Flipping the Script on Audio Description: In the Making

Light blue lab with series of beakers and two large flasks with the initial A in white on the right flask and The letter D in white on the left flask.  In the middle is a chemistry formula with movies incorporated in the cell. Jurassic on the top Avatar2 in the second and Popeye in the last cell.  Audio description in white letters on the top of the page and Reid My Mind Radio on the bottom

I’m excited to kick-off the 2022 FTS season with my friend and colleague, the Access Artist and Reid My Mind Radio Alum Cheryl Green. We’re talking about compliance based AD versus a more creative approach to developing description.

We hear from Prof. Arseli Dokumaci of Concordia University and the Director of the Access in the Making Lab in Montreal Canada who first invited Cheryl to help her and the AIM team explore the value of the creative approach to Audio Description.

We hear directly from workshop attendees about their projects and some of the many benefits of viewing AD through a creative lens.

Today, we’re going to pull on the edges a bit and explore how AD itself is not only artistic, but how it can be that inspiration, a catalyst for a new work of art.

Rather than talking about making AD, we’re talking about AD in the making!

Because, in this series, we’re going beyond the mainstream AD conversation.
We’re Flipping the Script on Audio Description!

PodAccess Survey – If you’re a Deaf/Disabled Podcaster or content creator or a consumer of Deaf/Disabled content, you’re going to want to know about this.

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Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:
Welcome back to the second 2022 season of Reid My Mind Radio.
My name is Thomas Reid and I’m the host and producer of this podcast which features compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

This season we continue with one of my favorite subjects, Audio Description or AD.

For those new to AD, you may understand it to be that additional audio track on your SAP channel or your favorite streaming app. Perhaps you experience AD live in a theater. That could be a movie or a live play as well. Either way, that additional audio is providing information about that content that is otherwise only communicated visually.

This includes museums, national parks, art galleries; there’s so many opportunities to add audio description to all sorts of art that enables access for those of us who are Blind or have low vision.

That’s why I say, “Give Me AD on everything.”

But we know, AD is about much more than entertainment!

Audio description is like a swiss army knife. At first glance you think it’s a tool with one function. But pull at its edges a bit; all of a sudden out pops another tool, another use, another benefit.

We know all sorts of reasons non-Blind people use and appreciate AD. However, the take away from curb cut affects or the idea that access for one group ultimately benefits others, isn’t to forget where it originated, but rather to remember that creating inclusive environments should be the goal in all we do.

Today is less about AD from the access perspective. It’s there, no doubt, but we’re gonna pull at the edges a bit. We’re exploring how AD itself is not only artistic, but how it can be that inspiration, a catalyst for a new work of art.

Rather than talking about making AD, we’re talking about AD in the making!

Because, in this series, we’re going beyond the mainstream AD conversation.
We’re Flipping the Script on Audio Description!

Let’s get it!

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Arseli:

My name is Arseli Dokumaci. My pronouns are she/her/hers. And I’m a female presenting person in her early 40s.
I have short black hair, black rounded glasses. I’m sitting in my office.

I was born and raised in Turkey and immigrated to Canada a few years ago.
I live in the unceded territory of Kenya and the Haida nation here, who are the custodians of lands and waters that give us life and I’m grateful to the Kenyan, bahagia nation, also known as Montreal.

I’m an assistant professor in Communication Studies Department in Concordia University. I am also Canada researcher in critical disability studies and media technologies. That’s a long title. I’m also the director of access in the making lab at Concordia.

TR:

Before we can get to Audio Description in the Making, we have to first begin with Access in the Making or AIM.

Arseli:
Access in the making lab is an anti ableist, anti colonialist lab, mainly run by students, community members who are disabled artists and activists. We are a group of around like 15 people right now.

Shout out to Prakash, Roy, Jesse, Diego, Raffaele, Nikolas, Amy, Sabina, Yolanda, Dres, and Salima. These are the wonderful people that are making up the Access in the Making Lab.

We are basically interested in developing creative and critical approaches to access. How can we think of access not as a checklist, but as a starting point for doing research differently for being in the work differently, and as more as a creative and critical intervention in the given order of things. To kind of shake up people a bit.

TR:

Hey, I want to shake people up. Just a bit!

Back to the lab.

Arseli:

Which is considering access as this kind of process without an endpoint as something that is continually being made and made, remade which is also open to failures and mistakes, and learning from goals and being accountable.

TR:

When we apply this idea to audio description, you can see why it’s the opposite of what takes place in the mainstream world where the final product is so heavily affected by constraints like time, guidelines and budgets. The AIM Lab is an environment that encourages experimentation.

Arseli:
The people of the AIM lab are doing amazing work. We kind of push this together collectively.

I have been working on creative approaches. I experimented with some formats like freeze framing.

I use this crip time method of like freezing the frames and inserting the audio description as something that is intervening in the video itself as a kind of almost a statement saying let the audio discussion take the time it takes.

It was always in the back of my head, like, how can we kind of further this creative approach to audio description. I’m obviously not the first person to do that, there are people doing amazing work on creative approaches to audio description.

TR:

Some of them have been featured right here on the podcast.

Arseli:

We were developing various posters, and we were also thinking about our visual identity as a lab and so on.

We realized that, even when you’re developing a visual identity for something like developing a logo, that logo is visual, and there is no description. And we were stuck with this question of Oh, we did the logo, but where’s the description. This need for audio description kept coming up that we need to do something about it, like we don’t have the, the answers, but the need, literally the need to and to learn more about it to experiment with it. So that’s where the idea of doing this workshop came about.

TR in Conversation with Arseli:
What made you reach out to Cheryl, how did that come about?

Arseli:
That’s also another story of relationship building, which goes back to 2018 actually. When we organized a symposium in Montreal called Vibe a symposium for Deaf and Disability Arts. And Cheryl was also a participant in that symposium, that’s where we got to meet.

TR:

That’s my friend and colleague, the Access Artist, Cheryl Green.

Cheryl
I am a captioner and audio describer. I also do some video and audio production.

I am a white Ashkenazi Jewish woman with a poof of curly dark brown hair and big black plastic glasses and olive complexion.

It’s still a little chilly in Portland, Oregon, where I live. I am sporting my Reid My Mind Radio hoodie, just the most comfortable hoodie that I own. Wear it all the time, except for laundry day.
I’m very excited to be back on your show Thomas.

TR:

That’s right, Cheryl is official. I’m sure you heard her name here before. In fact, there are other guests on this podcast that I only became aware of through Cheryl. Oh Man, I just introduced you to my connect.

Arseli:

Cheryl came to one of my courses and gave this beautiful lecture on audio description.

We also had you Thomas for that class as a listening material one of our podcasts so I had already this connection in mind and then we were really like, looking forward to doing something together.

So I reached out to Cheryl, we met, we discussed what we can do. Raffaele, our lab member, was also helping me to organization. And Cheryl had the idea of inviting you. And we were like, super excited about it. That’s how all this started.

Cheryl:
I told her that the best way for me to lead a workshop on audio description would be with a blind or low vision co teacher, it wouldn’t make sense for me to do it solo. And she needed zero convincing. She was completely on board with that, because she’s Arseli and she’s rad.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
What is it about including a blind consumer, a blind person, specifically in the process that’s important to you?

Cheryl:

I have taught workshops, by myself as a sighted producer of audio description and image descriptions. I have done that in the past, I’ve changed my ways now. Because it’s not fair.

And it’s not good enough for me to say, I am the ultimate authority. No sighted audio describers the ultimate authority. No one consumers the ultimate authority.

It’s a subjective artistic field anyway.

So it benefits the students to have more than one teacher first off.

Second of all, the subtleties and the nuances that a blind or low vision person brings to the discussion. It’s stuff that I’ll never think about on my own. No matter how hard I think about the wording, I’m still looking at the picture, I still see it. And I’m always writing from the perspective of what did I just see?

TR:

I so appreciate that honesty. It’s counter to what we’re taught in society and in business where’ it’s all about branding yourself as an expert. Yet, so often, lived experience is overlooked and under appreciated and x amount of hours in a room discussing the topic is considered more valuable.

Cheryl:

I think there’s a lot in the world of accessibility that’s modeled after the world of health care and rehab. Where ostensibly non disabled people are the authorities and the experts. And they give this thing to the user, the person who needs something. I’ve had clients literally refer to audio description as Services for the Blind and like, No, tI’m adding an artistic translation to your film. Is your film services for the sighted? No, then audio description’s, not “services for the blind.”

Co-teaching with a blind person helps remind the students in the audience that this is about collaboration, and artistry, and community building, and that the wants and needs and desires and perspectives of the ultimate consumers are super valid. And really what we should be focused on, who cares if I like the script. If the people using audio description don’t like the script.

So I told her that I would reach out to Oh, God, what is his name? I can’t remember this guy’s Thomas something. Yeah, I told her. Let me just check with this Thomas guy, might be decent at something like this.

TR:

Ok, yes, I have some opinions on Audio Description as many of us do. I like discussing the subject as it’s a gateway to larger conversations. But this specific idea that Cheryl approached me with felt like a way to test this idea that we’ve been promoting for a while; AD can improve your art.

Cheryl:

What if people took their artwork, wrote an audio description, threw away the artwork and made something brand new, based on the audio description instead of the audio description being based on the artwork.

She loved the idea right away. We called you and you said yes, and the end. And then we did the workshop, the end.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Good night, everybody.

TR:

Mm mm, we’re taking our time with this one. In fact, the process is where you find a lot of the art and beauty. That’s why the lab is just the right environment for such a workshop. Here’s Arseli.

Arseli:
I didn’t come with a lot of expectations, I honestly wanted the process itself to take us to somewhere and see where we were going together. I totally trusted in the abilities of all the members and their commitment to access, and especially you and Cheryl’s work. So I knew that things will organically develop.

TR:

When I hear this, I can’t help but remember how I once approached just about all aspects of my life. It was a very corporate, productivity centered way of thinking. If you weren’t presenting a project plan with gantt charts, you were artsy fartsy to me.

I still have some of that way of thinking ingrained in me, but I also know and believe in organic creation and letting time do its thing.

Arseli:
I was just waiting to see the magic happen.

We had so much fun. It already created this atmosphere of being comfortable and being gentle with yourself. I feel that there’s this anxiety around doing access work or audio description work. If it’s an unknown territory for newcomers, they’re like, “What if I say something wrong when I’m working on tonight.”

All that anxiety was lifted away.

That was a great starting point. To start from that comfort zone, so to say, and knowing that you will make mistakes, and that’s okay. The question is not to make mistakes, the question is, okay, I’m gonna make mistakes, I might say something not okay. But I’m going to like, learn from it and take accountability and grow along the way. I think that was the whole atmosphere that I really appreciated and took away from the workshop.

TR:

And Cheryl’s expectation…

Cheryl:
Yeah, I really wanted people to take away from the workshop that that people with poofy hair can partner really well with bald people. It’s okay, we’re in an era now where we can just like

TR in Conversation with Cheryl: 10:41
Oh, this is News. Wait, audio description. I’m bald?

##TR:

Cheryl and I can get a bit silly. But yet serious.

Cheryl:
The real takeaways.

It’s valuing the teaching and perspective of disabled people.

the amazing, endless artistic possibility of audio description. I love anything that gets away from the compliance conversation. People are always asking me to do workshops or trainings or be on panels and talk about well, “what are the specs? And how do you do this? We want to be more compliant, we want to be more accessible.” Why? Why they never told me why. Why are you doing this? And if you don’t know why you’re doing it, then you’re going to live in that compliance based because we’re supposed to because we don’t want to get sued or it’s the hot thing to do right now to be accessible.

TR:

There’s that maximize productivity thing again. Tell me how to quickly implement this thing so I can get the biggest bang for my buck. All along, missing the opportunity, the experience, the beauty.

Cheryl:

It’s this negotiation, it’s this process. It’s a collaboration, it’s community. How can we talk about audio description in a way where we just don’t have to bother with compliance? We’re going to make stuff in this workshop, maybe it would be compliant, maybe it wouldn’t be. But let’s have fun and not be scared of audio description. Not feel like it’s a burden, or we have to do this. But how do we make it work?

I wanted people to get that playground vibe around audio description. I also wanted people to have fun with bringing any parts of themselves to the work. So this is not going to be an objective thing. You’re going to build the world that you want to build in your audio description. And it’s going to be yours, whatever you bring to it.

TR:

That approach allowed us to let attendees sometimes slightly modify the assignment. Some chose not to create new independent works of art but rather develop additional components supporting the original described piece.

Arseli who also attended and participated in the workshop came prepared to describe the Access in the Making logo and left with multiple components including audio…

Arseli:

and a textual component. And I had an idea of like a food component but that will happen if we ever meet in person. Don’t we all love food?

TR:

Heck yeah!

Arseli:
I worked on the logo of the aim Lab, which was created by our wonderful designer researcher Roi Saade.

We have been as the aim lab working with Roi for about a year to develop that logo. It was an ongoing conversation where Roi really pushed us to think about what is the access In the making lab? What would the characters of the aim lab be if it were a person? And how do you describe your approach and all these exercises with us to kind of better understand what we how we foresee this collective. And it was a long that idealogical process that Roi came up with this beautiful design of the aim lab.

TR:

The logo itself starts with the letters of the lab’s mame, AIM; Access in the Making.

It includes dashes between the first letter of each name representing the missing letters.

Arseli:

Which is maybe very simple. But when you think about it, we were literally thinking of access as something that we work towards, that we are committed to. We are in no way considering ourselves as the experts of access or that we will tell what access is or should be. But we are literally interested in experimenting, we are aspiring towards access and working towards access without big promises. And we are always thinking about what if we do this? What if we do that? What if we speculate and think about these new openings of access. So that kind of Roi designed around those dashes and letters reflected this approach. I wanted that story to be told.

TR:

There’s also the audio component representing the logo.

— Audio of AIM Logo

TR:

These dragging beeps sort of illustrate a dash or hyphen.

Arseli:

I looked for a way of translating what the image tells into a sonic version. It works in that sense. And it might not work in other senses. But of course it might sound entirely differently to another audio describer. And that’s the whole pitch of it. Not being objective, as you said, but giving room for all the subjectivity we could give and opening up new versions of that. That was a sonic version.

And I’m not an expert in audio editing. It was just the trial, I didn’t mind risk taking and trying it out.

TR:

Then there’s the second component, because really why should anyone be restricted to just one way of absorbing conceptual ideas.

How about poetry?

Arseli:

The poem, I guess it felt A bit more intimate. In the sense that I wanted to reflect on that journey we had as a lab together, how we reached that logo and what it meant for us as the aim lab as our values, our principles, what we are committed to this idea of leaving nobody behind, which is coming from Disability Justice committees, and I kind of really valued that. As the AIM we value that.

Where are the missing letters, right? Have they gone? And how can we hold space for the missing letters for the things that we don’t know, for the access needs that we will perhaps never know. So not hope not having assumptions, but keeping space holding space for the unknown.

TR:

Once again, I’m going to point out that I know this concept may make some uncomfortable. Especially if you only think of description as a word for word explanation of what something looks like. But audio description, image descriptions can go beyond that.

Arseli:

The audio description of that logo does not supplement the logo, it literally works with the logo together. And it brings everybody into that story of that logo making that we had with Roi, it tells that story.

So I find it beautiful. And also a way of like opening up new roles, telling the stories that are not otherwise told. And providing those openings to people like, Okay, here’s what we did. And audio description is enabling that story sharing and storytelling.

TR:

Enabling story telling and sharing that once again, goes beyond entertainment.

[smooth lounge music soothing your soul]
THOMAS: Hi. I’m Cheryl Green.
CHERYL: And I’m Thomas Reid. Uh, that do…. You don’t look like Cheryl Green.
THOMAS: What do you mean?
CHERYL: Well, I mean Cheryl, she’s got hair on her head, kind of curly, medium length brown hair and black-framed glasses and olive skin.
THOMAS: Okay. Now that you say that, you don’t sound like Thomas Reid. I think he’s a brown-skinned Black man with a shaven head and wears shades and has a full beard and might be wearing like a Wu-Tang Clan t-shirt or something like that.
CHERYL: But we are both disabled podcasters.
THOMAS: Do you think we should say podcasters with disabilities?
CHERYL: Oh, you know what? Let’s do a podcast about that.
THOMAS: Hmm. Good idea.
CHERYL: Actually, Thomas and I are working on a project that’s all about disabled podcasts. It’s called. Oh, wait, we don’t actually have the name yet, right? What should we call it?
THOMAS: We should call it Project Project?
CHERYL: Yeah, I love it. Project Project. Or like, I don’t know, POD Access.
THOMAS: Okay. We’ll go with POD Access… for now. With funding from the Disability Visibility Project, we’re creating a space for disabled podcasters or content creators to connect with each other and maybe be discovered by audiences who are interested in your content or share skills and resources.
CHERYL: So, we want to hear from you, current or former, Deaf or disabled podcasters, deaf or disabled people interested in starting a podcast, or consumers of content about disability or deafness.
THOMAS: We created a survey that should only take about 20 minutes to complete, and we’d really love your feedback.
CHERYL: You can find the survey at https://bit.ly/PODAccess. On that survey you can sign up to receive more information about Project Project as it develops.
THOMAS: Again, fill out the survey at https://bit.ly/PODAccess.
CHERYL: Good. Nice job, Cheryl.
THOMAS: Oh, you too, Thomas.
[smooth lounge music fades into the future]

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Were there any highlights from your perspective of the workshop?

Cheryl:
It was one of those things that was like non stop, highlight. Shout out to Arseli and your students and your staff.
One highlight is that the stuff that they made which you can find on audio description.access in the making.ca.

Every single piece is radically different from every other piece. They’re just so unique and distinctive and original. And that’s a real highlight for me. There were a lot of great questions. There was so much engagement.

TR:

It wouldn’t be right to ask Cheryl to pick a favorite project to discuss. I realized that after I asked Cheryl to pick a favorite project to discuss.

I did however reach out to one of the workshop attendees and creators.

Salima:
My name is Salima Panjwani. I’m a multi sensory artist based in Montreal in Canada. I would describe myself as a brown skinned woman with big curly hair, who laughs a lot and loves to have coffee around me at all times.

TR in Conversation with Salima:
Talk to me a little bit about any existing knowledge or experience with audio description. So prior to attending the workshop.

Salima:

I actually learned about Cheryl at the vibration symposium and Montreal in 2018. And I fell in love with her approach. I fell so madly in love with audio description, when I saw her speak. She shared some of her work. And I just thought it was so beautiful how she didn’t think about audio description after the fact. Like she really included it from the beginning of the process. I was really inspired by that.

So when I created a piece called the cost of entry as a heartbeat, in 2020, in Budapest, I decided to create documentation that included audio description planned and from the beginning. I included it in the performance film of the piece. And it’s been getting a lot of really good feedback. I love the process, Thomas like it was so much fun.

I love using language and that way of finding ways to describe things that aren’t just visual, but like really, the energy or the feeling.

TR:

Workshop attendees were asked to group into teams of two, possibly three and choose something to describe. That could be a picture, an object perhaps something not even visual like a song.

The team would then create a new piece of art totally based on that description. That could be anything, a poem, a two minute play, a dance. You can actually check out some of the creations at AudioDescription.AccessInTheMaking.ca.

Salima’s project began with a description of the fermentation process.

Salima:
The name of the project for the audio description workshop was iridescent constellations. And it was with Diego Pacheco Bravo.

Salima:

We didn’t know each other at all. So it was quite a funny process for me. Because we just kind of met and started talking about honey and fermentation. And I thought we were going to, like scientifically describe the process of fermentation.

What is fermentation? Like what does it look like? What’s going on?

I just thought that would be interesting in itself to really slow down that process.

I was very surprised when Diego came back with the full story.

I didn’t want to change anything, because I’m honoring his creative process and his writing process.

But what I did add were the audio descriptions.

TR:

The initial description of the fermentation process for creating mead, which is an ancient alcoholic beverage like wine, inspired a story.

Salima:

About two beekeepers in their 20s who kind of have some tension building as they’re caring for the bees and enjoying Mead together and it gets a bit sexy.

I actually love that because sometimes I feel like disabled folks aren’t considered as like sexual beings. And, and that whole, like erotic fiction audio described piece that we made, I think, speaks to that in a way where we’re not forgetting that like disabled folks also want to listen to sexy things.

TR:

Uh oh! We’re getting grown and sexy once again on the podcast! If you missed that episode from 2021 Flipping the Script series you should really check it out.

Salima:

I am really pleased with how it turned out. And even though I didn’t write the story, I wrote the audio descriptions that go with it. And so it’s my voice and Diego’s voice playing off each other using words like smacking and bubbling and the descriptors that add to the tension building up and releasing, and that’s complemented with a soundscape that I developed. That includes a lot of bubbles, and rustling of leaves and some voices and some moaning and a lot of different sounds that bring the peace to life.

TR:
In no way is this episode an advertisement for the workshop. If anything, it is a PSA for considering new approaches to how we think about audio description and access in general.

Salima:

I feel like when we think about accessibility, there’s so much fear of screwing up. Both you and Cheryl really created this environment where, like, I personally didn’t feel scared of screwing up at all, I just felt free to experiment and explore. I don’t think I would have necessarily felt as as open to create like an audio described erotic audio fiction piece with said stranger that had never met before.

I feel like it’s so important that people realize it’s okay to make a mistake, and then go back and repair, create the opportunities for repair.

Workshops like this, and the, and the pieces that are created through it kind of model what’s possible. And the more models we have, it opens up opportunities to kind of show like some different ways of looking at things.

Arseli:
Why not think of audio description or any other form or medium of access, as something that could be created, opening up new paths, not something restricting us or frightening us, but something that actually opens up our minds to things that we would otherwise not notice?

To me, that’s the difference between the two different approaches to audio description and access in general.

TR:

You know, this isn’t just for those new to Audio Description.

Cheryl:
I was losing my motivation, I wasn’t sure where to go with the artistry thing. And this workshop, getting so much enthusiastic buy in for bringing your full identities, bringing your full creativity, letting your heart break open, just soaring and playing.
It was the kind of validation and confirmation I needed for the creative side to audio description.

Arseli:

If you think about this creative aspect, and doing audio description in a creative way, and not pretending to be objective, or unbiased, which is awful, like admit it right? Nothing can be objective, we know that. So let’s just stop pretending about this all presumed objectivity, and actually being reflexive, consciously reflecting on the fact that it is you actually describing the work, not rejecting that subjectivity, that standpoint. But accepting and recognizing and actually cherishing that, and being accountable for who you are. And what you’re describing.

That’s really, that’s was one of the key takeaways that I got from our workshop together and learning from you and Cheryl is acknowledging your positionality as the describer.

I will make certain choices along the way because of my social positioning, my upbringing, my assumptions and privileges.

I will tell you certain things and I will not tell you certain other things. Being transparent about you as the describer.

TR:

There are people who are comfortable with the established or mainstream compliant approach to Audio description. Some perhaps even have a stake in solely promoting that perspective. I didn’t however realize there are some out here just straight hatin’…

Cheryl:
One thing that I’ve heard said is, if someone came across one of these very creative, very artistic, nonlinear things, and they thought that’s what audio description is, they might be turned off from audio description, and not realize that you can go out there and find this professionally made stuff that’s much more informative, and much more standardized.

Nobody’s in here saying, this is the only way to do it. And frankly, if people enjoy the creative audio description, then why would we withhold it from them. And I think that audio description is really good when it matches the tone of the piece.

TR:

As an example, Cheryl and I talked about a Netflix special called “The Twist.”

Cheryl:

Catherine Cohen’s stand up comedy routine.

It was just outrageous. Her outfit was so audacious and so phenomenal. It was like high society, Dallas meets New York, Jewish American princess meets, like 60s, go go boots. I mean, it was just outrageous. And you didn’t get to hear about any of it.

And the describer was like,

[softly]

“And here I am describing the visuals.”

Which did not match with Katherine’s like super over the top, loud, boisterous musical theater presentation.

I really feel like hers would have benefited from the creative style. Now it’s Netflix, maybe they can’t do that. It’s why I like to work independently. Not that Netflix has asked me to work for them, but it’s not like I’ve said no to them.

TR:

I always want to make sure y’all know, this isn’t shots against the AD writer, narrator or even Netflix. This is about constructive criticism, recognizing opportunities for growth and generating conversation within the community.

Cheryl:
The name of that comedy show was The Twist dot dot dot
If you don’t get a description of what she looks like, what on earth does that title even mean? Did you have a sense of what she looks like?

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
No, not from that. No.

I didn’t watch the whole thing I turned it off.

TR:

I’m just saying.

Cheryl.
The audio description script identified her as wearing a pink dress. She was most assuredly wearing a romper. A very low cut romper.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Actually after that description, she said she was wearing the romper. It was confusing. It was like, Well, why did you describe a pink dress? Did she just switch?

Cheryl:
You want to talk about following the rules. You got an inaccuracy in your second sentence. She’s not wearing a dress. She’s wearing a romper. They could have used that point to mention that it’s extremely low cut that the shorts part of the romper is they’re like really short shorts. She’s got knee high boots on. This is the most ludicrous outfit, it is so outrageous.

To wear a low cut romper as a person who’s not real thin, is a fabulous political statement that you don’t get.

TR:

The political statements continued.

Cheryl:

I had to look her up because like Catherine Cohen, what Jew names their kid Catherine, what is this about? So one of her parents is Jewish, when I figured that one out and the other is Catholic. Okay. Catherine Cohen, she has kind of the stereotypical Jewish knows that, by the way, is gorgeous.
In general, in the United States, not the nose, you see on models, fashion magazines. I know people with that nose who have really spent their childhoods being made fun of and feeling really self conscious about the nose. When you add those pieces together, she’s not a real thin model. She’s got this Jewish nose. Now all the sudden, the title of the show means something different. The twist is gorgeous.

To me it’s also a political statement as a Jew, especially in this time when those guys with their tiki torches think we’re, you know, gonna run them out of town.

I’ll be honest, I don’t know how you would effectively in one sentence, get that whole description that I just gave. But if we don’t have any understanding of the size of her body, in this low cut tiny romper, and then the Jewishness of her face. It’s such a disservice to this entire show that she wrote and choreographed.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:

I wish I could remember his name.

It was a guy who worked for WGBH. And he was the only guy that I ever heard really get excited about a building blowing up in an action movie. IThe first time I heard that guy I was like, Oh, I love this. He’s like “an explosion!”
I’m okay with that because it matched. My problem would be if if he was doing that all the time. on things that didn’t even call for it, “oh, what a beautiful puppy!”

Cheryl:
Why is that a problem. I feel like audio description is a translation of the film. It’s not a thorough, complete translation of everything, because then the one hour movie with less 18 hours, and who wants to listen to 18 hours of description of every single thing that’s, like, that’s not what it’s about. But you want to do a faithful translation, and you want the audience using audio description, to come away with the story and the vibe that the people not using audio description got.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
If anybody’s listening from Netflix, from HBO, from anywhere. Create a little space like a sandbox. Let’s have an audio description sandbox.

TR:

A place to experiment?
Oh, wait, a lab.

Cheryl:

I mean it’s not that different from kinetic light, and their Audimance app where many tracks that are provided and you choose which audio description you want, what kind of description of this dance performance Do you want to listen to?

I love this idea of like beta testing it.

TR:

Let me be clear, something like this requires funding. I’m not expecting anyone to donate their time. Audio description is not a charity.

Recognizing the artistic possibility in AD, the curb cut effect or the additional benefits it has outside of the intended users, what we’re talking about here is investing in an exploration. More than likely, resulting in a new way of thinking about Audio description.

Cheryl:
We can stop having two camps of creative versus compliant. And you could just have one camp that is creative and compliant.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:

I think a lot of times when we talk about AD as art, even consumers, I think probably are a little bit leery about that.
I don’t want to watch an action movie and have spoken word as the audio description.

[Cheryl laughs]

I don’t want that. I wonder if people think that that’s what is meant by audio description and art?

Cheryl:
Smoke, ash falling falling falling into my eyes. Oh, it burns.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
That was really good.

TR:

So where do we go from here?

Cheryl:

My fear is that if I or we tried to do the same workshop, because it was so amazing the first time, it would just be like a total failure the second time, or you’d get that group who doesn’t get it, and you’d spend the whole time answering compliance questions.

There’s a part of me that doesn’t ever want to teach the workshop the same way again, because it was just this perfect little thing.

Why not do something totally different every time? Or has some differences every time? I don’t know, if I wrote a book on audio description. I wouldn’t keep putting out the same edition for 20 years.

I would change it to not only keep with the times, what’s happening, what’s trendy, what’s current, what are people asking for. But also, you want to meet the people who are in your workshop. So if they’re not ready for the creative stuff, because they literally don’t even know what audio description is? Well, let’s start with something basic, but it will still be creative. So I would love to co teach more of these classes.

TR in Conversation with Cheryl:
Who do you think this workshop is right for? So is it for folks who want to get into audio description? Or is it for some other group. Artists?

Cheryl:
I think it can be adapted for any group, what I would really love to see people who are already trained in audio description, maybe even already working in that field, who feel like they got kind of a more standardized education in audio description. You’re an objective neutral observer. Folks who were trained in this would be nice to shake it up a little bit and broaden the way they look at it.

TR:

Cheryl sees the benefits for those not interested in directly creating AD.

Cheryl:

I’ve had the opportunity to speak in a filmmaking class recently.
One hour basic, little bits of information about captioning and audio description, not necessarily even how to do it, but what to consider in terms of high quality, accessibility, culturally responsive, culturally sensitive accessibility.

Just so that they know there’s resources out there, there’s people who can do this.

I wanted them to have that sense of relationship and conversation about accessibility.

So a workshop like this can also open that up, maybe you won’t do more audio description.
But I bet you will remember this workshop when you make your film or podcast or whatever, and be more mindful about, can you be creative and accessible in the piece, even more than you are going to be?

TR:

We’re talking about AD not only as a creative tool for artists such as filmmakers, musicians and designers, but what about its role in education.

Arseli:
Not many courses, not that I know, at least in my university are like thinking of audio description as an important project, pedagogical tool or an intervention in the courses being taught, and we have departments such as film studies or communication studies. I think that’s the kind of important intervention that such fields could have from the Disability Justice committees, disability activism, the kind of work that you, Cheryl, and wonderful other receptive disabled artists and activists are doing, how to think of the curriculum differently, how to think of the pedagogy is differently.

Anti ableist approaches, creating work that is more accessible in the future.

TR:

As a teacher, Arseli recognizes value in audio description.

Arseli:
You made me think about the work of Georgina Klieg, a disability scholar. She does this like audio description as creative pedagogical practice in her courses. And she wrote an article about that, which I also like using my courses, asking students to do audio describe things and how that actually itself becomes a process of learning for them.

But it is actually transforming the person doing the audio description in the process, as well as the viewer. The person describing it starts to see things themselves in certain ways perhaps they didn’t see before.

[fun funky music plays]

TR:
Audio description or any access in general is an experience.
It’s about the creation and the result. That strictly compliance approach treats AD like a chore and the end result often reflects that energy.

If we could only tap into the energy that Salima describes after attending an event where all, well most, access needs were considered and met.

Salima:

It felt like there was like sparkles in the air. And I’m not too sure if there were actually sparkles in the air. Just kind of felt like it. That’s how I feel about the disability arts world here.
I think I want to focus on being able to create that feeling of or that question of like, “Are there sparkles in the air or does it just feel like it because everyone’s cared for?”

TR in conversation with Salima:

I like that. I like that a lot.

TR:

Those sparkles, are the visual representation of where that access originated.
Shout out to Alice Wong, Mia Mingus and Sandy Ho. They have the term or the hashtag to be exact; #AccessIsLove.
Where accessibility is understood as an act of love.

You can’t mandate love!

I want to send much love out to all my wonderful guest:
My friend and colleague the Amazing Access Artist Cheryl Green.

Cheryl:
My website is whoamitostopit.com
I have a media access page. On that page, there’s a link to a Google form where people can tell me about their project and tell me what they’re looking for for access.
And that’s whoamItostopit.com/media-accessibility.

On Twitter and Facebook I’m at @whoamItostopit

WhoAmIToStopIt is actually the name of a documentary film that I made. It became my big film and I’ve only made a few very small films since then.
So I kindI moved all of my stuff onto the whoamitostopit website instead of maintaining two websites one for this film and one for my business.

TR:
Director of the Access in the Making Lab at Concordia University in Canada, Professor Arseli Dokumaci.

Arseli:
you can go to our website which is AccessInTheMaking all together as one word .ca
All the information is there and our lab members are there and our emails are there so just come on with that and reach out to us. Our doors are open to anyone.

TR:
Multi Sensory Artist, also up in Canada, Salima Panjwani.

Salima:
People can check out my website, which is www.CargoCollective.com/salima.
There’s the audio described videos of the cost of entry as a heartbeat there. And a lot of my other multi sensory work.
Instagram is @PictureSalima

TR:
Thats right you’re all official members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

— Airhorn

TR:

Now don’t get confused by this idea of AD in the lab .
There are some who are thinking they’re experimenting with AD. I’m looking at you Amazon!
You are, but I don’t feel the love.

Let me see if I can frame this in a way that you’ll understand…

— Shift to a synthetic voice saying the following:

You’re starting from a place of how can we save money, how can we reduce human involvement but still be compliant
And I’m not fooled by the okey doke.
That’s where you say it will lead to more AD… don’tcha want that?

TR:

I want my AD like I want my food. Made with love!
The whole experience just feels better.

By the way, I appreciate synthetic speech, it’s what gives me access to my computer and phone.

I just don’t want it on a movie because Jeff Bezos wants to go to space.

Synthetic Speech:

Damn, T! There goes that Amazon sponsorship!

TR:

The AD lab that I’m thinking about is an environment where we can start with love, respect and creativity.

Am I taking this lab idea too far? I’m thinking of how I can apply it to my life in general.
A place for considering new concepts, ideas, free from judgement? A safe space to just try something new…?

For those of you who are new to blindness or any disability, I’m envisioning a safe space for us to confront new thoughts around things like ableism, our human experience
I remember how my early thoughts after disability were mostly about getting back to “normal”.
Wanting my prior life, as if that’s the only way to live. As if the only way to experience the world is visually.

Am I going to far with this lab thing? I’d love to hear what you all think. I’m at ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

Here’s a cool experiment, go on over to ReidMyMind.com for transcripts, links and more.
But make sure you use the right formula;
That’s R to the E I D!
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be. Slick Rick)
Like my last name.

— Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro
Peace!

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