Posts Tagged ‘Cultural Competence’

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

Wednesday, September 27th, 2023

Graphic: Amidst the isolation of a barren island and beach, an eerie scene unfolds. The darkness is punctuated only by the desperate silhouette of people, grasping towards a distant beam of light in the starry night sky. The text reads: NO ONE WILL SAVE US.  PART TWO

Joining me to discuss some of the challenges facing the production of quality audio description are Eric Wickstrom, Director of Audio Description at International Digital Center – IDC and Head of Studios at Descriptive Video Works, Rhys Lloyd.

We’re not just talking about the problems. These two offer some real tangible solutions to many of the most pressing obstacles facing broadcast & streaming audio description.

I couldn’t think of a better way to conclude both this two part episode and the 2023 Flipping the Script season.

If you haven’t taken a listen to part one, pause here and check it out. When you’re done, come right back…glad you’re back!! Let’s go!



Show the transcript

Last time on Reid My Mind Radio

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

Now that we heard from someone quite familiar with captions, do you think that’s the bar we as advocates for audio description should be striving to reach?

Think about that while I bring on our next guests

— Music begins, a bright mid-tempo beat!
Hi, my name is Eric Wickstrom. I am the director of audio description for international digital center. pronouns are he him?

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

When anyone asks me for examples of quality audio description tracks for networks and streaming platforms, IDC and DVW are the two I tell people to check out.

Are their others? Yes. But they don’t check off the boxes that these two do.
Let’s keep it real! IDC helped kick off the inclusion and hiring of Blind narrators. Their not the first, but to my knowledge they’ve done the most. If I’m wrong, please educate me –

DVW also is doing the same and employs Blind QC.

— Audio Transition
Welcome back to Reid My Mind Radio.

We’re in the final episode of the Flipping the Script on Audio Description season or part two of No One Will Save Us.
We’re taking a look at the current state of audio description in order to determine how
we can best advocate for improved quality and a wider adoption.

If you haven’t listened to part one, pause here and take a listen. We’ll wait!

Ok, you’re back? Let’s get it!

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro


When I invited Eric and Rhys to join me on the podcast,
I asked them each to bring three to five issues that most threaten the future of AD and some thoughts as to what we can do about them.

I mean, there’s a few things that stand out. Obviously, TTS synthetic speech, however you want to phrase it, I think that’s a problem.
It impacts our voiceover folks. But it also affects every area downstream for audio description.

A lot of companies that have no business being in this space are in this space. And they’re in it in major ways.

I don’t have access to enough quality writers day in and day out. Sometimes I feel like really, truly great writers. So if I don’t have access to it, these companies definitely don’t. But somehow they’re managing to crank out absurd amounts of audio description, with people that have no business writing it or being involved in it.

The quantity is more than it’s ever been. And because of that the quality is lesser than it’s ever been, which is a sad reflection on it.


While there’s definitely a relationship between TTS and the influx of companies less concerned with quality, we’ll consider these as two separate issues.

And then we have ongoing problems, in my opinion, with a lack of folks of color, being involved in the writing process, and in the voice over process.

I think the fourth thing that’s problematic right now still is the lack of involvement from members of the blind community in the process of creating audio description, whether it be voiceover writing, QC, what have you. I don’t think many companies are doing a good enough job still involving folks in the community.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
Cool. Rhys?



TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:


The only thing that sits outside of that, that I would add to it is that we still haven’t solved this devilish problem of accessibility content, traveling with the content and moving from service to service

I feel like this is my sort of, DaVinci Code like I’m trying to solve this, this and solvable mystery, and I think the answer is that there that that is really, really straightforward. because it’s so straightforward, it’s remained unsolved.

And then maybe one other thing I would throw in is that I don’t think there’s enough people in prominent positions in audio description that are thinking about what it could be, who are pushing the industry forward. I think there’s Eric, there’s the folks at DVW that I work with, but I don’t sense pressure coming from behind to make me go, oh, I need to be even more on it. Because there’s other people who are like really pushing the envelope out there, both whether it’s creatively, or whether it’s like looking at the broad reach. We’re really, at a really early stage of audio description, if you think about how visual our world is, and how inaccessible that is, including all the video content that exists on the internet that is untouched.

Let’s start with the problem of the pass through or the idea that audio description should travel with the content.
This would eliminate the problem of turning on one channel to watch a film that you know had AD in the theater or on a different streaming network,
but it’s not available on the current platform.

This is my opinion, Rhys , you can correct me if you think I’m wrong. Unlike captioning, which is mandated federally to be on everything, everything has to have captioning, we’re still picking and choosing based on I don’t know what criteria is, what has to have audio description, and what doesn’t. So it’s only when that content comes into the worlds of the big top cable networks at the top streaming services, places where they’re being legally mandated, where they have to commission those files. So those files, then live at that individual streaming service, or that individual network, instead of living with the content from inception, like it should. Like the captioning does. captioning has to live with the asset before it goes anywhere.

So if we can get audio description being mandated on every asset level, like captioning, that would solve that problem entirely.

The other way to solve that is networks communicating.

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

I think the simplest answer is, it’s too much still left to the individual networks to deal with, instead of having it being, you know, inherent to the assets at inception every time.

I would totally agree with you on that.

I sort of see the solution to the pass through being that instead of it being a pull, it has to be a push instead of the downstream content rights holder, remembering to ask for it. It should be pushed with all the other assets, it should just be automatic. If those who have the asset and are licensing it to someone else, we’re just to go, Hey, here’s the AD track. I mean, I don’t know what happens in those negotiations. But I can’t imagine the cost of that being exponential given the investment. I do see a push model works better than a pull model in this case.

With all of the technology available to us today, communication shouldn’t be an issue.
It’s such a quicker fix compared to enacting legislation.

I’ll take a slightly more optimistic view.

I don’t think it necessarily requires the legislation to be enacted, I think people like to get ahead of legislation because they don’t want to be slammed by the requirement and have no idea what they’re going to do. And because I think this is a relatively simple problem to solve, I think it any hint that this is going to be included in future legislation would probably Unbreak that dam.

I’ve had this dream of like getting everybody in a room and going can we all have a grown up conversation. There are impediments, but none of them are insurmountable, and just require somebody at each of these organizations to focus on it. And, and then however we up making that happen, as an industry remains to be seen.

The other issue is, quantity is important but we need to focus on quality because, you know, if we mandate that every network has to have audio description, I can promise you, Rhys and I are not going to get much busier, but there’s gonna be a bunch of companies that are going to be slammed with work and doing a very poor job.

It’s important that everything is accessible, but it needs to be properly accessible.
There has to be a quality product otherwise why are we doing it in the first place? Take some pride in it.

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

I go a step further. It’s not just about the production aspects of this. I think that there’s all too many people involved in the creation of audio description, whether that be our clients or the companies that produce audio description, who’ve never met a blind person, never had a conversation with a blind person about audio description.

It’s also I think, incumbent on companies like ours that specialized in this field, to elevate the voices of the community and to put people in positions where they’ll interact with the clients. And so that that is an opportunity organically, to start to hear from the community.

I’ll just say that I think it’s shameful in our industry, how few companies are actively trying to hire, Blind talent. The impediments not significant, and I think both, I don’t want to speak for Eric, but I know that he’s been open about sharing information with me and with other companies, I’ve been the same in terms of like, the talent that’s out there, the approach the how we work in the recording booths, how we work with blind QC talent, and, and so it’s not like there’s this like, secret sauce, that we’re all keeping hidden. We were both out there talking about it. Because we want other people to do it.

I think the secret sauce is the understanding that the impediment is not significant. It’s the willingness to go beyond the current process and consider accommodations.
That goes beyond anything Blind talent can bring to the table.

It’s almost understandable when you consider how from it’s start, the production of AD has closely aligned with a charity model. Like rehab or social services where the so called experts who studies blindness
determine what Blind people need with little to no involvement FROM THE COMMUNITY.

I will say that I think more blind involvement raises the quality of the audio description, simply because it getting that voice into the creation. And it’s making sure that perspective is represented in the creation. And if you don’t think that’s important, then you don’t think quality is important.

100%. What I’ve said many times is that I don’t think there should be anything proprietary about accessible workflows, I think that that if you figure something out, share it.

Actually, Thomas, to your credit, if we’re going to go even one step further back through talking to you and onboarding you, and working through our first project together and developing the workflows to work with blind voice over talent, I learned a lot. And then I worked with other folks, and they wanted to do a different way. So you know, over the course of the first year and a half, we had four to five different workflows that we just developed. And Reese called me up, and he said, tell me what’s up. And so we did, we got on a call. And we talked and I made that same offer to half a dozen other people and only one other person has ever taken me up on it.

While not many companies reached out to Eric, there were some who were still interested in working with Blind talent.

Personally, I don’t want my accommodation to remotely approach being an over burdening task for someone.
Then again, over burdening is in the eye of the beholder.

Remember, during the pandemic, the workflow changed for everyone.
AD Narrators were scrambling to setup home studios.
Scripts and voice files were being delivered via the internet. Whether that was through some secured proprietary system or via cloud services like Drop Box, the workflow was similar.

Here’s the thing, once a company realizes it’s process is inaccessible to assistive technology
and refuses to adjust or accommodate for that,
that company is making a decision to exclude Blind professionals. Period!

just three weeks ago, Thomas I had a phone call or an email from another company seeking to work with a blind talent. But telling me, they’re not set up for it. They’re not planning on getting set up for it. So would I mind doing all of the work to record the talent, s them the raw stems, they would then take credit for the project and put it out there like look, we’re working with Bline people, but they didn’t want to do any of the legwork to actually set themselves up to do the work.

They wanted me to do all the work so they could take all the credit this happened like within the last month, and
This is a big company. I’m not going to name names But I could, but it’s a big, much bigger company.

The conversation was embarrassing, but they felt no shame having it with me.
I don’t know if it’s coming across that it’s frustrating. I’m annoyed by it.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
A little bit.

I appreciate that frustration.

This conversation is specifically about audio description, but as we approach National Disability Employment Awareness Month in October, we need to consider that whatever is at the core of keeping Blind people out of AD is applicable to every other industry.

What can be done to change this?

I engage on social media. But it wasn’t really until you and I connected Thomas, where like, it started becoming this, this really accelerated workflow, to try to get people involved in the process, But in fairness, that’s because Liz Guttman and I had that conversation, hey, we think this is important. We need to start doing this.

And then as soon as we started doing it, I think Rhys kind of around the same timeframe. He was like, Yeah, us too.
I thought that after we did it, everybody will be like, Yeah, let’s all do it, and not the case, which is incredible.

To that point, I think part of the reason we would have had that expectation is I think it coincided with an increase in the quality of work that both our companies are producing. I don’t know if that’s coincidental or directly related, but I think that’s true. And also, I like to be perfectly blunt, it’s more interesting and more fun to do it this way. And why wouldn’t you try to make the work you do more interesting and more fun, and more meaningful?
It’s a little bit of additional thought. Your thoughts are free, so spend a bit of that thought.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
The lack of BIPOC writers and narrators.
How does this get resolved?

I think anyone with a conscience and a sense of things can step back from AD and recognize that we have a representation issue is industry. I think that the vast, the overwhelming majority of speaking only about English audio description, but the English audio description that’s being produced is being written by white people.

I know that every AD writer strives for some level of objectivity. But the reality is that everybody sees things through subjective lens.
I think we are getting homogeneity of description, just demographically.

In terms of what can you do about it?

That’s a little bit more complicated. It requires a little bit of investment, and willingness to spend some time digging, willingness to find allies willingness to push harder, and to call out that it’s a problem and then do something about it, instead of just calling up that its a problem and walking away from it.

When it comes to this issue of representation, if we really want to fix it, it can’t be a patch work approach. It needs to be a part of the foundation.
And with all do respect to those who laid the AD foundation, cultural competence was never a part of that core structure.

I’ve been asked why it’s important. What is the value of having culturally appropriate casting in a show?

One aspect of it is not discord for the audience, that’s important. But the thing is, the actual work done is going to be done better by somebody for whom the content is meaningful. And the experience of working on that project for everyone involved is going to be better if the content is meaningful to the people who are working on it. You actually elevate the product. Not only are you not doing something wrong, you’re doing something better.

As far as the writers, Rhys and I are gonna have some cross pollination on this one.

So there’s a film festival out of Philadelphia called the BlackStar Film Festival, that we’ve worked with at IDC for a couple of years now doing some tracks for them. And last year, they did a Writing Lab, where we were not involved with. But then after the festival, I reached out to the organizers of the festival and Liz Guttman , and I talk to them.
So this year, Liz did level one training with them. And then I got wind that the next step was going to be Rhys , taking them in the fall and doing a level two.

We’re launching an initiative to train some writers from underrepresented communities in the AD scripting community where that’s happening in September.
It’s an internal initiative. We’re doing it on our own dime. These AD writers will come up with strong training and be available for anybody to hire. There’s no like, they’ll become DVW employees so that there’s opportunities for Eric to benefit from that for any of the other AD providers to benefit from that.

It was something where I tried to figure out this problem was like how do I like leverage this for my Helping companies benefit for years. And then I realized, you know what the rationale is? I don’t I just need to do it for the services benefit. So we’re trying to increase it, or at least we DVW are. And I know IDC are very much aligned with us on, from this perspective, trying to increase the number of different voices that are allowed to participate in this conversation about AD.

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

And they got to work hand in hand with Steven Christopher, one of my writers, and one of the best QC guys in the business and did really in depth feedback on all the scripts.

some really took to it well, others obviously needed some more work, like anything, but it was really encouraging. I think there was eight to 10 people we got to work with. And I think the vast majority are going to be going on now to DVW and continuing on into more training. I actually onboarded one of them this morning officially to write something for Netflix for me, which is super exciting.

And coincidentally, a documentary based around the black experience in America in the history of racism. So like timing wise, it’s exactly the kind of project that we’ve been clamoring to have folks from the community available to write to reach this point. Today, because it’s important for the perspective and the point of view.

It’s been something that I know I’ve been personally frustrated about because we’ve tried over the years we have tried outreach, we’ve on boarded folks. This has been an ongoing pursuit for the last couple of years. And I think we finally found a pipeline through Blackstar to do this.

I for one am excited about growing the AD space to include more representation. But let’s be clear, that’s not a replacement for cultural competence.

just because you’re white doesn’t mean you can’t write something that’s sensitive, and proper that focuses around black issues, you just have to be curious enough to want to do a good job.

There was a movie a few years ago called The harder they fall on Netflix, that Liz wrote. And she spent a lot of time researching the clothes in the hairstyles and reaching out the people and saying, How would you like that to be described?

Really trying to do a good job to the point where it actually got written up on a blog for being so well done in terms of representing skin tones and hairstyles and being called out for members of the Black community for being so culturally proper or sensitive or trying to do a good job in those regards.

Now, at the time, do we wish we had a writer of color to write that script? We absolutely did. But that doesn’t mean that we can take the excuse of like, Oh, we’re just white folks. No, you have to still try to get in there and honor the material and be proper and respectful of it.

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

I always credit when I hired Liz, to write for me, I had a great base of writers. But that’s really when we took the next step to becoming what I feel like we’ve become one of the leaders in the field.

A lot of what made Liz great and makes her great now, is her curiosity. She’s constantly going to workshops, she’s constantly talking to members in the community. She’s constantly reading research papers and things that I can’t even my brain, I just glaze over.

She’s always digging deeper and figuring more stuff out.
How do we make it better? How do we get to the next level.
And again, it’s never good enough for us, we want to be better.
We don’t always get there when we try.
If that’s not your goal every day getting up going to work. Like if you’re not taking pride in your job every day, like I’m going to do a great, I’m gonna do better today than I did yesterday, then you should find something else to do that fulfills you in some way, because clearly this is not it.

I think there’s a dearth of people in our field that are driven by curiosity. I think we need more people who are looking broadly at like, what can be done, or is the industry ready for this? What little steps can I take today to get the industry ready for that tomorrow?
And so whereas I think, and justifiably so to some degree, the vast majority of people who work in our field are very production focused. We are because the production deadlines are intense. The expectations of our clients are quite substantial. And there’s contractual obligations that we have to hit. But at the same time, sometimes, especially in a field like ours, which is still really in a nascent stage, the ability to step back and go, oh, like, I wonder about this. I’m curious about this. I want to find out more about it. We need more people being able to do that. We need more people driven by the interest in doing that.

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

There’s just no excuse, like.
The reality is that there’s a vast array of voice talent that’s out there. It’s not all equivalent, right? There’s some really kick ass scenario, here’s and there’s some less skilled ones. But there is no excuse not to find a narrator that’s a appropriate cultural match for the content that you’re describing.

You can get really, really down in the weeds about it, if you want to, we’ve gone to great depths to try to find somebody who’s very specifically aligned with that skill set. And we’ve had some successes and some where we came up a little bit short, but that’s because we try we pushed it out there as far as we could.

Could I find a Kurdish narrator in the UK who’s deaf to just do the narration for this track? Well, no, but I did find a Kurdish narrator in the UK. And so that was a win in that respect. We found somebody who’s culturally appropriate for the content that we were describing. And that was the first very specific project.
Thoughtful casting cost you nothing to think about.
And not every show requires thoughtful casting, there are very generic shows that can just be relatively generically assigned, but there are shows that demand it. And if you as an AD provider, don’t take that responsibility seriously. Why not? What is your impediment?

I mean, come on. It’s at the point now where it’s, it’s literally embarrassing.
I had well over a dozen narrators of color on my roster. I probably posted 20 At this point between Latin and black backgrounds in Caribbean and you know, down the line, East Asian.
I have a wide collection of narrators. Again, anybody listening? They’re available, you just have to email me.
Rhys has called me before and hey, is this person available? And then I s the email address and he reaches out and they go from there.
These are freelancers, they are available. So if you’re stuck and you need somebody, call me.

It’s now August 2023. And there are no good excuses. There was no good excuses five years ago for this and now it’s pathetic.

If your basis of diversity in your voiceover roster is still man woman, the end, you’re a clown.
If you’re justifying that to anyone that that’s good enough, you’re a clown, and you deserve to be called out for it.
I would be embarrassed to do some of these things that some of these companies are doing. It’s shameful. And I hope more people shame them publicly, because I don’t know what it’s gonna take just to do the minimal right thing. I don’t get it.

By the way, this being an audio format, there was some vigorous nodding.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
So far, the quote of the day is you are a clown!

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

Oh a thousand percent!

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

That’s a great point Rhys . Thank you.
If you’re a narrator of color working with me, you will work it’s like the stuff that is meant to be voiced by people of color. That’s the stuff exclusive to that part of the roster.
right, like people like me are not going to narrate things, you know, from the Black community. But, yes, you can cross pollinate to any other generic content.


Eric shares some additional advice for voice over artists who traditionally
choose not to disclose their various identities in hopes of having their voice judged on it’s quality alone.

Don’t be afraid to put a picture on your website, or put a little thing in your bio, about your background, whether it be your nationality, LGBTQ we’re looking for that.

Make it easier to find you. I think more companies are now scrambling, pathetically, to try to catch up a little bit. Now standing out is actually I think, a good thing in some cases.

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

And then there’s the dreaded TTS.

Since the clowns and TTS are so closely aligned, we’ll discuss them as one.

The clowns are companies that first, saw the need for audio description production as an opportunity.
While there’s nothing necessarily wrong with that, based on their actions and quality of production,
it’s apparent, that’s their greatest concern.

So they look for cost cutting like hiring anyone to write the scripts and
skip parts of the process like quality control.

All of this to undercut competitors and offer below market rates for AD production.

it’s a free market, right.

The issue you run into is that companies come in and throw a wide net out there, and they say, Hey, give me bids.

And then you have other companies out there, streaming services and stuff that’s coming online recently, that don’t really put any effort or any, any research into trying to identify the good providers. They don’t try to narrow it down to five or six providers that do good work, and then set a rate. In a perfect world, that’s what would happen, every company would have a set group of providers they work with, they would set the rate internally, across the board. So nobody can undercut anybody or has any real incentive to undercut anybody. And that would be it. But we’re in a free market. And we live in North America.

— “And now it’s time to play everybody’s favorite game show, Say the Word!” Audio from Sesame Street

Can you say capitalism?

The truth is, everywhere you look, there’s someone trying to make a fast dollar by cutting costs and sacrificing quality.

Remember Economics class? Caveat Emptor or Let the buyer beware. Consumers of all types should be educated enough to know the value of what they’re buying.
In this case, we’re talking about large companies, networks and streaming services that frankly have no experience with audio description. So, how can they even begin to define quality AD? Yet still they’re procuring millions of dollars in AD for old and new content.

They’re being misguided, misled because they’re talking to the clowns. They’re talking to people who are trying to sell them on something. They’re not necessarily talking to the audience.

I always encourage them, Are you sure, have you spoken to anybody about this? Has anybody told you by the way the audience doesn’t like this.

But the other part of this is an AD providers. If you’re confronted with that conversation, what do you do? Do you just go? Yes, sir, we can do it? Or do you go and take that opportunity to talk to them about what they’re asking for, to take that opportunity to go? Are you sure that the experience you want your audience to have of your content? That is your precious, precious item is a subpar experience? Because it doesn’t need to be.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
Wow, so you telling me that companies come to you? And they say we want TTS?

100 percent.


So it’s not just that these platforms are being sold TTS,we’re in a place now where they’re actually shopping for it.

There’s this thing with some companies that are starting to divide what they think is important content, and what they don’t think is such important content.
A lot of kids programming is being thrown into that not as important pile where synthetic is being used. And that, to me is a complete bummer. Because if anybody needs a real voice to engage with, and if anybody’s gonna get turned off by a computer voice, it’s a kid, and especially kids on the spectrum, kids with ADHD, they’re immediately going to just walk away from that content.

Too often , I hear members of the community who seem to feel these distinctions are warranted.

Just because you may not have an interest in specific content, that doesn’t mean it’s less important.

And quite honestly if you’re not of the intended audience and don’t require AD to consume visual content,
perhaps you should speak less on it and pass the mic so the community can speak for it’s self.

There are people out there that are pretty big in the industry in terms of visibility, saying TTS is okay, for certain things for backfill or movies that are more than 20 years old. And we should just be happy that things are getting described.

I don’t think anybody should be happy getting scraps and crumbs to make up for the fact that they weren’t fed 30 years ago originally.

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

There are clients coming to us that have produced some of the great, I’m talking some of the greatest content in the history of television in North America. And they’re talking to me about synthetic.
And I’m like I would feel bad putting a synthetic track on this.
I feel bad, you should feel worse, because it’s your content, you should have more pride in getting this described properly.

The cost difference for companies like us to do synthetic versus real Voicing is minimal.
for Rhys and I, companies that really care, the cost difference between TTS and real voice. It’s not worth it. It’s not a huge number, where the cost saving is so extreme that a client should even really want to entertain at this point, in my opinion.

We spent so much time in this conversation talking about diversity of casting and thoughtful casting, and then you give me a computer program that has three usable voices. Well, what am I supposed to do with that? How thoughtful can I get about the casting of A, B, or C voice? I can’t.

Now, they’re starting to do this TTS stuff where they have black voices, quote, unquote, you know what I mean, and it’s just this, like, over the top, almost character voice.

This idea that like, black people sound the same, white people sound the same.
There’s dialects and there’s accents, and there’s nuance.
It’s like this generic voice, it’s quasi racist in all ways. It’s silly.

And it goes beyond just the sound of the voice, right? Great narration track is often done by somebody who’s connecting to the material. Well, you know, who doesn’t connect to material? TTS doesn’t connect to the material, there’s no lived experience of being LGBTQ for a TTS voice. Whereas you get the human narrator, skilled, who’s doing content of that type, in the connection that they come through, it’s not performative, but it’s subtle, but it’s there, and it’s present. If you’re an adept listener of audio description, you can hear it, that person gives a crap about what they’re doing. And
we stand to lose all of that.
Does TTS serve a function in audio description? 100%.
How to videos on YouTube, go for it. That’s an entirely reasonable application for TTS. But if you’re taking premium content, what is it you’re trying to achieve by doing that?

The answer all your questions in life is money. That’s the old cliche.
It’s a pathetic thing that I have to say, but that’s really the answer. It’s always comes down to money.

For some reason, no one’s been able to figure out how to make money on AD at this point, which I don’t understand. There’s still a very big void and lack of audio description in commercials, which I think you know, how we never as a business came around to like, Procter and Gamble sponsoring this AD track.
Figuring out a way into product placement into the AD track, kind of like they’ve done in movies over the years.
There should have been a more thoughtful approach to monetizing this art form years ago, and that would have solved a lot of these problems, but were the horses out of the barn and made a left and it’s for four farms over at this point.

I liked the idea here Eric of an AD narrate or drinking a grimace shake while narrating mentioning that that’s what they’re doing.
sponsored AD track, I like this,

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

We see that in live audio description, a lot of the times we’ll have a corporate sponsorship, whether it’s the Olympics or an award show, there’s no reason that that couldn’t trickle down.

It sounds like a natural fit, especially for network broadcasters who already have relationships with advertisers.
But I’m sure the streaming services like Netflix, Max and others could make this happen.
Then just leave it to the accountants to identify other financial benefits for the company.

From the consumer position, we’re already used to sponsored ads and programming.

With all of the issues we identified and discussed today, it’s extremely important that we as consumers are fully aware of our power.
And we shouldn’t be scared to flex or put it to use.

Thomas, the first time I was on your podcast, I talked about this. Streaming companies, businesses in general, yes, they are forced to respond to negative things, but they would much rather not deal with negative things. And the best way to not deal with it, is to just give the consumer a product that they just enjoy, and that they’ll just be quiet about, right.

I want to keep encouraging people, hold all of us accountable. Like Eric and I are out here talking the talk, hold us accountable for walking that walk if we do something that you think is subpar, or could be done better.

We make mistakes, we know, but we want to hear about them. That’s why we put our names on our tracks. That’s why we’re out there on social media. That’s why we’re reachable.
It’s telling, the circus providers, the clown shows, they don’t put their names on tracks.

continue to call out the bad stuff, and especially stuff that’s not being culturally appropriate because That’s disgraceful.

I think equally important, highlight the good, because it will matter, it will filter more that work to the companies that are taking pride in doing it well.

And that’s the goal. The goal is to get the product to be as good as possible. And so sometimes you just kind of have to shine a light and push the client towards that direction.

There’s sort of historically been the mindset of gratitude. Thank you so much for giving us audio description. And I get that because it wasn’t there. And now it’s more prevalent, but it’s not enough.

The focus on gratitude should shift into, what makes good AD. There’s different schools of thought, we’re not all going to agree on everything. That’s fine. But I think we all should have some accountability to producing that quality AD.

From a consumer advocacy standpoint, I’m glad people are grateful for the access that they have.
But access isn’t enough, it has to be better access.

It’s not much harder to perform this work well than it is to perform it badly. It’s not that much more of a time investment, it’s not that much more of a money investment, and the audience deserves better.

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:
Has there ever been any conversation about the post production companies, the AD production companies coming together?

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

TR in Conversation with Eric & Rhys:

Yeah, that’s an idea! (Chuckles)

It’s a great idea. I’ve proposed it numerous times to numerous entities, that I thought it had more ability to sway that I won’t name them.
It’s problematic, but I think there are ways in which it could happen.

I think we’re nearing a point where more of these organizations, the content owners, the bigger studios have people who actually are focused on caring about the quality of their accessibility. Individuals within their company were tasked with it, not just project managers on a given title, but like actually overarching people who are looking at this within their organization.

The more that that exists, the more likely we are able to have productive collective conversations.

there’s a collegiality amongst this group, those who actually care about it, and those who are invested in it, to help elevate the product. And to push each other.

I pay very close attention to what Eric is doing. I support it. But I also want to know if he zigs, I want to make sure that we’re also zigging at the same time, because philosophically, there’s an alignment.
If he uncovered some awesome new thing I want to make sure we’re doing it too. And I think vice versa.
That’s where I’m also hoping others can join this idea and get behind us and start pushing Eric, and I to think in different ways, and I’m very open to that sort of level of competition.

Big thanks goes out to Eric Wickstrom and Rhys Lloyd and of course Michael McNeely from part one.
Gentlemen, I truly appreciate your time and honesty.
I’m not sure if you know this but you are each official Reid My Mind Radio family!

— Airhorn

If you want to reach out to Eric and or Rhys,
you can do that first via the formerly cool app known as Twitter now annoyingly called X.

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


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

Find them both on Linked In

Eric Wickstrom

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

Or reach out via their respective companies.

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

info at Descriptive Video
We do answer those emails.

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


But, if I modify that slightly, it can feel a bit more optimistic and potentially something we can solve.

No one, will save us.
So we all need to work together.
We! As in:
* AD consumers and their loved ones
* Anyone involved in the AD process (writers, audio engineers narrators etc. )
* Those in solidarity, no matter the access need
* Film makers, storytellers, producers – who want their creative work consumed and appreciated
* Broadcasters, streaming platforms

We, can each do something.

Broadcasters, streaming platforms

Hire a dedicated person and or team of individuals responsible for content accessibility. Preferably from the user communities.

Caveat Emptor – Let the buyer Beware
Can you imagine going to a car dealership and realizing there’s only a five percent difference
between the used beat up car with a hundred thousand miles, torn seats and a crappy mis match paint job versus a brand new shiny Mercedes Benz?

Unless you have a thing for hooptie’s , I’m pretty sure you’re leaving that dealership in the Benzo.

So why in the world would you purchase AD for your content that’s the equivalent of a hooptie, a lemon, junk?

How about getting together with other content platforms to assure you all play nice and share the existing AD tracks. There’s no reason titles with AD shouldn’t have AD everywhere.

Film makers, storytellers, producers – who want their creative work consumed and appreciated

Learn about AD. Consume accessible content. Consider it’s benefits to your storytelling process.
Make your content accessible, reach out to the community and increase your views.

Those in solidarity with others no matter the access need

Share! Experience AD for yourself, tell other people about it. If you have a platform invite others to talk about it.

Anyone involved in the AD process (writers, audio engineers narrators etc. )

Meet and talk to a diverse group of consumers who are Blind or have low vision. Reach out to a local organization of the Blind. Ask for input and feedback on AD. You never know, you might make a new friend.

Hopefully you are or have consumed AD.

Take pride in your work and like any career, keep getting better and don’t be scared to innovate.

— Sample “Say it with your chest!” Kevin Hart

Take the pledge – sign on to show your commitment to culturally competent AD.

If your organization isn’t currently or in the process of making space for Blind professionals in the production process,
I guess I have to just ask; how do all of you in those big red shoes fit in that little car?

AD consumers and their loved ones

First, I got a message from the gratitude gods. They said enough is enough. We deserve true access.

For those who want to accept sub par anything, that’s your choice.
But be quiet. Say less! Your not helping anyone.
Some of us know our value and we’re not lowering our standards.
Why in the world would you advocate for that.

Advocacy comes in so many forms. I know lots of folks who struggle because they feel there’s only one way.
For many, that’s through some formal organization.
Yet, some of these organizations aren’t equally welcoming
Some seem as though they exist to maintain their existence.

Some of you are great letter writers
Why not put that skill to use to seek support for the
Communications, Video, and Technology Accessibility Act.

Advocacy is taking place when we provide real feedback.
As Eric and Rhys said, that’s holding everyone accountable and sharing both the good and bad. Do it publicly, we have the tools.

Advocacy is keeping people informed. I think of Stanley Yarnell, the Sherrif of the Blind Posse.
If you haven’t heard of them, it’s a crew of AD enthusiasts who appreciate audio description in museums and galleries.
The Sherrif sends out email blasts at least monthly informing the posse of events online and in the Bay area.

Feel free to let me know what you’re doing in your area.

After hearing from Michael McNeely in part one, I’m convinced,
the state of captions are not what we’re trying to attain.
Yes, there’s a greater level of awareness, but the take away lesson to me, quality has to be the goal.

Hopefully, you can recognize that quality is something I try to pour into every episode of this podcast including
this season of Flipping the Script on Audio Description.
This is the last episode of the 2023 season and I already have some things I want to bring you next year.

Due to some existing commitments, I’m not producing another season this year.

But I truly recommend you stay tuned in because sometimes, I just get inspired.
And I’m hoping we will have more Blind Centered Audio Description Chats to share in the feed soon.

So make sure you rock with Reid My Mind Radio by following or subscribing wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at
Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!
— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be.” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!
— Reid My Mind Radio outro

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: White Washing Continues

Wednesday, July 26th, 2023

A Black  woman looking away from the camera as a white feminine hand is reaching in to touch her  locs. The text "White Washing Continues" is written in white dripping paint above the woman's head.

Many Audio Description consumers have been calling for an increase in cultural competency. From the script to the voice of the narrator. In addition to wanting authentic experiences of film and television, we believe #RepresentationMatters!

Last year, I published an episode, Black Art White Voices:A Flipping the Script Prequel where I posed that if the decision makers, AD Directors, were not going to practice cultural responsiveness, others in the production process including writers and narrators could use their power to help make AD more of an equitable experience for all.

But the problem persists – the “white washing” of Black content.

Considering all that’s going on in the world today including;
* The Reversal of College Affirmative Action
* Voter Suppression
* Banning books

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised!

But that doesn’t mean I have to be quiet. I couldn’t after learning that “The Hair Tales” a documentary all about Black women and their hair, featured a white narrator. That’s an egregious offense in my book!



The Urgency of Intersectionality | Kimberlé Crenshaw


Show the transcript

Crowd applause
“We’re about to let our hair down. Woo!”


The episodes I least enjoy producing, are those in response to an injustice, unfairness or something I find plain wrong.

I’m not the type of person who looks for drama.
Reid My Mind Radio family knows I put time into explaining my perspective and I treat people fairly.

Ever since fourth grade, I knew, I have to be cautious about how I respond. My resting face or my angry face, was perceived to be “looking for a problem”. Especially to my white teachers.

Physically responding to being pushed or punched would inevitably classify me as the aggressor.

The challenge is not only to effectively make a case for my position, but also be respectful.

Honestly, saying that bothers me.


The truth is it’s not so much about my behavior. More than often, it’s about how I’m perceived – the aggressor.
There are those who will try and dismiss what I’m saying as the ramblings of an angry Black Blind man.

But that ain’t new!

— A montage of Black athletes speaking out against injustice and the resulting response
Muhammad Ali;: It has been said that I have two alternatives, either go to jail or go to the army, but I will like to say there is another alternative. And that alternative is justice!

News Reporter: Mr. Muhammad Ali has just refused to be inducted into the United States Armed Forces.

Narrator: The reaction was swift and severe. within hours, the Chairman of the New York State Athletic Commission denounced his conduct as detrimental to the interests of boxing, stripping him of his license to fight in New York. Almost every other boxing commission in the United States followed suit.

News Reporter: Overnight San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refusing to stand during the national anthem again. (Over singing of the anthem)
This time he took a knee right behind hundreds of service members being honored on military appreciation night. As the crowd and players stand you can see Kaepernick kneeling on the sideline. Teammate Eric Reid joining him.

The crowd booing every time he took a snap.

Fox Commentator: I’m gonna create a new banner, this is a dumb jock alert. (Ding, ding ding!) NBA superstar Lebron James is talking politics again…

Reporter: You spoke out on the Sterling issue. And you were also outspoken on Travon Martin.
Lebron James: Yes!

Fox Commentator: Keep the political commentary to yourself or as someone once said; “Shut up and dribble!”

It’s the same old story , when Black people call out any form of injustice.
Shut up and dribble. Stay in your place. Just keep your head down and do your work.

Speaking out, well that just leads to some form of punishment or being made an example to discourage anyone else from doing the same.
So they’re stripped of their ability to earn a living. They’re branded as ignorant and made to appear to be a joke.

Do everything, but deal with inequality.

Of course, once society acknowledges the inequity then they praise that outspoken person for their courage
and act as though popular culture always supported their efforts.

Now, I’m in no way comparing myself to these individuals or anyone else for that matter. I’m simply giving you some context for why
these are my least favorite types of episodes to produce.

For Black people especially, truly speaking out can have real repercussions. Some might say backlash.

Woof! What’s the origin of that word?

Yet, sitting by and saying nothing, well that isn’t really an option!

My mother made it clear, none of her children were going to be bullied.
Just watching her move through life, as her child, I learned as she would say, you don’t hold your tongue.
She believed, if you were about what was right and fair, then there’s no need for being shy about what you have to say. That was until she and I disagreed about something, but that’s another story!

I’m Marcy’s son, Thomas Reid. this is Reid My Mind Radio!
— “Here we go again! ” Chuck D, Public Enemy “Bring the Noise”

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music
— Turn it up!”

— Broken record effect

You ever feel like a broken record?

— Dream harp sound
— audio from the 2022 episode titled Black Art White Voices

Music begins, a pulsating ominous synth that opens up to a dramatic mid-tempo beat.


What’s up Reid My Mind Radio?

We’re in between seasons but I wanted to share some thoughts with the family.

Truth is, I wish I didn’t feel obligated to share these thoughts on this particular subject.
I’m hoping one day it won’t be necessary.

Several years ago now, I produced this episode that has really sort of attached itself to me.
It’s the Black Panther episode.
The episode I almost threw away. I didn’t think anyone would care.
I published it anyway.

People cared!

I think.

I’m just ready to move past it.
Meaning, I would love to see those who say they understand and support the need for Audio description to be more culturally aware and competent, put it into practice.

but, it’s like…
Audio sample: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” From The Godfather.


That was the opening of the 2022 episode titled Black Art White Voices.
I feel like the title says it all, but apparently not enough.

This issue didn’t start in 2022, it’s way before Black Panther in 2018.
In fact, it begins before audio description.

— Collage of audio clips —
— “European institutions like the British Museum and the Love are home to some of the world’s finest art. But some of the treasures on display were stolen during colonial times. Experts believe up to 90 % of African cultural artifacts were taken from the continent.”

— “Cultural theft has been, especially when it comes to Black culture, as American as apple pie.”
— “From the time we were brought over here on slave ships and our very lives were stolen from us.”
— “From white artists that put Black face on” … “Elvis Presley” …
— “Don’t do my thing and not give me my share. So that’s where it becomes theft.”
— Chuck Berry’s song followed by a replica from the Beach Boys.


The “white washing” of Black art and history is alive and just a part of this country’s fabric.

— “This fight against teaching America’s racist past has now been integrated into the broader Republican cancel culture wokeness moral panic being stoked with Joe Biden in office and since he’s a less appealing target than other recent Democratic presidents for oh gosh who knows what reasons, Mitch McConnell and his party decided the biggest threat to America is white people finding out America’s institutions are racist.”


Black art and culture isn’t made to be filtered through whiteness.

Non-Blind consumers are free to experience the art in the way it was intended. And so should Blind people.

Well exactly who are Blind people?

— From Kimberlé Crenshaw’s TED Talk
“Many years ago I began to use the term intersectionality… intersections of race, and gender of heterosexism, transphobia, xenophobia, ableism , all of these social dynamics come together and create challenges that are sometimes quite unique.”

That’s Professor Kimberlé Crenshaw , the person who first articulated and coined the term intersectionality.
Chances are, most of you are aware of intersectionality. It’s a pretty simple concept that’s often ignored.
Our lives consist of multiple identities and issues.
Recognizing these identities isn’t about ranking one over the other, it’s about acknowledging that we’re impacted differently and need to take this into consideration.

Blind people consist of every identity. (Hopefully that’s not news to you.

Audio description should center Blind people. (Again, I feel like the majority of you agree with this!)

All Blind people, not just those who are white and cisgendered. (Now this may be new for some.)

But, I’m going to move forward working under the assumption that we all agree that:
Blind people intersect with multiple identities. We are;
Black, indigenous, people of color, and white
We’re straight, gay, non-binary, trans
we’re from every socio economic background

I’ll also assume we can agree that we all have a right to experience content as it was intended by its creators.

With that said. let’s get into it.

— audio from “Hair Tales” show intro with Oprah

Tracey Ellis Ross: We created a space for us to gather our stories…

Unknown voice over:
“I never know what my hair will do”
Tracey Ellis Ross: Honoring our identity culture beauty and humanity.

Series of unknown voice overs:
“Braided locs, corn rows, twist out, hot comb, relaxed, any style you want; big, versatile, lush, beautiful, resilient hair. What version of myself do I want to be. You do not need hair to wear a crown. Whoop!
My hair is like laced…. laughs.

Tracey Ellis Ross: I’m Tracey Ellis Ross join me as we celebrate the truth of who we are through the wonderous world of our hair. So my hope is that these conversations we have create more space for belonging, self-actualization and I think there’s so much about our hair that’s community that sort of centers through our hair. And it can feel like it’s just a conversation about hair, but it’s not. Especially not for Black women.

Oprah: It never is.

Tracey Ellis Ross: No!


If you’ve been flipping the script on audio description with me over the past few years, you should be quite familiar with this idea.
I’m talking about conversations being about more than what they appear to be on the surface.

Black women and their hair is definitely about beauty, but it’s also political,

— Music Begins: “a dark, driving hip hop beat

it’s a reason for multiple generations to gather and share history,
it’s about economics. I’m sure someone can if they haven’t already, tell the story of humanity through Black women and their hair. The Black woman is the mother of us all! (Facts, not opinion)

Hair and the stories that come with them are personal.
Hair is a big deal to me, which is why my locks are past my glutes and reaching the back of my thighs. I have locks. And I’ve had them since I was 16. And I am 33 years old now. So I don’t see myself in any other style other than locs for as long as I can have them on my scalp.


That’s Casandra Xavier.

I mostly go by the screen name Caspher (spelled out) CASPHER. I am in Boston and grew up in Boston, originally from Florida.
I am identified as deaf blind, mixed combination of vision and hearing loss. AKA deaf blind champion, an African American woman. And I enjoy a good storytelling session. Whether it be on stage or in a small group setting. Great to be here.


The decision to grow her hair in locs is very personal to Caspher.

When I was younger, I was going through a lot of medical procedures that involved hair cutting. And so I had to wait till I was done with that awful passage of my life of surgeries every now and then to finally say okay, this is the hairstyle that I’ve always wanted.

I Couldn’t stand any other style because that would involve constantly getting your hair pulled on. And contorted into all kinds of styles. I just didn’t like people in my hair all the time.

I’ve always wanted locks.

— Audio collage on not letting people touch your head.


I don’t know if this is a spiritual thing, a Black thing but I’ve heard this all my life with different explanations.

I hear it mainly from Black people throughout the diaspora as well as LatinEx especially those from the Caribbean really

it’s the whole energy thing.

Where do they come from?
Did they even wash their hands?
What are their hand hygiene like?
Because you with your hair and then touching it. Later on? You’re gonna go lay down in the bed on the pillow with that? Mm hmm.

If there’s one thing we all should understand, three years after the pandemic, germs are passed through physical contact.

What may be more complicated for some to accept is the idea of transferring negative energy through touch.

Either way, the kindergarten lesson remains true;
Don’t put your f*%#ing hands on people.

I was actually taking my hair down from a style. And when it came out, it was extra curly. So the next day, I had to, like stand as far apart from everybody. Because once they saw those, like locks in the curls hanging down my thigh. Everybody wanted to be hands on.

They would just walk up to me first, touch the hair and then ask afterwards.

So as soon as you catch them coming closer, I’m already moving all the way away. I’m not anywhere near you.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
Can we be specific about the they and them?

I have an assumption.

The White folks. okay, a lot of black people they know better, so they won’t even.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
So they just do it. They don’t even ask, Do they ask?

They just touch. This is like the classic line that comes out of their lips. So this is all yours. It’s all natural.

Yes. Absolutely.

And I do have to answer with attitude, because it is my hair since I was 16.

They asked me if they can touch my hair. I will say no.

Hairstyles have different meaning to different people.

Caspher’s mom for example felt locs were bad. And then Caspher’s older brother went an grew his hair in locs.

It was almost like he went and signed up for the army without telling her.
And she’s like, Oh, so you’re one of the troublemakers now.

And then she realized really quickly now that her son has locks, it’s not all as bad as it seems.

I wanted to get locks, when she was a lot more lenient about it and was like, Okay, you can get it.
Just wait until all your medical procedures are done.

I said once I’m done with all these surgeries and when everything is healed, I want locks. And I meant it. So she let me try out twist for a year. And she’s like, do you still want it? I said absolutely. And that’s when it happened.

— Music Ends

I started growing my locs and I couldn’t be any more happy. I don’t regret My decision at all.

Tracey Ellis Ross: Every kink, curl and coil in a Black woman’s hair has a hair tale…

And now, let me ask.

Who should voice the audio description for the Hair Tales documentary?
Who should be the filter through which Blind Black women experience their stories?

— Audio Description Narrator: “A title appears, The Hair Tales” Tracey Ellis Ross sits across a table from Oprah. Flowers decorate the room. Photos of Oprah and her family.


If you watch television and films with audio description, you recognize that voice.

Hi I’m Tansy Alexander. I’m a Caucasian woman. I’m five foot seven, I have Auburn hair. I’m very athletic and active. I do all variety from narration to audio books, to commercials, promos trailers, IVR phone systems. I’ve done pretty much it all.


That’s from the time she joined me right here on the podcast in 2020.

— Original audio from episode

And if I may broach this subject, I do think that we need to see more inclusiveness on the narrator side.


Well that’s exactly the point of this episode, these continued series of episodes.

I reached out to Tansy to have a conversation on the podcast.
Here’s my email to her for context.

— Music begins: A slow piano with lots of ambience evoking a purposefully over dramatic melancholy vibe.

— With sounds of typing on a keyboard layered underneath, TR reads his email.

Hello Tansy
I hope you’re doing well.
I wanted to invite you back on the podcast.
I’m producing an episode continuing the conversation on the topic of cultural competency specifically as it relates to the choice of the narrator.
I’ve been vocal about this subject and I’m hoping you would want to share your point of view.
When you first appeared on the podcast you expressed that you agreed with the idea of equitable experiences in AD.
Last year, I referred to the HBO series “Insecure” which you narrated.
I expressed that I didn’t feel you should have been cast in that role as the series is heavily based in Black culture.
In this episode, I discussed the idea that narrators and others in the industry who believe in equity have the power to help
advance the change we want to see in the industry.
That is, turn down roles and or help find other narrators who are of the film’s or project’s culture.
In this current episode I’m producing, once again, you are narrating a series heavily entrenched in Black culture.
Would you be interested in speaking to me about your feelings on this?
You should know, I don’t want this to come across like any sort of personal attack on you, because it isn’t at all.
This is about making the AD consumers experience of film and television as close to what was imagined during its creation.
I look forward to hearing from you.


That’s me!

I really do believe someone like Tansy who says she’s interested in…
— Tansy “more inclusiveness on the narrator side.”

could really help the AD industry become more equitable in their practice.

But, when listening back to the 2020 episode, the equity she’s seeking doesn’t seem to be about the AD consumer.

— From “2020 Episode

And if I may broach this subject, I do think that we need to see more inclusiveness on the narrator side.

I get plenty of work, but I still think there’s a gender bias in the industry for males to succeed.

It’s the same it’s been for the whole spectrum of Voice Over since I started over twenty years ago, the belief that a male will sell it better. For whatever reason; the voice will cut through or people listen more to a man than a woman. These are stereotypes that probably aren’t true at all. These decisions to use a man or a woman are extraordinarily subjective.


I get it! Subjective AF!


I used to do a lot of action, landing on the moon, war movies, I’ve done a few last year. I can do a romantic comedy, I can do a children’s thing, I can get in there and get gritty. But all of a sudden they decide oh well for all the Marvel we need to have men.


That’s what makes her response to my invitation difficult.

Hi Thomas.

How are you doing? I just saw this last night and wanted to think about it before I responded.

I appreciate that you’re take on the casting decisions in audio description.
I am an actress first and foremost, who accepts roles based on casting’s advice.
I work on all genres of projects including Sci-Fi, documentary, rom-com, adventure, animation, horror, etc.

It would seem a better fit for this interview if you interviewed casting directors/project managers for audio description.
In that way, you could outline that you feel like all people who narrate a project should always look like the majority of people in the project, or
at least always be from the group that the project is based on.
Those casting people are the decision makers who could enact that change.

Although I always enjoy a great discussion with you, I have to take a pass this time.
Really appreciate you thinking of me!

Warm regards



Thankfully, I have the audio to pull from last year’s episode that directly responds to Tansy’s point.

— Sample: “Rewind Selecta”

— Original audio from 2022 Black Art White Voices

AD professionals, you have a choice.
If you’re aware of the inequity and say you want to see the change, well, recognize your power.


I find it really hard to believe that you don’t recognize when you’re not right for the project. Rather than finding a way to personally justify that with yourself, why not use your influence to suggest that someone else is hired for the position? Perhaps it’s someone you know and recommend, but in general, speaking up about the subject, being an ally, well that’s powerful.

— Sample: “You will not replace us” Chants of Alt Right Mob.

Is this call for equitable representation threatening?

When it comes to the voice of the narrator on films that are culturally specific, we’re talking about a small piece of the pie. The total number of films and television shows that are focused on BIPOC stories is still a fraction of the total films made today.

White narrators get plenty of work. I don’t see any reason for them to feel threatened by these comments.

This issue is just one part of a much bigger problem.
It goes beyond films like Black Panther or In the Heights. Shows like Insecure. It goes beyond the voice. It’s about the visibility of Black and other people of color

That’s seeing and acknowledging color on screen and stage. It’s recognizing that Blind and Low Vision includes people of color.
— Reverse Dream Harp bringing back to present


Let’s be clear, I’ve come across other shows with insensitive casting; Abbott Elementary, Reasonable Doubt and others.
But this isn’t about individual shows.
It’s not about my individual point of view,
it’s not about one narrator.
This is about centering the Blind community in audio description.

(The full community!)

— Law and Order scene change sound


When I finally decided I had to speak about this here on the podcast, I knew I needed to hear from Black women.
I’m Black, but I’m also a bald man!
I like to think it’s still by choice but let’s be real, my options are limited when it comes to my crown.

Hair tales isn’t something I would probably choose to watch on my own.
However, I could see where I’d watch this with my daughters.
I’d enjoy sitting back and listening to their comments as they agree or disagree with one of the experts or explains something to me about a particular hairstyle.

today’s conversation is specific to the audio description.

audio description should always center Blind people.

I needed to hear from Black Blind women.

So I put the word out that I was seeking input on this topic.
to be clear, I was looking for opinion not a specific point of view.
If someone wanted to speak in favor of color Blind casting for AD narrators, cool, bring it.

I didn’t get much in the way of feedback. I shouldn’t be surprised.

I’ve come to recognize phases we go through as consumers of audio description. I’ll use my own experience as an example.

— Music Begins: An upbeat dance track…

Phase 1: Shock

“What? I can experience movies again?”

Phase 2: Denial
“I don’t know, this is probably going to suck. How will this work, someone explaining what’s happening? Augh! I don’t know.”

Phase 3: Bliss, Over Appreciation

How was the movie?

Oh my goodness! It was so good, it had audio description!
I can’t say anything bad about this film because it has audio description.
— Fades down while talking continues

Phase 4: Back on Earth

How was the movie?

Two thumbs down! I’ll never get those 90 minutes back.
— Fades down while talking continues

No longer are you easily entertained. Access alone isn’t cutting it.

Phase 5: Critical

How was the movie?

There was this one scene that stands out to me. The production is incredible.
— Fades out to an enthusiastic monolog…

Considering the fact that AD honestly hasn’t been that accessible for that long, I imagine there are a lot of people in the early phases.

— “It’s a man’s world”… James Brown

Let’s be honest, I have some privileges in this world.
I’m a straight cisgendered man. I don’t have all the privilege afforded to my white brethren, but I do recognize those within my reach.

— Roland Martin Clip:

Roland Martin: Recent study shows the most abused group on social media, Black women and women of color.
Jennifer Farmer: So what we’re seeing is pervasive attack. If you’re a Black woman and have a social media account, if you’ve been on Twitter, chances are you already experienced abuse. Eighty-four percent of the tweets that go to Black women contain some type of abusive or harassing message. The other thing that we’re finding is that if you have the courage to state your opinion, you’re also going to be attacked.

TR in Conversation with Casandra:
On that note, if you ever get any sort of pushback from this episode, please let me know.
I don’t want none of that going on.
you know, it’s fine.
I’ve had people give me pushback for certain things that I put on Tik Tok.
I have like, nearly 9000 followers on there. Honestly, people are gonna have their opinions
I don’t care.

TR in Conversation with Casandra: 22:45
Okay, there you go.

No one should have to deal with harassment, bullying or threats for their opinion. Especially when we’re talking about fairness and equity.

I’m more than willing to listen to contrary opinions but I’m not interested in racist nonsense.

If you have anything to say, please send it my way.

— Sample: Sesame Street “Ok all you cats and kitties, it’s time for a little addition. Can you dig it! Here we go. Now! Adding is putting together! Mm.”

Factoring all of this into consideration, perhaps it helps explain the lack of public engagement and critical feedback on audio description.

— Sample “You got the mic… use it!” Ice Cube

I’m sure there are many Blind people who for them, this isn’t a concern.
Yes, they consume and enjoy audio description. Maybe they’re in that Bliss phase – just so happy to have access.
I don’t fault them for that because I understand the history of not having access to content.

Some people may think this is just a Black issue. A POC issue.
Meanwhile though, all AD consumers are affected.
The white washing of content denies all AD consumers access to a more authentic experience.
And isn’t that what we want?

(I guess it depends on how we define, we!)

— Music Begins: A bright, chill Hip Hop beat.

I want to send big shout outs to;
* Casandra Xavier AKA Caspher.
You can find her on Tick Tock.


At Caspher 31 CASPHER 31
On Instagram Cassandra dot Xavier(Spells out)
For those that can see. You want to look for the profile picture of a black lady wearing a crop top sweater standing next to a boxing bag, flexing her muscles.

Uh oh!

To all my sisters who shared my request for input as well as some others who talked to me for this episode. Your voices may have not made it into the final edit, but you were in my mind throughout the production.

— Airhorn!

You know you’re all official members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

You too Tansy! Family can disagree, but I believe in leaving a place at the table to have a conversation.

You know, you too can be Reid My Mind Radio Fam!;
Subscribe or Follow Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at
Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!
— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be.” Slick Rick)
Like my last name!
— Reid My Mind Radio outro

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: – Representation Really Matters

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

We continue the conversation around cultural competence – even though competence is setting the bar kind of low…

Representation matters. That’s on screen, stage and everywhere. For Audio Description users, our experience of visual content is filtered through AD. That includes the voice of the narrator.

In this edited recording from November 2022, hear how some believe AD is getting better at representation and others, well, feel there’s a lot more we can do.

With that in mind, please add your name to support The Pledge for Culturally Competent & Inclusive Audio Description.

Join Us Live

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

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


Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

NEFERTITI: [laughs] Okay!
[air horn goes off twice, then the Oscars theme song begins, and recorded light applause play]
NEFERTITI: Ooh! Welcome. Welcome, everyone!
[Oscars theme song jumps ahead and gets louder, more epic, then suddenly stops]
NEFERTITI: [guffaws] Okay! Wow!
THOMAS: That’s funny.
NEFERTITI: I was telling the people how this is new for all of us and that you are our fearless host tonight. And look at all the entertainment you’re providing us. This is amazing.
THOMAS: Yeah, entertainment, and I don’t even hear it.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: So, I’m not doing a great job. [laughs] My little doohickey here.
NEFERTITI: Generally, we’re granting people two minutes to state your case, ask your questions, whatever. If your two minutes run out, we will let you know. We’ve got Thomas with his doohickey, okay? So, [laughs] we’re gonna keep this very entertaining and do like, what is it, Thomas, how they do at the Oscars, that they—
THOMAS: Yeah, sort of like how they do at the Oscars. And, you know, if you start to hear some music playing… [Oscars music comes back in low and builds] then you know.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm. We hear it.
THOMAS: You can start wrapping it up, you know what I’m saying.
NEFERTITI: But if you keep going? [laughs]
THOMAS: And it starts to get louder and louder. Yeah. It gets louder, and you should start to get the point. If not, it should get louder, and you should really get the point. [chuckles as music gets louder, then suddenly stops]
NEFERTITI: [chuckles] Love it. Love it. ) I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. I’ve been the one talking at you this whole time. Welcome again. I live and breathe audio description: From the job I do every day, which I just started about a week ago, to my side hustles. Everything, anything about me and my life right now is audio description. I narrate it, QC it—that’s quality control—I write it from time to time, and most importantly to me, I advocate for it. I really believe that accessibility is a human right, and audio description has everything to do with that. All right. Let’s hear from Cheryl next.
CHERYL: How do I follow that, Nefertiti?
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
CHERYL: Hello, I’m Cheryl Green. I am an audio describer. I do writing, narration. What are the other pieces? I do the audio editing.
CHERYL: Sighted QC when needed, editing, project management, also have had several wonderful opportunities to co-teach and present with Thomas on audio description and topics around it. I can’t remember if I said I’m a captioner too, but I also do that. And I will turn it over to Thomas now.
THOMAS: And that’s the amazing access artist, Cheryl Green. [laughs]
CHERYL: [laughs]
THOMAS: That’s right. I love that title. I love that title. What’s up, everybody? My name is Thomas Reid. I’m the host and producer of Reid My Mind Radio. And I am a voice artist, a audio description narrator, advocate, consultant. Actually, you know what? I’m a voice narrator, consultant, and most of all, advocate and consumer. That’s what it is, so. And happy to be here to have this conversation…. The end. I am done speaking. [laughs] Let me follow the rules.
NEFERTITI: There you go. )
NEFERTITI: All right, Thomas. Well, with that smooth voice that you’ve got, how about you get us started? You are our host tonight, so.
THOMAS: Thank you, Nef! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: You’re on. [laughs]
THOMAS: Nah, cool. I’m glad we’re having this discussion. I’m glad everybody came out. I’m glad to see an interest. And I really wanna find out where we stand, where we lie on this topic, and wherever you do, that’s cool. I hope we can have a conversation about it. I’m not here to necessarily only hear from one side, as if it’s a side thing. And so, yeah, that conversation is all about cultural competency, cultural respect, cultural responsiveness, however you want to kind of call it. But I’m gonna refer to it for now as cultural competency.
And just to talk about that. So, let’s talk about what exactly is that? What does it mean to be culturally competent? And so, to be honest with you, I wanted to make sure that I had the definition right. And so, I looked it up, and I like the definition. And there’s several. There’s several depending on what we’re talking about. But I think some of the things that I saw that they had in common, they had to do with, number one, valuing diversity. Okay? So, that’s differences, right? So, that’s putting a value on that, which is obviously important in anything we do in life because the things that we do in life, we should value. They should be consistent with what we believe in. The other part of that is having the capacity to sort of self-assess when it comes to your own culture and the culture of others. So, you kind of take that interest, right, and say, okay, “Hmm. Let me look at this. How does this impact, how is this impacted by or how does this impact the culture?” Being conscious of just the way different cultures interact. I love that word “conscious” because, you know, in order to make change or anything, we have to kind of be conscious about it first. And that goes into not only us as individuals, right, but also us as institutions or our place in institutions. So, whether that be a school, whether that be a corporation, whatever the case is.
And also, being culturally competent means you sort of reflect that in whatever it is that you do. So, if you make widgets, like we used to say in college, right in the Finance majors, you’ll know about the widgets. Whatever widgets are, whatever it is that you make, whatever service it is that you provide, if you include cultural competency in that, that reflects that, right? So, if you adhere to that, if you think about that, that makes up being culturally competent. And then it goes, if again, if we’re talking about an organization, it’s reflected in your policies, yes, your practice, and also in your administration in the way you do all of those things. That makes it a culturally competent thing. You can actually claim that.
So, obviously, when we talk about…maybe not so obvious depending on who’s here. But, you know, for those who are within the AD world, when we talk about audio description, there’s all of the different areas that make up audio description are sort of impacted by this. So, number one, if it’s valued by the organization top-down, then chances are it’s reflected in the end product, right? So, meaning the person who’s making the decisions from the beginning is thinking about culturally competent, competency. And therefore, when they pass it on to the writer of that AD project, they too are thinking about that. When it goes to the quality control process, they too are thinking about that. Of course, when it gets to the narration, again, say with me: “They too are thinking about that.” So, the whole, through the entire process, right?
But then I guess what happens is, if you’re familiar with the podcast, Reid My Mind Radio, I’ve been talking about this for a while, and we set up this audio description pledge. And the idea behind that really simply is that, you know what, y’all? We have a lot more power as people who work within the industry to say, “Hey, we believe in this. We wanna see this reflected in the end result. So, maybe there’s something that we can do.” Because if it’s not, again, if it’s not starting from the top down, maybe we’re thinking, “Well, okay, our organization isn’t about it. I’m about this. I believe in this, but the organization is not.” Well, maybe there are some things that we can do, and that’s really what that pledge is all about. That pledge is for folks who are working in the industry to say, hey, maybe there’s something you can do.
So, maybe we can start the topic. Imma back up a little bit ‘cause I guess I’m assuming that everyone knows what I mean and what we mean when we talk about that. So, after giving you that definition, we had a couple examples of when situations go wrong, where cultural competency isn’t reflected. And there’s one that’s pretty obvious. It’s the Black Panther, y’all. You know, I’m kind of tired of talking about Black Panther. And it’s not just Black Panther. It seems to be wherever Black Panther, any sort of reference to Black Panther comes into play because even a Judas and the Messiah. Again, same thing. But I’ll give you an example. Do y’all wanna— Nefertiti, let me ask you. Cheryl, do you wanna go to the example, or what do you wanna do? You think that’s cool?
NEFERTITI: I think an example would be perfect.
NEFERTITI: We can show you this in action what Thomas just beautifully talked about, because it happens all the time, and it’s, it’s…it’s insulting. It’s disrespectful. It’s…it’s just not okay.
THOMAS: It’s not okay.
NEFERTITI: And we three are staunch advocates for making it better. And hopefully, you’re here, you’re listening, so you are, too.
THOMAS: And before I even play the example, I wanna be clear. I wanna be really, really clear. This is not personal to anyone involved in this, okay? These are examples of someone who is not of the culture. And that is simply the case. It doesn’t reflect on them as an individual. It doesn’t reflect on anybody or anything like that in terms of personality. All right? So, I just wanna make sure that that is said. Even though I’m sure someone may wanna dismiss that. But—
NEFERTITI: That’s never our intention. Our intention is simply to underline the point we are trying to make here tonight.
THOMAS: Exactly. So, this first one, well, I’ll play it and then we could talk about it. All right?
[recorded clip plays]
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: A question appears in Spanish text.
GIRL: What does sueñito mean?
MAN: Sueñito? It means “little dream.”
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: As the question fades, the word “sueñito” (pronounced “swaneedo”] lingers.
[upbeat music plays, a digital alarm clock beeps]
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: A hand smacks an alarm clock, which reads 5:30 AM. The goateed man rises wearily and sits on the edge of his bed.
MAN: [sighs]
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: He gazes across his humble bedroom at some items attached to a cabinet door, including a gray flat cap, as well as photos of a man sporting this cap as he plays with a young boy. There’s also a photo of a tropical Cabana and a sticker reading “Republica Dominicana.” [recorded clip ends]
THOMAS: Okay. ¿A dónde está mi gente? [laughs] Okay, so, if you are…. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: [imitates an air horn blowing] I happen to be Dominican.
THOMAS: So then, you know what, Nef? You talk about it, sis.
NEFERTITI: Well, I will say I am American-born. I’m first-generation Dominican, but I’m still muy, muy, muy Dominicana, okay? I’m very Latina, very proud of it. First language is Spanish, etc., etc.. My folks are from the Dominican Republic, born and raised and all that. And this movie is, you may have heard of it. It’s called In the Heights by Lin-Manuel Miranda, who is Puerto Rican. And I guess I wanna know from folks when it comes time to speak, if you were able to hear the difference between how the character said a particular word in this case, “sueñito,” and how the narrator said it, “swanito.” That is very glaring for those of us who speak the language, for those of us who are of-the-culture. And it’s clear that this person is not Latino, and it’s baffling as to why that choice was made to not have someone do the audio description who is of-the-culture, who speaks the language, etc. These are choices that are being made every day with Black and brown cultures and languages and the like. And it just, it doesn’t make sense. As I said earlier, it’s insulting, disrespectful, jarring even. And we want you all to be conscious of that. I love that word, too, Thomas. Do we have another example?
THOMAS: We do. We do. I can play the other example as well. This example I’m sure folks are familiar with, but Imma bring it back.
NEFERTITI: While you get that ready, my last thought is simply that, you know, these directors, producers, actors, etc., everything that’s chosen to go into to be part of a film, a TV show, whatever it is, is done with great intention, right? There’s nothing in these works of art that the writers, the directors, etc. don’t want there. And so, it’s…why cheat that? Why change that so fundamentally when it comes to the audio description, right? Which is something that enhances this media and things of that sort. So, just something to think about again. Why go so, why stray so far from what’s going on, in the audio description? Why is that okay? Why is that the accepted practice?
CHERYL: I do know that there’s, there are different schools of thought on this. And there are definitely people who are like, “Well, this is our staff. This is who we have on staff. And they’re a very talented, highly trained person, and they’re gonna do a great job at this.” But one thing that you started to hint at, Nefertiti, is the intentionality of the casting. You’re very intent-, the director’s very intentional with the casting of who the actors are. And I just, I think there’s a lot of voice artists here who I’m not sure, some may be new to audio description or emerging in the field. And we don’t want the audio description to be disruptive to the flow of the film. And what happens when you have the audio describer who says, “swanito,” which when I say it like that, I think I’m sort of mimicking the way that person said it. There are at least three sounds that were incorrect in that, three or four different sounds. And if you are doing the audio description narration and cannot pronounce the words correctly in the film, that is creating a very disruptive experience for the audio description audience. And in Nef’s case, you’re Dominican. So, you really hear it and feel it. For someone like me who is not Dominican, I’m white, but I speak Spanish, and I can hear it. And it was completely jarring for me. So, we want this beautiful, immersive, non-disruptive experience and intentional, culturally sensitive. And culturally responsive casting is one way to really ensure that. And I shall stop now.
THOMAS: Cool. Cool. So, I’ll play the next example. And again, we’ll pay close attention to not only the…. I’ll play that example. We’ll talk about it.
[recorded clip plays]
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Okoye sits in meditation, facing a window in the huge jet. [a cappella singing rings out throughout the clip] T’Challa sits beside Nakia, who holds his hand dotingly. Okoye gazes at the window.
OKOYE: Sister Nakia.My Prince.
NAKIA: We are home.
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: Wakanda. Mist floats around mountain ridges. Nakia and T’Challa join Okoye at the window. The jet flies above a canyon nestled between vast shelves of rock. Shepherds wave on a slope of wild grass as the jet soars overhead. Two men gallop over scrub land on horses and wave up at the jet. The jet fires its boosters and accelerates away. It approaches a mountain.
T’CHALLA: This never gets old.
AUDIO DESCRIPTION: They fly straight at the mountain as though they’re going to crash into it only to fly straight through it like it’s a hologram and approach a futuristic city of tall buildings.
[triumphant, epic music, ship whooshing past]
THOMAS: Okay. Black Panther. Y’all know what it is. So, obviously, that gentleman— And again, I say it all the time. This is nothing personal. Would love to have a pint with him. [laughs] See how I did that? Yeah. Obviously, a white British man. And as Cheryl was saying, that was disruptive, I know from my experience. But it goes beyond that. It goes also into the pronunciation, I mean, literally. Let’s talk about QC. I mean, literally, he said, “Wakaenda.” It’s called “Wakanda.” And he says it throughout the movie. And so, again, extremely disruptive on many fronts. By the way, then, we know the next movie, the version two or part two is coming out on Friday. That will be, I’m really curious to see what happens there. And I really don’t wanna dedicate much time to an episode to talk about it. I really don’t. I really don’t wanna be here talking about it. I just wanna enjoy films and be immersed in it the same way everyone else is.
And AD is already sort of like a…it’s like a filter in a way. And we’re getting interpretation, to a certain extent, of the visuals from someone else. And when they are not culturally competent, when they do not respect that, I don’t think we should have to, I don’t think that should be something that we should have to deal with. And we talk about why. Cheryl, you talked about, you know, the person is on staff. And again, we talk about the definition of cultural competency and starting with the value, valuing difference, valuing diversity. And it goes into this conversation about disability. It goes into the conversation about intersectionality. Disability is not just white. Surprise! [laughs] It’s not. And so, there’s many different cultures. There’s many different people. And I think the audio description, like everything else, should reflect that. So, I wanna hear from some people. Do we have any one with their hand raised or whatever it is here?
THOMAS: Can we talk to some people? And again, I wanna make this clear. Nefertiti, Cheryl, and I, I think we’re pretty nice. We’re pretty respectful. I don’t think there’s ever been anything that I’ve heard from any of y’all or myself, at least, in my age now, that has [laughs], that has not necessarily been considered respectful. And so, if you are someone who does not value this, and you, or for whatever reason, you don’t think cultural competency is a big deal, if you’re perfectly fine with it…. Actually, I don’t necessarily wanna hear from you if you’re perfectly fine with it, unless you have something to say that is going to be like, give someone like myself an understanding of why this doesn’t matter.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. Give us something to think about.
THOMAS: I really would like to know that. But I don’t necessarily just wanna hear, I don’t, “Oh, it doesn’t matter to me.” Okay, then, bye! Like, if it doesn’t matter to you, that’s okay! That’s okay. But then you’re not really part of the discussion because it just doesn’t matter to you. But if you don’t think that this is something that should be any sort of a priority, it doesn’t, it shouldn’t be a part of the process, and you feel that way, then you should be able to articulate why. And I wanna hear from that person. I really do. And again, you got the same time as everybody else, and I’ll be respectful.
SCOTT N: Hi, everyone. My name’s Scott Nixon. I’m over in Australia. I’m an audio description connoisseur, advocate, hopefully soon to be a narrator, working on the process as we speak, and I love the idea of cultural competency. Okay, I am whiter than white, okay? I would burn if I stepped out in the sun for more than two seconds. But I love the fact that audio description, when done properly, contains the cultural competency. If I’m watching something like Black Panther or [In] the Heights or something like that, I want an African American or a Latina doing the audio description because it gives me a greater sense of depth and helps me connect to the story a lot more, rather than having just boring old white person doing something that they really shouldn’t be doing. So, for me, as, you know, as a Caucasian, I find the use of culturally appropriate audio describers to be a fantastic addition to any production. And for example, I’m going to see the new Black Panther sequel, Wakanda Forever this weekend. And you guys in America are gonna hear me scream all the way from Australia if they use who I think they’re going to use. I’m hoping that they’re gonna be fixing the problem from the first one, but I’m not too sure. So, yeah, that’s where I stand. And that’s me done speaking for now. Muting.
NEFERTITI: Thank you so much, Scott. Remember, you’re always welcome to come up. I will return you to a listener in just a minute. Hey, Stephanae. Welcome.
STEPHANAE: Hey, how are you?
NEFERTITI: Good. Am I saying your name correctly?
THOMAS: Hey, Steph!
STEPHANAE: Yes, you are!
NEFERTITI: Oh, thank goodness.
STEPHANAE: And you can call me Steph. Thomas knows me very well. Call me Steph.
THOMAS: How you doing, Steph?
STEPHANAE: I’m doing well, thank you.
STEPHANAE: First, I wanna thank you guys for having this conversation. I think it’s a very important one to have. I am not a voiceover actor or an AD professional. However, I am a consumer of and an advocate for it as I advocate for the disability community at large with a specific focus for blindness-related issues. For me—I’m gonna be really quick—for me, it boils down to representation. Thomas, the sample that you provide of Black Panther, I was so excited to watch that movie with audio description. I was just over the moon because everybody was talking about it, and I thought, “Oh, finally I’ll be able to enjoy this.” And I wasn’t prepared for the person who was doing it. Nothing against him. He, I’m sure, is a beautiful person, but for that particular film, it just didn’t work for me. It took me totally out of the experience. And not just the pronunciation of some of the words, but just the…it just didn’t feel real to me, and [laughs] I was annoyed.
And I guess the closest I can get to providing an example that really gives me a strong reaction is text-to-speech voices. I don’t like those voices. And especially if you have to listen to them day in and day out, the last thing you wanna do when you’re doing something that’s entertaining or you wanna consume entertainment is to listen to an automated voice. And that’s sort of what this was like for me, because it was almost, it wasn’t like he was robotic. I understood he was a human, but it just, I couldn’t, I couldn’t relate to it. It wasn’t relatable for me. And if I was to take it a little bit further and was watching the film and saw somebody who was a white British person acting in the film that was supposed to be a Black person, I think I would’ve been just totally taken aback, so—
THOMAS: You mean like Liz Taylor? Like Liz Taylor did? Is that what you…. [laughs] Sorry. Sorry.
STEPHANAE: [laughs] But those are just some of the things that come to my mind, and now I’m gonna hand the floor back over to you guys.
THOMAS: Thank you, Steph. Thank you, Steph.
NEFERTITI: Thank you for speaking. Definitely. That would be bizarre, right?
THOMAS: Well, it’s been done.
NEFERTITI: To have somebody playing something that they’re not, this day and age?
THOMAS: This day and age. Yeah, I’m glad you said that.
NEFERTITI: But why— Yeah, yeah. You know, so why not consciously cast the audio description too?
All right. We do wanna hear from folks who don’t agree with this or wanna know more about it or have doubts or what have you. So, please don’t be afraid to come up here. This is what discourse is all about. Let’s hear now from Cynthia! Hey! I know you.
CYNTHIA: Hey, Nef. Yes!
NEFERTITI: How’s it going?
CYNTHIA: It’s going really well.
NEFERTITI: Thanks for being here.
CYNTHIA: And congratulations on all of your successes. [coughs]
NEFERTITI: Aw, thanks.
CYNTHIA: I got so excited there I swallowed wrong. I don’t have a different viewpoint personally. I just kind of wanted to throw something out there that sort of came from some of my earlier classes, which was when the decision was made to cast a narrator, that sometimes…the casting person, whoever that is, decides specifically to look for someone of the same culture, of the same gender to fit in as you’re talking about. And that sometimes the decision is made to go completely opposite with the idea that it’s going to be somehow too confusing if the narrator sounds too much like the actors or someone that’s narrating not in the audio description realm. I don’t agree with that, but I wonder how the decisions get made to cast them because it’s not back when they’re making the film, and perhaps that’s when it should be made. What sounds, what sights, what are our intents in telling this story? And all of the people that are involved in bringing that story to life need to be on that same page.
THOMAS: Yeah. Thank you, Cynthia. Thank you. I’m glad you raised that, because the idea of, you know, like you said—and I get that—the idea of having sort of a contrasting voice, right?
THOMAS: And sometimes that really does, it can make sense, like the idea of perhaps you have a film that has, it’s all women, right? And so, you cast a male in that or vice versa. Sometimes that’s oh, that’s nice. It’s a change. It’s a little bit of a change, and it’s recognizable, and it just fits there. It’s a easier listen; it’s a comfortable listen. But I’m gonna go back to the idea of the definition of cultural competence. We’re not only valuing, but we also have an understanding of how cultures relate, right?
THOMAS: And so, let’s go to Black Panther, because when Steph was talking about that, something came up to me. And so, yes, it’s the words. It’s feeling disruptive. But let’s think about how cultures relate. A British white man. And I know Wakanda is not a real place. It’s based in, it’s a African country. But what is real is that Britain colonized much of Africa.
THOMAS: And so, for someone who has cultural competence would know that this film that is, again, very much an experience that is being pushed at Black people, and that’s fine. It’s fantastic. And Black people are very much like everyone else, right? I was really looking forward to what, let’s be honest, for Black people, this was an experience. Black folks were getting ready for this. This is beautiful Blackness, I like to say. And so, to make that decision, well, that tells you you don’t have cultural competence, right?
CYNTHIA: Agreed.
THOMAS: Yeah. So, that’s something that I think about. But you’re absolutely right. You asked. Like, contrasting can really, really make sense. And that does need to be a factor in the decision making when it comes to casting the narrator.
THOMAS: So, thank you for raising that. Thank you.
CYNTHIA: Thank you.
NEFERTITI: I’d also like to say, when it comes to a situation where like, “Oh, well, we bid for this project, and we’ve got some really qualified writers and narrators and such, but this is a ‘Black’ film say, but we don’t have any Black folks on staff,” does it not, is it not an option? I was gonna say, does it not occur? But is it not an option to cast out for talent that fits these particular categories, criteria, etc.? Maybe that’s a conversation for some other time or what have you. It would be great to have some providers join us at some point so we can get a better understanding as to how that works. As a company, you bid for a film, bid for a series, and you get it, but then you don’t have the corresponding talent. Why not cast out? Don’t tell me there aren’t any Black or brown talents out there. Thomas is here. I’m here. There are tons of us. There are a ton of us out there and other demographics too, right, that could fulfill these needs. Why isn’t that happening? And I’m not saying this to you, Cynthia. I’m saying this generally to the industry. Don’t tell me that these folks don’t exist and that you didn’t have them in your roster. That’s a problem in and of itself, don’t you think? Where’s the diversity in your roster of talent, things of that sort. So, yeah. I’m not one that really buys this idea of, you know, we don’t have these folks, we don’t, we didn’t know anybody kind of thing. So, I just wanna put that out there.
THOMAS: Let me piggyback off of that real quick, Nef.
THOMAS: Because, and I wanna keep going with the conversation, but I also wanna make the point that that’s where we started off the conversation in terms of what we as folks in the industry can actually do about that. And so, that’s where that pledge, the AD pledge comes into play. Because what I’m proposing is that if someone was to ask [chuckles], you know, ‘cause this works both ways. We’re focusing on POC, but it works every way. If someone was to come to me and say, “Thomas, I would love for you to do the narration for”–I don’t know–“the Riverdance,” I don’t know. I’m just thinking of something, right? And, you know, I’d be like, “Nah. I don’t think people would really like that,” you know? “I don’t think that would go over well.” “Thomas, okay, well, I want you to do this Asian movie.” “I don’t think that’s gonna go well. I think I’m gonna decline. But you know what? I think I know who can do that,” if I know.
THOMAS: So, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with us declining and being allies for one another and saying, “Hey, I’m not the right fit, but I know who is, or let me help you find it.” Or even just saying, “Hey, why don’t you go look for someone else?” if you can’t actually participate in the process, if you don’t know someone. But I think that’s up to us to actually say, “Hey, I’m not the right fit.” If we really believe, if we really believe that, if we really value diversity, going back to the definition.
NEFERTITI: 100%! And I’ve been asked to do Asian things too, which I’ve also turned down, Thomas.
THOMAS: Yeah, that’s a true story. Yeah, I was gonna say that was a true story for myself too.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. All righty. Cynthia, thank you so much. You sound great! [chuckles] Okay. I’m gonna butcher this name, so please bear with me. Is it Montreece?
MONTREECE: It is Montreece!
NEFERTITI: Oh, excellent! Hi. Welcome.
MONTREECE: Yeah, hi. Thank you. Hi, Steph! I know you’re not even on the panel, but I heard your voice, and I’m like, “Ahhh! It’s Steph!” And hi, Thomas. We’re actually new connections, and it’s very nice to “virtually” meet you.
THOMAS: Same to you.
MONTREECE: Thank you all for this opportunity. I’ll make this as brief as I possibly can. I barely even need to speak because, Thomas, you actually hit on my exact point. I am one who, while I am an African-American woman, I have a lot of Asian family members. And because of that, I’ve always participated in all levels, or not all but many levels of Asian allyship and Asian-American allyship at that. And I have a connection here on LinkedIn. She is another DEI consultant who focuses on that specifically. Her name is Jolene Jang, and we were working, well, I was supporting a project that she was doing on name pronunciation. And the reason why I bring this up is because she made a tremendous case for the importance of saying Asian names properly. And the point that I’m getting to is there’s so much importance to identity and making sure that, when it comes down to it, how names are pronunciated, actually paying attention to that and honoring that and first and foremost asking questions. And so, I think that actually translates over into what you all are talking about in this conversation, and this highlights the importance of that. And there is no way I would be, I personally, I am not even an Asian American. I would be infuriated if I was listening to an audio description for an Asian movie, and I heard any of your voices. I would be infuriated.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
MONTREECE: And it’s just because I take that, I’m a person who takes that very seriously. I think you’re absolutely right. Yes, pass the buck. Pass it on. And to Steph’s point, representation absolutely matters. It’s that much more the reason why there’s a need for a diverse array of voices out there doing description. Because when it comes to our younger people, this is what they identify with.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
MONTREECE: They find their identity in what is being narrated for them. And so, I hope that that makes sense. I really barely needed to say anything, though, because you really covered my point, Thomas, and thank you all so much.
THOMAS: No, thank you. You know, and just to emphasize that point, because yeah, audio description, you’re right. It does kinda bring that to light, so to speak. But, and I just wanna throw this out to Mr. Jimmy Kimmel, who likes to kind of butcher people’s names and think it’s funny. Like, it’s not funny. It’s not funny when you do that ‘cause that is someone’s, that’s a part of their identity. And I think he did that in one of those award shows or something, so. Yeah.
CHERYL: This is Cheryl. I wanna jump in also. Thank you, Montreece. And I wanna say I really liked what you said about “Ask questions.” Before you go and just pronounce all these names wrong, you can ask questions. And we’re talking a lot about cultural competency and sensitivity. And I’m also really big on the responsivity thing, which kinda comes from how you teach, how you would teach audio description. And that starts with asking questions and finding out about, you know…whether it’s what cultural knowledge and expertise the audio describer brings, or what is the expertise and the culture that the film is bringing? I just love that you brought up the questions because I think that’s at the heart of trying to achieve these things that we’re talking about. So, I’ll stop there.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, everyone. Gregg?
GREGG: Hi there. Can you hear me?
NEFERTITI: We can. Welcome!
GREGG: [delighted laugh] My name’s Gregg Stouffer. I’m coming at this from a little different perspective. I’m an editor, and I just fairly recently finished a documentary, and one of the producers on the documentary was Deaf. And she introduced me to the world of accessibility, and it’s actually been wonderful. One of the problems, though, is we had audio description done on the film, and unfortunately, when I’m editing the film, I’m taking out all of those little breaths [chuckles] and silences where audio description loves to live. So, I kind of painted my AD people into a corner, and so I wasn’t really happy with the results. Well, I’m now working on a, I shot a pilot for a cooking show, and I really want it to be…. Actually, the host of the show, her husband is Deaf, and I really want this to have accessibility baked in. I mean, that’s gonna, actually gonna be maybe part of the title. So, I want it to be organic to the process. And so, my closed captions are actually gonna be open captions, and I’m gonna creatively make those part of the visual look of it. But I also want to work with the audio description and figure out how to make all of this work together. So, I’m trying to plan it at this stage where I’ve shot it, but I need to edit it now. And all of those little moments of silence that I’ve taken out, I’d like to come up with a strategy for how to use AD in an effective way at the beginning, rather than wait till the end and make it an afterthought. So, I’m gonna stop talking, but I’m really hoping to get–I came tonight to listen for some–hopefully some pointers on how to make that happen in a meaningful way. And I’m done.
THOMAS: Excellent.
NEFERTITI: Well, let me just start by saying thank you so much for thinking about it. Even though you’ve already shot your footage and all that stuff, but you’re still at a point where you are thinking about this, which is something that we very much promote. Don’t let it be like a retrofitted mess, right? Do it meaningfully, do it with intention, do it with time. So, really happy to hear that. Thomas or Cheryl, any thoughts?
THOMAS: Yeah, I have a thought, and I have sort of a referral for Gregg. I think he should get in touch with the Social Audio Description Collective, quite honestly.
CHERYL and NEFERTITI: [enthusiastic imitation of air horns]
THOMAS: [laughs] Would someone like to give Gregg the website or a contact?
GREGG: Please.
NEFERTITI: Yes! You can find us— And hey, full disclosure, we three are part of the collective. So, just for full transparency. It is called the Social Audio Description Collective, and you can visit our website at Putting on my narrator voice. [laughs]
THOMAS: All of these topics are a specialty of the SADC, including disability.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely.
THOMAS: And so, I think it’s a perfect fit.
NEFERTITI: We pride ourselves on doing all of the sort of intersectionalities and areas that tend to be marginalized, etc. And we ourselves are folks who are LGBT, Black, brown, Asian, older, disabled, etc. We very much pride ourselves in not being your generic type of service.
THOMAS: Yeah, Nef, I don’t know who you calling older, though. I don’t know. [laughs] We gon have to talk that one! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: It’s okay. I’m getting old! And I’m proud of it.
THOMAS: Oh, yeah. I’m proud, but I’m just saying.
NEFERTITI: I’m so happy to still be here.
THOMAS: But you’re a young’un. You a young’un. [laughs]
CHERYL: She’s not talking about you, Thomas. She’s referring to RouRou, my cat Office Manager.
THOMAS: Ah! She talking about RouRou. She’s talking about the Office Manger? Oh, okay.
CHERYL: Yeah, mmhmm. Just him.
GREGG: Could you give that address one more time? I was scrambling for a pen. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. Definitely. So, AD—like audio description—
GREGG: Thank you so much.
NEFERTITI: And also, feel free to follow any of us or connect with us on here. And we can—
THOMAS: Exactly.
NEFERTITI: —we’ll be happy to speak with you more about it. And if it doesn’t work for us or we don’t work for you, we’ll be happy to help you find someone or some company that does. We’re all about the access, you know? And congratulations on your documentary.
GREGG: Thank you.
NEFERTITI: Very cool.
FRANCES: Hi, guys. Thanks for having me in your discussion today. I’m also calling in from Australia. Hi, fellow Aussie, Scott, who was on before. And I wanted to give an Australian perspective from a much smaller pool than you guys are talking because we are in our relative infancy, I guess. I’ve been doing it for nearly 20 years here, but I was part of the pilot program to add AD to films in Australia, and there were like five of us. So, there are more of us now, but I’m in a business of one. And so, I wanted to bring in the horrible big C-word, the cost factor. Because when as someone mentioned earlier, I’m bidding for business, there’s quite a low bottom line here. I am not ashamed to say I’m a very low-paid worker, but I love what I do. And when I pitch for audio describing film or TV or other content, price is often the bottom line. So, I can offer services outside of my own by getting in contractors with more cultural competency in the areas of the film or the media being described, but the client is going to have to pay for that extra person, that extra input. And when given the option, they don’t wanna do that most of the time.
So, added to that, an extra problem is a very small pool of people to choose from. So, I’ve been in an amazing position this year in my capacity as a trainer where I’ve had access to people–particularly from Indigenous backgrounds–to training them up in audio description narration, and that’s been amazing. But I personally have described in the past many years many films and TV series with Indigenous content, and I’m not myself Indigenous. That’s partly been a factor of me being one of the only available audio describers, or as happened this year, being able to offer Indigenous voices for a project and having them knocked back either because in one case, this particular Indigenous voice artist didn’t sound Blackfella enough. In another case, because the person wasn’t available in a very tight window that was given. And what ended up happening was there was no audio description rather than using a voice that was non-Indigenous. So, I wanted to present that as well as something that may happen if there isn’t someone of the correct cultural competency for a project, it could be that nobody does it.
I wanted to throw that in and also to say that in the intervening years, as we build up our pool, and hopefully it’s gonna be as wide and varied very soon as the content that we need to audio describe, but I feel like I’ve given it my best shot in the intervening time to access other cultural competencies that I’m not privy to in order to do the best job that I can when I’m given a project. So, I’m of mixed race myself. I’ve got Lebanese, Irish, Scottish ancestry. I speak German. I speak Spanish. I’m a stickler for pronunciation and always have been to the extent that when I was training up some Indigenous voices this year, and we were voicing some Indigenous projects, and I was noticing discrepancies between how place names were pronounced within the program and how my Indigenous voice artists were pronouncing them, I had to flag that. Because as I’ve noted that you’ve all noted, that can be really frustrating hearing that difference between how a narrator and how someone in a program presents a name in particular. So, I’ve always been a stickler for that. And I personally feel like absolutely the ideal is everything you’re describing, but in the absence of that, I think me giving it my best shot in my own examples of my work is still better than radio silence. And I’m done.
NEFERTITI and THOMAS: Thank you, Frances.
NEFERTITI: How do we feel about that, gang?
THOMAS: I think that’s, I think Frances has some interesting points, and I think there’s a couple of things. Number one, I think it’s very— And she started off by saying it’s very specific to where she is and the things that she works on. And so, I can respect that. I’m gonna go back to the definition. And so–again, I’m not here to assign my value or my values to anyone–so I think as long as someone is comfortable with what you’re doing. And so, for example, you and I would probably disagree with the “not having cultural competent AD” versus “not having any AD at all.” As a person who, a consumer, I don’t, number one, I would not necessarily look at it like that, but I’m not sure if that would be, if I would be like mm. Like, so, for example, Black Panther. I don’t feel that I got the experience of Black Panther that makes me satisfied. So, if it was like, oh, I didn’t get to enjoy Black Panther with audio description, I’m being totally honest. I’m not sure if…yeah. I’m not sure if that, if I would weigh it like that or if I would be like, “Mm, I rather have it with this British white man.” I don’t think so. And that’s, for me, that’s personal. That’s personal. And that’s for everyone. That’s for each consumer. So, I would never say it like in a blanket statement where— Because we hear that with things like AI, right, with synthesized speech. “You have synthesized speech. That’s better than nothing.” No, not for a lot of people. We would just turn it off. We’re not gonna watch it and consume it. So, I would say the same for cultural competence.
But in terms of you doing the best you can, that’s fabulous. And it sounds like you would wanna continue to do the best you can. And so, the more people who are…the bigger the pool that you have access to, it sounds like you would make use of that pool, right? And so, if you’re actively working with people in the Indigenous community to sort of get them involved, that’s fabulous. I would say keep doing that. You can’t do anything about when someone says, “Oh, this person’s not Black enough.” “Oh, really? Who are you,” you know? So, that’s almost like a whole other conversation. But yeah, I guess we would disagree on that first thing, but I would definitely congratulate you, and I would urge you to continue to keep pushing for that, right? And I think that’s what we all need to do from wherever we are: Keep pushing for this.
NEFERTITI: 100%, you took the example right out of my brain/mouth, Thomas. Same argument with TTS. “Oh, it’s better than nothing.” And a lot of us don’t think so. It’s neither, for a lot of us, it’s not either/or. There are alternatives, which is don’t watch it. Don’t pay these streaming services for their service, you know. You don’t have to either/or. There are other options. Like, don’t settle for less.
All righty. Do we have Empish?
EMPISH: I wanted to put a little bit of a different twist on this conversation. I have been noticing that more and more audio description is culturally competent. And I’ve been really, I’ve been really happy about that. But audiobooks are another area where, you know, we had books that were by people of color, but yet a white person was reading the book to us. But now, with the big launch of commercial audiobooks, I’m seeing a lot more books now that have people from that particular culture or ethnic background actually reading the book. And I’m telling you, it makes a world of a difference when you read a book from a particular country or culture and a person from that, and a person from that country or what have you is reading the book. So, if people have concerns about it, pick up an audiobook, a commercial audio book and listen to that and see what a difference that it makes. And I’m gonna sign off ‘cause this phone [laughing] is getting on my nerves.
THOMAS: Empish, before you sign off, before you sign off, I’m curious. When you say, so, you find that more of the things that you’re watching are culturally competent? So, in terms of narrators, you’re finding more of them?
NEFERTITI: Yeah. Yeah, I am. I’m thinking the last movie I saw was the movie with Queen Latifah and Ludacris. I wanna say that one was available in a voice by a person that was African American.
THOMAS: Ah, that’s interesting.
EMPISH: I need to double check that. And then—
THOMAS: Yeah, I was gonna say, because I heard the opposite, and I don’t know. I never watched it.
EMPISH: You heard the opposite, okay.
THOMAS: I heard the opposite. And that’s what I’m—
THOMAS: And I know that there was one recently, Reasonable Doubt on Hulu, does not. It’s a Black film. It’s a Black show. White dude. Yeah.
EMPISH: Okay. I’ve gotta go ‘cause my VoiceOver keeps talking in my ear and it talks over. I can’t hear you guys.
THOMAS: Three-finger double tap! Three-finger double tap! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Thank you for trying, for joining us.
EMPISH: I’m so sorry.
NEFERTITI: Take good care of. All right. Let’s hear from Alejandra. ¡Bienvenida! Welcome.
ALEJANDRA: Hello, friends. Can you hear me?
THOMAS: How you doing, Alejandra?
ALEJANDRA: Hi. I’m good.
ALEJANDRA: So, you three are my friends, and I hope to join the cool kids at the Social Audio Description Collective sometime soon. AD is right now taking a little bit of a backseat, but I do work as an AD worker, primarily community arts events here in New York City. And you would think the pool here would be bigger, but it isn’t. Very quickly, I’m glad that we played the clip from In the Heights. I actually had a direct conversation with that particular narrator who is lovely and talented and at a high level for high-skill work such as that. And I called them out on that particular thing, and they said that they did the best that they could with what they had, and they gave the best narration from their heart. Which, to me, spoke a little bit to what I would call a benevolent sort of ableism. I’m a disabled person, and I’m sensitive to those things. And I also was a little bit talked down. It was in a group that some of us are part of by…. You know, I’m a mostly sighted disabled person, but then I had some folks say, “Oh, it wasn’t that big a deal. It was fine.” I think it’s tricky because I feel like she could’ve gotten away with it if she had called a Spanish speaking friend and said, “How do you say ‘sueñito?’ And how do you say ‘Republica Dominicana’?” Like, she could’ve gotten away with it, you know?
I also end up in situations, as a describer at the community level, where I am both the scripter and the narrator, and the event or the thing is due in a very short amount of time. Or I tried to reach out my net to find someone else who might be a slightly better fit, and that doesn’t happen. So, my baseline for starting a job is always ask a thousand questions, which I have the latitude to do with community projects because I can be directly in touch with the directors or the dancers or whoever it is. And I say, “How do you want to be described?” And I ask all the questions exhaustively, and I don’t always get the answers. But I research the pronunciations, and I realize for larger-scale projects and for the division of narrator and whoever’s writing the script, that’s not always practical or possible.
But Frances’s points made me think about it because there are going to be situations where you are the available person. And I don’t wanna feel like I’m the same choice as TTS or nothing, but like Frances, I too am always doing my best to produce the best thing that I can. And I feel like folks at higher levels doing higher skill work, like whoever gets to AD something like In the Heights or Black Panther does have more latitude to say, “Hey, maybe this isn’t the right fit for me,” or, “Hey, maybe I should learn how to say the things I don’t know how to say.” I’ve also been in a position where I narrated a book where I was chosen because I’m a particular identity, but the book was a collection of work from people with a variety of identities. And you can bet that I bugged all the QC people at the publishing house to make sure that I was saying names correctly and have the authors please send me recordings or whatever it was, you know. So, it’s a weird space to be in, particularly when you’re a freelancer on a smaller scale doing community work.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
ALEJANDRA: And I do wanna be better than TTS.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
ALEJANDRA: So, that is the hope. But I’m also trying to expand my pool so that I can do more referrals. But it’s harder than you would think, even in a city like New York. End of thought.
THOMAS: Well, you’re definitely better than TTS, okay? [laughs]
NEFERTITI: For sure. No comparison. Frances, also, you’re both lovely voices and I’m sure quite good at everything that you do.
THOMAS: Hey, Nef?
NEFERTITI: So, please don’t think that we were comparing you. What’s up, Thomas?
THOMAS: Because what Alejandra was saying made me think of a couple of things that I actually wanna, I wanna bring Cheryl in because if someone knows how much— Cheryl, talk about how much research goes into the writing of AD when someone, again, who values that stuff. I mean to me, that is not to be unexpected. But I guess because I come from, you know, I’m rocking with Cheryl.
CHERYL: [chuckles]
THOMAS: And Cheryl, talk about the amount of whatchamacallit research.
CHERYL: It’s a lot. And I would say ditto to what Alejandra said. I mean, yeah, I’m sending people a questionnaire and asking that the people who are in the film fill out the questionnaire themselves. If they are not available or don’t want to, then the filmmaker please fill it out. And that is to get all the vocabulary so that we are describing race, ethnicity, disability, gender, gender identity, like, just describing it in the words that are the best match for that person. But then, yeah, I’m going online, and I’m finding clips on YouTube. How is this person’s name pronounced? I’m sending emails to film directors all the time. “Okay, I finished. I need these 18 names from your credits. Send them in a voice memo.” And by the way, these are also Western European names that are unfamiliar to me and I don’t know how to pronounce. So, anything that I am unclear. And I’m asking them not just pronounce this name for me or write out what it rhymes with, but is this name Italian? Because if I know that, it’s gonna help me know how long this double-consonant’s gonna last. So, the research, yes, it goes on!
Gosh, one of the films I did for Superfest, I spent hours researching Brazilian architecture from the 1960s, both to understand the terminology around this architecture, but also to understand politically what was happening and culturally what was happening at the time that this architectural movement started. And who is the main architect who keeps coming up? It is a lot of research! And I do love to obsess and get interested and go down rabbit holes, so maybe I could get away with a little less research.
THOMAS: [laughs]
CHERYL: ‘Cause I just say, “Ooh! I’ll keep reading this.” But I do feel really responsible to not just, you know, call this, you know, “a one-story tan building,” but to say that it’s a brutalist; it is not just tan. Like, a brutalist architecture that means something. And I know I’m talking about buildings and not people, but same thing. Yeah. A lot of research because I really do care. And I’m freelance, so I’m eating the costs on that. I’m not hourly, so I can make that choice to spend the time doing that, where I don’t know what it’s like to work an hourly job in this field, if there are hourly jobs, and feel like you have to race through. I feel really lucky about that. I yield the floor.
THOMAS: Thank you. And the floor accepts your yielding. [laughs] So, nah, I mean—
NEFERTITI: I just wanna— Oh, sorry.
THOMAS: Go ahead.
NEFERTITI: No, go ahead, Thomas. I’ll speak after you.
THOMAS: Nah, I was just gonna say, I guess the point that I think we’re making is that, like, really, research is a part of the process. It shouldn’t be thought of as extra. And maybe again, like Cheryl said, maybe Cheryl goes, she goes in. But some real basic research can go a long way and should just be considered part of the process. Nef?
NEFERTITI: 100%. And pronunciation, super important. Come on.
I just wanna say someone named StormMiguel Florez, I’ve been inviting you up since, mm, for about 10 minutes now. And I’m not sure what’s going on, but I’m not, I just want you to know that I’m not skipping you. But you’re not coming up in spite of me.
CHERYL: No, he’s there now! He’s there now! StormMiguel!!!
NEFERTITI: Oh, great! Okay, you made it. Well, then go ahead. Welcome. [pause] Unmuted?
CHERYL: Still muted, but with a lovely profile picture snuggling a tiny, tiny dog that kind of might be part bat.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: [gasps] What a description. Part bat! All right. [laughs] Amazing. Well, I’ll tell you what. You’ve made it up onto the stage or whatever it’s called here on LinkedIn Audio, so half the battle is won. We’ll give you a few seconds to unmute. If we don’t hear from you, let’s move on to Scott Blanks. And we will try you again after Scott is done speaking. [pause]
SCOTT B: I think that’s my cue. Yeah?
NEFERTITI: All righty. Go ahead, Scott. Yeah. We’re just giving Storm a few minutes or seconds.
SCOTT B: All right. Now, I’m curious. I really want Cheryl to research what kind of dog it is now. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: [chuckles]
CHERYL: I’m on it.
SCOTT N: Yeah, I kinda thought you might be. So, just a couple of brief points. My name is Scott Blanks. I am co-founder of the Audio Description LinkedIn Group and Twitter Community for Audio Description as well. If you haven’t joined us, please do. If you have questions about how to find them, you can contact me or Nefertiti. When I think about culturally competent audio description, I often think about in film and TV, unfortunately, we used to as a society, it was accepted that white people would play Black people. They would do it in blackface. They would play Native Americans. They would play just about anybody in America’s Hollywood at a point in time. And that changed. And we’ve heard about the audio books where there used to be a homogenous sound, and that is changing. I’m confident in saying that even when there are these scenarios, like what legitimately people like Frances have brought up, where there aren’t, there haven’t been the right people, my confidence is high that those people are out there. They always are. Whenever these kinds of things evolve, there’s not a question of there being enough people. They can be found. And so, I’m certain that there are always going to be plenty of people of every stripe to bring their voices or talents to the audio description field. And it will be a matter of for–and I should caveat this by saying I’m thinking about, in particular, when we talk about entertainment, when we talk about at a more of a kind of a mainstream, big movie-studio streaming service and the like–they have the resources to make this culturally competent audio description a reality. And I believe that if it doesn’t happen, it happens because they have made a choice not to make that effort. And I know the dynamic is different for people working as independent filmmakers or in other spaces, so I just wanna make that caveat.
And the last thing I wanna say is there are a number of examples where I concur with a couple of folks who’ve spoken earlier that audio description that is not culturally sensitive is, in my mind, I agree. It’s not necessarily better than nothing at all. This is not a cultural issue, but I will just share one thing. For example, there’s a little show called Breaking Bad that came out in 2008, ‘09, ‘10, whatever it was. No audio description at the time. And there wasn’t necessarily, I don’t think, an opportunity for that to have happened. But it didn’t, and what happened later? Well, it was picked up when it moved to a streaming service, and audio description was sought by that streamer. And it was provided by a quality company, Descriptive Video Works, a wonderful team of folks, including narrator Dianne Newman, who did a great job. Had that show been described initially with someone who maybe wasn’t a good fit or using text to speech audio description, the likelihood of it being redone and getting Dianne’s amazing treatment and DVW’s wonderful take on that would’ve gone way down. So, I think there is, it doesn’t have to be an either/or decision. And I think things look bright. I really do think things look bright moving in this space positively. And it’s really great to see all these people coming out and listening to this tonight. So, thank you all for having the panel. I’m done speaking.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. Thank you for speaking, Scott. Do we have anything to say?
THOMAS: No, I think Scott’s on point. Scott’s on point.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, I agree. I agree.
NEFERTITI: All right. Oh, go ahead.
THOMAS: No, no. I mean, I just wanna, you know, I appreciate the ideas, even though if I don’t agree with certain things, I really do appreciate it. So, I wanna thank those who had some additional ideas and things to consider for throwing them out there. So, all points of view are valid.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely.
THOMAS: Well, you know what? That’s not always true. I’m sorry. ‘Cause there might be a point of view [laughs] that might not be valid! I’m just gonna say it. Let’s be real. Okay? When somebody is like, “Ah! F that! F this person!” That’s not valid. So, I’m not gonna make that, yeah, blanket statement.
NEFERTITI: Or “I think it’s this way because,” and then there’s no intelligent follow up or what have you.
NEFERTITI: I mean, again, we wanna have that discourse. We want to be exposed to other perspectives ‘cause there may be things we’re not considering.
THOMAS: Talking about being exposed. I’m thinking about storms, like, you know, when you’re outside. What’s up with Storm?! [laughs]
CHERYL: Yes! StormMiguel!!! Hey!
STORM: Hey! I could not come up earlier.
THOMAS: [laughs]
STORM: Thank you. Hi, everybody.
NEFERTITI: Hey. Welcome. Glad you’re with us. [chuckles]
STORM: I’m so glad to be here. Hi, Cheryl. I know about this because of Cheryl, also. Thank you for sharing this with me. And I just, I love what everybody’s saying. And I love what Alejandra and Cheryl, they were talking about research from the AD side. I’m a filmmaker. And so, I think it’s we have to do research, too. We have to do research into how, or whether we’re doing a documentary or a narrative, how our actors or subjects, for lack of a better word, describe themselves, right? I think that there are ways that some people describe themselves that are really important to them. I know people that want to be described as fat if they are fat. I know people that, you know, there’s certain pronouns that we use that are really important. We want our skin tone to be described maybe. So, these are things that I think are also something to think about. You know, trans and non-binary competency are really important. If maybe there’s a film that’s multicultural and has different elements of race and ethnicity and queerness and transness, and I think in those cases, finding people who are competent and doing, as a director, communicating that, right? I wanna make sure that whoever describes this cares enough about it to have these conversations with me, to ask me questions when they’re unsure of something, and that I offer as much information as I can as a filmmaker.
And saying that, I feel like I just, I want so badly for filmmakers, independent filmmakers, to be thinking about this not as an afterthought, but to be putting it into our budget when we first start, right? That this is just as important as having good sound and good color. And I’m new. I’ve had my last two films have been audio described, probably not ideal, probably not completely competent in the way that I would have liked them to have been. But I love what I’m learning today so that I can do better next time. But yeah, I just, I wanna figure out how to get these conversations. I’m also a festival programmer, so I wanna figure out how to get these conversations in festivals as panels because it starts with the filmmakers. Once enough filmmakers are having audio description, then we can start pressuring festivals to make sure that it’s provided at the festivals. So, those are some of the things I’m thinking of. I think about this a lot! [laughs] So, I’m really glad to have this platform and to hear everything that everybody’s saying. I’m learning so much. And I am done talking. Thank you.
THOMAS: Hey, Storm, before you pull out.
STORM: Mmhmm?
THOMAS: So, what’s your films? Where can somebody check out your films?
STORM: Oh, thanks. So, I have a film called The Whistle. It is a documentary. It’s about lesbian youth culture in Albuquerque, New Mexico in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and you can find it on The audio description of that is really sparse because I think it’s just so dialogue heavy. The film is so dialogue heavy.
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah.
STORM: So, but it’s there and maybe hopefully, enough of the dialogue explains what’s going on, or it holds the interest. I do have a blind friend who really, who said she really loved the movie. She’s also of the community that the film is about.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
STORM: And the other one is called Vulveeta, and it’s on the festival circuit now.
STORM: And it’s a mockumentary. Thanks.
THOMAS: Very cool, no.
CHERYL: I also wanna jump in, StormMiguel, ‘cause you were talking about the research that the filmmaker needs to do. And that is such a beautiful bridge to something that Thomas and Nefertiti and I always talk about, and I know a lot of people who are here and not here talk about, which is the audio description can be looked at as part of the art, right? You said let’s not have it as this add-on at the end. We talked about research for the audio describer. You talk about research for the filmmaker. There you go. There are so many—and talking about casting—there are so many ways that we can use the same vocabulary to talk about the same process we have, because the AD is part of the art. And I happen to know that your closed captions, you do the same thing. You research, you get the words right, you make sure you check that you’re getting the words right rather than just like, I don’t know, “music, music playing, music ends, car sounds,” you know. I know you’re super careful with it because you value that…. You value that. So, I will stop there. And I will also say I did, I said I had one job, which was to let speakers up, which I don’t have controls. My other job is timekeeper. We have six minutes left. Just throwing that out there, and that’s it for me.
NEFERTITI: Thank you! Yeah. So, Scott Nixon, you’re back up, and we will end with you. So, go for it.
SCOTT N: Well, that’s a very great pleasure. I would like to firstly thank everybody for being involved today. I forgot to mention earlier that I am a co-moderator on the Twitter Audio Description Community. For more information about that, Nefertiti or Scott Blanks would probably be the people to talk to. And please, people, don’t give up on Twitter yet. Every empire must fall eventually.
Now, I just wanted to say two very quick things. Firstly, Frances, things in Australian audio description are about to explode. Government is looking to legislate audio description on commercial TV in Australia at long last. So, things are going to get better. Hopefully there’s gonna be more money out there for us to start doing quality and competent AD in all sorts of areas. So, just hold on for more information on that.
And just quickly rolling back to a couple of the points that Thomas made, redressing problems within cultural competency of audio description, I have a very brief story. I’ll have to speak in very vague terms ‘cause I can’t name any companies or anything like that. An audio description was produced for an Australian program, and the producer from the American company who did the audio description chose an American narrator to audio describe an Australian program, possibly the most jarring audio description I have ever heard, hearing all these Aussie accents and then this very deep, thick American accent doing the audio description. The director of the audio description company on finding this out was horrified that cultural competency wasn’t followed and desperately wanted to re-record with an Australian narrator. The problem is with the majority of the streaming services in particular, once the AD’s done, that’s it. They don’t wanna worry about it. They don’t wanna care about it anymore. It’s there. It’s done. They’re not gonna look at it. They’re not gonna get it redone, anything like that.
The only situation where there is AD re-record is when things are done so badly that it’s virtually unlistenable. It’s only happened once or twice before because audio description companies, when they–even when they themselves explain to the streamers that they have had a problem–they get a strike against them. And it’s a kind of like three-strikes-you’re-out system kind of thing where, if they make enough mistakes, they are delisted as an audio description provider. So, it’s a double-edged sword. So, we have to get the competency in from the very start, from the beginning and make sure that it’s there for everybody moving forward. That’s me, done. I’d just like to quickly say, gross self-promotion, please follow me on Twitter @MrBrokenEyes and also #ADReviews and #BrokenEyesVA. Thank you and goodnight!
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Scott. Something I wanna quickly mention here. I believe it was Scott Blanks, but what you just said, Scott Nixon, brought it back to the forefront of my mind, which is this idea that directors and filmmakers and big film networks and streaming services and studios, etc., have a say in audio description. It’s been my experience that most of these folks have no idea, and even when they do, they often don’t care enough to play an active role in casting, consciously casting for the audio description, be it the writer, the narrator. They barely even pay attention to quality control, etc. So, I think they can afford to do this, not that it’s right, in my opinion, but I think they can afford to do this because audio description is very often a third-party thing, right? The studios hire a company like a DVW, an IDC, etc., and then they, it is up to them to do the casting and all that stuff. So, to say that film studios, etc. should play an active role in this, absolutely 100%. But that’s not how the system is set up as of right now. So, I think the onus is on these companies, and I think that’s where we need to apply pressure whenever possible, when there’s something so egregious, like what you said, Scott Nixon.
SCOTT N: Yes. If I could just jump in for just one more second and give a perfect example of that. A company did an audio description for a program. It was incredibly successful, one of the best audio descriptions out there. Another series very similar to that one was being produced. The audio description company reached out to the production house and said, “Hey, we would like to do the audio description for this programing. This is very much like the one we did, and we had a lot of success.” And the company, the production company, turned around to them and literally said, “Eh, don’t worry about it. We’ll just get the company who do the captions to do the AD.” And it turned out to be one of the most disappointing audio description pieces of that particular year: jarring, terrible, wrong voice, whole thing. So, the companies need to be pretty much dragged up by the collar. And you look them in the face and say, “Do you like money? Do you like to make money? If you do this right, people will give you more money.” That’s pretty much how we have to handle the situation sometimes.
NEFERTITI: That is for a lot of them the bottom line. I agree with you. But this is where advocacy comes in and allyship and all that good stuff.
And we are now officially over, folks. So, thank you so much for being here. Cheryl, Thomas, any last thoughts?
THOMAS: Yeah, my only last thought is to let folks know this is, you know, these conversations, whether they’re here on LinkedIn—and we appreciate everybody coming out—whether they’re on Twitter, they’re gonna continue, because there’s a lot of things happening with audio description, whether they be this, whether it be blind people getting involved in audio description and all the fuss that seems to be around that and the disbelief apparently that blind people can actually do this work….
NEFERTITI: And do it well.
THOMAS: And do it well. And synthetic speech, that’s a really big one, and all of the implications that that has. And so, I’m just gonna end with what I always say, Nef. Audio description is about much more than entertainment. And if you think it’s just about a movie, just about a film, just about a Broadway show, you are absolutely incorrect. That’s it. I’m done speaking. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: 100! Cheryl, any last thoughts?
CHERYL: No, I can’t. The mic was already dropped, so I cannot speak anymore.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] All right.
THOMAS: Well, I got one last thing for all of us, though, for everybody here tonight. [air horn blasts]
CHERYL: [imitates air horn]
NEFERTITI: Are you listening? Are you out there listening? Whenever we get this recording out [air horn blasts] to the masses.
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Thank you so much for wanting to learn, for speaking up, for reaching out. Cheryl and Thomas and I are available on Twitter, on LinkedIn. Our email addresses are out there. Thomas’s podcast, Read My Mind Radio, R to the E I D!
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Like his last name, y’all!
THOMAS: Thank you, Nef.
NEFERTITI: And Cheryl. Cheryl has a fun podcast, too. Can I announce it, Cheryl, can I talk about it?
CHERYL: [laughing] Sure!
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Pigeonhole! Pigeonhole! What is it? “Don’t sit where society puts you”?
CHERYL: I think so. I don’t remember! I’m all embarrassed.
NEFERTITI: I love that! That’s right, y’all. So, thank you again so much. This has been a pleasure. We really hope you go away with things to think about or things to implement. And we’ll catch you next time. We will try to be back with another interesting topic. And tell your friends. All righty. Thank you so much, everybody. Good night!
THOMAS: Peace.

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

Hide the transcript

Black Art White Voices: A Flipping the Script Prequel

Wednesday, June 1st, 2022

A row of yellow light bulbs against a red horizontal border above and below the white movie screen. You are invited to REID MY MIND RADIO ENTERTAINMENT under the red frame. Black Art/White Voices: Flipping the script prequel on the following line in Bold Black capital letters. The picture is of a theater with red velvet chairs facing a white screen with movie images of Black panther, Insecure, Judas, and the black Messiah showing an all-black cast. There are two pictures of a blurry white man and a blurry white woman underneath the movie images.

Ever since producing the episode on Black Panther where among several critiques about the audio description, I voiced my complaint about using white narrators to voice what are obviously Black films. In general, AD narrators that are not from the culture of the film, where it’s obviously culturally specific, feels extremely disruptive and insensitive.

There’s been a significant amount of discussion on this topic here and elsewhere. It’s something I was hoping to see the Audio Description industry improve. To some extent that is the case, but when I finally sat down to watch Judas and the Black Messiah, a film about the FBI’s murder of Fred Hampton – Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, I couldn’t believe what I heard.

Black Panther? It’s starting to feel like a conspiracy… Here we go again!

* Hear how you can help make a change
* Here about the next season; Flipping the Script on Audio Description.
* PodAccess Survey – If you’re a Deaf/Disabled Podcaster or content creator or a consumer of Deaf/Disabled content, you’re going to want to know about this.



Show the transcript


Music begins, a pulsating ominous synth that opens up to a dramatic mid-tempo beat.


What’s up Reid My Mind Radio?

We’re in between seasons but I wanted to share some thoughts with the family.

Truth is, I wish I didn’t feel obligated to share these thoughts on this particular subject.
I’m hoping one day it won’t be necessary.

Several years ago now, I produced this episode that has really sort of attached itself to me.
It’s the Black Panther episode.
The episode I almost threw away. I didn’t think anyone would care.
I published it anyway.

People cared!

I think.

I’m just ready to move past it.
Meaning, I would love to see those who say they understand and support the need for Audio description to be more culturally aware and competent, put it into practice.

but, it’s like…
Audio sample: “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.” From The Godfather.

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro Music

Sounds of a thunder and rain storm.


I don’t believe in conspiracy theories.

— Thunder clap

At least that’s how I felt before the phone call.

A day, I’ll never forget.
It was a Thursday.
Damn, it could’ve been Friday.
Either way… I don’t normally answer calls from unknown numbers.
Yet, this one evening, my cell phone rang and Voice Over told me to answer the phone.
Yo! That freaked me out.

Then, I realized after answering the phone that I heard it wrong.
The caller id really said Ann Sur Fonne. I think it’s French.

Wherever she’s from, she called to tell me a bit about the AD Illuminati.

— Thunder clap!

Well, sort of…

This mysterious phone call came on the same day my daughter Riana and I finally had the chance to sit together and watch Judas and the Black Messiah.

It’s a film that explores the FBI’s murder of Fred Hampton. The 21 year old Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party who was in the midst of uniting black and other organizations focusing on advancing rights and opportunities for Black, brown and other marginalized people.

The movie was first released in February 21 both in theaters and on HBOMax. I’m not certain about the theater release, but I do know that HBO Max did not yet provide audio description. My daughter refused to watch the film until it had AD and she could watch with her Dad. That’s me y’all!

It wasn’t until sometime during the summer of 2021 that the film received an audio description track on HBO.

Almost a year since its release, January 1, 2022, Riana and I sat down to watch the film.

As far as the movie goes, the two stars, Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield, playing Chairman Fred Hampton and the sell out under cover Bill O’Neil respectively, were both amazing.

It’s never easy to just watch a movie like this as if it were just a story. It’s not. It’s a reminder of a not so distant history a sobering acknowledgment that those in power won’t hesitate to kill when their way of life is threatened.

History shows, that’s often, when Black people are seeking their freedom, standing up for their rights and when there’s a hint of creating a unified front that challenges the establishment.

In 2018, I published an episode that focused on my response to the audio description in Marvel’s Black panther. If you never heard that, I’ll provide a link and hope you’ll take a listen. In summary, I discuss my reaction to the selected narrator. The episode actually goes into much more, but that’s often what’s recalled. I refer to the narrator as the voice of the colonizer – a British white man.

Unlike Marvel’s Black Panther, Judas and the Black Messiah doesn’t originate or belong to the MCU or the Marvel Comic Universe. This story is real. It belongs to us, this is the Black People’s Black Panthers.

I found it pretty ironic that , once again a film featuring a Black Panther is described by a British sounding white man.

— A mix of movie scenes with a dramatic “No” Including “Back to the Future” and “Independence Day”.

I always feel obligated to say, I have nothing against this person as an individual, he’s probably a nice guy.

Truth is, I really don’t have to. This isn’t about one person. It’s about an entire community of people being overlooked.

Anyone choosing to focus on individuals should really ask themselves if they’re really trying to deflect and avoid the real conversation.

— Cell Phone ringing

Not long after my daughter and I finished our post film review and conversation, my cell phone rang.

Yeah, that’s really the ring tone I use. I guess I’m nostalgic for telephones with actual bells on them.

Voice Over saying Ann Sur Fonne!

So I just had to pick it up.

TR in Conversation Flashback::
Hello? (Says hesitantly)

What did you think of the AD?

TR in Conversation Flashback:
Excuse me?

What did you think of the AD?

TR in Conversation Flashback:
Who’s this?

I’m sorry Thomas, this is Ann Sur Fonne, you don’t know me… (Continues talking but fades down to an unintelligible murmur, with narration taking over)


She went on to explain she’s been listening, watching and reading the things that I and others have been talking about audio description and the need for more inclusion and proper representation of voices in all films especially those that are culturally specific.

She wouldn’t say exactly what power she had but she said she’s on the inside and wants to see change.

Have you heard of the AD Illuminati?

TR in Conversation Flashback:
I have but always just thought that was a joke. I thought it referred to [beep]

Thomas, whatever you do you can’t say those names out loud or use on your podcast. Your life is in danger if you do.

TR in Conversation Flashback:
What the heck! It’s audio description.

Thomas, you said it before and made a damn t-shirt, it’s about more than entertainment.

Ann talked a bit more. Each time I tried to get more information or even some hint of why using Black voices in films about Black people is an issue, she’d just talk about how much she likes the podcast.

I really like your podcast.

TR in Conversation Flashback:
Oh, thank you! Continues talking but fades out and narration over takes it.


I really need to work on not being easily distracted.

I did get to ask her if there’s any specific connection to Black Panther? I mean

I can’t tell you is all she’d say. Continue to be aware, pay attention and look beyond what you see. I reminded her I’m Blind. We laughed.

But seriously, continue to be observant. There are things happening and people claiming they care and want to see change. But as you know now, the AD Illuminati is real and right now, their goals don’t align with yours.

TR in Conversation Flashback:
What exactly are their goals?

Nice try Tomas, but I’m already risking my life calling you. I’ll be in touch when I can. Whenever you hear your phone say Ann Sur Fonne make sure you answer. No matter the time of day or night.


And that was it, she was gone.

I didn’t mention this to anyone for a day or so because I was just shook.
I finally decided to tell my wife. She just stared at me. I took my phone out to show her my call history.

There was no record of the call.

“I didn’t dream it! I didn’t dream it!” I muttered to myself as I walked off to be alone.

Classic Radio Announcer:
“We interrupt this program for a special news announcement”

Hi, I’m Cheryl Green
And I’m Thomas Reid

Cheryl: That… wait, you don’t look like Cheryl Green.

Thomas: What do you mean?

Cheryl: Well, I mean Cheryl she’s got hair on her head, kinda curly medium length brown hair and she’s got black framed glasses and olive skin.

Thomas: Ok, now that you say that, you don’t sound like Thomas Reid. I think he’s a brown skin Black man with a shaven head and where’s shades and has a full beard and might be wearing like a Wu Tang Clan t-shirt or something like that.

Cheryl: But, we’re both disabled podcasters.

Thomas: Do you think we should say podcasters with disabilities?
Cheryl: – Oh oh, you know, let’s do a podcast about that.
Thomas: Mm! Good idea!

Cheryl: Actually, Thomas and I are working on a project that’s all about disabled podcasts…
It’s called… Oh wait, well, we don’t actually have a name just yet so we’re calling it… oh wait, we don’t actually have the name yet. What should we call it?

Thomas: We should call it, project, project!

Cheryl: Yeh, I love it! Project, Project or like I don’t know, PODAccess.

Thomas: Ok, we’ll go with PodAccess, for now.
With funding from the Disability Visibility Project we’re creating a space for disabled podcasters or
content creators to
Connect with each other, maybe be discovered by audiences interested in your content or share skills and resources

Cheryl: So we want to hear from you…
Current or former Deaf or Disabled podcasters, Deaf or Disabled people interested in starting a podcast or consumers of content about disability or Deafness.

Thomas: We’ve created a survey, that should only take about 20 minutes to complete and we’d really love your feedback.

Cheryl: You can find the survey at
On that survey you can sign up to receive more information about
Project Project as it develops.

Thomas: Again, fill out the survey at

Cheryl: Ah, nice job Cheryl!
Thomas: Ah, , you too Thomas! (Laughs)

Classic Radio Announcer: Now back to our show.

I needed something light to take my mind off this for a while.

I decided to watch the final season of Insecure also on HBO Max.

— Music begins, an anxious melody that continues of a mid-tempo Hip Hop beat. Hip hop

HBO did not provide description for their shows until 2021.

prior to this final season, Blind folks interested in watching Insecure with audio description would need to find an alternative way of accessing the series. Allegedly available somewhere.

If you’re not familiar with issa rae’s Insecure, according to her the show “examines “the complexities of ‘Blackness’ and the reality that you can’t escape being Black.”

While the show is a “black show” it’s characters and subject is universal and relatable.

Sort of like what people with disabilities like to think about disabled content. But you know many non-disabled hear that word and are like oh, that’s not for me!

Similarly, white disabled can hear black and disabled and say, oh boy that’s not for me.

Anyway! Humanity, right?

Insecure is a well done series. Young black people just living their lives searching and figuring out who they are and where they want to go. From Black law firms to the streets , all sorts of Black.

Well, guess what wasn’t Black?
That’s right! The audio description narrator.

And here’s where it gets tricky for me personally. I like and know the narrator. She’s been on the podcast y’all. That makes her Reid My Mind Radio Family!

Let’s be clear, I’m not trying to put people on blast or shame someone for their decisions. To return to the Godfather for a second…
“It’s not personal Sonny, It’s strictly business.”

That being the case, I won’t drop manes, but feel free to look it up. In fact, go ahead and watch the show, it’s entertaining and I support Black content creators.

I really wanted to call Ann Sur Fonne. I wanted to ask her what could be done about this. Does this at all relate to the AD Illuminati?

No need. I’m sure she’d be vague or even worse tell me how much she likes the podcast to distract me.

I really do need to stop falling for that one.

She did encourage me to continue to speak on it and suggested I do the same for others.

So that’s what I’m doing.

Is there really an AD Illuminati?

Is all of this part of some conspiracy?

I believe that those in charge are doing what they know. I recognize that it’s not malicious or done with bad intentions. Folks have jobs to do and deadlines to meet and all sorts of limited resources.

This has been the way it’s been done for years. It goes back to the early decision makers in audio description. They did great things, but they also bear responsibility for where we are today. They chose to not see color. They chose not to seek out culturally appropriate voices. They taught and some still teach the newbies. Has the curriculum been updated or is it the same ol’ thing. You know, that good Ol’ AD!?

I know for many, this isn’t a big deal, in comparison to other issues of injustice or representation. But I disagree! I think it’s just another one. One that will never grab the attention of the mainstream.
It’s black and disabled.

What they don’t see are the core elements that make up the other injustices;
White supremacy
Systemic racism
Ableism, It’s for the Blind so they’ll be happy with whatever we give them.


Yes, hard to hear? Well, it’s not easy to say.

Music begins, an optimistic, bouncy Hip Hop groove.

I offered some possible solutions in the Black Panther episode from 2018.

One worth repeating is seeing the selection of narrator as a casting choice and therefore a responsibility of the director and production team.

If content creators were more aware and involved in the audio description process, I don’t believe we’d have as many of these issues.

I don’t think Issa Rae is aware of the voice providing audio description narration for her show.

, when asked on the red carpet of an award show who she was rooting for, famously and unapologetically proclaimed;

Issa Rae: “Everybody Black. I am. Betting on Black tonight!”

Here’s another consideration for addressing this issue. Individual responsibility.

It’s not just the narrator, audio description is a team sport. No matter where you fall within the audio description life cycle, you play a role.

As I am aware of the process today, broadcasters who commission the AD track have the majority of the power. They are the true shot callers. They dictate what they want the script to look like and the type of voice they want to hear.

AD Directors, Managers, decision makers in general, it’s time to retire the excuses;
“we don’t have anyone on our team.”
“We had such a tight deadline to produce this track”
“We don’t know where to find qualified talent”
All of these excuses just represent the problem. It’s time for you to expand your network, recruit talent and be aware and prepared.

I’ve seen people find qualified voice talent … open your networks, they’re out here.

AD professionals, you have a choice.
If you’re aware of the inequity and say you want to see the change, well, recognize your power.


I find it really hard to believe that you don’t recognize when you’re not right for the project. Rather than finding a way to personally justify that with yourself, why not use your influence to suggest that someone else is hired for the position? Perhaps it’s someone you know and recommend, but in general, speaking up about the subject, being an ally, well that’s powerful.

— “You will not replace us” Chants of Alt Right Mob.

Is this call for equitable representation threatening?

When it comes to the voice of the narrator on films that are culturally specific, we’re talking about a small piece of the pie. The total number of films and television shows that are focused on BIPOC stories is still a fraction of the total films made today.

White narrators get plenty of work. I don’t see any reason for them to feel threatened by these comments.

This issue is just one part of a much bigger problem.
It goes beyond films like Black Panther or In the Heights. Shows like Insecure. It goes beyond the voice. It’s about the visibility of Black and other people of color

That’s seeing and acknowledging color on screen and stage. It’s recognizing that Blind and Low Vision includes people of color.


If you’re assigned to a project, recognize your limitations and ask for help, seek the proper input or suggest that you’re not right for the job.

We don’t need color blind writers.

No silly, I’m not talking about those who can’t see red green or blue, but rather black and brown.

It’s one thing to see Black and brown people when we’re in the majority. At that point, I guess you can’t help it, right?

What about the other films that have a so called diverse cast and include BIPOC characters. The lack of audio description erases them from the Blind consumers screen; rendering people of color invisible.

For Black people and others of color, striving to be seen, heard and in general represented takes place in all aspects of life. What we experience in audio description isn’t unique, it’s a part of that systemic problem that persists throughout society. We can’t wait for it to be resolved outside of audio description and then trickle down. Why not do what we can to address these underlying issues that we’ve all inherited. At the very least acknowledge their existence and commit to doing better.

That’s what this episode is all about today. Doing better…

Music begins, a dramatic piano riff leads into a strong steady beat.

I reached out to some people who I know feel strongly about this issue. Audio description providers who already commit to this idea fully. The Social Audio Description Team who I featured here on the podcast last year.

Together, we’re drafting a pledge that we will invite everyone to sign. That is, everyone who believes in making audio description a representative, equitable and fair space. Those who want to truly see the world in all of its beautiful identities, shapes, sizes, abilities, ….

Do I think a pledge will resolve this? Not necessarily. Right now, I’m interested in eliminating the excuses. We’re in 2022, if you’re not interested in the proper representation of people of color then be firm in your stance and say that.

Don’t tell the community you’re for something while your actions say otherwise.

If you’re in support, raise your volume. I’m talking to consumers as well as AD professionals.

— From Judas and the Black Messiah:
“The whole neighborhood came out. Pushers, grannies, Crowns”
Fred Hampton:
Anywhere there’s people, there’s power”


I’m hoping to have this pledge published shortly and plan to report back to you. I’ll definitely link to the pledge from ReidMyMind .com and share on my social media pages; Facebook and Instagram @ReidMyMindRadio and
Twitter that’s @tsreid.

Join me in pledging to make audio description or our little microcosm of the world into an example of what we want this place to be. We can’t wait for the rest of them.

In the meantime, according to Ann Sur Fonne, she’s been putting me in position to meet people who want to see audio description recognized for the art it is. People ready and willing to help make AD better for all. People you’re going to meet in this upcoming season of Flipping the Script on Audio Description.
We’re talking:
AD in the lab; Creative approach or Compliance – do we have to choose?
Blind AD professionals, stand up, ya better recognize!
Get some AD to describe this outfit… Blind people are fly too!
And get ready, I’m bringing you La Professora…

The Flipping the Script on Audio Description season kicks-off Tuesday, June 14, 2022.

Come rock with Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at
Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!
(“D! And that’s me in the place to be.” Slick Rick)
Ann Sur Fonne:
“Oh, like your last name Thomas!”

— Reid My Mind Radio outro

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