applied and participated, it may have been their very first time participating in a pageant. And the name came from a nickname I gave myself when I first began college, which was Miss Blind Diva.

TR:
It’s actually sort of two pageants in one.
Miss Blind Diva Empowerment and the Miss Independent YouTube Challenge.
For the latter, contestants submit a video on YouTube that displays their independence.
That could mean so many things for each person.

The winners are determined based on the number of likes.

Krystle:
And then that evolved into getting a crown and sash, a fan page, some small cash, and other different things like photo shoots and interviews, being a part of the public service announcement with a local cable channel to even attending the ultimate women’s expo and meeting Fantasia and Abby from Dance Moms, like it’s really been growing and growing and growing.

TR
Of course Miss Blind Diva also wins prizes.

Krystle
Now she receives $1,000, the title, the crown, different appearances that the organization is that
her fan page. Mondays now at 7pm where you can connect with our title holders, on their fan pages. And they’ll speak about things of interest things related to blindness, things related to them being the title holder.

We’ve had women participate as close as New Jersey, Texas, California, Maryland, Florida, Pennsylvania and as far as Kenya, Russia and Jamaica.

TR:
Is the next Miss Blind Diva part of the Reid My Mind Radio Family?

Krystle:
and we just hope that this year will bring another great experience. It will be the eighth annual Miss Blind Diva Empowerment Pageant , which we will hold on October 4, and fifth and 2024.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Are there pageants Like that in other states that you know of?

Krystle
I’m not sure, I don’t like to spill out inaccurate information.
I do know that they have Miss wheelchair New Jersey and Miss wheelchair America. There’s one called Miss amazing for another disability community that I’m not really familiar with. So there’s all kinds of pageants but I haven’t heard of another one that is for blind or visually impaired women. But I know that we were the first in New Jersey,

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Well, I’m gonna say you’re the first in the States period. That’s what I’m gonna say. Anybody want to correct me bring your receipts? Let’s go!

Krystle
Laughing….Oh my goodness!

TR:
I respect that commitment to accurate information even when marketing.

No need to lie or stretch the truth when you have catchy phrases like….

(TR in Conversation with Krystle: plus)
The first one that I noticed was Going growing and glowing. Is that right?

Krystle:
So it just happened that during one of our witness support groups, I was just kind of sharing a message with the attendees. And I just said, you know, we are looking forward to our 10th year anniversary and we’re counting down to just evolving and expanding and going growing and glowing.

TR:
Her friend and co-founder Naquela Wright, thought that could be a good slogan.

Krystle:
It represents where we are going, how we are growing, and how we show up shining around the world. It just represents a lot of empowerment, not just in women, but in the blindness community. For us to have the visibility that we deserve in all areas.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Ok! That’s a whole other G status. I like it.

TR:
Then there’s; Eyes Like Mine Where vision loss doesn’t break us, it builds us.

Krystle:
There is life after blindness. It’s an opportunity for us to just connect with the life that we can still assume, the acceptance of our lifestyle, and the culture of blindness.

in order for you to move forward, you have to find within yourself to accept that maybe this is how I’m going to continue on with life, be visually impaired. And that doesn’t mean that I can’t have joy. That doesn’t mean that I’m not going to live a full life. It’s going to be some challenges, of course. But it doesn’t mean that there is no life after it.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
That’s a perfect way for you to tell me a little bit more about the support groups that you offer.

Krystle:
Usually, the structure of our support groups are that we have featured speakers, we may play some virtual games. We often make sure that everyone who’s attending can exercise their voice, we want to make sure that it’s a talk with you not a talk at you.

The support groups right now are all virtual.

Every first Thursday of the month at 7pm. On zoom, we will have our women of Power Support Group.

TR:
In addition to the Women’s group there’s a men’s group. And periodically, they come together. I had the honor of being a speaker during one of these joint sessions.

I gotta be honest y’all, I think I lost the fellas that day.

I joked about how their name was something like Gentlemen of Leisure while the women are Women of Empowerment. I suggested they step up their game. It was a joke.

They didn’t like it.

Ok, in hindsight, perhaps it wasn’t a good introduction.
I still think it was funny

Krystle:
I’m listening to you, fellas. I really, really am. I’m trying to do more things that represent the men. And I need men to guide me because I don’t know, your life. And my voice was so light. I’m like, Are they gonna even listen to me? I have some men coming at me. Like, why isn’t there a pageant for the blind men?

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
If that’s the case organize it. See how many people you’re gonna get! (The two laugh….)

TR:
I’m saying, fellas. I don’t know what that would look like but go ahead and put it together.

As with the other programming from Eyes Like Mine, Krystle recognizes the importance of understanding that our conversations and interest go beyond blindness.

Krystle:
We have our leisure moments within the support group. It’s important that we kind of had the diversity and conversation. So that’s why we don’t just speak about blindness. And sometimes there are people who are new to the visually impaired community and some who might be a little more suited. So it’s a mixture of all kinds of people. It’s all adults.

Krystle:
Our support groups are under a network through the New Jersey Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired. Aspire peer support network where it is over 60 plus, peer led support groups across the state of New Jersey, virtually and in person. And Eyes Like Mine organizes the support under this network, so that more people can connect with information resources, and the overall socialization.

TR:
For those who may not be the type to want to have in person conversations whether virtual or not, Eyes Like Mine has you covered.

Krystle:
So we have a group on Facebook called the Peer Support Hub, a division of Eyes Like Mine And anyone can join it. It’s a private group. So you can request access. And there’s a little over 300 members in It. It’s a space where you can share your thoughts, your images, your videos, if you have events or programs like you have your show Thomas , we want your posts about your interview.
It’s a safe space, it’s a way that people can access more information and meet more people.

I’m gonna do my first live cooking. It’s called crushing it in the kitchen. And I’m gonna be showing my guess, viewers how I use my independent skills to cook in my kitchen.
And it’s also a way for me to be encouraged to cook because I’m living the single life and Uber Eats gets expensive. I can cook, I just hate the process. I just wish that the meal would appear and then you know, and then the dishes would disappear

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
You gotta work on that one. (Laughs )Let me know when you get that going. Yeah.
So what’s on the menu? What you cooking? Not those same scrambled eggs, right? (Laughs)

Krystle:
(Annoyingly)You know what? No!

TR:
Ok, y’all, apparently I have to work on my humor. It was a joke.

But what’s no joke is Krystle, doing her thing.
Krystle
I’m gonna try to make it as regular as I can. It’s a personal thing. But it’s also in conjunction with my organization, because there are a lot of Blind people who are afraid to cook. There’s a lot of people who might just make easy things. Why shouldn’t we expand our idea on being comfortable in the kitchen?

I’m going to try to do a step by step with all of my process, and I’m gonna make mistakes because this is live (chuckles) it’s not scripted and it won’t be edited.

To those who are visually impaired or blind, it will open up their minds to the possibilities that if they don’t feel comfortable cooking right now, there is still hope that they can become comfortable. And it’s okay to make mistakes.

When I do make mistakes they’ll know that okay, it’s alright to make a mistake. You could still finish cooking your meal.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
That’s a great metaphor for adjusting period.

Music begins: A bright and cool upbeat Hip Hop jam.

TR:
Adjustment doesn’t have to be painful!

Support also looks like Dancing with the Blind.

Open to all age groups, it’s the Eyes Like Mine version of Dancing with the Stars.

Krystle:
But in this instance, our celebrity is the blind, or the visually impaired or the deaf blind. And their partner will be someone who’s sighted. Dancing with the Blind can be coupled in a group of two people or more. Once you find your person or if you need us to find a partner for you, we can do that as well. You can select whatever genre of dance or music that you want to prepare for. They have to pick a team name, they have to have a particular kind of costume, whatever represents their style of dance. It’s judged. And we have vendors who have resources, products and services. We have host, our DJ pumpin’ it up. At the recital competition, whoever wins at the end will go home with $500.

TR:
Even Newark’s Mayor, Ras Baraka, son of the writer, poet and activist Amiri Baraka participated.

The event, which sounds amazing, concludes with a group choreographed dance.

Krystle:
Our champions from 2023, Their team name was called Hot muffins.
It was a couple of people, one who was newly visually impaired, the young lady her name is muffin. And her partner His name is Chris. They did a Latin fusion to Taki Taki the song that features Cardi B. It was really fly how they did their dance.

Muffin is very new to the visually impaired community. So it was just such a emotional victory for her when she won.

So we’re looking forward to bringing it back. This is also going to be with the support of the Newark Arts Council who selected Dancing with the Blind at their art start many grants application. This is our first time bringing it back to Newark since the pandemic,

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
okay, I love it. I don’t know if I want to take that money, but I’m gonna have to think about it. (Laughs)

Krystle:
Yes! C’mon Thomas.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
So it has to be two people, I can’t just come in by myself and just do the Wop? I can’t just Wop it out.

Krystle:
WHAT? No. No. Mm, no, not at all. (Laughs)

TR
Y’all are lucky. I don’t play when it comes to the Wop.

Krystle along with her dance partner Tony who is also Blind teamed up for some salsa dancing.
! (Filtered voice)

TR:
Eyes Like Mine, Miss Blind Diva Empowerment, Miss Independent, Support Groups; all of these programs focus on providing for others.

Krystle:
This may I will be entering a milestone birthday year. I will be 40 And I realized that I do a lot for other people. And it’s very rewarding to me, because that’s just in my spirit. But I need to start doing more things for myself personally.

So one of those things, is challenging myself to have different experiences.

I was born and raised in Newark New Jersey. And this is where my organization was founded also. So I just wanted to do something that represented my city. And that kind of had a correlation to some of my interests, which is fashion and connecting with people. So I entered the Miss Newark USA pageant.

TR:
The goal of Miss Newark USA, created in 2018, is to spread awareness of pageantry, with workshops, etiquette classes, modeling classes, and amazing experiences to enhance careers.

Krystle:
Directed and organized by Alicia Marie blanks. And her mother, Miss candy a mother and daughter duo, women of color. So that was even more empowering for me to participate in it.

TR:
Like other pageants, Miss Newark USA consists of different competitions including congeniality, fashion and talent

Krystle:
I sang the song “Vivir Mi Vida” by Marc Anthony, which means living my life, I thought it was a very great song to represent who I am, because I am just doing that living my life. And just being curious enough about what goes on in life to attach myself to different things.

And then when it was time to announce who will be crowned Miss Newark USA 2023 They announced my name and I was so excited.

Tr in Conversation with Krystle:
Mimics the air horn!

Krystle:
(Chuckles) I’ll say I’ve had other wins in life, but I never won any competition outside of a spelling bee in third grade.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Especially for people adjusting to disability, whatever that is, I think winds are really important.

Tell me about some of the wins that you had throughout your life.

Krystle:
My dad was diagnosed with leukemia in February of 2021. And then my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in March of 2021.

And by November 2021 , they both were declared a clean bill of health. That was a big win for me, because I still have them.

It has kind of transform me in a way where I’m trying to really appreciate life , for what it is.

I can wake up everyday and I get to talk to my parents, laugh with them, get annoyed with them, learn from them.

Getting to see my organization reach 10 years. I’m a woman of color with her own nonprofit for representing blindness.

I had people doubt my leadership, and people doubt my leadership to this day, which is fine. I’m glad that I don’t get easily discouraged.

it was a big support network that I have with volunteers, family, friends, friends of friends. People who are just getting to know me, they’re getting to know the organization and just having the chance to have someone believe in you.

TR:
Now, I can’t top that but I think there’s one more win.
Miss Newark, the original Miss Blind Diva, you, Miss Krystle Allen are an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

— Air horn

Krystle:
Thank you. Thank you for inviting me and giving me the opportunity to share my message on your platform. I really appreciate you. it’s great to see blind black men doing their thing.

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
There it is! Yeh, and winning dance competitions too.

Krystle:
Ooh! You spoke it, you spoke

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
I gets busy.

TR:
For the record, I can do more than the Wop.
I can do the Smurf, the Baseball, the Running Man, the Caveman, The Pee Wee Herman, Electric boogie.
I’m not allowed to break dance any more though.

“Lawd if you’re listening. HELP!” Dave Chapelle “Half Baked”

Music begins: A chill, mid tempo groove.

TR:
Dancing is one thing, but Krystle, Eyes Like Mine are truly doing their thing for the community.

Krystle:
We are in partnership with the Source of Knowledge Bookstore, which is the oldest African American bookstore in New Jersey, Vistas Education and the United Way of greater Newark. And we have done about 80 installments of Braille overlaying African American children books, books like “Chocolate Me” by Taye Diggs, “If Kids Run the World”, “The 1619 Project” and a host of other books in our library to encourage access to grow literacy, and just overall literacy for children to build their vocabulary and gain knowledge.

TR:
recruitment for the 2024 Miss Blind Diva Empowerment Pageant begins on March 1.
The application is available now on their website.

Krystle:
EyesLikeMine.org

TR:
That’s where you can learn more about Dancing with the Blind and all of the activities and events from Eyes Like Mine.

Krystle:
The Peer Support Hub, a division of eyes like mine Inc, on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter or X, YouTube our handle is @EyesLikeMine and our general email address events at EyesLikeMine.org

TR:
Reid My Mind Radio Family, let’s send Krystle and the whole Eyes Like Mine crew some love.
Welcome her to the family, let her know you support what she’s doing and just send her some energy to continue to be determined and not get dissuaded by the taters.

Next up according to the plan for this season, I’m continuing my Self-Portrait.
In the next episode, we’ll hear more from Krystle but I’ll show you how it relates to my own experience.

For example

TR in Conversation with Krystle:
Is there anything that you would want to tell a young crystal now if you could go back when you first got diagnosed?

Krystle:
I would say to myself it’s okay, it’s gonna be okay.
It’s okay to feel what I’m feeling.

TR:
This struck me. It made me think of something specific from my early blindness days.
I’ll talk about it during the self portrait…

— phone ringing

along with a very special guest.

But until then, please, continue to help us get out the word about
all of the incredible people featured here on the podcast.
Tell someone you know who can benefit and enjoy what we’re serving up
that they can find it themselves wherever they get podcasts.
Explain that we have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com.
Go ahead and tell them 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
Peace!

Sample: “Doctor said I need a backeotomy!” Dave Chapelle, “Half Baked”

Hide the transcript

Welcome to The Art of Adjustment

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

We’re beginning 2024 with the essence of what this podcast is all about.

From it’s inception, this podcast always wanted to be a way not only to share our stories and experiences of blindness and disability in general, but also a way to provide some encouragement to those adjusting to a new way of life.

It just so happens that this year makes ten years of producing this podcast. Take a listen to what’s in store for this first season of 2024.

Listen

Transcript

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TR:

Happy New Year Reid My Mind Radio Family!
I’ve missed Y’all.

I know that may sound weird because I don’t personally know everyone who listens and or or reads the podcast.
Yeh, I said reads, shout out to all of those who consume the podcast transcripts.
Access is dope.

Even though I don’t personally know everyone consuming the podcast, knowing that you do rock with Reid My Mind Radio means we share something.
There’s an exchange of energy taking place.

When I get close to shutting the doors on this thing, something keeps me motivated to rock on!
Y’all are a big part of that.
Thank you!

Twenty twenty four will make 10 years that I’ve been producing audio as Reid My Mind Radio.
It’s also twenty years of becoming Blind.
It’s why I knew I needed to spend some time focusing on what I personally think is the best thing about this podcast – the people.
I want to produce more of the episodes that really dive into our experiences.

I want to focus on adjustment and how art can aid in the process.
I sort of see adjusting as an art form.
There’s no one way to do it.
However, there’s so much creativity involved that I thought it’s worth exploring.

Ten years of podcasting, twenty years of adjusting to blindness … oh and here’s the big one,
Music begins: “Five, Ten, Fifteen Twenty…” The Presidents

TR:

The one I’m the most proud of, y’all ready… thirty years as a husband to my wife Marlett.

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro Music

TR:
Five years ago, I did something I could have never imagined doing when I was a young kid.

In fact, even as an adult, I would have never thought it would be something I’d do.

In 2019, I celebrated 15 years of being Blind!

“Hold Up, Hold Up. Hold up! Say What? “The voice of a small child.

TR:

Celebrating life, my family, clarity of blindness.
(Laughs)
When have you heard that phrase before? Clarity of blindness?
It’s true.

Five years ago and still today, I’m aware that my response to becoming Blind could have been the beginning of a lifetime of running.
Running from blindness that is.
A never ending marathon of doing everything possible to try and escape it.
That sounds exhausting.
But there’s lots of people needlessly sweating, breathing hard attempting to get away.

Meanwhile, it’s always there whether they acknowledge it or not.

But this isn’t really about them.
Well, not really.

This podcast has allowed me to paint profiles of people I find compelling.
It’s also one of the ways I explore aspects of disability.
My way of not running but rather embracing disability in a way that makes sense for me.

This season, I’m challenging myself to create a sort of self-portrait.
That’s not to say I’m doing a whole season on my personal experiences even though some suggested they’d be interested in that.

Over the years of speaking with various people on and off the podcast about disability, I realized that although we differ demographically, we can see some aspect of ourselves in each other.
More than often we share the emotions that come out of similar experiences.
Sometimes, we may see things in others that we don’t like or fear in ourselves.

In this season called The Art of Adjustment, I’m speaking with four individuals all with their own stories of adjustment.
Every episode this season, featuring a guest, will be followed up with a continuation of this self-portrait episode.
To be honest, I have no idea what that will be.
I’m not producing the self-portraits in that straight forward way.
Rather, I’m confident that the experience of adjusting to disability inevitably connects us and
therefore I’m sure there will be elements of our conversation that run parallel to my life.

As I record this episode, I’m thinking I’ll use sound bytes of a guest in the self-portrait episode or maybe it’s something else.
I really don’t know, we’ll find out together.

For the record, this is not about motivation or inspiration.
I’m not someone interested in motivational speaking.
In fact, I don’t really even know what that means.

Clip from Saturday Night Live:
“My name is Matt Foley. And I am a motivational speaker.
(Laughs from audience)
Now let’s get started by letting me give you a little bit of a scenario of what my life is all about.
First off I am 35 years old . I am divorced and I live in a van down by the river.
(Applause and laughs from audience)
Now you kids are probably saying to yourselves (yelling) hey I’m going to go out and get the world by the tail and wrap it around and pull it down and put it in my pocket. Well I’m here to tell you that you’re probably gonna find out as you go out there that you’re not going to amount to jack squat.”
(Laughs and applause from audience fades out)

TR:
I know there are lots of people with that in their linked in profile and claim to inspire, but what exactly do they do?
Ableism just totally messed up the word inspirational for me. I know many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You’ve probably been called inspirational for taking a walk, shopping, brushing your own teeth.
Inspiring for actually doing something, perhaps? Maybe it’s just my own issue.

I do want this podcast to encourage those adjusting to disability.
Even though circumstances and details are different, I think those adjusting to any situation can be encouraged.
But, my main concern are those with disabilities.

There’s an alternative to running away from disability.
Stop, turn around and confront it head on.
See what’s there.

I’m not here to tell anyone how to be Blind, how to be disabled.
But I am here to tell you that there’s real value in examining what it means to you.

So I’ll examine in real time

In this season, I’m speaking with those who in their own way have a variety of outlets that allow them to embrace and explore their disability to determine what it means to them.

Whether through artistic endeavors like writing or film making, social entrepreneurship, sports and more, all of my guest joining me this season have so much to offer the world, their communities and you.

?- Music Begins: a heavy synth opens into a driving drum beat.

For those new to disability, no matter what that is, my wish is to be a part of you regaining your ability to imagine your future.

Recently a Reid My Mind Radio Family member reminded me of a time in my life when I couldn’t see myself in the future.
I may have mentioned it here before.
I compare it to being in a hallway with no doors.
Before blindness that hallway for me had lots of doors.
Each was an opportunity, a place for me to explore if I so chose.
Even the doors that were closed were in my mind never locked.
Being in that hallway, stuck with no doors or opportunities was I guess my feeling despair.
It was awful.
I don’t want that for you.
I don’t feel that way anymore and you won’t either.

rock with me and the rest of the Reid My Mind Radio family and I know one day you’ll realize your doors have returned.

In this season, I’m going to bring you what you’re used to from this podcast ; compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability in general.
Then in a continuous episode I’m calling my self-portrait, I’ll tie some aspect of the conversation with my awesome guests to my 20 years of blindness

If you know of anyone you think can benefit or appreciate what we’re doing here on R double M Radio, please let them know.
We’ll be back publishing episodes at 8 PM on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month
Tell them they should come rock with Reid My Mind Radio available wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com
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
Peace!

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Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Allyship

Wednesday, December 20th, 2023

Just in time to close out 2023, the band is back together!

We’re continuing our live series “Blind Centered Audio Description” with a conversation on Allyship.

Plenty of people claim to be allies, but how many of us actually know what true allyship is supposed to look like? Too often, much of what we experience is performative.

Take a listen to this live conversation and then consider those you and many of us in the community perceive to be an ally.

Join Us Live

To find out when and where the next live chat is taking place, send an email to BlindCenteredAD at Gmail.com. We’ll add you to our notification list.

Listen

Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

Music begins
THOMAS: Welcome to the Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats. These are the edited recordings of the Blind-Centered Audio Description Live Chats!
CHERYL: The live is the most fun part! We get together, we start with a question, and then we invite up anybody from the audience who wants to come and chat with us, agree, disagree, shed light on something that we hadn’t thought about before, which is Nefertiti’s favorite. [electric whoosh]
NEFERTITI: I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I’m a bilingual professional voiceover artist who specializes in audio description narration! I’m also a fervent cultural access advocate and a community organizer.
CHERYL: I’m Cheryl Green, an access artist, audio describer and captioner.
THOMAS: And I’m Thomas Reid, host and producer Reid My Mind Radio, voice artist, audio description narrator, consultant, and advocate.
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 @TSReid, you know, R to the E I D.
[smartphone selection beeps]
CHERYL: Recording now!

NEFERTITI: All right. Here we go! So, as a reminder, we are here to talk about what it means to center blind people and how that affects the quality of audio description. What exactly is allyship? How can our allies be effective using their position and privilege to open doors and then get out of the way? Or as I like to say, “Great! You’ve got clout. Now get out!”
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: That said, plus, we’re also going to get into what to expect from BCAD, Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats in the future. And now to Thomas to kick us off.
THOMAS: Cool. Cool. So, why don’t we start with Blind-Centered Audio Description? So, since we’re back, you know, this is our, I guess, second season, if you will, second year. Just talk a little bit about maybe how we started this and why we started this, and then we can get into the conversation. But I think it’s important for everybody to know. The reason we call this Blind-Centered Audio Description Chats, well, let’s take that, the chat, we’re talking. That’s simple. The blind-centered audio description is really what we feel about audio description in general and how it should always center that target audience, which is blind folks. And when I say blind, I just wanna make it clear, I’m including low vision. So, I don’t necessarily always say, “blind and low vision.” I’m including that in “blind.” Okay. So yeah, the idea there is that if you are going to create audio description—and audio description is a service for, and it’s a art for folks who are blind—and so, when we’re creating it, that’s who we should be thinking about.
So, we shouldn’t necessarily be thinking about…we shouldn’t be thinking about, “Oh, I have to do this because the government tells me so or because my boss told me so.” Eh, that’s not too great because the product isn’t going to be that great if that’s where you’re coming from. But what you should be thinking is, “What are the needs of folks? What does the community want,” right? That’s a big deal now. We get audio description. We have conversations, and sometimes folks who are dominating those conversations aren’t necessarily the users of audio description. That doesn’t seem cool! [laughs] It doesn’t seem smart. If you had a product, don’t you want to hear from those who are using your product? Well, that’s what blind-centered is all about: keeping that in the target there.
So, allyship. We’re talking about allyship, so I figured, why don’t we do a little bit of a definition of allyship? I looked it up on WordHippo! WordHippo says that an ally is, “a person or an organization that cooperates with or helps another in a particular activity,” okay? That’s a basic definition, right? So, you could say, what does that help? So, we got “partner, associates, colleague, confederate.” Not crazy about that one. That brings up some other stuff for me when I hear “confederate.” Just saying. It’s America. “Accomplice, collaborator.” I like accomplice. I like collaborator too. “Comrade.” That’s cool. “Deputy, helper.” Meh. “Supporter, accessory.” That’s cool. “Aide, backer.” And here’s my personal favorite. I don’t know about y’all, but this is my personal favorite: “henchman.” [delighted laugh] I’m just digging that one. You’re not an ally. You’re my henchman!
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
THOMAS: And sometimes in life, you need a henchman. You need a good henchman to get you by sometimes, I’m just saying.
NEFERTITI: Heck, yeah.
THOMAS: You never know.
NEFERTITI: Two thumbs up to that one. [laughs]
THOMAS: You know what I’m saying? It could come in very handy to have yourself a henchman. [laughs] Not that I know anything about it! Anyway. But, you know, an ally is really about someone who has privilege but chooses to stand for and with usually a marginalized community, right? And so, we all in our lives, in different roles, can play the role of an ally, right? So, when we talk about marginalized communities, there’s many different marginalized communities. So, you know, I as, myself, as a blind man, blind cisgendered man, could be an ally for women, right? That would make sense. What’s interesting is if we talk about some of the steps to allyship. And then what I think is, so these are just general, right? These are very general. But I think what could be fun and interesting is if we apply them to audio description after that. All right? So, here’s some steps. So, ten steps I found. “Number one, listen.” I love that one. I love that one. And so, real quick, Imma tell you a real quick story. So, a few years back, I think it was… I think it was John Legend, the artist, right, the musician. And he was talking about how he was very much into prison reform and wanted to become an ally and be all about it. He spent the first I think it was like a year or two going to meetings, going to all these various things, learning about it, and never saying a word, just listening. And I always remember that because I was like, wow, that’s the way to do it, right? That makes total sense because you’re new. You’re new. You’re new to this, and so you’re just all about learning. And so, that’s what that listening was. “Get educated.” That’s a part of that listening, that listening process. Three, “Get involved.” All right. We can talk about that again. Remember we’re gonna talk about these specifically around audio description. Four, “Show up.” I like that. Five, “Speak up,” aight? Six, “Intervene.” Now intervening, you know, you just don’t intervene. You gotta intervene with permission. So, just don’t go saying something. “Welcome discomfort.” Now, that’s a real good one. That’s a real good one, because, you know, if you’re not of a community, and you’re learning, there’s some things about that, especially if we’re talking around disability, that non-disabled folks are just uncomfortable. Well, sit with that. That’s good. Sit with that uncomfort. Eight, “Learn from your mistakes” ‘cause you gonna make them. And yeah, I said “gonna.” You gonna make them. [laughs] Nine, “Stay engaged.” Real, real important. Ten, “Donate!” That’s a good one. That’s a good one, ‘cause everybody and every process and every movement needs some money.
So, if we think about this from audio description, and y’all help me out. And this is a question that I wanna ask the audience, so in prep for y’all, if you have any stories around allyship, specifically around audio description. But, you know, if there’s something that makes a point that is non-audio description related, I think we’re open to listening to it. But let’s keep some of these steps in mind around audio description. So, listen. I can even just say listening to audio description. If you’re an ally, and you don’t listen to audio description? You don’t even ever watch a film or a television show with audio description? Well, how you an ally?! You know? I think you should be familiar with it. But it’s also listening to the people who are talking about it. And so, listening, again, remember, this is blind-centered, listening to blind people talking about audio description and what they care about, what’s important to them.
Getting educated. Well, what are some ways you can get educated about audio description? One is if you’re in the house right now, I appreciate it. And hopefully, we’re gon provide some of that education. I think, you know, the series of Blind-Centered Audio Description is one way. Listening to Cheryl and Nefertiti when they’re on a panel. Those panels are great, and they are great on them, and you’ll learn a lot. You know, there are podcasts, and yes, Reid My Mind Radio is one of them. But there are other podcasts too, that you can learn. I think Reid My Mind Radio’s the best one, though, but I’m just gon say that. Anyway, you know?
NEFERTITI: [imitates boisterous air horn] Ber-ber-beeeeer!
THOMAS: Thank you, Nef! [imitates air horn]
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: [chuckles] Get involved. Let’s think about this one. Because how do you get involved with audio description, right? How do you get involved with this? So, let’s say, obviously, if you are someone who is making audio description—you’re a writer, you’re a narrator, whatever the case may be—that is one way of getting involved. Obviously, listening and watching something. But what are some other ways to get involved in audio description? I think there are communities. When we talk about live audio description, there are many types of venues that offer it that might be looking for volunteers. Especially for those who are, you know, who know about it and are familiar with it, there’s opportunities there in museums, right?
Advocating. That’s another way to get involved. Just if you go to a theater, you go to a show, and they don’t. You could ask, “Do you have audio description?” “Oh, what’s audio description?” Bam! Tell them about it, right? That’s getting involved. Speaking up. That’s that one. I think that’s a great example there. If you go to a theater, even if you don’t consume it, I think that could be really fascinating for someone who is an ally to just, “Hey, do you have the audio description?” Even if you are, you know, you might ask for it or just ask to see if they have it there. And again, they might not know what it is. Or you can even go through an experience of what often happens in a theater environment, movie theater, right? Ask for it, go into the theater. Does it work, or do you have to run back out, right? Go through that experience, see what that’s like, and then maybe have a nice conversation with the manager. You can do that. You can do that, too. That would be great. Is that too much to ask for? What do you think, Cheryl, Nef?
CHERYL: No, I don’t think it’s too much to ask somebody, even if they don’t intend to use it, to be like, “Hey, do you have the equipment?” And I would even add, “Do you charge the batteries?”
THOMAS: Mm.
CHERYL: “Does your staff know where to find it? And who do I talk to if the equipment isn’t working?” Yeah.
THOMAS: That’s great.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, absolutely. “Does your staff know the difference between the setting for people who are hard of hearing versus audio description for blind and low vision folks?”
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. You know what that reminds me of?
NEFERTITI: It’s all part of advocating, educating, all of it.
THOMAS: All of it. All of it. And it reminds me Somebody was telling me or us that, how they don’t like to go to the theater because, for them, okay, I have to either, you know, the public transportation might be the situation. I get an Uber, I pay that money to get to the theater, and so many times when you get there, it doesn’t work, right? So, imagine if there’s an ally who’s kind of doing that work. And so, now you can go there because that work is done. Because often, you know, I can’t tell you how many times when audio description, when I first started going to theater, our local theater, and it was new, how many times I went there to watch a film and never got to watch it with audio description but got free passes to another film. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yes. And may I just say, free passes for what? So, I can come back, and you fail again?
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: You don’t want a free pass. You want to enjoy the experience you paid for at the time you paid for it.
THOMAS: Yeah. I want the free passes too, though! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Well, you know! All right.
THOMAS: Plus I had, you know, they were little at the time. My kids were little, so. Yeah, we were using them free passes! [laughs] But it wasn’t cool to get them the way we got them. So, that’s part of that speaking up, and it’s also part of the intervening there. That’s a really, really cool way of intervening because you don’t have to necessarily ask because you’re just sort of taking charge. You’re in there. But other ways to intervene, you know, you might be in a live theater environment, and maybe you’re sitting next to a person. Maybe that person is not with you, but they’re having some problems with the AD equipment. And you might be able to help intervene, right? Maybe because that person might, you know, if they have to get up and go find a manager, if that person’s by themself, well, that could be a really time-consuming task for someone who’s blind to get up and try to go find a manager, where for someone else it might be really quick and easy. So, intervening and helping out in that situation is probably a very welcome thing.
NEFERTITI: I can tell you personally how many times I’ve wanted to attend a live performance—I’m really into live theater, Broadway, off-Broadway, etc.—and they only offer one audio described performance per season? Two is a lot to ask for. I live in New York City. I am in the mecca of live theater, and you mean to tell me that you only offer one to two performances with audio description? That’s not okay. So, how about intervening and advocating for more options, more availability of audio description?
THOMAS: Instead of that one show on a Tuesday at 7:35, right? [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh, if only! It’s usually like on a Sunday at matinee or something.
THOMAS: Oh, okay. Okay. Tuesday was a inconvenient day for me, but yeah. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: No, that’s true, too. The time can be inconvenient. The day can be inconvenient. Whatever it is. You know, a lot of us work, or a lot of us wanna spend Sunday resting or with family or whatever the case is.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Why are you pigeonholing me? Shameless plug. Cheryl’s podcast, Pigeonhole.
CHERYL: [laughing] Stop!
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Check it out.
CHERYL: I have to say one of the reasons that they do that, that they only offer the one or the matinee or they don’t offer options, one reason is they will say, “Well, we don’t know that the demand is there.”
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
CHERYL: So again, even though I may not utilize that equipment and use the audio description, I can go in there and say, “Are you offering this? I know this is of interest. I know this is a good thing to offer,” and just, you know, we need to build the numbers up so that people know the demand is there.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. And if you build it, they will come. If we have more options available, guess what? More people will show up just by virtue of you giving them options that they can make fit into their schedule.
THOMAS: Yeah. And we can take that from the live theater space to the online streaming platforms, you know? If there’s a platform that you’re on, and maybe you’re watching something, and it said it had audio description, but it’s not there, it’s not working, do you just let it go? “Aw, that sucks.” Because, “Well, okay. I guess I just have to watch it without. That’s fine. I really wanted to watch it with, but I’ll just watch it without because I can.” Well, why not call the customer service and advocate on behalf of folks, right?
NEFERTITI: Or write an email.
THOMAS: Or write an email.
NEFERTITI: “You say you have audio description? Actually, you don’t. Most of your titles don’t. Or none of your titles do. What’s up with that?”
THOMAS: Yeah. Ooh-wee, what’s up with that?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm!
THOMAS: So, learning from your mistakes. This is a good one, because I think it’s inevitable that well-intentioned folks are going to make some mistakes. And I think everybody has to leave some space for the mistake that’s gonna happen. You know, have some grace for that individual. But at the same time, if that individual makes that same mistake again, [laughs, sighs] that’s not cool. That’s sending a whole message that you, either you do mean to send, but you probably don’t. And so, learning from your mistakes could be a really big thing, you know. And that could be as simple as how you talk about audio description online. Like, are you, again, are you centering yourself, or are you centering the blind consumers in how you talk about audio description?
NEFERTITI: The blind consumers who, by the way, audio description was made by and for.
THOMAS: Correct.
NEFERTITI: Also, you make a mistake once, that’s understandable, reasonable, forgivable. But you make it more than once, and that’s a choice, y’all.
THOMAS: Yeah. That is. You’re right. You’re right. Three-strike rule. Do y’all use the three-strike rule?
NEFERTITI: Two for me.
THOMAS: You got two strikes? You playing softball.
NEFERTITI: If that.
THOMAS: Yeah, that’s the softball move.
NEFERTITI: If that. Depending on what it is, you get one!
THOMAS: You ain’t playing with two strikes. Okay.
NEFERTITI: Mm-mm.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay. Cheryl, you a two-striker or a three-striker?
CHERYL: You know, I tend to give a lot more strikes just because I want time. If the person’s willing to dialogue, I want time to uncover, “But why does this keep happening? Or what do you need to make this happen better?” Like, maybe I’m not giving enough instruction or enough context. And really trying to uncover people’s motivations, name the elephant in the room. I feel like if somebody refuses to name the elephant in the room, then you get all three strikes at once. But I do leave, especially ‘cause I’m neurodivergent, I do leave people a little more time to strike out a couple of times.
THOMAS: Mmhmm, yeah.
CHERYL: But, you know, I think refusing to learn from your mistakes and say, “Well, I’m not gonna advocate anymore, you know. I’m just gonna leave this,” then, like you said, Thomas, you’re centering yourself. You’re not being a good comrade. I like the term “co-conspirator, henchman.” [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm!
CHERYL: If your mission and your values are, I will be an ally or a co-conspirator with this person or this group, and you make a mistake, recenter yourself on what that mission was. “No, I am gonna be an ally. I made a mistake. I’m not gonna beat myself up. I’m not gonna say I’m horrible. I’m not gonna leave the movement.” I do think it’s possible to recenter yourself on the goal if you are being an ally. And that is how to be an ally, is to recenter yourself on the goal, not on yourself.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah, I love that you said that, recentering yourself, because that goes to the next one, which is staying engaged. And that’s exactly it. Because sometimes folks get discouraged, get disappointed, again, centering yourself, “Eh, I’m taking my toys, and I’m leaving!” You know, that type of thing. “Aight, bye. I guess you wasn’t really about this.”
NEFERTITI: That’s right. It’s not about you, right?
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah.
NEFERTITI: It’s not about you. It’s about the general movement and moving it forward.
THOMAS: Yeah. Which is about everyone. Cut 00:28:12 – 00:29:18)
The final one is the idea of donating, and I think this donating when it comes to audio description again could be, there could be many different ways you do this. So, for example, if you know someone who hasn’t experienced audio description in a live theater space, whether that be live theater or whether that be a movie theater, perhaps you might want to donate a ticket. You know what I’m saying? Especially if you were the one. Maybe you went to that theater like we were just talking about and found out that this theater does have it. Well, maybe you wanna donate to someone, say, “Hey, go ahead and go check out audio description. I know you never checked it out because for most of your life, you’ve been experiencing inaccessible content. But hey, this is accessible, and I know they have it here, and it works. Go check it out. Here’s a ticket for your movie.” How cool is that? That’s an ally. I think that’s pretty cool.
NEFERTITI: That’s really cool.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Also, you can donate your time.
THOMAS: There you go.
NEFERTITI: We’re all donating our time right here. We make zero, zero on these conversations, but they are super important. It’s a labor of love, and it’s a labor of progress that we’re trying to accomplish here. So, if you know, let’s say, of a podcast, become a guest, donate some time, you know. You being here, listening to us or telling somebody about the Reid My Mind Radio podcast where they can hear the replays of these, what do we call them, episodes? Gatherings?
THOMAS: Yeah, they’re the Chats.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, Chats. Oh, hello! It’s right in our name. Thank you.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Tell them to tune in if you find these conversations, these chats of value. That’s donating, donating knowledge.
THOMAS: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. And so, yeah. So, I wanna hear from you all if you have any stories or if you have any comments or if you have any examples of some of these. There’s lots of conversations taking place today around the topic of audio description. Ah, I don’t know if I wanna say a lot, but there’s definitely more than there were a few years ago, right? And I wouldn’t necessarily say that they’re all even in terms of do they all come from a blind-centered approach? I wouldn’t say that was the case. I’ve seen some, I’ve heard talks. I’ve been around some things that the focus is definitely not on blind people. And sometimes that could make sense. But I think even in those conversations, there should be some centering, right? So, meaning if we’re talking within the industry, and let’s say it’s about narrators or it’s about the production of audio description, and unfortunately, there’s not that many blind folks involved in that, which we will probably be talking about again here at some point. But even in that instance, I think there are moments in the conversation where the centering of blind people and the consumers, right, blind consumers should be taking place, and I don’t see it happening. And so, maybe some of y’all have seen things like that, have witnessed that. I wanna hear about them if you wanna share them. Always looking for that.
So, in a situation like the one I was just kind of talking about, when there are panels, when there are panels, when there are these conversations about audio description, and let’s say they are inclusive of blind people, you know, how should they work? How should they work? When we talk about allyship, we talk about passing the mic, right? That’s a reference to letting those who are impacted have the say. Their voice needs to be heard. Amplify those voices, because even in something like audio description, the voice of non-blind people hits harder than blind people in the public. There’s a louder voice. There’s more, more folks will listen when a quote-unquote “expert” who’s not blind is talking as compared to another quote-unquote “expert” who is blind. Because the blind consumer is an expert. Is an expert. We can get into the weeds of that expertise, right? So, I’m not saying that they are that knowledgeable of the process, but they are often, not everyone, but many of them are quite experienced in terms of consuming audio description. And that means a great deal. That means a great deal, but it’s not often considered that way.
So, in a situation like that, I think we’re looking for more than input from that blind person sitting on that panel, right? It’s not, it shouldn’t be the non-blind person taking up all the airspace, taking up all of that, right? So, we have to be mindful of that. And I think we should be critical. We should be critical when we watch these things, when we’re listening to anything, when we’re watching anything, a panel, whether it be a podcast or whatever the case may be, I think we should be critical about that and say and talk about it, right? And again, you don’t have to be controversial, but it is something that we should be comfortable in critiquing and talking about. But another question could be, you know, what does performative allyship look like within the AD space? Because maybe you’ve seen that. And by that, I mean, you know, is this person really an ally, or are they just trying to get attention for themselves? We don’t have to mention names, but if we’re critical and if we’re honest, I think we’ve probably seen it. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: All right, Courtney, you’re up.
COURTNEY: So, I’m a learning experience designer, so we are constantly making videos for training. So, some people are like, “Well, you can write for accessibility and then you won’t have to use audio description.” Is that something that is acceptable?
THOMAS: Mm. It’s a cool way to go, but I don’t think you probably, especially if we’re talking about video content, chances are you’re not gonna eliminate the need for AD in total, right?
COURTNEY: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: And so, what I would add to that is it’s not only the writing for it, because that’s definitely something you can do, but the planning in general, right? So, if there are things that are going to need explanation that aren’t included in the writing, are you leaving space in the edit to have time to provide that audio description, right?
COURTNEY: Yeah.
THOMAS: So, yeah, I would add that into the mix. Those things together I think would work well.
COURTNEY: Okay!
THOMAS: But I don’t think when we’re talking about visual content, there’s a lot of stuff that’s going on. Especially around learning, right, educational stuff, if it’s eye candy, right? You know what I’m saying, right when I say the eye candy thing?
COURTNEY: Yeah. Yeah, for sure.
THOMAS: If it’s just eye candy, then perhaps that doesn’t need to be described. But if it is something that is going to impact the person’s ability to learn and get the lesson, those things need to be described.
COURTNEY: Gotcha.
THOMAS: And that’s often, it’s gonna be said, it’s going to be communicated visually, right? There’s often some of that stuff that’s gonna happen. But I’m not totally against the idea of writing for accessibility at all.
COURTNEY: So, maybe a mix of the two is probably optimal if there are a lot of decorative things. I feel like a lot of times it’s just illustrations with a [laughing] slightly waving hand, you know?
THOMAS: Okay, yeah. Yeah.
COURTNEY: So, that doesn’t add to the learning experience, but maybe adds something for those who are sighted.
THOMAS: Yes. Yeah.
COURTNEY: All right. Thank you.
THOMAS: I think the takeaway for Courtney that I would want you to recall is that one of the most important parts is to have that whole video QCed, quality controlled, by a blind person. And so, you should be able to get some real feedback as to how effective that really is, right?
NEFERTITI: Again, thank you so much. That’s a great question.
COURTNEY: Thank you.
THOMAS: Yeah, it was a great question. Courtney.
COURTNEY: Thank you, guys.
THOMAS: Thank you for your bravery!
COURTNEY: All right. Thanks! [laughs]
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [delighted laugh]
NEFERTITI: All right, Scott, you’re up.
SCOTT: Hey, guys. How’s it going?
THOMAS: Scott Nixon.
SCOTT: Scott Nixon all the way out, all the way out here in Australia. I have a comment and possibly a question for the panel and everyone else as well. When it comes to advocating for audio description, what do you do when you just keep hitting the wall, you know? You talk to a company or a streaming service or whatever, and they just keep coming back with these vague, nebulous answers that don’t really give you what you want them to, want them to give you. And you keep explaining. “No, I mean this, this, and this.” And they just keep coming back with the same old, “We value your input, you’re a valued customer,” and things like that. Because I’ve been dealing with one of the major streaming services over the past two years now about their failure to pass audio description through to their streaming service outside the United States and Canada. They just don’t provide the AD anywhere else in the world, and I don’t understand why.
I’ve talked to them again and again and again, and they just keep coming back with responses A, B, and C that just don’t go anywhere. And it’s gotten to the point where dealing with them was affecting my depression and anxiety to the point where I’ve just had to say, I’ve had to throw up my hands and say I can only be an ally for so long. I had to cut off communication with them, and I’ve actually unsubscribed from their service until they can prove to me that they’re actually going to do something about it. So, what do you do when you reach that burnout phase of allyship where you’re just not, you just can’t, like, lick a watermelon into a different shape? And yeah, so, that’s basically the comment and the question. So, Broken Eyes out.
NEFERTITI: I wanna start by saying good on you for meeting your own personal needs.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
NEFERTITI: That’s absolutely crucial that we take care of ourselves. So, whatever that looks like for you, in this case, unsubscribing and taking a break, kudos to you. But once you feel up to it again, maybe not start back up with the same person or company, organization, whatever the entity is, but maybe taking on someone or something else. But do come back. Take your rest, do your self-care, fully lean into your break, but do come back. We all need that spirit, that energy. That’s what I have to say.
SCOTT: It can definitely be a case of pick your battles and know when you need to take off ‘cause, you know, it was getting to the point where I wrote a three-page email that in no way could be considered abusive or heavy handed or anything like that. But I just went back through and read it before I sent it, and I just went to myself, “No, this is not me. This is not my voice anymore. You know, this is, this is coming from the bad place” type thing. And so, that’s when I decided that I had to take a step back. And yes, I definitely will come back and challenge things maybe from a different perspective, different tactic, or something. But yeah, just I hit that burnout phase, and it just, yeah, snuffed me for a while.
THOMAS: Yeah. So, I agree with all the self-care. Absolutely. But one of the things that I think we have to remember, especially in this day and time, is that social media effect and the ability to tag and put these conversations in public. And that right there is some pressure. You may not think it is, but it is often pressure. I remember I had a issue with Amazon. And this wasn’t even anything around audio description. It was like a product or something. And I was sending emails and calling, and all I did was at them on Twitter, and bam, they were right in my DMs, [laughs] right in my DMs, and like, “Hey, send us this, this, and this. We can get this resolved.” And it got resolved. And it’s like, wow. Okay, this means something. So, that’s one thing.
I’m gonna forward you a link. And it’s a couple. Cut 00:50:21 – 00:50:24) They wrote up that they were going through a similar thing, and it had to do with passthrough to was it YouTube or something? I don’t remember. But a station wasn’t passing through AD, and they wrote it up. They tracked every single call they made, and they wrote the whole thing up. And I think they posted it to their website. They contacted other people within the industry of AD who started to use some of their influence, and they’re having progress now, right? And I think part of that is the writing up of everything as well as the sending that to other people. Because there’s a big difference when you don’t have things written up like that, and you just like, “Yeah, this company’s” dah dah dah dah dah. I’m not saying you do that, but it sounds like that to people. Sometimes it comes across like, oh, this person’s just complaining. But when you have things documented the way they did, then it takes on a whole different thing. So, I’ll send you that just so you can see that. And maybe you might even wanna connect with them because they might be able to give you some good advice.
The other thing is that when you are contacting a company like that, one thing that helps is if you can—this is hard—but sometimes you can just, you looking for that internal ally that, literally what we’re talking about today, that person on the inside who actually cares. And I saw that in action years ago because my Fox affiliate, it was the X-Files movie that was coming out, and it was supposed to have AD. This was some years ago. And I turn on Fox. I was a big X-Files person back in the day, and they didn’t have it. And so, I call them, and I just happened to make my way to someone within my local Fox who knew the person within there who they said, “I don’t know about the audio description, but I know about the captions.” So, they got me to the captions person, and so the captions person ended up just kinda taking it because they cared about access. And so, they got it resolved for me the next day, and it was so cool. But it was only because somebody gave a “beep,” right? And so, if you can kinda finagle. And you know, you a charming dude, so I feel like you could probably do that. You could probably, you know, work something with the intention, maybe not just getting it solved right there, but maybe having a different intent is to find someone who gives a “boop” within the company, you know? But again, going back to your self-care, that’s the first, and then all of this stuff comes later. Imma send you that link sometime. I’ll send you that probably tomorrow.
SCOTT: Yeah, no worries. Thanks, mate. I really do appreciate that. And yeah, just, yeah, I agree that finding a way to find the person who will give a hoot about your situation and wanna help is definitely key. I do have a few contacts who may be able to help me once I’m back in a better mindset. But yeah, for now, yeah, it’s difficult, but I don’t wanna have to give up. But at the same time, I know that it was starting to affect other factors in life. And yeah, so, sitting back, taking self-care, going and exploring my newfound ability to play video games again after 25 years is what I need to do right now just to take care of myself.
THOMAS: There you go. Do what you gotta do.
NEFERTITI: Thanks to audio description!
SCOTT: Dang right. [laughs]
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [air horns]
NEFERTITI: Thank you so much for your contribution, Scott. Always valuable.
SCOTT: And I just wanna say, you guys, it is so great to have you all back. Thomas, Cheryl, you guys are absolutely fantastic, but I just, I can’t help myself. I have to give a special shoutout to Nef. You have been smashing it lately with your advocacy and all the work that you have been doing, Nef. I’ve just been so impressed by everything you’re doing at the moment, and just please keep crushing it because we’re all just loving what you’re doing.
THOMAS and CHERYL: [enthusiastic air horns, laughter]
NEFERTITI: Thanks, you guys. Thanks. You’re gonna make me cry. Thank you so much! Appreciate you.
THOMAS: Nef is killing the game right now! She’s killing the game!
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: Thanks so much. All right, Renee, you are up!
THOMAS: Renee, who?
RENEE: Arrington-Johnson.
THOMAS: Aw! That’s who I was talking about! [huge laugh]
RENEE: I know! [laughs] Scott, I understand completely. My battle with the streaming service started over two years ago, and I did take a break because they frustrated me, and I had to regroup and rethink. And I took an approach that I had learned at work about how to document every step of a process. And just to put it really quick, I had a supplier that was doing work for me, and we set up a purchase order where they were docked every day they were late. And I documented everything, and instead of paying $65,000 for the service, we paid $3,000. So, that’s just, that was what was my idea for what I did, me and my husband, when we wrote that paper. But you do have to be in the right headspace to be able to do it. But besides that, I did wanna give a positive example.
THOMAS: Oh, cool.
RENEE: A few years ago, when I lived in Michigan, we had attended a movie theater, and the equipment was not working. The audio description was not working. And the one iPad that they had that was supposed to set everything up to fix things was broken. And I was saying, okay, for a $500 iPad, you’re not gonna provide this service. And I was so frustrated. I contacted a member of the talent for a local network for local ABC who was an ally to people with disabilities because he had a granddaughter with SMA. So, he was very in tune to people with disabilities ‘cause he advocated a lot for her. So, he actually knew the owner of the theater, and he contacted them, and he let them know what my complaint was ‘cause I had put it on Twitter and had tagged him. And he had the owner of the theater call me, and they purchased extra iPads and invited me and my husband back to the theater. And that ally made a big difference for me with that experience. So, they really can, you know, allies can really make a huge difference when they are committed to the cause.
THOMAS: Fantastic. Fantastic story. Yep. There you go. And you did it on Twitter. [laughs]
RENEE: [laughs] Yeah, I gotta find something new ‘cause I don’t even get on there anymore. I don’t know what to do.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah.
RENEE: But thank you guys for doing this. This is really great.
THOMAS: Thank you for joining us, Renee. Appreciate it.
RENEE: Okay.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. Really appreciate your contribution. Keep up the great work. Thank you.
THOMAS: You know, one of the things I was gonna say is that that documenting is something that you can start from the beginning. You know, like, the first call you make, just open up a little, you know, text, keep a text file, whatever, and just put the date, the name of the person that you talked to, what happened, what you said, what the result was. “Okay. I gotta call them back tomorrow.” Put them back. Next time you call them, same thing. Write that date. You know, the documentation doesn’t have to be a real big project. If you wait till the end, then you’re gonna try to have to remember things. But if you could just do that right when you’re gonna start that process, it’s cool. It really does work. It’s very helpful on many levels, so, especially just remembering someone’s name. It’s a big difference when you can say, “Oh no, I spoke to John on this particular date, this time.” “Oh, John Such-and-such.” “Yes.” Boom.
NEFERTITI: Cheryl, any thoughts from you? We haven’t heard from you in a while.
CHERYL: Yeah, well, I was being a good ally and listening.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
CHERYL: And I said that on purpose to be silly, but also to remind people how very, very easy and tempting it is to ask for your plate of cookies for doing something that was asked of you. [laughs]
THOMAS: Mm.
CHERYL: So, just again, like it is that feeling when you want to be an ally and you name yourself an ally to a community, but nobody in that community knows that you’re an ally, you can get that energy, and “I wanna show off! I wanna post on social media how much money I donated to this fundraiser, and I wanna tell everybody about….” There’s kind of a rush with that. But it’s not a… that’s not an ally move. That’s not a comrade or co-conspirator move. So, yeah, I just made that joke just to sort of (Cut 01:00:49 – 01:00:52) recenter….
THOMAS and CHERYL: [laugh]
CHERYL: The blind-centered, the ally is not the center of the show.
CHERYL: Cut 01:00:59 – 01:01:13) ‘Cause I feel like I see it, but sometimes it can be really helpful to name it. You get a feeling in your stomach like, “Is that person, are they helping? Are they making it worse?”
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm or standing in our way?
CHERYL: Mmhmm. I love what Nefertiti just said about standing in the way ‘cause I think about, I have people open doors for me, and then literally stand in the doorway, and I can’t get past. And then they’re mad that I wait for them to move. And I know I’m not the only one who experiences that, but like, literally, I opened the door for you and then stood in your way, and now I’m mad at you. But an example of performative allyship I’ve come across is somebody maybe sharing something on social media like, “This is about blind” something, but they didn’t read the whole article. They didn’t carefully analyze who wrote it, you know, what is the source, was this actually debunked on Snopes already? ‘Cause it was. But just, I think it’s real performative to go out there and just share literally everything you come across that’s about blind anything, AD anything without carefully figuring out what is the message of this thing, and what will I be promoting when I share this?
THOMAS: What about someone who is talking that good talk, and then at the same time sharing images with no descriptions, sharing videos with no AD, not even recognizing it, not even providing any sort of context or anything like that. Like, you know, to them, they miss it at that point, but they still believe that they’re an ally [laughing] of audio description. But meanwhile, they’re sharing stuff without description.
CHERYL: Well, yeah, ‘cause you’re not an actual person, Thomas. You’re just an audio description consumer.
THOMAS: Oh!
CHERYL: So, I’m gonna clock in. I’m gonna do my audio description for your movie. But beyond that, you don’t exist to me, so it doesn’t occur to me that I should write image…. Obviously, I’m playing.
THOMAS: [laughs]
CHERYL: But I do feel like it’s that rehab and service provider model of accessibility.
THOMAS: Mm, talk about it.
CHERYL: Like, “I provided my service. I’m all done. But, you know, that one hour that you spent listening to AD and watching that movie, you are still a whole person the other 23 hours of the day. And I’m spending the rest of the 23 hours getting in your way, but I’m satisfied that I helped for that one hour.” And I think service providers of whatever sort have to always remember, if you are providing a service, you’re providing it to a complete and whole person and entire communities of complete and whole people.
THOMAS: If you’re in audio description, if this is your job, and you have [sighs] no relationships whatsoever with people who are blind, does that make a difference? NEFERTITI: I think that for people who want to make a name for themselves or get notoriety, get a pat on the back, “You’re so wonderful! Look at what you do for these poor blind folk,” you can’t have it both ways. You can’t be a so-called ally and then be on some “boop,” right?
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
NEFERTITI: You can’t have it both ways. Talk about performative. “Oh, I’m behind the scenes doing X, Y, Z thing, but really, I’m about the business side of it all. I’m about that money, right? It’s just a job to me in action. But in the performance of it all, I’m here to help y’all poor blind people.” No, no. People see that. People notice that. Maybe not right away. Maybe not everyone.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: I’d like to think that it does catch up with folks.
THOMAS: So, it’s okay if it’s just the job. But don’t say you’re an ally if you have something else.
NEFERTITI: Exactly. Exactly.
THOMAS: Exactly.
NEFERTITI: If it’s a job, then be about that job. That’s fine.
THOMAS: That’s a job. So, I mean, I think that’s a really good thing. And the only thing that I would add to that person who it’s just a job, and that’s fine. If it’s just a job, it’s just a job. That’s okay. But you should still be centering blind people in that work. That’s what I would say. But it doesn’t mean that, you know, you’re an ally. You just do the work.
NEFERTITI: 100%.
THOMAS: Yeah. I don’t necessarily think everyone needs to be an ally if they don’t feel it, right?
NEFERTITI: No, of course not. I’d rather you not.
THOMAS: Exactly.
NEFERTITI: I’d rather you’re not because you’re probably gonna be really crappy at it.
THOMAS: Right, right.
NEFERTITI: You’re not about it. Okay.
THOMAS: You’re not about that life. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Right! And you have every right. That’s fine.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: But again, then get out the way. Stop it. Stop being a fool. Stop being a hypocrite. We see you. We’re blind, but we see you!
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah.
CHERYL: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Okay?! All right. [laughs]
CHERYL: I think for somebody who does wanna be an ally but is doing this, I think that from that list Thomas started with about listening, I think you gotta listen to yourself, too. Ask yourself, why is this so hard for me? Why do I want to be an audio describer, but I never want to do any alt text on social media or X, Y, Z? And not in a judgmental way. But really, I need to listen to myself. I need to ask myself what are the barriers? Why is this happening? And then, yeah, maybe your answer is, “Actually, I’m not gonna be an ally.” And I’m gonna stop there ‘cause Gary’s raised a hand.
GARY: This conversation is just so parallel to sign language interpreters in the Deaf community.
THOMAS: Mm.
GARY: And, you know, I’ve talked in the past with other audio describers about the certification process for AD and how that’s similar to the early days of sign language interpreters. And I think the development of the profession is fairly parallel and similar, but also the whole conversation around ally building, that are interpreters truly allies to the Deaf community, or are they just clocking in, performing a job? “Here’s my bill. See ya later.” And I think there could be some fascinating discussions between interpreters and audio describers and perhaps Deaf people and blind people—which may well be happening, because I’m probably not the originator of the thought—you know, just that how service providers are more than service providers. So, whether we’re providing interpreting or audio description, and being clear, at least in your own mind, how to evaluate yourself, you know, how to analyze: Am I truly being an advocate or an ally, and what does that mean? And how do I own it or not own it, but at least how do I be honest with myself? What are those clear expectations from the Deaf community, the blind community, so that I can be checked and checked myself?
THOMAS: Mm, yeah. Check yourself. [chuckles] Very important.
GARY: Yeah.
THOMAS: Yeah. I like the idea of that sorta conversation between the two communities because I did something like that on the podcast where, you know, it was around the idea that lots of blind folks refer to captions almost like the North Star, right? The Holy Grail. Like, “Oh, captions are ubiquitous, and captions are great. They’re everywhere. We need to have that. We need to be more like the Deaf community.” And I’m like, “Have y’all ever heard about the captions?” You know, because they’re not, there might be captions quote-unquote “everywhere.” And you know, that’s not true, but the quality of those captions aren’t always great. And so, that’s something that we need to know because we’re not just shooting for the quantity, we’re shooting for quality. So, you know, those discussions are really important, especially when you’re trying to, when you think one is a model that you should follow for your own access, right? So, I like that you brought that up, Gary.
GARY: Yeah, just to clarify, this is Gary Morin, here in Maryland.
THOMAS: Yes, sir.
GARY: Yep! We’ve just chatted. It was great turning on and hearing your voice tonight.
THOMAS: Very cool.
GARY: And for everyone else, I am an accessibility coordinator at the National Cancer Institute in Maryland, to introduce myself.
THOMAS: Thank you.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Thank you so much.
GARY: Yeah. I love interacting with audio describers and learning more and more and just learning my way about it. So, I’m glad to be here.
THOMAS: Thank you, sir. Thank you for being here.
NEFERTITI: Glad to have you.
GARY: Thanks!
NEFERTITI: Cross-disability.
THOMAS: And thank you for being active in your learning. I think that’s really cool.
GARY: Yeah. Yeah.
NEFERTITI: 100%.
THOMAS: Very cool. Very cool. So, I wanted to ask another question. I think questions are good, right? Like, all of these conversations sort of start with a question. And I think allies and consumers, all of us, we need to be asking better questions of ourselves. Sort of like that example that I just gave, like sometimes we just repeat things, you know, without ever really, really thinking about it. Or things get just said, and they just get repeated, right? There’s phrases that people repeat all the time around audio description. It’s like, “Oh, you just saying that.” What does that mean, you know, when folks say, this is just something I came to recently in terms of, you know, we talk about we want the equal experience of sighted people when we go to a theater and while we watching visual content. That’s not gon happen. [laughs] It’s not gonna happen. I don’t even think the best audio description is going to be able to do that, right? So, why are we repeating that?
NEFERTITI: Yeah, no. As somebody who has repeated things in the past that I have since then thought better of or now have lived experience from which to speak from, I can say that no. Repeating just because a high-profile person has taken this approach or has made up this punch phrase or catch phrase, whatever the phrase is, it’s not okay. I think what is okay is to examine, to question, to really dig deep, like, is this really true to me? Is this really what I believe? Is this really what I experience as a blind person, especially, not for nothing, if it’s a sighted person saying these things? We are all about blind-centered here, yes? So, as a blind person in this community, what’s my fellow blind person saying, thinking, experiencing? And what about me? Is this true to my experience? How? And if it isn’t, should I really be repeating this, perpetuating this, bringing focus to this, and bringing more focus on this person or people or organization? Mm. Cheryl?
CHERYL: Yeah. Slightly different thing that popped into my head was a good ally move, if you’ve got a question, and you need to check a source or you need more education on something, I think a real good ally move is to speak to somebody and get the resources and get guided to the education you need without bugging the people in the community you’re trying to be an ally to, to educate you for free.
NEFERTITI: For free.
CHERYL: For free. I think there’s some steps to work through first, and that’s where you can speak to another ally or another comrade or co-conspirator to get directed. And then you are coming with more education and more self-reflection before you come into the community with deeper questions.
NEFERTITI: And it’s okay to humble yourself a little bit. It’s okay to admit what you don’t know or that you’ve made a mistake or that you’re afraid to make a mistake. Aren’t we all? Haven’t we all? But respect to those who do better, who try harder, try at all, right?
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. So, and, you know, it applies to all of us, the questioning: questioning of ourselves, questioning of others. You know, everything you just said goes back to those steps, those points for the steps to allyship, right?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Listen, get educated, get involved, show up, speak up, intervene, welcome discomfort. That’s a big one. [chuckles] Learn from your mistakes, stay engaged, and donate. So many of those were wrapped up in what you were just talking about, Cheryl, [laughs] in that example, even the donate. Because, you know, you’re asking someone for their time and for their education. You know, sometimes it might just be asking. That person might be like, “Nah, it’s cool,” you know? But just offering, that could be a, that could go a long way, too, so. And so, we’re gonna continue this conversation. And what I can guarantee you is that whatever avenue we’re talking about when it comes to audio description, can you guess who’s at the center? [laughs]
CHERYL: [imitates air horn]
NEFERTITI: I mean, I don’t know. Could it be blind people?!
THOMAS: Yeah! How’d you know?
NEFERTITI: I mean….
CHERYL: She was listening!
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: And I’m a genius! But no, I was listening.
THOMAS: She is a genius!
NEFERTITI: I live this every day. Blind and low vision people at the center. Always! Always.
THOMAS: All day. Every day. Yeah. Yeah. I hope folks will stay tuned. Nef, tell them what’s the best way of keeping in touch with BCAD Chats and learning more? And let’s say they had a suggestion. If anyone has a suggestion or something that you’re interested in, how could they let us know?
NEFERTITI: Absolutely! Well, we are on the socials, y’all: LinkedIn, X. That’s mostly where we are, right? We have an email address now. BlindCenteredAD@gmail.com. (Cut 01:21:49 – 01:21:57) BlindCenteredAD, I was just about to say, all one word @gmail.com. (Cut 01:22:17 – 01:22:30) Hit us up. You know, if you didn’t speak today, but you want to let us know your thoughts, we’re open. Any suggestions for future chats? We are here for it. Anything you wanna complain about, we will take that too. We are here for all of it. So, BlindCenteredAD@gmail.com. And if you’d like to follow me or just whatever, you’re big on the socials, look for me on LinkedIn: Nefertiti Matos Olivares. It’s a long name, y’all. N E F E R T I T I M A T O S O L I V A R E S, or the first three letters of each of those names: @NefMatOli on X.
THOMAS: Very cool. Very cool. Cheryl, you wanna give your?
CHERYL: Yeah, I’m just here. I just, I just, I don’t go anywhere. I’m just, I’m just right here.
THOMAS and CHERYL: [chuckle]
CHERYL: I just follow Thomas and Nef and share what they write. [laughs]
THOMAS: Yeah, I share what you write.
THOMAS and CHERYL: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: I do too. And since the three of us will be, you know, receiving and reading and the like, we will take turns responding. We will sign our first name, so you have an idea of who responded. And don’t be surprised, if it’s a thread, if you get feedback or responses, replies, whatever, from, you know, one or two or three of us.
CHERYL: We do have a lot of resources that we’ve collected over the years, too. So, if you’re curious about, you know, stuff that other people are talking about, other ways people are writing about it, I mean, we got all, we love to share this stuff, and we love to be in these conversations.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. Like Thomas offered earlier to Scott Nixon. I mean, that’s what we’re about.
THOMAS: All right. Thanks, everybody.
NEFERTITI: Thanks, everybody. Thanks for being here live. Thanks for tuning into the replay. We will be announcing on our various socials when the next chat will be, what it will be on, what platform it’ll be on. And tell a friend, all right? Tell someone you care about. Sharing is caring.

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

The Superfest 2023 ReidPlay

Wednesday, October 11th, 2023

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!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:
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 SuperfestFilm.com.

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

Cathy:

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.

TR:

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.

Emily:

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.

TR:

Let’s start with a bit of history.

Emily:

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.

TR:
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.

Emily:

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.

TR:

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.

Emily:

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.

Cathy:

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.

TR:

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

Emily:

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.

TR:
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”

Emily:

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.

TR:

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

Emily:

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.

TR:

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.

Emily:

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.

Cathy:

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?

Emily:

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.

TR:

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

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

Cathy:

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.

TR:

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.

Cathy:

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.

TR:

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.

Cathy:

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?

TR:

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

Cathy:
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.

TR:

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

Emily:

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.

TR:

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 ReidMyMind.com.

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.

Cathy:

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

TR:

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.

Emily:

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.

TR:

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.

Emily:

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?

Emily:

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.

TR:

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.

Emily:

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.

TR:

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.

Emily:

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.

Cathy:

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.

Emily:

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.

Cathy:

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

TR:

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.

Emily:

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.

TR:

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

Cathy:

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.

TR:

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

Cathy:

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.

TR:

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 ReidMyMind.com.

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.

Emily:

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

Emily & Cathy:
There’s always something!

Cathy:

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.

Emily:

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.

TR:

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.

Emily:

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.

TR:

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

Emily:

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.

TR:

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 SuperfestFilm.com.
You can learn more about the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at LongmoreInstitute.sfsu.edu
They’re on Twitter @LongmoreInst and Facebook Facebook.com/SFSUDisability.
Or, just check out this episodes blog post at ReidMyMind.com 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.

Cathy:

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.

TR:

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 SuperfestFilm.com 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 ReidMyMind.com. 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

Peace!

Hide the transcript

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

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

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!

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Last time on Reid My Mind Radio

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

TR:
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!
Eric
Hi, my name is Eric Wickstrom. I am the director of audio description for international digital center. pronouns are he him?

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

TR:
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 – ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

DVW also is doing the same and employs Blind QC.

— Audio Transition
TR:
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

TR:

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.

Eric:
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.

TR:

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.

Eric:
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?

Rhys:

Ditto!

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:

Laughs…

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.

TR:
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.

Eric:
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.

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

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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.

TR:
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.

Rhys:
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.

Eric:
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.

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

Rhys:
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.

TR:
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.

Rhys:
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.

Eric:
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.

TR:
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!

Eric:
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.

TR:
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?

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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?

Rhys:
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.

TR:
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.

Rhys:
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.

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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.

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

Eric:
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.

TR:
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.

Eric:
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.

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

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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.

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

Rhys:
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?

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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!

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

Oh a thousand percent!

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

Eric:
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.

TR:

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.

Eric:
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.

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

TR:
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.

Eric:
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

TR:
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.

RHYS:
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?

Eric:
100 percent.

Rhys:
Yeah!

TR:
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.

Eric:
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.

TR:
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.

Eric
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.

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

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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.

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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?

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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,

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

Rhys:
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.

TR:
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.

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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.

Eric:
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.

Rhys:
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?

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

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
Yeah.

Eric:
Yeah, that’s an idea! (Chuckles)

Rhys:
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.

TR:
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.

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

Rhys:

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

TR:
Find them both on Linked In

Eric:
Eric Wickstrom

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

TR:
Or reach out via their respective companies.

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

Rhys:
info at Descriptive Video works.com.
We do answer those emails.

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

— “NO ONE WILL SAVE US!

TR:
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 ReidMyMind.com
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
Peace!

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