Archive for the ‘General’ Category

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: – When AI Comes for the Blind

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023

While all the world is talking about AI, Artificial Intelligence, the Blind community has been dealing with what appears to be the eminent take over for the past few years. That’s the adoption of AI and Text to Speech in Audio Description.

In this last BCAD Chat of 2022 we wanted to discuss the pros and cons of AI and TTS voices narrating Audio Description.

Use this letter as a template to personalize and express your concerns about TTS in AD.

Shout out to Scott Blanks & Nefertiti Matos Olivares for the draft.

Join Us Live

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

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


Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

NEFERTITI: Welcome, welcome. Welcome. And welcome, everyone! Tell a friend if you haven’t already. This is a conversation all about TTS, text to speech, and audio description. Place, the place for TTS in audio description. Is there one? What is it? Do you hate it? Do you love it? If you love it, we are particularly interested in hearing from you tonight. I’d love to hear from people who might change my mind or might make me think a little differently about this topic, because, frankly, I am strongly against TTS.
THOMAS: So, the conversation is all about AI and TTS, mainly TTS. But I figure we should have a little conversation about both, because they’re sort of used together. And I think there is a little bit of a difference when folks talk about AI, or artificial intelligence, in the audio description space and then TTS or text to speech. And so, a little bit of the difference: the AI, artificial intelligence, that usually refers to, so, that is computers sort of learning on their own and adjusting, making changes, and doing the things that humans would usually have to program. But the artificial intelligence and TTS sort of amounts to, if you, which I’m pretty sure everyone here has probably heard audio description when the speech comes in, and then the sound is ducked, well, that’s the artificial thing that’s happening right there. There’s sometimes when it’s done via AI. It’s not a human who’s actually sort of mixing the sound. The artificial intelligence is saying, “Okay, I’m gonna put it here. I’m gonna duck this down, go back up when the speech is finished. I’m gonna duck now. The speech is coming in, so I’m gonna duck the track.” And then you’re gonna hear mainly the speech. “And then when it’s finished saying the audio description, I’m gonna go back up with the track.” And so, the film itself will start playing louder. It’s not clean. It’s sort of a jumpy thing, kind of takes you out. And it’s kind of annoying. It’s kind of annoying. So, that’s part of the artificial intelligence.
There’s some AI that I think they’re also working on when it comes to, I don’t know if anyone’s doing that right now, but actually writing the audio description, as far as I heard. I think that might be in the works if it’s not actually out there. If someone knows if it’s been done, you tell me. But then the TTS part is what we all know as the text to speech or the synthesized speech. That’s the computer who is taking the job of the narrator. And I just mean that on that particular film. I’m not making a blanket statement about these things taking jobs from narrators, but, you know, in a way it’s happening. [laughs] So, yeah.
And so, the questions that we usually get into, the discussion usually is sort of like pro or con. Do you like it? Do you not? Are you okay with it? So, we can start off there. But that’s really, I don’t think that’s really where wanna to stay, because right now, whether we’re pro or con, I think we need to think about that the industry and those who are really offering this and pushing this well, they’re very pro. And they’re pro, we know, because not because of the artistic value of synthetic speech, but they’re pro because they wanna save some money, and as I like to say, so Jeff Bezos can go to space and whatever else he wants to do with all that money. That’s a whole nother conversation. I don’t know what you can do with all that money, but whoo. Anyway. But apparently what you cannot do is provide good audio description! [laughs] I said it!
I wanted to frame the conversation, but Neff and everyone else, Cheryl, Scotts, I’d say the two Scotts, if y’all wanna talk about pro/con, because I think the thing that would be interesting, maybe we can make the argument, maybe we can even invite some folks up to take a side of pro and con first and just to sort of get that to hear why people might actually be pro and hear what their arguments are, because it’s always good to hear from folks.
CHERYL: Cheryl here, and I will say that I’m con. I’m firmly on the con side that Thomas laid out. But I wanna be clear that that is not because I’m a professional audio describer, and I am sad that a computer is taking my job. And I could be, but I feel like, as in the sighted describer community, the narrator community, voice talent community, we need to be careful that our main argument against it isn’t, “I might lose my job.” It is awful to lose the job, but the point that is important to me is that my job is about creating audio description for the audience to have a wonderful, immersive experience. So, it’s the audio description and the user’s perspective, I think, that really should be paramount here when we discuss it. I think it’s fine to have a conversation about jobs, but that might be a different space because these conversations are blind-centered audio description conversations. So, I would ask that if there’s voice talent in here, that we keep it centered on what is the experience the audience is getting? And I just don’t feel like TTS offers, and especially the AI-written stuff, it doesn’t offer the nuance. I’ve seen things where the description is focused just on that moment between dialogue, but there was no opportunity to hear a description about anything that happened before the dialogue. There’s no context. These lines sort of float in space and don’t seem to connect and make a cohesive whole. So, I’ll stop there and hand it over to anybody else. Thanks.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Scott Blanks?
SCOTT B: I am one who is against TTS in the vast majority of the media that is currently being audio described. Let me elaborate. So, when I think about the arts or entertainment broadly writ, I’m thinking about film, TV, stage, other creative presentations, art, artistic exhibits, things like that. I feel in those spaces that as things currently stand that TTS, as has already been mentioned by a few people, is, it is not what is going to make the experience a quality one, and it doesn’t make it an accessible one. The point of audio description is accessibility, and audio description can also be considered an art form. But even if you just consider it on the accessibility side, if the accessibility tool is a synthetic voice that is mispronouncing words, that is, as has been mentioned, there’s an odd rhythm or arrhythmia to it that takes you out of the experience, then your experience is not only not as immersive, it’s not as accessible. And that’s the point of audio description in all of the contexts that we know it right now, and in a lot of the context where we don’t know it.
And I would say if I were, if I were to be pro audio description through TTS narration, it might be in some of those spaces where there is no option right now. If there was a way to access information that scrolled on a TV screen, real-time, newsworthy information, that might be something that I could see because having the quickest access possible to that information is really critical. And I don’t think it would be feasible to think that we could have a human standing by 24/7 on literally thousands of different networks, TV stations, feeds, whatever to provide that. But I think we have to kind of keep our focus. Most of the professionals here, the professionals on this panel that I’m fortunate to be alongside here are audio describing or writing for audio description or providing other contributions to the audio description field through arts and entertainment. And in that space, I don’t see that TTS has a place in the provision of audio description in 2022.
NEFERTITI: Beautifully said. I could not agree more. All right, Scott Nixon, let’s hear from you!
SCOTT N: All right. I would like to conduct a small thought exercise for the sighted people in the audience today. You’re at an art museum. You’re, well, you’re at the Louvre. Okay. You’re standing in front of the Mona Lisa itself, its glory, its majesty, its beauty. You’re drinking it in with your eyes. Imagine for a moment you couldn’t actually see the painting. You couldn’t experience it the way everybody else experiences it, so you have an audio description device plugged into your ear. Would you prefer a member of the artistic community talking passionately about the magnificent painting you’re seeing before you, [imitates stiff robotic voice] or would you like a robotic voice explaining to you what it looks like? [back to regular voice] That is what we’re talking about with TTS.
I myself am vehemently anti-TTS for audio description because it robs something you’re watching of its soul, okay? I have watched sitcoms and movies and various other forms of media with TTS audio description, as, you know, as a curiosity over the years, and it really does take something away from the experience. Why should we as a blind community have to have a lesser experience than everyone else just because a company wants to save a couple of thousand bucks? It is literally a matter of a couple of thousand bucks between bad TTS and even minimally good audio description. So, why not do it? The simple answer is they don’t think we matter enough.
So, at the end of the day, this is something I always say when I’m talking to people about accessibility, audio description, accessible websites, all that sort of stuff, “You are a company. You are ostensibly here to make money. If you make a quality product and an accessible product that vision-impaired and blind people will enjoy, we talk. We talk to each other. We tell people when something is good. If you build it, we will send you sack loads of money. So, why are you sitting on your butts doing something that you shouldn’t be doing?” And that’s me done for now.
THOMAS as Audio Editor:

THOMAS as Audio Editor:
Hey Y’all, I just need to interrupt for a moment.
During this live conversation, we had a challenge getting our technology to work. Well, that we is really me.
We wanted to play a clip in order to have a sample to discuss.

Mmy technology is working today so even though we didn’t have the chance to discuss it, you can have a chance to hear the sample.

Check this out!

Downton Abbey clip:

Test to Speech Audio Description Narrator:
In the English countryside, a turn of the century train barrels past the lake

it rumbles by dead leaves and bare branch trees. puffs of white steam ripple out from its engine and below on to the rolling green hills.

On board a large black haired man in his late 40s peers out his window. Steam envelops the wires of utility poles.

In a village, a wire travels between quaint stone houses to a telegraph office.

NEFERTITI: Amazon Prime is where you can find this example. It’s a show that was hugely popular called Downton Abbey from our British neighbors over there across the pond. What isn’t beautiful about this experience is that as majestic as the show is, it has TTS. And the TTS says a lot of the things or is guilty of a lot of the things that Scott Blanks mentioned: mispronouncing names, misnaming names. So, in addition to the audio description script being kind of crappy, then on top of that, you have this robotic voice who, for those of you who are blind and in the audience who use a screen reader, it’s worse than like the Eloquence screen reader. Eloquence, for those who are not aware, is the most popular, widely used screen reader that blind people use to get around on the Internet, on PCs, on Windows machines. So, I mean, it’s just super distracting, really kind of offensive, and just not at all in keeping with the content, which is very dramatic and passionate! But then you have this [imitates robotic voice] TTS voice: The train rides down the rails. You know, it’s just, it’s, and not for nothing, but I sound great compared to the TTS just now. So, it’s just, it’s just so inappropriate.
SCOTT B: It’s Scott Blanks just to jump in. And if you’ve not ever enabled audio description on Prime video, you can do that once you start playback of an item. There should be an audio and subtitles option on your playback screen that you can access, and in there, you would wanna choose, in the case of Downton Abbey, English audio description.
SCOTT N: Just as an example of bad versus good, the American sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, huge hit in its day. Audio description turned up on Amazon Prime here in Australia about a year ago, and I was all gung-ho and ready to listen to it. I put on the first episode, bang. TTS. Completely robbed the show of its humor and its charm. I gave up after two episodes. Now, this year, HBO Max in America have apparently provided a human-narrated audio description track, and I was played a brief sample of it: 12,000% improvement. It gave the humor of the show. The audio description narrator was playing along with the jokes, smiling at the right times, frowning at the right times with his voice and all that sort of stuff. And it really did enhance the experience. So, the difference between TTS and human AD is like night and day. It’s just really a really important thing. And like I said, it helped to bring the soul of the show alive to the people who can’t see the soul that they put up on the screen. And that’s me.
THOMAS: In this conversation, TTS is sort of the demon. It’s the bad guy. But, you know, the technology’s not the bad guy. Like, we use TTS as blind people, as people with disabilities in general. We use TTS. TTS can, I love my screen reader. It gives me access. The screen reader is my input. It’s the way that I take in information. That is, that’s my access. The screen reader, that’s my guy! [laughs] Like, you know what I mean? Because he’s helping me out all the time. And then in order for me to have digital output, screen reader’s my guy. Like, I need him or her or them, right? And so, it shouldn’t necessarily be demonized. And I think that sometimes there are other people with other disabilities that make use of access technology, of TTS as well. So, Cheryl, you wanna talk about that?
CHERYL: Thanks, Thomas. I feel like you’ve framed it up so beautifully. The point that I wanted to make is that I have listened to different panels and read things and heard people arguing against TTS, which again, to reiterate, [chortles] I am not for TTS, especially as the Scotts pointed out, in a museum or a work of, a film, an art piece, an art film. But what troubles me is sometimes the reasons given end up incorporating a lot of ableist slurs and a lot of really harsh language, which I’ve heard none of tonight. But what I want us to be careful is, like Thomas said, to not demonize the technology. And for those folks who have a lot of communication through one of these systems where they’re typing or selecting images and some kind, a synthesized voice comes out, that’s communication. And so, it’s not the voice that’s “awful and soulless and inhuman.” I just want us to be careful. And when you leave this session and you go out and you promote or you speak about the harms and the problems with TTS, that you be careful to not be too ableist and throw augmentative and alternative communication users under the bus while insulting the sounds of these voices. It’s not the sound of the voice, it’s the application. And like Thomas was talking about, when the AI adjusts the volume of the soundtrack for this TTS to come in, it is like my head starts spinning. It’s just so jumpy. It’s so, it’s not artistic, and it doesn’t fit the vision of the film or the show. So, I’ll pause there.
THOMAS: And I also wanted to jump in with two podcasts ‘cause I think Cheryl, you had a podcast with a AAC user, and I think, so, if folks wanna kind of get to see how people use these devices and how it’s so intertwined with their life, that’s one. So, what’s the name of that podcast, Cheryl? I think it’s called Pigeonhole.
CHERYL: Oh, my! No, no. People should go to endever’s podcast. AAC Town is the podcast that endever* and their comrade, Sam, run. They’re both AAC users full-time or nearly full-time, and they have a podcast. It’s all transcribed. But yes, I did have endever* on my show, Pigeonhole, one time.
THOMAS: That’s what I was talking about.
THOMAS: You had them on your show.
CHERYL: But it was to talk about—
THOMAS: Let me do what I gotta do, Cheryl! [laughs]
CHERYL: OK! [laughs]
THOMAS: You always shout out my podcast, and so I wanna shout out yours. But mainly because it applies, right? I don’t wanna just shout, you know, I’m not just randomly shouting out podcasts. Although I do that around here. Every two hours I open up my window and I shout it out, “Pigeonhole!”
BOTH: [guffaw]
The other one is I was gonna say, now I am gonna do a promo of mine, is because I had a conversation with Lateef McLeod. And Lateef McLeod is a AAC user. And in that episode, we really go into some of the other issues around TTS that never necessarily get talked about. Lateef McLeod is an African American, and the voices that he had all his lives don’t really represent him until he got a voice that was a synthesized voice of a Black man. And so, you know, these issues are big, right? We always talk about it, like, these issues are really big. And so, and in that, Nefertiti was actually in that episode, too, where we did a little bit of a little skit about TTS that touches on a bunch of these things. So, anyway, it was a cool episode, I think. And so, both of those, check it out, and we get into these conversations as well. That’s it. I’m Thomas. I’m done.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. So, I think the summary here is let’s express ourselves, but be mindful to not sort of turn around while advocating for one accessibility, mm, putting down another, you know, or minimizing, punching down on another. So, I think that’s a great point. And we had a great clip to show you related to that, where human narration meets TTS and how it was used judiciously, minimally, but in a way that really drove home the point of where maybe it’s appropriate.
Scream Trailer from Social Audio Description Collective

AD Narrator – Nefertiti Matos Olivares:
The lights are on In a white suburban house at night. A silver cordless landline rings with the ID, Unknown Name.

In the kitchen, Tara pushes reject on the cordless while holding her smartphone. She is a thin light skinned Latina teen with long wavy dark hair pulled back in a ponytail.

She’s just texted

TTS Receiving Text Message:
Mom’s out of town again you should come over here. Free dinner, Many binge watch options.
AD Narrator – Nefertiti Matos Olivares:
Amber responds.
TTS Sending Text Message:
Have to do better.

TTS Receiving Text Message:
Unlock liquor cabinet.

— Landline phone rings

TTS Receiving Text Message:
You should answer it

TTS Sending Text Message:
How did you know my landline was ringing?

TTS Receiving Text Message:
This isn’t Amber.

Tara speaking on landline:
This isn’t funny amber

Deep Menacing Voice over landline:
Would you like to play a game? Tara?

Suspenseful Crescendo closes the scene.

THOMAS: That had some really different reactions that I wonder where people stand with.
NEFERTITI: First, I wanna say that this is for a Scream trailer that the Social Audio Description Collective described. It’s a bit of a hacker horror type film. And we had a human narrating the audio description, but there was a scene between somebody who was on camera and somebody who was off camera, and they were texting one another. And so, we decided, full disclosure, I’m part of the Social Audio Description Collective, we decided that why not use a synth to say what those lines of texts were rather than having the human describer say them? Just like we blind people experience TTS all the time with our screen readers, etc., why not just put one of those voices to those text messages? And it was a very brief exchange but still sort of drove home the point.
CHERYL: It worked so beautifully because I’m watching the screen, and I’m seeing basically a computer screen, words pop up on a computer screen. So, hearing that screen reader voice read it was really cool. And it really uplifts, in my mind, the ingenuity and creativity of disability community. Like, who would’ve thought to do that besides people who interact with these voices all the time? I thought it was such an add to the, it elevated the art, I thought.
THOMAS: Yeah, and I think I remember that there were some comments from folks who I don’t think were blind who were very negative toward that text to speech being included in there. And it was like, wow, like this is totally my experience. This is a text message. That was what a text message sounds like to us.
THOMAS: You know? And so, again, to me, highlighting that no, audio description should always center blind people. And so, blind people need to be a part of this, and blind people need to be a part of that conversation, which is part of my issue personally with, and so, advancing this a little bit, is the framing of this conversation of audio description and the way it’s been framed within the community by those outside of the community, those creating it, the corporations, right? Is that hey, TTS is good because you will get more. So, it’s either, if you want more audio description, then you take TTS. And that, framing TTS that way, is the biggest problem that I have with this entire subject is because we are being told we are being given options, and it’s two options, and we have never been consulted. And if they tell me that, “Oh, no, you were consulted as a community because we issued a survey that some folks got to fill out,” I don’t care about that. Because the thing is, is that it’s still based on that option that you give me. So, a lot of people would say, “Well, if these are my only two options, TTS or no audio description,” I can see why a lot of people would go that route.
THOMAS: But that’s not the route, that’s not the choice that we should be given. Why are you giving us those two choices? Those aren’t really even choices. And so, that’s my, really, my biggest problem with this whole conversation. I think history sort of says that when large corporations get their hands on something and have it in their cold hands and their cold hearts [chuckles] to do something and to get it done and to save a penny or two, they’re gonna do it. It’s gonna happen. And so, right now, my concern is that is this conversation about pro or con, does it even matter at this point? Is this inevitable?
And so, should the conversation actually move into something else like, “Hey, Amazon, hey, you corporations, why don’t you, you should, you need to be including us in this conversation”? Because like Scott, I think Scott B., you mentioned some other opportunities where, you know, okay, wait. Text to speech, I’ll take it here. This would work. This would help my life here in this particular case. And I’m wondering if there are other examples of that, that apply to film. Can we talk about either this framing of no, of more AD with text to speech or not, but also, is this inevitable? Do y’all think it’s inevitable? Do we still have a chance to say no? Or should we be talking about, hey, let’s come to the “negotiation table” and have these conversations and find out where the blind community says, “Okay, this would work for us”? I wanna throw that out there.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm. And the blind community and our allies. Let’s never underestimate the power of allyship and togetherness. You know, this is accessibility.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: But it’s not to exclude our sighted allies. We center blind people here, but we are here, and we want to be part of the conversation just as much as our sighted allies have been already.
But I would like to hear a little bit from Scott Blanks about this idea that I’m sure is not exclusively something that, you know, just sort of a light bulb went off in his head, but something that he has taken and done something about. And it’s all about advocacy and a campaign of sorts. Because, Thomas, what you were saying about so, what are our choices? No description or TTS? And is this sort of the end of the road? Do we just let them do them being the cold-hearted, cold-handed, as you put it, companies out there to save a penny go the way of TTS, or do we do something about it? Can we do something about it? And I think that Scott has come up with a way that we can, if people get behind it. Scott Blanks, do you wanna talk a little bit about that?
SCOTT B: I have found that there are a lot of different ways to engage with companies, not just talking about audio description, but in so many different things. And particularly if you’re a person with a disability and unfortunately, you have to fight for a lot of stuff, small things, large things. Sometimes small things feel big. And there’s more of that than there should be. That’s a different topic, though. But I find that engaging with companies, it’s very easy to do that in places like social media and in sort of those public spaces. But what tends to be a little bit more of a lift for us, but also, I think has more impact on these companies, is when you start writing to them directly and when they start hearing from people in numbers.
So, one of the things that I did a few months ago was I took a run at a very basic, it’s sort of a template of sorts, a very, very rudimentary template that someone can take and use however they would like to reach out to, if they know of an entity who is providing TTS audio description, and they would like to talk about why they feel like that company should look at doing it a different way. This is a, it’s in a Google document that anyone can access. I would say the best thing you can do is connect to the LinkedIn audio description group, the Twitter community, or you can come find me on LinkedIn or anyone here really would probably be able to get you access to that link. It’s a public link, and it is available for anyone to view, copy, and do with as you see fit. But I believe it’s important. If companies don’t hear from us, and they’re doing a thing, then they think they’re doing that thing correctly. They believe that that’s how it should be done unless they start hearing from people.
And listen, I’m not under any sort of illusion that writing a bunch of letters is guaranteed to make a change. But I don’t like the idea of something becoming so rooted in, and the expectation is that this will be the way things are for now and evermore and thinking that we didn’t try hard enough. And I believe that part of advocacy is it’s not as flashy, but it’s getting those letters written. It’s getting that contact to these companies. And all of these c
THOMAS: Cool. Well, that concludes this week’s conversation. Why don’t y’all keep the conversation going on social media.
CHERYL: Use #ADFUBU, for us by us, #DescribeEverything, and #AudioDescription.
NEFERTITI: And hey, you know we’re out here, right? Mmhmm! Gathered and galvanized y’all. If you haven’t joined us yet, what are you waiting for?! You can find us in the LinkedIn Audio Description group and the AD Twitter community. We know that your participation will only make these spaces better.
Music fades out!

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Describing Yourself

Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

Self-description continues to be a controversial subject, especially among those who are Blind or have low vision. We invited the community to come share their opinions; pro and con.

Join Us Live

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

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


Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

SCOTT B: Hey. Good afternoon, evening, morning, I guess in some cases, as you’ll hear from Scott Nixon in a moment. This is Scott Blanks. I am co-founder of the Audio Description Twitter Community as well as a audio description LinkedIn group recently formed. Happy to see people coming together around all manner of issues in audio description. Excited to talk today about self-description. We’ll get into that after we go through our intros. Scott Nixon, over to you.
SCOTT N: Good morning from Australia, everybody. It’s Scott Nixon here. I am co-moderator of the Audio Description Twitter Community, now featuring 501 members. Congratulations to everybody involved, especially Nefertiti and Scott B., who have done an absolutely magnificent job in getting this community off the ground and creating such a welcome and warm and caring community of like-minded people who want to forward the cause of audio description around the world, really. So, yeah. Thank you very much, everybody, and welcome. And I’m looking forward to a really great chat today.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. And thank you, Scott N. for being up so early and joining us.
SCOTT N: Yeah, it is 6 AM here. And yeah, the things I do for love.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] There you go. Excellent.
Folks, welcome, welcome to this latest Twitter Space. For those who can’t be with us live, thank you for catching it on the replay. Today should be, will be all about image description, the controversy of it, sort of the hi, why people like it, what we think is useful about it, why we think it should be a thing that sticks around. But also, those who are detractors, who don’t really care for it, who don’t think it’s important, it’s a waste of time, it’s extra sort of sensory overload, we wanna hear about all of it.
CHERYL: Actually, I’ll do a self-description to just get us started.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Thank you, Cheryl.
CHERYL: You bet. So, yes, I am Cheryl. I am a non-blind audio describer. I am for no particular reason wearing a bright orange, safety orange, down vest, even though I think it’s like 75 here. But it’s my comfort vest. It makes me happy. And let’s see. I am a white Ashkenazi Jewish woman with olive complexion and a froth, a frothy, fizzy, dark brown, curly, fuzzy hair that I’m so glad is not on camera! I love audio only.
SCOTT N: I’m Scott once again, a, let’s say, heavyset white gentleman with short brown hair with streaks of gray through it and a neatly trimmed salt and pepper beard, gray eyes, and I’m currently the wearing track pants and a red t-shirt.
SCOTT B: Hi. I am Scott. I’m a tall white man wearing a short-sleeved button down shirt with some…with some toucans on it. And I have green eyes…and a beard. And you can tell that I don’t actually do this so often. But that’s me! So, thanks for the chance for me to describe myself. And I think we have Thomas Reid in the house.
THOMAS: I got a really quick and simple one. I’m Thomas Reid. I’m a brown skin black man with a smooth-shaven bald head, a full, neat beard. And actually, I should say that it has a little bit of salt and pepper. [chuckles]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
THOMAS: And yeah, and I’m wearing dark shades, and I am seated in my vocal booth. Let’s put it right there. I’ll end it right there. There you go.
SCOTT N: Very nice. I’ve always thought it’s a bit of an Isaac Hayes vibe going on there, Thomas. [chuckles]
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Alrighty. So, in the spirit of doing a self-description, I like to keep it even quicker than Thomas. I am a Latina woman with brown skin, hair, and eyes. Boom.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
THOMAS: Does that mean you have brown skin, brown hair, brown eyes, or is it that you have brown skin with hair and eyes? [laughs]
CHERYL: [laughing] Stop!
NEFERTITI: I mean, yeah! All of it. [laughs] I have all those things. But no. Yeah, light brown skin, golden brown eyes, and dark brown hair.
THOMAS: Okay. All right. There you go.
NEFERTITI: So, a little more detail there, which is interesting. That’s one of the things we wanna talk about today: What makes for good image description, right? What’s too much? What’s not enough? So, Thomas, as our fearless host, you wanna get us started?
THOMAS: Sure. So, I guess why don’t we start off with a little bit about, I mean, we just went through the idea that these are self-description. So, that is a little bit of a definition, right? So, really, the opp-, a self-description is providing some information for folks who are blind or visually impaired or low vision, whatever the terminology is, and to provide access to some of that visual content—again, it is visual—and some visual information during meetings and conferences and things like that. Aight? Anybody wanna add to that sort of a quote-unquote definition about what a self-description is, so we’re all working with it, and we know when we’re using these, when they come into play? You think about Zoom conferences and live conferences when there’s a meeting, a person speaking, this is an opportunity for that person to sort of describe the information themselves, their own information. So, even if there was an audio description person present in such an event, I would say that it’s probably better to have a person describe themselves as opposed to having someone describe that person. So, I don’t know if anybody wants to add on to that or subtract. Subtract.
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti. I just wanna say that I absolutely agree with that. Better that it come from the person themselves than someone else. We could get vital details wrong, right?
NEFERTITI: Based on, let’s say, a person’s skin color, you know, there’s tons of hues of brown, but there’s tons of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds and things of that sort, too, so you might mislabel someone. So, better to get it from the person themselves whenever possible, for sure.
THOMAS: But this topic has been a little bit controversial, so maybe we should take folks who are, why don’t we do a pro and con, right, almost meeting style where we allow folks to kind of take the floor for two minutes to talk a little bit about why you are pro or why you are con.
SCOTT N: Scott Nixon here. I am for, I am personally 100% for it. But I can also see some negative connotations, not necessarily connotations, negative aspects to it. Some people simply aren’t comfortable describing themselves or don’t feel confident in describing themselves. I have quite a few friends who are vision impaired who are also on the autism spectrum who have great difficulty expressing themselves, and doing something like describing themselves can be a source of great anxiety to them. So, in cases like that, I think we all need to be a little bit sensitive and aware that not everyone is going to be 100% comfortable and support them in whatever choice they decide to make. If they decide that they’re not comfortable describing themselves, we should let them just do whatever they’re comfortable with. So, really, at the end of the day, it really does come down to a personal choice as to whether someone does do the description or not. And if you don’t think they’ve done a good enough description, well, that’s your deal type thing. You don’t ask for more or less or whatever. You just let them to do what they’re most comfortable with.
THOMAS: That’s a fantastic point there, Scott. And I think for most folks, you know, we’re gonna talk a little bit about it, but we’re in the process of, some folks are in the process of writing up some guidelines, because that’s one of the things that we don’t have. And one of the guidelines— And I don’t think any, I don’t think I ever heard anyone ever say that it is absolutely mandatory. It is a suggested practice. It’s a practice about providing that, providing information. And so, I agree 100%. If it’s something that makes someone uncomfortable, by all means, I don’t think anyone would want you to make yourself uncomfortable at the, you know, in order to get some information. So, great point.
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti, and I 100%. It’s never, and never has it been, never should it ever be about making someone uncomfortable, right? We don’t want to prioritize access needs. If, for example, in Scott’s example, friends with, friends on the spectrum and it makes them anxious and all that, I do not think that my access needs should preclude or usurp those of someone with an anxiety disorder or on the spectrum, discomfort, etc., whatever it is. Where I have a problem—and maybe this is part of the con, I’m not sure, even though I’m very, very much pro. Don’t get it twisted, y’all. I think this is a very good practice that needs to stick around—other folks who say, “It’s useless, it’s pointless, it just wastes time. I’m here for X, Y, Z, topic, or meeting or whatever it is. And I don’t care what your skin color is. I don’t care that you’re wearing a blue blazer, you know? I don’t care that your whatever,” you know. So, yes. These folks that, these folks that want, their…their sort of dislike for the practice to do away with someone like me who thinks it adds great value to whatever setting I’m in. How was it that you put it, Thomas? Like, why should your…. I don’t wanna butcher it. But do you remember what I’m talking about, where you asked somebody point blank?
NEFERTITI: Can you say that, please?
THOMAS: Yeah. It may not be verbatim, but I know I wrote it. But, you know, basically it’s like, why should…. Oh, damn. Now you got me all messed up.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Oh no!
THOMAS: Why should—
THOMAS: No, but. But my access, right, shouldn’t be limited by your, the fact that you don’t like it, right?
THOMAS: Why ruin my access, is what I was saying.
SCOTT N: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: Yes! Don’t curtail my access because it’s something that you don’t appreciate, or you can go through life without. That’s great. I’m glad. But I wanna go through life with it. So, you know, yeah. Thank you, Thomas. That’s what I was talking about.
CHERYL: This is Cheryl. Can I jump in for a second?
CHERYL: Because, Thomas, the way I remember it, you didn’t even mention access. ‘Cause I think a lotta people get on the access conversation. They don’t go a step deeper. You went a step deeper, and I think you said something like, “Why are you trying to withhold information from me?”
THOMAS: That’s right.
CHERYL: Or “why are you trying to exclude me from this conversation?” So, I really appreciated that because it does go to the heart of it. And that’s, I also agree with what Scott Nixon said. If it is an access conflict, if you can’t or are not comfortable or not, for any reason, it doesn’t meet your access needs to self-describe, that’s a different, that’s different. That’s fine. But if it’s just like, “I don’t like this. I don’t see why people have to say they’re white,” then you are excluding somebody who could benefit from that description. Audio 5000.
THOMAS: Audio 5000. [chuckles]
SCOTT N: Exactly right, Cheryl. Scott Nixon here again, folks. It’s exactly right. The exclusionary side of it and wanting to know. I understand that there are people out there who’ve been totally blind from birth and who don’t have a necessary concept of color, tone, that sort of thing. And once again, that’s perfectly understandable. And for them, they may not need to or want to understand that someone’s wearing a blue jacket or a red shirt or whatever like that. And when it comes to skin tone, it can sometimes be the same thing. Some people, who, for lack of a better term don’t see or need to see color. But for me personally—I can only speak from my experience—I find it incredibly valuable to recognize someone’s ethnicity, background, culture, or that sort of thing, and that all comes into that. And yeah, so, I think it’s a really, really important thing.
And sometimes I can be quite surprised by what I learn. I was speaking to someone in the audio description field some time ago, and I had always assumed that he was African American. And then I find out that the guy has what we call a “computer tan,” which means whiter than white. And my mind just completely changed over what my, you know, I have like a mental picture of him, and I just instantly changed it over. And it’s not that my attitude changed or the way I talk to him changed or anything like that. It was just that my mental Rolodex instantly changed the skin tone, and I had a better example of who they were like. And Batmobile.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Scott N. I think that’s a really good point too. I’ve thought people were white before, and they haven’t been, because of how they speak. I get that a lot sometimes too. People think I’m white. It’s like, no. Do we wanna hear from Scott B. before we open it up to folks who want to come up and speak?
SCOTT B: I don’t know. Do you? [laughs]
NEFERTITI: I mean, I always do, Scott B., but do you wanna speak?
SCOTT B: Yes! I’ll jump in, and so then we can make some room for people up here, too. I’m definitely a pro self-description from a personal perspective. As a congenitally blind person, no light perception since birth, yes, I’m in that space of someone who has not seen those colors and who only has sort of a conceptual understanding of what different colors are. For me, self-description is, in many cases, it’s less about things like the red jacket, the blue kerchief. It is, I’m really interested in understanding who I’m interacting with. I wanna know if someone describes himself. I am very interested in gender, in race, in things like that, because I think from, again, my personal perspective is that we are in a society where those things are really important. And I can’t put myself in that position of saying race doesn’t matter because I feel like it does. It always has, and it probably always will one way or another. And as a blind person, if I don’t have that information, then I am at a disadvantage. And so, wherever I can have that playing field leveled it feels like I can be more a complete part of the conversation. And if I get information about what people are sporting, hairdos, things like that, that’s just, that’s frosting on the cake.
And then the last thing I’ll say is my only sort of concern about it is, and I think this is where things like guidelines can help, is that when someone schedules a meeting, there’s ten people in the meeting, and it’s a 15-minute meeting, and everyone’s gonna go around and give a description, you’ve lost much of your time. And I think there is like a balance, right? How do we balance between access and actually getting something done? So, that is the kind of thing that the guidelines can address and people doing this more and just getting into the habit of it, becoming more smooth. I mean, the way that folks like Thomas and Nefertiti rattled off their descriptions, I aspire to this. I need to work on mine. But, you know, that’s, I think, where you see some people pushing back against description ‘cause they’re in a meeting, and they sit through 10 minutes of description, and there’s five minutes left in the meeting. So, there’s a need for balance. And I think that’s an easy thing for us to achieve. And especially for the value of the access that’s provided by self-description when it can be shared by people far outweighs the little bumps in the road like this. That’s it for me.
THOMAS: I wanna go to meetings where Scott is because they’re only 15 minutes. [laughs]
SCOTT B: [chuckles] You don’t. You don’t, actually. [laughs]
THOMAS: Probably not. You’re right. But they’re fast, though, 15-minute meetings. But no, you have a fantastic point, and it’s a very true point. And I think that would, even for those who favor audio description, you’re quite right. The fact that—I’m sorry favor self-description—the fact that yes, they can take up a lot of time is a problem. But it’s not a problem to throw it away, right?
SCOTT B: Absolutely.
THOMAS: It’s a problem to get fixed. Right.
SCOTT B: Right. You don’t say, “Oh, it’s not working, so we’re just gonna stop.”
SCOTT B: That’s not how we approach this or many other things.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
SCOTT B: But a lot of people like to do that.
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, right? So, part of those guidelines should, are going to include, and they do, most people will tell you keep it less than a minute. I personally say that your whole introduction shouldn’t exceed a minute. And so, if you’re going around a table and introducing yourself, this is something that I think we all need to sort of take a look at and improve, the same way you tell business owners to have an elevator pitch, right? Even just not business owners. I mean, we say that. We hear that from career counselors. This could be sort of looked at the same way. This should be part of your elevator pitch in meetings that are online meetings and things like that where this is going to be done. And just think about it in advance.
The thing that I find really interesting about this argument is that it’s forcing people to think about things that either they never had to or they don’t want to that often come, you know, are aligned with the idea of white privilege. And to me, quite honestly, the most that I hear in terms of the negative feedback, like “we shouldn’t do this” are actually from mainly white folks who don’t have to describe themselves, who are not used to describing themselves. They didn’t have to. They don’t look at their color. Their color has never been a part of the conversation. Where you ask any person of color, whether they’re light, whether they’re dark, their lightness or their darkness is part of a conversation. Whether it be internal in their own community or externally in public, it comes up. And so, we are quite used to describing the color of our skin, right? We are quite used to that. For some of us, it can definitely save your life. So, this is the thing that we have to be very cognizant about. But the idea that it’s forcing people to sort of think about their own privilege and come to realize that it exists, wow. That, I guess, is kinda tough. That can be really rough for people. But, hey, it’s something that we should be doing.
So, again, whether it be audio description or whether it be self-descriptions, right, it goes beyond what you think it’s all about. And to me, if we’re really going to look at this thing called white supremacy, if we’re really gonna be talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and all of this stuff, and we want people to include disability, and we want access and all that, well, you know, we’re gonna have to look at the whole thing. We can’t just look at the blindness. We’re gonna have to look at all of those intersections, and we’re gonna have to challenge all of these things. And freaking description is a beautiful way to start doing that. So, maybe you’re not comfortable with it, but that’s okay. We all have to do a little bit if we want to make this world a little better place. So, description is actually a part of that, so. Thomas out.
NEFERTITI: Yes, we all— Thomas Reid, everybody! [chuckles]
SCOTT N: Absolutely. But I just wanted to thank Thomas for the mention there of white privilege. The greatest example of that in recent times is what happened with Vice President Kamala Harris when she was at an event, and there were several vision impaired people around. So, she gave a self-description of herself, which I thought was absolutely fantastic. It was clear, concise, gave us a little bit more information, gave us a nice little extra card for our visual Rolodexes. And my God, did the fragile white boys lose their little minds online about how unnecessary it was, how stupid it was. All of this ableist language was flying around. And I’m trying to explain to them that this is valuable information and things like that. But in time, I eventually ended up giving up because once you start arguing with someone who identifies himself as #FloridaMan, you know you’ve already lost the fight. So, just trying to get past that sense of entitlement that so many people have.
And look, I, at the risk of sounding mildly controversial, I’ll put it out there that a lot of people of all different races have this similar issue that, “Oh, I don’t see race. I don’t recognize race,” dah dah dah dah dah, all that sorta stuff. But for some people, it’s critically important, as Thomas said. So, yeah, I believe that it is important. And us trying to educate people on how important it is for us, for those of us who are into it—I know there are some detractors out there—but I think it’s really, really important to show them and help them understand that this is something that is as important to us as them being able to go up to someone and say, “Yo, what kind of car do you drive?” Scott out.
NEFERTITI: Beautiful. Thank you, both Thomas and Scott and the other Scott, [giggles] both Scotts. I think the takeaway from what I just heard is that we need to keep getting comfortable with our discomfort, and that blindness is not where it stops, right? It’s just where it begins. It’s a systemic situation we’re trying to battle here, and description is a really great way to do that. So, we have Robert Kingett with us. Robert, would you like to speak?
ROBERT: Yay! Cool beans. Okay. So, I am gonna repeat most of what others have said here. But to give a little self-description of myself, I’m a pale white male with one blue eye and one green eye, and I have a short nose, and that goes along with my short stature. So, there you go. As for the self-description debate, I’m very, very pro self-description. If you have an access need that makes, that you have social anxiety or something, it’s totally okay if you want to opt out of self-description. But what I have a problem with is fellow blind people trying to take away my right to information. You, as a blind person, don’t have any right whatsoever to take away my access, period. If sighted people don’t have the right, what makes you think you have the right?
Lastly, I mean, self-descriptions could help in multiple ways. For example, it can help you craft elevator pitches. Most importantly, it can teach you to be a better listener. When I listen to self-descriptions, I’m listening for the words that people use and how they use those words to describe themselves ‘cause it tells me a lot about a person depending on what words you choose to use to describe yourself. And that’s it. I’m all done. [chuckles]
CHERYL: This is Cheryl here. Thank you, Robert. I’m wondering if now would be a good moment to listen to another really cool example of a self-description that I believe Thomas might have cued up. Is now a good time for that? Or we can move to Gretchen, who just became a speaker, while we wait for Thomas or Nefertiti. Gretchen, do you wanna have a moment to speak?
GRETCHEN: Very excited about these two minutes. So, thank you. My name is Gretchen Maune. I am a pale 40-year-old white woman with chin length, brown hair in a bob, wearing dark denim overalls, and a Sailor Moon t-shirt ‘cause I’m really channeling the ‘90s today, so. [laughs] I am blind. And just to give you a little perspective, I went blind in my mid-20s, about 15 years ago. And I also, just to call back to what some people were saying, I am autistic, and I live with anxiety. So, I am definitely pro self-description, and my perspective is that I want access to all the information that my sighted peers have and all the information I used to be able to have access to when I was sighted. For me, it’s about inclusion, first and foremost, and that’s really important to me. Also, I, this is probably controversial based on what some folks have said, but I say if a meeting is rather short and the audio, self-descriptions rather, would take up a lot of time, allot more time in the meeting for it and plan for that.
The three ways that I find it useful, well, first, I mentioned the inclusion. It makes me feel more a part of things because most of the people I spend time around are sighted. And so, I’m getting access to what they have access to. Second is that, well, I guess going back to what one of the Scotts—sorry, can’t remember which one—mentioned is that being able to have that perspective. I know amongst many of my friends and folks that gender and race are very important, and the way they present themselves is important. And so, being able to have my mental image of that is important in my Rolodex, if you will. But also, if I’m in an in-person meeting, it’s been very helpful before when people have described themselves to then later on, after the speaker’s done, the presentation’s over, to talk to a sighted friend and be like, “Hey, I can’t remember the person’s name, but they said they were white and wearing a red jacket. Can you help me find that person so I can go talk to them for a minute?” when you’re in a big group or something so I can go have a conversation with them. That can be very helpful, and I have taken advantage of that information before so I can locate a person.
Another thing is that one time I found out that someone was wearing some awesome white cane earrings, and I didn’t even know such a thing existed. And later on, found some for myself on Etsy. So, that was another thing I liked about getting a description is finding out about, oh, their hair sounds really cool, or their earrings sound cool. But those are all different reasons for me. Thank you so much.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Gretchen! I want those earrings, too! Oh, my God.
NEFERTITI: They sound amazing! Wow. And thank you for being with us in this space and making such great points. Yeah, I love that idea of, “Hey, help me find that person with the red jacket.” If you’re in a room with however many people remembering a name, I don’t know about y’all, but that’s really difficult for me. But having something like, oh, okay, cane earrings, let’s go find that person, that’s really useful. Thank you. That’s a great example. Thomas, are you with us?
THOMAS: I am with you. And I know who that person is, too, with the cane earrings. [chuckles]
THOMAS: That’s her thing. Yeah! That’s Cathy, Cathy Kudlick. Yeah. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: That is so, I love that. Wow. Love it.
THOMAS: So, let’s see. I think I have what we’re looking for. Let’s see if it works. I set it up real quick. Let’s see if this works. I’ll give this for Gretchen. Let’s see if you hear it. [air horn blasts]
THOMAS: All right, all right.
NEFERTITI: I love that sound! [giggles]
THOMAS: All right. Well, tell me what you think about this one, then.
[recorded clip plays, starting with a bit of cute, cheery music, then Nefertiti’s voice comes on as Meggy Eggy]
MEGGY EGGY: Oh, Meggy Eggy’s in the building, folks. Whoo! This is so fun already.
MOLLIE: Before we get too far, would you like to introduce yourself to our listeners?
MEGGY EGGY: Oh, of course. Hi, listeners. I’m Meggy Eggy, like I said, but my real name is Meg. My pronouns are she/her, and I’m an egg timer! A very cute little yellow timer in the shape of an egg with numbers in a circle around my waist. I’m a kitchen timer, so you can use me when you need to set a time for two minutes or one hour. Whatever you need, Meggy has got you covered! [delighted giggle] Oh, and I speak Spanish. ¡Qué bien! [recorded clip ends]
THOMAS: Okay. Y’all explain? Explain, Nef! [laughs]
SCOTT N: Just before Nef does that, I would just like to say that I have just suffered a cuteness overload.
NEFERTITI: Wow. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s me as Meggy Eggy on the Mystery Recipe Podcast, part of America’s Test Kitchen Kids! And I’m honored that y’all wanted to play that. That’s so cool.
SCOTT N: It was efficient, too. It got it done, like, one, two, three.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. I mean, it has a lot of information, right? She’s yellow, she’s an egg timer, she tells you what she can do. She can speak Spanish. I mean, a lot of information. And how long was that? Like, 30 seconds, maybe?
SCOTT B: Probably 30 seconds. Yeah. I’m guessing.
MEGGY EGGY: [recorded portion plays on a loop with the cheery music behind it] Whoo this! Whoo! Whoo this!
NEFERTITI: Okay. Remix!
THOMAS: Oh, you want the remix? Okay. Hold on, hold on. Wait.
THOMAS: We gonna do, gonna do the remix. Let’s see. Here we go. You ready?
MEGGY EGGY: [sound effect like a tape rewinding] Oh, Meggy Eggy’s in the building, folks!
NEFERTITI: This is what happens when you have a skilled producer as a co-host, you guys. How fun.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: How fun. I’m gonna have you help me put my, one of my reels together, Thomas, just so you know. Anyway.
THOMAS: Ah. [air horn blasts]
NEFERTITI: So, yeah! You guys, this is a major podcast who has this character as an intern for Season Six, and she is, she identifies as blind, low vision, visually impaired, etc. And not only do the folks on the podcast just make it like, “Okay, you tell us you can get around in the kitchen and you know what you’re doing and all that, we’re gonna trust that you’re telling us the truth about that. And if you need help, then you’ll let us know when.” So, that’s fantastic, super good representation and modeling there. But also, this self-description just as part of introducing herself to the young chefs, the listeners, and their grown-ups, I think, is a really fantastic example of what we’re talking about here today. And this is making it to the children. Hopefully those children will grow up with the understanding and the belief that this is okay and even necessary.
THOMAS: Yeah. And setting this precedent as about access, right? We’re talking about access at the end of the day and just making it, you know, normalizing it, right, just really normalizing this thing so we don’t have, “What are they doing?” You know, we don’t have all of that nonsense going on. So, I think that’s part of it.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. #NormalizeAccess.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. For real.
CHERYL: This is Cheryl. I wanted to weigh in on that, too, ‘cause I think I was pushing that we play that clip ‘cause I just, I love it so much. It’s a great description. It’s succinct, and it’s mixed in with all this other information about your character. She speaks Spanish. She’s a yellow egg timer. Like, it’s just part of the description. And I thought that that, it’s just so beautiful as a part of a well-rounded description of who you are. And I have heard on the other side people say—and I think sometimes this is used as a straw man—I’ve heard some people say, “You shouldn’t do self-descriptions because you will never be able to describe every single thing about what you look like. And so, that’s just not fair. And why do you get to pick and choose?” And I mean, it’s a straw man. It’s not, like, that argument is just it…it’s not looking for a really genuine answer. But, you know, Meggy Eggy, the egg timer doesn’t just wear glasses. I looked at her. She’s got gigantic, oversized, retro round eyeglasses.
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
CHERYL: She has hash marks around her waist, not just numbers, but hash marks where the numbers are. Did you say all that? No. Do we still know a lot about Meggy Eggy? Yes. And so, you don’t wanna, I guess, throw the baby out with the bathwater. You’re never gonna be able to describe every single thing. Especially if you’re in a meeting with Scott, and you only have 15 minutes, you can’t describe.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
CHERYL: It would be a 14-and-a-half minute description for one person.
SCOTT B: Right.
CHERYL: But that’s not a reason to not do it. And part of making this space welcoming and accessible and safe is to allow people to say some things about their description, and they’re not gonna say all. Because some people, it’s not safe for them to say all the description. Some people may have a kind of dysmorphia where bringing it up to a bunch of strangers is a really bad thing for them. But like we talked about earlier, not making it mandatory, but making it part of a negotiable accessibility practice seems like a fine way to try to do it.
MEGGY EGGY: Ooh, this is so fun already!
SCOTT N: Love it. Thomas—
CHERYL: Thomas, please follow me around every day with your machine.
THOMAS: [laughing] Yeah, exactly.
SCOTT B: Play our cards with sounds when we fall down. Do all of it.
SCOTT N: Yeah. Just, Scott Nixon here again, just going back to what Cheryl was just saying there about some people being uncomfortable, maybe, about describing themselves because of dysmorphia or things like that. You may’ve noticed at the top of the hour when we were giving our initial descriptions, I hesitated for a moment before calling myself a heavyset gentleman. That is because I am currently having a bit of a struggle with my weight. But then I remind myself that my physical frame is a part of who I am, and I shouldn’t be embarrassed by the current state of my scars or anything like that. So, giving me that little extra push to describe myself that little bit more was a good thing. But, as Cheryl said, some people may be uncomfortable with that, and we have to respect people’s wishes it comes to that sort of thing.
NEFERTITI: Here’s a question for you all. A bit of a…of something I just thought, thanks to Scott N.’s most recent contribution. There’s someone on social media who I’ve encountered who is blind, and I’ll say “they” ‘cause I don’t really wanna gender them. They…describe themselves in a way that doesn’t quite match up with what sighted people would say about them. So, what do we feel about that? Is that something we should be wary of? Like, okay, you’re giving me information, but is it accurate information? And who’s to make that judgment? For example, if this person thinks that they have, say, an hourglass figure, and a sighted person would be like, “Uh…no. You’re more like an apple,” does that matter to us? Should it matter?
THOMAS: That’s an interesting question. I think it goes back to the fact that it’s a self-description.
THOMAS: So, I feel like if this is how the person sees themselves, you know, who are we to say about true or false? I mean, that gets to a, yeah, I don’t think we can do that. I think what we have to, we have to sort of be…. I think we have to come in this with the idea that folks are going to be true to what this is about.
THOMAS: And, but I can’t, you know, if I— All right. So, maybe not as, but I leave out, occasionally because I don’t remember, that my beard is salt and pepper, right? And so, thinking about this more now, I’m like, well, wait, no. My beard is salt and pepper. That’s right. I should say that that is. I should sprinkle that in, right? [chuckles] I should sprinkle that in, into my description. But that’s my choice. If I leave it out, I’m not necessarily lying. But if this person sees themselves having an hourglass, maybe this is part of their, this is part of their vision board. Maybe this is where they’re heading. And so, if they wanna affirm that, you know, aight. Yeah, go ahead, girl! I’m thinking it’s a girl ‘cause the girl would say that, right?
NEFERTITI: Get it, girl!
THOMAS: So, yeah, I’d be like, I’m in support of that if that’s where you trying to go. I’m also in support if you a apple, you know. I love me some apples. But anyway, [laughs] but, you know.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Like….
NEFERTITI: [still laughing]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
THOMAS: But I’m just trying to say, like, [laughs] I shouldn’t have say that. But I…. [busts a gut laughing]
NEFERTITI: [laugh-crying] Thomas!
THOMAS: I’m just trying to say that, you know, if the, we gonna have to give people the benefit of the doubt, I think. And the idea is that, you know, because if a person comes into the room who is sighted and says that, and somebody’s like, “Well, you an apple. You’re not a hour-.” Who are they, you know, who’s to, I don’t feel like someone should be policing this. I really don’t. That makes me uncomfortable, so. Thomas, I’m out. And when I meant apple, I meant Granny Smiths. I meant red apples. [laughs]
CHERYL: Cosmic crunch.
THOMAS: Macintosh, you know what I’m saying.
SCOTT N: Absolutely, Thomas. I mean, you know, if say, just for example’s sake, you’ve got two sighted people at a party. A person walks in wearing a bright orange jacket, green pants, yellow shoes, and they think they look like the absolute business, and they think they’re con-, they feel confident. They feel sassy. They feel great about themselves. And then you got this other person on the other side of the room going, “Oh, my God! Look at that absolutely disgusting color explosion over there.” It’s two people’s opinions. And for me, I will take the person who is wearing the outfit rather than the person on the other side who’s giving you an opinion about the outfit. It’s all about self-expression. It’s all about self-worth and things like that. If people wanna talk themselves up a little bit in their description, hell, why not? If I had a nice, smooth, bald, shaven African-American head, dude, I would be blasting that from the rooftops ‘cause, you know, that’s a good look, man.
THOMAS: Thank you, sir.
THOMAS and SCOTT N: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, interesting. I think, you know, my question, I think, leaves a lot of open room for judgment and for things of that sort, and that’s not what this is about, right?
THOMAS: Mm-mm.
NEFERTITI: This is about access to information, plain and simple.
THOMAS: But on the other hand, right, like that’s what folks do with the information. And so, we’re not policing what anybody does with this.
THOMAS: If blind folks wanna be judgmental about it, well, go ahead. That’s what you wanna do, that’s what you wanna be.
NEFERTITI: That’s a very human thing, blind or not.
THOMAS: That’s a human thing. That’s right. That’s right. So, absolutely. So, it’s the access to the information isn’t about policing what you do with that information at all. At all.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm, mmhmm. Absolutely.
All right, folks. Well, I think this has been super interesting. I wish we would’ve gotten some folks who don’t like it come up and make their case for it. Sorry we missed you, but maybe if this conversation comes back around, you out there listening right now who are like, “Nope. I’m a detractor,” maybe next time you’ll wanna share with us.
NEFERTITI: And you all know you can always keep the conversation going in the Twitter, Audio Description Twitter Community. You know what I say? If you’re not a member, what are you waiting for? We just hit 500 members. I think we’re at 501! Whoo.
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: And, you know, you can always keep the conversation going also with the hashtag AD for us, by us. That’s ADFUBU. Do we have any closing remarks?
THOMAS: Well, I do wanna say, I’m just gonna do a little promotion of a episode coming out later on this month that is gonna continue this topic and is gonna talk more about the guidelines that are sort of being formed and who’s forming it and possibly participating in that maybe ‘cause we have already. It’s an episode with Haben Girma, and I think it’s gonna be a cool episode. So, take, you know, get ready for that on the, on Reid My Mind Radio. It’s gonna be a conversation Haben Girma all about self-descriptions, and we’re talking about the guidelines, talking about some of these same issues and how to approach it. So, I like her take on things.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Looking forward to that for sure. Haben Girma, for those who are not in the know, is a DeafBlind activist, lawyer, and just all-around wonderful person who’s out there every day fighting the good fight. So, I’m really excited that she’s on your show, Thomas.
THOMAS: She part of the family now. Yeah, she part of the family.
NEFERTITI: Heck yeah. Nice, nice. All right. Do we wanna quickly go through, or do we wanna just throw out there what would make for good description? I know this is something we talked about, giving people tips on what makes a good description.
THOMAS: The guidelines are coming. But I think right now I would say, you know, think about it in advance, right?
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
THOMAS: If you’re a person who’s going to be sort of facilitating a meeting, it would be great to let folks know that you’re going to do that so folks can think about it in advance. Put time limits on it, like we talked about. Be concise. Think about describing the things that are in the line of vision for someone. If you’re on a Zoom, ain’t no need to really talk about that painting on the wall in your bedroom if you’re not, you know, if that’s not behind you.
THOMAS: So, things like that. And just keep it to what’s visible. I don’t need, you know, don’t talk about your shoes ‘cause nobody sees your shoes.
THOMAS: So, that sort of thing.
NEFERTITI: Most of the time, people are shoeless and pantless anyway!
THOMAS: Yeah. And please don’t talk about that, so.
SCOTT N: [snort-laughs]
THOMAS: So, yeah, I mean, we can—
NEFERTITI: Absolutely.
THOMAS: This is doable.
NEFERTITI: And really quick, something that I think Gretchen said, which was wonderful, which is, “Hey, for you facilitators out there, build time into whatever you’re doing for this practice.”
THOMAS: Exactly.
NEFERTITI: I think that’s hugely important.
SCOTT N: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Just thanks to everyone for being involved. And like Nefertiti said, if you are someone who does have an opposing view to those held by the majority or even one or two people in the space, please come in and talk to us. We aren’t gonna bite. We are going to listen to you. We’re not gonna shut you down or anything like that. It’s a, you know, we try and make a kind and welcoming space here and something that everyone can be a part of. So, pros, cons, whatever, please be a part of it.
And just before we go, I have a quick announcement to make. As I have mentioned in a couple of Spaces so far, I am planning to begin my journey into becoming an audio description narrator, and I have decided to chronicle this on the community. So, keep an eye out for it. It’s gonna be under the hashtag #BrokenEyesVO, and I’m gonna be talking about everything from setting up my rig to hopefully my first job and moving forward as I move into the career to hopefully give a bit of advice and even inspiration to people who want to become a part of the audio description community. Because there are many blind narrators out there, and I know a lot of companies who are looking for more. So, keep an eye out for it, and be a part of it. Ask me questions as I go along. I’m more than happy to answer them. And ladies and gentlemen, that’s me for today. I have been Scott Nixon. And I’m going back to bed!
NEFERTITI: Whoo! I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I approve this message.
Thank you, everybody. Thank you, Cheryl, Thomas, Scott B. Scott N., Gretchen, and Robert as our two guests who came up to the Space. Really appreciate hearing from you all. All right, y’all. Thank you again for such a wonderful time. This was a great hour or so.
SCOTT B: Quality conversation, as always. Thanks, everyone.

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

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Our First Twitter Space

Wednesday, December 21st, 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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


Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

Exciting high energy music begins!

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

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

THOMAS: Cool. Glad you came, Colleen.

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

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

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

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled: Haben Girma Guides Us Through Self Description

Wednesday, October 26th, 2022

A portrait of Haben Girma, a smiling, 30ish Black woman with long dark hair wearing a red dress. Behind her is a blue background

Haben Girma Portrait by Darius Bashar

The practice of providing self-description was becoming “controversial” even before the alt right types went ballistic on Vice President Harris this summer.
During a meeting with leaders in the disability community, the VP practiced a form of access that includes making everyone aware of the visual information that those who are Blind or have low vision miss.

Many have been using and advocating for this practice for years. One such person, my guest today on the podcast; a Disability Rights Lawyer and advocate for Accessible technology and more, Haben Girma.

Haben and I share an interest in seeing this practice improved and continued. We discuss its importance and the complaints some have against the practice. Like most things, self-description goes deeper than you may realize.

Whether you find yourself in support of this practice or not, you should give this episode a listen.




Show the transcript

Haben: 00:00
Hello, good afternoon.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 00:03
Good afternoon. How are you?

— Music begins: A celebratory synth opens a cool energetic Hip Hop beat.

Haben: 00:07
I’m doing well. I wanted to pause and explain communication. I am not hearing you. So I have a typist typing what you’re saying. I’m reading it in Braille and then responding by voice. So if you notice a delay between when you say something, and when I respond, that’s because the typing is coming through.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 00:32
Okay, I wasn’t sure if you made use of the captions if they come through a Braille display. That’s good to know.

Haben: 00:46
So some podcasters, edit out the delays. Some keep them in to make it part of the experience. You can choose what works best for you.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 00:58
Excellent. I do a significant amount of editing anyway, just to make it an easy. Listen for folks. I can always include this as part of how we communicate it. I think that’s interesting.

Haben: 01:10
So are you recording right now?

TR in Conversation with Haben:
I am.

Is it okay, if I ask you questions?

TR in Conversation with Haben:

Excellent. And then one last thing regarding accessibility. It does help if you slow down.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 01:26
Okay, very good. That would be great, because I should slow down anyway. It’s that New York thing. So let me know if you’re ready to start. We can go from there.

Haben: 01:42
Go for it!

— Repeats with a echo effect.

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro Music

TR: 01:58
Joining me today on the podcast. Well, President Obama named her the White House Champion of Change. She received the Helen Keller Achievement Award, a spot on the Forbes 30 under 30 List and time 100 talks. She’s a disability rights lawyer, speaker and author honored by heads of state all around the world. Now she’s with us. Family. Haben Girma.

Haben: 02:22
I’m in my 30s. I’m a black woman of Eritrean and Ethiopian heritage, long dark hair, hazel eyes. I am deaf blind, and I’m using a Braille computer and keyboard for communication. So what you’re saying is coming up on my Braille computer, I’m reading it, and responding by voice.

TR: 02:45
If you’re listening to this podcast, I’m pretty sure you heard of Haben. Perhaps you read her memoir? If not, I highly suggest it. The book is titled Haben: The Deaf Blind Woman who Conquered Harvard Law. It was featured in The New York Times, Oprah Magazine, the today’s show,

Haben: 03:02
I read my book out loud, using braille to create the audio recording. So I narrated my own book. And I’ve heard that it can be tricky for a lot of blind people to do that, because Braille literacy is still growing. And there’s still so many struggles to gain access to Braille. That was a fun and really moving experience to be able to read my own book, and have that recorded.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 03:35
I read your book last year. I’m not a proficient Braille reader. I became blind about 19 years ago, I do audio description narration and so I use my screen reader as sort of a audio teleprompter to do narration, but know of some blind narrators who use their braille display to do narration.

Haben: 03:54
I’ve also heard of blind authors using their screen readers as prompts, so listening to their screen reader and then voicing in their own voice, when doing an audio recording of their own book. Did you listen to the audiobook or another format?

TR in Conversation with Haben: 04:14
Yeah, the audio book from Audible.

It’s also available via the National Library for the Blind

— Music Begins; a hard kick drum and piano chord drop together, leading into a driving Hip Hop beat that hints to West Coast Dr. Dre style production.

Various anonymous people on stage04:25
Clips of varying people providing self-description play over the beat.

– “:And I have wavy dreadlocks”
– “I am a Latino woman.”
– “My pronouns are she/her, I’m a White Jew”
– “Half Croatian and a half Moong”
– “. I’m Black with a capital B”
– “Hi top Vans like the pop punk princess I am.”
– “kind of Kurt Cobain meets David Byrne vibes.”
– “I am wearing a white corsets that my mom handed down to me.”
– “My name is Goldilocks. I defy gender.”
– “I am wearing a look of like fear as well.”
– “My name is Sophia Chang, as you heard, I’m the baddest bitch in the room.”

TR: 05:04
This is the topic of my conversation with Haben. Self description.

Haben: 05:09
said, Thomas, my very first question is, what’s the reasoning behind asking me to do a visual description on a podcast?

TR: 05:20
I thought I was the host of this podcast, it’s my job to ask the questions. Haben came prepared? And honestly, I’m not mad at all.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 05:26
Very good question. So as part of a podcast, we have to make podcast artwork available. That’s a part of the requirement for putting a podcast on Apple, iTunes, and whatever they call it now. So when folks do receive the podcast in the digital format, there’s artwork that accompanies that. I’m not doing anything significant about the artwork. But that is part of it. I will ask you to provide at some point, before I publish this episode, an image file. And usually that’s a headshot. That’s part of introducing folks to the self description, because sighted folks do actually get that from a podcast. The other reason is, because it’s something that I feel is relevant to a conversation is the identity of a person. Rather than me kind of noting someone’s identity, I like to ask people to share whatever identities they want to share about themselves. And that’s part of the self description.

Haben: 06:34
So there have been so many conversations about this, particularly in the last few months. And some of the questions are about which identities do we amplify? And which do we choose not to share? Because all of us are multitudes? We have so many identities? Do I share that I’m a dancer? Or do my share other characteristics? Do you give any guidance on which identity is people should be sharing?

TR in Conversation with Haben: 07:08
No, I don’t. That’s interesting that an identity for you is possibly a dancer, I’ve never heard anyone say that being a dancer is a part of their identity. I leave it up to the guests to share whatever it is that they like to share about themselves.

Haben: 07:24
All right, and because you have done so much work around audio descriptions, I want to lean into that. And I know a lot of sighted and blind people struggle to answer this question. Because there are so many judgments made in a sighted world in a visual world. And when you self describe yourself, if you are feeling uncomfortable, or awkward about some of your identities and traits, do you take the easy route and just not share it? Or should we offer people guidance and urge them to share some of those identities, even if they feel awkward and uncomfortable about it? Because it’s part of access. So like you said, there’s a difference between describing one of your identities as a dancer, versus your eye color or hair color. So I feel like as a community, it would be super helpful if we provided more guidance on how people should approach identification. So we have lots of different identities. But when it comes to visual descriptions, there’s certain visual traits that are visually accessible to sighted people. And if we’re sharing artwork that shows those traits. We should have a structure for our visual descriptions that will ensure accessibility, access to information while also preserving freedom of expression, creativity, and giving people the choice to share which identities to highlight

TR: 09:24
specifically on the podcast. I don’t usually give much guidance. I think that’s probably because most of my guests are familiar and comfortable with the process. However, I do want my guests to share their color ethnicity, along with a bit more about their visual presence. While I do believe that we should try to get people to share as much as they want with the guidance for access issues. I’ve also been in a situation where describing themselves was a trigger. I was in a meeting of about Eight people and one person was trans. They said that it was a very triggering thing for them to describe themselves. And I was the only blind person there. I immediately said, I did not want them to feel uncomfortable. So was that an access issue for me? No, there’s no way I could be comfortable with accessing that information, knowing that it made that person uncomfortable.

— Music ends: A slow reversal of the beat as if leading into the following statement.

Haben: 10:28
Safety is a huge piece of this conversation. So we need to try to create safe spaces where people feel comfortable sharing this information. And if they don’t, even a space that has been attempted to be safe. Sometimes we just need to say, okay, you don’t need to share.

TR: 10:51
Another piece of this self description conversation that also comes with a bit of controversy is pronouns. Now I get it when people have difficulty remembering which pronoun to use. I’m in my 50s. I grew up with he and she, but I also grew up getting chased out of neighborhoods, because I’m black. You get what I’m saying? There’s all sorts of discrimination.

Haben: 11:11
I feel like we should also have conversations regarding should age be part of the description. A lot of sighted people who look at a picture kind of subconsciously assume the age of the person. And a lot of our visual descriptions that are happening right now, often don’t include age. How do you feel about that one?

TR in Conversation with Haben: 11:36
That’s an interesting one. A few years ago, before my beard, became more salt and pepper, it was Microsoft seeing AI, I took a picture of myself. And it described me as a 32 year old and at the time, I think I was 49. When I took that picture.

Haben: 11:56
Were you pleased?

TR in Conversation with Haben: 11:58
I was very pleased. And I tell this story a lot.

Ain’t no shame in my game. I will eventually tell this story again. In fact, let’s see what the awesome seeing AI app says today. Open Microsoft seeing AI app.

— Sound processing along with Apple Voice Over going through the process…
Menu, quick help button recognizing English channel, adjustable…

“one face near center take 34 year old man wearing a hat and glasses looking happy”

34… laughs…

TR in Conversation with Haben: 12:27
So now, I forget the salt and pepper beard. I might say I have a beard, but to describe it as salt and pepper is not something that I’m used to because I’ve never seen myself with a salt and pepper beard. So I often end up leaving that out.

Haben: 12:46
Right? Right. So you can always make assumptions about someone’s age, based on the color of their hair. So one could go all the way and just say I Yeah, insert number years old. And then there’s the question. Is that too much information? Should you just share what is visually accessible? And someone could be older, but actually look younger? Or they might be younger, but actually look older? So do we provide facts or just visual access? And if we want to try to remove harmful assumptions, maybe providing facts and stating the exact age? How you identify would be more helpful, rather than leaving room for assumptions.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 13:49
Yeah, but then there are so many other things right? So especially if we think about the corporate world, revealing your age, could really impact your position,

Haben: 13:59
right! Because there’s lots of age discrimination. We could also go back to all the other crates and say, you know, there is sexism, there is racism and ableism.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 14:11
I think it should be left up to the individual to share the things that are visible, that they feel comfortable revealing. I think that’s a start to a guideline for me.

Haben: 14:25
I agree. That’s a great starting point. Over the last year or so there have been lots of discussions about visual descriptions. And one of the biggest complaints is that a lot of them are poor quality. Because people are struggling to figure out, what do they describe, and they’re feeling anxiety and stress over what do I describe? How much to describe? So telling people share what you’re comfortable with it As a starting point, but at this point, a year in, many years for others, who’ve been in this conversation for much longer, I think it’s time to have a more detailed guidance.

— Music begins, a dramatic repeating piano loop, followed by a hi hat lead into a mid temp Hip Hop groove. that

Haben continues:
How much to share what to share, how do we best model visual accessibility, while being aware of racism, sexism, ableism, ageism, and the other forms of oppression?

TR: 15:31
No one is saying this has to be a mandatory function at every gathering. Guidelines, quite honestly just helped make it a smoother process,

Haben: 15:39
so that people who are new get a sense of what to do. And people who have been in this a while can fine tune and improve their image descriptions. And guidelines would help people be more succinct in their descriptions. If we could give guidelines to limit it to one or two sentences, for example, that would help people keep it short. So many of the complaints about self descriptions are due to the fact that a lot of people are struggling and don’t know what to share and what not to share guidelines would help with that,

TR: 16:16
in my opinion, those are all constructive complaints. When I hear someone say, well, it takes too long. I infer that means it would be cool if it was quicker. But not everyone is constructive.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 16:23
What about the idea that, what someone looks like or what someone is wearing, has no importance? How would you respond to that?

Haben: 16:37
Then turn off the video, turn the lights off, if it really doesn’t matter.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 16:44
(Thomas chuckles!) I like that very succinct.

Haben: 16:47
You’re welcome. (A big smile in her voice!)

TR in Conversation with Haben: 16:49
I’ve heard folks say that it’s a performative act, it does nothing to enhance the access for blind people,

Haben: 16:56
there are different degrees of performance, if you are going on stage to do a presentation you are performing. So to an extent we have to accept that self description is a performance.
If you turn on your camera you are performing. So we need to accept that part.

— Music ends: The beat comes to an end with a DJ scratch to emphasize the next statement.

The response as in an earlier response, give guidelines so people can do better. There are already so many blind people who have said they appreciate visual descriptions. There are people with other disabilities who are sighted and also appreciate visual descriptions. And there are people who identify as non disabled, who also appreciate self descriptions, because it helps with so many unconscious biases when people are open about self describing.

TR: 17:51
I wrote an article for the Disability Visibility Project on this subject earlier this year titled, “Making the case for Self Description: It’s Not About Eye Candy.” I’ll link to the article on this episode’s blog post.
And shout out to Alice Wong.
By the way, if you haven’t read her latest book, “Year of the Tiger”, what’s wrong with your life?

Voice of Marlett, with an audio effect that simulates being heard in one’s head:
“Maybe find a gentler way of saying that!”

TR: 18:18
Did y’all hear that? That’s my wife’s voice I hear in my head every now and then when I want to make a point. Okay, maybe that was too rough. I just want us to support her work, it’s a really good book. And the audiobook narrator is on point…

The article is framed as a response to a piece written in the NFB Braille monitor. I counted the so called argument made by the author, honestly, most of it gave me the impression that he was trying to do a bit of crude stand up. But the main point I think I always come back to on this subject…

TR in Conversation with Haben: 18:43

My problem with the folks who are calling to abandon this process is sort of tied to what you just said.
That there are a lot of people who already recognize it as access. And if it’s access for one group, why should any part of the group try to take that away? Why isn’t the conversation around improving it? And so in addition to the guidelines, how can we go about improving this process?

Haben: 19:25
We can improve it by tapping into voices, listening to voices of people from underrepresented communities, because I’m worried about people of privilege, deciding that there’s no value in self descriptions, and deciding to take it away.

TR: 19:48
At the time of my conversation with Haben. I was unaware that some members of the NFB were proposing a resolution to discourage the practice of self description.

Haben: 19:57
But thankfully, members of the NFB many members of color, I believe, advocated to remove that resolution that would have discouraged it. So I’m deeply fascinated with guidelines for visual descriptions. I haven’t found a good one online yet. And I’m hopeful that this will be led by blind individuals from underrepresented backgrounds, religion, disability, as in blind people who have other disabilities like deaf blindness, blind people of color, trans LGBTQ, blind people from underrepresented backgrounds should be leading the creation of guidelines for self descriptions.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 20:45
Well, that’s a fantastic point. It feels as though the negative response, the call to abandon self descriptions, that comes mainly from folks who are not of color.

Haben: 21:05
(Begins with a laugh)
I have had similar thoughts. And I feel like it’s people who have a lot of privilege and are concerned they may lose their privilege, lose keys to the normal, cool club, if they speak up about issues that certain communities find controversial, like race and other things that should not be controversial.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 21:37
Losing the keys, what does that look like in the real world? What does someone actually put at risk by having these conversations?

Haben: 21:47
So vice president Harris said…

— Audio from the now infamous meeting:

I’m Kamala Harris, my pronouns are she and her, I’m a woman sitting at the table wearing a blue suit.

Haben: 21:53
And a lot of people had so many ridiculous responses to that, because it felt like, it’s so obvious, don’t talk about it. But they weren’t thinking about an accessibility perspective. It was sighted people with a lot of privilege, and blind people with a lot of privilege, trying to brush that off, then we get to a situation where, let’s say, a white person says that they’re white. A lot of people who carry privilege will feel uncomfortable with that. And a blind person who is white, and at a conference, does an image description and says they’re white, they might feel like they’re putting themselves at risk of being ridiculed, and no longer being cool, or risk of losing respect. If they say something that a lot of people carrying privilege feel like, it’s so obvious, it should not be discussed, it’s not relevant.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 23:11
Okay, I get that. It’s hard for me to grasp it from the perspective of that individual who feels that way. Because all of these things are visual, right?

Haben: 23:23
They’re visual. But when you voice them, you call attention to them. So when you voice, that you’re white, you’re calling attention to whiteness, which also calls attention to white privilege. And there are still so many people who do not like talking about white privilege, or feel like it doesn’t exist, it’s not a thing. So when you bring up concepts that are adjacent to white privilege, like describing that someone is white, that makes a lot of people uncomfortable.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 24:03
Okay, that makes sense. We’re making people uncomfortable. And the people with the privilege are those who are uncomfortable.
TR: 24:06
Go ahead and add that to the list of Why I think self description is a good thing. And please don’t make the mistake of thinking that someone who was white and blind doesn’t have access to that privilege, and therefore may even be in fear of losing that access, or more.

Haben: 24:24
And there are blind people who are concerned that if you ask for one more accessibility feature, you’re going to lose all of the other accessibility features as if there’s a limit to how much accessibility can be called for. But I feel like we should approach it from a place of abundance and assume and desire that everything be accessible.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 24:49
Yes. I don’t understand why folks would think that you have to give up one to get the other.

Haben: 24:56
I think it’s from years and years of being excluded. It is frustrating to be excluded from so much information.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 25:05
This reminds me of some of those in the community who are so eager to accept poor quality audio description, such as that which uses synthesized speech instead of human narration. For example, I’ve read things online like…

(Thomas mimicking a very nerdy voice, says):
“These companies have bent over backwards for us, if we aren’t grateful, they’ll stop describing altogether.”

Well, that’s what they sound like in my head, when I read these types of things.

Voice of Marlett, with an audio effect that simulates being heard in one’s head:
“Maybe find a gentler way of saying that!”

You know, I should be more compassionate. It’s not really their fault. However, I would encourage these folks to just look at history. It’s not until the disenfranchised raise their collective voice and take a stand. At some point, you have to just realize, what are we really at risk of losing? Maybe that’s just bad audio description? Personally, I’m good with that.

Now, back to the guidelines.

Haben: 25:59
I don’t know of any guidelines right now for self descriptions. And I’m hopeful that you will be part of the process of creating these guidelines, and that there will be conversations with blind people from underrepresented communities to create these guidelines.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 26:21
Yeah. So how can we do that? (A knowing giggle.)

Haben: 26:24

Conversation. Plans.

In this podcast, we’ve been talking about what should be in those guidelines.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 26:35
Yeah, I guess I’m thinking, if it’s not one of the two large consumer organizations who get behind it. And we want it to be led by marginalized groups of blind people and others, who’s the organizing body,

Haben: 26:55
we can change the structure, we don’t necessarily need an organizing body to lead the way.
We can have individuals leading the way.

Music begins.
A bouncy bass drum drops into a driving rhythm that hints at an Afro beat style.

TR: 27:06
You know I’m in there.
But if I weren’t, she would have had me at, we can change the structure.
I believe both consumer organizations are extremely useful and important to the community. They serve a variety of purposes. However, I’m not a member of either right now.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 27:14

I’m a row cowboy. Lol.

Haben: 27:25
It’s not something a rogue cowboy can do on its own. But then a cowboy can collaborate with other cowboys and cowgirls.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 27:36
(Laughing )Let’s change it because I don’t even like the cowboy reference anymore.

Haben: 27:42
(Laughing )
Let’s try it again. What reference would you prefer?

TR in Conversation with Haben: 27:46
Yeah, just people. I like the fact that you’re saying that it should be done within community. And I guess I want to find more people who are like minded, such as yourself and others, to form that community to really feel like there are a lot of other people who are speaking about it. And I think what happens in social media, sometimes it feels like, yeah, people are “liking”, therefore trying to amplify the conversation. But those who are actually in conversation seems to be far and few. And I just want to find more.

Haben: 28:19
Perfect. So let’s build up a coalition of people who believe in self descriptions value. And then once we have that collective, we can start brainstorming what should be in the guidelines.

TR: 28:35
So we started with some of the possible guidelines we identified here today.

The act of self describing should be quick, about a minute at most. This means folks unfamiliar should be given some advance notice that they’ll be asked to provide this access.
Including the notice and guidelines along with the meeting agenda, for example.
Consider what’s visible to those in attendance. Are we talking about a Zoom meeting?
Keep it to your waist up and start from the head down.
Skin Tone eye color, if that’s something you’d like to highlight, hair color, facial hair, glasses, a brief description of your shirt or blouse, you get it? What’s your background? If you’re seated by a window overlooking the city skyline, that may be a nice touch.
Plain white wall? Meh!
But remember, it’s zoom, there’s probably no need to describe those things off screen.

— Music ends: The bouncy bass drop that opened the track echoes and fades out… emphasizing the statement that follows.

Haben: 29:24
And then there’s an asterisk, however, share and describe those things that are not visible on camera, if they are highly relevant to the things that are visible on camera. Sometimes people might appear a certain way, like someone might look white, but identifies with other racial and ethnic identities, and they want to share that even if it might not be visibly obvious.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 29:57
Yes, good example.

TR: 29:50
It’s okay to be creative. Put some of your personality into the description. I mean, let the words the tone, also speak to who you are as an individual. And as we mentioned earlier, for some identity can be triggering. So safety first. It’s always optional. Although I read some posts where some opt out of the practice of self describing or providing their pronouns just to be provocative. Allow me to suggest an appropriate self description for such an individual…

Eminem Sample: 30:28
“May I have your attention please!”
“My name is…”

TR: 30:31

Concise, right?

Voice of Marlett, with an audio effect that simulates being heard in one’s head:

(Interrupting) No!

this is a good time to remind us all that while we’re talking about access, we’re not necessarily including everyone.
There’s a difference between purposefully excluding people and unknowingly doing so. The difference is awareness. As with audio description, for example,

Haben: 30:52
I can’t access audio descriptions, because I’m deaf. I don’t hear them. So to access films, I need a descriptive transcript. And that would have the audio descriptions. And they would also have the dialogue. And because there isn’t a time constraint, that descriptions can be much longer and more detailed compared to audio descriptions.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 31:20
And I know those are far and few.

Haben: 31:23
Yes, yes, they’re still quite rare. It

TR in Conversation with Haben: 31:26
feels as though it shouldn’t be that hard, because what you need exists is just not together.

Most films that come out have captions, and those that are coming out now with audio description, that text is alive somewhere. So it’s just the combining of the two, what kind of conversations are being had now to make that available?

Haben: 31:50
Not many conversations, I reached out to Netflix asking for descriptive transcripts. And they created what the first one from Netflix that I remember, is crip camp.
That came with an amazing descriptive transcript. And I read through it, it was almost like a novel so many descriptions, and all the conversations. And since then there have been more descriptive transcripts from Netflix.
TR in Conversation with Haben: 32:14
where do you get them?

Haben: 32:15
On the page for the show or film? I believe there is a more or notes section on that webpage? Under that would be a link to the transcript.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 32:37
So does one need to subscribe to Netflix in order to gain access to that?


TR in Conversation with Haben:
So it’s not a lot of content. So you’re paying the same price, but have access to way less content.

Haben: 32:50
That is the frustration of not having enough descriptive transcripts. And I’m hopeful there’ll be more than that other media companies will also create more.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 33:02
Wow. So right now it’s only Netflix who gives you access to that.

Haben: 33:06
I think Netflix is the only one out that I can think of that does it formally. There are other descriptive transcripts for other films out there. But it’s not a consistent thing.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 33:21
How can this podcast help to promote more access for folks who are deaf blind?

Haben: 33:29
When you talk to people who are working in media, encourage them to include descriptive transcripts.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 33:36
And a sample from crip camp would be a great place to point them in order for them to kind of take a look and see what that looks like? Correct?

Haben: 33:44
crip camp is great. And if they don’t have a Netflix subscription, they can look at some of my videos. I include descriptive transcripts in my videos, that’s

TR: 33:55
via her YouTube channel, Haben Girma on YouTube,

Haben: 33:59
Instagram, and to some extent on Facebook and Twitter as well. And my videos tend to be about deaf blindness, accessibility, human rights…
A sample from Haben’s YouTube channel:
Haben speaking. Hello. I need to tell you about CRM alee, an American child was forcibly disappeared by the Eritrean government. We are calling on US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to help her…

and the last video was about chocolate.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 34:33
What kind of chocolate do you like?

— Sound of Haben opening a package of chocolate on her YouTube video…

Haben: 34:36
I love experiencing new flavors and trying new combinations of chocolate.

— From the video, Haben announces after trying a new chocolate:
“Thumbs up.”

Haben: 34:35

I’m deeply curious and love culinary adventures.
So something will be my favorite temporarily. And then I continue exploring and trying new things and then I discover a new favorite.
My favorite thing is adventure!
TR in Conversation with Haben: 35:02
I like that!

What else do you like to do when you’re not working in writing your books? You’re not talking to people about self description. What does Haben Girma like to do?

Haben: 35:13
I am a dancer and I love dancing.

Swing, Salsa, Merengue, I feel like it’s a beautiful way to create community, meet new people and get exercise.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 35:27
Do you dance competitively?

Haben: 35:28
I did briefly when I was in school. And I realized competitions kind of take the fun out of it. I don’t want to be in a zone where I’m judging people, or I feel like people are judging me. I’d rather be in an environment where people are expressing Joy building community. So I’ve long since moved away from dance competitions.

TR in Conversation with Haben: 35:55
You know what you want! Excellent.

— Music begins: A quick snare drum as if confirming what was said along with a voice that says, “Yeah”. This opens a smooth joyful but funky bass line over a melodic groove.

Well Haben, I truly appreciate you taking some time. I want to let you know that when folks come on the podcast and speak to me and share some of their story or share some information. I like to make sure that you all know that you are an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family!
I hope this is just a first conversation of many more to come, especially around this topic of self description. I hope we can work together. So thank you.

Haben: 36:27
You’re welcome. And thank you for having me on the podcast.

TR: 36:31
If you want to contribute some thoughts to this effort of creating self description guidelines, hit me up at
Specifically, we’re seeking input from people of color who are blind or have low vision and from other marginalized communities.

If you want to share any opinion on this topic whatsoever, you can feel free to send me an email as well. If you send nonsense, well…, I’ll say less.

Big shout out to Haben Girma.

Over the years, many of y’all reached out and suggested that I get Haben on the podcast, I wasn’t at all against it. I just really like to make sure that the content coming out of this podcast is different from others. Reid My Mind Radio isn’t really about telling you all about the newest gadget book or whatever. There’s plenty of podcasts that do that and do it well. I want this podcast to add value to whatever conversation we’re in. So if we’re discussing anything description related, anything about representation, technology, or whatever, I hope we can bring a valuable voice to the discussion. And of course, make it funky!

Haben brought that. And this was the right place and time for that conversation.

On that note, let me tell you it’s always the right time for Reid My Mind Radio!

The majority of our episodes are “evergreen.” So if you know someone who hasn’t given this podcast and listen or read of the transcript, let them know they’re missing something in their life. They can easily find Reid My Mind Radio wherever they get podcast.

We have transcripts and more at

Now come on fam, say it with me…

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

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: La Professora

Wednesday, July 27th, 2022

Headshot of Professor Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino
We’re wrapping up the 2022 FTS season with a bright red bow! Professor Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino of Montclair State University joins us to discuss her 400 level class on Audio Description in both English and Spanish.

A fully immersive course where students;
* choose a concentration – theater, museum or film
* work on real world projects in the community
* earn and practice both creative and compliance approach

Take the AD Pledge

If you believe Audio Description should be culturally appropriate, include Blind people in the production process and in general support quality access to visual content for all those who are Blind or have Low Vision;
Sign the Pledge



Montclair State


Show the transcript

TR: 00:00
I had an art teacher when I was in elementary school who made such an impression on me that I’ll never forget her. I decided I’ll always mention her whenever I can. She seemed to take many opportunities to point out that I was not very good at art. Insisting that my cutouts were sloppy, my glue game was awful. And let’s not talk about coloring or painting. She never once asked or considered why. She never made an attempt to help me improve. I wasn’t blind at the time. But I did have real trouble seeing the lines. I literally couldn’t color within them.

It wasn’t until late college that I realized I not only couldn’t see myself as a creative, artful person, but I couldn’t believe anyone who said otherwise. Then I met Professor Wilson who also singled me out in class. This time using my essays as an example of thoughtful, creative writing. I remember thinking he must be confusing the papers. He said my name, but he’s probably referring to somebody else.

Teachers make a big difference.

That elementary teacher, she didn’t care about me. She just cared about staying within the lines. Professor Wilson recognized something in me that unfortunately took a long time for me to see and believe in myself. Did I mentioned teachers make a difference y’all.

My name is Thomas Reid. I’m the host and producer of this here Podcast. I’m bringing you a bit of a PSA. Be mindful of who you choose as your teacher. They may not be worthy of you.

Let’s go.

Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Maria Jose 02:07
I’m very excited to be here. My name is Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino. I’m from Spain. I am professor at Montclair State University in the Department of the Spanish and Latino Studies. I teach audio visual translation and audio description in Spanish and in English. I am a middle aged woman brown curly hair with glasses.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 02:30
How did you get into audio description.

Maria Jose 02:32
My three siblings in Spain in Madrid, they work for the O.N.C.E which is the National blind organization. One of my siblings is legally blind. So I have many friends and acquaintances who are visually impaired. And I wasn’t aware of audio description but not so much until let’s say 10 years ago. And I became really interested in the field and how to incorporate that to my teaching, because I teach a language and that’s a perfect linguistic application right there, among other things, so I decided to get more information and more training on audio description.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 03:10
that began with the ACB audio description project training class. Then she started consuming her content with description when available, and even found ways of incorporating the practice. And of course, she taught on audio video Translation and Subtitling. All of this led to her first class dedicated to audio description in both Spanish and English held this spring semester 2022

Maria Jose 03:32
We are using the Visual Made Verbal by Joel Snyder and more than meets the eye what Linus can bring to art by Georgina Kleege . We want to have a combination of the more standard rules of restriction, and also the more creative subjective way. The class is divided in three groups of students who are working in three different fields. I have students who are working in audio description for the theater for live performances. I have another group of students who are working in art museums. And I have another group of students who are doing short films.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 04:07
Already this class distinguishes itself from other an AD trainings, which are often very specialized. teaching the course in a university setting over several months really allows for an immersive experience. Students choose their focus from the areas of concentration, theater, music, and film. They’re then grouped into teams and work on real world projects. Plus, Maria Jose is combining the creative with the compliance. So you know, she has my attention. For more on what those differences mean. Make sure you check out the episode earlier in the season titled Audio Description in the Making.

Maria Jose 04:43
The group that is working with the audio description in the theater, we just had our play in the repertory Espanol, which is an off Broadway theater in New York City. They show plays all in Spanish. And this is a partnership that we started In 2019, this is our third play with audio description in Spanish for them. It was on Saturday, April, that period, it was a group of eight students, they did everything. They prepare pre show tactile experience, which was wonderful. One of the students reach Maralis, he made a replica of the stage with all the furniture stick to the floor so that the blind people could touch them without moving them. So he replicated everything.

TR: 05:30
We’re talking about the full set design down to the roses in a vase which play a symbolic role in the play. Notice this tactile pre show component is considered part of the full audio description experience.

Maria Jose 05:41
The students also of course, prepare the script. And I supervise them they have multiple meetings, many hours of rehearsal with this great because of course, it’s like performance, we needed to prepare in advance. So we had a video of the play that could give us an idea of the spaces that we have in between dialogues to describe one of the students or the guy you’ll find, yeah, she was the voice over talent. And she was in the booth with another students Gabriela vinco, who helped her they did a fantastic job. This is a live performance. So they had to improvise some things and omit others and add some information that they didn’t prepare in advance because they didn’t know that from the video.

Sample AD in Spanish06:31

TR: 06:45
Following the performance, there was a Q & A which included the theaters Executive Director Raphael Sanchez, the plays director Lemma Lopez and the entire cast.

Maria Jose 07:00
So he’s saying that this is something that should happen in all the theaters doesn’t matter off Broadway on Broadway in New York in Spanish planning.

TR: 07:08
While the Q&A is important to gain real feedback in order to continuously improve. It can prove to do even more for relationship building,

Maria Jose 07:16
for example, people from the cast after the Q & A, they were interacting with us with the students asking questions. Then we went for drinks with them. Right next to the theater, there is a bar. So we come with a conversation there. And it was fantastic. The vibration, the energy, the energy that was between the students, sighted people, non-sighted people, the cast, the director, it was amazing. And one of the actresses was so impressed that she came to campus yesterday.

TR: 07:48
It’s worth noting that the full class is about 20 people. Again, they’re not all working on the same projects. Therefore, each group is responsible for presenting their projects to the full class.

Maria Jose 07:59
The challenges, the difficulties of the project and how they solve it. So this actress Sandra will meet you. She came to campus, she was one of the actresses in the play her feedback, her comments and her presence there yesterday was amazing. It was very nice to have her because it’s like the two ends of the process. The creative people doing the play, and then the creative people doing the audio description together.

TR: 08:23
The students working on describing the play dedicate a significant amount of time to the project. Travel to NYC alone can be an undertaking. Maria, Jose has options for those who perhaps have tighter schedules.

Maria Jose 08:35
It’s up to the students. So people who didn’t want to go to New York wanted to work at home. It’s very easy to work with short films. So I propose a collection of short films in Spanish and English and they can choose sacrifice fluency working one for children in Spanish. Another one is working with Banco Santander, one of the short films that they have done to promote a banking campaign, which is a science fiction film, actually. Another is doing a short film, which is a brand film for our brands Larios, which is a gene like a drink so it’s more like advertising. So there are different types of short films, all of them from 10 to 15 minutes.

TR: 09:16
The second area of focus students can choose is museums.

Maria Jose 09:20
It’s a recent partnership that we have done with the Montclair art museum. So we have three students working with the art gallery in the university. And we have two students working with the Montclair Museum in two different projects. The two students who are in the moped Art Museum are doing something that is pretty cool. Very, very, very difficult. It’s a 30 minute video only visuals.

TR: 09:45
The video consists of abstract images, family photos, sound design, and music, but absolutely no dialogue.

Maria Jose 09:52
So the audio description has to be made in a very particular way. Because you don’t want to interfere with the sound too much. This is not at all like The other group of people are doing Museum in the art gallery. They are describing representational paintings of people and landscapes. I encouraged the two students who are doing this. Michelle Robledo Moreno and so it Omitsu to be creative, to be led and be guided by the emotions they experience when they are watching and listening to the video. There are parts of the video which are very scary, and there is tension. And there are parts that are playful and whimsical and joyful. But some parts are like Hominem and it scares you sometimes to hear those sounds. So I encourage them to create and to mimic those visual effects with their voices.

Sample of student project 10:52

TR: 11:11
Another group of students worked with the university’s George Segal gallery to provide description for a series of paintings by artists Jamal coho, titled Black Wall Street, a Case for Reparations, the paintings out of the memory of the black men, women and children from the thriving Greenwood neighborhood in Tulsa, Oklahoma, murdered in 1921 by white terrorists during what’s considered one of this country’s largest racially motivated massacres.

TR in a filtered voice:
I mean, if you’re not including slavery, the Middle Passage, the genocide of Native Americans You get the picture, right?

The paintings were inspired by Olivia hooker a Greenwood survivor coho was able to interview before she died in 2018 and 103 years old. For the series of paintings, coho called on black professionals from his Brooklyn neighborhood to represent the people of Tulsa. He designed the sets and wardrobe paying homage to a reimagined pass where this Black independent community thrived.

Maria Jose 12:06
Three of my class students are doing nine paintings. And other paintings are going to be done by students in the Disability Studies program in the Department of Anthropology, under the supervision of Dr. Elaine Gerber, who is also a colleague of mine, and very involved in the audio description movements, and practice and of course, their historical context, which is the main objective of the exhibition to raise awareness and to let people know what happens. The title of the exhibition is Black Wall Street A Case for Reparations

TR: 12:41
students even had the opportunity to hear directly from the artist. e

Maria Jose 12:45
We met him two weeks ago in the closing ceremony, introduce him to my students. And he was so thrilled, and we were asking him questions about what would you prefer to say, because we are gonna be providing two or three minutes only. So you have to be very selective. There is so much that you can say about this painting. He said, You have to mention the historical context. And you have to mention what happened. And I remember some of the paintings have like a smoke underneath. And you have to mention the smoke because it makes an allusion to the bombs and the massacre. He introduced us to the models, who were there in the closing ceremony, the models of the paintings was amazing.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 13:27
This is all within a semester.

Maria Jose 13:29
Totally. I mean, I am so overwhelmed. And because of that, like so many things going on so many connections for the students is like mind blowing experience, because they are meeting so many people from different fields, music, arts, theater, and then it’s an opportunity for them for future career paths, and future job opportunities at the same time.

TR: 13:53
This is not the type of class that an instructor can just show up and repeat the same lecture year after year. A big part of the class not only encourages, but originates with relationships.

Maria Jose 14:06
Why the short films are not my connection. The short films are short films that I found interesting. Visual and liquid people probably ascription for example, the theater Yes, the theater was a partnership that we created in 2019, with a repertory Espanol and I sent an email to the director. He was the artistic director, profile sunset, and now he’s the executive director. You have all your plays in Spanish with no description, we want to make these closer to the Spanish speaking blind community in New York. We can collaborate.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 14:39
The opportunities for collaborating are often within reach, starting with the areas that are of interest to you. For Maria Jose, that’s her love of art.

Maria Jose 14:48
I started my training as a docent five, six months ago, from the very beginning, I said that my interest was to train other docents in audience picture for the museum. They weren’t totally on From the very beginning, they didn’t have any experience at all with audio description. In March, I had my first two as a docent with a group of blind people from the vision loss Alliance in New Jersey, they are very active with cultural events. So a group of 1215 Visually Impaired visitors came to the museum. And we had an exhibition with an explanation of this picture. More like in Georgina Kleege’s approach of interactive audio description, participatory audio description. not the typical like the Dawson’s gives the speech and all the visually impaired people are listening in silence. No, this was a conversation.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 15:41
Is that something that you plan to do periodically?

Maria Jose 15:44
I would love to. Maybe it’s not something that I can do, like every month or something like that. But at least once or twice per semester?

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 15:52
I need to know about this. You’re not that far from me. Read my mind radio, road trip. What do you think family? That could be an amazing episode. I mean, sharing is caring. Right?

Maria Jose 16:05
I try always to involve my students. For example, when the vision loss Alliance, they came for the tour, every single time I’m doing all these little things, I always share them with my class. Sometimes nobody can sometimes two, three people, I always invite them,

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 16:21
La Professora also sees the value in road trips.

Maria Jose 16:25
There is a movie theater in Montclair, that I am part of the disability committee. They have everything with a description. And they’re very good with the equipment we review a couple of times this semester after the class, we have gone to the movies as a group and I say to the manager, listen, Mark, we’re going to be tonight or we gonna next week. Do you have 20 equipment’s? Sometimes they don’t have 20. So he said, Yes, Maria Jose. So give me a couple of days, I can bring them from another movie theater or whatever. So they have the equipment’s prepared so that they know that we are coming, and we’ll listen to the movie with the audio description. And then we had dinner after the movie theater and we comment from the quality control point of view. Do you think this option was right was wrong? Why? So this course is very applied. We have fun.

TR: 17:18
In addition to the road trips, Maria Jose invites guest lecturers with real and diverse practical experience, adding even more value

Maria Jose 17:26
Nefertiti Matos Oliveras, you know her she came to the University gave a wonderful lecture followed by a workshop. I met her from the first place that we did, we did a Victoria spaniel in 2019. I met her when she was working for the New York Public Library. Thanks to Nefertiti we could have all the programs in Braille for the play. And she also made that possible in this one last Saturday,

TR: 17:53
not surprising when you know of Nefertiti’s commitment to access to the arts and Braille literacy in general. If you haven’t yet checked out her episode, earlier this season. Let me tell you right now, I highly recommend it.

Maria Jose 18:08
She talked about the process of writing a script and doing the voice over doing that by blind people. That is something that Dr. Romero fresco from University of Vigo in Spain, he advocates for people with disabilities, it doesn’t matter close captioning or audio description , they should be involved in the process, creating the audio description creating the captions Nefertiti talks about that.

TR: 18:30
And it just so happens that Maria Jose has a blind student in her class.

Maria Jose 18:34
And what a coincidence. Her last name is Matos. She’s from Dominican Republic as well, but they are not related. My students who relate to what Nefertiti’s talking about being blind, being immersed in the process from the very beginning, creating the accessibility. And she was talking about the challenges of doing this and how she solved them.

Then this lecture was followed by our workshop, where students in groups of four or five people Nefertiti suggested to have four people doing the four roles of audio description; the writing of the script, the voice over the quality control, and the editing and sound engineering.

So we group four people, and they have to do the first 30 seconds of trailer of the last movie of Star Wars. Some of them did in Spanish. Some of them did it in English, after half an hour Nefertiti was going around, giving feedback. And after that, we compare the versions and you have the Spanish from Spain, Spanish from Mexico, Spanish from Argentina, (laughs) to compare. In my class, I have students from all different Spanish speaking countries. That was very interesting. We had a great time with Nefertiti. We learned so much.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 19:50
This is a 400 level course available to junior seniors and graduate students in Montclair University in New Jersey. So far, we see several benefits of learning AD in this environment, not only can it be fun with the right Profesora, but there’s attention paid to all of the skills involved in assuring quality audio description,

Maria Jose 20:09
The set of skills are diverse. So you know that they are part of the writing the script, editing, quality control voice over in the case of the theater, tactile experience, reaching out to the community, publicizing the events, interacting with people in the theater explaining to them how the equipment works. Some of the students in the group, they are very good with people, they are good at greeting people when they come to the theater explaining to them the audio description equipment, some of them are very shy and don’t want to be involved. They’re very good at writing, quality control, I can place them in roles that they feel comfortable, and that they are going to excel in those roles. But not everybody can do the same thing.

TR: 20:52
What if everyone not only brought their own set of skills to the table, but they also brought that love?

Maria Jose 20:58
Someone says once that if you really love what you do, you will not work one single day of your life and I totally agree with that.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 21:06
What is it about audio description that you love?

Maria Jose 21:09
I think there’s many things, the observational skills part, It makes or forces me to pay attention to details, or be more observant. The second thing that I love is the selective thinking in lexical choices. What verb are you going to use what adjective or what adverb is going to give you in a very short time? That image that you exactly want to convey? Linguistic aspect it’s like crafting the language.

TR: 21:39
Maria Jose uses AED as a learning tool in her early level Spanish classes as well.

Maria Jose 21:45
I play movies in Spanish with a description in Spanish. And I pass surveys to them. And I asked them if they understood the movie better with audio description , and why and what aspects? And most of the answer are yes, I didn’t know that this verb could be used for this action. Or I understand it better because it made me aware of parts that would go unnoticed. So, a Spanish language is improved through the restriction. That’s a pedagogical application of audio description to improve a second language.

TR: 22:20
Recognizing the opportunities that real world interactions present, Maria Jose makes certain to survey audience members. Feedback received during the live theatre performance at the Theatre Company in NYC as to what many of us already know, AD has benefits that go beyond informing those who are blind or have low vision from enabling multitasking to helping some recognize the significance of gestures or facial expressions. Some of Maria Jose’s research is examining what we can learn about cultural differences.

Maria Jose 22:52
Why you see a character in the movie, smoking a cigarette in the Spanish description. They don’t say anything in English or your kitchen. They say he’s smoking a cigarette. So different characterizations, depending on different cultures, because maybe in Spain everybody smokes. So it’s not such a relevant trait in the moment.

TR: 23:09
This research for an article she wrote titled Getting the Full Picture in English and Spanish where she examined the audio described characters in Netflix’s elite.

Maria Jose 23:19
I was doing that comparison between the English and Spanish description. If different cultures are gonna emphasize or highlight aspects of a character certain physical traits that in another language they wouldn’t emphasize. it interested me for someone who is always paying attention to Spanish and English nuances of the language.

TR: 23:39
This made me curious about the differences in Spanish dialects spoken throughout Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain.

Maria Jose 23:45
For example, in the play, one of the main characters he’s wearing a jacket for this play is placed in the Caribbean, they will say Sacco and to Spanish people from Spain circle is another thing, but we want it to be in accordance with the character. So if the character says Sacco, we’re gonna say sacco. But of course, there is someone in the audience from Spain out of the context, you’re gonna infer that that’s a Jacquetta. That’s a jacket.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 24:10
It’s another example of cultural competence at that point.

Maria Jose:

Wow. Look where we ended up. I didn’t even plan that. It just proves what I will continue to shout.
TR filtered sounds as in stadium making an announcement to crowd:
“Audio Description is about much more than entertainment.”

When La profesora is not teaching the art of audio description, or any of her other classes for that matter. She’s making her own art.

Maria Jose 24:33
I discovered plain air painting five, six years ago. Wow, rich painting retreats, but outdoors, what they call Plein Air, which is what the Impressionist painters they painted outside to be able to capture the light in a fast way. So you have to pace very fast because the light that you have now you’re not going to happen in 15 minutes. I completely fell in love with the technique. You have to pay really fast to capture A moment you paint a landscape, you paint what you see. So, it has to do with description as well.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 25:05
Now, after you’re done painting, do you provide an image description for your painting?

Maria Jose 25:09
Maybe when I have my first exhibition, I will have everything with audio description in English and Spanish. Of course,

TR: 25:16
that’s right audio description on everything in every language, because blind people are everywhere. And we deserve access. If you want to learn more about this immersive and applied course, in audio description in Spanish and English, or maybe get in touch with Maria Jose, start with the Montclair State University

Maria Jose 25:43
And within that, you can go to the Department of Spanish, Spanish and Latino studies have their own YouTube channel, YouTube and Spanish and Latino Studies,

TR: 25:52
I’ll have links on this episode’s blog post. Plus if you’re on Instagram,

Maria Jose 25:55
my name is GarciaVizCam. Garcia is GARCIA V as in Victor I Z as in Zebra. C as in Charlie, a. m like Maria.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 26:08
Well, let me tell you something professora. Oh, want to let you know that you are an official member of the Reid my Mind Radio family because you were so kind enough to come over here and talk about your amazing class. Personally, I think you should be teaching audio description to everybody.

On the day of our interview Maria Jose was feeling a bit under the weather. She was worried about coughing on the microphone. By the time we were done. I noticed she never once coughed.

Maria Jose 26:38
I was thinking about that. My cold literally disappears.

TR in Conversation with Maria Jose: 26:42
Reid My Mind Radio we take care of calls to okay, maybe that’s going a bit too far. Read my mind radio cannot heal people in any way. But let’s take a look at what we did cover this season. And flipping the script on audio description. We went into the lab specifically, the access in the making lab where we examine this idea of creative audio description versus compliance. Spoiler alert. It doesn’t have to be any sort of competition. They really can work together.

If there’s one thing you can count on from flipping the script, and quite honestly, Reid My Mind Radio in general we want 100% without no doubt, support and encourage the participation of blind people in all aspects of audio description. That’s why I knew I had to get our sister Nefertiti Matos Olivaras on the podcast. A must listen for any blind person truly interested in getting into AD in any capacity. She’s dropping game if you’re listening.

Always interested in expanding the AD conversation. We reached out to actor writer designer podcast Natalie Trevonne to discuss access to fashion via audio description and more.

And wrapping it up with a bright red bow. Now Professor Maria Jose Garcia Vizcaino, actually combining the creative and compliance approach plus making sure it’s done with love.

The season actually kicked off with an editorial from yours truly, once again sparked by the lack of culturally appropriate casting of AD narrate is still taking place in audio description. I mentioned I was drafting a pledge for all of those who see audio description as a microcosm of the world. We profess to have won a world that recognizes all of our beauty and strength without putting one group over the other. Perhaps this is the right time to take the pledge. I’m asking you listener, transcript reader, audio description consumer, professional, benefactor, all of us who really want to flip the script on audio description, head on over to https://bit.Ly/ADPledge where the ADP are capitalized, no spaces or drop in and and I’ll link you to the pledge. add your name to the list and make sure you confirm your name being added by clicking on the link in the resulting email. If you don’t see the email, check your spam folder.

As I used to tell my daughter as I tried cooking something for the first time, baby girl. I don’t know how this is gonna turn out but we’re gonna try it anyway…

I want to send a special shout out to my man Tony Swartz for his help with editing this episode once again. I appreciate you sir, salutes!

This is the last episode of the season and I hope to be back in September but man a brother starting to feel like he needs a break. Maybe I’ll head out to a beach somewhere and sip a Mai Tai, but I lounge and my shorts and chancletas.

In the meantime, if you haven’t yet, subscribe to the podcast. I’d appreciate you going over to wherever you get your podcasts, including YouTube and subscribe or follow us you can get transcripts and more over at To get there, it’s mandatory that you spell it right. That’s R to the E I D!

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

Like my last name.

Music fades out…
Cell phone buzzing and ringing.

iPhone Voice Over:
“Ann Cerfonne”…

TR in conversation…

I guess I’ll have to tell you about that one, next time”

Reid My Mind Radio Outro


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