Posts Tagged ‘Deaf’

FTS Bonus: Andrew Slater Making Sound

Wednesday, August 23rd, 2023

This is the last bonus episode which stems from the Flipping the Script on Audio Description: What We See episode where I linked visual hallucinations, trust and the participation of Blind people in audio description.

Andrew Slater and I talk about producing audio description, hallucinations, synesthesia and more.

A couple of standout Quotables that I hope will resonate with those new to blindness:

“There’s no shame in the cane”
“That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s just my reaction to ableism”

Check out this article from the Washington Post that features Andrew following his public request on Tick Tock for someone to describe the Alabama Brawl.


Show the transcript

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio family?
Can you believe the summer is almost done?

Usually that would also mean we’d be wrapping up the Flipping the Script season. Not this year.

Today, I’m bringing you the final FTS bonus episode.
As a reminder, each of the bonus conversations were used in the What We See episode where
I linked discussions about visual hallucinations, trust and Blind participation in audio description. Hopefully you checked that out and you dug where I’m coming from.
I decided to share these semi raw conversations because the three gentlemen Carmen Papalia, Collin van Uchelen and Andrew Slater had lots of good information and ideas to offer.
Semi raw because I did just a bit of cooking or editing to make it a bit easier to digest.
But these episodes aren’t representative of what we usually do here at Reid My Mind Radio.
Meaning, there’s no narration or analysis, sound design or music.

Today’s episode features Andrew Slater.

By the way, shout out to Andrew who was recently featured in a Washington Post article following his
public request on Tick Tock for audio description of the Alabama brawl.
The result proves to be some awesome examples of creative description.

I’ll link you to the article over at this episode’s blog post at

Since we’re in the middle of celebrating 50 years of Hip Hop, I’ll drop another little reference for those who know…

Now, Reid My Mind Radio is this podcast’s name
Andrew Slater is his…
I’m T.Reid It’s like that and that’s the way it is!

Reid My Mind Radio Intro

Andrew 00:00
My name is Andy Slater. I am a sound designer, composer and accessibility person professionally. My pronouns are he him, I’m a middle aged white man with dirty blonde hair, a full red beard with some gray. Right now I’m wearing a red t shirt with white lettering that says I am not Daredevil. One of my favorite personal traits is that my left eye turns inward. So I see double a lot and I’ve got big bushy wizard eyebrows.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 00:32
Two things. Number one, love the t shirt. Just letting everybody know. Do they stop you and ask you, “Excuse me?”

Andrew 00:40
Just point to the shirt.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 00:45

So Sandy blonde hair and red beard? I’ve never heard that.

Andrew 00:49
Yeah, yeah, it’s uh, I mean, when I was a kid, I was strawberry blonde, I believe was the term which is kind of a reddish blonde, and then my hair got more brown, but I’m a ginger from like, the ears down. You got the salt and pepper beard. But mine’s like, salt and cayenne.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 01:11

You know, I don’t get too much into this. But briefly, tell me a little bit about your relationship with disability,

Andrew 01:16
oh, gosh, well, my relationship with disability, I like a lot of visually impaired people that maybe their sight has, has gone downhill gradually took a while to not necessarily, I don’t know, admit or accept my disability, but to realize that I was disabled. You know, I realized when I was a kid, I couldn’t see. But I didn’t really know what any of that meant, you know, it was the 80s. Right? It kind of wasn’t until I was a full time cane user, which was about 2009 When I started just never leaving the house without it. And kind of fighting with that stigma, having the white cane and people messing with me telling me that I’m not blind or, you know, faking it and that kind of thing. And realizing that I’m not going to be able to avoid or ignore this. So I started becoming more of an advocate for myself. And still not even necessarily knowing anything about people with other disabilities other than blindness in my own relationship to the lived experience of other people that I’ve met. And I’d say like, about 2014 15, or something. I met some people local to Chicago, that are involved in Bodies of Work, which is like a disability arts culture sort of organization that does a lot of arts events, and, you know, some support, and they work with through the University of Illinois Chicago Disability Center there. And I met somebody named Carrie Sandor and Sandy Yee, who are both disabled scholars, and artists and stuff. And they were like, You got to come and meet some of our folks. And so I met a whole bunch of really cool, sort of rowdy radical disabled people and was like, these are my people, I can swear and drink and be just myself and say, you know, screw this and screw this person and all that other kind of stuff and just learned about ableism and then the, the aesthetics behind being a Crip. And that sort of thing, which, you know, made me realize, you know, what, man, Andy, you are who you are, just keep doing that. Since then, I’ve been a loudmouth for myself and others really big on access for everybody. I collaborate a lot with people with disabilities different than mine. And then, of course, you know, other blind visually impaired folks. So now, I, you know, could have said 20 something years ago, I’m 48. Now, maybe yeah, 20 maybe even earlier, I would have been praying for a cure every day. And now it’s like, I’ll wait. I’m happy with my life. I have a career doing what I do. And it’s a lot of it is based around my lived experience. My own disability knowledge and being cured isn’t as important as it once was.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 04:13
Awesome. That was a great answer. You know, every time I hear someone who has the, what I’m gonna call now the luxury of being around a Disability Cultural Center. Yeah, I’m just like, always fascinated, man, because I’ve never been in that space. Like physically. I’m involved with disability culture online, but it’s like, wow, that just sounds fantastic to be able to just be in that space physically.

Andrew 04:41
Chicago’s got a we have a bunch of different resources in groups. I mean, even like, the Chicago the Mayor’s Office of People with disabilities have some real radical cool people in they’re not just like, people that pity who their clients are and like the mayor’s are office isn’t like that. And there’s also a place called Access Living, which is not at all like that either Bodies of Work and like the Chicago disability art scene here is just, it’s just so dope. Everybody here is so supportive, not one person would have, like a gallery show or a performance or anything, like a reading or something that wasn’t accessible. Nobody does an art show that doesn’t have image description. Nobody does a performance or theater that doesn’t have audio description, or ASL or CART. Often, there’s like sensory chill rooms. You know, we all got each other’s back. And I think it has to do with a lot of people that like, we’re involved in that sort of like, disability rights and advocacy in art and stuff, like in the 70s and 80s. But you got to city, not up in the mountains. Yeah, got a lot more people. Were going to places much more mobile. But yeah, these kinds of spaces, you know, I’ve run across them, like, even internationally. And usually, it’s like, you got the cool people in there. You go into like, a blindness convention. It’s cool. But the biggest problem is that there’s an agenda and there’s no chill time. These spaces are, are wonderful. And even, like, virtually, but like, having that personal local connection is like, this is real important. Yeah. And it’s total, it’s a total privilege. You’re right, total privilege.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 06:23
Tell me a little bit about your work, how you came to work with sound and, and everything that you do.

Andrew 06:28
I was like, 15, or 16, right. And I got a Tascam, four to seven, like multitrack cassette recorder. And I was in this really horrible industrial punk band. I was like singing and my parents wanted to buy me an instrument, for whatever reason. And I was like, I want this tape deck. And I got that and I started messing around with like, doing sound collage stuff and more like what I found out to be like, you know, music con Cret, sort of like, using a bunch of like, found and appropriated sounds I took from like, sound effects records and audio books and TV, I used to draw and paint a lot when I was a kid. And when my, my vision in high school started getting to the point where I could no longer do what I wanted to do, I got discouraged, but then I realized, like, oh, I can just make some weird sound art stuff, you know, without really known what that was. And so I started doing that. Eventually, it was time for me to get up out of Milford, Connecticut and move away and go to college. And so I moved to Chicago to go to the school, the Art Institute, because I had a sound department and learned all about audio, more so on the creative side than the vocational side at the time, you know, like using a lot of like analog synthesizers, and early samplers and learning on reel to reels and going through like a dat all the way up to Pro Tools. And then you know, a whole bunch of other stuff. I realized now that my work was, you know, informed by my visual impairment but not about it. And I dropped out of college and I went back like a decade later to get that degree, and kind of picked up where I left off, but started thinking more about like my disability because my vision had gotten I guess worse. It started also thinking more vocationally than creative, like paying more attention on how to maybe go and record a band in a way that was more organized and more professional than whatever I was doing with my dirty four track and some basement, right. And I started getting more into sound design for like filming videos, collaborating with some other, you know, with some artists, friends of mine and doing stuff, recording a band that I’m in, started experimenting with, like, you know, what, how do you make a psychedelic funk band sound the way that it should? By yourself without really knowing what the hell you’re doing? And I figured that out, right? And that was like, oh, yeah, music is cool. As long as I have like, complete control over it. At that time, I was just doing what I wanted to do. And then having a really hard time navigating Pro Tools, which I use, you know, zooming in a lot magnified, and never even like, tried to use it with the screen reader because I wasn’t even trained in that. And eventually I did. I got training from this program called IC music on how to use Pro Tools with VoiceOver. And my workflow was like super fast, I get all this stuff done. And I started realizing that I no longer have headaches from zooming in all the time. I can just get all this stuff done so quickly and started thinking you know what, I really need to consider this more as a career and not just weird Andy stuff. I started doing a lot of field recordings with my cane, going from one place to the next using these sounds, activate acoustic spaces and just do these kinds of weird collage sort of things composed from these sources and then realizing that I don’t know anybody else that does this. You know, I don’t know any other blind folks that use their cane sort of like as a sound maker or an instrument or even just to kind of end up using like the acoustic space at As an instrument itself, and since I realized that Shure microphones makes an app that’s accessible on iOS, it’s when I started doing field recordings again, you know, all that digital stuff, like all the early zooms, and everything like that, where everything was digital, and I could no longer see that little box and menu dive and stuff. You know, I was kind of like, you know what, I got the Shure MV88 plugged in into the phone, walked all over the world with it and made these recordings and thought I was, you know, I was happy doing that. I’m doing really, you know, crappy jobs, but getting social security at the same time, then I kind of found out about like, Ambisonics, unlike immersive spatial audio, stuff for like VR, and extended reality and all that other stuff, I decided I wanted to go and get a degree at Northwestern. And so I went and did that in the sound arts and industries school with a focus on the sort of like immersive, more media arts sort of stuff that is a medium itself that’s still growing and progressing. And then wanting to work in that finding out all of these like access barriers, finding workarounds and such. But then realizing that it would be really cool if I learned this and then got in the industry. And as all this tech and all these, like, you know, this Metaverse or whatever they want to call it. Now, as that grows, I want you to like want access to kind of grow parallel with it. So in my current job, my job job not like my personal private commissions and stuff, I work for a company called fair worlds. And I do you know, sound design stuff, whether it’s from like, user interface, like UI, like bleep blurb, sort of dunk, dunk kind of things, like you press the button, and it makes that sound kind of thing to compose and music to sound effects to you. VoiceOver and dialogue, editing and all this stuff for our apps and videos and whatever the projects may be. And then also working a lot on like spatial audio and applying these to the apps where if it’s gameplay, and the audio spatialized, it’s kind of easier for a blind or visually impaired person to play these games based on where the sound is, you know, all those kinds of things, being able to work within the industry where we have clients, and we have some of the companies that we work with, using their software, beta testing their software and stuff, having the ear of those people in those companies on how important access is like, you know, you could make your thing accessible. And all you got to do is this, having those conversations and some sometimes they go somewhere, sometimes we just got to show them like No, no, here, you know, it’s really, really kind of easy, you just really need to know what you’re talking about. And trying to get in there as a as a creator. And then also, as a consumer of like, this is accessible tech and these sort of things being both, like you know, trying to play video games, but then also trying to make the video games kind of gives me a this perspective that not a whole lot of other people have. But then some of the other stuff I do is like for my own art commissions, I’ll do stuff for performance and gallery, I exhibit a lot. And then I’m also doing like accessibility audits for some websites and museums and stuff. And then I’ll also work on creating like access content, like image description and audio description for like film and museums and, and that kind of thing. So it’s like, that is also still a big part of like my art practice. My art is now like, becoming access for somebody else’s project, but then also also for other people’s products. Our last project, this app that’s launching next week called Space Time adventure towards like, it’s specific to the Seattle Center. It’s about like the 1962 World’s Fair. My sound designs are all vintage retro sci fi like using the Theremin and then all these robot sounds and all this like really fun sort of stuff, and, you know, cool jazz and surf music and stuff, all the stuff that I used to do in the 90s at school or even as a kid. I’m now getting paid, paid to do this. I was always a kid was like, making these sounds just because, you know, undiagnosed ADHD and such. But now I get paid to do that. It’s really important. And it’s really cool. And it’s like, Man, how did I do this? Oh, a lot of it has to do the fact that I decided to go to grad school against my, well, at the time, I was like, this is going to cost an arm and leg. I don’t know. It’s gonna be really bad. This is going to break me. But I went and you know, the place I work for now is where I had my internship in 2020. So I’ve been there for like three years and the house is wonderful. And I wish that more blind folks have these kinds of opportunities and I think they’re there I think we just need to get that tech right to where it is and then get people that like education and training like like it I see music. I learned Reaper too all the key commands conflict with my Pro Tools. My memory, so I just like, I know how Reaper works. But you know, you know, I chose Pro Tools, but, you know, it’s like the Reaper community is huge. And and these are things that, you know, I think if we you know, we get more and more these sorts of tools into blind people’s hands and, you know, get them to be the creators because you know, I mean, I don’t want to say we’re the experts in sound, but I would trust a blind person with sound more than I would a sighted person. And I’m biased, but I truly believe that. So I’d love to see more people get these kinds of jobs. That way, I don’t have to take everything that’s offered to me, because I’m afraid it’ll never get done. If I don’t

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 15:44
tell me about your your first experience with audio description first, as a consumer.

Andrew 15:49
You know, I was thinking about that the other day, like, what was the first film that I ever saw in the theater, and I don’t remember now, but I do remember my first experience was, like Christmas time, I want to say maybe 20 years ago, maybe even longer than that. The Foundation Fighting Blindness used to show It’s A Wonderful Life with open audio description, on TV, whatever channel and I always thought that was wild, I thought that was great. At the time, I could see well enough where I didn’t think that I needed the audio description, but I paid a lot of attention to it. It was an old movie where the sound was at this big Boombastic. Michael Bay mess, the audio description didn’t really mess with the sound of the film, and it kind of like elevated over but still mixed in kind of thing. And I really took to that. And I think that one of the first films I saw in the theater had to have been, I want to say 14 years ago, whatever it may have been, the movie theater made me give them like my ID or something like that. And I was like, Oh, this is cool. I’m digging this in those early years. And I mean, I guess still to this day, you still got to always double check with the theater, like, does this thing work? Do you have the right one, give me two Behling the listening experience hasn’t really changed much other than I think the quality of the audio descriptions better, I still have to cover an ear sometimes to in order to like hear the description. But I can go and do that stuff with my family. You know, um, it might have been something like, Captain America movie or something like that. That’s why I was loving going into the Marvel and then Disney movies and stuff like that, because it’s like, I know that their audio descriptions on point, like Pixar, they really kind of champion that stuff early on the stuffs on point. And it’s always gonna be there. So okay, brand loyalty to, you know, corporate overlords. There we go. It’s like I love apple and Disney and Marvel and such because I feel invited and I can use it. And then, you know, I kind of got into these opportunities with working with other artists are navigating, like, Hey, Andy, how do I how do I do this? For my own work? But the time I didn’t really know how, what if there was a book of what to do and what not to do. So I just started being like, I don’t know, this is art, let’s be weird. You know, you can be subjective man, like, make it another art piece and play a parallel or whatever, keep experimenting, the ACB audio description project, really great examples there, love that database and stuff. But I’ve also come across people citing that as the end all be all, you know, and it’s like, yeah, it’s to the point, it just totally depends on what the project is. My favorite experiences is watching like, The Video Game Awards, or the Game Awards, or whatever that thing was called, like, two years ago. And they had to describe stream, which was live and the woman reading it or narrating it was just having a blast. Here’s the animation of Mario and like, Mario is on a turtle. Oh, and then laser, you know, like that kind of stuff. But then they had like a category for most accessible game. And I think that’s when the last of us to like pretty much won everything, but the fact that they have that, that was kind of an audio description joy for me. You know, that was like the next level of oh my god, audio descriptions, you know, the movies. And then here’s the game that’s accessible. It’s a little too damn hard. And I got I’m like, you know, read a book on how to play it. But here’s the Game Awards, taking this thing seriously. And, you know, and then trying to get gamer culture involved in it was like, you know, a real cool step.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 19:38
You mentioned that you were soda invited to start thinking about it from the perspective of a creator creating audio description. Can you talk a little bit about the roles that you fill in the process of creating ad?

Andrew 19:52
My roles originally just started kind of as a collaborator or an advisor on projects. I wasn’t comfortable With maybe recording my voice, I’d work with other people to write stuff down. Since my vision is impaired, sometimes it’s a boundary. Sometimes it’s not. There’s a guy locally named Victor Cole, who does a lot of like audio descriptions for local performances and like award ceremonies and all these other cool stuff that the Chicago disabled arts community employ him to do that, started talking to him about his process, and like picking up on that, and then realizing that my role as a blind person to create this is probably going to be different than how Victor approaches it. Which is cool, because that means you have like more voices and more opportunities to give different perspectives of stuff. And so there’s some like, performance artists and dancers and choreographers and stuff locally that were like, you know, we want to do this live. But we also want to, like pre record some stuff, mess with the stereo sound for AD and kind of move the AD around in like an open audio description sort of situation, which I think is cool, because I wish I could control where I wanted to place the ad when I’m listening to it right in the stereo field, and then doing sound design within the AD. So kind of going from that direction of making sure that the people that I work with understand that access from the get go is the way to do it, especially when you’re coming around with like audio description, right? It’s like, think about the amount of space that you can take up and how much you can maybe need to cram in there with the ad, as long as it’s either on your mind or even just part of the script or something like that, then it’ll just be so much easier to complete, as opposed to like, oh, no, we got an audio describe this thing. Now, here, you got three days kind of thing. And I’ve been in those situations. But I’ve also been in situations where I’ve had a very long time to kind of digest and work and stuff. So first started off as me being like an advisor, and then you know, like a collaborator and then helping produce an edit, and mix AD tracks, maybe early as like 2017 or something like that I started, you know, doing this kind of stuff. But at the end of last year, I got the opportunity to write and record the audio description for feature. And that was a film called the Tuba Thieves. By Allison Oh, Daniel, who was a deaf hard hearing director. And that thing debuted at Sundance. And so that was really cool. A great experience, because 95% of the film, the dialogue is ASL. So like my wife, and I, my wife is autistic, and I’m visually impaired. And we wrote the AD and I narrated it, I was able to hire these three disabled voice actors to read basically the subtitles in the captions, and kind of, you know, bring them into this where they had done some some of this work on before. And they’re all actors and performers and stuff. But never for something that was essentially, I don’t know, everybody is disabled on this on this thing. So it’s like, yeah, you know, we brought, you know, we’re, we’re all showing up as we as we should. And so what was cool about this film is that this film is, like, the sound itself was so incredibly descriptive, and all very referential, and all sounds that I think, you know, so many of us would, would get that, you know, the, the actual audio description that I read and recorded, was real minimal. And there’s a lot of silence in the film. So I kind of shut up, you know, it was like, it’s like, oh, I have to make these decisions. Now. This is a weird experimental, sort of almost documentary style film. I have done so much like experimental audio description, sort of stuff with like, I don’t know layered voices and sound and sound design and weird, poetic sort of approaches to stuff. And I could still bring some of that energy, but certainly didn’t want to, you know, make a huge mess out of it. And I’m happy with how how it worked out. It was really cool. Knowing that as it travels around on tour, it’s playing in theaters that offer audio description, and all the promotional stuff that I see for it says, you know, audio description is also available and also has open captions. So it’s really this kind of like, cool thing where it’s like, hey, here it is. We’re all here, right? People asked me if I’ll work on their films, and it’s like, it’s so time consuming, as you may know, especially if you’re asked to do everything, the literacy of this sort of like audio description, these other access points. A lot of the times people come to me not knowing enough, and it’s like, do we want to sit here and have a four hour meeting of me explaining what it is that you need to do? Or do you want me to do at all because you still don’t understand what it is I need to do. And then when it comes to like, compensation, it gets kind of hairy. You know, but I mean, there are a lot of people that really want this filming. Viewers, especially disabled filmmakers, but for whatever reason people are afraid to do it. It’s funny when I see, you know, other disabled artists and filmmakers and stuff, afraid to do this, because they don’t want to mess it up. It’s like, look, I understand that, but we have the same, you know, lived experiences on a lot of situations, right? And just think about it like that. It’s like, experiment with it. It’s it’s common sense. I honestly think just, you just got to watch like, you know, a handful of different, you know, films with audio description to really get what you want to do. I don’t want to have to explain it a million different times. I know I sound crabby, like crabby old man over it. But it’s time consuming. And, you know, you want me as a consultant or an artist, or what, because there’s a different pay rate. Yeah. You know, you know, and it’s very true, absolutely. Sound like capitalist about it. But you know, it is kind of
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 26:08
it’s your time.

It’s my time,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 26:08
you said that you and your wife wrote the AD for the film. So you were participating in that process? You were you a writer?

Andrew 26:17

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 26:08
Okay. Cool.

Andrew:Yeah, yeah, we watched the movie. And then we kind of went, we didn’t have a script for this. So we kind of, we watched it, we took notes, you know, put it on the timecode. And that sort of thing. Yeah. And I don’t know if this is a process that other people do. But you know, we just got, we sat down here. And you know, we put it on the big monitor. And based on how Tressa would describe what’s on screen, sometimes I could see it because a lot of the movie is slow, we take notes of what’s on screen, we’d go off some of the notes that the producer gave us, I would just kind of reword it, you know, or edit it. So it was more interesting to kind of match the energy, especially the energy of these captions, these captions were out of control, awesome, and weird and abstract at time, I didn’t want to be just normal sort of insights as interpretations as to what was going on on screen. But then also using like, my own artifacts of my vision, also where it’s like, I got tunnel vision. So I can see like, what’s up on the right side of the screen. I could focus on some weird thing here. And then Tressa would point out what else was going on? You know, and it’s a cool film it has people talking about when Prince and the revolution played Gallaudet University to have like a whole hundreds of Deaf folks.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 26:08
Oh, wow.

Yeah. And there’s like, there’s these photos, because there was no film. You know, nothing but like photos of it, being able to describe these photos. Like this one, I think it’s black and white. I don’t know, you know, it’s from like, it’s from the Purple Reign tour. On the left is the band rocking out. And you can see that Prince has his like white Stratocaster up high and he’s just jamming and you know, he’s wearing purple even though it’s black and white. And then to the right is like, it’s like hundreds of deaf people all signing I love you, you know, with the with the index, the pinky in the thumb up. And like, being able to see that spend time just like even zooming in and like pausing the film and then zooming in. Like that photo and another one of prints where he’s, you know, given I love you sign with this, stand next to this kid, this huge grin on Prince’s face where you just like, Man, I got like, all emotional How do I describe this, because this is just beautiful. And it’s like a still photo on screen for five seconds. And that’s something that I realized, like, this is really, this is got to be really, really tough for people. When you have like this wonderful photo that you want to spend a lot of attention on that you got, like, five seconds. Yeah.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 28:58
You know what’s crazy? I have a Purple Rain shirt on right now. (Laughs)

Andrew 29:03

That’s not crazy. That makes a lot of sense, you know, it’s like, of course…

I don’t really know the process of people, you know, like down the line where you have, you know, a sighted person, kind of write it and take notes. And then I know blind folks like Robert Kingett, who like takes those notes and kind of writes it. And then somebody else like reads that or edits, like whatever that chain of events is, I just kind of was doing it intuitively thinking like, you know, this works. This works for this application of a weird art movie. And that’s the thing is a weird art movie. And then you have these other elements. It’s like, I have to be serious because this is some serious shit. And I don’t know how people that do that sort of thing more often than I do professionally. Like, I don’t know, I don’t know how that works. You know, I don’t know if the studio is like, Nah, don’t pay attention to that. But you need to pay attention to this or if people are just given you know, blank check to go and create it however they want.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 29:58
No, yeah. I think that first I mean, there’s a combination, right? There’s the the decisions that they’re making, and it’s following the plot. And but it’s somebody’s it’s somebody’s decision. I think what changes is that is the approach, right? So you were mindful of the, the tone of the film, right? And following the aesthetic of the film and all of that. And I don’t think, especially if we talk about mainstream aging, right, it’s just about the film. And I’m not saying anything bad. I mean, there’s, you know, there’s, there’s levels to this, right, the good ones are, they’re putting in some time and figuring out what the plot is. But I think some of them that I’ve spoken to, at least, you know, really do similar to you wanting to describe that Prince pitcher is often those times where they’re like, Man, I wanted to spend a little more time on this, but yeah, you know, it’s sort of a side thing, and we just can’t do it. Yeah.

Andrew 30:48
And, you know, I mean, when you got a broader, you know, mainstream audience, you can’t get super weird, right? I mean, you can, but one of my favorite audio description moments is Deadpool movie, which has a character Blind Al. She’s not played by a blind person. She’s played by Leslie Uggams, who is a wonderful actor. So Deadpool, so he’s a jerk. And it’s a really raunchy film. And so he goes to Blind Als house, she’s talking and while she’s talking and not clearly not seeing him, he lists up a trapdoor on the floor. And there’s three items in there. One is a, like a pill bottle, and other is a bag of coke. And another is a gun, Deadpool opens up the hatch, and there’s a, you know, a bag that says dead pulls cocaine, and then there’s a gun. And then there’s a pill bottle that says “The cure for blindness”, he takes the gun and the coke out shuts the door, and I’m laughing my ass off and the film, and my wife did not know that. That’s what you know that that pill bottle said, the Z sort of things where it’s like, I’m glad for the comedy that that was, you know, that was that was put in there, right? And that’s when I realized like, oh, not everybody gets these details. Yeah, there’s another show. My flag means death, which is a funny movie, or a funny show about, you know, pirates and stuff. There’s a character called Calico Jack. And there’s a seagull named illite that they call Olivia. And he’s like, floating away in the water. And he’s talking to Olivia, and he says something stupid. And then, you know, the audio description, says Olivia. Olivia gives him the side eye as like that seagulls not giving them the side eye. But that was a great use of, you know, nailing down the tone of that thing. And I want I want more of that.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 32:34
When you creating AD and you work with a filmmaker, what role does trust play? In your process? I think of this as with AD, like, as blind people, we’re forced, in a way, you know, we have to trust, we have to trust that this Narrator This, this writer is giving us the information that that we need. As blind people, we trust that our technology is giving us that information that we need, right? Yeah, but I feel like as creators, especially around audio description, we’re not given trust. I don’t feel like it overall, we’re questioned when it comes to blind folks doing AD, we’re very much questioned. We see that right now. There was this whole certification, this whole thing about blind writers like figuring out if we are allowed to do this. I mean, that’s the way I’m gonna interpret it. Yeah.

Andrew 33:25
Let’s say like, in my situation, working on the Tuba Thieves with with my wife, right? We were there was no NDA, right? We actually got complete trust. And I’ll talk about that a little bit. But it’s like, say you gotta sign an NDA. People are like, Why don’t want this, you know, this other person that’s going to help you this like sighted person to help you work on this. We don’t want them to leak these secrets, either. It’s like, well have them sign an NDA. Have somebody within your studio work with the blind writer? It’s just another case of like, they don’t trust us to do something for us. That’s wack, you know. And it’s like, they don’t trust us to the point where you’re going to be underbid to somebody that knows how to type, you know, like somebody that can do like the the text to speech thing. Or somebody who’s a voiceover artists or actor or whatever, and gets all these commercial gigs and stuff and just kind of like, oh, yeah, no, I can do I can totally do right audio description. It’s just what’s on the screen, with no training, you know, it’s like you, you still need to know how to address this. The fact that this medium of the industry isn’t yet, I guess, run by us, the people I know involved are, you know, it’s, it’s probably just, you know, it’s just a different side of things because I know, I know them all from being blind. And they, you know, they’re not just like, here’s a gift. It’s like, Hey, I made this in community and collaboration with blind people. If I’m sighted there were blind people involved in this where A lot of the times he feels like it’s, it’s like, oh, what you don’t like sound quality? Oh, you don’t like how it’s written? Well, you know, you should be even lucky that we’re doing it. You know, like that kind of thing. I don’t like that attitude. I feel like people don’t trust us with anything. When people don’t trust that I can cross the street. People are like, don’t even trust that I can tie my shoes. You know? Like, like, wait a minute, let me ask you sighted people. Do you look at your shoes when you tie them? Do you look at your teeth when you brush them? Because that’s just weird. But that’s, that’s the answer people give me. Um, but you know, it’s like, so what was cool with working with with Alison Oh, Daniel, is that since she’s deaf, she’s a disabled artist and filmmaker, she just trusted that we would do what was best, and that we would do it and it would be cool and creative and not some rope, sort of boring ass thing. And so like we got that trust, because the person who hired us was cool. I don’t think I could say that somebody from Paramount, or whatever would sit down, meet me and be like, yeah, no, you know what you’re doing. I trust that you’ll get it done. Because studio people are used to given notes, right? And they want to have control over everything. And it’s just like, man, just just let us do this. We’ll get it done. We all realize that we don’t want to send out some jalopy sort of audio description out for our community, because it’s just a sellout move. Or just cynical, like, you know, I was under the gun, I had to get this done in a day. And it’s like, yeah, well, you could also say, No, you need more than a day, a job as a job. But it’s also kind of like, we all have our convictions. And all the people I know that work in AD, just like, will keep that in mind. When you’re doing work, like who comes to you who in like the studio chain, or the production chain hires the audio describers,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 37:06
there’s usually an AD director, usually, that will probably be the title. That’s the person who’s sort of making the decisions. They’re serving as a project manager at that point. And so they’re assigning it to a writer, they’re assigning it to a narrator, etc., etc. For blind narrators, it’s still that level of trust, because not everybody wants to work with blind narrators. And some of them use the excuse that they have specific software that they use, for example, where maybe you have to dial in and whether it be to download the script, or whether it be to use the recording something I think you can record, right there even remotely or something like that. But whatever they say the software isn’t accessible. And so you know, we know that’s not the only way to get something done, right? Because these other places where you don’t use a software, you email me a script, I send you a link to the file that I just produced for you. It’s not a big deal. That’s excuses.

Andrew 38:03
Sighted people are so narrow minded, where it’s like, it’s like, Yo, if this was a disabled person, they’d be like, Yo, you know how to adapt, you know, that workaround? Right? It’s like, I know, you can’t see that street sign up there. But you know, how to get around whatever’s going on here. And maybe it’ll take you next day, maybe you’ll get it done sooner than any other, you know, and those folks in those positions don’t have don’t understand those aesthetics. Right. They don’t understand that way life. Yeah. And that’s just that just kind of hurts.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34
Can you talk about, like, your thoughts about sort of experiencing the world, non visually, but and when I say non visually, I’m not coming from the place where I’m trying not to use the word blind or anything like that.

Right. Right. Right. Right.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34
Right. I’m coming from that place where specifically, you’re not censoring vision. So for example, like the piece that you did, where you specifically had the image description, and, and there was no image at all. That was like not censoring their vision.
Right. Right.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34
That was just totally saying, This is how I experienced it. This is how you’re gonna experience it.

Andrew 39:13
Oh, yeah, yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, it’s just kind of like, look, if I tell you that this is what’s going on, this is what’s going on. That piece is like I wrote down a description for a painting that doesn’t exist, it was just something that was in my head, a lot of blind people may not be able to, you know, I talk about color and stuff like that. But you know, some folks may not have reference points to it, and that sort of thing. But it’s like that kind of work is meant for a sighted audience. Talking in their terms, using color is basically like an access move. So that sighted people can be engaged in the image description for you know, the invisible ink, they can see like, yeah, you can you can kind of have fun and do weird stuff when you’re describing things. So it’s totally like visually centered for that. But then when I do this Questions of some of my sound work, it’s never visual. But did this recording what I did texture, smell, touch, vibration, you know, an emotional sort of stuff with a lot of metaphor, because, you know, that’s how you got talked about sound some time, but I still think visually sometimes and describe things with sight in mind and image in mind. But that’s mostly just for communication. We’ve all trained ourselves to, you know, use sound for you know, navigating, and, you know, cooking and you know, whatever our daily life is, I rely on and trust my ears, obviously, more so than I do my vision. I have all these like weird, like artifacts and like flashes and like hallucinations and stuff like that. I don’t care anymore. I used to care that I bump into stuff, I’ll go to the bar that I know where everybody knows me, and I’ll know that they’ll tap me on the shoulder or say my name when it’s time to order, right? And if I go someplace, and I’m ignored, then, you know, I’m ignored. I’ll do what I what I can, but it’s like, I try not to rely on my vision. Even though sometimes I do have my eyes open. And I might be seeing something, but it doesn’t always process right. So it gets kind of like psychedelic and weird or these Oh, there’s lights in that corner of the room. But I kind of see a blob, I kind of see that still doesn’t help me with the perception of where that corner is. Or if that’s a person or a Christmas tree or, you know, can of dog food. I go Mr. Magoo style kind of thing and just like bumble around sometimes and figure it out, knowing that this is normal for me, a sighted person might be, you know, watching me like what is this crazy blind person doing? They’re going to break everything. I better make sure that they don’t knock something over. When in reality, it’s I’m pretty nimble, like I’m a big dude. But I’m pretty nimble. Like the only time I bump into stuff is that my house because I’m overconfident. Like, listen to my phone, I’m cracking open soda, and then also telling the Echo to play, you know, Run DMC, and then I’ll walk into the wall. I hate feeling like I’m on display. Yeah, you know, to the public, but at the same time, it’s like if I hid, if I didn’t do anything, I’d have no joy in life. You know, like, there’s no shame in the cane. No shame in me, you know, doing what I got to if I come off with having a chip on my shoulder. That’s not a chip on my shoulder. That’s just my reaction to ableism

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 42:32
when you were describing, like how this painting didn’t exist, sort of reminds me of talking about these hallucinations, so not necessarily that blob well that could be the Christmas tree or the really big can of dog food by the way. (Laughing)

Andrew 42:46
Real big, like Costco like

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 42:51
you experience hallucinations as well. Talk to me about what you see.

Andrew 42:55
Okay, and I’m gonna preface this with yesterday was 4 20Oh, and I live I live in a state where it’s legal. Carmen visited Chicago a couple of weeks ago and he gave me these THC capsules that he made with a strain called LSD and he was he was like this he’s like this to me inhibits some of the hallucinations I have a times when they may not be happening because you know like we both have RP and sometimes you know our eyes aren’t doing all of this like right now my eyes are doing some things so the scribe that he gave me this weed these edibles because he’s working on he’s working on some stuff where he’s trying to to create a strain that kind of emulates the hallucinations that he gets him and his brother’s brother also has RP and went to band practice and you know had one of these you know, Carmen edibles as little capsules. And it cleared my vision up. issues I was having. Yeah, I was like, Oh, well, okay. It gave me like this. This like kind of awareness of the space of the room and sometimes like feels like my field of vision is widened. And I’m like really confident or like get up like, oh, I don’t have my cane. But I’m outside now what happened right? I don’t necessarily like taking edibles because they will totally obliterate what I am seeing and not in a fun way. stuff. Like when I’m exposed to a lot of light, you know, like it’s my pupils are dilated. So get the sort of a lot of after image you walk into like a camera flash right for me that will stick around forever, like at the strobes, right? These these sort of strobe flash are sort of things and then everything is kind of like a I’ll say like an electric Deep Purple, or some weird kind of green like neon but kinda like the echo from Ghostbusters and stuff and I’ll get these other things that I’ve seen like my whole life. aren’t that they’re, they’re kind of gray, purple, green, whatever this weird thing that’s like the shape of like a Cheeto Puff like a sea kind of thing. And they move from one eye to the next. And when I close my eyes, I still see them. And it’s kind of like, how’s it going through both eyes is this is something where my brain is shooting off, you know, like, I don’t know, weird electric shocks into my eyes, I have no idea. I don’t consider them like interruptive anymore as I did when I was a kid. When I was a kid, I was really, really, really night blind right now it’s kind of flipped, where I’m totally photophobia like light. I hate it. I hate the bright light and like a gremlin or something like, when I was a kid, I think it’s something where your color preceptors or your light preceptors can’t do what they’re doing. So I would get these weird visions that kind of look like fireworks or something like that, right? Like when you rub your eyes real hard. People experience those kind of colors or like flashes or fireworks sort of explosive sort of like weird shapes and stuff. Those just kind of pop up for me, and it’s cool. But if I’m trying to do something, where I am needing to use my vision, this just misses me off. They do kind of become a hindrance. And I know that Carmen invites them. He likes them. But for me, sometimes it’s a reminder of, oh, well, you know, that thing you were gonna do? Now you’re gonna be distracted. And you might as well not do it, because it’s totally distracting. But sometimes they’re cool. I like doing mushrooms. Do those every once in a while and I do a lot of writing. I’ve done a lot of like sound descriptive work, writing about what I hear in my own work. And then some other artists have commissioned me. And with that, it’s like, have these different hallucinations. I don’t know if they’re different. I don’t know if it’s something where I’m having the same kind of effects that I always have. But psychedelics start to make the move and take shape and dance around and all this kind of stuff and, and that’s cool. You’re not a narc, right?

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34

If you’re a narc, you got to tell me like, yeah, I find it really, really cool. And it really kind of like makes it so like, oh, I can I can actually enjoy this. Yeah. So these are just like I said, like artifacts of like my retina probably imploding. But sometimes back to the giant dog food that’s like my brain trying to process what I’m looking at. But sometimes they’ll just be stuff that I think I see that isn’t there. And that’s kind of new, like within the probably the past 10 years. I don’t know if it’s the Charles Bonnett stuff. I don’t know if it’s shadow people. I don’t know if it’s like there’s a tear in that space time, whatever. But sometimes there’s stuff that’s there. And sometimes it’s not. I’m into it, because I don’t know what it is. Yeah,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 47:56
so you question, do you have to question a lot or you know when, ok, I need to question this. Well, obviously a big ol’ can of dog food, like that you’re gonna (laughing) know. (Laughs….)

Andrew 48:05
Yeah, I’m just gonna put that in my bag to go home with it. Like, this is my Yes. Sometimes. I’m like, if I’m by myself. A lot of times I won’t question it. And then you know, it’s like, like, let’s say it’s a street at night and under a streetlamp. There’s something whether it’s like looks like it might be a box, or person and it’s not moving. But I’ll just assume, well, it’s supposed to be there, whatever. Maybe that’s my neighbor. And then I’ll like walk five, five feet up. And yo, that thing isn’t there anymore? Was my brain trying to say that it was there when there really wasn’t, you know, or am I being hunted? You read all the Oliver Sacks in the world, and he’ll explain it as plain as possible. But I still don’t know if it’s my brain or if it’s my eyes. It’s cool. But it’s also disarming at times. But you know, I’m I’m a strong dude. I guess. I’ve never experienced any paranormal anything. You know, so like, I don’t I don’t know if that’s if that’s real, real or not. But yeah, so know if it’s a lost memory.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 49:19
It sounds like you do sometimes think a little bit more about them as opposed to just okay, this is just something medical happening with my eye. Like when my child has been a for example, and I know it’s not because somebody ruins it for me and gives me the medical explanation but I’m like, wow, I should I be looking at these shapes and these things that I’m saying and really thinking about it. How does this relate to my mood right now? Wait, is this some sort of internal communication and I talking to myself through these images, like am I trying to tell myself you know, it’s I get into it. It’s like, and it’s quite enjoyable. Again, mine is Charles Bonnett , and I never heard anyone who has that. The experience of Charles Bonnett is usually it’s those people usually report little monsters type images.

Andrew 50:06
Yeah, terrible.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 50:09
Yeah. That was like waking up from a bad dream. I could wake up gradually, and then I’ll see a face. And it’s usually like a creepy looking. It’s not a real face, right. But it’s like a creepy looking animation or something like that. And then it might be like you described sort of neon ish electrified. And it’s just, and then I just stare at it. And then it goes away.

Andrew 50:31
You ever had sleep paralysis? Oh, no. Yeah, when I was a kid, it was, it was kind of bad. And I would experience something very similar to that. But I think it was, you know, in a dark space where like, the color receptors or whatever things would swirl around, you know, and then like, maybe there’d be a shadow of a tree. And I would just be like, sleep paralysis, but I’d be seeing this stuff. I mean, that sounds a lot like the situation where if you wake up from a bad dream, and there’s like, this, you know, image that you see that, you know, looks like a face to you. And you were dreaming about maybe falling through the ice. But then there’s like this face, it’s like, Are you being faced with this being that’s controlling your mind? I mean, there’s like, so when you start thinking like that, I mean, cuz, you know, thinking scientifically, on what all that means is, yeah, yeah, whatever. But you think holistically or like how your body’s reaction is, maybe it is your mood, maybe it’s your body communicating to, you know, like, how the hell the science? No,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 51:35
no, I definitely think there’s a relationship. I know, there’s a relationship between my body and what I see. Because when I’m tired, it’s hazy, it’s very blurry. And when I’m, wake right up, I’m like, if I took a little 20 minute cat nap, it just starts to get just really clear and vivid. It’s like, Okay, I’m ready to go now. I’m good.

Andrew 51:53
Yeah, when I’m tired. I mean, that’s the kind of stuff that you know, my, everything’s hazy. And, you know, it’s, it’s, I started thinking, like, it’s just like a visual migraine. I heard people talk about those. So I started taking, like, prescription strength, aspirin or ibuprofen, or whatever, and it cleared it. So I’m like, wait, maybe this is a migraine? Or maybe I just convinced myself. It’s really psychedelic. It’s also disarming, but then at the same time, sometimes you feel like you have control over it. And you can change it. Yeah. And I can’t explain it. Other than that, you know, it’s like, you know, so many of us have these experiences, and they’re all different. But like, are they based in memory? Are they based in like, the degradation of your, you know, the cells in your eye or your brain? Or, you know, the substance that you may have ingested? Who knows, but, I mean, it’s definitely something that would scare the hell out of somebody who’s never experienced that to wake up and say that someday?

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 53:06
Do you have synesthesia by any chance?

Andrew 53:08
I do. That’s another thing that I never really get to talk about. The only person I ever talked to about synesthesia was this woman I went to school with their reaction was numbers, they would get these hallucinations or visions of different numbers. And with me, it doesn’t happen as often, which I’m bummed about. You just see colors, or you sense movement, and all these things based on sound in music, like when I hear something, there’s a color. In my head, I don’t necessarily see an image all the time. Sometimes I do. But it’s like, I was listening to Underdog by Sly and the Family Stone earlier. And it’s like, every time the horns hit that was like a yellow, like a fire yellow with like an orange bass. And then that drum came in. And it was kind of like, headlight white, pulsing on that beat and that sort of thing. So like these kind of like Sonic qualities, and these tambours to me, sometimes relate to color. And I don’t even know if it’s the right color, because I do have some colorblindness, but I’ve done stuff when I used to work in the studio, especially when I was recording my band, I’d be in this room for hours, and sometimes other people would be in there sometimes not. And I’d listen to stuff like what does this mix need? This guitar needs to look more like a paper bag. I need that Brown, I need paper bag Brown. And like, you know, that’s what’s in my head. And so I’d mess with it like with the EQ, or whatever kind of processing until I felt like that color was attached to that sound. It’s how I started thinking and it was like a wonder if I knew how to blend color and I understood color more if that would affect how I mix or listen. It’s pretty cool. It’s really wild. So

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 54:48
when you were looking for the paper brown bag, you were just sort of changing EQs you were playing with different ones or do you know to go to certain places?

Andrew 54:54
At that point, it was I was just messing with EQ and I was using the EQ on the eye On the board like the parametric EQ, I was trying to do it physically because this place had some outboard stuff. But sometimes you know if I’m like mixing something I’m putting like, like a reverb on it. That’s color coordinated. As far as I’m concerned, like space, whether it’s like real space or it’s like, you know, synthetic space like a reverb, there’s color, I was working on something earlier. And I was like, eating an ice cream sandwich. And I was listening to the reverb chain. And I was like, this seems cold because, you know, sometimes you have these other sort of like, emotions to music, or, you know, sensory reactions. I finished a sandwich it no longer seemed cold. But then it was, it was like, thinking about it as like a strawberry in a pool of lavender is what I heard this reverb chain of just this like Drum and Bass silly thing that I was doing. And I started thinking about maybe I gotta figure out what colors go with strawberry lavender, and then try to mix the rest of it. So it looks in my mind like that. And if that would be at all interesting, you know, it’s like, Pharrell did a record. That was all based on his synesthesia. I don’t know if it was a Neptune’s record or if it was,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 56:10
I think Kanye is also supposed to have synesthesia.

Andrew 56:13
Yeah, and you know, weirdos, you know, that happens. A lot of times people don’t even know what it is. Yeah, you know, you can always you can have any kind of like sensory, like experience like referential to anything. But then when it’s like, you start getting deep and thinking about and studying it, it’s like this is actually kind of kind of magic. And really fun. I wish that there was a more natural way to kind of activate my synesthesia, but it seems now it’s really, I mean, maybe I need to eat more of these ice cream sandwiches, but sometimes it seems….

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 38:34
Talk to Carmen. Talk to Carmen to make you a strain. (Laughs)

? Yeah. get some, get some some that LSD hash oil or whatever, in my sandwich. Good lord. Like in 2013. I was doing a lot of sound work and mixing based around that because it was really active at the time. And I don’t know if it’s something where I just not allowing myself to do it. So overworked and stressed about stuff, like maybe that’s the thing, maybe I need to just chill and I can let my body communicate the way it wants to. Yeah. And like Andy has some have some fun here. Just listen, listen to this, as a case record and just listen to the color.

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 57:25
That’s funny that you chose that you said Isaac Hayes, because we were doing I do some classes with Cheryl. And we did this thing where I wanted folks to describe so we you know, we talk about audio description in a creative way. And so I said, Well, I want y’all to describe a song. Right? And so I used Isaac Hayes, because I love it. It always works for me, “Hung Up On My Baby.” And the Ghetto Boys use it or whatever. They’re so different. And that was part of why I chose that song because that same riff, the interpretation when you hear it in the Ghetto Boys, it doesn’t give you that same feeling. As “Hung Up On My Baby”.

Andrew 58:01
Their . Narratives are so much more descriptive than what was going on at Stax. Yeah,

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:06
I wish I had those colors because I always try to match it with what I’m seeing. And I don’t, I don’t find any sort of relationship except for the clarity. That’s the only thing that the relationship for me is that clarity.

Andrew 58:18
Clarity is something that I mean, that’s definitely something to strive for. You know, it’s like you got clarity. I mean, damn, I wish

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:31
Where can folks, check out what you’re doing and stay in contact with you.
Andrew 58:35
Yeah, my Instagram Tik Tok website, YouTube, everything like that.
TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:42
You’re on Tick Tock huh, what are you doing on Tick Tock?

Being an asshole!

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:42

Andrew 58:45
I had a viral video like last year like million something like maybe three or four

TR in Conversation with Andrew: 58:55
Oh, yeah. See, I don’t do tick tock. What are you doing?

Andrew 58:59
It was it was footage of a guy in the in the street in the middle of the night telling me it wasn’t blind. I shouldn’t be using grabbed it. And yeah, and so it started a huge discourse of people thinking that you know, the whole thing of like, how do you use tick tock if you if you can’t, you know, like all that stuff where they all came out of the woodwork. It’s like you’ll Google is free. My life is not a q&a.

I’ll put up fun videos of like, you know, me messing with like access stuff or just like me walking around and videotaping my cane on different surfaces and making sound.


I love that, “Making sounds on surfaces”.

Salute to Andrew Slater, I appreciate you bro!
Remember, we’ll be back in September and it’s always the second and fourth Tuesday of the month when we’re publishing episodes.

Reid My Mind Radio Outro

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Doing Your Thing With Disability: We Play Too

Wednesday, April 13th, 2022

An old fashion television in black and white with an antenna that has purple tips.  The outline of the Television is in the color teal and the knobs of the TV are purple.  On the screen is the game, Pong. The puck is in the middle and on the right is a chalk figure of a blind person with a white cane playing against a chalk figure of a person in a wheelchair on the left.  Above the figures is the score of 8 to 1 and on top of the score is the word pong in between white thick lines.  Above the TV is the Reid MY MIND Logo and next to the logo the wording says “Doing your thing with Disability. Under the TV says We play too!
From all sorts of sports and activities to video games; people with disabilities find ways to not only play, but excel. In this latest episode [Accessibility Consultant Brandon Cole](http://BrandonCole dotnet/) joins me to talk about the various barriers, adaptations and finally, accessibility, being built into video games.

We’ll hear from players like Orlando Johnson. Once an avid sighted gamer who even owned his own arcade version of Mortal Kombat and now benefits from adaptations and access. Eron Zeno talks to us about his experience as a gamer with mobility disabilities. In each case, all of my guests continue to do their thing, specifically, video games, with their disability.



Jerry Lawson – Father of the video game cartridge



Show the transcript

– Sound of Pong

No! There’s nothing wrong with the audio.
You’re listening to the OG of video games, Pong *Pong noise* from Atari.

Growing up, whenever my mom would announce that she had to go to Sears or another department store with an electronics section, I’d get excited and ask to go with her.

When we’d get there, I’d make a B-line right to the electronics department and hope no one else was already planted in front of the television playing Pong.

— Space Invaders sounds

That later turned into going to a local Five & Dime store called “Lamstons,” which had two or three arcade games in the corner of the store. Space Invaders… that was my ish!

I thought nothing could ever beat getting Space Invaders at home when we finally got our Atari system.

-introduction from Duke Nukem

Years later as an adult, I played games on my computer, Duke Nukem. At least, until that awful day.

Following one of my marathon sessions, I stood up after playing for maybe about two hours and nearly collapsed. The room was spinning and I was nauseous.

I figured I overdid it. I stopped playing for a few days and the same thing happened the next time, only sooner. I tried changing the perspective from a first person view to something else. It just wasn’t fun!

A few years later, I thought I’d try again, this time with a Playstation. Grand Theft Auto, Madden. It was good for a while, but ultimately, I didn’t have a choice, I just wasn’t able to play. Gaming was literally making me sick.

I believe the reason was monocular vision and the lack of depth perception.

Ironically, today, after becoming Blind, I have more opportunity to actually play video games.

— “Let them play!” (The phrase continues as more join in) Sample from The Bad News Bears

For years now, the call for developers to make their games accessible to disabled gamers has grown louder.

There’s been lots of things happening!

Welcome to Reid My Mind Radio y’all! I’m Thomas Reid. As we continue with our theme, Doing Your Thing With Disability, we’re talking about gaming, because we play too!

–“Time to kick ass and chew bubble gum. And I’m all out of gum!” Duke Nukem

— Reid My Mind Radio Theme Music

Video games are life! I’m a pretty hardcore gamer these days.

The idea to me, that my past self had was, “how can you play video games, you’re blind?” is really kind of based on the same philosophy that some sighted people who don’t understand blind gamers have.

“How can blind people play games?” I didn’t understand it. Because I didn’t realize that audio was such a big part of games, such an important part of games that you could use that, to learn patterns and to learn what things meant and to figure out how to play a game.


This is Brandon Cole, an award winning Accessibility Consultant


He/him. I have black hair. I am six feet tall, exactly. Just an awesome looking dude.


Well, we have something in common.

I was born with a type of cancer called Retinoblastoma. Totally blind. From the age of two months.


His introduction to video games began with his older brother.


He was like, hey, Brandon.

–Mario Bros coin collecting and upgrading sounds

You want to go play some Mario Brothers on our Super Nintendo. And at the time, little six year old me was like, what, how? That’s a video game, which means I can’t play it because I can’t see the video.

That was past me. I used to not think the way I do now.

We begin to play and before you know it, I’m breaking bricks, and collecting coins and extra lives and saving princesses and defeating bosses. And it’s amazing and I’m feeling this great sense of accomplishment!

And the game ends. Yes. Somehow I beat the entire game in one shot!




My loving brother handed me the unplugged second player controller while he played the entire game, the entire game.

I mean, what do you even say to that?

TR in Conversation with Brandon:
That’s an older brother.


Of course, he felt crushed. He thought he was somehow in the gameplay, just like his older brother.

But all wasn’t lost. The experience made him realize something.


I did learn that I could follow sound effect patterns.

I decided that I would one day, beat a game without his help.

From then on, I just started trying games and seeing what I could learn about games and seeing what I could do. Eventually I did it! And the first game I beat without my brother’s help, was the original Killer Instinct for the Super Nintendo.

And I never looked back since.

TR in conversation with Brandon:

There you go. Older siblings.


Take that!


Once I started gaming, I never stopped, I just kept trying different games.

I tried a lot of games that I couldn’t play. Sometimes I just flopped completely, depending on how complex the game was. But like, there were plenty of games where I would start to play the game and I would start to figure out some of the things that might help me get through some part of the game.


Take the game Metal Gear Solid for the PlayStation One as an example.

-– Metal Gear Solid music plays


That game is a stealth game, where you’re not supposed to be seen, you’re supposed to hide all the time. So it’s not easy if you’re blind, because you can’t see the guards , but you can hear them and they have very audible footsteps. You can hide from the guards based on where your location is versus where their location is.


Brandon’s step Dad couldn’t get past a certain level during the game.


It’s a room that is filled with infrared lasers. And if you break any of these laser beams that are going all across the room, up and down, at different intervals, the doors slam shut. The room is flooded with gas and you die and there’s nothing you can do about it.


So step Dad let Brandon figure it out.


I spent maybe two hours working that room, failing over and over and over again. But little by little, figuring out the amount of steps to take before I had to stop to wait for the beam to move again. Then when I had to crawl when I had to walk to get past the lower beams or higher beams. I trialed and errored my way through that entire room and made it to the other side eventually without breaking any of the laser beams.

Technically, it wasn’t an accessible game. It’s just that I managed to figure out a way through that part.


Failing over and over again, but continuing to work at it. Crawling, walking to get past laser beams. Trial and error to make it to the other side?

Qualities many disabled people seem to have in abundance.

This isn’t just about gaming, we’re talking about the real skills behind leveling up in life.

But honestly, we shouldn’t have to do all that. We just want to play too, right?

Let’s take a look at the inaccessibility faced by disabled gamers and some of the creative adaptations they find in order to be in the game. Let’s start with blind and low vision gamers.


My name is Orlando Johnson, I am an African American male approximately 46 years of age, bald, I have a beard.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Shout out to the black bald beard gang. Let’s go.


Let’s get it!


Again, I have something in common with my guest.


And also love spending time with my family and my grandchildren. Every time I get to spend time with them is a joyous moment for me.


Ok, for the record, having something in common with the host isn’t part of the criteria I employ when selecting guests.

In this case, I was really just looking for the perspective of someone who once enjoyed the games visually.

–Music Begins, an 8 bit game melody that morphs into a Hip Hop beat.


Let me take you back to Christmas back in the 80s. I got my first Atari 800 video game console.
That first year my brother and I that Christmas morning, we played Donkey Kong all morning. Space Invaders. That started the love of the games right there.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:
In terms of the Atari, let me just test your knowledge for a second, brother. How do you repair a cartridge? How do you fix a cartridge?


First thing you do is take it out and blow on it.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

There you go! He knows what he’s talking about!


A matter of fact, I have an interesting little anecdote about cartridges. And it’s about a gentleman named Jerry Lawson – an African American engineer who helped design and engineer those video game cartridges.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Talk about it!


I would like to expose more people to that knowledge of this gentleman. I’ll send the link to who this gentleman was and what he accomplished in the video game industry.


Check out this episode’s blog post for that link over on


I’ve just continued to evolve with the gaming industry. Back in 2001, I purchased a full size Mortal Kombat 2 arcade machine and I kept that thing for over 10 years. And played it all the time. I loved it.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

That is so cool!


I think it’s fair to say he really enjoyed and invested in his gaming.


April of 2015, I experienced a lot of migraines and didn’t know what was causing them. After my wife and I got back from our honeymoon, we just got married the year before. I wound up going to the hospital two weeks after the honeymoon. My brain swelled up and it crushed my optic nerves. And that was it for me for sight.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

What did that mean to you, when you could no longer play that Mortal Kombat?

You want to be a part of the community of your friends, everybody else is doing things. And when you’re not a part of that community, you feel isolated. And that isolation can drive you crazy. That’s one of the things that I needed to change. I’m like, I got to explore different ways for me to play games. It’s not just that I can’t play games, I have to find a way that I can get back into playing games.


And that’s exactly what this former Las Vegas bouncer has been doing.


Technology was always my jam.

After I was done with bouncing, I went over and started working in the telecommunications industry, and I worked for Sprint for about eight years.

Then the smartphones took over. I went to work for Apple for a little bit. Six months into the job at Apple, I went blind.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Did you know about voiceover at the time?

No, I didn’t. Not when I lost my sight. A week or two in the hospital, I had a second generation iPad. My wife, she did a little research and said “hey, you should check out this thing called VoiceOver.

And that was the first time I heard of it or heard anything about it. And I figured since I knew how to use an iPad as a sighted person, Voiceover thing shouldn’t be that difficult. Well, when you’re first starting out, it is difficult.


Orlando not only learned the technology, but later shared that knowledge as an Access Technology instructor. His advice for anyone getting back into gaming after any degree of blindness? Learn your technology!


I had to master that first before I can start playing a video game. On a computer, if you don’t know how to insert a drive and copy a file from somewhere or unzip something, you’re not going to play the game that you want to play.


No matter the platform you choose to play on, computer, console like an XBox or PlayStation, smart phone, inaccessibility is there.


There’s things like navigating the games menus. And it’s a challenge we overcame in the past by just memorizing the menus.


But even first reading the menu requires some work.


In my journey in playing games, one of the workarounds I found is, anybody thats aware of, apps that help blind people see things like Seeing AI or Super Sense.

One of the things that I used to do was load up that app on my tablet. And I would stand my tablet in front of the monitor. And I would listen to the OCR coming out of the app, so I can make the choices on the screen for the game that I’m trying to play.


I use NVDA. Since I stream games, I have a capture card. Even if the game was a console game, I can still send the game’s video feed to my PC, because I have a capture card anyway.
I will then scan that image with NVDA as OCR and read the text from there.

I even play entire games that way, there’s a visual novel called The Great Ace Attorney Chronicles. It has a little bit of voice acting, but not much voice acting. It’s almost all text. But it’s literally OCR that allows us to play it, because we can read the text with it, and it reads out pretty well.


Gamers with low vision used magnifiers to enlarge on screen text. Today there are more games including zoom mode, text enlargement, contrast modes and multiple color blind modes tested by people with varying color blindness. More games are being shipped with menu narration making that process accessible to those who are Blind or have low vision.


The biggest challenge I’d say these days, though, is navigation of the game itself. The game world itself.

The thing about video games is they’ve been a growing industry for years and years and years. When I say growing, I mean, everything about games has grown, the production value has grown, and the size of the game worlds have grown significantly.

Games these days have huge open worlds filled with buildings and giant areas you can explore and find new quests and new things. Thats a big challenge these days.

Games aren’t simple anymore. Games used to be easy to work around in a lot of cases back in the day, because there wasn’t much to them. Nowadays, it’s a much bigger task to try to find workarounds like that.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about folks who are deaf or hard of hearing?


The actual spoken dialogue is a huge part of games these days. Because story and narrative have become so much more important these days than they used to be in video games. Games are telling very, very deep stories now.


Complex narratives and the sound design that is useful to Blind players, can help Deaf and Hard of Hearing players by incorporating both subtitles and captions.


Subtitles would be like, character dialogue, speaker names followed by what they said. Whereas captions would be everything else.

More and more games are starting to support this nowadays. You will have a caption that appears. Like, “wooden floorboard creeks.” And it will have an arrow that points to the location of that sound. Where that sound took place in relation to you, the character.

That arrow pointing down? You’re like, oh, god, there’s something behind me.

You have to do it right. You have to fill the appropriate screen space with it, because you don’t want to block anything else on screen while you’re captioning things.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about language? I’m assuming most of these games are in English,?


Sure, a lot of these games are in English, but many of them have alternate language choices as well.

A little bit of a shout out.

So the Last of Us Two, and you’ll hear me do this a lot because I really loved the work that we did on that game. The Last of Us Two is available in 14 different languages.

So when we worked on that game, we decided that any language the game was available in for people to play in general, then the text to speech narration that the game has should also be available in that language. So I’m happy to announce Last of Us Two is available for the Blind in 14 different languages, because narration is supported on every language that the game is supported on.


–Jazzy hip hop music begins to play

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about mobility? What about folks with mobility related disabilities?

As games have become more complex, so have their controls.

You have controllers these days that have 12, 13 buttons on them. Those who have mobility issues can’t always press every single one of those buttons when there’s something they need to do with those buttons.

My name is Eron Zeno. He/him. I’m a light skinned black man. A bit on the larger side, a bit hefty.


I rock a Mohawk 24/7.

I am missing my right arm completely. And the left is more of a nub. I have the upper part of my left arm, I’m missing my forearm, and my wrist and elbow are connected. I only have one finger. A fun fact, through X rays and examinations, it has been deemed by my physicians my middle finger actually.

TR in conversation with Eron:




Eron is also a wheelchair user.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

Why don’t you tell me a little bit about when you first sort of got into gaming?

I was born in August. When I was brought home, it was very close to Christmas. We were all sitting around and opening presents and everything. And one of my brothers got a Super Nintendo. And I was actually in his lap and he was trying to put the controller under my feet to get me to play. I was too young to realize what was going on. But that was my first introduction. Through some happenstance, I actually wound up inheriting that Super Nintendo and that was my first console.


Coincidence? Or is there something to be said about gaming and the opportunities it presents to bond with family?

I’m sure there are other benefits.

For Eron, as a child doctors suggested removing the nub on his left side in order to fit him with a prosthetic arm. Yet one doctor specifically had alternative views.


He suggested a lot of children actually grow up using both the nub and their feet to a better availability than having no arms at all. So he suggested instead of trying to coax a surgery around that, it would be better to one, get me used to my finger, and then also promote the usage of my feet. And I mean really promote.

So anything you would give your child normally like a rattle or toy or anything like that. He said, give it to his feet. Make his feet known as his compatibility to the world.

One of the things that was suggested by the doctor was video games, they built hand eye coordination very quickly.


If game controllers were made specifically for hands, there has to be lots of challenges adapting them for use with feet.

When I first started with the SNEZ controller, there’s a D pad and two buttons, that’s easy. It’s straightforward.

My second console was another hand me down, I had an N64 drom my uncle.

Now, that controller has the worst background.


Just the convoluted layout that makes no sense. And for a person with hands complaining, giving it to a person with no hands, only maybe 30% of the controller was usable for me.

I made my way around that. And years went by, I got into the GameCube, and the PlayStation 2. And I actually stopped using consoles around the Xbox.


Eron realized there were lots of games he just couldn’t play. Some involved using a controller with a trigger.


I managed. I liked video games, but I was just kind of disappointed at how far it was moving from my capabilities.

That’s actually when I started getting into PC gaming.


At first, he found games that didn’t require complicated controllers.


My first introduction to PC gaming was actually RuneScape. There’s not a lot of controllers required. It’s right click and left click. That’s it.

Years later, I actually found out that you could download programs to your computer that allow you to rebind keyboard controllers, mice even.

My first introduction to that was actually a program called X pattern. I actually found that at the end of its life cycle. And that allows you to implement key bindings on a controller. And most people they’re like, “Well, why aren’t you just using the controller on a computer?”

Well, most developers don’t allow for rebinding the controls. And the controller is actually really easy interface for me to use on my feet. The keyboard you can imagine, a little painful.

TR in Conversation with Eron:

So what is your setup?


I change out a lot due to certain games or setups or things I need, but by default, I have a controller front and center on the floor right in front my office chair. I do sit at a desk.

My keyboard is plugged into my computer but led down below the desk on the floor, next to the controller. I use my right foot to type and only my right foot. It’s a pain to use both feet.
You gotta balance on your butt and hover.

I use both feet for my controller, but what if I need to type.

On my desk, I do have a mouse that I use with my aforementioned nub. I can’t use the mouse buttons, but what I do is I have a setup where it’s a bunch of zip ties and cat collars essentially. And I MacGyvered a harness that I can attach to my hand and move the mouse around.

My mouse actually failed on me a few days ago. There’s something with these new braided cable wires and they give out way too easily. But I’m using an art tablet right now as a mouse. Same setup, a bunch of cat collars and zip ties.

–Both Thomas and Eron laugh

I make it work, though.


Like MacGyver, finding off the shelf supplies and just rigging things together. It just works for him.


You’ve seen tablet holders? It’s like an arm you can adjust in your car or on your bed rest or whatever. You can have it hold your tablet up to your chest. I have one of those kind of coiled up into a stand that I hold a cutting board on. And it’s at an angle just so I can reach it.

Because I don’t have full arm length. I can’t even reach my desk from sitting up straight. So I have this like brought right up to my chest. I have that for mouse movement and stuff.


Although Eron moved away from consoles when it seemed it surpassed his capabilities. today he finds himself playing again.


One thing I found out is that you can buy adapters that can enable you to use other controllers on the console, as well as mice and keyboards.

I bought a switch a while back. I love the thing.

I’ve been using an adapter to play shooters and Legend of Zelda and all that stuff. And it’s really nice to be able to use a mouse to aim instead of fiddling with the joysticks.

There’s still no controller bindings. I’m talking about third party controllers. If you buy a pro controller meant for the Switch, you can actually rebind the bindings on a Nintendo Switch controller.

I have one. But for sizing reasons, I can’t use the whole thing with my feet.


The accessibility conversation has been happening, and things like button remapping now exist.
Some games even go so far as to have a one touch option. It’s more difficult than you might think. But it is fantastic when it happens.

We have accessories now like the Xbox adaptive controller, which allows mobility, disabled folks to basically attach whatever switches they want to use, or their controller, they can attach it to that controller, and configure buttons however they like, based on whatever switches they have.


It’s this giant disc jockey looking table. It’s got like two giant soft pads on it that look like records.
But they’re actually just giant buttons. They figured you have a large surface to hit, you don’t have to be necessarily that accurate with your buttons.

If you plug in a controller, it actually only lets you use half the controller. They expect you to be so disabled, you cant use a full controller. Which made no sense, it’s like if this is for adaptability, everybody’s got a different thing they can do. Why not enable it so that you can split up something or you can use the whole something? Instead of assuming everybody is bound to “oh, I can only use this specific apparatus.”

TR in Conversation with Eron:

Are you in touch with any other gaming companies? Do you ever reach out?


The few times that I have, I’ve gotten kind of copy pasted responses. So I don’t really bother. I find my own solutions at this point.


Some other challenges include what’s known as quick time events. These require holding down or rapid tapping of buttons.

Game developers are slowly becoming more inclusive when thinking about game play.

Implementing skip puzzle options, for example, in order to help those with cognitive disabilities who may need a bit of assistance advancing to the next level of game play. Time pressure for some can be really difficult as well.


They’ll be in a situation where they have three seconds to make an important game decision that will affect the game story.

When you’re in the middle of a game story, and you become attached to the characters and you really care about what happens to them and then you have to make this life or death decision. “Okay, this person lives and this person dies.”

If you’ve grown to care about them, that’s intense pressure to put on someone.

Some games these days have the ability to either extend timers like that or remove them entirely. That’s great. That’s a really, really good move.


Okay, Not a gamer? Perhaps you felt the pressure when using an automated phone system and trying to quickly enter your date of birth before the time expires. How many times have you just wanted to throw your phone? Come on, I know it’s not just me.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Are there any considerations for folks with monocular vision today?


I don’t know anything specifically for monocular vision.

There is the ability these days to remove screen shake from games, so a lot of games have special effects. You do this really big hit and the screen shakes to make you feel like it was a big hit. You can turn that off nowadays.

Games use an effect called motion blur. So if things are moving very quickly, they will kind of blur as if they’re moving fast to kind of give you that illusion of speed. Some people can’t handle the motion blur either. And so these days, you can either dull that or turn it off.

Some people get headaches afterwhile if they see those effects or some people get sick to their stomach, or they see too much screen shake.


Headaches, nausea, not the result you want when trying to relieve a bit of stress or having a good time while playing video games. But that’s not life threatening.

These days, there is actually a required warning in video games when something in a game could spark a seizure.

This recently came into controversy because of a game called Cyberpunk 2077, which didn’t very clearly outline this, and did have a sequence that actually did cause people to have seizures. Their outline was buried in their license agreement, you know, the thing that no one ever reads?

That’s where they put their warning, instead of putting it in the front and center of the game when you first load it up which is usually what is required.

When you load up a game, if there is something that could cause a seizure, there should be a warning right away. And most games that have these things will do that.

Although I will say in the case of cyberpunk, because of all the backlash, they actually patched the sequence itself. The video in question where that lighting sequence was shown that caused those seizures actually changed it to be a different pattern of light that didn’t cause seizures.


Would you be surprised if I told you there’s a segment of the population that is just straight hatin’ on adaptations.


Some people complain about accessibility features, saying that they make games too easy and blah, blah, blah, blah, and they’re cheating and whatever.

It’s not that people like to use them as cheat codes, although some do that too, I’m sure. But people tend to complain about them, because they feel that it’s dulling the game itself.
My response to that is, it’s better to allow people to actually play the game and experience it than to worry so much about how hard the game is.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

It’s not really impacting them, though, right? They don’t have to use it.


Right, right. That’s what I don’t understand.

Especially with single player games. If a game isn’t multiplayer, then what does it matter to you what other people do to complete the game? It doesn’t matter.


That goes beyond gaming, doesn’t it? Some people don’t want to consider that they themselves may have an advantage or a privilege. Working senses, dexterity, financial means to afford the equipment, games, time to play. These overly competitive types of dudes have no desire to be in the same class as a disabled player.

But who has time for them?

Fortunately, companies like Microsoft recognize that we game too! They’re making sure that we’re included from the start or out the box.


With the XBox Series S it’s one of the newer generation consoles that were hard to find for a while, but I managed to get myself one. The setup of that, I watched videos of Brandon Cole and other people on YouTube, they were discussing, the unboxing experience. When they said it has Braille on the thing, so you know where to plug things in at. I was impressed just with that level of accessibility.

I set it up all by myself. And it was so easy to set up because everything talked to me. There’s a QR code on the screen and you just aim your phone at the QR code to set up your account login. And it was just super simple.


And he tried a lot of platforms.


I’ve done everything from retro gaming on a Raspberry Pi. Gaming on my MacBook, gaming on a PlayStation four, Xbox console, Apple TV, I’ve tried to do all of it.

I’ve got it set up to the point right now where I don’t have it hooked up to a computer or a monitor. I played my Xbox console through the Xbox app. I’ve paired a controller to my phone or tablet. And then I log into the app and I remotely access my console through the app.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:



Well one, I can go anywhere around the house. I can go to the backyard and play videogames if I wanted to.

It opens up that freedom of just movement. I don’t need to be bound to a television now. I’ve learned to embrace the audio side of things where you can just go sit down at dinner and you have your controller and some headphones, you’re still playing your game and everybody else is doing their thing.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

Now that’s not appropriate during family time. Come on!


It is cool though!

Notice what actually is happening here. He not only accepted the tools he has to game with, but he continues to seek out ways to really make it work for him.

It sounds like maybe a metaphor about adjusting to disability?

Hmm? I mean, we’re talking about more than fun and games here!

As if video games could provide some other benefits.


There’s an app, called Microsoft landscape. It actually takes your Google Maps idea and projects that in 3D audio around you. You can have a real life beacon that you set that plays in 3D audio, while you wear headphones. And you literally follow that beacon, like the same way you would in a video game that will take you to your actual destination.


There’s games to help make exercise fun.

Rather than forcing yourself to get on your treadmill, why not gamify that experience by playing a game that transports you to the Zombie Apocalypse.

–Sounds of shooting and dialouge from Zombies Run plays in the background.

There’s a game called Zombies Run. Its a game that has a story.

It’s literally a game about you running. Your character is called a runner. And runners are the ones that are dispatched out to get supplies for the base.

You’re running. The better you do at the running. You won’t get eaten by zombies for one thing, but the other thing is…


You’re working out. Getting that heart pumping for real and increasing those endorphins!


The same effect getting an achievement on Xbox or a trophy on Playstation has on people just getting a little reward spike.


The gaming industry has changed a lot since Pong, huh!

As accessibility continues to become part of the game, it’s important to recognize future technologies. Virtual Reality for example.


It’s not really off the ground yet. There’s some things that are cool, some things that are like, eh that’s not really working right now.

If anybody’s familiar with the Half Life series. We got the first one, the second one was great. And then the third one comes out. And it’s a VR game.

What’s the problem with that? Well, the first and second ones were first person shooters, you got a mouse, you got a keyboard, or you’re on a controller, you can manage that. You can rebind controls to make it suit your needs.

A VR setup, besides the headset in the immersion and all that. You have two controllers.
There’s no way to interface the controllers. You have to use the two motion controls. And those are purely for hands. There is no foot or nub or stumped interface. It’s just you got hands or you don’t.


That all too familiar feeling that accompanies any sort of technology. Access gained rarely feels permanent.


A lot of my friends actually jumped into VR, and they’re like, “oh, man, you gotta check out like, VR chat, new half life, this MMO or that?” And I’m like, how?

“Bro you could put the headset on and let your wife play?”

wha… What?!

TR in converswation with Brandon:

Why do they always go there?


Newsflash y’all, family members are not personal assistants.

As if they’re just sitting around waiting to play a game for you, describe the latest picture that the sender could have easily described.

Eron raised some other good points about the financial cost to access for those with mobility disabilities. Adapters have a real cost to them that not everyone can afford. Would you want to pay more for an accessible game?

But there are other reasons to be excited.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about the process of creating? Do you know about the accessibility of that? Do we have some blind folks who are actually developing games?


We do have blind game developers out there. Primarily those developers are working on audio games.

I will say that there are some advances coming to blind game development in the form of at least one engine that is made for the blind to develop games, although this engine is geared towards role playing games specifically. But there is an engine called Sable that’s coming out. Hopefully, in the next couple of years.

And that engine is literally designed so that blind people can create their own custom made RPGs, role playing games.


That’s what I’m talking about! Not only do we game too, but we make as well.

Ok, Reid My Mind Radio family, I know some of y’all are TVI’s or teachers of the visually impaired. Please, make sure you put this information into the brains of your students. I want to play a game in the not so distant future, that is truly FUBU – for us by us!

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

What about, in-game audio description? Is that something we can look forward to?


I think it’s fair to say that the future is bright for video games and audio description. I think people will be surprised at the level of quality you’re going to get when that happens.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The developer has to be involved in that.


Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah heavily.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

The audio quality right there has just been raised, you know, exponentially because they’re gonna care.


Oh yeah, they are, for sure are.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Yeah, so that’s fantastic.


The future is very bright. I cant say much more, I wish I could. But oh man, are things coming up that are going to blow peoples’ minds.


In the meantime, you can check out Brandon doing the narration for several video game trailers.


For a game called Rainbow Six extraction, I did the Audio Description narration for most of those.


I’m really thinking about getting back into gaming. I’ve played some audio games on my IPhone. I’m wondering if it’s time to try some titles on the PC or maybe even get an XBox.

I guess I’m just trying to figure out if it’s really going to feel as entertaining as it once was?


I would say that it depends on the person and the level of enjoyment that they’re looking for. Yes, there will be those frustrations.

If somebody’s brand new to something, they don’t know, there’s always a learning curve. If you’re somebody that likes to learn new things, accept the challenge of trying to play a video game, because that’s going to be the ultimate learning curve right there.

You have to learn, where does the character need to go, because if I think I’m moving forward, it might be going on a spiral staircase, or something like that. Whereas I’m thinking north, south, east, west, on my controller, I can get around, but visually, the interpretation may be something different.

The frustration part is part of the learning, I feel.

You got to learn where to balance those things out to balance out the frustration levels, where it’s not as frustrating for you.

TR in Conversation with Orlando:

It doesn’t sound like we’re just talking about gaming any more, man.


I don’t want to be left out of things, I want to be involved. For me, the way I apply it is, if I want to eat something, and I know what I want to eat, and I’ve got the ingredients, I can put it together.

But do I need to get other assistants to put it together? No.

Or do I need to deal with the frustration of maybe burning myself or hurting myself while I’m trying to do it?

In the end, the result should be better than the experience. You got to go through it to get to it.

It’s something I applied to everything that I do in my life.


Being included means welcoming people with disabilities into all aspects of the industry. From development, gameplay, marketing and more. And being recognized for our contributions.


The Last of Us Two is officially the world record holding, most awarded video game of all time, in terms of general awards. Some of the awards that it won are accessibility related which I, happen to be, a ginormous part of.

When the PlayStation five came out. In 2020. I was given, by Sony, a special award PlayStation five, with an inscription on a perspex case that they have sent.

Perspex, it’s kind of like a combination of like plastic and glass.

The inscription was essentially thanking me for teaching PlayStation that play is not just about what we see, it’s more about what we hear, about what we feel.

I consider that one of my greatest accomplishments. And I consider that of an award of its own from PlayStation itself to make something that’s just for me.

And by the way that message was in Braille on the perspex case.


That’s, Brandon Cole AKA


SuperBlindMan on Twitch , YouTube and Twitter and even PlayStation Network.

If you want to add me as a Hearthstone friend, you can do that too. When I was making that account, I didn’t realize there was a character limit.

So on Battlenet I’m SuperBlindMa.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

SuperBlindMa?! M A?



Yes, yes. M A.


SuperBlindMa#1859 is my Battlenet tech tag.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

And they could battle you to a game or something. Right?


They sure can.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

If they want to lose!

You can find the blog at Brandon If you want the blind perspective on accessible gaming, that’s where you find it.

The podcast is at If you want an easly link to that.

Break Down Walls is a movement that I started with my fiance. The idea is to break down the barriers between sighted and non sighted and disabled and non disabled gamers and human beings. Basically just make us all one.




Peachy Zatoichi on Twitter, my email address is
That is spelled; P E A C H Y Z, as in zebra, A T, as in Tom, O I C H I

Tr in conversation with Orlando:

And that was a Japanese Blind swordsman, right?


That’s exactly right!


And of course Eron.


My twitch is X A N O D I A @

It’s mostly just me gaming, talking to people. That’s about it. But yeah, it does turn into a rant occasionally.



Now, in order to be a player, you have to be in the game. These gentlemen are true players and they’re all official…


…members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!


Dude I’ve got to say, I checked out an episode the other day, loving it.


It’s not just about the opportunity to play that I’m happy to see. It’s about the change in mindset that’s taking place.

Game developers are slowly creating inclusive spaces where everyone is welcomed. The truly successful ones are seeking input from the community to figure how we can play with our disability.

Accepting people where they are, allowing them to work with what they have and enabling anyone to be in the game. Because yeah,We Play Too!

If you want to be sure you can play all new episodes of Reid My Mind Radio, all you have to do is subscribe wherever you get podcasts.

We have transcripts and more over on

You don’t need a cheat code to level up, just remember, it’s R to the E I D
— (“D! And that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!
Audio: Reid My Mind Outro

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Smashing Disability Stigma with Blindish Latina, Catarina Rivera

Wednesday, April 28th, 2021

Catarina Rivera as a young girl with her hearing aids and a toothy grin.
Catarina Rivera grew up Deaf. By the time she was comfortable not only using hearing aids but with herself as well, she received a diagnosis; she was going Blind. She just so happened to be getting ready to leave home for college.

Today, she has a Master’s in Public Health and is using her platform, Blindish Latina, to advocate and spread awareness. Hear more about her journey and how you too can be a “Stigma Smasher!”



Blindish Latina


Show the transcript

Greetings Reid My Mind Radio Family!

It’s so very nice to be back here with you.
If this is your first time here allow me to welcome you and introduce myself.
My name is Thomas and I’m serving as the host and producer of this here podcast which features compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability.

Every now and then I bring you stories from my own experience as a man adjusting to becoming Blind as an adult.

In case I haven’t mentioned it for a while, my focus here is on those adjusting to becoming Blind. Honestly though, the more I learn and consider the adjustment process, I think the specific disability isn’t as important. Yes, of course, it matters, especially when trying to resolve specific challenges or learn technique, but there can be so much insight to gain no matter the disability.

I tend to highlight those things that I think are especially important for someone new to blindness, but we all hear differently – meaning you may resonate strongly with something said where I may not. I’d love to know if that is the case so, please remember you can always reach out and share that with me by emailing

Now, let’s get this Poppin’!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

I’m Katerina Rivera, the founder of Blindish Latina. I am a light skinned Latina woman with long dark brown wavy hair. And I’m currently wearing blue glasses.

— Music Begins – A smooth chill Hip Hop beat…

When I was about three or four years old, that’s when my parents first started noticing that I had trouble hearing, I think I was walking away from them and then not responding when they would call me.

We found out that I had hearing loss and I was fitted with hearing aids, I went to one year of special education, and then I was mainstream. I still received speech therapy on a regular basis, I had an IEP continuously throughout my education. And for the most part, though, I was mainstreamed.


Catarina and her family had no explanation for her hearing loss until she was 17 years old.


I was diagnosed with Usher syndrome, which is a combination of progressive vision loss due to retinitis pigmentosa. And hearing loss depends on which type of Ushers you have


There are three major types of Usher syndrome, known as type 1, 2 and 3. They’re distinguished by the severity of hearing loss, the presence or absence of balance problems, and the age at which signs and symptoms appear.

By 17 years old, Catarina, adjusted to her hearing loss, fully accepted wearing hearing aids and was comfortable in her own skin.

She was on her way to Duke University on a scholarship when diagnosed with vision loss.


When I first got diagnosed, I felt like it was a huge tragedy in my life. It was upsetting, surprising. And it felt like a very big loss. I think that I had to go through the stages of grief in some way. When I was reacting to this, when my parents heard about it, they were very upset. And I felt pain for them. So, I felt like I had to be strong for them.


Presenting that strength doesn’t give much opportunity to deal with the emotions. Even sharing with friends who often don’t know how to respond doesn’t feel right.


I felt like I was dropping a bomb. I felt really heavy. I don’t tell people, hey, I’m going blind, I find that when I would do that, it would really evoke a sense of pity. People feel sorry for me. And I was feeling bad. At the time, I was feeling bad about it. But as I progressed, in my journey, that language doesn’t resonate with me anymore. It’s not the way that I tell my story. It’s not, it doesn’t feel like a tragedy anymore, but I can definitely empathize with myself at that time.

TR in Conversation with Catarina: 10:05
You never said anything about even exploring the idea of postponing school where I’ve heard from other people, and it would be sort of understandable where someone might, hey, I gotta take some time. It sounds like you still went straight to college.

— Music Ends…

Was there ever any sort of, thing about Oh, okay, maybe I should postpone this because of the vision loss?


That’s a very interesting question. I have not heard that before. And I mean, I get it, it makes sense, every person is going to have their own response to something like that.

I never felt like I needed time away from school.


Retinitis Pigmentosa is progressive so the early diagnosis didn’t impact her studies as much as the hearing loss.

With an accommodation allowing her to register early, Catarina avoided the large classes in auditoriums and opted instead for smaller classes making it easier for her to hear the lectures.

There was more of an impact on her social life.
And she wisely considered her vision loss in her decision-making process.


I decided not to drink alcohol, because I didn’t want to impair myself any further, I saw that people were really cutting loose, you know, and partying. And I remember thinking to myself is it’s every person for themselves here.

I would focus more on dancing, because I couldn’t hear people when the music was loud, and I love to dance. So, I never stopped myself from having a good time.


All of this considered, it’s not surprising, Catarina didn’t feel a part of the blind community. For a while she could still drive and wasn’t using a white cane.

It wasn’t until she moved to New York City after graduation and began seeking out community.

When I moved to New York, I didn’t have a job, I had decided to go into the field of education. And I was very motivated to make a difference for the Latino community, for my people. I had applied to a program called Teach for America, where you commit to working in a low-income classroom for two years. And I was very lucky, because not only could I move to New York, to access great public transit, I also was able to go even further than what I had hoped.

I basically got a job as an elementary school teacher teaching third grade, and bilingual education and I was working with students who had Spanish as their first language. It was exactly what I wanted to do, it felt meaningful. I taught at that school; it was in the Bronx.

— Music Begins, a strong, dramatic intro to a driving Hip Hop beat

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

(Laughing) I can just imagine the people who have their preconceived notions, not only about disability, whether it be the hearing loss and the blindness, but then you know, you threw in my beloved bx borrow, okay, you know. And so, then they’re like, oh my she’s, she’s, she’s deaf and blind and she teaching in the Bronx, you say?

Tell me a little bit about how you did your job.


Sure. Yeah. So, I was really happy to be in the Bronx, my fathers from the South Bronx, he’s Puerto Rican. I felt like, Okay, this is like a full circle moment, where I can kind of be in a space that my father grew up in and give back. So, it felt amazing to me.

Now, as far as just some of the logistics, I purposely chose where I was going to live based on the commute to work, I ended up living in Washington Heights, which was just across the river. And I took a bus every day, to my school, I basically only had to walk five to 10 minutes to catch the bus in Manhattan. And I, the bus stop was directly across from the school. So, the only issue that I would have is when I would fall asleep, because it was really early in the morning, and miss my stop in the Bronx and have to walk back. (Laughs)

I also had a really great teacher who also worked at the school who would drive in from Jersey. And so, if I was ready early enough, I would be able to meet her, and she would just pick me up from 100 81st Street and just take me to work as well.

I think people who have preconceived notions of any place need to check that and not make assumptions.



There were, however, real challenges of the job that she never actually considered.


One thing that was difficult was knowing who was bothering who, when you have a lot of children sitting there and I’m in the front. It’s very hard, like I don’t have that peripheral vision. So I’m not able to see like filano was poking filano.

Filano is a term for like anybody, like whoever. So that’s how we use it.


It’s not just behavioral. When young children have questions or want to participate, it’s important that they’re recognized.


That’s something I did do with them. I would let them know and it’s simple, hey I can’t see well. If you have your hand up, I might not see you. So, wave it around. I put it up high, I’m going to scan. I would feel so bad if the kid had their hand up and wanted to talk and I really didn’t see them. That’s demoralizing. So, I would try to make sure They were aware of what was going on with me and I’d give recommendations for what they could do.


In classroom is challenging enough, but what about field trips?


Generally, on a field trip, the teachers in the front, you got to lead the way, you got to set up the access to the subway present the form to the conductor. That was so stressful for me, because I do well in environments that I know.


And then there’s dealing with parents.


Phone calls were also hard to the parents being able to hear well, on the phone, I didn’t know about any of the programs that were out there and that I had been able to use now that has somebody transcribing the phone call while you’re on it or use AI for that. I didn’t have any of that. So anytime I called home, it would be maybe a different voice that I had never heard before. I would let them know that I don’t hear well, repeat yourself. And then a lot of times, you know, it’s like parents are speaking in Spanish. So, I really worked on my Spanish as well during that time.


After three years Catarina left that job and worked for a charter school in Harlem for about a year.

— Music Ends


I realized that in education the way to move up was to move out of the classroom, to become an administrator. And that wasn’t really the way that I wanted to go, I didn’t want my daily life to be about that. So, when I started to become interested in food, and seeing the food that my kids were eating in the classroom and starting to question why they are eating so many bags of chips and candy in the morning.


Actually, that’s a great question especially coming from the person responsible for educating these young minds.

— Music Ends…

And we should know, proper nutrition impacts your ability to focus and learn.

So, she began researching.


I remember going to Western beef, the supermarket and looking at all the products, the corner store and seeing, hey, the waters all the way at the bottom of the refrigerated case why?

The first part of my journey with food was approaching it from an education lens. I had this idea that people needed to be educated.

I started a community health program in my neighborhood where I started teaching families about health, including fitness and nutrition.


In addition to the research mentioned, Catarina also has a master’s degree in Public Health and certification in holistic health.


I realized that the system was also a huge force in people’s ability to eat well. And if I focus just on education, I was really missing the mark.

The great thing about working in the nonprofit space is that I did work with kids in the beginning, I was working on an after-school program. But once I transitioned into Program Administration, I realized how much less stress I had in my life, sitting at a desk and working in a different way. Working on partnerships.

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

So, is that the work that you do today?


So, I’m still in the nonprofit space working in food insecurity. And I’m so glad that I’ve had the opportunity to get training and public health, and learn about food justice, and food sovereignty, which are really important ways for approaching the issues with food and what we can do about it. And as part of that, I’ve been able to involve myself in community organizing. And I founded an organization in Washington Heights called the Washington Heights, Inwood food Council. So, it’s in both neighborhoods, Washington Heights, and Inwood. And this group is pursuing food justice in the community, they’re gardening, they’re working with people in the neighborhood of all backgrounds. And the group now exists without me that I’ve transitioned myself out there completely sustainable and continuing to do very good work.

— Transition
— Audio of Catarina from InstaGram:
“Heres a two minute inclusion tip from Blindish Latina. Caption all of your videos…”

Voice Over from IPhone: “Video by Blindish latina”
Catarina from video: “Happy International Women’s Day! I want to tell you about a women I really admite. And, it’s my mom!”

— Music Begins, A Latin influenced Hip Hop groove.

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

Talk to me about Blindish Latina. First of all, explain the name blind ish.


The name blindish Latina means a lot to me, I wanted to showcase my intersectionality the multiple identities that I have, especially because we don’t see a lot of representation of people of color, of Latinidad that within disability. So that’s why I chose a Latina. And the reason I put blindish is because I wanted to give a hint of the fact that blindness is a spectrum. And I know that so many people don’t know this. They think that when somebody is blind, they don’t see anything at all. They don’t have any space in their mind or any concept in their mind of someone like me, who can see really well in such a small window. But I still retain vision.


The mission of Blindish Latina?


To smash disability stigmas through storytelling, through training and through advocacy.


Right now, all of this takes place on Instagram.


I talk about my own disability journey. And frequently share stories even about things that might seem small to me. And like something that nobody else would be interested in, for example, I did a video about swimming with hearing aids. And just talking about the fact that I have to be concerned about where I put my hearing aids, when I go swimming, and that I get really scared about somebody stealing them off the beach. So, I might leave them at home, and then not here for hours. But I got so much response on this post that other people feel the same way.


It’s not always specific to the Deaf or Blind community.


I also share about disability awareness in general, for example, self-identification.


For example, the debate over using identity first language versus person first language. Identifying as a Blind person as compared to a person who is Blind.

If you gather the right people, this could be a full podcast episode, but Catarina’s point is that it’s up to that individual how they choose to identify.

In addition, she’s sharing best practices and awareness of all sorts of advocacy issues.

TR in Conversation with Catarina: 49:45
What is it that made you become more interested now, in sort of connecting with the cross-disability community?


One thing that made me interested was the documentary Crip camp on Netflix about the disability rights movement, and the story of this camp that brought people with all different kinds of disabilities together in the 70s.

People of all different kinds of disabilities coming together to take these actions. And it really occurred to me that I had not been in a space like that. It’s something that has been inspiring.


Catarina’s been involved in some of the digital communities, but it’s not as personal.

Right now, she’s focusing on taking Blindish Latina beyond IG.

So, one of the things that I’m doing with Blindish Latina, is public speaking, and offering workshops, and speeches. It’s very important to me to grow my impact and be able to talk to corporations and institutions about disability awareness, why they should care about disability and accessibility, and the actions they can take to create an inclusive workplace and implement best practices. So, this is a major component of Blindish Latina and where it’s headed.
— Music ends


Catarina is hopeful that corporations will be receptive to her message. Especially considering the attention being given to diversity equity and inclusion initiatives.

This is where that smashing comes in.

— audible smashing sound


I think for me smashing stigmas, or being a stigma smasher was exciting, because it was action oriented.

I’m all about actually creating change. I’m not on Instagram just to talk or post photos of myself or get likes, I’m on there to share best practices to activate allies to move people along this continuum, where they are now going to operate differently and make an impact on their sphere of influence wherever they live.


Check out some specific advice for allies or accomplices who want to work with the community in smashing stigmas, straight from Blindish Latina.


People have this idea that being an ally is a huge undertaking.

I’ve broken it down into three simple steps. One, you have to care. You have to believe that it is important to be aware of accessibility to do better.

Second educate yourself. You can learn without putting the burden on people with disabilities to teach you, there are so many people producing content, you can engage with them, follow them, this podcast is a perfect example. Books, websites and trainings and presentation. So, you can do a lot of self-education.

— Music Begins, a triumphant smooth Hip Hop groove

The final step doesn’t actually require a lot of expertise or going far beyond your comfort zone.

— Smash sound —

Wherever you exist. Whatever community you’re a part of you can take action. For example, if you’re part of a church community that’s going to have their masses on zoom, you can advocate for a platform that has closed captions, and speak up and say, Hey, we should consider this other option.

If you are managing your staff, and you’re going to have a meeting off site, you can create a registration form for people to RSVP. And you can have a question in there that says, what accommodations Do you need, and it can be anonymous. And you can create a space that is welcoming. That’s taking an action that’s being an ally.

4TR in Conversation with Catarina:
You see what you did there? You still teach Academy.

— Catarina and Thomas share in a laugh.


That’s the value of experience. The ability to apply what we learn throughout our lives in different areas. That’s wisdom.

Showing the world who you are. All aspects.


One of the reasons that I started Blindish Latina was to show that I am here, that I am a professional, disabled, Latina woman and I exist. I don’t think there’s a lot of representation of all of those dimensions of people who are disabled and are not white, of people that are disabled and are in the workforce, especially for people with blindness. I feel like there’s a lot of assumptions that blind people cannot work. And there are many of us in the workforce. So that’s why I use that term professional. Look, I’m here educated. I have two graduate degrees. I was Valedictorian of my mph, like, Come at me.


Better come correct!

You can check out all of the content including best practices, informative videos with captions, images with alt text and more on Insta Gram @BlindishLatina. You can also connect with her via Linked In by searching by name, that’s Catarina Rivera (spelled out)


And I have a website as well.

TR in Conversation with Catarina:

So, I don’t know if you know, but the fact that you are on the Reid My Mind Radio podcast. That means you are now officially part of the Reid My Mind Radio family.

You perfectly aligned with what we are doing. And so, if I could borrow your turn because we’re trying’ to smash it up too.

— Smashing sound…


Love it!


Some great take aways in this one y’all!

Like using our experience, talents and interests to create impact.

Shout out to Catarina! We’re rocking with you Sis!

Continue to follow what’s happening here on Reid My Mind Radio wherever you consume your favorite podcasts. I hope we can one day make your list.

In the meantime, tell somebody you love or at least like a lot or even if you have no real feelings for this individual, let them know you are part of the Reid My Mind Radio Family. Let them know we have transcripts and more at Now this can be a challenge for some so be patient and no matter how long it may take, explain that it’s R to the E I D…
(“D and that’s me in the place to be” Slick Rick)

Like my last name!

— Music ends into the outro

Audi o: Reid My Mind Radio outro


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