Posts Tagged ‘Disability’

Welcome to The Art of Adjustment

Wednesday, January 24th, 2024

We’re beginning 2024 with the essence of what this podcast is all about.

From it’s inception, this podcast always wanted to be a way not only to share our stories and experiences of blindness and disability in general, but also a way to provide some encouragement to those adjusting to a new way of life.

It just so happens that this year makes ten years of producing this podcast. Take a listen to what’s in store for this first season of 2024.

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript


TR:

Happy New Year Reid My Mind Radio Family!
I’ve missed Y’all.

I know that may sound weird because I don’t personally know everyone who listens and or or reads the podcast.
Yeh, I said reads, shout out to all of those who consume the podcast transcripts.
Access is dope.

Even though I don’t personally know everyone consuming the podcast, knowing that you do rock with Reid My Mind Radio means we share something.
There’s an exchange of energy taking place.

When I get close to shutting the doors on this thing, something keeps me motivated to rock on!
Y’all are a big part of that.
Thank you!

Twenty twenty four will make 10 years that I’ve been producing audio as Reid My Mind Radio.
It’s also twenty years of becoming Blind.
It’s why I knew I needed to spend some time focusing on what I personally think is the best thing about this podcast – the people.
I want to produce more of the episodes that really dive into our experiences.

I want to focus on adjustment and how art can aid in the process.
I sort of see adjusting as an art form.
There’s no one way to do it.
However, there’s so much creativity involved that I thought it’s worth exploring.

Ten years of podcasting, twenty years of adjusting to blindness … oh and here’s the big one,
Music begins: “Five, Ten, Fifteen Twenty…” The Presidents

TR:

The one I’m the most proud of, y’all ready… thirty years as a husband to my wife Marlett.

— Reid My Mind Radio Intro Music

TR:
Five years ago, I did something I could have never imagined doing when I was a young kid.

In fact, even as an adult, I would have never thought it would be something I’d do.

In 2019, I celebrated 15 years of being Blind!

“Hold Up, Hold Up. Hold up! Say What? “The voice of a small child.

TR:

Celebrating life, my family, clarity of blindness.
(Laughs)
When have you heard that phrase before? Clarity of blindness?
It’s true.

Five years ago and still today, I’m aware that my response to becoming Blind could have been the beginning of a lifetime of running.
Running from blindness that is.
A never ending marathon of doing everything possible to try and escape it.
That sounds exhausting.
But there’s lots of people needlessly sweating, breathing hard attempting to get away.

Meanwhile, it’s always there whether they acknowledge it or not.

But this isn’t really about them.
Well, not really.

This podcast has allowed me to paint profiles of people I find compelling.
It’s also one of the ways I explore aspects of disability.
My way of not running but rather embracing disability in a way that makes sense for me.

This season, I’m challenging myself to create a sort of self-portrait.
That’s not to say I’m doing a whole season on my personal experiences even though some suggested they’d be interested in that.

Over the years of speaking with various people on and off the podcast about disability, I realized that although we differ demographically, we can see some aspect of ourselves in each other.
More than often we share the emotions that come out of similar experiences.
Sometimes, we may see things in others that we don’t like or fear in ourselves.

In this season called The Art of Adjustment, I’m speaking with four individuals all with their own stories of adjustment.
Every episode this season, featuring a guest, will be followed up with a continuation of this self-portrait episode.
To be honest, I have no idea what that will be.
I’m not producing the self-portraits in that straight forward way.
Rather, I’m confident that the experience of adjusting to disability inevitably connects us and
therefore I’m sure there will be elements of our conversation that run parallel to my life.

As I record this episode, I’m thinking I’ll use sound bytes of a guest in the self-portrait episode or maybe it’s something else.
I really don’t know, we’ll find out together.

For the record, this is not about motivation or inspiration.
I’m not someone interested in motivational speaking.
In fact, I don’t really even know what that means.

Clip from Saturday Night Live:
“My name is Matt Foley. And I am a motivational speaker.
(Laughs from audience)
Now let’s get started by letting me give you a little bit of a scenario of what my life is all about.
First off I am 35 years old . I am divorced and I live in a van down by the river.
(Applause and laughs from audience)
Now you kids are probably saying to yourselves (yelling) hey I’m going to go out and get the world by the tail and wrap it around and pull it down and put it in my pocket. Well I’m here to tell you that you’re probably gonna find out as you go out there that you’re not going to amount to jack squat.”
(Laughs and applause from audience fades out)

TR:
I know there are lots of people with that in their linked in profile and claim to inspire, but what exactly do they do?
Ableism just totally messed up the word inspirational for me. I know many of you know exactly what I’m talking about.
You’ve probably been called inspirational for taking a walk, shopping, brushing your own teeth.
Inspiring for actually doing something, perhaps? Maybe it’s just my own issue.

I do want this podcast to encourage those adjusting to disability.
Even though circumstances and details are different, I think those adjusting to any situation can be encouraged.
But, my main concern are those with disabilities.

There’s an alternative to running away from disability.
Stop, turn around and confront it head on.
See what’s there.

I’m not here to tell anyone how to be Blind, how to be disabled.
But I am here to tell you that there’s real value in examining what it means to you.

So I’ll examine in real time

In this season, I’m speaking with those who in their own way have a variety of outlets that allow them to embrace and explore their disability to determine what it means to them.

Whether through artistic endeavors like writing or film making, social entrepreneurship, sports and more, all of my guest joining me this season have so much to offer the world, their communities and you.

?- Music Begins: a heavy synth opens into a driving drum beat.

For those new to disability, no matter what that is, my wish is to be a part of you regaining your ability to imagine your future.

Recently a Reid My Mind Radio Family member reminded me of a time in my life when I couldn’t see myself in the future.
I may have mentioned it here before.
I compare it to being in a hallway with no doors.
Before blindness that hallway for me had lots of doors.
Each was an opportunity, a place for me to explore if I so chose.
Even the doors that were closed were in my mind never locked.
Being in that hallway, stuck with no doors or opportunities was I guess my feeling despair.
It was awful.
I don’t want that for you.
I don’t feel that way anymore and you won’t either.

rock with me and the rest of the Reid My Mind Radio family and I know one day you’ll realize your doors have returned.

In this season, I’m going to bring you what you’re used to from this podcast ; compelling people impacted by all degrees of blindness and disability in general.
Then in a continuous episode I’m calling my self-portrait, I’ll tie some aspect of the conversation with my awesome guests to my 20 years of blindness

If you know of anyone you think can benefit or appreciate what we’re doing here on R double M Radio, please let them know.
We’ll be back publishing episodes at 8 PM on the second and fourth Tuesday of the month
Tell them they should come rock with Reid My Mind Radio available wherever you get podcasts.
We have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com
Just remember, that’s R to the E I D!
— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be.
” Slick Rick)
Like my last name!
— Reid My Mind Radio outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

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

Wednesday, September 13th, 2023

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

Going beyond the mainstream audio description conversation is the objective of Flipping the Script. But if that conversation is promoting advocacy, then it just makes sense for the podcast.

In this two part series we’re looking at what we, all of us who appreciate AD and want to see it improve, can do about those things jeopardizing it’s future growth.

Today, we deal with what seems to be the inevitable comparison of audio description to captions. Michael McNeely, a Toronto based Deafblind lawyer, joins us to talk about captions. Are they really the North star that should be guiding how we advocate for audio description?

Listen

Transcript

Show the transcript

TR:

What’s up Reid My Mind Radio family.
Thanks for joining me this week.

In thinking about this episode, I decided to open the vault.

— Sound of a large vault door opening/ closing

— Music begins; a joyful fun mid tempo groove.

This podcast has been in existence since 2014 so yes, I’m referring to the archives as the vault because I think there’s value in what’s going on 9 years of episodes.

In 2015 when all of the episodes were really being produced for Gatewave Radio, I produced a couple of episodes on audio description. One was about Marvel’s Daredevil and what many believed was a bad move by Netflix in releasing the series without providing access for Blind viewers in the form of audio description.

We learned later that behind the scenes, even before the release of Daredevil, there were conversations taking place that helped lead to the success we enjoy today.

Less than ten years later, the future of AD doesn’t feel as bright as it did back then.

Who do we turn to? What do we do?

Sometimes it feels like “NO ONE WILL SAVE US”!
That’s up next, but first let me protect the archive and close the vault!

— Sound of vault closing as the kick drum of the intro music.

— Reid My Mind Theme Music

TR
Today’s conversation, ultimately is about advocacy.
And we know this isn’t new.
It feels like so much of what we as disabled people want;
access to employment, art & culture, transportation… you name it, requires a significant amount of advocacy.

This is Flipping the Script so we’re specifically talking about audio description,
but personally I feel there’s lessons that go beyond AD and apply to us all no matter the specific disability.

One form of advocacy is making space for the conversation.
That’s not a one time thing. It requires re-visiting and hopefully bringing in new people and new ideas.

Sometimes, we have to challenge the ideas that are put forth.

Like when in conversation with other Blind people on the subject of improving and increasing audio description, someone inevitably says something like;

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Why can’t audio description be more like captions?

What’s your response to that idea that oh the Deaf community has it all together captions are great, blind people need to learn from that to get audio description, to meet that same sort of level?

Michael:
Yes. That’s a great question. I think, first of all, it’s one oppressed group talking badly about another. I think an oppressed group is doing better than they are, which, unfortunately, is one of the hallmarks of oppression in general. So when jealous of someone else with a disability, then that’s part of the problem. Secondly, I don’t think captions are as commonplace as they should be. I really do try and advocate for both captions and audio description. And both of them just need advocacy throughout.

TR:
That’s Michael McNeely.

Michael:
I live in Toronto, Canada. I work as a lawyer for the Department of Justice. I’m also a filmmaker and a film critic. I provide film criticism for AMI TV, which is a new station in Canada.
I have about 6000 listeners for my film criticism. And I have also released a film today. It’s called advocacy Club.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Tell me about it.

Michael:
It’s a documentary about my former work place which is called Canadian Helen Keller Center. It’s also located in Toronto. It’s a training center for people who are Deafblind. And it’s a residential center.

I was an advocacy instructor. And now I’m just a lawyer on consult.

I was helping clients with any issues that they had with regard to just standing up for themselves, or advocating.

It’s about why these people need to stand up for the issues that they keep having in their lives, and how we became closer together as a result.

TR:

According to the film’s web page, Michael is the first Deafblind person to direct a film. You can learn more about the film at AdvocacyClubFilm.com.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Tell me a little bit about your relationship to disability. I don’t get too much into the diagnoses and all that, but whatever you want to share around your relationship with disability.

Michael:
I don’t even remember my diagnosis. I just remember that my geneticist is really excited about me, because she seems to have discovered a new disease. I told her to name it after me.

As far as I know, I’ve always been disabled my whole life. This is who I am. This is what you get. I’m actually fascinated by how other people perceive my disability.

So sometimes people think that being deafblind is the saddest thing in the world. I don’t think it’s the saddest thing in the world. There’s a lot of things that I do have privilege. And I’m happy to use my privilege for the common good.

TR:

If only more people thought about their privilege that way. That’s another story, but for now back to the question, are captions really the north star for access?

(Michael:)
So in Canada, we have movie theaters that are mostly run by Cineplex, I would say they have a monopoly set up that uses the CaptiView machine, which is a device that you can put into your cupholder and watch captions that way. Not all movies work with this.
So it really depends on institutional knowledge, as well as the movie has been made compatible with the technology. Unfortunately, for a lot of people with vision challenges, the CaptiView device, would not be accessible to them, since it’s quite small. So you have to be able to read the words in the caption of your machine to gain any benefit from it. Let’s talk about open captions.

TR:

Open captions don’t require any specialized technology, they’re on screen for anyone to see.

(Michael:)

Just like when you go to the gym, people can’t hear the TV. So you read the caption.

I think open captions will change the dialogue of captioning in general. Because you should be able to see a caption anytime you watch a movie.

TR:
That visibility normalizes access.
No longer is it hidden away and others will be able to report when captions aren’t working properly or even available.

Similar to many of our experiences with AD, captions aren’t always available. Sometimes it’s the technology, other times it’s a film that was delivered without them all together; in theater and at home.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
How about the streaming captions?
Michael:
Good question. So I’ve been buying a lot of different subscriptions to streaming services, and I cancel them.
If I remember, within a trial subscription period, but I try and do that just to see how good the caption is, and how reliable it is. I think Disney plus is pretty good at that Netflix is doing captioning very well. Amazon sometimes does not have things captioned. But I emailed the customer service. I’ve asked them to put captions in. Sometimes they listen, sometimes they haven’t. I try and make an argument that if I pay for a subscription service, than I’m paying for 100% accessibility.

TR:
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Amazon’s subscription service is tied to Prime. Nor do I think it’s a coincidence that Michael has experienced a lack of captions on the platform.

For many disabled people however, cancelling a service like Hulu is much easier than cancelling their Prime account.

The latter makes purchasing all sorts of products accessible and extremely convenient. And I don’t doubt that they are fully aware of this.

We discussed access in movie theaters , at home on television and streaming… film festivals?

(Michael:)

Some are better, and some are worse. I’ve actually filed a human rights complaint against the film festival that was not attempting to be accessible.

You just want to know how much of the content is accessible. So if you can say 100% of the films have closed captioned in 30% have audio description now might be a good way to advertise before buying tickets for it.

One of the recommendations I’ve made was can film festivals to provide discounted passes for people with disabilities, not just because people with disabilities t to make less money, but also because the content is less accessible. So for example, if the Toronto International Film Festival has 300 movies, but only 200 of those movies are accessible , I suppose then should only be paying for those 200 movies instead of a full market price.

TR:

Advocating with our dollars as well as our voices. I support it!

I’m starting to think that ubiquitous captions aren’t actually a thing.
And even though captions which are indeed more widely available in comparison to audio description, similar to AD, it doesn’t guarantee quality.

Yes, quality and consistency isn’t now. But I know it’s not the captionist fault.

I have great respect for the Captionists.
I’ve seen them work in person, especially in the court system. They probably don’t have time to think about the content. They just have time to type in as fast as they can.

TR:

It’s not about blaming one party. Every role in the process plays a part. Executives set the standard by creating a climate of inclusion. Insisting that access is a part of the culture from the beginning. Making sure to include the community to determine what’s good access.
Choosing not to procure services solely by price and paying attention to quality.

As Michael said, we can use the power of our dollars by not supporting services offering poor quality. And sometimes that just means walking away altogether.

Michael:
I stopped watching reality TV, and I stopped watching news, because the captions wasn’t doing it for me.

Michael:

One of the things with watching live entertainment is that the captioning doesn’t keep up.
I was watching the news. And I was reading in the caption that a serial killer was on the loose and had killed a few people. When I looked at the TV I was interested in what the segment was about. It was a senior quilting festival so I thought maybe there was a serial killer loose at the seniors quilting festival.

I haven’t been able to watch the news since.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Wow. Wow.So the captions were that bad, frequently?

Michael:
it’s better to watch a documentary. Because you know that there’s been Yes. post production done with it.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
What about automated captions?

Michael:
Oh my goodness. We use the automated captioning on Zoom. And I can tell you that it never gets it right. It is one of the most distracting things I could ever imagine. It comes up with the most ridiculous things that I’ve never said or would ever say.
For example, it said something about a whale’s anatomy. I wasn’t even talking about whales or anatomy.

TR:

One of the problems around automated captions is context. Even when it does properly transcribe what someone is saying, it doesn’t include the speakers name.

Michael:

So that can be hard sometimes. As a lawyer, I need to know who I’m speaking to sometimes.

as you probably noticed, I have an accent, I have a deaf accent. So sometimes the captioning doesn’t understand my accent. And it can be insulting. Because it reminds me that I have an accent, it reminds me that I have speech problems. So it’s one of those things that makes me feel like I’m taking a step backwards.

On another note, if you’re asking someone who’s deaf or hearing impaired to try and interpret the caption you’re asking them to make themselves tired before 10am.

if I play , let’s guess the word Thomas said, the game gets pretty old, there’s no prize. I don’t know if I win or not.

TR:

I feel similarly about watching content without AD.

I can try to follow along as best I can but I won’t know unless I’m in conversation with someone who had full access or research online. Not really the way I personally like to watch movies.

My choice? Well crafted culturally competent description written with love that centers the Blind community. And the best way to make that happen?

Michael:
Making the film at the beginning with an awareness of descriptive audio.

Let’s say I was going to make a slasher film. And what I did to ensure that my audience understands what’s happening, I’m probably going to put in some pauses, I’m going to put in some reflective periods, I’m going to not have that action happen all at once. It’s never going to be a bit longer movie, but it’s going to be more accessible. And it’s going to make the point that everyone can enjoy this kind of film. We don’t expect blind people to go see this slasher movie, but perhaps they can if it was accessible for them.

TR:

That’s audio description not only as access, but something we promote here quite often; seeing audio description as a creative tool rather than a mandated requirement.

Michael:
When you’re talking about compliance, it’s already too late to actually make much of a difference.

If you’re talking about compliance, it sounds like you’re leaving it to the last minute. it just comes off as not caring enough about people with disabilities. It’s just checking off something. It’s just doing something that a computer does, by itself. It’s not actually useful unless you go in and check it yourself.

TR:
See how the lines just got blurred?

This is true for both audio description and captions.

We talk about the opportunity to be more creative with AD and have seen a range of examples of that. Opportunities exist for captions as well. For example, color coded fonts to represent different people or emotion. However, some of the creative ideas like moving the captions off the bottom third break access.

Michael:
Because if you don’t know where the words are on the screen, then it’s not really helping anybody.

Imagination is unlimited. But one of the challenges is, how can you be creative and accessible in the center?

TR in Conversation with Michael:
I also heard about the lack of description of all things sound in captions, would you say there’s like a need for improvement there? So for example, when music plays how descriptive are they about the music that’s in the background? Do you get that at all?

Michael:
If there’s a fight scene, and the caption says birds chirping in the background, I’m like, who cares? Unless the bird is actually involved in this fight.

I’ve seen captions that when there’s a person walking on the street, it says street sounds. When the person driving, it says driving sounds. Obviously this person’s driving, and obviously that’s making sounds so give me some new information about that.

It’s that classic philosophical question. How do I describe blue to you as a person who is completely blind? How would you describe sound to me?
Not every person is the same.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
Right. Depending on what the film is, when he’s talking about describing blue, is the color blue important? Or is it more about the feeling?
Is this relating to the Blues as in sadness, or is this something else?

Michael:
100% I’ve just been learning about the color aspects of filmmaking. If you want someone to feel relaxed then they use lots of greens and blues. If you want someone to feel angry or violent you’d probably use red. That kind of thing.

TR in Conversation with Michael:
So, what would you like to see more from caption writers?

Michael:
Let the caption writers introduce themselves at the beginning and provide a contact.

I think that’s always something that made me feel better when I was at court , because I knew it was Joanne that was doing the captioning. And Mark , that was doing the captioning. And it was a human being.

TR:
It’s not surprising that those companies producing solid AD t to include their company name and both writer and narrator in the credits. One has to wonder why this isn’t standard practice for both AD and captions.

Michael:
I think it’s about accountability, providing the service.

I think we just get this tendency where people with disabilities are supposed to just accepts what’s given to them, just because we don’t have anything better.

We assume that everything we receive is okay, everything that we receive, gives us the equal playing field, it gives us better advantages than other people in life. That’s definitely Because there’s a lack of transparency and communication about the accommodations that have been delivered.

TR:
Michael even suggested a feedback form where folks could comment on the quality of the captions.

I talked about something similar for AD during one of our BCAD Chats.
That’s Blind Centered Audio Description Chats which you can find in this podcasts feed or head over to ReidMyMind.com.

Shout out to my fellow BCAD Chat partners Nefertiti Matos Olivares and Cheryl Green.

I have some pretty good ideas around how such a feedback form, well really a full website could function. Providing not only a means for feedback but community as well.
Anyone wanting to finance such a project, hit me up at ReidMyMindRadio@gmail.com.

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

Think about that while I bring on our next guests

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

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

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

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

DVW also is doing the same and employs Blind QC.

I asked each of them to bring three to five issues that most threaten the future of AD and some thoughts as to what we can do about them.

That’s next in part two of this episode of Flipping the Script on Audio Description I’m calling;
“NO ONE WILL SAVE US”

Big shout out to my guest, Michael McNeely , for shedding a little light on captions.

Make sure you tune back in for part two of this conversation.
The best way to do that;
Follow or subscribe to Reid My Mind Radio wherever you get podcasts.
There’s transcripts and more over at ReidMyMind.com.
Remember, you got to spell it!
That’s R to the E, I D!

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

Like my last name.

— Reid My Mind Radio Outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Flipping the Script on Audio Description: Describing What is Unseen

Wednesday, June 28th, 2023

Side profile shot of a bald young man with glasses wearing a black collared shirt on a sunny day

Set Hernandez is the producer and director of Unseen. In this documentary, he introduces us to Pedro, an undocumented college student who happens to be Blind.

Set’s approach to access was quite different from films in the past where even though the subject or the protagonist was Blind, the film lacked audio description.,

Both Set and Pedro join me to discuss the film making process, intersectionality, audio description and more. #NoMorePasses

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

NOMorePasses!

TR:

In 2020 I was invited to participate in a panel conversation with other Black disabled creators.

The panel was a part of the Superfest Disability Film Festival.
— Filtered voice – You know the best disability film festival out here!

The feature film that year was a documentary about a Black Blind artist, poet and writer my friend, Mr. Charles Curtis Blackwell.
If you haven’t listened to that episode, I highly recommend it.
It’s a little different from what I usually do here on the podcast.

Prior to the panel, the documentary was shown. It included “audio description”.
Can you tell by the way I annunciated audio description that I put that in quotes?
— Filtered voice – That’s because it didn’t even deserve the title.

I’m not going into the specifics of what made it awful other than,
it was obviously done on the fly and with no consideration for Blind viewers.
It was done because someone was told they had to have AD in order to have their film shown.
It’s an example of when the compliance approach to AD goes wrong.

I don’t place any blame at all on those responsible for Superfest. Rather the blame lies solely with the person responsible for creating that AD track.

Unfortunately!
— Filtered voice – or Maybe fortunately?
The recording of this specific panel is lost. It no longer exist!
If it were you would hear my rant about the awful audio description.

Oh well! I’ll sum it up for you.

Any film being made about Blind people or a Blind or low vision person that doesn’t include audio description is
— Filtered voice – Say it, say it!
exploitive.

If the protagonist or the main subject of the film can’t independently consume the content, that’s wrong.
It tells me that this person or those like them aren’t even considered as consumers,
rather just subjects to be put on display for someone’s entertainment

The recording may be gone, but I do recall putting film makers on alert.
Anyone, using Blind people as props in their films, videos or any visual content and not making that accessible via audio description, image descriptions, well you gets no more passes.
— Filtered voice – Don’t even try to correct my English)

I’ve accepted excuses in the past based on ignorance. “I had no idea about audio description.”
I get it, it’s true. How could someone know what they don’t know.

But come on, if your subject matter is in anyway related to blindness and you haven’t even considered how Blind people will consume your content;
#NoMorePasses
I think it’s worth calling it out when we see it.
That doesn’t have to be publicly, but it needs to be discussed.
— Filtered voice: No more passes y’all!

But 2020 feels like ages ago.
Today, I have a much better version of this story.
That’s a film featuring a Blind person that not only includes access but
they pay special attention to describing the unseen!

So it’s the second episode of the Flipping the Script 2023 season.
— Sample: “Another one!”, DJ Calid

I’m Thomas Reid. Welcome to Reid My Mind Radio. Let’s get it!

Audio: Reid My Mind Theme Music

Meet Set & Pedro

Set:

My name is Set Hernandez. I use they them pronouns. I am a filmmaker, community organizer. And more recently, I am the director, producer of unseen, which is a feature length documentary.

I am person with olive complexion. black rimmed glasses, black hair, black beard, round face. Today, I’m wearing a striped shirt with light blue and gray.

The film follows my friend Pedro .

Pedro:

My preferred pronouns are he him, they them. I’m a social worker.

I am five nine. My skin is light brown, and I am bald. And I wear glasses.

Set:

… as he navigates the uncertainties of life being an undocumented immigrant who also happens to be blind.

The Meeting

TR in conversation with Set:

Pedro was your friend, were you guys friends before the film?

Set:

We met because I’m also an undocumented immigrant.

I’ve been doing community organizing since I was 18. I was involved in this program that was providing professional development opportunities for undocumented young adults.

Pedro:

Dream summer.

Set:

Pedro was part of this cohort that we had that year to do work around this area of healthcare and Immigrant Justice.

TR:

Part of Set’s role in communications for the organization included pitching stories to the press
and making YouTube videos about the work the cohorts were doing.

Set became more interested in Pedro’s story as his stood out from others.

Set:

that was the only person who we knew to have a disability in the program at the time.

I’ve come to realize how the experience of having a disability and being undocumented, are very much not discussed, often in the rhetoric of the immigrant rights movement that I have been a part of.

There’s often like this erasure, and maybe even like ableism in the narrative of the immigrant rights movement.
This idea that to prove your worthiness to become a citizen, you’re hardworking, taxpaying and all that stuff.
it kind of values a person based on their economic output, as opposed to their full humanity.
my intention really, was to uplift this experience of the intersection of disability and immigration, which hasn’t really been discussed much in the community in the movement that I’ve been a part of.

— Music begins: A bouncy, “Afro beats” influenced track.

The Idea

TR in Conversation with Set:
How did you approach Pedro with the idea?
“Hey, I want to follow you around.”
(Set & TR laugh)

Set:

I remember, I was driving home, and I got to my apartment building in the garage. And that’s when I was talking to Pedro about first reaching out to him for filming.
This was I think, maybe may or April 2016, when Barack Obama was still president. It feels like eons ago.

TR:

In this particular case, the spotlight comes with additional risks.

Set:

Each undocumented person weighs risks for themselves individually.

Pedro:

Back then, I was going through a really rough patch. I was barely in the middle of my undergrad and I thought I didn’t have anything to lose.

Set:

Within the experience of being undocumented, it’s almost like every moment is risky.

When I first applied for DACA years ago, Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals,
there was this idea that once you submit the information for DACA, it can give you benefits, but also, you’re pretty much telling the government that you’ve been here and documented, Here’s my address, here’s my information and I’m going to move forward with this application. If this program gets rescinded, then the government has your information.

Do I take this risk? Do I try to live my life and try to access the benefits that this program can offer me?

TR:

The greater the risk, the greater the return.

Set:

We were able to get DACA, because of the organizing of undocumented youth.

A lot of the tactics that we use was to tell our story. Eleven million undocumented people at the time – we’re like this statistic with no identity in many ways, coming out of the shadows and standing in our truth really acknowledging our experience and our inherent dignity as human beings in this country, who are part of our communities.

that act of telling your story is pretty much putting a spotlight on you.

I’ve been in the shadow all this time now I’m going to come out. What’s the risk that it has for me to tell my story? And what are also the prospective opportunities that I can gain from this.

There are risks in making a film explicitly about undocumented person. There’s individual risks, but also there’s a benefit for our community, and maybe ourselves that we kind of have to take into consideration.

Pedro:

I don’t consider myself an activist.

I have a great respect for activist doing all the grassroots work. It takes a lot of work, and it takes a big toll on your mental health. So because of my frail mental health, I honestly don’t think that I would be able to do it. I feel that I work best when I’m behind the stage.
Even in my line of work, I don’t really like to do group work. I do mostly working one on one with a client. And that’s what I do best. I like to have a more controlled environment.

TR:

Personally, I’m a card carrying member of the control freak club.
But there’s some real value in letting go.

Pedro:

I have been tricked into the idea of surrendering.
Back then I was very resistant of what was going on, not knowing that I didn’t have any control over my life. Because of my disability, my immigration status, my mental health. It put me in a position that I wanted to have control over everything. Because it felt very uncertain.

if I didn’t have control, my life was gonna spin out of control.
My life was gonna get into a rabbit hole. But the more control that I wanted to have in my life, the more that I was getting into that rabbit hole. So it became very counterintuitive.

When I started exploring the idea of surrendering. Just letting life flow and being okay with it, accepting that things are how they are and that life is not fair. But the fact that life is not fair, doesn’t mean that life is miserable, or life has to be bad.

I have come to terms with it. Somehow I got into this for a reason. And let’s make the best out of it.

— Music ends with track playing in reverse.

TR:

File that one under gems as we return to the film, Unseen.

Set:

Set:
unseen is a film about desire, wanting something really bad. And that you think that when you get that thing you really want it would solve all of your problems. But when you finally get it, you realize that actually doesn’t solve any of your problems. And if anything, there’s more problems that you have to confront.

The film traces Pedro’s story as he follows his journey to become a social worker, hoping that doing so would allow him to support his family and also provide services for his community that is so lacking, especially in the immigrant and disability community where he’s coming from.

Pedro:

I did ask him, okay, we’re gonna do this, but how am I going to see it? How am I going to experience it?
And that’s when he was talking all about accessibility.

TR in Conversation with Set:

Yeah, so from the beginning, you recognize that you wanted Pedro to actually be a consumer of this film?

Set:

Oh, my gosh, like, of course,.

TR:

Compare that to the story I shared in the intro.

Set:

Maybe part of it is like coming from being undocumented, being queer person of color. I feel like sometimes, we get spoken to, or people speak on our behalf instead of letting us speak for ourselves.

Pedro:

That’s when I introduced him to audio description.

I was telling him about the Netflix films and how now the originals from Netflix have audio description.
He started getting really into it, and started exposing himself into different projects, or talking to different people, film makers.

He started learning a lot because the goal was to make it as accessible as possible.

His main concern is like, I want you to have the full experience of the film. I want you to be able to fully access the film and make it so you can enjoy it and not be just guessing, like what’s going on right now?

Set on Access

Set:

I’m very much a believer in I don’t know what’s best for you.

Pedro actually, was in many ways my teacher and mentor also around so many things, accessibility, mental health, emotions, like beyond accessibility.

Pedro is truly one of the people that have taught me a lot about life and his friendship has really been so important to me.

TR:

That relationship comes through in the film as well as
in the attention to detail in the implementation of the access.

Set:

Toni Morrison, she has this interview with Charlie Rose, where he was asking her if she’d ever consider writing about white people, I think that was the framing of it.
Toni Morrison said, it’s like, our lives have no meaning without the white gaze.

I feel like you can apply that to the experience of many communities.

The stories of undocumented people have no meaning without the gaze of citizens.

The stories of people with disabilities have no meaning without the gaze of the non disabled.

TR:

Assigning value only when it reaches a standard set by a dominant group.
As opposed to being a full participant in telling your story.

For marginalized groups, historically, that just hasn’t been the case.

Set:

People in places of power speaking on behalf of other folks.

In documentary filmmaking, I think it often happens that way.

The people who have a lot of resources are often people who are not from our communities.
To be honest, white filmmakers telling stories of people of color and like non disabled people telling the stories of people with disabilities.

I’m very much a person who likes really honoring, and preserving relationships and friendships.

I have a lot of people in my life that I love and cherish.
I wouldn’t want to cause any harm to Pedro.

At the end of the day, Pedro, this is yours. This is your life story.
How can I amplify the experiences that you have? Making sure that it’s as enjoyable for you when we finally get to experience it with an audience?

— Transition: Swoosh

Set:

I may be undocumented queer person of color having experienced all these marginalization’s, but being a non disabled person, there’s also certain considerations that have to be mindful of that Pedro experiences all the time

— Transition: Film Slate

Filmmakers have this idea that they’re going to change the world with their films, especially if it’s about a social justice issue, or a person who’s like navigating really difficult experiences in life. But how can you expect your film to change the world? If you’re like hurting the person you’re featuring in the film?

— Transition: Digital descending as in failure!

I feel like it’s important for every human being to just always be mindful that we are all humans. We’re all gonna make mistakes.

TR in Conversation with Set:

Sometimes it feels like folks, they lose their sense of humanity, because they don’t see other people as human.

If everyone can relate on that level, yeah, things would be a whole lot different.

What were some of your early expectations around audio description before even starting? What were you thinking about it?

Set:

Originally my idea was we’re gonna make this film and it’s gonna be so accessible in this really artistically exciting way and it’s gonna be amazing.

Ultimately, I like trying to reinvent things, but sometimes the wheels there already. don’t reinvent the wheel.

As a person who’s not usually an AD user, a non blind individual, I feel like, it’s not necessarily my place to reinvent that we’ll because I don’t even use description all that often. Who am I to say that I know better than 80 users?

this is the first feature I’m working on. I’m realizing that when you’re a director
part of the trick of directing, is recognizing when you don’t know that you don’t know everything.

TR:
Set sought out some assistance.

— Music begins: An up tempo, bright Hip Hop beat.

Set:

Bringing producers and collaborators that really understand and follow their guidance around these aspects of the project.

There’s many mentors like yourself, Cheryl green, a captioner from the film, accessibility co producer with you for the film.

Cheryl taught me that there’s no one size fits all for accessibility. Choice, having options, that can make things accessible.

Everyone has different access needs.

I’m also learning that sometimes people have conflicting access needs.

it’s really important to understand my own limitations, my own learning curves.

I should also share another mentor in this project, Matt Lauderbach.

TR:

In addition to AD and captions, there are several parts of the film that are in Spanish and include English subtitles.
Rather than having one voice read each, multiple voices were used to easily distinguish between characters.
Human voices along with an authentic Spanish speaking human narrator, Reid My Mind Radio Family member Nefertiti Matos Olivares.

As with any film project, description is constrained by the available time that doesn’t overlap with any dialog or informative sound design or music.

Often Blind and low vision AD viewers don’t learn of the visual aesthetics of a film.
In Unseen, the majority of the film is blurry.

Set:

The idea was how do we invite people to watch a movie by listening as opposed to by leaning into all the visual information that cinema usually does.

Also, Pedro is a social worker he spends a lot of his time listening to people what is it like for us to spend the next 90 minutes of our lives listening to this person who’s spent so much of his time listening to others.

We realized that blurriness can also imply uncertainty of life, the visual aesthetic had more thematic implications, but since the get go the idea was never to simulate blindness.

The intention might not have been that, but the impact is that.
I’m curious how that landed on you. It would be also great to know your perspective.

TR in Conversation with Set: 36:52
I had that concern. I was like, ah, the simulation thing.

TR:

If you’re interested in my take on simulations, check out the episode titled ,
Live Inspiration Porn – I Got Duped, from March 2020.
I share an experience I had where I observed a bunch of sighted folks “walk in our shoes”.
But as far as Unseen is concerned.

TR in Conversation with Set:

I thought it was more about undocumented, that Pedro is living this sort of life of being unseen.

From my understanding, Pedro is the only one who’s actually kind of in focus.
that’s a statement in itself. It’s like, you are the center of this talk. Like you’re flipping the script on this.

TR:

This and other information is passed to the AD viewer through the delivery of a pre show.
In the case of Unseen, it’s a prepended addition to the film and AD that
AD writer, Cheryl Green refers to as an on ramp.
Sort of gently taking you into the film.
— Pre-show Sample

Pedro:

details make a big difference …

little things,

since it’s a bilingual film, some of the characters having different voices, makes it more understandable
little details that may not seem important for other people make the experience enriching?

It is an art because you have to describe something in such a rich way for a person to paint a picture in their mind.

TR:

The thing about images and yes, audio description, it’s subjective.

Pedro:

I guess it’s all about perception. for instance

the scene with the traffic? how said make it seem that it was like I was about to get run over?

TR:

Oo! I just knew this scene was going to come up somehow in our conversation.

— Clip from Unseen:

Sounds of heavy traffic – cars quickly driving by and the sound of Pedro’s white cane sweeping back and forth.
Set: “Friend, you want to move closer to the left?”… Ok, so?
Pedro: “Uh, no!”
Set: Inaudible mumble. Uh, ok. Are you ok?”
Pedro: “Yeh, I’m ok”
Set: “Ok.. stick to your left. Don’t get run over!”
Pedro: “According to me, I’m still in uh, the curb, no?”
Set: “You’re still on the curb, yeh! Nah, I’m just like ahh! Fast cars!”
— Scene fades out.

TR:

Set’s concern while probably not warranted is something many of us have experienced.
It comes from a good place but can have repercussions.

Pedro:
It made me doubt for a second, I actually had to double check with my cane how close I was from the curve.
I was right. I was not that close to it.

TR:

When it comes to orientation and mobility we have to have trust in ourselves, as Pedro did.

When consuming AD, we’re trusting in someone else’s perspective.

While AD paints images from a pallet of words, it inherently leaves out those who speak other languages.
Which is a missed opportunity especially when television and movies can often bridge all sorts of gaps.

— Sample audio from a Tela novella.

Pedro:

Novellas in a way, it’s an excuse to just spend time with your family, especially with the older folks. It’s just one of those activities that allow you to spend time with your family.

In order to strike a conversation with my older folks, during the commercials. Okay, tell me what’s going on?

The accessibility is not there. And I highly doubt that is going to be there anytime soon. Because The stigma with disabilities the Spanish media are not putting our interests in mind.

TR:

Let’s be clear, that stigma, ableism, well we know exist in every community.
Pedro recognizes and acknowledges the work of the Spanish speaking disabled community pushing back.

Pedro:

It takes a minute to change people’s minds and to help them see a different perspective.

TR in Conversation with Set:
What conversations do you
really want to start with this?
It seems like there’s multiple

Set:

love, love this question. Yes, there are multiple

When we think about social issue films, the idea of impact that we have in mind is this macro socio political impact, we’re going to change laws, we’re going to transform society, we’re going to make it more just and equal.

We want to make sure that this film contributes to really bringing together the disability and Immigrant Justice Movement in the US to begin with maybe also in other places.

Historically, in the immigrant rights movement, we don’t really uplift the experiences and the needs of people with disabilities. And likewise, in the disability justice community, there’s not often a recognition that sometimes a person doesn’t have documentation, and something like the ADA might not benefit them, so how do we uplift these realities?

Pedro:

The first step is just to start talking about it.

The three issues can be very uncomfortable issues for many groups, immigration, mental health, disabilities,

Having an excuse to start conversation about those topics. Actually challenge the previous views about those topics.

If we can start a conversation and start opening up our ears and our hearts and our eyes more into those topics, and just explore them for what they are just part of life, part of an identity of a person. But it’s not the whole person, we would have done our job.

Set:

But in the course of making the film, I’m realizing that it also had a very personal impact on the people who are involved in the film, so many of our team who understand their experiences to be so similar to Pedro’s , whether they’re other undocumented individuals or their people with disabilities, finding a story that’s so much about the roundedness of a human being not just about the issues that they’re facing.

it’s like a healing oriented goal. And that’s not to say that the other goals around socio political aspects of the story no longer exist, because they’re very much still there.

TR in Conversation with Set:
Is there something that you would want to share about how this personally impacted you ? I mean, this is years of your life?

Set:

For the longest time, I was thinking so much about organizing, the world around me, the injustice that everyone faces, I minimize the pain and the struggles. I don’t know how I’m feeling emotionally.

Set:

I think being in touch with my humanity, allowed me to also understand the things that Pedro talks to, in the film, his own inner demons that he’s struggling with. Depression, worries, fears. Those are things that I feel also as a human being, but for the longest time I suppress them, because I was like, There’s bigger problems in life, why am I worried about my own tiny world.

I’m realizing, I have to open up myself to my own humanity, so that I can also understand the humanity of the person whose story I am trying to uplift with his film.

If I can feel it in this way, if other people from our community can feel it this way, how cool would it be for everybody to be reminded that what you’re going through as an individual, you don’t have to minimize it you are enough, what you’re going through is valid.

the film is also a story of love.
people have been so kind to us in making this film.
And it just gives me so much encouragement.

There’s so many filmmakers who are struggling to make their film. And of all these filmmakers how come our project gets to experience this love?

in our communities, there’s so many people who experience so much inequity every day, how come we’re the ones that get to have these resources?
Our project is just as worthy as everybody else’s.

— Music begins: A melancholy groove.

TR in Conversation with Set: 1:10:55
What would you like to say is the answer to that question? Why this movie?

Set: 1:11:19

(Exhales!)

Why this movie? That’s a good question.

There are so many serendipitous moments that happen in life. And sometimes, we just kind of have to take that opportunity and embrace it.

One of my mentors Sabaah Folayan with firelight media, she said, we only live once, when ancestors, community, choose us for a certain thing, we just gotta seize it.

That question of why me, there’s got to be a series of logical reasons as to why me.

Maybe sometimes I got to stop rationalizing. Maybe sometimes I just got to accept things for what they are.

TR in Conversation with Set:

I would like to think that it’s a combination of that energy. And yes, this was something you were supposed to do and the part that you’re doing is that you stayed the course and did the work and so therefore you’re rewarded. That’s what I would like to think.

Set:

my desire to be the best person that I can be every day is so that I can reciprocate the love that I’ve received from people like my family.

There’s so many people who go through the day, wondering if someone cares about them. And

maybe that’s why I want to do my best to do right by Pedro. He and his family has made me feel so much affirmation.

And in the course of telling this story with them, that the least I can do is to do right by them.

— Music fades out.

TR:

Unfortunately, our experiences with audio description, don’t always leave us believing that others care to do right by us.

That could mean;
– the listening devices in the theater that seem to never actually work
– movies and television shows released without audio description altogether
– Sitting in a classroom and the instructor announces they’re going to play a video and there’s no AD.

Pedro came to believe this was just the norm. But today, he finds himself constantly confronting that stigma.
And when the result is access, audio description for example, the results are quite different.

Pedro:

You feel that you are starting to belong more and you connect more with your You are a part of the gang. You’re no longer the outsider.

— Music begins: An inspirational opening synth leads into a funky up tempo groove.

TR:

Belonging, connecting, no longer an outsider… finally being seen.

As of early June, 2023 Unseen is steadily being accepted to film festivals including
Hot Docs in Toronto, L A Asian Pacific Film Festival and more.
And it was announced that it will also be a part of the PBS documentary series POV.

Set:

they are including us for season 36 for a national broadcast in the US and US territories for the film.

Every screening that we have, we’re making it explicitly named, that ad and Captions are available so that if you are an ad user, you’re not wondering, is this going to be accessible for me? We’re making sure that venues are accessible for wheelchair users, ASL interpreters cart and also bilingual interpretation if need be.

One of the mentors for the project was saying this film, in essence, is an invitation for folks who don’t often think of the film festival or the theater as a space for them.

this film is really an invitation for everybody, like hey come!

we’re making this theater like as accessible for you as possible, but also the recognition that accessibility is not a one size fits all. So please do give us feedback if there are things that we can continue to improve.

TR in Conversation with Set:

Congratulations set.

Set:

Thank you so much. Congratulations to all of us.

Thank you for making the audio descriptions. That sound mixing of the ad casting the ad voices everything like this so grateful for your collaboration.

I’m reflecting on when we first met. Over zoom.
This was 2020

TR in Conversation with Set:
was 2020. Yeah,

Set:
Three years later? Oh my God!

(The two laugh))

TR:

You know you want to checkout the Unseen!

Set:

@watch unseen film is our handle and all social media or you can also follow us on our website and seen that film.com To keep posted about screenings and other upcoming opportunities as we get distribution for the film.

TR:

What a difference a few years can make.

Contrasting the film I mentioned at the opening of this episode and Unseen,
I don’t think the differences has anything to do with time.

Some say, it’s an awareness of accessibility.

I think Set actually hit on the fundamental difference;

Set:

“I’m realizing, I have to open up myself to my own humanity, so that I can also understand the humanity of the person whose story I am trying to uplift with his film.”

TR:

Big shout out to both Set & Pedro.
The latest additions to the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Oh, I’m mean, official!

[Airhorn]

As always, I hope you’re enjoying the podcast.
Wanna show it?
Tell a friend to tell their friends and we can all be friends!
Make sure you’re subscribed or following the podcast.
We have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com
Just in case what I’m saying sounds a little blurry,
let me make it clear….
that’s R to the E I D!
— Sample: (“D! And that’s me in the place to be.” Slick Rick)
Like my last name!
— Reid My Mind Radio outro
Peace!

Hide the transcript

Adrienne Livingston on Power & Control

Wednesday, May 24th, 2023

Sex Trafficking… probably not a topic you’d expect to hear on this podcast. Perhaps that’s because you don’t make the connection to disability. But every issue can be viewed through the lens of disability.

Adrienne Livingston, Director of Anti-Sex Trafficking for World Ventures joins me on the podcast to discuss this important topic and its relationship to disability.

Learn about the techniques used to persuade unsuspecting men and women into a life of prostitution. Even if you feel there’s no way this could ever happen to you or anyone you know and love, you need to listen. Many of these same techniques are used in cases of domestic violence.

TW/CW:
If conversations referring to physical or emotional violence are triggering,
perhaps you want to skip this episode and go back in the archives for something lighter.
However, this episode is specifically about the importance of being educated as a means of prevention.
This is not about sensationalizing or trying to shock the audience.
I’ve been mindful and intentional about what is included.

Listen

Resources

Transcript

Show the transcript

[sound of a person walking outdoors, then a car opening, keys going into the ignition, and a car starting]

Thomas:

I worry about the women in my life. As best as I possibly can,
[slow ominous ambient beat begins to fade in]
I encourage them to be security minded and always be aware of their surroundings. Especially when alone.
Follow what to me sounds like good advice, such as, try not to have a need to get gas at night, especially at an isolated station.
Always be on full alert, when in mall or store parking lots.
Whether the various stories that circulate are true or not, I encourage my ladies to be mindful. Be on the alert, if there’s a van parked next to you.
Don’t stop to pick up what appears to be money on the ground. It can be a trap. Yeah, even if it’s $100 bill.
These suggestions just don’t apply to women. But the fact is that human trafficking, sexual trafficking does predominantly affect women.
I thought we should talk about it here on the podcast.
If conversations referring to physical or emotional violence or triggering, perhaps you want to skip this episode, and go back in the archive for something lighter.
However, this episode is specifically about the importance of being educated as a means of prevention.
This is not about sensationalizing or trying to shock the audience. I’ve been mindful and intentional about what is included
I’m Thomas Reid, welcome back to read my mind radio.
[the car stops, keys are taken out, and a person closes the door as they begin to walk]

Reid My Mind Radio Intro music

Sounds of an indoor cafe or restaurant.

Adrienne
I was 40, I believe at the time and I ended up being at this cafe meeting a friend to talk about work in business. I was dressed professionally, you could definitely tell I was an older person, not a teenager.
And when I was getting ready to leave, a person actually approached me. He had like a white crisp t-shirt on with jeans and a baseball cap.
He said, “Hey, you have a pretty smile.”
I said, “Oh, thank you”.
And he said, “I have a movie studio. And I think you would be great. You should give me a call sometime.”
And I thought “okay, cool.” So he gave me his business card. But then I looked down at his business card, what I was looking at was images of dollar bills in the background. And I thought “that is so tacky.”

TR in Conversation with Adrienne:
Still a little curious when arriving home, she pulled out that card and checked out the website.

Adrienne 03:29
This is I don’t know about nine years ago, the website I entered took me all of a sudden to a Myspace page.
I thought, “Okay, this is obviously very shady, very tacky. Obviously, I’m not contacting this person.” And so I ended up throwing the business card away.

TR:
Six months later, she’s invited to hear a presentation from a lawyer on the topic of sex trafficking.

Adrienne:
She was basically giving the profile of pimps and on the PowerPoint presentation she was sharing.
All of a sudden, I see dollar bills in the background. She said they have images like these. But then she also followed that up by saying and they recruit on Myspace,
I thought, “oh my god, I was talking with a person who could potentially be a pimp and or trafficker.”
That experience, especially now that I’m working in this industry to prevent it and to fight it is to say to parents don’t think that this won’t happen to your child, because I’ve had some that say, oh, no, this would never happen to them.
The fact is, it could it is a possibility. When I speak with youth on this matter, I say even I as an adult woman have to be careful.

TR:
My guest today is Adrian Livingston, Director of anti sex trafficking initiatives with World venture.

Adrienne:
I am a light skinned African American woman with green eyes, brown hair, in dreads about shoulder length.

TR:
Those scenarios where we need to be on high alert, described at the top of the episode, while important to be aware of, they aren’t the typical techniques used by traffickers.

Adrienne 05:06
I think mainstream media has really glamorized that trafficking is kidnapping, there’s a movie Taken.

[scene from Taken plays]
If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you, I don’t have money. But what I do have a very particular set of skills, Skills I have acquired over a very long career, skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my daughter go, now, that’ll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don’t, I will look for you, I will find you. And I will kill you.

Kidnapper:
Good luck. [phone hangs up]

TR:
Well, kidnappings do occur, traffickers have much more subtle techniques to lure their potential victims. As we’ll see, that actually means the special set of skills required to save these women are more easily attained than those used by Liam Neeson in the film.
[piano r&b track plays]
First, though, let’s get familiar with some of the techniques which present their own challenges to recognize, like boyfriend.

Adrienne
where you have someone who you think is interested in you wanting to be your boyfriend. But you don’t realize that while they are wining and dining you, paying for you to get your nails done or buying your new clothes, he’s actually grooming you.
And especially if it’s a person who may have low self-esteem or just really likes this guy and does not want to lose them.
And because he’s been giving them these gifts, he might then say, you know, I’ve been contributing, I’ve been giving you all these gifts, and you need to now contribute.
You need to go do this for me.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 06:55
That showering of gifts and attention is not only alluring, but such as a common desire perpetuated in our culture.

Adrienne 07:01
I think when people think of trafficking, you think, Oh, it has to be happening over there somewhere else. They have to be transported somewhere. Yes, that happens. But you can actually be trafficked and exploited in your own city,

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 07:13
a young girl was trafficked while living at home with her parents.

Adrienne 07:17
She had a person pick her up at 2am go out and traffic her and then bring her back home 5am. Her parents had no idea what’s happening.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 07:25
Her dad was a cop. It’s hard to believe that such a thing is possible. But we need to understand that traffickers are well versed in manipulation, and blackmail, and an understanding of the law.

Adrienne 07:37
Gangs are actually selling I’ll say individuals, because again, it can happen to girls and boys. It’s harder to prosecute. If a person is picked up for prostitution, compared to drugs or arms.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 07:50
We’re talking about the differences between the sale of goods and services ownership of the “product” in this case, a human being remains with the trafficker or the pimp.

Adrienne 08:00
You can have one girl that makes you residual income. And it’s harder to prosecute, even if that girl gets picked up for prostitution, it will be harder for law enforcement to prosecute, because you can’t lock up evidence that’s human.
But if they get picked up for selling drugs or arms, it’s easier for law enforcement to prosecute, you can lock the evidence away because it’s drugs, guns, arms, etc.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 08:29
Another technique used by traffickers is blackmail, or demanding payment or another benefit from someone in return for not revealing compromising or damaging information about them. Consider Adrian’s story of being invited to a photoshoot. Traffickers use drugs to control these women. And let’s just say take all sorts of pictures.

Adrienne 08:48
And if you don’t want those pictures released, then you must do what I say. And that means you’re going to go make me money in this form of selling your body for sex, and you’re going to bring me my quota, which is an amount that they have to bring home nightly or daily. It could be $300, could be $2,000. But they have to bring it home. Otherwise, there could be a real fear of punishment.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 09:10
The majority of those being prostituted are cohurst. For some, the entry point is poverty, as in this is the only option available to feed their children.

Adrienne 09:18
I do get pushback like oh, there are some people that want to do it. I’m like, You know what, there are some that do but I’m working for the 90% that don’t.
I’m working for those that don’t have a voice. I’m working for those that if they could prevent it if they could do something else that they would.
This is one industry where seven years you can be dead whether it’s from homicide from your pimp or trafficker to a buyer disease, pregnancy, so much trauma.
They actually have studies that demonstrate that those who have been prostituted have PTSD. There’s a book called The Body Keeps the Score. You’ve had those that have come out of prostitution and are survivors but it’s still hard for them to be intimate with their partner because of the trauma the experience because they had to have sex with so many individuals a day.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 10:00
Now that we are aware of some of the tactics used by traffickers to find their victims, which remember can include men as well as women. What groups are most vulnerable.

Adrienne 10:11
Youth is definitely one of them. You have those that may already come from a background that’s broken. You also have immigrant refugee population, you have someone whose sheltered, their parents have sheltered them so much from what’s happening, that they could be easily lured. Those that are in the foster care system. That’s already the child that has left their family for whatever reason that’s broken going into a broken system.

TR: 10:40
We know that all of these vulnerable demographic segments also include disability. Consider this story from the National Human Trafficking Hotline,
Ominous ambient music begins

Adrienne 10:48
This person who had a developmental disability was recruited from a recreational and vocational training center. So their trafficker posed as a boyfriend.
This person basically was planted in this vocational recreational center, and made the victim believe that the counselors, their friends, their family members, these people in her life did not want her to be an independent adult.
And this trafficker, quote unquote boyfriend, used her fear of being treated as a child against her that caused her to be isolated.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 11:22
That’s just one of many tricks used to control a potential victim, keeping you away from those who truly have your best interest at hand, and can spot the manipulation

Adrienne 11:32
In that time that he was with her basically convinced her to get engaged in commercial sex from their home.
People with disabilities, they may be desensitized to touch because of isolation, a part of the isolation or sheltering, they may have a lack of informed sexual education. They may not even know what constitutes as a crime or constitutes as someone not touching them appropriately. What are their rights? They don’t know.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 12:03
Think about all of the misinformation around disability, the discrimination face, the ableism that’s just a part of our culture. How multiple marginalized identities can greatly increase the level of vulnerability and exposure to abuse and the increased likelihood of not being believed.

Adrienne 12:21
They know that sometimes this person who has a disability, if they tell their friends and their family that these things that they may question are happening, their friends or family may not believe them. You basically help this person, this perpetrator, this trafficker, this pimp, be able to exploit this individual with a developmental disability.

TR: 12:44
We see that when factoring in race, social and economic status, law enforcement is less likely to believe, but they even go as far as to criminalize survivors of sex trafficking.
According to the FBI, 50% of minors arrested for prostitution in the US are black, suggesting that black miners are overrepresented in trafficking survivor populations, and or that law enforcement disproportionately targets black child sex trafficking survivors.
Consider the case of Cyntoia Brown, born with a cognitive disability fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. She was abused by 32 people by the time she was 16.
Running away from an abusive relationship, she was approached by a man who was seeking a prostitute. While with the man in his bed, she feared for her life, she shot and killed him. Yet, prosecutors painted her as a murderer out to rob without any consideration of her full situation.

[clip from Netflix Documentary, “Murder to Mercy: The Cyntoia Brown Story]
Today in 2017, Cyntoia Brown would be classified as a sex slave, a little child manipulated, who didn’t stand a chance against the men who used her. But that wasn’t the case in 2004.

Adrienne 13:50
We as a culture, have to treat all humans as humans, we have to allow all humans, all individuals to have a voice. And we have to believe them and not second guess them.

TR: 14:04
Protect by educating as opposed to sheltering, teaching appropriate behavior and setting expectations for how we should all be treated.

Adrienne 14:12
Whether it’s a mental, physical, intellectual disability, they just may not know for whatever reason, if part of it is lack of information or having their voice heard. We really need to assess ourselves from friends, families, culture, to make sure that these individuals have what they need to get the care that they need, and support that they need.
The common age of entry into being trafficked not the only age, but a common age is 12 to 16 years old.

TR: 14:44
That’s middle school, and high school. We’re talking about a $150 billion industry.

Adrienne 14:51
This is a 2014 statistic from the International Labor Organization, human trafficking, which incorporates all types of trafficking. So sex trafficking gangs, labor trafficking, organ trafficking. So two thirds of that 99 billion came in from this issue that we’re talking about today of sex trafficking.
Sex trafficking is the second largest international criminal industry behind drugs. So it goes drugs, human trafficking, and then guns and arms.

TR: 15:21
It’s an international business that preys on vulnerable populations. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that countries with large rates of poverty are highly affected.

Adrienne 15:29
I lived in the Dominican Republic, when I lived there, I definitely did not know about this whole issue of sex trafficking and exploitation. But I recall, now that I’ve learned about it, hearing always, oh, the women, they are being wined and dined by these German men that come over the Sugar Daddy. Basically, scenario, these girls are being trafficked and exploited. Because they are in poverty, they didn’t have an another way to make money, they don’t have an education. That was how they were able to survive.

TR: 15:58
The blatant and honest truth of it all, is there’s one constant that can predict where you’ll find some version of sexual trafficking,

Adrienne 16:05
Wherever there are men, this definitely is there.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 16:09
And those interested in trafficking, are trained to exploit whatever they can to get what they want.

Adrienne 16:17
Basically, pimps say, once I get a girl to have sex, I’ve got her understanding that when one has sex, there is a hormone in your body that’s released called the bonding hormone, oxytocin, you’re literally bonding to that person, especially if you like them. He knows that once he does that, he can ask her to do anything, it can be, go give my friend a blowjob things that she may or may not know that money is being exchanged.
Next thing you know, because you don’t want to lose your quote, unquote, boyfriend, all of a sudden, you’re in this industry of being trafficked. There are some that don’t realize that they’re actually being trafficked and exploited.

TR: 16:58
The term pimp has changed over the years, away from his true definition of someone manipulating a woman by force or psychologically to something synonymous with glamor, or improvement.

[clip from MTV Pimp My Ride]
I’m 24. And this is my ride. So please, and TV, please MTV, please. Pimp my ride!
Check out your brand new ride.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 17:25
Damn and I can’t even sit here and act like I don’t rock out to some of the music.

[Big pimpin’ by Jay Z plays in the background]

That’s my jam!

But damn over 40% of those lured into sex trafficking, are said to come through pimps.

Adrienne 17:38
With pimping culture, you have someone that is treating a person as a commodity as an animal.
our culture doesn’t really consider that this pimp can actually harm this person. You have the finesse pimp, but then you have a gorilla pimp, someone who’s just going to rule with a heavy hand.
Imagine you being the person that’s the victim, having a gun held to your head caught. So you really are fearful for your life.
So when you think and understand the word pimp, why do we have Pimp My Ride? Pimp my pancake, all these things that refer to pimp as a positive thing when really innately it’s negative?

TR: 18:19
Pimp psychology is even promoted as a means of pickup or finding women,

[Pimp speaking] 18:23
Most of the people who approached me, like in the pimp game, they’re not asking how to be pimps, they mostly come to me about how to approach women.
What do you think I say to a woman in 30 seconds to make her want to sell her body on a corner from me for 12 hours is certain power and language and this you use, but when I teach guys this, I don’t teach them so that they can go out and do that. I teach them so that you can be the guy at the bar. I said, I’m five foot seven. And I don’t think I’m the most handsome man in the world. Watch me leave with all the women in this party. And it won’t take me five minutes.

Adrienne 18:51
Is that power and control dynamic? I can control this person. Look, they’ll do what I say.

TR: 18:57
Chances are high that anyone with a physical disability has experienced some level of someone trying to exert control over their body.

Adrienne 19:05
And not ever thinking, “Can I get the permission to touch this person?” I think our culture just sees someone and automatically wants to be like, Oh, let me just help you without even asking and getting your permission. Like wait a minute, don’t do that.

TR: 19:19
And when it comes to disabled women, this unfortunately occurs much too often enough to warrant what amounts to a social media campaign to bring awareness to the problem. Shout out to Dr. Amy Cavanaugh, in the UK, @blondehistorian on Twitter who started #JustAskDontGrab, bringing awareness to this issue of being touched without a person’s consent.

Adrienne 19:41
I think that’s one of those things, to have to educate to give them words if they’re like, you know, I just don’t know what to say to this person or to say no, you could say “oh, don’t touch me.”

TR: 19:52
Empowering people with disabilities through education and awareness, are ways of taking back control. But yeah, So, how often do we hear about this topic through a disability lens? What organizations are out there?

Adrienne 20:05
I was able to find information from Polaris Project, that is one. Then they list the National Human Trafficking and Disabilities working group.

TR: 20:15
NDRN or the National Disability Rights Network, National Center for ending abuse of people with disabilities, are some others. I’ll include a few resources on this episode’s blog posts, At reidmymind.com. The point of the scenario from at the top of the episode is that we have instincts that we have to tap into.

Adrienne 20:34
If there’s something that’s fishy, there are sensations that are going on your body like butterflies in your stomach, listen to that. So if it’s like a flyer on your car, leave it there. You don’t need to pick it up right then and there drive off because it could be someone that’s waiting for you to do that.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 20:50
That gut intuition or feeling that something is off isn’t just about preventing physical harm.

Adrienne 20:55
If you can prevent it from happening, you are preventing a lifetime of trauma, making sure that that person whether child or adult is then educated on what does it look like?
What does it look like when someone is trying to manipulate you?
They need to understand and see what does even isolation look like? Having someone say, Okay, this secret is between you and I. Now, sometimes secrets can be good. It’s like keeping a secret from someone having a surprise party.
But other times, it’s a secret because they know if you were to tell they would get in trouble.
Having them understand their rights, having them understand what is not appropriate touch. And when it comes to a point where oh, what this person has done is wrong. And you need to report that making sure that should someone report something happening, that they are listened to and not dismissed for their disability, having them being educated on sex education, boundaries, healthy and unhealthy relationship characteristics, not just sexually, that’s anyone whether it’s a caregiver whether it’s a friend, whether it’s a family member, having them understand the power and control dynamics, there’s a power and control will that talks about emotional abuse, financial, sexual, physical.

TR: 22:16
How about a little description…

[rewinding sounds that turn into a hip hop beat]

Adrienne 22:21
It’s kind of like the center of the wheel and then the different spokes shooting out and then it’s surrounded by the tire. Power Control is the very center of the wheel.

TR: 22:30
See, image descriptions aren’t just for the web, and audiobooks. The specific segments of the wheel will the spokes help drive power and control. I’ll mention the category and Adrian will explain further. First, coercion and threats

Adrienne 22:45
Threatens to harm the victim or family threatens to expose or shamed the victim threatens to report to police or immigration.

TR:
Intimidation

Adrienne:
Harms other victims children’s or pets, emotional abuse, humiliates in front of others calls names, plays mind games.

TR: 23:02
We talked a bit about this one, but it’s really important. Isolation

Adrienne 23:06
Keeps confined, accompanies to public places, creates distrust of police and others.

TR:
Denying, blaming, and minimizing.

Adrienne:
Makes light of abuse or exploitation and denies that anything illegal or exploitative is occurring.

TR:
Sexual Abuse

Adrienne:
Uses sexual assault as punishment or means of control forces victim to have sex multiple times a day with strangers.

TR:
Physical abuse.

Adrienne:

Shoves slaps, hits, punches, kicks, strangles, burns, brands, tattoos, so much in the physical abuse.

TR:
Using privilege

Adrienne:
Treats victim like a servant uses gender, age or nationality to suggest superiority.

TR:
Economic abuse

Adrienne:
Creates debt that can never be repaid, takes money earned, prohibits access to finances and limits resources to the small allowance, all of this to give as examples of how someone is trying to maintain power and control over you.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 24:05
Wow, these are all equal size.

Adrienne 24:07
Exactly. Now, they don’t give any of them weight in the sense of what’s more or less, and they don’t name everything. So for example, there is crazy making an example that I know is you know, because basically, you have items and ornaments on your banister or say above your fireplace. If you have one.
And you know you set it there but then you go to bed you wake up in the morning, you go back down and it’s move and you’re like Wait, I didn’t move that and you ask your partner did you move it? He’s like, No, I didn’t move it.
You have different things like that happening where they’re making you really feel like you are crazy.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne:
Is that also gaslighting?

Adrienne:
Yep, gaslighting domestic violence is a part of this too. Oftentimes, the same things are used to hold power control over someone in sex trafficking very same in domestic violence. So when I am teaching, I’m trying to help prevent both from happening.

TR: 25:01
Adrienne herself had an experience where now very ex-boyfriend planted spyware on her phone. It enabled him to listen in on conversations, and even track her location.

Adrienne 25:11
He tried to do the crazy making. He tried to intimidate me. He tried to isolate me, thankfully, intimidation, the isolation, that didn’t work.
But I know now what that sounds like, because he’s the one that used it with me. And this is what I actually share with young girls. When they’re trying to isolate you it doesn’t sound like they’re trying to isolate you what it sounds like, and what he actually used was “oh your friends and family, they don’t get me. Can you and I just hang out tonight?” That doesn’t sound so bad.
But you keep saying that message over and over in different ways all of a sudden, and you’re like, oh, yeah, we can do that. All of a sudden, he started to pull you away. But thankfully for me, I said, Okay, well, you don’t have to hang out with them. I’ll see you later!

TR: 25:48
She saw signs from feedback she received from her best friend. And, you know, I have to give a shout out to her dad. Because yes, dads can tell too y’all.

Adrienne 25:58
For those that have fathers, and not everyone has one. I do understand that. And that even those that do may not have healthy fathers. But mine is and when mine met him. He later told me he’s like, “Yeah, I don’t like him. I don’t trust him. He couldn’t look me in my eyes.” As a man he saw something I didn’t.

TR: 26:21
That’s perception, We know when someone is uncomfortable in our presence, especially when we’re used to being “othered”.

Adrienne 26:32
I think growing up and not having a thumb, that gives me a different kind of experience. Not having a thumb has not disabled me in any way. But what it has done is I see other people’s reactions. So when I see someone and they shake my hand or they do something and then they realize I don’t have a thumb. I definitely see it on their face. They’re like, Oh, I’m so sorry. I don’t consider it a disability. I’m actually glad I was born this way that has allowed me to see the world differently. Don’t pity me. This is the life I have. This is the only life I know. I’m blessed. That’s my story. That’s all I can say.

TR: 27:12
Actually, she could say much more.

Adrienne 27:15
A really good friend Susanna Mars introduced me to audio description last year, I have been trained to audio describe live shows. And also I’ve gone through another training to be able to describe TV or film.

TR: 27:30
While she’s writing and narrating. We can kind of tell she’s someone who knows how to use her voice.

Adrienne 27:35
I would say my focus right now is narrating.

[a clip begins from a film]

Man 1: Want to take them home? Three thousand each
What’s going on here?

TR: 27:48
As we know this power in films.

[clip continues]
What’s been happening?

Adrienne 27:51
to you promise you can stop these men promise.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 27:56
Another reason why access is so important. In fact, it was a spontaneous decision to watch a film called The whistleblower that inspired Adrian to get involved.

Adrienne 28:06
I like Rachel vices an actress and I was at the red box. And like all that, I didn’t realize that it was based on true events.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 28:14
Specifically, the experiences of Katherine bulk of back in Nebraska cop who served as a peacekeeper in post war Bosnia. And out of the UN, covering up a sex trafficking scandal,

Adrienne 28:26
she was seeing that there were girls that were being trafficked and exploited, she tried to alert the United Nations to what was going on. Unfortunately, she found that some of her very colleagues were not only participating in the sex acts, but they were also alerting the traffickers when rates would occur so they could move the girls. What made me so mad is that she actually got let go as a peacekeeper from the United Nations, but her colleagues had not those that should be the protectors were the very perpetrators and help other perpetrators get away with what they were doing. The United Nations, you as a system were allowing this to happen. Oh, I was so mad. Then I started researching because I thought I want to get involved. Then I saw oh, wait a minute. It’s happening here in my own backyard in Portland, Oregon. You just have to understand the context.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 29:21
She started to talk to other people learning more and figuring out how to get involved

Adrienne 29:25
that led to a conversation with World venture that ultimately led me into having this job. Once

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 29:31
again. That’s director of anti sex trafficking initiatives with World venture where she continues to educate

Adrienne 29:38
one curriculum that I’m really working to grow and to help equip youth leaders of middle and high school girls and it is with a biblical framework is our girl empowerment curriculum. That’s both a sex trafficking and domestic violence prevention curriculum. You can find more information about that on my website, justice, hope, freedom. dot com. Facebook is also justice, hope, freedom. And then on Instagram at JH F ministry.

TR in Conversation with Adrienne: 30:11
I’ll never forget this one afternoon. It was during my initial return home from the hospital after becoming blind. I was taking a nap when I heard the screams of my daughter and my nieces and my driveway. I was startled, jumped out of my bed to see what was going on. It was just playing a screaming like little girls do. I had a hard time though at that moment because I couldn’t figure out what I would do if something were actually wrong. I couldn’t jump in the car and track down the perpetrator, you know, be a superhero. That’s not to say that blind people can’t defend themselves. But it is to say that from my conversation with Adrian, the true power is being informed. Being educated. Protection doesn’t come from sheltering. If you’re a parent of a disabled child, a teacher school administrator, consider the potential danger you may inadvertently put that child in by keeping them uninformed. Rather, why not find the appropriate and accessible ways of including that child in conversations about sex, consent, and the realities of people that will not hesitate to take advantage of them. You may want to take a strong look at your concept of protection. Ask yourself if ableism has anything to do with your decision to deny that child access to information. And while I’m on that topic of denying access to information, Miss Adrienne Livingston. Not only do I appreciate your willingness to come share your expertise on the podcast, but I feel pretty certain that we will all benefit from this knowledge and perspective. We hope to hear from you again. Perhaps as the voice describing some content on one of the streaming networks. Well maybe back here on the podcast, you need to know you are an official member of the Reid My Mind Radio Family.

And you know you too can be a part of the family by making sure you subscribe or follow wherever you get podcasts. We have transcripts and more at ReidMyMind.com.

Just remember, that’s R to the E I… D!
to the D DNS
— “D! And that’s me in the place to be”, Slick Rick

Like my last name!

Reid My Mind Radio outro

peace

Hide the transcript

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.

Listen

Resources

Jerry Lawson – Father of the video game cartridge

Transcript

Transcript

Show the transcript


– Sound of Pong

TR:
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

Brandon:
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.

TR:

This is Brandon Cole, an award winning Accessibility Consultant

Brandon:

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

TR:

Well, we have something in common.

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

TR:

His introduction to video games began with his older brother.

Brandon:

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!

TR:

Then?

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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.

Brandon:

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.

Brandon:

Take that!

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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

-– Metal Gear Solid music plays

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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

Brandon:

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.

TR:

So step Dad let Brandon figure it out.

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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.

Orlando:

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.

Orlando:

Let’s get it!

TR:

Again, I have something in common with my guest.

Orlando:

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.

TR:

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.

Orlando:

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?

Orlando:

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!

Orlando:

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!

Orlando:

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.

TR:

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

Orlando:

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!

TR:

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

Orlando:

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?

Orlando:
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.

TR:

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

Orlando:

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?

Orlando:
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.

TR:

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!

Orlando:

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.

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

TR:

But even first reading the menu requires some work.

Orlando:

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.

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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.

Brandon:

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?

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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.

Brandon:

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,?

Brandon:

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.

Boom!

–Jazzy hip hop music begins to play

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

Brandon:
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.

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

–laughs

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:

–Laughing

Nice!

TR:

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?

Eron:
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.

TR:

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.

Eron:

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.

TR:

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

Eron:
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.

–Laughs

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.

TR:

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

Eron:

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.

TR:

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

Eron:

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?

Eron:

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.

TR:

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

Eron:

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.

TR:

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

Eron:

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.

Brandon:

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.

Eron:

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?

Eron:

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.

TR:

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.

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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?

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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.

Brandon:
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.

TR:

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

Brandon:

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.

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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.

Orlando:

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.

TR:

And he tried a lot of platforms.

Orlando:

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:

Why?

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!

TR:

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.

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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.

Brandon:
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…

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

TR:

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.

Eron:

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.

TR:

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

Eron:

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?

TR:

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?

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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?

Brandon:

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.

Brandon:

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.

Brandon:

Oh yeah, they are, for sure are.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

Yeah, so that’s fantastic.

Brandon:

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.

TR:

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

Brandon:

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

TR:

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?

Orlando:

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.

Orlando:

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.

TR:

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.

Brandon:

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.

TR:

That’s, Brandon Cole AKA

Brandon:

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?

–Laughs….

Brandon:

Yes, yes. M A.

Brandon:

SuperBlindMa#1859 is my Battlenet tech tag.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

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

Brandon:

They sure can.

TR in Conversation with Brandon:

If they want to lose!

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

The podcast is at breakdownwalls.net/podcast 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.

TR:

Orlando!

Orlando:

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

Tr in conversation with Orlando:

And that was a Japanese Blind swordsman, right?

Orlando:

That’s exactly right!

TR:

And of course Eron.

Eron:

My twitch is X A N O D I A @ twitch.tv

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

–Laughs

TR:

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

-Airhorn

…members of the Reid My Mind Radio family!

Eron:

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

TR:

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 ReidMyMind.com

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
Peace!

Hide the transcript