Posts Tagged ‘Blindness’

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: What We See

Wednesday, June 14th, 2023

Conversations about audio description often focus on what others see and report to us – people who are Blind or have low vision.

In this episode, inspired by the podcast Pigeonhole episode by Cheryl Green I’m exploring some thoughts I had which began with my own experience of visual hallucinations from Charles Bonnet Syndrome

As I began thinking about and describing my visions I saw a correlation to what continues to be a challenge in the audio description field; the acceptance and participation of Blind people in the production process.

To help me think about both these visions and correlation:
* Carmen Papalia
* Collin van Uchelen, Ph.D.
* Andrew Slater

“We have a whole lot of superstars on this stage tonight!”

Welcome back to Flipping the Script on Audio Description!



Show the transcript

[Music begins, spacey sounding ambient music]


Picture a solid, black, background.

A full vibrant, glossy black.

It should take up your entire visual field.
If you’re someone who has or had what would be considered typical sight,
two eyes with full vision,
then fill up that range with this shiny black surface.

If your surface is or was less than that, go ahead and fill that full range.

My personal range of vision has always been from about in front of my nose and to the right.
My left eye and optic nerve were removed at one year old, I have no recollection of sight from that side.
It’s not black.
It’s as if you ask what can you see out of your ear? That’s nothing.

Nothing and black are not the same.

I’m specifically talking about color as in
that portion of the visible spectrum of light that is reflected back from a surface.
The darker the color the more light it absorbs.
So, black consists of all that light.
It absorbs it where white reflects it.

This glossy black surface, is the first layer of my hallucinations or what’s medically known as Charles Bonnet Syndrome.

In this episode, I want to explore my hallucinations or visions.

As I began thinking about this topic I noticed a correlation between
talking about what I see and Blind people authoring or in anyway
participating in the production of audio description.

When it comes to AD, the conversation is about what others see and describe to us.
Today, we’re talking about what we see and present to the world!

Now so far, you heard my voice, but I brought some friends along.

This is not a figment of your imagination, a hallucination, dream or nightmare,
this is Reid My Mind Radio! And I’m your host Thomas Reid.

We’re back baby! Flipping the script on Audio Description!

— Reid My Mind Theme Music

“I think in some ways the description is the artwork”
– Carmen Papalia

## Charles Bonnet Syndrome


So what is Charles Bonnet syndrome?

CBS is a condition that some people get when they lose some or all their vision.
It causes them to have visual hallucinations (seeing things that aren’t really there).

This condition is surprisingly common among people with certain types of vision loss such as;
age-related macular degeneration

TR: (filtered voice effect) Nope, never had that!

TR: (filtered voice effect) No me papi!

diabetic retinopathy
TR: (filtered voice effect) No Mon!

Without visual data coming in through the eyes,
TR: (filtered voice effect) That’s me!

the brain fills the void and makes up images or recalls stored images for you to see.
This is what causes the visual hallucinations of CBS.

It is very similar to how people who have lost a limb may feel phantom pain and is not a sign of a mental health problem.

Here’s the thing, my hallucinations aren’t specific at all. I’ve read and heard from some people who experience CBS and it sounds nothing like what I see.

So from this point forward, let’s toss out the medical jargon and focus on what we see!

— Sound of an object tossed and smashed.

Damn, medical jargon is heavy!

## Describing Hallucinations

— Music begins, ambient spacey vibe.


Back to that glossy black surface I mentioned earlier.
Go ahead and fill your entire visual field with that image.

Here’s where it gets a bit tricky!

What I see is abstract, random shapes and colors that form on top of that black surface. They change or more like morph throughout the day. Remaining static for only seconds at a time.

Right now, I see an upside down letter V spread wide with curved edges.
It’s a royal blue.
It sort of leads up to a dark orange with a hint of red oval shaped that
is split in the middle where the color is slowly blending into a cloudy white .

— Long pause

And now, some of the colors remain, but the shapes are totally different.


There sparkly, twinkly, like water. They’re vibrant. Their colors, like blue, and purple, and green with highlights of orange and yellow.
And red.

I almost feel like I’m at a loss for words sometimes, there’s a lot of similes and metaphors, but there’s not enough words to describe what I’m seeing.

I do call them apparitions and playful spirits.

Carmen Papalia from Vancouver Canada.


I’m a non-visual social practice artist with chronic and episodic pain.
I’m white with an olive complexion. I have black hair, I have a beard.

There’s also these visual events that happened on a different layer.
Some of them are like what I call a backward see patrolling manta ray. It swims across my visual field, back and forth, maybe like three times a day, for like, I don’t know, five seconds, and then it kind of just flies away.

I’m always seeing them and they have gotten more amplified over time.

When I was young, they weren’t as vibrant or prominent in my visual field.

it’s just very engaging and animated.


His hallucinations move!

Mine are more like a video, Power Point or slide deck presentation dissolve transition.
It happens but the speed is most often too fast to see unless perhaps you’re really focusing in.
It doesn’t translate to movement.

More on these apparitions, hallucinations, visions?


Scintillating Photopsia.

It’s an interesting phenomena. It started to occur, as my sight loss was decreasing.

I see visual phenomena, day and night, whether my eyes are open or closed.

Somewhat like, hallucinations, but I really wouldn’t call it a hallucination in that strict sense of the meaning because it’s like I see a constant.

It is a continual flickering and flashing of light across my whole visual field.
It reminds me a little bit of what it looks like when the sun is low on the horizon.
And it’s setting over a big lake or the ocean or a body of water with all kinds of waves.
This sea of little flashes and flickers of light, not quite as bright as it is with the sunlight.


If that’s not enough, there’s another layer.


On top of that, I have some moving kind of images and shapes that occur and vary a little bit from time to time.
One of them is a little bit like a slowly rotating propeller blade, a propeller from a ship, or like the old sweep of radar that goes around in a circle and leaves a little trail wave of light that ripples out behind it about one rotation per Second. I’ll see it rotate 567 times.
They’re rotating clockwise.
Then it almost comes flying off its axis like as if the propeller has just become dislodged, and then it disappears off in the distance


That’s Collin van Uchelen.


I am a community psychologist and Pyro technician in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I am white with gray green eyes and light brown hair. And my pronouns he him his.

Yeh, you heard that correctly, Pyro technician.
More on that later, but first
more about that second layer of shapes or visual phenomena.


I describe it a little bit like a gummy worm , a band of light that’s somewhat curved, usually kind of a bright whitish purple, that move across my visual field, sometimes left to right, sometimes bottom to top or top to bottom. It just kind of sweeps across my visual fields. It’s very, very bright.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Do you think that’s similar to the floaters?


yes. very much.

one of the most interesting things that I see often occurs early in the morning, if I wake up from a dream or wake up in the middle of the night, it’s almost as if I’m looking at a dry bottom of a lake bed or a stream bed, that the water has receded in the sun has dried everything out. These little cracks, little clumps of land they’re like little islands, but they’re all illuminated a bright greenish color.
They’re scintillating, flickering sometimes with these kind of purple sparkles in them.
These islands seem to grow in size, or divide in size and get smaller and then sometimes cluster together.
Sometimes these big clusters will form in kind of a purply color, it’s beautiful to look at.


My shapes, which I could refer to as little islands also come together where you can still see their outline.
I agree with Collin, they are beautiful.
But I didn’t necessarily think that in the beginning.

## Early Apparitions


I can’t recall the first time I noticed these colorful apparitions.

Besides having floaters as a child, I think my first experience with visual phenomena occurred just prior to official blindness.

Before my surgery to remove my right eye, I had a biopsy done about a month earlier.
My eye was patched up which left me functionally blind since I had no left eye.

One day, I thought I was seeing the sun sort of sneaking into the room through the window blinds.
Then I realized, I wasn’t even in front of a window. It remained in my visual field no matter what room I was in or the time of day.

It wasn’t until a few months after the removal of my right eye that I began noticing the current style of shapes and colors.

Similar to others, I can’t say I was excited for these uninvited guests in my life.


At the beginning, it was a bit more of an annoyance because it was almost like a see through screen that was between me and the outer world that I was still able to see at that point.

I could see mountains and trees and the faces of people and then I would have this sort of display in the background, this shimmering flicking, so it was a little bit more annoying at that point, because it couldn’t shut off.

But now as my capacity to see what’s out and around me has diminished, this has become more of okay, well, this is what I have available for me to see now.
It’s really not an annoyance.

## What am I supposed to do with these hallucinations?


These ever present, random, constantly changing colorful figures, are like family or a close friend. They’re around and ready to just kick it with me.
Take my mind off of the problems or at least just hang out with me as I contemplate.

I find it somewhat interesting insofar as it also reminds me a little bit of fireworks .
The flickering of it, the brightness of it, the high contrast of it.

I think in terms of meaning, it’s kind of about that, and sometimes it just makes me smile.


Yes, these visions can be a way to kill some time entertaining ourselves.
Similar to television or movies.

— Music begins, a melodic xylophone which turns in to a joyful beat.

So therefore, in this conversation, my friends and I are the describers – crafting words to help you form images in your mind.


I’ve described it before like an animated oil painting from space.

It definitely has an underwater quality to it like bioluminescence or oil in water and maybe with some food coloring or something like that.
It’s quite animated and dynamic for me.

I don’t try to interpret it fairly like, oh, is this an omen for something?
I do really enjoy seeing it move.


There are times when I drift off and think about what the shapes bring to mind. Sort of like the Rorschach psychological test where subjects are asked to look at inkblots and describe what they see.
At least that’s how it went down in so many detective shows from the 70’s and 80’s.


You’re projecting into the image you’re looking at, interpretation, and it’s supposedly reveals a lot about your inner workings.

TR in Conversation with Collin:
Yeah, I’m not gonna say what I see.

I know many people get uncomfortable with that language.
Am I really seeing? Afterall, I have no eyes!

It’s probably the same people who try to correct those who READ audio books.

[In nerdy voice] Well actually, you’re listening to a book not reading! (Snort),

As if me consuming the information through my ears is less valid than taking it in through my eyes.


for me, when I started putting value in the non-visual, my world opened up.
And that’s what I’m continuing to explore in my work and my writing and through the various relationships that I have with other people who want to be part of that world.
I do this project, since 2010, my first exhibited art artwork.

It’s an Walking Tour, where I take groups, my largest group has been 90 participants, they all line up behind me link arms and shut their eyes, and I take them on an hour long walk through a city or on a route that I’ve mapped, and that I’m familiar with.

The whole point of the walk is to exercise our non-visual senses, something that we don’t really dedicate time or intention to.

This is not a walk in my shoes or blindness simulation.
(Heck no!)
This is about exploring by more than just vision.


I can invite them to practice using their non-visual senses.
That walking tour is really about the support network that coalesces when a group of people come together around the same activity and the ways that we care for each other when we need to.
TR in Conversation with Collin:

You mentioned you are a pyrotechnic in training. So let’s talk a little bit of fireworks.

— Sounds from a Vancouver Fireworks event.


It just so happened that every summer in Vancouver, there was an event where three nights in July and beginning of August, they would have a 20 to 25 minute Pyro techniques display where the fireworks were all synchronized to music.

They are launched from a couple of barges that are anchored out in the English Bay Harbor which is a gorgeous location, and it’s rimmed with beaches all along, and you would get two to 300,000 people come out and sit on the beach in the evening, watch the sunset and take in the fireworks display.

In the center of it, they would even have a big PA system where the music was broadcast out on the beach.

They could see how the music was represented in the form of light during these displays, and it was just fantastic.

It’s not just the music. It’s not just the light of fireworks, but it’s also the sound of the firework and the echo of that sound.
how it kind of bounces around you? And the sort of immersive quality of the whole experience was tremendous.


That’s sight and sound.
What else?


Sometimes you can smell the smoke.
I tell you, there’s another part of this that I think is really interesting, it’s a feeling sensation, too.

These moments when the artistry of what I’m beholding or witnessing touches me in a way that it just gives me goosebumps.

I was at English Bay, I was with a close friend. there was a moment when the music was kind of quiet. The fireworks are kind of muffled, sizzling sound, the crowd grew entirely silent. And I had this feeling like that something amazing was going on. And nobody was saying a word.

— Music fades out

I leaned over to my friend Brett and I whisper, Brett, Brett, like what’s happening?
He leaned back into me. And he said, it’s burning tears. It’s 1000s of burning tears just slowly dripping down from the sky.

Wow. Yeah. And do you feel that?

Tingles that went cascading through my spine and over the surface of my body. It’s that kind of experience that I love. And that’s the kind of experience that I have often in the moments of tremendous beauty in the presence of art, whether it be music, or a fireworks effects, such as this one, which was these kind of long, orange, reddish tendrils of light that were just dripping down all through the sky.
I call that resonance.


Ultimately, isn’t that what it’s all about? Feeling!

It’s the feeling of wanting these experiences that can lead someone to figure out how to actually make that possible.


I was involved with an organization here in Vancouver called vocal ly descriptive arts.
They describe artistic and cultural events usually like performance art, to make it more accessible to people from the blind and low vision community.

I approached the executive director, Steph Kirkland, and I said would you be willing to come down and describe the fireworks. And she was up to the challenge.

We, of course, talked about how this was an unusual thing, but she did a bit of study about it. And by this time, in my life, I had also assembled a bit of a vocabulary list and a glossary of terms.


I can’t help but be reminded how some, when explaining the history of audio description,
tend to either breeze through or totally leave out the fact that Blind people started this art.

I don’t know if Collin is the first to describe fireworks, but he initiated this process.
He developed a vocabulary used to describe exploding fireworks .


There’s one that’s called the chrysanthemum. That is a spherical effect, where you see little trails of light behind the stars, as they move out from the center point a little bit like a dandelion that’s gone to seed.
There are other effects that are more like a shooting star with a long trail of sparkling light. And these are called comets.
Some are called willows, because they look a little bit like a weeping willow tree, or a palm tree.

it’s like describing a flower bouquet, where the flowers are constantly changing size and form and shape and color and a ring instrument.


It’s not easy, but for Collin it’s worth it.
Similar to how audio description enables those who enjoy movies and television to stay connected with that part of their life,
Collin wanted to continue enjoying fireworks.

He discovered alternatives to just the visuals.


There was this one moment that evening that Steph was describing kind of a little cluster or clump of stars that seemed to be slowly dripping, drifting down. And I was trying to kind of comprehend
well, okay, how quickly is that moving in the sky, and I asked her to trace it out on my skin using her fingers. And so she traced it out on my forearm, the speed of this descent to this cluster of stars, and just her doing that gave me goosebumps at that moment, because I thought, This is how to do it. Because with that tactile gesture, she could convey the movement and the speed and somewhat of the character of the light in ways that words were unable to capture.

We spoke about that, and she too had a comprehension that just through that physical gesture of the movement that there was some potential to explore.
Over the course of the next year she explored that in collaboration with me, and that was the genesis of the description technique that subsequently became known as finger works for fireworks,.


Combining the glossary of terms describing fireworks with the tactile representation and sounds.


that’s become a foundation for my continued exploration in what I call cross sensory translation.

How can we translate something from the visual modality into non-visual modality so that we kind of stay connected with it, and maybe it brings a new perspective, a new way of engaging with it as someone who’s now blind.


If you’re thinking this is all about trying to hold onto sight, you’re totally mistaken.
Holding onto things that bring you joy, community, things that spark thought and idea, yes.
An exploration of the human experience that challenges the ableist vision centric way of going through life.

TR in Conversation with Carmen:

I’m gonna assume you don’t compare to the visual experience



I receive a lot of description of art in my job as an artist.
Usually when I go into art gallery, an artist or a curator is describing things for me or A describer that I enjoy their approach. So it’s usually pretty good description that I’m getting but I don’t equate it.

It creates some thing, some relationship where some flexibility where I can understand these words as the thing itself
We really are just interpreting through our physical senses, we’re subjective, if you’re inspecting something visually you’re interpreting that and then reporting to whoever you know about it.
That’s the same thing that’s happening when someone’s describing what they’re seeing to me. I’m adopting it as true, as a version of truth.

there’s been times where people have described artworks to me and sent me a description email.
I feel like I received an artwork and I’m like, Oh, wow. Like, we didn’t even have to like steal this from the collection.
I can send it to someone else.

I think in some ways the description is the artwork


That’s it! The description is the art.

Yet, there’s still a lot of controversy around Blind people participating in this field.

TR in Conversation with Andrew:

Can you talk a little bit about the roles that you fill in the process of creating AD?


My roles originally just started kind of as a collaborator or an advisor on projects, because I wasn’t comfortable with maybe recording my voice.

I’ve worked with other people to write stuff down since my vision is impaired.
There’s a guy locally named Victor Cole, who does a lot of audio descriptions for local performances and award ceremonies and all these other cool stuff that the disabled arts community employ him to do that. I started talking to him about his process and then realizing that my role as a blind person to create this is probably going to be different than how Victor approaches, which is cool, because that means you have
more voices and more opportunities to give different perspectives of stuff.

That’s Andrew Slater, Sound Designer, Composer and Accessibility professional!

— Music begins, a cool bass riff that opens into a smooth Funk groove.

Oh and he’s a member of a cool funk band called Velcro Lewis Group.


My pronouns are he him.

I’m a middle aged white man with dirty blond hair. A full red beard with some gray. Right now, wearing a red t shirt with white lettering that says I am not Daredevil.

TR in Conversation with Andrew:
(Laughing.) Do they stop you and ask you excuse me?

Andrew: 00:56
Point to the shirt.

(Fading out, the two laugh together)


Andrew recently had the opportunity to write and record the audio description for a film called the Tuba Thieves,
by Alison Oh, Daniel, a Deaf director.
It debuted at Sundance.


Ninety Five % of the film, the dialogue is ASL.
My wife, and I, my wife is autistic, and I’m visually impaired, we wrote the ad and I narrated it, and then I was able to hire these three disabled voice actors to read basically the subtitles of the captions.
They had done some of this work before, and they’re all actors and performers.

Everybody is disabled on this , we’re all showing up as we should.


I haven’t seen the film, but I can tell you that alone makes me want to see it.

What was cool about this film is that the sound itself was so incredibly descriptive, and all very referential, and all sounds that I think so many of us would get.
The actual audio description that I’ve read and recorded, was real minimal. And there’s a lot of silence in the film. So I kind of shut up.
This is a weird experimental, sort of almost documentary style film. I have done so much like experimental audio description sort of stuff with like, I don’t know layered voices and sound design and weird, poetic sort of approaches to stuff. And I could still bring some of that energy but certainly didn’t want to make a huge mess out of it. And I’m happy with how it worked out.

TR in Conversation with Andrew:

So when you said that you and your wife wrote the ad for the film. So you were participating in that process? You were you a writer?


Yeah! we watched the movie. We took notes, put it on the timecode.
I don’t know if this is a process that other people do. But we put it on the big monitor. And based on how Tressa would describe what’s on screen, sometimes I could see it because a lot of the movies slow.
We take notes of what’s on screen, we’d go off some of the notes that the producer gave us. Then I would just reword it or edit it. So it was more interesting to match the energy especially the energy of these captions.
These captions were out of control. Awesome and weird and abstract at time.


Recognizing the vibe of the film, Andrew decided he didn’t want to have a straight forward approach to the AD.

With what he describes as tunnel vision Andrew, with a bit of assistance from his wife Tressa, incorporates his own perspective of the film.
Sometimes, that’s more about heart and emotion than it is about simply verbalizing the visuals.


It’s a cool film it has people talking about when Prince and the revolution played Gallaudet University to like a whole hundreds of Deaf folks.
There’s these photos, cause there was no film …

On the left is the band rock in out and you can see that Prince has his , white Stratocaster up high, and he’s just jamming and you know he’s wearing purple, even though it’s black and white.
Then to the right it’s like, hundreds of deaf people all signing I love you with the index, the pinky and the thumb up.
That photo and another where he’s given I love you sign standing next to this kid with this huge grin on Prince’s face. where you just like, Man, I got, like, all emotional, I was like how do I describe this because this is just beautiful and it’s like a still photo on screen for five seconds

TR in Conversation with Andrew:
You know what’s crazy? I have on a Purple Rain shirt.
That’s not crazy.

— Filtered sample of Prince performing the Purple Rain guitar solo live in concert.

## What am I supposed to do with this?


I never actually thought me seeing these hallucinations made me crazy.
I just thought I’d be perceived that way.

I mean come on, consider the way blindness totally affected how I’m often perceived in public.

Rather than thinking something was wrong with me, I sought out to make connections between my visions and my feelings.
I thought I could find some deeper meaning.
I thought I could answer the question;
what am I supposed to do with these visions?

I don’t think it has particular specific meaning. And so in that regard, I think it is some random kind of activation of our nervous system to fill in the space that’s left behind with the degeneration of the photoreceptor cells.

TR in Conversation with Collin:

I sometimes wonder is it related to something that I’m feeling?
Is this something that I’m not consciously thinking about?
I guess scientifically, that’s probably not the case. I kind of still like to hold on to it.

— Summer sounds – ocean or spring river with birds

As I started to examine my visions more closely, I saw beauty.

For example. The summer season has it’s own set of colors,

Mango yellow orange, strawberry reds, what I call Caribbean blue.

How could these not have a positive affect on my mood?

— Music begins, a lively up beat Calypso tune with prominent steel drums.

TR: (Filtered voice)”Mango Daiquiri anyone?”

What I once thought of as a nuisance, I began wondering if it could actually be more like a new sense.

The ability to access an abstract projection of something from within me?
Maybe I’m communicating with myself? A repurposing of the screen in the theater that is my mind.
My own internal broadcast network, thanks to Charles Bonnet Syndrome.
— “This is CBS!” Sample: CBS Television

## Trust & Faith

TR in Conversation with Carmen:

When I’m working with audio, that could be another time where things become clearer. There’s some clarity that happens. I could be adjusting EQ and sometimes I start to say, Okay, I’m gonna go based on what I see.

— EFx: A moderation of static slowly becomes more in tuned.

I’m like, Okay, this feels good right now because this is becoming clearer.

Wow, this is a lot of fun. I tell my family about it. My immediate family. My wife and my daughters, I don’t think I’ve ventured out and told anyone outside of my home about I mean, I mentioned that Oh, I got Charles Bonnet. That’s it.


You tell family, the people closest to you, because they’re the most likely to believe you.

I love how it’s functional for you in a certain way too.

And even as a system for telling what time of year it is. I love that it’s like your calendar, it serves a function within your audio production. It tells you when you’re tired.

This is something that’s connected to disability art, just disability experience in general a practice that productively engages with disability.
We are always in some way trying to make meaning of these experiences because what dominant culture is telling us is that there’s no value in that or you have to take this pill, procedure etc. To get rid of that.

the people who want to explore what it means to live non-visually or even with pain, I actually think my pain experience is generative to like it allows me to make long term trusting relationships with people that are based in care.

I open up a lot with folks and because of it, and, of course, there’s terrible parts to it too, but I think it gives me a lot.
I think these hallucinations do as well.

TR in Conversation with Carmen:

When someone gives you a description of something, you trust what they say, right? I feel like it’s hard for people to probably trust what I’m saying.
They have no experience with it, they can’t verify it

With audio description, we as blind people trust what we’re told. And when blind people are trying to be involved in audio description, I don’t feel we’re trusted, we’re always questioned.
Whether that be trying to get in as a narrator, most definitely trying to get in as a writer.


I think it has to do with dominant cultures privileging of visual experience.
The non-visual doesn’t hold much value.

I don’t know why we think that vision isn’t subjective.
It’s just as subjective as describing the sound of something, for example, we’re all going to make our own associations to what we’re seeing and what we’re hearing and feeling.

I don’t like when I am in a position where I’m not being trusted. And I’m sharing my truth.
That really triggers me because this comes from me having medical trauma, and being in hospital and needing medicine, and maybe there’s an obstructive nurse or a physician.
ableism is embedded in our culture.

TR in Conversation with Andrew:

What role does trust play in your process?


in my situation, working on the Tuba Thieves with my wife. There was no NDA, we actually got complete trust.
Say you got to sign an NDA, And people are like, I don’t want this other sighted person to help you work on this. We don’t want them to leak these secrets.
Well have them sign an NDA, right?
It’s just another case of, they don’t trust us to do something for us.

That’s whack.

They don’t trust us to the point where you’re going to be underbid to somebody that knows how to type. Somebody that can do the text to speech thing.
Somebody who’s a voiceover artists or actor or whatever and gets all these commercial gigs and just kind of like, oh, yeah, I can totally right audio description.
It’s just what’s on the screen. With no training.


It’s one thing if an individual questions or doubts another person’s abilities, based on an experience.
This person didn’t do a good job the first time.
The work was sloppy and not up to par.

It would be quite understandable if someone were hesitant or even refused to hire that person again.

Marginalized groups aren’t always afforded that same opportunity.
The actions of one seem to affect the entire group.
But the non believers aren’t looking for proof that someone can do the work.
They use everything to support their own claim that a group can’t.


The people I know involved, I know them all from being blind. They’re not just like, here’s a gift. It’s like, Hey, I made this in community and collaboration with blind people. Yeah. If I’m sighted, there were blind people involved in this where a lot of the times it’s like, oh, what you don’t like sound quality? Oh, you don’t like how it’s written? Well, you know, you should be even lucky that we’re doing it. You know, like, that kind of thing. Yeah. I don’t like that attitude.

I feel like people don’t trust us with anything.
People don’t even trust that I can tie my shoes.
Let me ask you sighted people.

— Sample: “This is a public service announcement” Jay Z, “PSA”

Do you look at your shoes when you tie them? Do you look at your teeth when you brush them? Because that’s just weird.


Last October, I was invited to testify during what felt like a trial where Blind people were forced to def
their desire to participate in the production of audio description.
This meeting was supposedly held to give the community an “opportunity” to provide feedback and opinion to the Certification Subject Matter Expert Committee before they reach a judgement on whether or not Blind people should be allowed to write audio description.

These are my words.

I’m sure it wouldn’t be presented this way but the result in my opinion is the same.
forcing blind people to seek sighted approval.

And let’s be real, we’re not talking about a Blind person with ambitions of driving trucks.

Rather, those interested in finding their own accommodation to complete a job.
and gets a job done.


What was cool with working with Alison Oh, Daniel, is that since she’s deaf, she’s a disabled artist and filmmaker, she just trusted that we would do what was best, and that we would do it
and it would be cool and created and not some sort of boring ass thing.
We all realize that we don’t want to send out some jalopy sort of audio description out for our community, because it’s just kind of like, a sellout move.

We’re all subject to having the quality of our work open for critique, but what gives anyone the right to say what someone can or cannot aspire to do.

I’m all too familiar with the internal struggle that goes on when an idea first presents itself.
That initial excitement followed by the questions.
All of the time put into thinking of how to make it possible, but also dealing with self doubt.
Then finding the solution that eliminates the doubt.


I think what it reveals to me most clearly is the value in having some agency about developing an approach to do stuff that I want to do that might not be already existing out there in the world.

As far as I know, no one was into describing fireworks for the benefit of people who are blind at that moment.

Rather than me wishing and hoping that someone would invent this kind of thing, to say, Hey, this is what I’m imagining, this is what I would like to do.

It’s through those kind of moments that are really quite generative in terms of where they can lead and that it would have interest for other people too.

In terms of my own adjustment to blindness, this is one of the ways that works for me.
This is one of the things where I still have that desire that I’m going to work at this and I’m going to do whatever I can to stay connected with this art form.


That’s a belief in self.
But that doubt can remain even when doing the work.
It’s ever present just waiting for a chance to take over.

Meanwhile, a group focused on rehabilitation are empowered to decide who can or cannot pursue the art of writing audio description?

TR in Conversation with Collin:

I’m hanging on to that word agency.
(Sarcastically!!!) What in the world Colin makes you think you can move from being a consumer of fireworks, just enjoying them into actually creating them.


(Laughing) Actually a really nice question.
What I’m doing is really quite unreasonable.
I am a pyrotechnician, I am learning about not just like how fireworks look and how they function, but actually how they’re constructed, what the components are, how they are assembled, all the technical detail of the art form.
I’m not doing it because Hey, I’m blind, I’m gonna do something crazy. I’m doing it because it’s a natural reflection of my curiosity, in interest in this particular field.


And don’t under estimate the power of individual encouragement.


Carmen Papalia, he said, you should really do something with your interest in Fireworks. What you’re doing here is amazing.

He said it really sort of changes the discourse about accessibility as kind of a quote service or a one size fits all type of thing into a more relational realm, where this is kind of negotiated between someone who is not using their eyes to perceive the world and someone who is able to be a guide or interpret the visual world with us and where we have some agency about how that works.

I’m not trying to do what’s impossible, but I’m trying to do what’s within my realm of passion possibility, where I do have some agency on designing something.

My current ambition is to design a pyro musical display, from my standpoint, as someone who has sight loss. Yeah. It’s ridiculous. But, but I’m loving it.


I guess I should just be happy I didn’t have to become certified to have a podcast.
Certified to raise my children?

Some people are certified woo!
— Sample “Woo! Come and get it!” Rick Flair


Laughing fades out.

TR in Conversation with Collin:

This might sound like a weird question, but who gave you permission to do this?


First of all, no one gave me permission, per se.

In terms of the kind of permission to pursue this as an area of interest, it was a conversation I had with a pyro technician, here in British Columbia, Bill Reynolds.

I was looking for somebody who had a bit of a proper vocabulary list of fireworks effects that went along with images of what those look like that I could use for training purposes.
I managed to be referred to bill. We had this conversation.

at the end of the conversation, I just thought I should mention that I have this crazy ambition that one day I want to design a firework display on my own, pyro musical to my favorite song.

I felt like, Oh, God, he’s gonna hang up on me or laugh or whatever.

He said, Well, do you want to fail at that? And I thought, Well, no, no, no, no, no, I actually think it’d be really cool to do.
He said, Well, Colin, then you have to do it. Because if you don’t do it, you will most certainly fail. I suggest you do it now.

My heart started to pound.
I just knew, he’s right. If I’m going to do anything with this crazy dream, floating around my head for years, but I didn’t really believe in myself that I could do this.
I think it was him that kind of kick started me into seeing well, what would it take to make this happen?


So what’s your choice;

Be the one encouraging the pursuit of passions. Or the obstructionist,
, placing obstacles in front of a well meaning person just trying to do their thing!


Chances are you believe what I’m sharing with you about my visions, my hallucinations. Right?
Yet, there’s absolutely no way for you to verify what I see.
I mean, you can learn more about CBS and verify that it exists and others share in the experience, but you’ll never see what I see.


look, if I tell you that this is what’s going on, this is what’s going on.

I wrote down a description for a painting that doesn’t exist, it was just something that was in my head.

Like basically an access move. So that sighted people can see you can kind of have fun and do weird stuff when you describe the things

It’s totally visually centered for that.

But then when I do descriptions of some of my sound work, it’s never visual.

I’m describing the space that I did this recording. Texture, smell, touch vibration and emotional sort of stuff with a lot of metaphor.
I still think visually and describe things with sight in mind, but that’s mostly just for communication.


When I as a person who is totally Blind, decides to watch visual content, I’m trusting in that group of people producing the audio description.
I can never verify it for myself.
I can ask another person that I trust, but that’s all I can do.
Have trust and faith.

How hard is it to trust that a Blind person…
Can, provide thoughtful feedback in the form of quality control.

Can, craft a concise and effective script using an accommodation that works for them?

It goes beyond audio description…

Can, safely teach orientation and mobility skills.
Can, use technology efficiently to perform all sorts of jobs.
Can, raise a child?

It’s like anyone else, we’re just on a quest to live our lives.

Damn! Can I kick it?

## Engaging with our Hallucinations


At any given moment, I can engage with my visions.
Stopping whatever I’m doing to observe the colors and shapes.

— Music Begins, an ambient, lulling track.

Once while using Ambien, I laid in bed waiting to feel sleepy, observing the difference in colors.
All of a sudden, I noticed movement.

The shapes became much smaller and darker.
An electrified Forrest green on black with shimmering, blinking red dots.
Then, suddenly, they all begin floating. Moving with intention as if about to reveal something I’ve been waiting to learn.

Lying there, patiently waiting to see what was next…

(Heavy breathing as if asleep.)

Next thing you know, I’m waking up.
It’s 3:32 AM and I can’t fall back asleep.
The bright colors quickly return.
I never find out what I thought the Ambien was about to reveal.
What was behind that movement? I want to know.

But the Ambien is for putting me to sleep, not enhancing my visions.


This is something I’m trying to explore with my brother right now who grows cannabis for me.
I also have a pretty severe pain condition.
It’s degenerative as well.

I grew up spending a lot of time in hospital.

But what has worked for me, especially as a replacement for narcotics has been cannabis as well as some other medications.

Especially what my brother is able to grow for me as my caregiver grower.
This is like a volunteer role through Health Canada, where we’ve registered for a growing license.
He produces a certain amount for me and we make concentrates out of it and various products that I use.
While it helps me with my pain, it also engages me with my hallucinations.


That’s what I’m talking about… engaging!


There are a handful of strains that are purported to have extra psychedelic effects. And one of those has the name LSD, it’s from Barney’s farm in the Netherlands.
We got some seeds, we grew some plants, it also happens to be a good strain for pain.
So it’s a pretty heavy hitting strain. Even just vaping it, I experience, intense colors, my hallucinations take on very vibrant, sort of colorful, quality.
Now we have this stock of a flower that I’ve been making concentrates with, and so I kind of experiment on myself, in terms of like, what this does to my hallucinations, and I’ve had, like, some amazing effects.

I see like, kaleidoscopic, kind of shifting patterns.

Me and my brother going to mash up two strains that are purported to be psychedelic, and then kind of from that develop our own strain. Once we highlight what is the trait that is really affecting here? Because, there are many strains that don’t have this effect on my hallucinations. Certain ones do.

And I just saw something, one of those manta rays

## Where are All My Friends?


Why not engage in what we’re experiencing?

For so many people, blindness or whatever the disability is viewed as something to run away from.
Instead of choosing to try new approaches or adaptations.
Some spend a lot of time, possibly even the rest of their lives trying to escape it.


I don’t want to make it seem like everything about the hallucinations or visions is enjoyable.
Every now and then I experience an avalanche of painfully bright white overtaking the colorful shapes and fighting to engulf my viewing area.

It’s reminiscent of those eye exams where the doctor shines the light into your dilated pupil.
I’m forced to stop, put my head down and squeeze my eye shut hoping to escape from that bombardment of white.

TR in Conversation with Carmen:
I told you that the doctor told me 19 years ago, it’ll probably go away in a month or two. almost 20 years later.

What would you say if you woke up and they were gone? If you didn’t have them anymore?

Carmen: 1:03:49
I’d have a sense of loss.

Probably I would be like, where my spirits where my friends.

It’s a new relationship that I have with my body , it’s something that I’m seeing all the time and it provides me comfort sometimes.
I’m laying in bed in a dark room, late at night, and I’m watching it, and it’s dancing for me.
It’s occupying my mind and it’s engaging, and it goes really well with music.

I think it would be sad if it was missing.

When I had to see the ophthalmologists throughout my life, it was always like, okay, in five years they’re is going to be a surgery, there’s going to be cure, every five years.
Then you kind of realize, it’s not gonna happen.
I don’t want a relationship to my body or the world around me that doesn’t let me question through what I have now.


I know someone right now is thinking, “Thomas,bruh, it’s not real.”

Well, television, movies fictional characters in books, none of that is real, but we miss them when they’re gone.

If random shapes and colors inspire me to create art, ask deep questions of myself
or even just entertain me for a moment, who’s to tell me what’s real.


ever see a grown man cry when his favorite team loses a championship?
— Sample: “Hah! Whacha See Is Whacha Get”, The Dramatics


Man, don’t talk to me about real.

## Contact
# Contacts

— Music begins, a groovy guitar riff leads into a funky cool 70’s R&B type of vibe.


Shout out to ;
Carmen Papalia


You can send an email to

Collin van Uchelen, reach him at

Andrew Slater


My Insta Gram, Tick Tock, website YouTube; ThisIsAndySlater.

These fine gentlemen, are the newest official members of the Reid My Mind Radio family

— Airhorn

You’ll have the chance to hear more from each of them later when I release our full conversations.
Something I’ve never done.


I’ve been wanting to explore Charles Bonnet Syndrome or CBS for quite some time now but never found anyone interested in sharing their experience.

My hallucinations are quite different from what others typically report, so I felt I would need additional representation.
That’s where I went wrong.

I was never really interested in exploring the diagnosis as much as I was interested in what we see.

I want to send a bright colorful shout out to one of the biggest supporters of this podcast.
That’s my friend and colleague, Reid My Mind Radio alum and evangelist,
Access Artist, co-host of the Blind Centered Audio Description Chats, Rockwood Leader … Cheryl Green.

She inspired this episode when She and Carmen Papalia discussed their apparitions on her podcast Pigeonhole.

— Sample from “Pigeonhole”
every episode is transcribe. Links, guest info and transcripts are all at My disability arts blog.

Carmen from Pigeonhole episode:

Let’s just keep the conversation going.


So, now, I extend my left hand…
(murmuring) Or is it the right hand? Yeh, I think it’s the right hand.

So I extend my right hand.
(Murmuring) Or is it the left hand?

So now I extend my left hand, which holds that same baton.
Anyone can grab it.
There’s no guidelines to this, you don’t have to pass any certification.
And no one is going to stop you.

So take this idea of describing your hallucinations and do what you want with it.
Feel free to explore in formats other than audio.

Disabled artist; graphic designers, poets, musicians how does this inspire you?
Awh, man! I can only imagine!

I look forward to wherever y’all take this because I know there’s value in what we see!

I hope you all feel there’s value in Reid My Mind Radio.
Come rock with us wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at

Just remember, that’s
Oh snap, check out this new image floating by:
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
— Music fades out!

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Live Inspiration Porn – I Got Duped

Wednesday, March 18th, 2020

Podcasting as a passion project takes some real perseverance. There’s always some excuse lurking around the corner just waiting for you to take

In this episode I’m working through one which has been nagging me for a while. Giving it some real consideration led me to recall a story from my own adjustment experience. A time when I got duped into being a part of a live performance of inspiration porn. Well, sort of. Let’s just say I wasn’t there for the same reasons as those running the event.

Like most episodes, I believe this one can give those new to blindness and disability some things to consider. In fact, like all episodes I don’t think it’s restricted but that’s not really up to me. I’ll leave it right here for whoever wants to partake.

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What’s up Reid My Mind Radio Family?

Yo soy Tomaso, Thomas Reid, host and producer of this podcast – Reid My Mind Radio.

Welcome to those of you who are new here.

This podcast introduces you to compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

every now and then, like today’s episode, I share some of my own thoughts and experiences as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult. And yes, I say adjusting, I don’t think I’ll ever really use the ed suffix on adjust. That’s not to mean there’s no progress. It’s just a continuous journey. Once you get to the understanding that it’s not one to be feared or even think negatively about, it gets better. But It’s like life, there’s always going to be change, and vision loss or any disability is now a part of that.

If that’s part of your reality, a family member or friend or maybe people you work with, well you’re definitely in the right place. If you yourself are going through some other sort of life change or you just like podcasts. There’s something here for you too, if you are opened to that.

Everyone is truly welcomed here with the exception of those with real hate in your heart. Energy works in mysterious ways and I don’t want that negativity being passed along to me or any of the family.

So let’s get this poppin!

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio theme

# Intro

Today I’m sharing some thoughts about this podcast. These are not stream of consciousness. No way I wouldn’t do that to you. My mind can be a scary place when I’m trying to figure things out.

Audio: Sound of chaos!

Chances are as I navigate these thoughts they will prove to be applicable to more than this podcast and hopefully useful to others. That’s exactly how I feel about every episode. I focus on those adjusting to blindness , but lots of others can relate and enjoy.

Audio: Typing sounds….

Since I began this podcast and maybe even prior, I have been very specific about saying I don’t see myself as a journalist. I’m an advocate, straight up! If you listen to the podcast, you know there’s a certain message about blindness and disability. My opinion or feelings in most cases are evident. The overall message is one of empowerment. I’m not impartial.

Audio: Possibly use old episodes here

As if journalism is really impartial.

There are times though when I need to make all sorts of journalistic decisions. It could be the way I edit or the specific questions I ask, even the overall feel of the show, the sound design. It’s intentional. My approach is different from your standard so called impartial reporter.

I’m connected to most people who are guests on the podcast. Usually, the connection isn’t personal. Rather it’s through blindness and disability Sometimes it could be race or we have something else in common.

I feel a responsibility to both my guests and listeners.

I want my guests to feel what I hear when they tell me their story. I want them to know I respect them and their experience.

I want listeners to find the multiple ways they relate to my guests. Yes, there’s the disability experience, but maybe they share a similar motivation, desire or goal.

That’s what I want, it doesn’t mean I can always make it happen.

every listener brings their own past, prejudices, preconceptions and experiences to the podcast.

That makes sense, it’s like anything else. Two people hear the same song , see the same film or read the same book and have drastically different interpretations.

Some people see a reflection of their own lives and goals while others never see themselves in a podcast where blindness and disability is so prevalent.

It’s probably not one or the other. I think there are some who have a bit of both. Either way, I can’t control that.

Which leads me to this statement…

“You should always remember, there are people worse off than you.”


“No matter how you’re sad and blue, there’s always someone who has it worse than you”, Shaggy

YouTube Videos
* ” If you’re having a bad day, just consider the day ….”

* “Bare in mind, there’s always someone worse off than you”

Song sung by Little Richard at a MS Telathon.

“… As I look around, so many people who cannot walk, not talk nor see, I thank God for the health and strength that I have, for there’s someone worse off than I am.”

First things first…

I’m pretty sure I said this same thing at some point in my life. it’s a common statement and an accepted way of thinking.

But, what does it really mean?

How can you compare someone’s life and happiness without all the information??

Is this really pity?

As a content producer, I cringe when I hear it now especially in relation to my podcast.

There’s never been a guest on Reid My Mind Radio that’s in need of someone’s pity.

I then question the choices made for that episode

Did I present this person in a way that says they should be pitied?

I don’t think I focus on the illness side of things. I do include or mention mainly because;
Others with the same diagnosis can relate.
It can also serve as a way to normalize illness and disability. They are a part of life and not a mysterious thing that happened to one person.

AudioFx: Ambiance head in skull
Am I creating inspiration porn?

Most of you are probably familiar with that term. It’s the
idea of presenting people with disabilities as inspirational solely or in part on the basis of their disability.

This idea that this person’s story which often you don’t even get, well it should inspire you or just give you that warm fuzzy feeling reminding you that most of the world is so considerate.

Watch how the rest of the high school students cheered on as the coach let the intellectually disabled kid in the game for the last 20 seconds.

News Report Audio:
Crowd cheering.Coach: He comes to ppractice everyday, he shoots with them, he cheers them on…”



News Reports:
Reporter 1: A very special student indeed…
Reporter 2: All thanks to the compassion of one of his classmates….
Reporter 3: But the emotion of this night involved a student who cannot take the field, but is universally admired for his determination…
Reporter 4: A special needs student with Williams Syndrome. He’s a fixture on the sidelineduring football games always rooting on the team. But hi fives are one thing senior prom is something different.
Student: She could have picked anybody to go to prom with.. her.


I just don’t want to put that sort of thing out in the world.

Does it sound like I’m making a big deal out of this? Maybe because I’ve seen inspiration porn live and in full effect. In fact, I unknowingly was recruited to be a part of the performance.

Audio: Dream Harp

Many years ago when I was still very new to blindness, I was asked by a local organization serving those with vision loss, to give a access technology demo during an event.

I took to the technology pretty quickly and they thought I could be helpful sharing that information.

There was no money involved of course, but they’d provide my transportation and I think there was going to be a lunch. Whatever, I was down to help the cause for sure.

I was setup y’all!

Arriving at the center, I was shown to the main room where the event was taking place.

There were three or four individuals with vision loss seated up in the front of the room. The rest of the group was seated around a large conference table.

I was shown to a table in the front of the room off to the side where I setup my laptop.

Shortly after, the host of the event, the director of the center, welcomed the guests and kicked off the agenda.

Each of the men and women seated in the front of the room were asked to share the story of their vision loss.

Here’s how I recall that event;
Audio: Trap Beat!

each individual told their story while the event host accentuated the misery.

” Before I went blind, I used to take long walks in the park
Now, I can’t see anything, my whole world is dark!”

Host: “Pitch black, the world is dark, too dangerous for you in the park.


Laughs! I said, that’s how I recall it today, but that’s not exactly what happened. But I do recall the questions and comments from the host were obviously selected to highlight the negative.
She was playing to the fear of the guests seated around the conference table.
these were potential donors.
All who probably already had beliefs about blindness;
“it’s probably the worst thing that could happen to you and if we don’t help these poor people they won’t be able to do anything. They can’t do for themselves.”

I was setup to be a part of a dog and pony show to help fundraise for the organization.

the fact that it was a fundraiser isn’t the problem for me. I would have still agreed to attend.
However, I would not have participated if I was aware of the approach being used to raise that money.

My so called presentation was probably less than 5 minutes. The host asked some specific questions and then made it seem like it was my technology background that enabled me to grasp the tools and less about the technology as a tool for independence.

Then they pulled out the glasses.

Audio: Glasses clinking and sliding down a bar!

No, not drinks. I don’t even think that would have helped. . No, it was the blindness simulation glasses. These are created to help sighted people understand what it supposedly looks like when you have certain diseases like, macular degeneration, RP, glaucoma and others.

At first thought, you may think ok, that’s probably helpful. It helps people understand and therefore empathize? Sympathize?

Well, in this particular case, while the dog and ponies sat up in front and this one off to the side a bit, the sighted donors were led into their temporary world of vision loss.

Reluctantly at first, one after the other each slowly began trying on the glasses.

“Oh my”…. “wow”
“where did you go Jeanie?”

And then the real fun began as they exchanged glasses with one another. Laughing as they realized how little they could actually see. Unable to find things they placed on the conference table. The host joking as she moved their cups of coffee.

Meanwhile, the dogs and ponies sat up front. While the jackasses continued with their disability experiment.

Empathy, I didn’t see that. But a check was written.

I don’t remember how the event finally ended, but I do know that was it for me. I checked out. There may have been some additional conversation but I doubt I had much to say to anyone after bearing witness to that display of ableism. I vowed to never be a part of anything even remotely like that.

I could easily imagine each of the donors around the table going home fulfilled and thinking “I should really count my blessings, because there’s always someone worse off in the world.”

As far as I could tell, I was alone in my review of the event. I believe some of the others continued to participate. I pretty much severed ties and ended up having a sort of reputation, so I was never asked again. perfect!

All of this leads to my final question.

How are we telling our own stories?

I highly doubt any of the people sharing their story were given instructions on how to tell it. Chances are, the director simply knew these individuals would supply what she wanted for the audience.

Some may say the ends justify the means. The center received the money and therefore can do good things for the clientele. I don’t agree. I believe several of those in the room were employers in positions to someday hire a blind person. I doubt they would. But that’s a subject for another day.

What thought do you put into telling your own story?

In most instances, we’re doing the telling of our own story. We don’t have a videographer, podcaster, journalist.

We’re probably not standing in front of an audience equipped with a PowerPoint presentation. We’re simply talking to people. Most often one on one.

Crazy thing, I tell other people’s stories but not my own. I can do it in a presentation, no doubt, but one on one not so much. I feel strange.

Audio: Cameo Strange! moves into “Children’s Story” Instrumental Slick Rick

I should tell my story as if I’m giving a presentation. it’s mine, it’s a good one. It’s worth telling. It can be helpful.

And it’s the only one I have.

And in the event someone hears it and their thought is
“Wow, I’m so grateful because I’m not like Thomas!”

My response, Bruh, you should be so lucky!

I’m not flexing’ or being conceited or anything like that. But this is my life why shouldn’t I be proud of what I do, when I do it and how I do it.

the same decisions I make for my guests and you all the listener, shouldn’t I put that much time and thought into my own story?

If you say yes, then maybe you too should do the same.

I told you this wouldn’t just be related to podcasting. In fact, it’s not just related to disability.

Or is it?

“Here we go!” Slick Rick, Childrens Story

You can find Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts. And if for some reason that isn’t the case, like teddy said, come on over to my place… That’s R to the E I D

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

Like my last name.

Audio: Reid My Mind Radio outro


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