Young Gifted Black & Disabled: Deaf Blind Advocacy

November 9th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

Marc Safman, a Smiling light skinned Black DeafBlind man, with short curly black hair, clean shaven, wearing glasses, grey suit , green dress shirt, tie (bright blue  with smaller yellow and white stripes), white/pink flower Boutonniere.
Marc Safman is a Paralegal who worked in anti-money laundering compliance. He’s considered “sighted” Deaf Blind.
Today he joins the podcast to discuss some of the various access challenges he and many others face in employment, social and advocacy circles. Plus, what’s up with the continuous examination of Helen Keller?

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Transcript

Show the transcript


Music begins: A melodic, slightly distorted whistling flute… the melody loops lowering in pitch…

R: 00:02
Greetings Reid my Mind Radio family.

If this is your first time here, allow me to welcome you. My name is Thomas Reid. I’m the host and producer of this here podcast. We’re in the final half of what is our last season of 2022.

We call it Young , Gifted, Black and Disabled.

Music continues: … opening into a mid-tempo groove supporting the melodic flute.

By coincidence, my guest today, like our prior guests, Haben Girma is also deafBlind. As we know, disability falls on a spectrum and is experienced differently by each individual.

Hearing two different Black deafBlind experiences. Well, that’s just going to add more dimension to the conversation. Keep that in mind as we get into it. Let’s get it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Intro theme music

Marc: 01:03
well, my name is Marc Safman. I’m a light skinned Black man with black, gray at the temple hair, and I typically wear my glasses, but I’m not wearing glasses, and a blue t shirt. Got a blue background behind me. I’m considered sighted deafBlind.

TR: 01:20
at 16 years old Marc underwent acoustic neuroma brain surgery. In addition to auditory processing challenges, the surgery left him deaf in his right ear, he began experiencing progressive vision loss about 10 years later, and is now legally blind.

Marc: 01:34
I’m kind of like, okay, I’ve just got to find ways to do that. And enjoy what I’m looking at in the world, what I’m hearing in the world are people who take the time to give me the time to take my phone out.

TR: 01:47
Marc uses Google transcribe the speech to text that enables him to understand exactly what a person is saying. With magnification. He’s even been able to function using pen and paper to interact with others. Yet, as you can imagine, there are some real challenges

Marc: 02:02
a lot of the issues about my disability was kind of like, well, you know, you get older, and you really understand yourself a little bit more. You understand how your disabilities were impacting you, you understand the solution. And then you see the problems that I face; staying employed, interviewing, just trying to socialize with people where you really can’t hear, or you really can’t see someone looking to make eye contact with you.

TR: 02:27
We’ll see just how that difficulty socializing impacts all aspects of a person’s life. marc’s either an optimist or he just has a good sense of humor, to note the benefits?

Marc: 02:38
Some people try to engage me with the point of mugging me. And I’m kinda like “sorry did you say something?” They say something snippet, I’m saying “I’m sorry I don’t hear very well so I have a hard time understanding what you’re saying. “And they walk away.

Audio from “Running Scared”
Mugger: Give me your money.
Potential Victim: “What?”
Mugger: You heard me…

TR in conversation with Marc: : 02:52

(TR & Marc Laughing)

that’s a good defense.

TR: 02:57
In addition to what I’m gonna call the ableist muggers, sometimes those who walk away are potential employers, being deaf can make interviewing a real challenge, especially when the interviews consist of multiple people asking questions, Marcs access accommodation doesn’t always suit potential employers,

Marc: 03:17
I’m a Paralegal and I work in anti-money laundering compliance, Thomas, so I deal with people in financial services typically don’t like to write things down. There’s nothing you can do. And I feel like also I had interviews where, I would have to name them, the National Bank of Pakistan, these kind gentleman took turns sitting next to me, talking in my ear, and writing things out very patiently. Not one of them had a problem. People who make the accommodations, they’ll go out of their way to try and help you while you’re on a job. The people I used to work with were some of the most excellent people on the planet. The technology was not as developed back in 2006 2010. They would all routinely just talk or write things out for me.

Music begins: A piano melody with jazzy horns leads into a melancholy groove.

TR: 04:04
Sure, we all can appreciate those who just seem to automatically get it. They may not know the right thing to say or do but they connect on pure humanity. They’re open to communication and want to succeed with others.

Marc: 04:19
You will learn on the job that there are no laws protecting disabled people, employers, they frequently have a mandatory arbitration clause. Everyone knows that it’s a very formal. You have to go through the EEOC and typically the EEOC will probably reject your case and tell you to go file a lawsuit. And that is very long, lengthy process. New York City Human Rights Commission from my experience has not been very helpful. They have declined to prosecute multiple situations. They have rejected what they consider one off situations. I submitted the same freaking complaint with so many different companies trying to access CART, or the real time captioning open captions at events for various professional or cultural events.

TR: 05:07
CART, or the human generated real time captioning is a must for Marc and others at networking events, conferences, community forums. They can feature multiple speakers often slide deck presentations or references to other visuals. Therefore, context is very important to truly understand what’s being transcribed. It’s not accessible through an apple auto generated captions. Marc says there’s no real help and even convincing organizations that they are indeed supposed to provide this access

Marc: 05:36
The Mayor’s Office on Disabilities here in New York City has one of these useless programs where they will contact an organization and say the accommodations are the law. But if that organization just says, Hey, no, we’re not going to do it. MOPD turns around and says, Well, now you can file a complaint. I have filed complaints and they take multiple years to resolve with simple CART text to speech complaint.

TR: 06:01
Even when he’s been invited to attend specific functions and asks for the accommodations CART is not provided. There are loopholes that basically allow organizers to put the responsibility on others like the event venue, who end up ultimately pointing the finger back at the organizer. Meanwhile, Marc not only request CART Services, he’s prepared with the names and contact information for providers,

Marc: 06:28
all you need to do is contact the vendor. I don’t care if your host doesn’t know what they’re doing. That’s not your host’s obligation. All these organizations will punt, and the law’s so vague, the Division of Human Rights Law hopefully clarify that. I’m not settling out of court with these folks

TR: 06:44
doing so wouldn’t benefit the community.

Music fades out.

TR: 06:51
Marc has enough usable vision where he can often read with the help of magnification. He knows basic Braille and advocates for its wider availability, and points out where once again, the deafblind community is being left behind.

Marc: 07:04
Blind groups have prioritized ballot Marcing machines, or having accessible ballot through screen readers. And screen readers are totally unhelpful if you’re deafBlind.

Synthetic Voice: ” Synthesized speech won’t help someone who is deafBlind!

the blind community that I’ve encountered here in New York has been very reluctant to embrace Braille ballots. I’ve been pulled directly by other advocates that they feel that requesting a Braille ballot would be a negative experience for someone. I don’t see how there would be a pejorative guilt trip or make anyone feel like they’re being singled out. Braille is critical. Braille ballots are critical.

TR: 07:46
While Braille isn’t considered a technology solution, there is a technical component with electronic braille displays, which makes CART also accessible to Braille readers. As we know the true barriers for those with disabilities are human made. Consider the mobility challenges for those who are deafBlind. Yet the CO navigator or support service provider is a program that can greatly impact the community.

Marc: 08:11
There’s a strong preference for Co-Navigator, as the term.

Co-navigator helps the deafblind individual with mobility, running errands, helping the person conducting transactions, shopping or whatever

TR: 08:25
sounds like the benefits could even extend to help reduce some of the challenges like employment, community involvement, and social isolation.

Music begins: A slow, driving haunting groove

Marc: 08:34
It is incredibly offensive that We have a governor and a state legislator that basically doesn’t care. Hearing professionals, nonprofit groups are well aware of the importance of the CO navigator program, they have done absolutely nothing. The National Association of the Deaf has done nothing. ESOD here in New York, their state affiliate, they do nothing ACB, NFB, nothing!

TR: 08:57
I have to say I haven’t verified this.

However, I do know that during my own time spent a bit more involved with blindness organizations. I can’t recall much in the way of advocacy for deafBlind specific issues.

In all fairness, Marc did include the AFB in what I believe is, a call for action.

Marc: 09:18
If they did something well, it’s like, I think we would have a program already.

TR in Conversation with Marc: 09:21
if the blindness organizations and the other organization was to get involved. What exactly is the involvement that’s necessary? We’re talking about more folks advocating for it? Or is there something very specific that they’re not doing that they could do?

Marc: 09:38
Helen Keller National Center cannot advocate because of their federal funding.

TR in Conversation with Marc: 09:42
Okay.

TR:
I think he’s looking for advocacy. And maybe that’s not actually a lot to expect from advocacy organizations, especially considering what happens when many in the deafblind community try to participate in community or political events.

Marc: 09:57
You really have a hard time participating when you can’t get the electeds to make accommodations at their events, they don’t care. There’s a fear of disabled people still, and it’s deep. And it’s one of the reasons why, even within the progressive political community, people won’t touch it. Because they don’t think that there’s votes in the disabled community.

Music ends as if highlighting the next statement.

And they don’t realize the voting bloc power that is growing.

TR: 10:24
that block can be really effective, especially with solidarity, disability, solidarity, that means recognizing that you and your specific disability doesn’t truly win. Unless we all win. Along with recognizing other disabilities. That also means the multiple intersections that we bring, so called race, gender, sexual orientation, etc., etc. With this in mind, I asked Marc, a very specific question around representation.
TR in Conversation with Marc: 10:44

any conversation amongst the deafblind community about Helen Keller, in terms of representation in the media? If there’s anything about deafBlindness, it’s always Helen Keller, and I’m just wondering, do you have any thoughts about that? Is there any sort of discussion about that any feelings?

Marc: 11:10
Some people have concerns about she was from an upper middle class, Southern aristocratic family. However, it does have ties to the Confederacy, I understand that she would have to be from a very well off family in order to have a private tutor. She’s elevated for commodification. It overlooks the fact that Helen Keller was a radical, and very much advocate of workers’ rights, women’s rights. She was not a weak woman. She was a pretty strong willed individual who spoke her mind very clearly. And pissed off a lot of people,

TR: 11:43
the way Helen Keller story is told, often doesn’t present the nuance within her own life. More importantly, that simplification allows us to not consider others who are deafBlind people who are deafBlind.

Marc: 11:54
People just want to latch on and commodify things and oversimplify things so that they don’t have to think.

When people say their disability diversity consultants, they simply don’t actually understand the accommodation, or the needs or interests or concerns of the community, they just talk about these very vague solutions. They do these LinkedIn hashtag strategies, that really doesn’t help inclusion. you’re playing along with a narrative that’s controlled by neoliberal elites, not people. It’s only through challenging the elites, and demanding on meaningful laws, programs and services that respect individuals for their humanity.

CO-navigator services, providing Braille ballots, Braille literacy, eliminating tokenism.

Why don’t we have accommodation Jobs Centers that the government could just basically simplify this for all business efficiency. We have the solutions, you have no excuses for denying opportunities to people just because they need accommodation.

TR: 12:59
As a society, we seem to be okay with accommodations that are easiest for us. And too often the undue burden is put on the disabled person. It’s like we fail to see the value of accessibility,

Marc: 13:12
that allows people to live an independent life without having to rely on family and friends.

Music begins: An upbeat, feel good, inspiring horn melody opens to a fun and cool Hip Hop beat.

TR: 13:21
I’m always reminded that an independent life should be dictated by the individual, what constitutes an independent life, for me, may be quite different for you. And that’s fine. Similarly, this individual approach applies to access.

Marc: 13:37
So even if you have a solution, the solution still needs to be tailored to the individual. And that is the tricky part.

As Andrew Cuomo demonstrated, in his covered briefings when he was refusing to provide in frame ASL, he can’t just assume that just because someone’s deafBlind, doesn’t mean they’re the same type of deafBlind. I don’t need pro tactile. You providing pro tactile interpretation, it’s not going to help me. The CART solution is not going to help another deafBlind individual. So you can’t say, Well, I provided ASL.

Music continues…

TR in Conversation with Marc: 14:12
Tell me a little bit about what you like to do when you’re not doing all of the advocacy.

Marc: 14:19
Well, I like art. I take a lot of photos because, well, it helps me see things. You’ll end up taking like a lot of photos. I don’t necessarily see what I’m looking at until you look at the photos.

I like going to opera, sporting events. I love baseball, hockey, soccer. Well I’m not tall and I’m not a big guy, so I’ve never went out for football and I’ve never tried basketball.

TR in conversation with Marc: 14:38
You used to play baseball?

Marc: 14:41
Oh, yeah.
I used to play shortstop, third base. I’ve been on the all-star team a few years.

TR: 14:45
That’s sort of how I like to think of my guests, all stars, or as I tell them all here on the podcast; official!

That’s right Marc, you’re an official…

— Airhorn

… member of the Reid my Mind Radio family Brother.

If you want to reach out and connect with Marc, you can find him on LinkedIn.

Marc: 15:03
That’s probably the best way to reach me. My name Marc saffman,
(spelled out) M A R C, S like Sam, A like apple, F like Frank, M A N.
TR: 15:15
I met Marc on Twitter. I can tell he’s a persistent guy, just by the way he followed up with me.

He continues to contact and schedule meetings with elected officials from local to federal. He shows up for council meetings and continues to request access. He follows up when the access isn’t granted.

He’s an advocate.

And as we know, there’s all types of ways to advocate and inform…

In fact, I’ll ask you to advocate for this hear podcast. All you need to do is to tell a friend to tell a friend that they can find Reid My Mind Radio wherever they get podcasts.

Transcripts and more are at ReidMyMind.com.

And as all good advocates know,
That’s R, to the E, I,… D!

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

TR:
Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

TR:
Peace

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

October 26th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

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.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

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.

Haben:
Is it okay, if I ask you questions?

TR in Conversation with Haben:
Absolutely.

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.

TR:
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.

TR:
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.

Haben:
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!”

TR:
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
Giggles!

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
Asshole!

Concise, right?

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

TR:
(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?

Haben:
Yes.

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…

Haben:
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.

TR:
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 ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.
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 ReidMyMind.com.

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
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Young Gifted Black & Disabled: Justice for All

October 12th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

On a Light grey and blue abstract background is a picture of Justice Shorter. a smiling African American woman with dark sunglasses, wearing a black jacket with a lilac blouse and hoop earrings.  Text above her headshot reads, "Reid my mind radio" with a small logo of lady justice followed by the episode's title: "Young, Gifted, Black, and Disable Justice for All"
This final season of Reid My Mind Radio 2022 is once again focusing on #YGBD – Young Gifted Black & Disabled. Ever since producing the episode in 2020 under that same name with Ajani AJ Murray, I wanted to make it a seasonal theme.

This opening episode was inspired by my dive into the speculative fiction of Octavia Butler along with real concerns around environmental, social and political upheaval. I wondered how these things could impact the disability community specifically.

I reached out to Justice Shorter; a Disability Justice advocate and Black Disabled Lives Matter amplifier. She is a national expert on disability inclusive disaster protections, emergency management and humanitarian crises/conflicts. And she’s just pretty dope and just someone who we all should be aware of.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

Music begins – A bouncy synth opens a driving Hip Hop beat.

TR:

[megaphone sound effect]

Greetings Reid My Mind Radio family. Welcome back! to the first episode in this final season of 2022. I’m talking about Young, Gifted, Black…

[in the background]

say the word

[yells]

And disabled!

If you don’t know it all began with an episode I produced in 2020 with my man, brother, Ajani AJ Murray. If you haven’t listened to that original episode, I strongly suggest that you do.

I like to begin the episode with some sort of an intro, you know, an update, a skit, a few words loosely tied to the episode or its theme. Well, today’s guest has so much greatness to share that I want to honor that and leave most of this episode to her and the topic at hand. But here, we always kick things off with the drum.

Reid My Mind Radio Intro Music

A collage of different crisis from news reports: 01:07
“We have stormed the Capitol!” A rioter yells!

“To Washington and the high stakes hearings on the January 6 attack on the Capitol.” – News anchor.

“A rally organized to protest COVID restrictions, with members of the state’s militia groups openly taking part” – News Reporter.

“Longer fire seasons, stronger hurricanes, more intense heat waves and floods. Across the world climate events are getting more extreme” – News anchor

“If it feels to you like there are more weather related natural disasters. That’s not just a feeling.” – News reporter

TR:
All of these things are taking place around us today and are increasing in occurrence. And my recent dive into the speculative fiction of Octavia Butler, and it really got me thinking how prepared are we people with disabilities for major disaster? Then I recall meeting someone on Clubhouse who can really speak to this in a way that truly takes this all into account.

— Music begins, Triumphant horns blow as a symbol crescendos into a mid tempo Hip Hop beat lead by a driving kick drum.

Justice Shorter

Justice:

I am a black blind lesbian woman. I hail from the Midwest Region born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, but I currently reside in Washington DC.

I am the granddaughter of Leola Daniels Carter and Fanny Jahari. I’m the daughter of Lily Mae Carter and Michael Demetrius Shorter. It’s always top of mind for me to link and give honor to the lineages in terms of the work that I do, the spaces that we occupy.

I describe myself as a curator, as a creative, a coordinator of sorts. I am a disability justice advocate a Black Disabled Lives matter amplifier, a international trainer and speaker.

I do a lot of work that heavily focuses on disaster, justice, disability justice, racial justice, gender justice work, because they are inextricably linked, you cannot have one without having the other.

A lot of my work kind of centers around those primary issues. Iadjusted and adapted as I continue learning and growing and evolving because quite frankly, there is no other way for me to move and maneuver in this world.

TR:
A part of that learning, growing, evolving is in regards to her blindness. This began with glaucoma around the age of five or six.

Justice:

That actually first started out with a retinal detachment which took all of the vision in my right eye. Then glaucoma slowly started to take the vision and my left eye. From very early ages, it has informed my life. So it would be categorized as a developmental disability for sure. Given how it has informed my developmental years, my early developing years.

My relationship to disability, though, is one that has come with the progression of time as well. I have always been deeply steeped in my blackness. But coming into a closeness and intimacy with disability has been something that has happened over time.

TR:
I’m sure there are a lot of people with intersecting identities who are adjusting to disability that can relate.

BIPOC, or a ter that better encapsulates this group, people of the global majority, who may have spent years learning how to deal with overt racism, microaggressions and all sorts of injustice, while trying to develop a strong and positive self identity. Only to have to now be faced with internal and external ableism.

Justice:
It wasn’t until I started to delve more deeply into the work of quite frankly, people of color with disabilities, that I started to see myself more clearly and I started to smile and rejoice of what that was reflected back to me.

To see yourself mirrored and the experiences of other people who have similar journeys as you do, really helps you to getting a better understanding of how you can position yourself in this community and in this space.

So it wasn’t until I started reading folks like Mia Mingus, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Patty Burns, Stacy Park Milburn folks who, again, are luminaries in the space of Disability Justice articulators and architects of what we now know as disability justice. That I was really able to grab hold to it in a way that was so deeply personal, and that encompassed such a profound sense of pride.

TR:
We’re talking about the power of people and our stories, enabling us to fully see ourselves and explore all of those things that make up who we are.

Justice:
I had already realized quite early on that standing in my truth was a means of survival. It was a means of me utilizing my own story, as opposed to having others use it for themselves. What does my story mean, not only to myself, but other young women like me, other Black lives, LGBTQIA, folks just like myself, other people of color, like myself with disabilities, it wasn’t until I started to think about that a bit more that I was far more inclined to start working on disability as an area of practice.

TR:
Part of that process can literally require finding the right location, a place that presents opportunities for justice, and then moving to Washington, DC.

Justice
I came out to DC, the doors kept opening and they were all related to disability. There were a lot of internships and practicum opportunities and all of that stuff. And all of them were like disability oriented opportunities. And I’m like, well, here we go, I’m not gonna turn down this internship I’ve been dreaming up or this post grad school job that I’ve been dreaming of, because it’s in the disability space, and I didn’t want to be held in a box. I was very scared for quite some time that disability would cage me. I say that with purpose. I say that with intention. So many of us are caged because of our disability.

TR:
Cages are more than physical, a boundary that limits our movement. Well, that can be in our thinking about our lives and possibility.

Justice:

Considering how many people of color, how many black people are imprisoned in this country, and how many of them have some sort of disability, mental health consideration, or access or functional issues.

I think about trying to do this work in the different layers of discrimination that happens when you say that you have a disability and you’re trying to find a job, I did not want to be pushed aside, I did not want to be pushed out of the different sectors that I wanted to pursue professionally. The opposite happened. The very thing that you think will cage you can sometimes be the thing that frees you. It became the thing that allowed me to see myself more clearly, allowed me to grow wings, in a sense of flying in all of these different directions and with all of these other phenomenal people who are also doing dope stuff being completely embodied in their truth, and that should just excited me to know him.

TR:
When I first began making audio even before this podcast, I thought about working in radio and reading mainstream stories. I recall thinking,

[faintly]

I’m more than just disability.

[back to normal speech]

When I hear Justice say…

Justice
The very thing that you think will cage you can sometimes be the thing that frees you.

TR:
… Learning more about disability culture and challenging my own ableism has brought me to a place where I realized the opportunity and value in telling stories from a disability lens. In no way am I settling for something less rather, I’m fully aware of his greatness and possibility.

Justice:

A lot of folks have distanced themselves from the word disability as a means of survival. That history is the interlocking ways that people have been discriminated against all of those forms of compounded discrimination has caused many folks to distance themselves, whether it be locking you out of the school systems, locking you out of the employment system, locking you out of the type of medical care that you need, locking you out of the type of housing that you need, actually locking you into nursing homes, psychiatric facilities, group homes, settings that you don’t wish to be in. People with disabilities have an acute awareness of these things. It has caused folks to quite honestly try to be very fearful about the proximity of disability, kind of getting too close to that word, or getting too close to those issues. That should not be the reality that we all live in.

TR:
You know this isn’t about the word disabled, right? Many prefer to use terms like “special needs” or “differently abled,” but that doesn’t change the impact of systemic ableism.

Justice:
And that is why it’s so deeply important that we change those structural inequities that people have to deal with on a day to day basis, so that people can, people of color with disabilities, young and old, of any age range, any type of disability can hear that word and understand that it is inseparable with freedom. It is inseparable from joy. It is inseparable from laughter, and levity and friendship and fellowship, all of the things that allows your soul to breathe. That’s kind of what I try to center my work on as much as I can.

TR:
Building bridges for us. Our wellbeing physical, emotional, spiritual. We’re talking about our safety and you know, that goes beyond natural threats.

Justice10:00
There’s also human-caused crises that we have to contend with: the Flint water crisis, things that are happening with the nuclear power plants, factories that pollute water, you think about environmental injustice, which also, of course leads you to the Environmental Justice Movement, which was founded by people of color. A lot of times that history gets pushed aside or buried, when we talk about environmental justice.

TR: 10:24
Whether man made or natural, these threats to our safety don’t always just spring up on us.

Justice10:30
Dealing with structural violence on a day to day basis. Also, it creates what people in the social work and psychology world call the sandpaper versus baseball effects. The baseball effect is when something hits you over the head, it’s kind of very hard. It’s a hard hitting issue that evokes this trauma. But then there’s also the sandpaper effect, which is trauma that things that grate on you over time, it kind of wears you down wears on you over time, things like poverty, not being fully represented, not only in terms of your politics, but also in terms of these social environments that you navigate within things like medicalized ableism. And discrimination, all of these things wear on you, over time, all of these things are structurally violent, it is the difference between your potential reality and your actual conditions.

TR:
Too often individuals are held up as an example to model “he overcame the poverty,” “she broke through the glass ceiling.” Whether we’re talking about racism, sexism, ableism, we hear it all the time, “she was able to do it, why can’t the rest of you?” But focusing on individuals does nothing to address the systemic problem.

Justice:

We as people of color with disabilities, we have the potential certainly to pursue whatever aspirations that we want to pursue in terms of professional or academic or spiritual. And yet, so many of us are kept out of those areas of those sectors for all sorts of reasons, but many of them tie back to racism, ableism, sexism, ageism, so on and so forth. All of those things are structurally violent, because it keeps you from living the life that you could live.

Toni Morrison tells us that racism itself is just a distraction. It keeps you from living the life that you truly wish to live. It keeps you from doing the things that you truly wish to do, because you are in a perpetual space of having to explain your very existence to people who quite frankly, may or may not even give a damn at the end of the day.

TR: 12:31
That’s fighting for employment that enables you to earn a living wage in order to afford housing where you don’t have to worry about your children getting lead poisoning, or access to good schools or even clean drinking water. And then there’s something we really need to consider in regards to the often suggested advice around disaster preparedness.

Justice 12:50
So many individuals who are impacted by disaster or who live in disaster prone areas are told to simply prepare, to pack up as much stuff as you can pack up, hoard as much stuff as you can hoard. Have you a to-go bag that’s filled with all of these things that you can afford to put in it. But if you cannot afford these things during times that are not embodied by crisis, then you certainly can’t afford them enough to stock up on them prior to a crisis. Are we sculpting solutions and recommendations based on the conditions that only a select few can meet? Or are we creating solutions and ideologies, remedies and practices that are going to be applicable for the people who need them the most.

TR: 13:36
As Justice simply put it, preparation comes with privilege. If you do have that privilege, by all means, consider checking out various suggestions on what to include in an emergency to go kit. Ready.gov has a number of suggestions. As people with disabilities you also want to consider your access needs like white or mobility canes, assistive technology, and other technology that may be required for you to gather information or communicate with others. However, it’s important to note that the onus shouldn’t always be placed on the individual.

Justice:
It’s kind of the wave in the finger in the face response.” Why didn’t you prepare better, we can’t always save everybody!”
People deserve to survive irrespective of what their class status is. My thinking around this has shifted. I go more towards how are we building community and connection. Whereas I may only be able to buy a flashlight, my neighbor up the street may be able to buy a couple of extra cases of water. My other neighbor down the road may have a generator. My other neighbor down the street may have a couple of more cans of food. Can we create community in this way? Disability Justice teaches us that we are each other’s survival strategy.

Music begins – a smooth slow jazzy Hip Hop groove.

TR: 14:46
This feels like the antithesis of our society’s norm contrary to the idea of independent making sure you have your own solely relying on yourself. This is interdependence. We spoken about this here before and up approach that encourages collaborative work.

Justice 15:02
coming back to center around community, how can we help each other survive? What I can’t carry, maybe you can. What you can’t do, maybe I can? How can we support each other?

TR: 15:14
Another term for this way of acting and thinking is mutual aid.

Justice 15:18
It’s looking at this in a way that says, even if you cannot contribute in these ways that kind of meet other material needs, your life is still worth saving.

How can we support in that way? That could be any of us at any time, that is also a means of planning for the future. I don’t have this disability today, I may have it in two months, or if something hits me in a certain way, I could have that mobility disability.

So us planning around how we’re going to support these folks in our community, now, it’s important for all of our collective survival.

TR:
Perhaps this goes beyond the physical.

Justice:
Cole Arthur Reilly, who has this wonderful book called This Year Flesh. In that book, Cole says, What if God did not just want to use you? What if he also wanted to be with you? I think about that, in terms of people having inherent worth and recognizing wholeness, which is one of those disability justice principles. We recognize the wholeness of people, we understand that there doesn’t have to be a utility. In order for people to survive catastrophe. We could just inherently care about the presence and the value of each other as people. And that could be enough to make us think about preparedness in a more expansive way. That recognizes that all of us deserve the opportunity to survive.

TR: 16:31
With that said, what exactly are some examples of mutual aid that exists today?

Justice 16:36
Mask Oakland, because they have done extraordinary work to help protect people with disabilities during wildfire seasons by making sure that people had masks to help themselves to breathe during the wildfires of California. These are people with disabilities helping other people with disabilities by supplying them with masks.

They also had a very targeted approach in terms of helping people who were houseless because they were the folks who were the most exposed. People who can go indoors and shut the windows and use central air units to stay cool and protect themselves from the air.

TR: 17:06
How often do we hear the narrative of people with disabilities as recipients of aid? Rarely do we hear of us as providers, especially when it goes beyond the disability community. But check out who stepped up when the pandemic hit and the rush on masks resulted in a shortage.

Justice 17:23
Oakland had masks that they were trying to distribute at the very least when supplies were running low.

Providing people with information on what types of masks to get and what type of masks did what, and making sure that people were willing to know. So that informational awareness was key.

This is also something that a lot of folks are doing online, in terms of telling people different ways to stay safe. And all of these different COVID protocols, people sharing knowledge on how to save themselves.

This is also happening in kind of non-crisis wave people with disabilities creating hashtags and creating websites around disability at home. What are some of the hacks that people are making? I think that’s actually the site’s name, “disability at home.”

TR: 18:00
Disabilityathome dot ORG, a catalog, if you will, of ideas and inexpensive hacks that enable people to create low cost solutions for mobility aids In Home Solutions for creating safe, accessible spaces in bathrooms, and for completing daily chores at home. As Justice noted, the same things that keep you safe on a daily basis are needed during disasters. So providing information is a component of disaster justice, to activism and advocacy, a real and important function that just so happens to be accessible for those with disabilities.

Justice 18:36
Sometimes when we talk about activism, we try to only act as if that can happen in ways that are very physical, being in the street, going up against police officers going out there and directly helping someone evacuate carrying them on your back out of the flaming building, right?

When we think about that, as forms of support, or activism, or things that would kind of constitute this framing around who is a responder or who is someone we can call in a crisis related event. But there is also a ton of work that’s happening in virtual spaces and online. And that’s really key, especially for many of us who can’t physically go out and beat the streets by way of protesting or going door to door to advocate for the things that people need.

TR: 19:24
We’re talking about all sorts of things here from crises like that in Flint, Michigan, or Jackson, Mississippi, that deprive people of clean drinking water, health care, access to physical and online spaces. A lot of that’s happening through hashtags, some of these online Twitter spaces and Facebook groups.

Justice 19:43
This is important because that’s how knowledge is passed. So many of us are learning through the lessons of others and through the lives of others. And when you share that information, it positions people with disabilities as experts of their own narratives, but also of their own survival. And I think that’s really important.

TR: 20:01
When talking about survival, Justice stresses that it goes beyond the high profile weather events.

Justice 20:07
What you might not consider to be a crisis, I would! The fact that there are people who might be doing construction in your building, and they don’t tell the blind folks what’s happening, it’s not a crisis for anybody else moving around that building, except if I hit that ladder.

People with disabilities have additional considerations that we’re thinking about on a day to day basis, it may not be a crisis as someone else, oh, I just have a scratch. But for me, it could take me out for days, or it could take me out for much longer than that. I think about that and I affirm those experiences for people.

TR: 20:37
Okay, now check out this example of mutual aid, Justice knows neighbors, and they know her. Even more than that, they look out for one another. So when Justice isn’t around, a neighbor will say something to a construction worker, like…

Justice 20:50

“You cannot leave that ladder here, you can, you cannot leave all of these tools in the middle of the floor because the cane may not catch it.”

TR: 20:58
Then I think it’s solely about themselves, but rather, each other, community, like a time a man with a knife tried to enter the building.

Justice21:06
The neighbors came together and supported one another and they made sure he did not get in here.

I had another neighbor who was locked outside of our building, the door knob literally came off, so we couldn’t get out. And he could not get in. What was my solution? My first solution was not to call the police because all of us were black. Two of them were black men. And there’s some additional considerations that you have to take into account in that way. The first thing that I thought of though was to go grab this neighbor of the black men, he came down, he literally undid all of the joints to get that thing undone so that we could all get out of the building. And so this guy could get in.

TR: 21:39
Together, they took action that would prevent such a crisis in the future.

Justice 21:43
We advocated that a new door be put on to the building, we advocated that the construction crew close the windows at night, so that different people didn’t have access into the building, which created another safety concern.

TR: 21:54
The lesson here, any conversation about disaster preparedness must be about advocacy.

Justice 21:59
I encourage you to start talking to the people around you making community with the people around you. I encourage you to start looking around you and assessing kind of what are the things that you can do if you are spending your time at a workplace and eight hours out of your life, every single day, Monday through Friday. And then okay, I think we need an evacuation chair, where is it because how am I going to get out and it’s not just acceptable that everybody else can leave except me. That’s not cool. I’m not okay that that is our plan, or that our plan is this only one person knows how to use the evacuation chair, and nobody else knows how to use it. So if Rob is not at work today, then it’s just too bad for me if a crisis happens on that day,

TR: 22:36
Justice recommends thinking about all of the places you spend time, community centers, public parks and malls for all sorts of crises. In 2022, the reality includes acts of insurrection homegrown terrorism, thinking about mass shootings, do you have an escape route, or no have a way to shelter in place? These are just some of the questions we should be asking ourselves.

Justice 22:58
How can we use things like vocational rehabilitation services, assistive technology organizations that say, Hey, I think I need this piece of assistive tech because it’s going to help me in a crisis. I’m going to use it for dual purposes. I’m going to use it on my day to day but it’s certainly going to be useful as something to support me during a crisis as well.

TR: 23:14
How does geography play into preparation? Specifically, I’m thinking about those living in rural environments far from their nearest neighbor.

Justice 23:22

I think sometimes that gives you the illusion that there’s no community because people aren’t close. And that’s an untruth. Many of them have way more survival techniques that any of us would even understand because they have had to live on their own. And because they haven’t had easy access to just go down the street and get to someone.

Listen, when the cold snap happened down in Mississippi, it was 2020 or 2021. All the years are running together. When the cold snap came into those areas. A lot of black folks who lived in very rural areas mentioned how “Listen, we didn’t have any running water,” “our generator started to go out,” “there was no one around us for miles, we had to figure out how we were going to get from point A to point B.”

What ended up happening, you still have people who ended up driving in, you still had people who ended up starting to bring people over to their homes so that they can have baths. You had people who were doing carpools that make sure that people had access to food and water. People showed up for one another.

TR: 24:19
Of course, this doesn’t apply to everyone. Justice encourages organizations to really think about this, especially when making new purchases.

Justice 24:27
If we’re getting new vans, if we’re getting new buses, are they wheelchair accessible? Those very same church buses, vans, these things are also becoming evacuation vehicles in a crisis. Are they equipped with a wheelchair lift? If they not, we have a problem. We’re not planning for everybody. You’re saying that everybody else can get on this bus that we have repurposed to be you know, an evacuation, but we’re gonna go up this road and we’re gonna get everybody who want to come. Wonderful. What if I want to come and I can’t because there’s no way for me to get on this bus with my power chair. You can’t just put me on there and then I have no means of moving around once I get to my location.

TR in Conversation with Justice: 25:03

Yeah, absolutely.

Justice 25:05

When I first started to lose my sight, and I started taking courses that were related to activities of daily living, my instructor was also a blind woman. And she said that the difference between a problem and a crisis is time.

TR: 25:14
Remember that situation where the door to Justice’s building couldn’t open. That was a problem. But when you add fire and smoke, it becomes a crisis, the tenants working together that makes that building a community. Churches, social organizations, and even chapters of consumer organizations are all opportunities for mutual aid organizing.

Justice 25:35
I would also beg the leadership of those entities to consider how they are thinking of their whole community, how they’re thinking of people with disabilities, because like I said, we will make investments in certain things. But are those things accessible from the onset? Is it something that we have to complain about or somebody gets hurt or somebody gets left out, then we start to consider it. “Oh, wow, we had to leave Miss Jenkins at home, hope she’s okay when the waters was rising, because nobody had a vehicle that could get her out.” But this is our community, we love it. But yet we didn’t plan for Miss Jenkins.

TR: 26:06
For those who may think they don’t have any access to community, that online access can prove to be helpful in various ways.

Justice 26:13
Even by listening to a podcast like this is cultivating a connection with different streams of thought from other people. That also helps to decrease isolation, and also helps you kind of just learn different patterns and different practices that might be helpful for you.

I could get on these types of platforms and talk from sunup to sundown, and I still wouldn’t be able to give you a fraction of all that goes into doing disaster justice and Disability Justice work.

What we could do is build together and create a relationship so that we can stretch out as much as we can in terms of helping people to understand what will be the most useful for them. What is necessary for me as a blind woman is not going to be the same for somebody with a different type of mobility disability, we have to individualize our responses a bit more, as opposed to just saying people with disabilities need to do a better job of packing a bag and going.

TR: 27:08
This episode began with the idea of becoming more prepared in the event of an emergency, it evolved into a broader understanding of a more holistic approach to mitigating disasters. That is disaster justice.

Justice 27:21
Thinking about all of the different ways that people are impacted by disasters across a disaster cycle. So it’s not just during response, but it’s also during the preparedness stage. It is during the mitigation phase, it is during response, during recovery. It’s long term recovery. Recovery does not end when the cameras school, when

Are we thinking about this in terms of people who are the most directly impacted, also having lines of impact in terms of decision making authorities? Or do we only ask the people who are the most impacted? What are their thoughts in kind of a town hall setting and then we go back into our private conference rooms and people who don’t live in these areas make all the decisions, or people who live in these areas, but don’t necessarily represent the priorities that the people have go forth and make those decisions. Are people of color with disabilities being disproportionately impacted by such decisions?

I encourage folks to read the work of Alessandra Jerolleman who has a wonderful text out there about disasters through the lens of justice. She has kind of these four principles around what constitutes a just recovery. But you can apply that to nearly every phase of a disaster cycle, and really gain some in depth understanding. So what it means to do this work in a way that is far more equitable, but also far more effective in terms of centering the groups on the ground, who are directly impacted by these crises on a day to day.

Music begins – a synth and sounds of nature that opens into an uplifting Hip Hop groove.

TR: 28:48
Examining disaster through a justice centered lens requires an understanding of disability justice. Unfortunately, I see it used as a broad term that disregards his origin. Disability Justice is specific to the 10 principles articulated by Patty Burns and Sins Invalid. I’ll link to these principles on this episode’s blog post at ReidMyMind.com and encourage you all to read further.

Among the various resources Justice shared with us today, I’d like to make sure you point your browser to JusticeShorter.com. Here you can access some of her past speeches, as well as getting in contact with her. These conversations about disaster preparation can be heavy. So I had to find out how justice unwinds and takes care of herself.

Justice 29:29
I’m happy that you brought up this question because I think people need to have their own resilience rituals. And listen, that word resilience has really thrown a lot of people off because people in power tend to use that as a way of not giving people the type of support and material things that they need to meet their critical needs.

Oh, you’re just so resilient. We’re resilient because we have to be it’s out of necessity. It’s because you have refused to direct funding towards this neighborhood. When I talk about resilience rituals, I mean, the things that keep me getting up and going, and don’t get me wrong, there’s some times that you need to stay down, because rest is essential.

I have learned over the years what I need to pour into me in order to get greatness out of me, and that is not something that can be predefined by anybody else except me. I had to learn that because sometimes people will look to their supervisors or look to mentors, what do I need to do? What do I need to do?

TR: 30:25
Sounds like what we’ve been talking about, an extension of the conversation around safety, who really knows more about what’s best for you than you. For Justice it’s about gospel music, walks on her treadmill, family and

Justice30:39
Just hang out with my girlfriend and have a good dinner. We travel, we do all types of dates that are fun and spunky. And you already know, I love reading, there’s always a book that’s queued up for me that I’m excited to get into. Every time I travel to do a speech or to do things that are related to my job, I try to bake in some time for living life and going and exploring that city and seeing what communities of color are doing there. What are they eating? What are they listening to? How are they having a good time? I try to at least embed myself in the city or in the culture just a little bit while I’m gone.

TR: 31:13
This was a true honor to have justice on the podcast. And you all should know there’s only one way to make that clear.

TR in Conversation with Justice:

It’s a very simple way and it’s by letting you know that you, Justice Shorter are an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio family. So I appreciate you.

Justice 31:27
I appreciate you. Thank you so much. It was a joy.

TR: 31:30
There’s so much in this episode. I honestly think this is one to hold on to, refer back to. It’s a resource for real. A resource that will be right here for you. Wherever you get your podcasts.
Remember transcripts and more are at ReidMyMind.com.

And now, in case of an emergency, I need to make sure you know that’s R to the E, I, D!
— Sample: “D! And that’s me in the place to be!” Slick Rick

TR:
Like my last name.
— Reid My Mind Radio Outro

TR:

Peace

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description: La Professora

July 27th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

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

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Resources

Montclair State

Transcript

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?

TR:
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:
Exactly.

TR:
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.”

TR:
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 website@montclair.edu.

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.

TR:
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 ReidMyMind.com 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 ReidMyMind.com. To get there, it’s mandatory that you spell it right. 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.

Music fades out…
Cell phone buzzing and ringing.

iPhone Voice Over:
“Ann Cerfonne”…

TR in conversation…
“What…”
“Hello?”

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

Reid My Mind Radio Outro

Peace.

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Flipping the Script on Audio Description: Fashion Able

July 13th, 2022  / Author: T.Reid

An image of a Yellow and Purple Gradient Daisy Petal.  The text: Fashion "Able" appears in the top petal with "Natalie Trevonne" on the second line. Pictured in the center of the daisy is an image of Natalie, a brown skin African American woman  with an oval face and long black hair sitting stylishly on the floor against a pale-yellow background.  She's wearing a yellow jacket, white camisole, and a jean skirt with a lengthy split which shows her long, lean legs and pale-yellow heels.

As we proceed!

Have you ever considered how much is gleaned by the outfit a person wears and when? The subtle implications of a person’s accessories?

[Natalie Trevonne](https://twitter.com › NatalieTrevonne › status) has and even wrote about it.

In today’s episode we speak with one of the host of the Fashionably Tardy podcast about the lack of fashion descriptions in films and television. Of course, you already know, it’s about more than entertainment. Plus we hear how Natalie’s pursuit of her interest helped her find her way into acting.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

Sample:
As we proceed…

[HipHop beat comes in]

TR:
With this latest season of flipping the script on audio description, we’re adding to the list of responses to the question: “how can we improve AD ?”
Hopefully, those who are in the position of creating AD or AD policy here and accept these critiques as they’re meant to be received. AD is really getting more attention and thought.

I’m seeing signs that perhaps we’re in the early part of moving past the stage where we need to convince broadcasters and other content providers that we’re deserving audience who should be valued.

Well, hopefully moving into more conversations where AD consumers and providers themselves are looking at the quality of the end product. I’m not saying this for us to get comfortable. We have a long way to go. It’s like we were in surgery. And now we’re being moved to the ICU. We still need to be monitored pretty closely. But at least we can start making some plans for the future.

My name is Thomas Reid, and I am not a doctor. I never even play one on TV. In fact, I don’t even know where the stethoscope goes. I am, however, the host and producer of this HERE podcast which by the way, technically means I make house calls. Welcome to Reid My Mind Radio yall. Lets get it.

Natalie01:35
Hi, my name is Natalie Trevonne, and my pronouns are she and her. I am a African American woman with brown skin, short black shoulder length hair with blue gray eyes, and I have on a white sports bra and orange FUBU joggers, bringing it back to the 90s because I’m on my way to rehearsals, dance rehearsals later, I am an actress, a model, a dancer with infinite flow Dance Company, a fashion and beauty accessibility consultant, and co host of the podcast fashionably tardy, and I am the marketing and PR lead for blind Institute of Technology.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 02:19
Tell me a little bit about how you became blind. And again, I’m not looking for your whole medical history?

Natalie02:25
No, you’re good. I was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when I was one. My doctors had said, the inflammation that causes this disease could affect your, your other organs, like your kidneys, your eyes are part of your organs, right. So it was something that we knew could possibly happen. But we just didn’t know when, at 11 years old, I started to develop cataracts and started to see like these thick clouds kind of attaching themselves to my lenses. It was hard for me to read, I ended up getting glasses, got a couple of surgeries, things were good, I could see pretty well.

TR: 03:01
Through her high school years. This was a continuous process: surgery, some vision restored, then more loss.

Natalie: 03:07
I think I just got tired. I could keep going in and out of the hospital. Or I can learn to live with this disability and find some type of joy in the midst of what’s going on. And at least half peace. KI think I’m super blessed because although like my vision is bad, my arthritis isn’t bad. There are days when my bones ache, but for the most part, I’m able to be pretty active without it being an issue

TR: 03:34
With no access to peers or anyone else for that matter experiencing blindness. Natalie focused more on just pushing through, figuring out how to “be blind.” She learned how to use her white cane. She learned her technology and other rehab skills. But it was an opportunity to work at BISM that really made her see blindness differently.

Natalie03:54
BISM, which is Blind industry services in Maryland in Baltimore, Maryland. It just kind of blew my mind, like the amount of independence that we actually could have. Because I didn’t experience that here in California. These students were so advanced compared to what I was taught. Just their level of travel, they were being dropped at random places and finding their way back home. That was part of the training. They gave them like stipends to take trips on their own. And these people were really being independent and they had their own apartment. They live downtown and they would travel to the training program.

TR: 04:32
Maybe this experience let Natalie know she could pursue all of her interests. Among the many she mentioned in her intro. She’s also a writer.

Natalie04:39
I started writing for PopSugar. Late last year. My original article that I pitched to them was about the lack of image descriptions. There was unlabeled links and buttons on websites when it came to retail. Not being able to independently shop on these websites because they weren’t accessible right the fashion side but I’m writing about disability right and the issues that we deal with in relation to fashion that kind of came out of my work with Fashionably Tardy we’re two blind chicks bridging the gap between fashion and disability. I wanted to kind of widen that reach of like who we are talking to and who we’re trying to get to see the bigger picture. I told Melissa like, hey, like, I’m going to start pitching some stories to some fashion magazines or some online media that deals with fashion. And I pitched her quite a few people but Pop Sugar was one of the people that really got it right away.

TR: 05:37
While watching one of her favorite shows Emily in Paris. Emily, the main character who thinks she knows everything about fashion actually sort of sticks out in Paris, wearing really bright or loud colors.

Natalie: 05:48
I would even say shows like Bridgerton, the fashion is part of the show. The season where they try to find the diamond of the season is all about the look. The best dress, the best hair, the shoes and gowns, and there’s these intricate, beautiful colors and garments and big wigs. I don’t remember them really describing wigs. The way I know a lot about Bridgerton is really because of Cat Quinn, the Creative Director for MAC cosmetics and she does a lot of breakdowns of shows. As far as beauty and fashion goes on her Tik Tok and Instagram.

TR: 06:24
No surprise to the true AD heads out here. Having access to this information has implications that go beyond entertainment.

Natalie06:31
If you look at the show Euphoria, clothes sell out, immediately after each episode, people want to dress like what they see on television, if you don’t have any good fashion sense, and you watch television, you’re gonna know what’s in. I think it’s super helpful for somebody who’s blind and low vision because we definitely don’t know what’s hot, especially because there’s not accurate alt text, or no alt text. If we were to have better detail, fashion descriptions with for television and film, I think we would have a better idea of what goes together, what we could buy in the store and what really looks good, or what some of the brands that we could buy from, we need to get better about adding descriptions, especially when fashion is part of the show.

TR: 07:18
Fashion is part of the show doesn’t necessarily mean it’s part of the plot.

Natalie07:21
When I was writing this article, I asked on Facebook, like hey, are there any shows that are doing a good job about this, and people said, selling Tampa?

TR: 07:30
Seriously, this was a coincidence. But shout out to the crew at IDC.

Natalie: 07:34
I watched the whole season. And I would agree that time was taken to actually describe what the women were wearing on the show. And I found it to be extremely helpful. Brittany Koch, who’s mentioned in the article actually said she went back and watched the first matrix, and they did a very great job of talking about what people were wearing. And she said she even researched the fashion in the movie, it was a match. They actually did their homework, the clothes were being accurately described.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 08:06
What sort of feedback have you been receiving about this whole idea of describing more fashion?

Natalie: 08:12
I think some people working in AD like the comments kind of came from them, they were a little offended. They were like oh we’re doing the best. And there’s not always enough time. And it wasn’t an attack on AD really, it was just to say like, Hey, we do care about this, it was more of a invitation to work together. Let’s see what we all can do to make this better. With anything. You always want to know how you can grow and improve, because you never want to just stay the same. There’s always room to do better. And there’s always room to advance.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 08:45
Yeah, at least those who are really committed to quality. Those are the folks who want to learn, and are interested in saying, Oh, wait, tell me more about that. The folks who are not, they usually out themselves by just kind of pushing back and not even taking the time to listen. Forget them. And that was me putting in nicely.

Do you ever get any sort of opposite feedback from the community? Like are there people who are saying, “ Eh, I don’t want that?”

Natalie09:13
I haven’t seen anybody flat out say like, “Oh, I’m not interested in this.” I did see a few guys be like, “Oh, I never thought about this. That’s interesting.” One guy was like, “Well, I’m going to actually pay attention to that when I watch my next show with audio description.” So I think for guys, it was kind of like, you know, like, I didn’t think about it, but maybe now I’ll pay attention.

TR: 09:35
Fellas. Nice job. We should think about it.

Natalie: 09:39
Say a woman is going out on a date in a movie or TV show. If she’s putting on some red lipstick and have tight fitted dress. She’s either going on a date or going out or somewhere where she’s trying to make a statement. I think, yes, depending on the storyline that’s important that lipstick color is important because if I’m just maybe going out with friends and I might do more of a nude color. Even with makeup like I might do a smoky eye if I’m trying to be sexy, right? Or if I’m just like, just trying to go out for a nice day at the bare, I just might do eyebrows.

TR: 10:13
Natalie’s interest in audio description extends beyond fashion, as in her critique of a show called Abbott Elementary.

Natalie10:19
It’s about black teachers, mostly black cast in Philadelphia. It’s just such a great show. But because the audio describer is not a person of color, I feel like they kind of miss because there’s a lot of like, cultural things that we do and say, they really should try to match the audio describer with the tone of the show.

Sample from “Boomerang” Eddie Murphy & John Whitherspoon “Coordinate!”: 10:44
Well, the secret is you got to coordinate. Most people don’t coordinate, so you got to coordinate. That’s what you did.

TR: 10:51
I just assumed Natalie was always interested in fashion, or coordinating. She admitted she grew up as a tomboy. And it wasn’t until she became blind that she became more interested in fashion. That’s just one of the incorrect assumptions I had before our conversation. I also assumed she has been watching movies with audio description. Since her introduction to blindness.

Natalie11:12
I like got on the audio description bandwagon way later than I should, because I wasn’t around a lot of people who are blind. And so I didn’t really know that that was a resource, and people would tell me about it. But I was like, okay, like, I’ll try it out. I’ll try it out. One day, I really sat there and tried it out. And it was a beautiful thing. Because now I was able to really keep up with the movie, especially if there’s a lot of action.

TR: 11:35
no matter how long we as blind people have been consuming. Add this value in all of our experiences, especially when we’re solution based.

Natalie: 11:44
I think that it would be super helpful if we could work with AD teams on how to better include fashion detail. And I know they don’t always have a lot of time. But I’ve seen examples of where there’s some dead time that outfits could be described a little better. I’m not saying that it’s going to be like oh, she had on a shirt with a criss cross dip way loads are back and it was fitted like Nobody’s expecting that. At least like the color, the texture, was it short or long. Even if you said she had on a blue, strapless jumpsuit with the backout that’s still giving me a lot. At least color texture fit could be great.

TR: 12:28
Critically thinking about our access to vision related information will have real world implications. Even if you’re not interested in design. Natalie was invited to co design with a digital artist. Considering how little she sees representation of blind people in the bridal space. She decided to design a wedding dress.

Natalie: 12:47
I wanted to create this dress to kind of raise awareness about the fact that we are not represented in this way because people don’t expect us to fall in love or have families. They don’t expect us to be part of the real world. I was featured at meta Fashion Week. And next to some really cool brands like Dolce and Gabbana, Levi Tommy Hilfiger, Cavalli essence picked up the story, and they featured me and they talked about me being the first blind designer in the metaverse.

TR: 13:14
New to the idea of the metaverse? In all actuality, it doesn’t exist in full just yet. It’s a virtual world where people will work and play fully online, sort of like the games where you have an avatar that represents you. You interact with other avatars and participate in transactions, except these transactions aren’t for your virtual form, but rather a real world buying and selling of both digital and physical goods.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Describe the dress!

Natalie: 13:43
it was super important to me, even though that this is a digital asset that we played with textures, and that you could kind of see the different textures on the dress. It’s a very, it’s a very sexy wedding dress, actually. It’s a lacy, backless dress, and it’s strapless but it kind of has like these gold chains on the shoulder and then there’s one that comes across the back. Kind of a mermaid fit. With a see through middle. You can see my stomach and then it poops out into like a long train at the bottom. There’s some gold detail kind of going through the lace towards the bottom.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 14:25
Okay. Is it one channel as a crossing in the bag? Is it an X?

Natalie14:30
No, it’s just one chain that comes across.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Oh that’s fly. And what color?

Natalie:
It’s traditional white.

TR in Conversation with Natalie:
Oh duh! [laughs]

Natalie:
Well no it didn’t have to be. Its not a traditional dress, because it’s a little sexy, but we did want to keep the white the classic white of it.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 14:47
And what about the shoes? My wife’s a shoe lady. So I gotta ask about the shoes or their shoes in this picture.

TR:
If you’re interested in the shoes, a gold with thick high heels, but they’re hidden by the train of, the dress. Sort of how the lack of audio description hides visual information from us. Hmm.

Natalie: 15:04
Something that really hit me was that “well, how does my community enjoy this?” Right? I mean, they can read about it. And I can give an image description of the dress, but our able bodied counterparts are able to go click on this dress and get a 3d image of it front to back, view me spinning in it, the front view and the back for you, you can really get the full vision of this dress. And if you’re blind, you don’t get that. Obviously, you can’t add alt text to a moving image.

TR: 15:32
Maybe you don’t care about buying outfits online. What if everything becomes a moving digital rendering of a product?

Natalie: 15:38
I as a blind person should be able to hear that description of what is going on? What’s the future for NFT when it comes to the blindness community? I really do feel like it’s audio description.

TR: 15:52
podcaster, writer designer for the metaverse, Natalie actually had other plans.

Natalie: 15:58
When I graduated from college, I was pretty discouraged because I wanted to be a publicist, there were no blind publicists. And I just couldn’t find that one. And people looked at me weird when I would come in my cane to these big public relations agencies. I had to write internships. I went to school, I had good grades, I had the ability to do the work.

I just didn’t see a lot of people with disabilities in general, working behind the scenes in entertainment at all. By 2016. It had been two years and like, I wasn’t really breaking into entertainment, PR I was kind of working freelance. And then I met this lady named Whitney Davis, who was at the time the diversity manager at CBS. And she kind of took me under her wings. And it was like introducing me to a bunch of people hiring me to do jobs for her. She was so helpful. She’s like, “you know, I’ll back you up 100% with what you want to do,” but she’s like, “I really think that you should jump into advocacy because I don’t see any people with disabilities working in my department. And this is diversity, equity inclusion.”

TR: 17:01
At the time, Natalie wasn’t really in tune with the blind community. She knew if she was going to advocate, she should be more aware of what the community actually wants. She came across an ad seeking a blind actress who could sing. She’s been singing in the church for years. So she decided to pursue that opportunity without the acting experience.

[clip of a woman singing]

She got involved with a class of blind actors and realized:

Natalie17:23
“Oh well this is a way for me to be more blind people right?” And have fun doing it. I joined that group. Ended up falling in love with acting and being pretty good at it got scouted getting an agent. And the rest is kind of history.

TR: 17:37
Today, she has been in several commercials, including one from spectrum access, the audio description app.

Natalie17:41
I recently did some California connect commercials where I play art teacher even though it was about assistive technology. The focus wasn’t on me being blind. I was actually being an art teacher, and like painting stuff and teaching and it was a really cool experience for me. The one television show I was in was speechless on ABC. I played a film student one episode

TR: 18:05
She starred in three short films for the Easterseals film challenge.

Natalie18:09
The first one was Natalie’s point of view. And it was a documentary. That was the thing that year in 2020. And we made it to the top 12. We were one of the finalists.

Then in 2021 the thing was mockumentary we decided to do like a behind the scenes of this like made up Hip Hop icon they named Nay Nay Too Bomb. She was just like this very wild like hip hop to raise awareness for body positivity.

[Clip of woman rapping plays]

Clip from the mockumentary:
Growing up as a woman of color, you know, especially in the black and Latino community, we tend to be a little bit curvier you know so my little cousins and best friends was waking up like “suprise shawty!” and they had like a little extra in the back

Natalie:
We really went into that one just wanting to have fun. Didn’t really know where it will take us.

TR: 19:02
This brought them three nominations in total. Best film, Best Director, and Best Actor.

Natalie: 19:08
I took home the Best Actor award last year. This year we did a spin off of Buffy the Vampire Slayer which is one of my favorite movies. And I played a slayer that just so happens to be blind.

Sample from “Seven”:
Male sounding character: 19:22
Seven, do you know what a slayer is?

Natalie:19:23
Yeah, you mean Rihanna?

Male sounding character:
I’m being serious.

Natalie:
Me too.

Natalie19:29
You only know that I’m blind in the beginning because I kind of walk into frame with my cane. But other than that, it’s just about a girl who is kind of dealing with the fact that she has to give up her normal life to become a slayer. I’m actually like boxing and like jumping rope and like kicking and doing burpees and like a lot of action stuff.

TR: 19:50
Did I just hear a metaphor for adjusting to disability?

Sample from “Seven”:

Natalie: 19:53
What exactly are we doing? I’m kind of in the dark.
Male sounding character:

Do you know who you are?

Natalie:
I think so.

Male sounding character:
You were born to be champion.

TR: 20:05
Once again, the film was nominated for Best Film and Best Actor

Natalie: 20:10
Clip from Easterseals Film Challenge Award Ceremony:

And the winner is Natalie Trevonne “Seven”.

Natalie:
And I was super surprised, but I’m super grateful.

TR:
Big shout out to her team.

The first year Natalie’s point of view I recruited my best friend name for Nay Nay Too Bomb and seven I worked with Marie Elise Rodriguez. And then Regina joined us again, for seven.

TR: 20:30
I used to see these sorts of stories of falling into something you really enjoy as luck. Today, I think I know better. For me, theyre the results of pursuing your interests. I know you’re wondering, Natalie says she’s currently looking into getting someone to have the film audio described. Easterseals Film Festival, with all love and respect, at least for the award winning films, audio description, captions. That’s an editorial from me with love and respect. For more on fashion and disability, you have to check out the podcast fashionably tardy.

From Fashionably Tardy:
We’re just two blind chicks bridging the gap between the disability community and the fashion industry by telling some amazing stories from some dope fashion creatives killing it in the game today.

Natalie:
We’re on hiatus. We are hoping to drop some surprise episodes in the near future. So just stay tuned. We’re @FTontheScene on all social media platforms. F t o n t h e s c e n e

TR: 21:35
To find Natalie,

Natalie21:36
I’m @NatalieTreveonne, everywhere TikTok, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, that’s @NatalieTrevonne, pretty much post all my articles and links. So whatever I’m doing on my social media platforms, so you can easily find my work on any of those.

TR in Conversation with Natalie: 22:00
Well, Natalie, when folks come on the podcast, and they share the information, they share their point of view, I like to let you know that I appreciate that in the whole Reid My Mind Radio family appreciates that. And by you doing that, that actually makes you an official

[air horn]

Member of the Reid My Mind Family. I need for you to know that and let you know that we appreciate you.

Natalie: 22:25
Thank you so much. I really enjoyed speaking with you. And I’m all about our community. So any opportunity that I get to link up with other blind collaborators and creatives, I’m always for it because we are the future.

TR: 22:39
Being optimistic about the future is increasingly more challenging every day. The attacks on our rights from those in power may make some feel that conversations about audio description are frivolous. But I don’t think things are separate as some may think we are always at risk of losing our access as people with disabilities. For blind people specifically, digital access can truly be our lifeline. With every new emerging technology, we have to consider our place.

Natalie recognizing this issue of NFT access through audio description is just another example of how important it is to really speak from our own interest. I have to admit, as a former tech dude, I really don’t get NFT’s, Bitcoin, blockchain.
In support myself, I’ve been out of the game for a minute focusing on other things. What I do realize is that yeah, there’s lots of hype, but pay attention to the technology. There’s always going to be something new, and the earlier we assure our access and our involvement, the better. What’s your interest or area of expertise, or the opportunities or challenges that we should be considering? I’m always interested you want to share hit me up at reidmymindradio@gmail.com. You don’t have to wait for the future to subscribe or follow the podcast which is available on your favorite podcast app smart device or even in print as in transcripts which are available at reidmymind.com

That’s R to the E I D.
Sample Slick Rick:
“D! And that’s me in the place to be!”

TR:
like my last name.

Nay Nay Too Bomb:
Surprise Shortay!”

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio Outro

TR:

peace

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