Posts Tagged ‘Low Vision’

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: – When AI Comes for the Blind

Wednesday, March 8th, 2023

While all the world is talking about AI, Artificial Intelligence, the Blind community has been dealing with what appears to be the eminent take over for the past few years. That’s the adoption of AI and Text to Speech in Audio Description.

In this last BCAD Chat of 2022 we wanted to discuss the pros and cons of AI and TTS voices narrating Audio Description.

Use this letter as a template to personalize and express your concerns about TTS in AD.

Shout out to Scott Blanks & Nefertiti Matos Olivares for the draft.

Join Us Live

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

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* [Cheryl Green]*(https://twitter.com/whoamitostopit)
* Thomas Reid](https://twitter.com/tsreid)

Listen

Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

NEFERTITI: Welcome, welcome. Welcome. And welcome, everyone! Tell a friend if you haven’t already. This is a conversation all about TTS, text to speech, and audio description. Place, the place for TTS in audio description. Is there one? What is it? Do you hate it? Do you love it? If you love it, we are particularly interested in hearing from you tonight. I’d love to hear from people who might change my mind or might make me think a little differently about this topic, because, frankly, I am strongly against TTS.
THOMAS: So, the conversation is all about AI and TTS, mainly TTS. But I figure we should have a little conversation about both, because they’re sort of used together. And I think there is a little bit of a difference when folks talk about AI, or artificial intelligence, in the audio description space and then TTS or text to speech. And so, a little bit of the difference: the AI, artificial intelligence, that usually refers to, so, that is computers sort of learning on their own and adjusting, making changes, and doing the things that humans would usually have to program. But the artificial intelligence and TTS sort of amounts to, if you, which I’m pretty sure everyone here has probably heard audio description when the speech comes in, and then the sound is ducked, well, that’s the artificial thing that’s happening right there. There’s sometimes when it’s done via AI. It’s not a human who’s actually sort of mixing the sound. The artificial intelligence is saying, “Okay, I’m gonna put it here. I’m gonna duck this down, go back up when the speech is finished. I’m gonna duck now. The speech is coming in, so I’m gonna duck the track.” And then you’re gonna hear mainly the speech. “And then when it’s finished saying the audio description, I’m gonna go back up with the track.” And so, the film itself will start playing louder. It’s not clean. It’s sort of a jumpy thing, kind of takes you out. And it’s kind of annoying. It’s kind of annoying. So, that’s part of the artificial intelligence.
There’s some AI that I think they’re also working on when it comes to, I don’t know if anyone’s doing that right now, but actually writing the audio description, as far as I heard. I think that might be in the works if it’s not actually out there. If someone knows if it’s been done, you tell me. But then the TTS part is what we all know as the text to speech or the synthesized speech. That’s the computer who is taking the job of the narrator. And I just mean that on that particular film. I’m not making a blanket statement about these things taking jobs from narrators, but, you know, in a way it’s happening. [laughs] So, yeah.
And so, the questions that we usually get into, the discussion usually is sort of like pro or con. Do you like it? Do you not? Are you okay with it? So, we can start off there. But that’s really, I don’t think that’s really where wanna to stay, because right now, whether we’re pro or con, I think we need to think about that the industry and those who are really offering this and pushing this well, they’re very pro. And they’re pro, we know, because not because of the artistic value of synthetic speech, but they’re pro because they wanna save some money, and as I like to say, so Jeff Bezos can go to space and whatever else he wants to do with all that money. That’s a whole nother conversation. I don’t know what you can do with all that money, but whoo. Anyway. But apparently what you cannot do is provide good audio description! [laughs] I said it!
I wanted to frame the conversation, but Neff and everyone else, Cheryl, Scotts, I’d say the two Scotts, if y’all wanna talk about pro/con, because I think the thing that would be interesting, maybe we can make the argument, maybe we can even invite some folks up to take a side of pro and con first and just to sort of get that to hear why people might actually be pro and hear what their arguments are, because it’s always good to hear from folks.
CHERYL: Cheryl here, and I will say that I’m con. I’m firmly on the con side that Thomas laid out. But I wanna be clear that that is not because I’m a professional audio describer, and I am sad that a computer is taking my job. And I could be, but I feel like, as in the sighted describer community, the narrator community, voice talent community, we need to be careful that our main argument against it isn’t, “I might lose my job.” It is awful to lose the job, but the point that is important to me is that my job is about creating audio description for the audience to have a wonderful, immersive experience. So, it’s the audio description and the user’s perspective, I think, that really should be paramount here when we discuss it. I think it’s fine to have a conversation about jobs, but that might be a different space because these conversations are blind-centered audio description conversations. So, I would ask that if there’s voice talent in here, that we keep it centered on what is the experience the audience is getting? And I just don’t feel like TTS offers, and especially the AI-written stuff, it doesn’t offer the nuance. I’ve seen things where the description is focused just on that moment between dialogue, but there was no opportunity to hear a description about anything that happened before the dialogue. There’s no context. These lines sort of float in space and don’t seem to connect and make a cohesive whole. So, I’ll stop there and hand it over to anybody else. Thanks.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Scott Blanks?
SCOTT B: I am one who is against TTS in the vast majority of the media that is currently being audio described. Let me elaborate. So, when I think about the arts or entertainment broadly writ, I’m thinking about film, TV, stage, other creative presentations, art, artistic exhibits, things like that. I feel in those spaces that as things currently stand that TTS, as has already been mentioned by a few people, is, it is not what is going to make the experience a quality one, and it doesn’t make it an accessible one. The point of audio description is accessibility, and audio description can also be considered an art form. But even if you just consider it on the accessibility side, if the accessibility tool is a synthetic voice that is mispronouncing words, that is, as has been mentioned, there’s an odd rhythm or arrhythmia to it that takes you out of the experience, then your experience is not only not as immersive, it’s not as accessible. And that’s the point of audio description in all of the contexts that we know it right now, and in a lot of the context where we don’t know it.
And I would say if I were, if I were to be pro audio description through TTS narration, it might be in some of those spaces where there is no option right now. If there was a way to access information that scrolled on a TV screen, real-time, newsworthy information, that might be something that I could see because having the quickest access possible to that information is really critical. And I don’t think it would be feasible to think that we could have a human standing by 24/7 on literally thousands of different networks, TV stations, feeds, whatever to provide that. But I think we have to kind of keep our focus. Most of the professionals here, the professionals on this panel that I’m fortunate to be alongside here are audio describing or writing for audio description or providing other contributions to the audio description field through arts and entertainment. And in that space, I don’t see that TTS has a place in the provision of audio description in 2022.
NEFERTITI: Beautifully said. I could not agree more. All right, Scott Nixon, let’s hear from you!
SCOTT N: All right. I would like to conduct a small thought exercise for the sighted people in the audience today. You’re at an art museum. You’re, well, you’re at the Louvre. Okay. You’re standing in front of the Mona Lisa itself, its glory, its majesty, its beauty. You’re drinking it in with your eyes. Imagine for a moment you couldn’t actually see the painting. You couldn’t experience it the way everybody else experiences it, so you have an audio description device plugged into your ear. Would you prefer a member of the artistic community talking passionately about the magnificent painting you’re seeing before you, [imitates stiff robotic voice] or would you like a robotic voice explaining to you what it looks like? [back to regular voice] That is what we’re talking about with TTS.
I myself am vehemently anti-TTS for audio description because it robs something you’re watching of its soul, okay? I have watched sitcoms and movies and various other forms of media with TTS audio description, as, you know, as a curiosity over the years, and it really does take something away from the experience. Why should we as a blind community have to have a lesser experience than everyone else just because a company wants to save a couple of thousand bucks? It is literally a matter of a couple of thousand bucks between bad TTS and even minimally good audio description. So, why not do it? The simple answer is they don’t think we matter enough.
So, at the end of the day, this is something I always say when I’m talking to people about accessibility, audio description, accessible websites, all that sort of stuff, “You are a company. You are ostensibly here to make money. If you make a quality product and an accessible product that vision-impaired and blind people will enjoy, we talk. We talk to each other. We tell people when something is good. If you build it, we will send you sack loads of money. So, why are you sitting on your butts doing something that you shouldn’t be doing?” And that’s me done for now.
THOMAS as Audio Editor:

THOMAS as Audio Editor:
Hey Y’all, I just need to interrupt for a moment.
During this live conversation, we had a challenge getting our technology to work. Well, that we is really me.
We wanted to play a clip in order to have a sample to discuss.

Mmy technology is working today so even though we didn’t have the chance to discuss it, you can have a chance to hear the sample.

Check this out!

Downton Abbey clip:

Test to Speech Audio Description Narrator:
In the English countryside, a turn of the century train barrels past the lake

it rumbles by dead leaves and bare branch trees. puffs of white steam ripple out from its engine and below on to the rolling green hills.

On board a large black haired man in his late 40s peers out his window. Steam envelops the wires of utility poles.

In a village, a wire travels between quaint stone houses to a telegraph office.

NEFERTITI: Amazon Prime is where you can find this example. It’s a show that was hugely popular called Downton Abbey from our British neighbors over there across the pond. What isn’t beautiful about this experience is that as majestic as the show is, it has TTS. And the TTS says a lot of the things or is guilty of a lot of the things that Scott Blanks mentioned: mispronouncing names, misnaming names. So, in addition to the audio description script being kind of crappy, then on top of that, you have this robotic voice who, for those of you who are blind and in the audience who use a screen reader, it’s worse than like the Eloquence screen reader. Eloquence, for those who are not aware, is the most popular, widely used screen reader that blind people use to get around on the Internet, on PCs, on Windows machines. So, I mean, it’s just super distracting, really kind of offensive, and just not at all in keeping with the content, which is very dramatic and passionate! But then you have this [imitates robotic voice] TTS voice: The train rides down the rails. You know, it’s just, it’s, and not for nothing, but I sound great compared to the TTS just now. So, it’s just, it’s just so inappropriate.
SCOTT B: It’s Scott Blanks just to jump in. And if you’ve not ever enabled audio description on Prime video, you can do that once you start playback of an item. There should be an audio and subtitles option on your playback screen that you can access, and in there, you would wanna choose, in the case of Downton Abbey, English audio description.
SCOTT N: Just as an example of bad versus good, the American sitcom, The Big Bang Theory, huge hit in its day. Audio description turned up on Amazon Prime here in Australia about a year ago, and I was all gung-ho and ready to listen to it. I put on the first episode, bang. TTS. Completely robbed the show of its humor and its charm. I gave up after two episodes. Now, this year, HBO Max in America have apparently provided a human-narrated audio description track, and I was played a brief sample of it: 12,000% improvement. It gave the humor of the show. The audio description narrator was playing along with the jokes, smiling at the right times, frowning at the right times with his voice and all that sort of stuff. And it really did enhance the experience. So, the difference between TTS and human AD is like night and day. It’s just really a really important thing. And like I said, it helped to bring the soul of the show alive to the people who can’t see the soul that they put up on the screen. And that’s me.
THOMAS: In this conversation, TTS is sort of the demon. It’s the bad guy. But, you know, the technology’s not the bad guy. Like, we use TTS as blind people, as people with disabilities in general. We use TTS. TTS can, I love my screen reader. It gives me access. The screen reader is my input. It’s the way that I take in information. That is, that’s my access. The screen reader, that’s my guy! [laughs] Like, you know what I mean? Because he’s helping me out all the time. And then in order for me to have digital output, screen reader’s my guy. Like, I need him or her or them, right? And so, it shouldn’t necessarily be demonized. And I think that sometimes there are other people with other disabilities that make use of access technology, of TTS as well. So, Cheryl, you wanna talk about that?
CHERYL: Thanks, Thomas. I feel like you’ve framed it up so beautifully. The point that I wanted to make is that I have listened to different panels and read things and heard people arguing against TTS, which again, to reiterate, [chortles] I am not for TTS, especially as the Scotts pointed out, in a museum or a work of, a film, an art piece, an art film. But what troubles me is sometimes the reasons given end up incorporating a lot of ableist slurs and a lot of really harsh language, which I’ve heard none of tonight. But what I want us to be careful is, like Thomas said, to not demonize the technology. And for those folks who have a lot of communication through one of these systems where they’re typing or selecting images and some kind, a synthesized voice comes out, that’s communication. And so, it’s not the voice that’s “awful and soulless and inhuman.” I just want us to be careful. And when you leave this session and you go out and you promote or you speak about the harms and the problems with TTS, that you be careful to not be too ableist and throw augmentative and alternative communication users under the bus while insulting the sounds of these voices. It’s not the sound of the voice, it’s the application. And like Thomas was talking about, when the AI adjusts the volume of the soundtrack for this TTS to come in, it is like my head starts spinning. It’s just so jumpy. It’s so, it’s not artistic, and it doesn’t fit the vision of the film or the show. So, I’ll pause there.
THOMAS: And I also wanted to jump in with two podcasts ‘cause I think Cheryl, you had a podcast with a AAC user, and I think, so, if folks wanna kind of get to see how people use these devices and how it’s so intertwined with their life, that’s one. So, what’s the name of that podcast, Cheryl? I think it’s called Pigeonhole.
CHERYL: Oh, my! No, no. People should go to endever’s podcast. AAC Town is the podcast that endever* and their comrade, Sam, run. They’re both AAC users full-time or nearly full-time, and they have a podcast. It’s all transcribed. But yes, I did have endever* on my show, Pigeonhole, one time.
THOMAS: That’s what I was talking about.
CHERYL: Yeah.
THOMAS: You had them on your show.
CHERYL: But it was to talk about—
THOMAS: Let me do what I gotta do, Cheryl! [laughs]
CHERYL: OK! [laughs]
THOMAS: You always shout out my podcast, and so I wanna shout out yours. But mainly because it applies, right? I don’t wanna just shout, you know, I’m not just randomly shouting out podcasts. Although I do that around here. Every two hours I open up my window and I shout it out, “Pigeonhole!”
BOTH: [guffaw]
The other one is I was gonna say, now I am gonna do a promo of mine, is because I had a conversation with Lateef McLeod. And Lateef McLeod is a AAC user. And in that episode, we really go into some of the other issues around TTS that never necessarily get talked about. Lateef McLeod is an African American, and the voices that he had all his lives don’t really represent him until he got a voice that was a synthesized voice of a Black man. And so, you know, these issues are big, right? We always talk about it, like, these issues are really big. And so, and in that, Nefertiti was actually in that episode, too, where we did a little bit of a little skit about TTS that touches on a bunch of these things. So, anyway, it was a cool episode, I think. And so, both of those, check it out, and we get into these conversations as well. That’s it. I’m Thomas. I’m done.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. So, I think the summary here is let’s express ourselves, but be mindful to not sort of turn around while advocating for one accessibility, mm, putting down another, you know, or minimizing, punching down on another. So, I think that’s a great point. And we had a great clip to show you related to that, where human narration meets TTS and how it was used judiciously, minimally, but in a way that really drove home the point of where maybe it’s appropriate.
Scream Trailer from Social Audio Description Collective

AD Narrator – Nefertiti Matos Olivares:
The lights are on In a white suburban house at night. A silver cordless landline rings with the ID, Unknown Name.

In the kitchen, Tara pushes reject on the cordless while holding her smartphone. She is a thin light skinned Latina teen with long wavy dark hair pulled back in a ponytail.

She’s just texted

TTS Receiving Text Message:
Mom’s out of town again you should come over here. Free dinner, Many binge watch options.
AD Narrator – Nefertiti Matos Olivares:
Amber responds.
TTS Sending Text Message:
Have to do better.

TTS Receiving Text Message:
Unlock liquor cabinet.

— Landline phone rings

TTS Receiving Text Message:
You should answer it

TTS Sending Text Message:
How did you know my landline was ringing?
Amber?

TTS Receiving Text Message:
This isn’t Amber.

Tara speaking on landline:
This isn’t funny amber

Deep Menacing Voice over landline:
Would you like to play a game? Tara?

Suspenseful Crescendo closes the scene.

THOMAS: That had some really different reactions that I wonder where people stand with.
NEFERTITI: First, I wanna say that this is for a Scream trailer that the Social Audio Description Collective described. It’s a bit of a hacker horror type film. And we had a human narrating the audio description, but there was a scene between somebody who was on camera and somebody who was off camera, and they were texting one another. And so, we decided, full disclosure, I’m part of the Social Audio Description Collective, we decided that why not use a synth to say what those lines of texts were rather than having the human describer say them? Just like we blind people experience TTS all the time with our screen readers, etc., why not just put one of those voices to those text messages? And it was a very brief exchange but still sort of drove home the point.
CHERYL: It worked so beautifully because I’m watching the screen, and I’m seeing basically a computer screen, words pop up on a computer screen. So, hearing that screen reader voice read it was really cool. And it really uplifts, in my mind, the ingenuity and creativity of disability community. Like, who would’ve thought to do that besides people who interact with these voices all the time? I thought it was such an add to the, it elevated the art, I thought.
THOMAS: Yeah, and I think I remember that there were some comments from folks who I don’t think were blind who were very negative toward that text to speech being included in there. And it was like, wow, like this is totally my experience. This is a text message. That was what a text message sounds like to us.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: You know? And so, again, to me, highlighting that no, audio description should always center blind people. And so, blind people need to be a part of this, and blind people need to be a part of that conversation, which is part of my issue personally with, and so, advancing this a little bit, is the framing of this conversation of audio description and the way it’s been framed within the community by those outside of the community, those creating it, the corporations, right? Is that hey, TTS is good because you will get more. So, it’s either, if you want more audio description, then you take TTS. And that, framing TTS that way, is the biggest problem that I have with this entire subject is because we are being told we are being given options, and it’s two options, and we have never been consulted. And if they tell me that, “Oh, no, you were consulted as a community because we issued a survey that some folks got to fill out,” I don’t care about that. Because the thing is, is that it’s still based on that option that you give me. So, a lot of people would say, “Well, if these are my only two options, TTS or no audio description,” I can see why a lot of people would go that route.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: But that’s not the route, that’s not the choice that we should be given. Why are you giving us those two choices? Those aren’t really even choices. And so, that’s my, really, my biggest problem with this whole conversation. I think history sort of says that when large corporations get their hands on something and have it in their cold hands and their cold hearts [chuckles] to do something and to get it done and to save a penny or two, they’re gonna do it. It’s gonna happen. And so, right now, my concern is that is this conversation about pro or con, does it even matter at this point? Is this inevitable?
And so, should the conversation actually move into something else like, “Hey, Amazon, hey, you corporations, why don’t you, you should, you need to be including us in this conversation”? Because like Scott, I think Scott B., you mentioned some other opportunities where, you know, okay, wait. Text to speech, I’ll take it here. This would work. This would help my life here in this particular case. And I’m wondering if there are other examples of that, that apply to film. Can we talk about either this framing of no, of more AD with text to speech or not, but also, is this inevitable? Do y’all think it’s inevitable? Do we still have a chance to say no? Or should we be talking about, hey, let’s come to the “negotiation table” and have these conversations and find out where the blind community says, “Okay, this would work for us”? I wanna throw that out there.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm. And the blind community and our allies. Let’s never underestimate the power of allyship and togetherness. You know, this is accessibility.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: But it’s not to exclude our sighted allies. We center blind people here, but we are here, and we want to be part of the conversation just as much as our sighted allies have been already.
But I would like to hear a little bit from Scott Blanks about this idea that I’m sure is not exclusively something that, you know, just sort of a light bulb went off in his head, but something that he has taken and done something about. And it’s all about advocacy and a campaign of sorts. Because, Thomas, what you were saying about so, what are our choices? No description or TTS? And is this sort of the end of the road? Do we just let them do them being the cold-hearted, cold-handed, as you put it, companies out there to save a penny go the way of TTS, or do we do something about it? Can we do something about it? And I think that Scott has come up with a way that we can, if people get behind it. Scott Blanks, do you wanna talk a little bit about that?
SCOTT B: I have found that there are a lot of different ways to engage with companies, not just talking about audio description, but in so many different things. And particularly if you’re a person with a disability and unfortunately, you have to fight for a lot of stuff, small things, large things. Sometimes small things feel big. And there’s more of that than there should be. That’s a different topic, though. But I find that engaging with companies, it’s very easy to do that in places like social media and in sort of those public spaces. But what tends to be a little bit more of a lift for us, but also, I think has more impact on these companies, is when you start writing to them directly and when they start hearing from people in numbers.
So, one of the things that I did a few months ago was I took a run at a very basic, it’s sort of a template of sorts, a very, very rudimentary template that someone can take and use however they would like to reach out to, if they know of an entity who is providing TTS audio description, and they would like to talk about why they feel like that company should look at doing it a different way. This is a, it’s in a Google document that anyone can access. I would say the best thing you can do is connect to the LinkedIn audio description group, the Twitter community, or you can come find me on LinkedIn or anyone here really would probably be able to get you access to that link. It’s a public link, and it is available for anyone to view, copy, and do with as you see fit. But I believe it’s important. If companies don’t hear from us, and they’re doing a thing, then they think they’re doing that thing correctly. They believe that that’s how it should be done unless they start hearing from people.
And listen, I’m not under any sort of illusion that writing a bunch of letters is guaranteed to make a change. But I don’t like the idea of something becoming so rooted in, and the expectation is that this will be the way things are for now and evermore and thinking that we didn’t try hard enough. And I believe that part of advocacy is it’s not as flashy, but it’s getting those letters written. It’s getting that contact to these companies. And all of these c
THOMAS: Cool. Well, that concludes this week’s conversation. Why don’t y’all keep the conversation going on social media.
CHERYL: Use #ADFUBU, for us by us, #DescribeEverything, and #AudioDescription.
NEFERTITI: And hey, you know we’re out here, right? Mmhmm! Gathered and galvanized y’all. If you haven’t joined us yet, what are you waiting for?! You can find us in the LinkedIn Audio Description group and the AD Twitter community. We know that your participation will only make these spaces better.
Music fades out!

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: – Representation Really Matters

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2023

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

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

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

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

Join Us Live

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

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* [Cheryl Green]*(https://twitter.com/whoamitostopit)
* Thomas Reid](https://twitter.com/tsreid)

Listen

Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

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

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

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Describing Yourself

Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

Self-description continues to be a controversial subject, especially among those who are Blind or have low vision. We invited the community to come share their opinions; pro and con.

Join Us Live

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

To stay up to date with the latest information and join us live follow:
* Nefertiti Matos Olivares
* [Cheryl Green]*(https://twitter.com/whoamitostopit)
* Thomas Reid](https://twitter.com/tsreid)

Listen

Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

SCOTT B: Hey. Good afternoon, evening, morning, I guess in some cases, as you’ll hear from Scott Nixon in a moment. This is Scott Blanks. I am co-founder of the Audio Description Twitter Community as well as a audio description LinkedIn group recently formed. Happy to see people coming together around all manner of issues in audio description. Excited to talk today about self-description. We’ll get into that after we go through our intros. Scott Nixon, over to you.
SCOTT N: Good morning from Australia, everybody. It’s Scott Nixon here. I am co-moderator of the Audio Description Twitter Community, now featuring 501 members. Congratulations to everybody involved, especially Nefertiti and Scott B., who have done an absolutely magnificent job in getting this community off the ground and creating such a welcome and warm and caring community of like-minded people who want to forward the cause of audio description around the world, really. So, yeah. Thank you very much, everybody, and welcome. And I’m looking forward to a really great chat today.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. And thank you, Scott N. for being up so early and joining us.
SCOTT N: Yeah, it is 6 AM here. And yeah, the things I do for love.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] There you go. Excellent.
Folks, welcome, welcome to this latest Twitter Space. For those who can’t be with us live, thank you for catching it on the replay. Today should be, will be all about image description, the controversy of it, sort of the hi, why people like it, what we think is useful about it, why we think it should be a thing that sticks around. But also, those who are detractors, who don’t really care for it, who don’t think it’s important, it’s a waste of time, it’s extra sort of sensory overload, we wanna hear about all of it.
CHERYL: Actually, I’ll do a self-description to just get us started.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Thank you, Cheryl.
CHERYL: You bet. So, yes, I am Cheryl. I am a non-blind audio describer. I am for no particular reason wearing a bright orange, safety orange, down vest, even though I think it’s like 75 here. But it’s my comfort vest. It makes me happy. And let’s see. I am a white Ashkenazi Jewish woman with olive complexion and a froth, a frothy, fizzy, dark brown, curly, fuzzy hair that I’m so glad is not on camera! I love audio only.
SCOTT N: I’m Scott once again, a, let’s say, heavyset white gentleman with short brown hair with streaks of gray through it and a neatly trimmed salt and pepper beard, gray eyes, and I’m currently the wearing track pants and a red t-shirt.
SCOTT B: Hi. I am Scott. I’m a tall white man wearing a short-sleeved button down shirt with some…with some toucans on it. And I have green eyes…and a beard. And you can tell that I don’t actually do this so often. But that’s me! So, thanks for the chance for me to describe myself. And I think we have Thomas Reid in the house.
THOMAS: I got a really quick and simple one. I’m Thomas Reid. I’m a brown skin black man with a smooth-shaven bald head, a full, neat beard. And actually, I should say that it has a little bit of salt and pepper. [chuckles]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
THOMAS: And yeah, and I’m wearing dark shades, and I am seated in my vocal booth. Let’s put it right there. I’ll end it right there. There you go.
SCOTT N: Very nice. I’ve always thought it’s a bit of an Isaac Hayes vibe going on there, Thomas. [chuckles]
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Alrighty. So, in the spirit of doing a self-description, I like to keep it even quicker than Thomas. I am a Latina woman with brown skin, hair, and eyes. Boom.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Okay. So—
THOMAS: Does that mean you have brown skin, brown hair, brown eyes, or is it that you have brown skin with hair and eyes? [laughs]
CHERYL: [laughing] Stop!
NEFERTITI: I mean, yeah! All of it. [laughs] I have all those things. But no. Yeah, light brown skin, golden brown eyes, and dark brown hair.
THOMAS: Okay. All right. There you go.
NEFERTITI: So, a little more detail there, which is interesting. That’s one of the things we wanna talk about today: What makes for good image description, right? What’s too much? What’s not enough? So, Thomas, as our fearless host, you wanna get us started?
THOMAS: Sure. So, I guess why don’t we start off with a little bit about, I mean, we just went through the idea that these are self-description. So, that is a little bit of a definition, right? So, really, the opp-, a self-description is providing some information for folks who are blind or visually impaired or low vision, whatever the terminology is, and to provide access to some of that visual content—again, it is visual—and some visual information during meetings and conferences and things like that. Aight? Anybody wanna add to that sort of a quote-unquote definition about what a self-description is, so we’re all working with it, and we know when we’re using these, when they come into play? You think about Zoom conferences and live conferences when there’s a meeting, a person speaking, this is an opportunity for that person to sort of describe the information themselves, their own information. So, even if there was an audio description person present in such an event, I would say that it’s probably better to have a person describe themselves as opposed to having someone describe that person. So, I don’t know if anybody wants to add on to that or subtract. Subtract.
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti. I just wanna say that I absolutely agree with that. Better that it come from the person themselves than someone else. We could get vital details wrong, right?
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Based on, let’s say, a person’s skin color, you know, there’s tons of hues of brown, but there’s tons of nationalities and ethnic backgrounds and things of that sort, too, so you might mislabel someone. So, better to get it from the person themselves whenever possible, for sure.
THOMAS: But this topic has been a little bit controversial, so maybe we should take folks who are, why don’t we do a pro and con, right, almost meeting style where we allow folks to kind of take the floor for two minutes to talk a little bit about why you are pro or why you are con.
SCOTT N: Scott Nixon here. I am for, I am personally 100% for it. But I can also see some negative connotations, not necessarily connotations, negative aspects to it. Some people simply aren’t comfortable describing themselves or don’t feel confident in describing themselves. I have quite a few friends who are vision impaired who are also on the autism spectrum who have great difficulty expressing themselves, and doing something like describing themselves can be a source of great anxiety to them. So, in cases like that, I think we all need to be a little bit sensitive and aware that not everyone is going to be 100% comfortable and support them in whatever choice they decide to make. If they decide that they’re not comfortable describing themselves, we should let them just do whatever they’re comfortable with. So, really, at the end of the day, it really does come down to a personal choice as to whether someone does do the description or not. And if you don’t think they’ve done a good enough description, well, that’s your deal type thing. You don’t ask for more or less or whatever. You just let them to do what they’re most comfortable with.
THOMAS: That’s a fantastic point there, Scott. And I think for most folks, you know, we’re gonna talk a little bit about it, but we’re in the process of, some folks are in the process of writing up some guidelines, because that’s one of the things that we don’t have. And one of the guidelines— And I don’t think any, I don’t think I ever heard anyone ever say that it is absolutely mandatory. It is a suggested practice. It’s a practice about providing that, providing information. And so, I agree 100%. If it’s something that makes someone uncomfortable, by all means, I don’t think anyone would want you to make yourself uncomfortable at the, you know, in order to get some information. So, great point.
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti, and I 100%. It’s never, and never has it been, never should it ever be about making someone uncomfortable, right? We don’t want to prioritize access needs. If, for example, in Scott’s example, friends with, friends on the spectrum and it makes them anxious and all that, I do not think that my access needs should preclude or usurp those of someone with an anxiety disorder or on the spectrum, discomfort, etc., whatever it is. Where I have a problem—and maybe this is part of the con, I’m not sure, even though I’m very, very much pro. Don’t get it twisted, y’all. I think this is a very good practice that needs to stick around—other folks who say, “It’s useless, it’s pointless, it just wastes time. I’m here for X, Y, Z, topic, or meeting or whatever it is. And I don’t care what your skin color is. I don’t care that you’re wearing a blue blazer, you know? I don’t care that your whatever,” you know. So, yes. These folks that, these folks that want, their…their sort of dislike for the practice to do away with someone like me who thinks it adds great value to whatever setting I’m in. How was it that you put it, Thomas? Like, why should your…. I don’t wanna butcher it. But do you remember what I’m talking about, where you asked somebody point blank?
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Can you say that, please?
THOMAS: Yeah. It may not be verbatim, but I know I wrote it. But, you know, basically it’s like, why should…. Oh, damn. Now you got me all messed up.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Oh no!
THOMAS: Why should—
NEFERTITI: Sorry.
THOMAS: No, but. But my access, right, shouldn’t be limited by your, the fact that you don’t like it, right?
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: Why ruin my access, is what I was saying.
SCOTT N: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: Yes! Don’t curtail my access because it’s something that you don’t appreciate, or you can go through life without. That’s great. I’m glad. But I wanna go through life with it. So, you know, yeah. Thank you, Thomas. That’s what I was talking about.
CHERYL: This is Cheryl. Can I jump in for a second?
NEFERTITI: Please.
CHERYL: Because, Thomas, the way I remember it, you didn’t even mention access. ‘Cause I think a lotta people get on the access conversation. They don’t go a step deeper. You went a step deeper, and I think you said something like, “Why are you trying to withhold information from me?”
THOMAS: That’s right.
CHERYL: Or “why are you trying to exclude me from this conversation?” So, I really appreciated that because it does go to the heart of it. And that’s, I also agree with what Scott Nixon said. If it is an access conflict, if you can’t or are not comfortable or not, for any reason, it doesn’t meet your access needs to self-describe, that’s a different, that’s different. That’s fine. But if it’s just like, “I don’t like this. I don’t see why people have to say they’re white,” then you are excluding somebody who could benefit from that description. Audio 5000.
THOMAS: Audio 5000. [chuckles]
SCOTT N: Exactly right, Cheryl. Scott Nixon here again, folks. It’s exactly right. The exclusionary side of it and wanting to know. I understand that there are people out there who’ve been totally blind from birth and who don’t have a necessary concept of color, tone, that sort of thing. And once again, that’s perfectly understandable. And for them, they may not need to or want to understand that someone’s wearing a blue jacket or a red shirt or whatever like that. And when it comes to skin tone, it can sometimes be the same thing. Some people, who, for lack of a better term don’t see or need to see color. But for me personally—I can only speak from my experience—I find it incredibly valuable to recognize someone’s ethnicity, background, culture, or that sort of thing, and that all comes into that. And yeah, so, I think it’s a really, really important thing.
And sometimes I can be quite surprised by what I learn. I was speaking to someone in the audio description field some time ago, and I had always assumed that he was African American. And then I find out that the guy has what we call a “computer tan,” which means whiter than white. And my mind just completely changed over what my, you know, I have like a mental picture of him, and I just instantly changed it over. And it’s not that my attitude changed or the way I talk to him changed or anything like that. It was just that my mental Rolodex instantly changed the skin tone, and I had a better example of who they were like. And Batmobile.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Scott N. I think that’s a really good point too. I’ve thought people were white before, and they haven’t been, because of how they speak. I get that a lot sometimes too. People think I’m white. It’s like, no. Do we wanna hear from Scott B. before we open it up to folks who want to come up and speak?
SCOTT B: I don’t know. Do you? [laughs]
NEFERTITI: I mean, I always do, Scott B., but do you wanna speak?
SCOTT B: Yes! I’ll jump in, and so then we can make some room for people up here, too. I’m definitely a pro self-description from a personal perspective. As a congenitally blind person, no light perception since birth, yes, I’m in that space of someone who has not seen those colors and who only has sort of a conceptual understanding of what different colors are. For me, self-description is, in many cases, it’s less about things like the red jacket, the blue kerchief. It is, I’m really interested in understanding who I’m interacting with. I wanna know if someone describes himself. I am very interested in gender, in race, in things like that, because I think from, again, my personal perspective is that we are in a society where those things are really important. And I can’t put myself in that position of saying race doesn’t matter because I feel like it does. It always has, and it probably always will one way or another. And as a blind person, if I don’t have that information, then I am at a disadvantage. And so, wherever I can have that playing field leveled it feels like I can be more a complete part of the conversation. And if I get information about what people are sporting, hairdos, things like that, that’s just, that’s frosting on the cake.
And then the last thing I’ll say is my only sort of concern about it is, and I think this is where things like guidelines can help, is that when someone schedules a meeting, there’s ten people in the meeting, and it’s a 15-minute meeting, and everyone’s gonna go around and give a description, you’ve lost much of your time. And I think there is like a balance, right? How do we balance between access and actually getting something done? So, that is the kind of thing that the guidelines can address and people doing this more and just getting into the habit of it, becoming more smooth. I mean, the way that folks like Thomas and Nefertiti rattled off their descriptions, I aspire to this. I need to work on mine. But, you know, that’s, I think, where you see some people pushing back against description ‘cause they’re in a meeting, and they sit through 10 minutes of description, and there’s five minutes left in the meeting. So, there’s a need for balance. And I think that’s an easy thing for us to achieve. And especially for the value of the access that’s provided by self-description when it can be shared by people far outweighs the little bumps in the road like this. That’s it for me.
THOMAS: I wanna go to meetings where Scott is because they’re only 15 minutes. [laughs]
SCOTT B: [chuckles] You don’t. You don’t, actually. [laughs]
THOMAS: Probably not. You’re right. But they’re fast, though, 15-minute meetings. But no, you have a fantastic point, and it’s a very true point. And I think that would, even for those who favor audio description, you’re quite right. The fact that—I’m sorry favor self-description—the fact that yes, they can take up a lot of time is a problem. But it’s not a problem to throw it away, right?
SCOTT B: Absolutely.
THOMAS: It’s a problem to get fixed. Right.
SCOTT B: Right. You don’t say, “Oh, it’s not working, so we’re just gonna stop.”
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT B: That’s not how we approach this or many other things.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
SCOTT B: But a lot of people like to do that.
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And so, right? So, part of those guidelines should, are going to include, and they do, most people will tell you keep it less than a minute. I personally say that your whole introduction shouldn’t exceed a minute. And so, if you’re going around a table and introducing yourself, this is something that I think we all need to sort of take a look at and improve, the same way you tell business owners to have an elevator pitch, right? Even just not business owners. I mean, we say that. We hear that from career counselors. This could be sort of looked at the same way. This should be part of your elevator pitch in meetings that are online meetings and things like that where this is going to be done. And just think about it in advance.
The thing that I find really interesting about this argument is that it’s forcing people to think about things that either they never had to or they don’t want to that often come, you know, are aligned with the idea of white privilege. And to me, quite honestly, the most that I hear in terms of the negative feedback, like “we shouldn’t do this” are actually from mainly white folks who don’t have to describe themselves, who are not used to describing themselves. They didn’t have to. They don’t look at their color. Their color has never been a part of the conversation. Where you ask any person of color, whether they’re light, whether they’re dark, their lightness or their darkness is part of a conversation. Whether it be internal in their own community or externally in public, it comes up. And so, we are quite used to describing the color of our skin, right? We are quite used to that. For some of us, it can definitely save your life. So, this is the thing that we have to be very cognizant about. But the idea that it’s forcing people to sort of think about their own privilege and come to realize that it exists, wow. That, I guess, is kinda tough. That can be really rough for people. But, hey, it’s something that we should be doing.
So, again, whether it be audio description or whether it be self-descriptions, right, it goes beyond what you think it’s all about. And to me, if we’re really going to look at this thing called white supremacy, if we’re really gonna be talking about diversity, equity, and inclusion, and all of this stuff, and we want people to include disability, and we want access and all that, well, you know, we’re gonna have to look at the whole thing. We can’t just look at the blindness. We’re gonna have to look at all of those intersections, and we’re gonna have to challenge all of these things. And freaking description is a beautiful way to start doing that. So, maybe you’re not comfortable with it, but that’s okay. We all have to do a little bit if we want to make this world a little better place. So, description is actually a part of that, so. Thomas out.
NEFERTITI: Yes, we all— Thomas Reid, everybody! [chuckles]
SCOTT N: Absolutely. But I just wanted to thank Thomas for the mention there of white privilege. The greatest example of that in recent times is what happened with Vice President Kamala Harris when she was at an event, and there were several vision impaired people around. So, she gave a self-description of herself, which I thought was absolutely fantastic. It was clear, concise, gave us a little bit more information, gave us a nice little extra card for our visual Rolodexes. And my God, did the fragile white boys lose their little minds online about how unnecessary it was, how stupid it was. All of this ableist language was flying around. And I’m trying to explain to them that this is valuable information and things like that. But in time, I eventually ended up giving up because once you start arguing with someone who identifies himself as #FloridaMan, you know you’ve already lost the fight. So, just trying to get past that sense of entitlement that so many people have.
And look, I, at the risk of sounding mildly controversial, I’ll put it out there that a lot of people of all different races have this similar issue that, “Oh, I don’t see race. I don’t recognize race,” dah dah dah dah dah, all that sorta stuff. But for some people, it’s critically important, as Thomas said. So, yeah, I believe that it is important. And us trying to educate people on how important it is for us, for those of us who are into it—I know there are some detractors out there—but I think it’s really, really important to show them and help them understand that this is something that is as important to us as them being able to go up to someone and say, “Yo, what kind of car do you drive?” Scott out.
NEFERTITI: Beautiful. Thank you, both Thomas and Scott and the other Scott, [giggles] both Scotts. I think the takeaway from what I just heard is that we need to keep getting comfortable with our discomfort, and that blindness is not where it stops, right? It’s just where it begins. It’s a systemic situation we’re trying to battle here, and description is a really great way to do that. So, we have Robert Kingett with us. Robert, would you like to speak?
ROBERT: Yay! Cool beans. Okay. So, I am gonna repeat most of what others have said here. But to give a little self-description of myself, I’m a pale white male with one blue eye and one green eye, and I have a short nose, and that goes along with my short stature. So, there you go. As for the self-description debate, I’m very, very pro self-description. If you have an access need that makes, that you have social anxiety or something, it’s totally okay if you want to opt out of self-description. But what I have a problem with is fellow blind people trying to take away my right to information. You, as a blind person, don’t have any right whatsoever to take away my access, period. If sighted people don’t have the right, what makes you think you have the right?
Lastly, I mean, self-descriptions could help in multiple ways. For example, it can help you craft elevator pitches. Most importantly, it can teach you to be a better listener. When I listen to self-descriptions, I’m listening for the words that people use and how they use those words to describe themselves ‘cause it tells me a lot about a person depending on what words you choose to use to describe yourself. And that’s it. I’m all done. [chuckles]
CHERYL: This is Cheryl here. Thank you, Robert. I’m wondering if now would be a good moment to listen to another really cool example of a self-description that I believe Thomas might have cued up. Is now a good time for that? Or we can move to Gretchen, who just became a speaker, while we wait for Thomas or Nefertiti. Gretchen, do you wanna have a moment to speak?
GRETCHEN: Very excited about these two minutes. So, thank you. My name is Gretchen Maune. I am a pale 40-year-old white woman with chin length, brown hair in a bob, wearing dark denim overalls, and a Sailor Moon t-shirt ‘cause I’m really channeling the ‘90s today, so. [laughs] I am blind. And just to give you a little perspective, I went blind in my mid-20s, about 15 years ago. And I also, just to call back to what some people were saying, I am autistic, and I live with anxiety. So, I am definitely pro self-description, and my perspective is that I want access to all the information that my sighted peers have and all the information I used to be able to have access to when I was sighted. For me, it’s about inclusion, first and foremost, and that’s really important to me. Also, I, this is probably controversial based on what some folks have said, but I say if a meeting is rather short and the audio, self-descriptions rather, would take up a lot of time, allot more time in the meeting for it and plan for that.
The three ways that I find it useful, well, first, I mentioned the inclusion. It makes me feel more a part of things because most of the people I spend time around are sighted. And so, I’m getting access to what they have access to. Second is that, well, I guess going back to what one of the Scotts—sorry, can’t remember which one—mentioned is that being able to have that perspective. I know amongst many of my friends and folks that gender and race are very important, and the way they present themselves is important. And so, being able to have my mental image of that is important in my Rolodex, if you will. But also, if I’m in an in-person meeting, it’s been very helpful before when people have described themselves to then later on, after the speaker’s done, the presentation’s over, to talk to a sighted friend and be like, “Hey, I can’t remember the person’s name, but they said they were white and wearing a red jacket. Can you help me find that person so I can go talk to them for a minute?” when you’re in a big group or something so I can go have a conversation with them. That can be very helpful, and I have taken advantage of that information before so I can locate a person.
Another thing is that one time I found out that someone was wearing some awesome white cane earrings, and I didn’t even know such a thing existed. And later on, found some for myself on Etsy. So, that was another thing I liked about getting a description is finding out about, oh, their hair sounds really cool, or their earrings sound cool. But those are all different reasons for me. Thank you so much.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Gretchen! I want those earrings, too! Oh, my God.
NEFERTITI and GRETCHEN: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: They sound amazing! Wow. And thank you for being with us in this space and making such great points. Yeah, I love that idea of, “Hey, help me find that person with the red jacket.” If you’re in a room with however many people remembering a name, I don’t know about y’all, but that’s really difficult for me. But having something like, oh, okay, cane earrings, let’s go find that person, that’s really useful. Thank you. That’s a great example. Thomas, are you with us?
THOMAS: I am with you. And I know who that person is, too, with the cane earrings. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Yeah?!
THOMAS: That’s her thing. Yeah! That’s Cathy, Cathy Kudlick. Yeah. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: That is so, I love that. Wow. Love it.
THOMAS: So, let’s see. I think I have what we’re looking for. Let’s see if it works. I set it up real quick. Let’s see if this works. I’ll give this for Gretchen. Let’s see if you hear it. [air horn blasts]
NEFERTITI: Hey!!!!!
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
CHERYL: Yes!
THOMAS: All right, all right.
NEFERTITI: I love that sound! [giggles]
THOMAS: All right. Well, tell me what you think about this one, then.
[recorded clip plays, starting with a bit of cute, cheery music, then Nefertiti’s voice comes on as Meggy Eggy]
MEGGY EGGY: Oh, Meggy Eggy’s in the building, folks. Whoo! This is so fun already.
MOLLIE: Before we get too far, would you like to introduce yourself to our listeners?
MEGGY EGGY: Oh, of course. Hi, listeners. I’m Meggy Eggy, like I said, but my real name is Meg. My pronouns are she/her, and I’m an egg timer! A very cute little yellow timer in the shape of an egg with numbers in a circle around my waist. I’m a kitchen timer, so you can use me when you need to set a time for two minutes or one hour. Whatever you need, Meggy has got you covered! [delighted giggle] Oh, and I speak Spanish. ¡Qué bien! [recorded clip ends]
THOMAS: Okay. Y’all explain? Explain, Nef! [laughs]
SCOTT N: Just before Nef does that, I would just like to say that I have just suffered a cuteness overload.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: Wow. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s me as Meggy Eggy on the Mystery Recipe Podcast, part of America’s Test Kitchen Kids! And I’m honored that y’all wanted to play that. That’s so cool.
SCOTT N: It was efficient, too. It got it done, like, one, two, three.
THOMAS: Absolutely.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. I mean, it has a lot of information, right? She’s yellow, she’s an egg timer, she tells you what she can do. She can speak Spanish. I mean, a lot of information. And how long was that? Like, 30 seconds, maybe?
SCOTT B: Probably 30 seconds. Yeah. I’m guessing.
MEGGY EGGY: [recorded portion plays on a loop with the cheery music behind it] Whoo this! Whoo! Whoo this!
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: Okay. Remix!
THOMAS: Oh, you want the remix? Okay. Hold on, hold on. Wait.
NEFERTITI: Uh-oh.
THOMAS: We gonna do, gonna do the remix. Let’s see. Here we go. You ready?
MEGGY EGGY: [sound effect like a tape rewinding] Oh, Meggy Eggy’s in the building, folks!
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: This is what happens when you have a skilled producer as a co-host, you guys. How fun.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: How fun. I’m gonna have you help me put my, one of my reels together, Thomas, just so you know. Anyway.
THOMAS: Ah. [air horn blasts]
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: So, yeah! You guys, this is a major podcast who has this character as an intern for Season Six, and she is, she identifies as blind, low vision, visually impaired, etc. And not only do the folks on the podcast just make it like, “Okay, you tell us you can get around in the kitchen and you know what you’re doing and all that, we’re gonna trust that you’re telling us the truth about that. And if you need help, then you’ll let us know when.” So, that’s fantastic, super good representation and modeling there. But also, this self-description just as part of introducing herself to the young chefs, the listeners, and their grown-ups, I think, is a really fantastic example of what we’re talking about here today. And this is making it to the children. Hopefully those children will grow up with the understanding and the belief that this is okay and even necessary.
THOMAS: Yeah. And setting this precedent as about access, right? We’re talking about access at the end of the day and just making it, you know, normalizing it, right, just really normalizing this thing so we don’t have, “What are they doing?” You know, we don’t have all of that nonsense going on. So, I think that’s part of it.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. #NormalizeAccess.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. For real.
CHERYL: This is Cheryl. I wanted to weigh in on that, too, ‘cause I think I was pushing that we play that clip ‘cause I just, I love it so much. It’s a great description. It’s succinct, and it’s mixed in with all this other information about your character. She speaks Spanish. She’s a yellow egg timer. Like, it’s just part of the description. And I thought that that, it’s just so beautiful as a part of a well-rounded description of who you are. And I have heard on the other side people say—and I think sometimes this is used as a straw man—I’ve heard some people say, “You shouldn’t do self-descriptions because you will never be able to describe every single thing about what you look like. And so, that’s just not fair. And why do you get to pick and choose?” And I mean, it’s a straw man. It’s not, like, that argument is just it…it’s not looking for a really genuine answer. But, you know, Meggy Eggy, the egg timer doesn’t just wear glasses. I looked at her. She’s got gigantic, oversized, retro round eyeglasses.
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
CHERYL: She has hash marks around her waist, not just numbers, but hash marks where the numbers are. Did you say all that? No. Do we still know a lot about Meggy Eggy? Yes. And so, you don’t wanna, I guess, throw the baby out with the bathwater. You’re never gonna be able to describe every single thing. Especially if you’re in a meeting with Scott, and you only have 15 minutes, you can’t describe.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
CHERYL: It would be a 14-and-a-half minute description for one person.
SCOTT B: Right.
CHERYL: But that’s not a reason to not do it. And part of making this space welcoming and accessible and safe is to allow people to say some things about their description, and they’re not gonna say all. Because some people, it’s not safe for them to say all the description. Some people may have a kind of dysmorphia where bringing it up to a bunch of strangers is a really bad thing for them. But like we talked about earlier, not making it mandatory, but making it part of a negotiable accessibility practice seems like a fine way to try to do it.
MEGGY EGGY: Ooh, this is so fun already!
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
SCOTT N: Love it. Thomas—
CHERYL: Thomas, please follow me around every day with your machine.
THOMAS: [laughing] Yeah, exactly.
SCOTT B: Play our cards with sounds when we fall down. Do all of it.
SCOTT N: Yeah. Just, Scott Nixon here again, just going back to what Cheryl was just saying there about some people being uncomfortable, maybe, about describing themselves because of dysmorphia or things like that. You may’ve noticed at the top of the hour when we were giving our initial descriptions, I hesitated for a moment before calling myself a heavyset gentleman. That is because I am currently having a bit of a struggle with my weight. But then I remind myself that my physical frame is a part of who I am, and I shouldn’t be embarrassed by the current state of my scars or anything like that. So, giving me that little extra push to describe myself that little bit more was a good thing. But, as Cheryl said, some people may be uncomfortable with that, and we have to respect people’s wishes it comes to that sort of thing.
NEFERTITI: Here’s a question for you all. A bit of a…of something I just thought, thanks to Scott N.’s most recent contribution. There’s someone on social media who I’ve encountered who is blind, and I’ll say “they” ‘cause I don’t really wanna gender them. They…describe themselves in a way that doesn’t quite match up with what sighted people would say about them. So, what do we feel about that? Is that something we should be wary of? Like, okay, you’re giving me information, but is it accurate information? And who’s to make that judgment? For example, if this person thinks that they have, say, an hourglass figure, and a sighted person would be like, “Uh…no. You’re more like an apple,” does that matter to us? Should it matter?
THOMAS: That’s an interesting question. I think it goes back to the fact that it’s a self-description.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: So, I feel like if this is how the person sees themselves, you know, who are we to say about true or false? I mean, that gets to a, yeah, I don’t think we can do that. I think what we have to, we have to sort of be…. I think we have to come in this with the idea that folks are going to be true to what this is about.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: And, but I can’t, you know, if I— All right. So, maybe not as, but I leave out, occasionally because I don’t remember, that my beard is salt and pepper, right? And so, thinking about this more now, I’m like, well, wait, no. My beard is salt and pepper. That’s right. I should say that that is. I should sprinkle that in, right? [chuckles] I should sprinkle that in, into my description. But that’s my choice. If I leave it out, I’m not necessarily lying. But if this person sees themselves having an hourglass, maybe this is part of their, this is part of their vision board. Maybe this is where they’re heading. And so, if they wanna affirm that, you know, aight. Yeah, go ahead, girl! I’m thinking it’s a girl ‘cause the girl would say that, right?
NEFERTITI: Get it, girl!
THOMAS: So, yeah, I’d be like, I’m in support of that if that’s where you trying to go. I’m also in support if you a apple, you know. I love me some apples. But anyway, [laughs] but, you know.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Like….
NEFERTITI: [still laughing]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
THOMAS: But I’m just trying to say, like, [laughs] I shouldn’t have say that. But I…. [busts a gut laughing]
NEFERTITI: [laugh-crying] Thomas!
THOMAS: I’m just trying to say that, you know, if the, we gonna have to give people the benefit of the doubt, I think. And the idea is that, you know, because if a person comes into the room who is sighted and says that, and somebody’s like, “Well, you an apple. You’re not a hour-.” Who are they, you know, who’s to, I don’t feel like someone should be policing this. I really don’t. That makes me uncomfortable, so. Thomas, I’m out. And when I meant apple, I meant Granny Smiths. I meant red apples. [laughs]
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laughs]
CHERYL: Cosmic crunch.
THOMAS: Macintosh, you know what I’m saying.
SCOTT N: Absolutely, Thomas. I mean, you know, if say, just for example’s sake, you’ve got two sighted people at a party. A person walks in wearing a bright orange jacket, green pants, yellow shoes, and they think they look like the absolute business, and they think they’re con-, they feel confident. They feel sassy. They feel great about themselves. And then you got this other person on the other side of the room going, “Oh, my God! Look at that absolutely disgusting color explosion over there.” It’s two people’s opinions. And for me, I will take the person who is wearing the outfit rather than the person on the other side who’s giving you an opinion about the outfit. It’s all about self-expression. It’s all about self-worth and things like that. If people wanna talk themselves up a little bit in their description, hell, why not? If I had a nice, smooth, bald, shaven African-American head, dude, I would be blasting that from the rooftops ‘cause, you know, that’s a good look, man.
THOMAS: Thank you, sir.
THOMAS and SCOTT N: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, interesting. I think, you know, my question, I think, leaves a lot of open room for judgment and for things of that sort, and that’s not what this is about, right?
THOMAS: Mm-mm.
NEFERTITI: This is about access to information, plain and simple.
THOMAS: But on the other hand, right, like that’s what folks do with the information. And so, we’re not policing what anybody does with this.
NEFERTITI: Right.
THOMAS: If blind folks wanna be judgmental about it, well, go ahead. That’s what you wanna do, that’s what you wanna be.
NEFERTITI: That’s a very human thing, blind or not.
THOMAS: That’s a human thing. That’s right. That’s right. So, absolutely. So, it’s the access to the information isn’t about policing what you do with that information at all. At all.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm, mmhmm. Absolutely.
All right, folks. Well, I think this has been super interesting. I wish we would’ve gotten some folks who don’t like it come up and make their case for it. Sorry we missed you, but maybe if this conversation comes back around, you out there listening right now who are like, “Nope. I’m a detractor,” maybe next time you’ll wanna share with us.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: And you all know you can always keep the conversation going in the Twitter, Audio Description Twitter Community. You know what I say? If you’re not a member, what are you waiting for? We just hit 500 members. I think we’re at 501! Whoo.
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: And, you know, you can always keep the conversation going also with the hashtag AD for us, by us. That’s ADFUBU. Do we have any closing remarks?
THOMAS: Well, I do wanna say, I’m just gonna do a little promotion of a episode coming out later on this month that is gonna continue this topic and is gonna talk more about the guidelines that are sort of being formed and who’s forming it and possibly participating in that maybe ‘cause we have already. It’s an episode with Haben Girma, and I think it’s gonna be a cool episode. So, take, you know, get ready for that on the, on Reid My Mind Radio. It’s gonna be a conversation Haben Girma all about self-descriptions, and we’re talking about the guidelines, talking about some of these same issues and how to approach it. So, I like her take on things.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Looking forward to that for sure. Haben Girma, for those who are not in the know, is a DeafBlind activist, lawyer, and just all-around wonderful person who’s out there every day fighting the good fight. So, I’m really excited that she’s on your show, Thomas.
THOMAS: She part of the family now. Yeah, she part of the family.
NEFERTITI: Heck yeah. Nice, nice. All right. Do we wanna quickly go through, or do we wanna just throw out there what would make for good description? I know this is something we talked about, giving people tips on what makes a good description.
THOMAS: The guidelines are coming. But I think right now I would say, you know, think about it in advance, right?
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh, uh-huh.
THOMAS: If you’re a person who’s going to be sort of facilitating a meeting, it would be great to let folks know that you’re going to do that so folks can think about it in advance. Put time limits on it, like we talked about. Be concise. Think about describing the things that are in the line of vision for someone. If you’re on a Zoom, ain’t no need to really talk about that painting on the wall in your bedroom if you’re not, you know, if that’s not behind you.
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh.
THOMAS: So, things like that. And just keep it to what’s visible. I don’t need, you know, don’t talk about your shoes ‘cause nobody sees your shoes.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: So, that sort of thing.
NEFERTITI: Most of the time, people are shoeless and pantless anyway!
THOMAS: Yeah. And please don’t talk about that, so.
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
SCOTT N: [snort-laughs]
THOMAS: So, yeah, I mean, we can—
NEFERTITI: Absolutely.
THOMAS: This is doable.
NEFERTITI: And really quick, something that I think Gretchen said, which was wonderful, which is, “Hey, for you facilitators out there, build time into whatever you’re doing for this practice.”
THOMAS: Exactly.
NEFERTITI: I think that’s hugely important.
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT N: Yeah, absolutely. Yeah. Just thanks to everyone for being involved. And like Nefertiti said, if you are someone who does have an opposing view to those held by the majority or even one or two people in the space, please come in and talk to us. We aren’t gonna bite. We are going to listen to you. We’re not gonna shut you down or anything like that. It’s a, you know, we try and make a kind and welcoming space here and something that everyone can be a part of. So, pros, cons, whatever, please be a part of it.
And just before we go, I have a quick announcement to make. As I have mentioned in a couple of Spaces so far, I am planning to begin my journey into becoming an audio description narrator, and I have decided to chronicle this on the community. So, keep an eye out for it. It’s gonna be under the hashtag #BrokenEyesVO, and I’m gonna be talking about everything from setting up my rig to hopefully my first job and moving forward as I move into the career to hopefully give a bit of advice and even inspiration to people who want to become a part of the audio description community. Because there are many blind narrators out there, and I know a lot of companies who are looking for more. So, keep an eye out for it, and be a part of it. Ask me questions as I go along. I’m more than happy to answer them. And ladies and gentlemen, that’s me for today. I have been Scott Nixon. And I’m going back to bed!
NEFERTITI: Whoo! I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares, and I approve this message.
Thank you, everybody. Thank you, Cheryl, Thomas, Scott B. Scott N., Gretchen, and Robert as our two guests who came up to the Space. Really appreciate hearing from you all. All right, y’all. Thank you again for such a wonderful time. This was a great hour or so.
SCOTT B: Quality conversation, as always. Thanks, everyone.

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

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Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Talking Training

Wednesday, January 18th, 2023

Adding on to our last conversation, we continue discussing how more Blind people can get involved in Audio Description. What are the available training options and ways to find opportunities?

Join Us Live

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

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

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Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

NEFERTITI: Hello, everybody! I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. I am your Mistress of ceremonies or Spaces, whatever tonight! And I’m here with Cheryl Green and Thomas Reid and the two Scotts: Scott Blanks and Scott Nixon, moderators of the Audio Description Twitter Community, which as I always say, if you’re not part of it, what are you waiting for? Get over there.
Tonight, we are going to talk about training. Let’s talk about training, pulling back the curtain on audio description trainings for blind people. Yeah. Thomas, kick us off.
THOMAS: Cool, cool. Well, hey, everybody. Yeah. So, the idea this week was to talk about, more about training and really sort of pull back the curtain about getting started. That was, I think that was the theme or something like that, right?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: So, I have a couple of segments here that I think we can talk about. And we don’t have to use these, but these are just some suggestions ‘cause I was thinking about it. And one, the first one I’m calling “know thyself.” And I’ll go into them, but let me just tell you about the other ones before I say it. But the first one is know thyself. And I think it’s a real, real important part to get started. And then we’re talking about the fundamentals. The second part is really talking about the fundamentals that we need to really be aware of when we’re talking about audio description—I mean, really, to be honest with you, anything, any sort of profession that you want to get into as a blind person—but specifically audio description today. And then we’ll go and talk about some of the things that you could be doing right now that you don’t have to wait for. And then I wanna talk a little bit about your interest in AD or the various places that we can go when we talk about AD. ‘Cause right now, I think we’re only thinking one area, and there’s multiple areas within AD that we can really, really talk about and think about getting into and how to and explore that.
So, the first idea of knowing thyself, okay? The one thing I wanted start with is we really need to understand that audio description, even before we go any further, you need to know that audio description, I don’t think right now I would be able to classify that—and Nef, you jump in, you tell me—but I don’t think we can classify that as a job. I think we can call it maybe, you know, for-hire work, freelance work, or something like that. But it is not a job. And therefore, there are some things that you should really sort of know about yourself if you really are trying to pursue this. Would you say AD is a job, Nef?
NEFERTITI: I would say that audio description is firmly in the gig economy. It really is, “Hey, I’ve got this series, movie, whatever, and I think you’d be a good writer for it. Are you available? Yeah? Okay, here you go. Have it to me in three days, one day, a week. This is what you’ll get paid.” And you keep it moving ‘til the next one. Same for narrator, same for QC. Engineers, that might be a little different story. I’ve met a number of on-staff engineers. And there are staff writers. There are.
THOMAS: Yes, yes.
NEFERTITI: But for the most part, what I have found is that it’s absolutely just gig, not like a 9 to 5.
THOMAS: Right. So, the fact that it’s not a 9 to 5, the thing that you have to ask yourself is, well, do you like to hustle? And I’m not talking about the dance from the ‘70s. And yes, I like to do that hustle too. [laughs] But do you like to hustle, meaning sort of get out there and find the work on your own? Because that’s a lot about, you know, that’s part of it. You have to sort of market yourself. And so, that’s a hustle. And that’s not, quite honestly, if we think about the way we as a society sort of think about careers and jobs, that’s not, we’re not raised like that. And so, if you’re sort of coming out of the traditional work environment or even school or whatever the case may be, you really have to give that some consideration ‘cause there’s lots of things that are involved with that.
I think another piece of that is to really sort of figure out what your goal is because with that freelance, maybe, you know, maybe you just kind of wanna, you wanna dip your toe in the water a little bit. You just wanna try AD. That’s cool. That’s, some people just freelance once a year with a certain type of project on something that they wanna do. That’s perfectly fine if that’s your goal. But really have a good understanding of where you’re trying to go, you know? Yeah. I mean, I don’t know if you wanna add anything to that, Nef, in terms of the hustle. What do you think? What would you say about the hustle of AD?
NEFERTITI: I would say that coming into this space, you have to remember that, yeah, this may be something that you wanna do as a career, and that aspiration is perfectly reasonable and fantastic. And we wish you all the luck in the world. But yeah, it’s, again, unless you get a position at a company as a staff writer who does narration or what have you, it’s important to be clear that this is something that’s gonna take a lot of drive on your part. And yeah, if you have that sort of entrepreneurial spirit, I’m gonna put myself out there, I’m gonna, you know, let myself network, and all that stuff, then all power to you. But I think that’s something that we have come across with blind people who come to us for guidance and advice, Thomas, right, where they have this idea of a more traditional kind of work setting, and that’s just not how it is necessarily.
SCOTT B: Hey, Scott B. (Cut 13:47 through 14:01.) So, I can only really speak to my very limited sort of time with audio description, and I agree. It feels giggy. It is that. And I think it’s important for us to do what we can to help educate people that it is not a space, an arena where you can say, “I am gonna grow up and be in audio description.” Doesn’t mean you can’t do it, but there’s some practicalities there that you need to think about. It doesn’t also mean that it cannot be a field that supports, can be more supportive of someone putting most or all of their energy into that field as a job, as a career. But we’re not there. But I think, just in short, what I see is this field is not set up for especially for blind folks to be well versed in the many parts of audio description. It was talked about earlier that there’s kind of an emphasis on certain aspects of it, but there’s really four or five that are critical. And there are no…there are no training supports in most of those areas. And we’re gonna talk more about that today, I’m sure. But this is Scott B. Done speaking for now.
COLLEEN: Hey, guys. So, interesting about kind of training and education and audio description. Obviously, this is a passion of mine, and this year, I became the owner of Audio Description Training Retreats. And I’ve now started teaching kinda the fundamentals of audio description and practice in scripting and, you know, kind of primary inline description. And that sort of level-one base class I teach with Liz Gutman, who is an employee of IDC. She’s also a very good friend. And Melissa Hope was another one of my former students who works at Descriptive Video Works, and we teach a class that is all about writing for the screen, anything that’s specifically to do with technology, screen wise. So, video games and film and television and broadcast and all that jazz. I am currently in the process of developing a live theater and performance class with another former grad, Louise Victor, who is kind of the head of one of the live AD providers in Pennsylvania near Penn State.
So, I’ve got kind of like the three main core things, and we normally allow eight people in each class so that you’re provided ample practice time and any accommodations that you need, and everyone gets quite a bit of time and feedback and networking with each other. The thing I realized was that I want to be able to teach more people, and I wanna be able to educate on a larger scale as well as have it more accessible in a way. What I wanna do is kind of create modules online, like a curriculum of classes you can take in all different areas of audio description so that there would be online courses. And sort of some of the static information about audio description that doesn’t change much is what could be taught there in collaboration with me, and I would wanna collaborate with different people.

CHERYL: Hey, Colleen?
COLLEEN: Yeah?!
CHERYL: This is Cheryl. I wanna jump in just for time’s sake ‘cause we do try to hold to something around a two-minute limit.
COLLEEN: Oh, yeah. Go for it. Go for it.
CHERYL: Yeah. I hate to interrupt you, especially as you’re getting into those really valuable details. But I wanted to also add in there that I am a sighted audio describer, and I often run into people who are asking me, “Where can I get training? Where can I get training?” Not once has anyone ever come to me and said, “Do you know where I can go to a training where there’s a blind teacher or a blind co-teacher?” I just wanted to throw that out there. I don’t think that’ll be a surprise to anybody here who’s listening, but we talked about narrative shift last time. I don’t think the blind community, well, hmm. I don’t wanna make grandiose assumptions, but I do think the non-blind audio description world needs to listen better to the narrative shift that’s already happened. And I think that we need to be asking that question more: “Is there gonna be a blind teacher? Am I gonna be working alongside blind people?” Yeah, so, I’m gonna leave it there and see who wants to speak next.
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti. Thank you, Colleen, for telling us about your offerings. What I didn’t specifically hear was any catering to blind people. Here in this space, we wanna center blind people, right? Like, that’s our edict. And would love to hear more, along with Cheryl saying, we want a blind teacher. Here we have Colleen. But I wanna hear more about, and I think our audience would love to hear more about, are there any trainings that have blind people in mind for all aspects of audio description? Whether that be writing, as controversial as that can be, QC. I’m a firm believer in blind QC. Narration, teaching folks how to use their technology, what their different DAWs, digital audio workstation, options are, the accessibility of same, etc. I don’t hear much about that at all. There are plenty of classes/courses. But I’m not hearing anything that caters to blind folk. And more to the point, does there need to be something specific for blind people, or have blind people out there—anybody in the audience, you’re welcome to jump in and let us know about your experiences with any classes you’ve taken—have you found that you haven’t really needed to have anything catered to you or tailored to you as a blind person? That’s what I’m interested in tonight. How about you, Thomas?
THOMAS: Yeah, Nef, I think you just raised a fantastic point about does there need to be anything specific to blind people? Because if, you know, Colleen mentioned something around making the training accessible. If making the training, if the trainings were accessible, I think that is part of what it is, what needs to be done. But also, accessible not only from the point of view of the technology, but just in terms of the methodology, right, of really, really including that. Because when people ask, they always, when people find out you’re a narrator—and I’m sure you experience this, Nef—it’s always like, “Oh, we really wanna talk about your process.” And I almost feel like, wow, I’m really gonna disappoint you because the process is not much different from what your process is except, I use a screen reader. And so, I think you touched on something that’s really, really important there, Nef, because that’s a shift. It’s a shift in the way we think about this, ‘cause there is always this thought that there has to be something really separate. Even for us, getting involved in audio description, it’s always viewed as it has to look at this thing as something separate. But it’s not that different.
NEFERTITI: Something different, something that needs to be accommodated.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Does it? Does it though?
THOMAS: I mean there are accommodations. Those accommodations are specific. Yeah, there are some accommodations. Absolutely. And there is nothing wrong with an accommodation.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely.
THOMAS: But I’m saying, does it have to be separate? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I really don’t think so, because the training, again, if it’s accessible, and if we are considered, right, if we are a, if we are a customer of this, I mean, and you’re considered, your needs are considered, it might not have to be anything specific. But what does have to happen is that the industry has to be ready because we can have all of this training, but the industry has to be ready. And again, there are things that we can do. And that’s what I really wanted to focus on today was all the things that we can do because we have to, we as a community would have to wait for the accessibility to be implemented. We would have to wait for the technology to be made accessible. We have to wait for the industry, in the meantime, because not everyone is ready. A lot of folks want it, but you’re not ready. You’re not ready. And I put myself in that category, right? At points in my life, I wasn’t ready. There are certain things that I wanted last year that I was not ready for and may be now getting ready, right? And so, those are the things that we can control. And that’s what I wanna focus on, because, again, we’re centering blind people. So, let’s talk about what we can do.
NEFERTITI: Thomas, I think you’re…. Goodness. Yes, yes to everything you just said.
THOMAS: So, one of the other things, you know, I talked about earlier in terms of, and we talked about a little bit the last time, in terms of learning our technology and making sure we’re comfortable with our technology, right? Figuring out the things that we want, you know, figuring out our goals and all of that type of thing. What exactly do we wanna take out of this? I think there’s, the one thing that it doesn’t even matter what career, what profession you’re going into, but I think we need to think about it as professionalism, right? That idea of being professional. And, you know, this is not to throw anybody out there or anything like that, but, well, to embarrass anybody. But Nef, one of the first things that I noticed, your professionalism, on point. On point. And so, that was why I was like, “Oh, no, yeah. You got what you need to go.” That was one of those things. You had the hustle and the professionalism. And so, what I mean by that is I notice how you conduct yourself, right? So, not just in terms of the presentation, the oral presentation, but in just follow-up, doing exactly what you said you were gonna do. “I’m gonna send you an email. I’ll send you that.” She does it, right? These are the things that we need to make sure that we’re doing that too often we know it doesn’t happen. Now, again, no one is perfect. Everyone slips up. I know I slip up. Things fall off my radar. But I know that when they drop back on my radar, I’m gonna apologize, and I’m gonna get back to the person. Like, these are some of the things that we individually can be working on and making sure that we have tight before we even try to go ahead and get into any industry, but definitely AD.
And the reason I say definitely AD is because I’m not saying there is any sort of conspiracy out there. Please don’t take this like that, right? And I’m not saying that anyone is actually even maybe even consciously thinking about, “Oh, we have to keep them out,” right? But you better believe. [laughs] Well, you don’t better believe. But I’ll tell you that I truly, honestly believe that not everyone wants us there. You could apply that to any career. Not everyone would want blind people there. Not everyone wants a person with a disability there, okay? And so, you’re going to be looked at differently. That is just factual. So, you better have your stuff on point. That’s what I’m saying. And so, these are the things that we can be working on today in addition to the fundamentals, knowing our technology. And that’s what we talked about last time, so. Go ahead.
NEFERTITI: Nefertiti again. I 100% agree. I think of these as like soft skills.
THOMAS: Mm.
NEFERTITI: But in a very real way, this is what is going to move you along, literally. Yeah. You say you’re gonna send an email, make a call, do that. You’re gonna audition for things, do that. You know, you’re gonna focus on learning your technology so that you’re better at Word and Excel with your screen reader, do that. Same goes with learning any DAWs program. I’ll tell you, when I first got into this, and I went to Thomas for advice, he told me point blank, like, “It’s okay if this turns out to be something you don’t wanna do, but if it is something you’re gonna, you know, you wanna do, you’re gonna have to do and learn X, Y, Z thing”. For me, the hardest thing has been the audio aspect. You know, if I could just be the writer, the quality control specialist, the narrator, and I just show up, say, to a studio or sit in front of a computer and type away and say my lines, it would be a wrap! But it’s not that simple. You’re not just a voice artist anymore. You’re also an engineer now, a lot of the time. So, learning that for me has been a great learning curve. But you have to do it. Like it or not, you know, it’s like with any job, right? No job is perfect. There are aspects of everything that we do that aren’t necessarily 100% to our liking. But you have to do what you have to do. And in this case, I 100% agree with Thomas. Have good follow-through. Have a driven nature so you can network. Don’t be afraid to say, “Oh, hey, hey! You got, you know, you got any voice work for me coming up? I’m out here. I’m available,” like, you know, what do they say? The squeaky wheel gets the grease or whatever it is?
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, that’s part of it, too. Not being shy, putting yourself out there, and being willing and able and dedicated to learning. Super important even before you get into training and the like. I mean, I think those are sort of trainings in and of themselves, life skills.
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And you said something, Nef, no job is perfect. And I just wanna point out again, and we’re not even talking about a job. You can get to a job, and you have on-the-job training.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Jobs, employers might send you to a training when you have a new system, you’re getting on a new project, you need to learn a new language, coding language, whatever the case may be, right? You’re going to go to a training, and you’re getting paid for that. It ain’t working the same way [laughs] with the freelance work. It does not. You have to cover your own training costs and time.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: And it’s just really, really something. And again, I don’t wanna sound like I’m trying to scare anybody away ‘cause that is not, that is not why I got into this, because I really want…I really wanna see more blind people at every level.
NEFERTITI: No, we wanna proliferate this with blind people. But we need you to be prepared.
THOMAS: Right. But I want you to ready.
NEFERTITI: Yes. We want you to know.
THOMAS: Yes, yes. Because the worst thing, the worst thing is to have that opportunity, and you’re not ready for it, because then you might— And it’s not to say because nothing is finite like that, right? It doesn’t mean that it is the end-all, but man it sure does make it harder. It will make it harder. And so, be ready. Be ready with all of these things, you know?
NEFERTITI: 100%.
CHERYL: I wanted to just ditto to what you said, and I wanna add another detail to Nefertiti’s just amazing professionalism, and yours too, Thomas, is being collaborative and collaboratively minded. And I have worked with both of y’all on many occasions. And if there’s something that you can’t do or you don’t have time to do, you just let me know, “Hey, could you do this?” And likewise. And Thomas, I’ve been on calls with you talking about something else, and I bring up a tech issue I’m having, and you just give me the solution right there on the call, and then you’ve solved my tech issue. We’re constantly in these conversations, and we want to collaborate and build each other’s skills up. So, I think, you know, Thomas, you keep saying, “I don’t wanna scare anybody from getting into the field,” and I’m glad that you’re saying that. I think part of building up the skills is being in conversation with people who can give you the shortcuts like you do, so you don’t have to take, you know, watch a whole 20-minute tutorial video and take notes. Somebody can just give you the shortcut. But I really think knowing your strengths, knowing your limitations, and talking to your collaborators about it really goes a long way.
NEFERTITI: Cheryl, 100% to that as well. I think that’s where the networking part of what I talk about with people comes in. Build your community, build your network, join the audio description community, join the Audio Description Facebook group, use the hashtag #AudioDescription, and find other folks who are doing this. Listen to these Spaces. If there are Zoom gatherings that have to do with audio description, attend those. Trainings, again, a bunch of them. But one place which I don’t necessarily consider training, but that you can learn a heck of a lot, and they’re just wonderful people, VocalEye out of Canada does these Describer Cafés once a month. And you learn so much, and you can come away with having made a friend or two there as well. So, I think that is hugely important, so you have people to talk to, to ask questions of, to run things by. So, yeah, just wanna stress that point that I think you’re 100%, Cheryl. Thank you for that.
SCOTT B: Hey, it’s Scott B.
NEFERTITI: Scott B!
SCOTT B: Hello. So, a couple things. Just rewinding to the conversation around the soft skills or emotional intelligence or interpersonal skills, all of that, it really is something that whoever you are, blind or otherwise, whatever field, AD or not, you’re getting into, it is so important. Earlier in my career many, many years ago, I was a vocational counselor, a very dry term, but I helped other blind folks look for work and navigate the interview process and navigate the meeting your employer for the first time and going to the job site for the first time, all of those things. And invariably, those skills of socialization and interpersonal activity and engagement, those were the ones that if they weren’t…if they weren’t polished, that is what would, more likely than anything, impact someone’s success on a job. The technical’s important, the mobility’s important, things like that, if you’re a blind person. But those other things really, it’s that social thing of kind of being able to navigate different situations. It is really important to do that.
And I think what a lot of people will ask, what a lot of people ask us when they hear this is, “Okay, so, where do I get those skills?” And the truth, unfortunately, is there are not a lot of resources for it. They are out there, though. And sometimes, frankly, it depends on where you live geographically. There are resources, some places that are rich with them, others that are deserts in terms of access to services. But I just wanna say sort of publicly, as somebody who works at a non-profit organization, that there are options out there if people have questions about how they can improve those kinds of skills, group, myself included, I think, are resources that you can come to that you should feel okay to ask questions of out on Twitter and Facebook and kind of wherever you might be connected with us. Because as a blind person who has moved through various careers and who’s had many of these struggles that we’re talking about, I know that it’s real, and it is something that you need to, that you’ll need to navigate. And we should be able to be that network, that mentoring network for other people, ‘cause that’s another way we’re gonna see and uplift other blind people into this field and other fields. So, that’s it for me.
SCOTT N: Just quickly to go back to what Scott B. was just saying about some areas being an oasis and some areas being a desert when it comes to training, welcome to Australia. We’re a great big honkin’ desert when it comes to this sort of thing. I have been looking around madly for the past two weeks trying to find audio description training and things like that in my area, and there’s just nothing here. So, at the moment, the best plan I’ve been able to come up with so far as I take my first steps of my audio description narrator journey is to hook up with like AD Training Retreats over in the States or one of the groups in Canada or Britain or something like that. And I’m gonna have to completely change my sleep schedule because we’re talking, you know, their day is my night. So, I’m gonna have to go vampire mode for a little while in order to try and learn because I don’t wanna go into this halfcocked. I wanna come into the job having as many of the skills as I possibly can. And it’s just really difficult in my region to be able to get them. So, you know, facing a lot of barriers at the moment, but hopefully with the help of you guys and other people in the space, I’ll be able to do it because it’s, you know, I’ve been thinking about it more and more over the past two weeks. And this is something I really think is, I don’t wanna say it’s my calling, but it feels like it’s the right path I need to be on at the moment.
THOMAS: So, Scott, I’m glad you said what you said. And so, this is for Scott, and this is, again, for anyone who’s listening. But Scott, you mentioned this. And so, the next thing that I wanted to touch on, and so, I will ask you, and not to put you on the spot, but I’m putting you on the spot. [laughs]
SCOTT N: [laughs] Thanks, man. I appreciate that.
THOMAS: Yeah, no problem! So, you mentioned that you wanna be an audio narrator. Okay, cool. So, my question to you— And again, and Nef could attest to this because this is, if any, anyone I talk to who wants to talk to me about this, this would be what I ask them. So, I will ask you. Have you recorded anything? Have you recorded yourself yet?
SCOTT N: I have recorded myself a couple of times doing some basic AD work, but I have over 25 years’ experience in the radio and broadcast industry. So, I know my voice, I know how to prepare, and all that jazz. So, I’ve got the experience there at least.
THOMAS: Okay. All right. Excellent. So, you have experience. So, you edit? Do you do any sort of editing, basic editing?
SCOTT N: No, I haven’t done any editing up to this point. That’s probably the next thing I need to learn how to do. I briefly spoke to Nef yesterday, and she gave me a couple tips on programs to use. So, I need to get my hands on one of those and start practicing and learning how to do that sort of thing. But I also have several opportunities here in Melbourne where I’m going to be able to have an engineer come in and work with me. And while I’m there, I’ll say, “Look, could you just teach me how to do this, that, and the other thing?” So, I might be able to do a little stink around there, but editing it myself will be something that I will be learning, yes.
THOMAS: Okay. Excellent. Because, again, the idea of just recording yourself, the first point, so many people just sort of miss that. Because this could be a great way to figure out number one, if this is gonna be something that you like to do. It sounds good often enough, but sometimes it just might not be what you like. You may end up figuring out that you don’t like it, and you might be able to find that out even if you were just recording with your iPhone. Now you’re going to have to upgrade from an iPhone if you want to go that route of the professional, right, that professional AD. And when I say that, I’m not just talking about the Netflixes and the Amazons and all of that. I’m really saying if you want someone to pay you, then you should be upgrading from your iPhone. Absolutely. That’s my opinion.
SCOTT N: Oh, of course. Yeah.
THOMAS: Okay. So, yeah. So, you wanna start to, first of all, right now get familiar. You own a PC or laptop or something? You have that?
SCOTT N: Yes, I’ve got a running laptop here.
THOMAS: Okay. And so, we already talked about having all of those fundamentals and all of that stuff and the proficiency with your thing. So, really right now, then, if you’re comfortable there, it’s really about you having some sort of a setup to do that at home and start recording yourself in the way that it would be. Now, the thing that I’m wondering is, and I would say this to anyone again, is what difference—there is difference—but what difference do you think if you have done you said 20-something years of some broadcast, or it was broadcast?
SCOTT N: Mm. Yeah, 25 years of radio and podcast broadcasting.
THOMAS: So, what makes you think you’re not way more, like you sound like you’re, you sound like you’re very close to being ready to go to do this. Like, let’s take out the idea of needing to have yourself recorded. Like, if you had an engineer accessible to you, what is it that makes you think you wouldn’t be able to do this right now?
SCOTT N: At this stage, it’s simply a matter of learning, for lack of a better term, the pattern of work, learning how to properly read the AD that someone says will be in a spreadsheet or through a Word document or whatever like that. Just learning the patterns, learning the method of doing pick-ups, going back and rerecording stuff that may be not correct or needs to be punched up a little bit or something like that. Just really learning the pattern and the flow of the work, I think that’s the next barrier because doing, reading an advertisement is a lot different to going live on air and interviewing someone or doing a prerecorded interview for a podcast. They’re all very different animals and learning how to do them are very different things. And I haven’t had much experience when it comes to reading a script. So, really, that’s my next step to get my hands on an actual AD script. I noticed earlier that the fantastic Liz Gutman from International Digital Center is one of our listeners today. And hey, Liz, if you could send me just one of your old scripts or something so I could practice, that’d be super! Scott out.
THOMAS: Okay, so, Scott, so I’m glad you brought that out. If Liz’s here, shoutout to Liz all day. Scott, you don’t need a script. And I tell everyone this. Why do you need a script? You need words in the format so you can read it. So, if you’re gonna use JAWS, whatever your screen reader is, if you use a screen reader with Braille, you need text.
SCOTT N: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: You have access to text. It doesn’t matter what you read, right? You can download any sort of script. You can read the dictionary! As long as you know how to read in the format, you know, in an accessible way, that process is going to be the same regardless to what the actual text on that screen is. Does that make sense?
SCOTT N: Yeah. Good point. Yeah, it’s a very good point, Thomas. It’s an excellent point. Thank you very much for kind of, you know, smacking me upside the head and saying you don’t need to do everything the same way!
THOMAS: It’s always my pleasure to smack you upside the head, Scott.
THOMAS: and SCOTT N: [laugh]
SCOTT N: Okay, guys.
THOMAS: Virtually, of course. Virtually, of course. I’m not a violent person. But no. But that is really, really honestly true. Copy whatever it is. Read a book. Read whatever it is that you want to read and narrate that and record yourself in whatever facility you have right now. But that is the skill that you need to be working on.
SCOTT N: Right. Thank you so much, Thomas. Thanks, everyone. I’ve really gotta bounce. Just quickly, Star Wars Andor now available on Disney+. The audio description for it is fantastic! Go and listen to it. Okay, guys? I’ll talk to you next time.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Scott! Always great to hear from you. And let’s keep in touch about your progress. I wanna hear about any breaking news.
THOMAS: We gotta start getting money for the commercials.
NEFERTITI: Oh, yeah. [laughs]
THOMAS: We gotta get money for that commercial right there. Disney ain’t paying us. Come on. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh, that’s true. I didn’t even catch that. I’m just happy that something’s being done right. Yeah. Wow. Does anybody have any sort of concrete resources you think we should shout out for folks listening to this Space and wanting to get their hands on or their ears on something? For example, I’d like to shout out the ADP, The Audio Description Project. I think they’re @ADPWebmaster on Twitter. Huge resource of all sorts of things that are being described, but they also have a section on training, different trainings, and I think they’re pretty good about keeping all of that updated. So, how about you, Cheryl, Thomas and Cheryl, Scott B., if you have any resources or a resource you think would be good for people to know about?
THOMAS: I mean, the…. [sighs] I’m not gonna give out a resource just yet. And I don’t really have many. I’m really on this. And again, this is sort of, this is my style, but this is the style that I think is necessary. And I think it’s not just my style. I think it’s because of what’s available. I just think we have a lot of things that we can do right now to really work on preparing ourself for that. I don’t know of anything specific to blind folks or that is accessible enough and that centers blind people or even considers blind people in the training process. I don’t know about that. I really don’t.
NEFERTITI: I don’t either.
THOMAS: And so, I don’t wanna endorse it.
NEFERTITI: Like we said, well, like Cheryl said specifically, blind folks at the helm. Not just as participants, but actually teaching this stuff. I only know of one person. But again, I’m not so sure that even that training caters to blind people. So, I’m not so sure. But I do think I will sort of double down on my recommendation. The ADP is a great resource for everyone to know about. It’s sorta like a repository of information there. And from there you can decide. But we are saying, I think Thomas and I are saying, and Cheryl, feel free to chime in here, there isn’t anything that we know of that we can confidently point blind people to and say, “This is good. Go do that. Reach out to this person or that organization.”
THOMAS: Yeah.
CHERYL: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: And that’s pretty sad.
CHERYL: Yeah. It is. Cheryl here. I would say I am always pointing people to my favorite continuing education, I call it, which is Thomas Reid’s podcast, Read My Mind Radio. There is a tremendous amount—talk about centering blind people—but there’s a tremendous amount of formal and informal learning you can get from the… [laughs] Turning the, turning? Flipping the Script!
THOMAS: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Flipping the Script. Turning the Switch!
CHERYL: No, somebody has called it Turning the Page on Audio Description.
THOMAS: Yeah. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh yeah? [laughs]
CHERYL: That sounds rude!
NEFERTITI: Wow!
CHERYL: But Flipping the Script. Thomas Reid’s Flipping the Script on Audio Description. It’s a series that’s been going on for several years, and you were talking about AD well before you started that series. And that is a concrete place to go to gather information, to listen to AD consumers and AD professionals. And I just encourage everybody go there, and that would be centered on the community.
NEFERTITI: Thank you, Cheryl. And thank you for shouting out Thomas. I kinda hesitate to shout you out, Thomas, ‘cause I know how humble you are. But heck yeah.
CHERYL: Yeah, I don’t care about that part.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: But that’s a resource. All right. Cheryl’s cool with it, then I’m gonna be cool with it, too, Thomas. Prepare yourself.
SCOTT B: Scott B.
NEFERTITI: No, but it’s true. Excellent resource. Yes, Scott B.
SCOTT B: I’m gonna challenge people who are working in this space, because I think as a blind person, again, I’ll preface just saying that my sort of impressions about audio description or a career or whatever are fairly limited. But what I see is that no, there are not trainings, technical trainings, that are catering to blind people either as writers, QC artists, narrators, mixers, engineers, etc. We also need a field that is going to have those opportunities for people to learn and get better at the craft or else we will always struggle for more than a very few blind and visually impaired folks to be successful in it. And we know that there can be more. But it does, you know, this, a full, complete ecosystem involves everything. And that includes the training. Right now, it’s very heavily oriented towards writing, and it’s very heavily oriented towards writing for people who are sighted. But we need a lot more than that. And I would challenge everyone who’s involved in any of these resources that’ve been mentioned to think more broadly about including blind people as prospective audiences and learners in those spaces. Thank you.
NEFERTITI: And also teachers! Remember, folks, nothing about us without us. Centering blind people. That’s our whole ethos here, so.
THOMAS: Definitely. And real quick, because this was the last point that I wanna say, is that open, you know, broaden your horizons when we’re talking about audio description. There is more to audio description than Netflix and Amazon. There are so many opportunities, I think, in independent projects. And maybe we can talk about this. There are folks out there who do this where I know that they have worked with apprentices. That’s a old-school thing, but that’s a very awesome opportunity if you can find someone who you can apprentice with and who does independent work. Or they might do, you know, whatever, the bigger stuff too. But it’s AD, right? AD is happening in education. AD is happening on YouDescribe, right?
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: You can get on these platforms and do these things and build up a résumé, if you will. It’s a way to go about it. It absolutely is a way to go about it. So, broaden your horizons when we talk about audio description, because I’m telling you, there’s a lot more going on than just Netflix, etc., etc., so.
SCOTT B: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: 100%. And it’s ripe for the picking, y’all, so.
THOMAS: Let’s go get it. Let’s go get it.
NEFERTITI: Yeah, let’s go! Get it! All right!
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Well, speaking of getting it, I gotta go get my next gig, y’all! ‘Cause it’s a hustle economy, right? A gig economy.
THOMAS: See? Yeah, no doubt.
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
THOMAS: No doubt.
NEFERTITI: It’s 8 PM in New York City, and I’m off to my next thing!
THOMAS: Aight. There it is. Peace, y’all.
NEFERTITI: Everybody, thank you so much. As always, it is such a pleasure to share this Space with you all. [collar and tags clink and clank as a dog shakes its head] For audiences— Hello, dog in the background! [chuckles] For audiences, thank you for tuning in. And we will be back in a couple of weeks with another fascinating topic.

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

Hide the transcript

Blind Centered Audio Description Chat: Blind Professionals in AD

Wednesday, January 4th, 2023

Prior to this live chat, we polled the AD Twitter Community to see which one of three pre-selected topics most interested the people… The winner… Blind professionals in the audio description business. Whether we’re talking about narration, quality control, audio editing and writing, many want to know how they can get started. During this conversation we hear about the importance of having a foundational skill set and exactly how that goes beyond audio description.

Join Us Live

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

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

Listen

Transcript – Created By Cheryl Green

Show the transcript

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

NEFERTITI: So, everybody, hello. I’m Nefertiti Matos Olivares. And this is the Audio Description Twitter Space all about what? Audio description! Yes. And we are so glad you are here. We wanna welcome you tweeps, and so glad for those of you who are with us live. And if you’re listening to the replay, that’s cool too. I am honored to be your MC this evening, and I’m joined by my capable, classy, and at least in one case, curly haired co-host. That’s Cheryl, ’cause Thomas got that smooth, bald head thing going on, right, Thomas?
THOMAS: Yeah, but if I let it grow back it’s curly. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Okay. Me too! My natural hair is curly too.
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: You know what? We’re all curly hairs here. But you know what? I’m getting into self-description. So, before I get too get ahead of myself and start describing people, always remember that this is a space that prides itself in centering blind people. Audio description was made for and by blind people. By blind people for blind people. And so, our focus will always be blind people. That’s, of course, not to say that sighted folks aren’t welcome. Absolutely. We love our sighted allies and colleagues, but always the center will be blind excellence. So, with that, Thomas, would you like to reiterate our question for tonight?
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely. And it was posed, you know, it was posed to the people. The people had options, and the people have elected [chuckles] and selected. And what they came up with is what we wanna talk about today is specific to blind professionals. And the specific question is what is the outlook for blind professionals in this audio description industry? Yeah, that was pretty much what it is if I recall correctly. So, we could start there, and then we can get into some, see where that conversation goes. So, I don’t know if we wanna- Nef, you said you don’t wanna talk too much, but you know, you can start it off if you want. Like, if you wanna mention some of the what you think the outlook for blind professionals in this industry is and we go from there.) And since we’re gonna use our words to end our statements, I’m gonna take it back because I like the throwbacks. So, I’m gonna take it back to Audi 5000. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Huh. What’s that?!
THOMAS: One of my favorites. Oh, yeah, you a young’un. You don’t remember the old slang. That’s the old slang. Audi 5000!
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
SCOTT B: I remember it.
THOMAS: So, what do you think about the, or if anyone else wants to jump in, yeah, what do you think about in terms of the outlook for blind professionals in this industry? Let’s talk about it.
NEFERTITI: Sure. I’ll be happy to get us started. I’ll keep it nice and short. I think that it is bright. There’s definitely work that needs to be done as far as folks already in this space, whether they be established narrators or writers making room for blind professionals in that we are capable, we do have skill sets, we have lots to contribute, and who better than us to do this for us? So, there are some folks who still need to sort of come around to that and be more open to that. But I do think that there are people, and especially companies, a couple of companies, who are very forward thinking in that regard and are open to and making strides towards allowing blind professionals to enter this space and be successful in this space. We need more allies, and we need more opportunities, to be sure. And I think that’s a really big part as to why we’ve started these Spaces, so that we can come together and speak truth, right? The truth is that there are blind professionals in this space, but there needs to continue to have room being made for us. So, yes! The outlook is bright, but we need to fight. There you go. That’s the logo.
THOMAS: MC to the fullest right there. You actually rhymin’.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
THOMAS: Yeah, nice. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Droppin’ bars, man. [laughs]
THOMAS: Very nice. Very nice.
NEFERTITI: How about you, Cheryl? Do you have anything to share?
CHERYL: I do wanna hear folks in this group, especially blind and low vision people here in this group talk about what you already raised, Nefertiti. Yeah.
THOMAS: Very cool.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
CHERYL: Audi 6000! [laughs]
THOMAS: Oh, my gosh! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Oh my gosh! Listen. That might be the, “I’m out, I’m done, I’m complete” phrase of the night. I did not say it. I’m sorry. I’m not following my own rules.
THOMAS: Yeah. It’s really fine. Cheryl just changed it ’cause it’s 5000. I don’t think Audi made a 6000, but whatever. [laughs]
CHERYL: Well, but, so whoever goes next can close with Audio 7000.
NEFERTITI: I’ll be 7000. [giggles]
THOMAS: Oh, okay. We’re gonna, let’s see where we end. That’ll be the thing. What number will we end on tonight? [laughs]
NEFERTITI: There you go! [chuckles]
THOMAS: You know, at some point, though, I wanna come back around. Not yet, but ’cause Nef, you mentioned we need more allies.
NEFERTITI: Yes.
THOMAS: And I wanna talk about what do allies really look like? What should we expect from allies? What do we wanna see from allies? So. But for now, let’s hear from the people. We got anybody who wants to speak?
SCOTT B: My experience with audio description has until recently been as a fan, as a consumer, and only in the past few months has it sort of developed into a little bit more of the getting to know the professional side. The AD field sort of breaks down into a few different things. We’ve got, we talked about this last time too. You’ve got these different phases, right? You’ve got writing, you’ve got the narration, you’ve got the mixing, QC, the recording. And I only know about a couple of those relatively in depth. And what it seems to me is looking at each of those phases, each of those pieces on its own is one way that we might sort of start feeling like we can get our arms around this thing that might otherwise feel kind of big.
The question of allies is important too, but for example, the work that someone does to handle the QC phase of audio description, it seems like that work is often conducted in various online platforms. And those are the kind of the power behind the QC is a lot of online platforms, some of which are navigable and accessible and a number of which are not. So, unfortunately, we’re dealing with much the same thing that many industries are where we have inaccessible tools. And so, to me, to the question of allyship, what it looks like to me is we need allies in positions of power who can have influence to say to developers, “This matters to us that blind people be able to exist in this profession. And in order to do that, we need to develop these tools in a way that allows screen reading technology, magnification, Braille displays, whatever technology you might be using to interact with and move through those workflows without being blocked.” I’m done speaking. Audio 5000. I’m staying old-school because I remember it. I remember it, Thomas!
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Thank you, Scott. Thank you. [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Excellent points. Thank you. And how about you, Scott N.? Would you like to speak?
SCOTT N: Certainly! It’s…. I see the audio description space for blind professionals at the moment kind of like a cookie, okay? You’ve got all the different ingredients that have to come in to make the perfect cookie. You’ve got your base, you’ve got your flour, your sugar, your chocolate chips if that’s your jam, whatever. And all these things need to come together to make the perfect recipe. And at the moment, we don’t have all the ingredients quite the way we wanted to have, particularly in regards to scripting, making sure that scripts are accessible to people, making sure that if a blind professional wishes to do some editing and stuff like that, making sure that the editing software is all accessible. Quality control, once again, is a huge thing, making sure that that is a streamlined process, like Scott Blanks said, on platforms that are fully accessible to people. And, you know, with the, it’s really just a top to bottom thing. And I’m really, really encouraged at the moment. I’m working with, I’m in preliminary stages of working with one of the big audio description providers possibly to set up a branch of their organization here in Australia because there is a desperate need for audio description here in Aus. And we’re currently working on it, and I’m gonna make sure that blind professionals are fully centered and fully catered for and fully looked after in this space when we open the branch here in Australia because-big announcement, people-duh duh duh duh duh duh! I am going to become an audio describer.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: Oh. Oh, yes. Model-T Ford. I go really old-school.
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
THOMAS: Well, I think you can get a [imitates air horn blasting].
NEFERTITI: Heck, yeah!
CHERYL and NEFERTITI: [imitate air horn]
THOMAS: Yeah. For your entry into audio description. That’s awesome.
NEFERTITI: Yes!
SCOTT N: Thank you.
THOMAS: Yeah. Yeah. Cool. I wanna hear more on that as it progresses.
SCOTT N: Oh, absolutely. I’m gonna be doing a sort of diary thing through the community with Scott and Nef’s permission, and I’ll be letting people know how the journey goes as it goes.
THOMAS: Very good.
NEFERTITI: Excellent! I’m sure there are plenty of people who will love to be on that journey with you.
SCOTT N: [chuckles] Thank you.
NEFERTITI: Excellent. Okay. Well, Thomas, we haven’t heard from you yet.
THOMAS: Well, I’m just really gonna echo everything all of y’all are saying, but also, I wanna throw in that, you know, we mentioned the accessibility to all of these things, a lot of software. And it also, it should be noted that just like in other industries, when accessibility, when access is an issue, there’s accommodations. And there are lots of available accommodations in this space, but not everyone considers them. Not everyone employs them. And so, that’s a part of, again, that whole allyship, right? So, making, you know, yeah. Okay. “Currently, this is the process that we use.” “All right. Well, this process that you’re using is a roadblock. There’s a roadblock in this in the way for blind folks to get involved in here.” “Okay. Well, how can we work with that,” right? That’s what we need to hear. And like you said, Nef, there are some people in some companies who follow that, and that, to me, that makes them true allies. Absolutely. Because, they want us in the mix, and we wanna be in the mix, so.
NEFERTITI: Thomas, I’ll say that, yeah, there are companies and entities who have a vested interest and a proven record of giving blind people opportunities. But there are also those who, like in the example you posed, “Well, how can we make this happen?” Really, what we hear is, or what I have heard, I’ll speak from personal experience, “Oh, we just don’t have the necessary software or the know-how to change our set-up to make it accessible for you, but we’re working on it. We’re working on it.” And then you never hear from these companies or these entities, these people again. When you check in, they’re still working on it. It’s a perpetual working on it when it’s really quite simple, you know. Send us a script in Word format or Excel format.
THOMAS: Right.
NEFERTITI: We don’t need any specialized software beyond Word in a lot of these cases. But they are, they’re resistant. It’s one of those mentalities of, “This is how we’ve always done it, so this is how we’re gonna continue to do it. And it’s nice that you blind folk wanna come in and do this, but, you know, we’re resistant to change.” And that can definitely be a roadblock for our success as blind people who really don’t need much in this space to have room made for us.
THOMAS: Absolutely not.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: Absolutely. Absolutely not. And I beat around the bush, but I feel like I don’t think there’s anything wrong with naming names, especially when they’re positive. I won’t necessarily name the name, I’m not gonna ask you who that company is or anything like that. But I do wanna name the names of folks who are being allies, folks who, because I think it’s important for anyone here or anyone listening later on, if you’re looking for opportunities, you should know where to go. It’s not something that I wanna keep a secret. And I think most people who are looking for that information, it’s pretty easy to find it. So, the number one, in terms of the big industry that I’m gonna shout out is IDC. I’m gonna shout out Eric Wickstrom and IDC because-
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn]
SCOTT N: [sings] Hallelujah!
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
THOMAS: Because right now, I mean, for real, when people ask me, “Okay, what’s the outlook? What are the opportunities?” You know, there’s a lot of talk about QC and certification and pursuing a career or opportunity, whatever sort of opportunity. It may not, you know, it could be a career. Absolutely, it could be. It takes a lot, but what I tell folks is, “Yeah, contact Eric Wickstrom.” Because number one, he’s asking you to contact him. He’s looking for that, right? He wants to hear that. So, he’s the one who grew their particular, their roster. They have a roster of probably like over 15 blind narrators that they use. They use folks, blind folks, QC.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Limited opportunity. So, there’s a lotta talk about certification for QC “jobs,” but I don’t know where you gon go. [laughs] I really, I really don’t. I’m really not sure. I will also shout out DVW because they also give opportunities.
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn]
THOMAS: Go ahead! Yeah. Is there a Canadian version of that? [imitates air horn] Eh?
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: Yes!!!
SCOTT N: [imitates Canadian accent] Sorry, they don’t have one, eh?
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Yeah, Yeah.
NEFERTITI: I love that, though! [imitates air horn] Eh? [giggles]
THOMAS: Yeah, there you go. They get that one. That’s right. Shout out to Canada, because I mean, they also hire blind narrators. They also hire blind QC folks. So, I think that’s all of them.
NEFERTITI: Yes. And DVW also has an advisory council made up of very accomplished blind people. And it’s a consistent meeting and always tapping into the community: “What do you think about this? What are your thoughts on that? Are you willing to join us for this focus group or that consulting opportunity?” So, they are the real deal as well.
SCOTT N: And Nef, you might be hearing my name a little bit more in those consulting meetings, because they’re the people I’m gonna be working with to branch out into Australia, so.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Excellent! I had a feeling it might be DVW, but of course, you know, didn’t wanna jump the gun. But I’m so happy to hear that. And I 100% agree with you, Thomas. I think that we need to absolutely call people out on their BS, but also, just as hard, if not harder, shout out the positives and the people who are putting their money where their mouth is. Literally, because this is all paid, everybody. This is not volunteer, as beautiful as volunteering is. These are legitimate jobs where your skill set is put to the test, and you are being paid, you know, that money you use to eat, that you need to eat, that you need to put that roof over your head. This is happening. So, definitely International Digital Center, Descriptive Video Works. Do we have any others?
THOMAS: Now, let me, so, let me just say it like this, right? I’m judging this based on numbers, based on people, not person.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Because I think there are folks who might think they should be included because they have a person on their roster or a person they work with. I don’t necessarily agree with that because one isn’t, one is about that one person, and that’s fine. That’s nice. That’s great. But if you’re really going to be about this, right, meaning you’re supporting blind professionals, you have to make that a plural, right? So, there has to be more than one. And so, those are the ones that I can definitely. There are some others maybe. I’m not sure of their numbers, but I can speak to these two specifically.
CHERYL: Thomas, do you wanna name any particular cars?
THOMAS: Oh. Oh, yes. Audi 5000.
SEVERAL PEOPLE: [laugh]
CHERYL: Oh, my god. Okay. I wanna jump in about narrative because…and going back to the training. There seems to be, in some audio description training-I have not taken all, so I don’t know how they all work-but I do see this overarching story of, “Hello, sighted people. We will train you to help the blind.” And then there’s a lotta statistics about like, vision loss and how many people in this country have this and that. And this is the narrative, at least that I was trained on is, you get to earn money helping this community that needs your help. And when I hear Thomas Reid talk about the origins of audio description, it is the same as what Nefertiti said in opening today’s Space, which is this is a practice, a line of work that was created by and for the blind community. And so, when you have the companies that are like, “Sorry, this, you know, our scripting software, we haven’t made it accessible yet. We still have to sort that out,” you can sit and talk about accessibility all day long. We all know if that software exists in one place, it could exist in all the places. So, that is not the barrier. Getting the technology is not the barrier. I think it comes from attitude and this mistaken narrative that the non-blind people are here to help and serve. And so, I want to hear more people in the community accepting the narrative of audio description as by and for and be an ally in that way of helping to share that narrative because that is part of the foundation that the other changes will be built on. [sighs] I had a Dodge Grand Caravan SE.
THOMAS: [laughs]
CHERYL: That is the only car I’ve ever had. So, I’m gonna wrap up with that fun fact.
NEFERTITI: I love it!
CHERYL: Yes, it’s a minivan!
NEFERTITI: I love it. We can all fit. That’s great. This is Nefertiti. And Cheryl, I could not agree more. Audio description as an art form, as a science, as a way for folks to keep up with their favorite shows when they have a migraine or they’re driving or doing dishes, as a means to learn a language better, as a means to understand the emotional context of what’s going on maybe a little better. I mean, I’ve heard all sorts of ways that audio description is used and will hopefully continue to be used. But it’s never been thought of, or at least by me, as a charity. It’s not a charity. I hear you, like what you were saying about this is to help. You know, this is to serve. And that’s great. But can’t that be said about everything that we do for one another? And audio description is not…it’s not, you know, it’s not the Lord’s work, shall we say.
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: It’s not a charity. And I agree with you 100%. The narrative definitely needs to shift. And I think through conversations like this, it will shift into audio description is an artform, a science. And I know I’m repeating myself, but it bears repeating. It is not a charity.
SCOTT N: Absolutely, Nef. Scott Nixon, if I could just add.
NEFERTITI: Please.
SCOTT N: With regards to allyship, explaining that to people and showing them that audio description is serious business. I was talking to someone a couple days ago, and I brought up audio description. They asked me what it was, so I gave them a brief description. And they just stood there and went, “Aw! That’s cute!” And I’m like, “No, it’s not cute. It’s vital. It’s important. It’s how I engage in fandom. It’s how I talk to my friends, you know, the way I talk to my friends and engage with my community, stuff like that. It’s not cute. It’s what we need.” And being able to explain that to people and show them that it is such a vital service, I think, is the really important thing that we need to keep pushing towards as time goes on. Michael Keaton’s Batmobile.
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Love it! Love it. My out is gonna have to be no car. No car. That’s my, ’cause I don’t drive, obviously. I know how to, believe it or not, but I don’t. So, yes, thank you, Scott. I think that’s absolutely essential. Yeah.
THOMAS: Yeah. I just wanted to mention, to Cheryl’s point that I think was really fantastic, like, we really do need to change the narrative. Like, if you look just within the community specifically, it’s us in the community who do a lot of harm sometimes in the way we talk about audio description. We do. I’m saying “we.” I don’t necessarily do that, but I’m just talking about in terms of the community. We do speak about it in a charitable sense because we show so much extra gratitude around it.
NEFERTITI: Uh-huh.
THOMAS: And I think you’re absolutely right, Cheryl. If we started to just refer to it as in a way that was like, acknowledge that foundation, right, so that history as well as the current, what’s happening right now. I’m trying to see a renaissance happening right now. You know what I’m saying? Like a blind renaissance within audio description of folks getting involved. But if we talked about that more and we expected it, I think that would make a really big difference. I don’t know what it is. You know, I’m thinking of maybe we should throw out this hashtag, but I really do think it’s like ADFUBU. I don’t kinda wanna bite FUBU because that was used, a whole clothing line and where that comes from. But it’s for us by us, right? And that’s sort of how we need to talk about this. I really do like that because yeah, that shows the support, that shows what we’re thinking about, that shows support within the community, which we don’t necessarily always see. I think that’s another piece of this whole conversation of where we go from here. Because the companies that we mentioned, well, there’s a bunch of other companies. What if-what if-the community actually got together and was like, “Hey, let’s write to these other companies and say, ‘Yeah, we want more blind narrators. We want more blind QC. We want that’.”
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: What would that do?
NEFERTITI: And not just the providers, but the folks who issue the contracts to these providers.
THOMAS: Yes!
NEFERTITI: The HBOs, the Amazons.
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Netflix is at the forefront of all of this. But even Netflix continue to reinforce that they’re doing a great job. But even, again, even Netflix hires the less-than-stellar companies, less-than-stellar in the audio description that is produced, but also in hiring blind people as part of the workflow, even QC. And I am a big believer in quality control being done by blind people.
SCOTT N: Mm!
NEFERTITI: Big into that. QC folks or QA: quality control, quality assurance. This is the step of the process that comes in after a script is written and a blind person, in my perfect world of audio description structure, would come in and make absolutely sure that everything that’s written makes sense to them in addition to choosing the proper wordage and all that stuff. But QC, absolutely essential that it be done by a blind person or blind people, and a lot of these companies don’t even have that. It really has devolved. The more audio description has become part of the general, “Oh, there’s money to be made here.” It’s cheap and fast, or good but fast, so not cheap. You know, we all know that whole you have to pick two out of the three, right? You either want it cheap or fast or good. And no matter what combination you do of those three options, something’s gonna be left out. It’s inevitable. So, yeah, advocating to the big boys, the big guns that contract out to these companies, letting them know en masse we are out here, and we don’t like this. Or we love this, we want more of it, and we wanna be a part of it. I think that would be a huge sea change for this community and would bring about employment and involvement and all sorts of good things. Nefertiti…red Lamborghini.
THOMAS: [laughs]
SCOTT B: Oh, look at you.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: Mmhmm. Fancy! [laughs]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, baby! [laughs]
So, anybody is welcome to come up, and let us know where you are in this process of AD. If you’re a blind professional trying to get into this field or are already in it, be you blind or sighted, what your ideas are insofar as improving the AD workflow to be more inviting to blind professionals, allyship. We’ve touched base on narrative and sort of the change we wanna see in the community. ‘Cause I, man, Thomas, that is the dream, right? That we come together en masse…
THOMAS: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: …for something and develop communication strategies for letting our collective voice be heard and make a difference that way and make things better.
THOMAS: Absolutely. And we don’t really have roadblocks for that. There’s no real access issues that are keeping us from doing that. The only thing that’s keeping us from doing that is us.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
SCOTT N: And also the thing is, yes, on our end, we have got the drive and the capability and the accessibility to be able to do that. But at the other side of things, you come up against these huge conglomerate companies that just don’t wanna listen or just wanna give you lip service. And in this case, I will call out a substandard system. The Paramount+ streaming service are absolutely 100% hopeless at dealing with any sort of request, concern, or complaint from a vision impaired audience member. I have sent them many emails over the past few months complaining about their service, everything from quality control to the standard of the app and so on and so forth. And all I get in return is these pro-forma emails, “We listen to your concerns,” yadda, yadda, yadda. And the most action I’ve ever had from them is them writing back to me and asking me to catalog the problems and send them to them, in other words, doing their job for them. So, I just went [chuckles] uh…no. And let’s see. Flintstones pedal car.
THOMAS: But you see, Scott, you did the thing that you can do. After you did that, it was out of your control, right?
SCOTT N: Yeah.
THOMAS: And so, we can’t control what the response is gonna be. But I can tell you that if there’s enough complaint, enough action there, it’ll move it. It will move it. So, if it was more than you writing to Paramount, if there’s a bunch of people who are doing that and/or making it public. Make it public. You know, @ them right there on Twitter or whatever the case may be. Folks doing that, yeah, they will change their tune. They will change their tune.
SCOTT N: Yeah. Yeah, that’s what I did, Thomas. Every time I come up against these roadblocks from Paramount+ or content isn’t passed through to the Australian audience and is readily available to a US or Canadian audience, I always make mention of it on their website and personally on my Twitter feed and with the simple, but I think quite effective hashtag, #ParamountDoesntCare. Because at the moment, they don’t care about their blind audience.
THOMAS: Well, no, they don’t care about you right now! I don’t mean that in a bad way. But it’s you, right? Not personally you. Meaning it’s just one person. And what I’m saying is that what you did is absolutely what you should be doing and what more of us should be doing. I’m just trying to say that that result should not stop anyone. And I’m not saying it’s stopping you because it’s not stopping you, right?
SCOTT N: Aw, no.
THOMAS: Right. It’s making you go harder. We need other people to do the same. And so, when we have the conversation about us taking action, yeah, the conversation is about us taking action specifically, not what the end result is going to be. We don’t know what the end result is gonna be, but we know that if we take a lot of action, right, isn’t that like sort of a, isn’t there some sort of Einstein theory about this, you know? Like the amount of pressure you put or whatever the hell it is, you know?
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: But y’all know what I’m talking about, right? So, if we continue to put pressure, or if we put pressure-I don’t wanna say continue-but if we, we, the community, lots of us put pressure, We’re gonna see a response. We’re gonna see a response that is in our benefit.
SCOTT B: They need those numbers, yeah.
THOMAS: I know that for a fact. I know that.
SCOTT B: They need it in big numbers, and that’s exactly right, though.
THOMAS: They need it [unclear]. Yes.
SCOTT B: They need it at a scale that’s going to matter to them, which means they get enough of those tweets-sorry, this is Scott B.-enough of those emails, and they will, their customer service people will start to notice it, and it will be taking up more of their time. That’ll get pushed up, and I think that we’ll see it may be incremental, and may take longer than we want it to, but it is. We see this in so many aspects of advocating for something, whether it’s related to blindness or not.
THOMAS: Mmhmm.
SCOTT B: And it’s, it is true here, just as it is in many of those other things. Scott B. Big Wheel. I’m done.
THOMAS: Ha!
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
THOMAS: Big Wheel, yes! [laughs] Aw, man.
NEFERTITI: Yes. Now, I just check. Do we have anyone from the audience who wishes to speak?
THOMAS: I want a Big Wheel again.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
SCOTT B: We did get a reply in the chat from Bruce Cameron, who says, “Good evening. First time listening in. I’m a sign language interpreter and always wanting to learn.” So, welcome, Bruce.
NEFERTITI: Welcome, Rebecca!
REBECCA: I am loving that you guys are talking all about quality control, because that is what I am trying to get into in this industry. And I am about to do my second training course with Colleen of Audio Description Training Retreats, and I just wanna say that it’s hard getting into this field! It’s been a challenge. And I wish that it was easier.
THOMAS: Rebecca, this is Thomas. Hello, first of all.
REBECCA: Hi.
THOMAS: Nice to meet you. What was your first course? You said this is your second. What was your first?
REBECCA: Yeah, my first course was with someone named Bonnie. Yeah.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay. And so, were these courses specific to quality control?
REBECCA: No.
THOMAS: Or were these general- Okay.
REBECCA: They’re audio description. I would love to take a quality control course for audio description.
THOMAS: Okay. So, you’re a consumer?
REBECCA: Yes. Trying to get into quality control.
THOMAS: Okay. So, you’re already quality controlling, I’m assuming.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: Yes. Tell me about what you’re doing right now when you watch content with audio description. How do you sort of pick things out, identify issues, or whatever?
REBECCA: I really, I’m an author, so I’m used to critiquing written word. And I really listen to the script, and I also listen to the amount of audio description that is in a TV show or movie. I recently watched a show on Disney+. And it was one of those shows that has 12, like, they’re two episodes in one, so each was like 12 minutes. And the first 12-minute segment had two lines of audio description. Two. And I counted about 20 different spots there that could have had it that needed it.
THOMAS: Hmm. Okay. And so, you’re a author. You’re a writer.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: You already are doing audio quality control on your own in a way, because that’s what you’re doing. ‘Cause you’re interested in it.
REBECCA: Yes! Yes.
THOMAS: But what do you think someone can teach you that you probably don’t know already?
REBECCA: Well, I recently took a quality control test.
THOMAS: Uh-huh.
REBECCA: And from one of the companies that you guys were talking about.
THOMAS: Okay.
REBECCA: And…I did not pass.
THOMAS: Okay. Do you recall the issues that were-
REBECCA: Yes. They said that I needed to be more detailed.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: And I went into this kinda knowing what I was doing, and I caught most of the mistakes. But I didn’t know to listen for some stuff because I wasn’t told. Like, I didn’t know that I need to really pay attention to the beginning credits. I didn’t know that the names in the beginning credits were said wrong. Because when I watch a film or a TV show….
THOMAS: You don’t pay attention to credits.
REBECCA: I did not know that I was supposed to be listening for the credits. Like, no one told me. And then when I did another, they sent me another test. But this one was, it was a movie trailer. And it was without the recorded, you know, without the narration. And they sent me the script, and they wanted me to just see what stood out to me. So, I gave them notes, and they never said anything about….
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: They never said anything about it. And then they emailed me and said that I needed to be more detailed and that I needed more training. So, yeah.
THOMAS: Okay. Okay.
REBECCA: So, that’s…. Yeah. So, it was just really confusing because I wasn’t really told what I was, like, I mean, I knew what to do, but I didn’t in a way.
THOMAS: I got you. I totally understand. So, it sounds like what you’re looking for from the training is very, very specific to QC.
REBECCA: Yeah.
THOMAS: And so, yeah, and I don’t know if there are any QC trainings that exist, but-
REBECCA: There isn’t.
THOMAS: Okay. So, that’s why I’m, yeah. So, I would be sort of reluctant. And I’m not trying to dissuade you from taking any sort of training, but if your real goal is that. But what I would, I wanna go back to Nefertiti or anyone else who sort of. Scott, I know you do QC as well. What could you say about that?
SCOTT N: [sighs] It’s a very sticky wicket. Sorry, I’m going all Australian on you again. It’s a very difficult thing. Rebecca, I’m very sorry that the people giving you these scripts didn’t properly or correctly explain to you what they wanted or were expecting and then didn’t give you the feedback before failing you. really giving you the scope of what they wanted is a really sucky way to do things.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT N: Yeah. Because-
REBECCA: Yeah, they gave me notes on the first part. Sorry.
SCOTT B: Mm. No, go ahead.
REBECCA: I did get notes on the first part, the first part of the QC test, just not the second. And I’d never, up until I did this test, I’d never seen an audio description script.
SCOTT N: Right.
REBECCA: This was my first time ever seeing an audio description script! And then the template that they sent me to write my notes in wasn’t accessible. So-
SCOTT N: Ugh.
REBECCA: [chuckles] Yeah. So, it was in a table in Word, which is not accessible when you’re using a screen reader. You don’t know where you are on the page. [laughs]
SCOTT N: Yeah.
REBECCA: So, I had to get them, [laughs] so, I had to get them to send me it again in a different format that I could actually do.
SCOTT N: Mm. Yeah. You see, this is a thing. And this actually warrens us back just a little bit in the conversation to something Thomas was saying. And with all due respect to Thomas, one of the kings in the biz, not everyone is as computer literate or as fluent in certain programs like Word or Excel that as other folk.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT N: So, a little bit of extra training in those areas and being able to make the people applying for these training courses comfortable enough to be able to put their hand up and say, “Yo, I don’t exactly know 100% what I’m doing here. Can I get a little bit of extra support?”
REBECCA: Yeah!
SCOTT N: You know, making people comfortable to be able to come in at, for lack of a better term, Level 1 and giving them a base level, which is actually, “Okay. Do you know this? Do you know this? Do you know this? It’s okay if you don’t. We will show you. We will give you a little extra time. We can maybe set up a training module or something like that to give you that little bit of extra support to give you.” ‘Cause really, one of the biggest discouragement-and I personally, I don’t mean to steal your thunder here, Rebecca, at all-but one of the big things I have, one of my concerns coming into the audio description space is am I actually going to be able to do it and from a technical point of view? And it is a really big source of anxiety for me, and it sometimes makes me think maybe I shouldn’t, you know? But then I keep, just keep pushing myself. But yeah.
THOMAS: So, Scott-
NEFERTITI: This is Nefertiti. Oh. May I just quickly say? I think the two of you, Rebecca and Scott N., are talking about something very real in the blindness community in general.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: As somebody who has quite an extensive background in assistive technology, teaching it to folks, I spent years teaching people who came from all walks of life, whether they be congenitally blind or went blind later in life. And the aptitude in technology varies so much that yeah, maybe a table in a Word document is something seemingly insurmountable for someone. And another person might come in and be like, “Oh no, this is a breeze. I got this.”
REBECCA: Yeah, yeah!
NEFERTITI: “This is no problem at all.” So, I happen to know-and I don’t think I’m at liberty to name names yet-but I know that there is a company who is diligent-blah, excuse me-diligently working on creating an area for QC for blind people, and training is definitely part of the getting ready for employment with this company. Because not only is it they’re gonna send you scripts in Word and Excel, and you need to know those, but you also need to know the platforms you’ll be using for, say, QC for Netflix. It’s different from Amazon. It’s different from Disney.
REBECCA: Yeah!
NEFERTITI: So, all of these things require some type of training, not necessarily hand-holding. So, I do wanna make that clear to people. You do need to come into this with some basic knowledge of your screen reading technology, of your magnification software. Whatever your access technology needs are, you do need to have that base. So, if that’s something you’re a little wobbly on, work on it because it’s only going to benefit you.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: These companies are there to train you on audio description and QC, narration, whatever it is. They’re not necessarily there to teach you your technology. That is up to you. That is up to you.
SCOTT N: Mm.
THOMAS: Nef, that was exactly what I wanted to point out. And so, to get back, and again, I’m just using your case, Rebecca, to help others.
REBECCA: Yes.
THOMAS: But at some point we need to sort of reflect and say, okay, what is the training that I can do right now that is going to help me in the long run, right? And so, if your intention is to do QC, okay. Then, now maybe, maybe-and I’m not saying this directly at you-but maybe it is, “Okay, let me get more familiar with Word. Let me get more familiar with my screen. Let me get more familiar with the tools that I’m going to need to be really comfortable in order to do whatever it is in the thing.” Because when I’m approached by folks who wanna know, in terms of doing narration, I tell them this exact same thing, like, “Look. You’re going to get, you might get things in Excel.”
REBECCA: Yes!
THOMAS: “So, you should be very comfortable in Excel. And if you’re not comfortable in Excel, well, then you should be comfortable in taking, in exporting from Excel to a format that you’re comfortable with.”
REBECCA: Right.
THOMAS: Because every time that we ask for-not that it’s wrong-but every time that we ask for some accommodation, even if the accommodation is not a burden, we know that that is looked upon as a possible nother reason to not utilize us.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
REBECCA: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: And we do not want to give these folks any more ammunition!
REBECCA: No!
SCOTT B: Right.
REBECCA: No.
SCOTT B: Scott B. real quick. So, I, like Nefertiti, I used to be an access technology specialist trainer. And I equate this to I used to teach a bunch of people going into training at Social Security and IRS here in the States, two federal government agencies, right? They had very in-depth training programs that taught people about how to be customer service reps or claims reps or whatever the jobs were. That stuff was part of the job, but people had to come in with a certain amount of aptitude in the basic office applications that they were using. But the challenge with audio description right now is we don’t have that yet, but it is coming, where there will be more sound and built out training programs that people can take part in.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT B: And the good news, too, is that there are resources if you need support on, if anybody needs support on, let’s say, just operating in Windows or the Mac or using office productivity tools. There are a lot of resources out there, both online, in your local area, and even textbooks and things like that, that can help give you that stronger baseline for entering into this or any other industry, really.
REBECCA: Yeah.
SCOTT B: I’m done speaking.
THOMAS: I think this is a great place to end because it puts the power back in our side of the court, right?
SCOTT N: Mm.
THOMAS: We do have power, but we have to make sure that when we, you know, when we walk into this building, that we’re ready, that we’re equipped.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
THOMAS: So, do what you can right now. Don’t necessarily run out there and sign up for this and for that. Think about all the things that you can do. I always tell folks, “Hey, you can start doing audio description right now.” You can take an existing film or a show, whatever it is that you like and note the audio description. This is for folks who wanna do narration. And then go record it on your own, right? Just record those same lines. It doesn’t even matter what you record. It really doesn’t. Are you comfortable recording? Are you comfortable speaking those lines? How do you think it sounds when you compare it to what the other person did, right? How did that feel to record it? You can do all of this stuff. You can get yourself prepared. Because the worst thing to happen is when you get the opportunity and you’re not really prepared for it.
NEFERTITI: That’s right.
THOMAS: That sucks. That sucks. It’s a awful feeling. So, do all of those things, you know? Do all of those things, and then you go for it. Then you go for it.
NEFERTITI: Absolutely. I wanna tell folks that Thomas has been my mentor in all of this. This is Nefertiti speaking. And he gave me that same advice when I was exploring, is this something that I want to dedicate myself to? Do I have the skill set necessary? And one of the things he told me was to get very comfortable with, my DAWs, the digital audio workstation, which for me as somebody who is not technical at all, if it were up to me, I’d do the writing, the QCing, I’d be the voice, and that would be that. But as a voice actor now with a little home studio and the like, it’s so much more than that, you know. It’s learning that digital audio workstation so that I can record myself, so that I can make myself sound good enough for auditions or a studio quality recording that I’m sending in for these narrations, right? Same for QC, as an example of what we were talking about, you have to make sure that not only do you know the mechanics of writing and the like, but also that you know audio description. But that you literally know your screen reader well enough or your technology well enough to get in there and be able to edit those scripts, make notations, etc.
So, there is definitely some preparation that goes into this beyond just sort of honing up on the skills of what you ultimately want to do. There is some prep work that needs to go into it, and I agree with Thomas 100%. When you get that audition, when you get that role or that opportunity to QC or to write a script, you gotta be ready. ‘Cause like it or not, we all represent one another, and again, we don’t need to give these folks any more ammunition. They try it with one of us and we flub it, like it or not, they’ll think that we will all flub it. So, if that’s a little pressure on folks, I’m sorry. That’s just the reality of things. I think we all walking in this space of disability know that we are out there being ambassadors, like it or not, advocates, like it or not. And so, yeah, my advice, and I guess in closing for me-everybody will have a chance to close out too if you’d like-is get ready so, you know…. I guess stay ready, so you don’t have to get ready kinda thing, right?
THOMAS: Yeah, yeah.
NEFERTITI: Hone your skills and make sure you’re on top of your game, and then go for it. Rolls Royce. [laughs]
THOMAS: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: I’m a bougie.
THOMAS: Apparently!
SCOTT N and NEFERTITI: [laugh]
NEFERTITI: I said I’m a bougie bitch, okay? Okay. [laughs] Anyone else have anything to say before I say our little closing?
SCOTT N: I just thought with all the Spaces we do within the community just at the very end as we’re all signing off and so forth, we all just mention one audio described title that we have watched this week or are planning to watch this week just as a way of promoting the business and just showing that we’re all engaged in the community. So, just before I throw mine in there, I just wanna thank Thomas and Nef there for the advice about building up the skill sets and getting the fundamentals down before you go headlong into it. It has given me a fair bit to think about, and it’s something that I am going to have to go and assess and make sure that I do have everything sorted out before I take my next step. And that’s on me. That’s something that I have to do. But I really wanna thank both of you for reminding me of that. And just a big thanks for Rebecca for putting her hand up. She was absolutely . And thanks to everyone for coming today. I am off to watch the second half of this season of Cobra Kai on Netflix.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!
SCOTT N: So, that’s me, guys. And let’s send off [trills lips like a big raspberry].
SCOTT B: [laughs]
NEFERTITI: With a sound effect and everything! Thank you, Scott N. Thank you so much. I love this prompt. Anybody wanna say something they’re watching with audio description or maybe working on if they’re willing to say.
SCOTT B: If you’re allowed. [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Yeah, we know there’s a lot of NDAs and such.
THOMAS: [chuckles] Yeah, definitely not saying what I’m working on. I’m actually not even watching anything this week, but I do wanna shout out, Year of the Tiger by Alice Wong.
NEFERTITI: Whoo!!!
THOMAS: Y’all need to get that.
SCOTT B: Mmhmm.
THOMAS: Go ahead and get that book. Yeah, I’m reading that on Audible right now. Although-
SCOTT B: Is she reading it, Thomas?
NEFERTITI: Is she reading it? Yeah.
THOMAS: No, no, no.
SCOTT B: Okay. I wasn’t sure.
THOMAS: Oh, I did start watching, it’s a old thing. I’m actually going back to like, I’m looking for series that I can get into. So, I’m watching Silicon Valley on HBO Max, I think it is.
SCOTT B: Yes.
THOMAS: That series. And I missed it when it first came out ’cause it was not described. So, it’s like, oh, I’m gonna go back and catch all of these things that I missed back maybe ten years ago now [laughs] that they came out.
SCOTT B: Right.
THOMAS: So, I’m watching that. It’s kinda funny.
NEFERTITI: Funny you should say that, Thomas, because Scott and I are currently working on something which was not described when it was first released back when was it, Scott, 2010?
SCOTT B: Yeah, that’s when it started.
NEFERTITI: Yeah. It’s a show called Tremé.
THOMAS: Oh! On HBO!
SCOTT B: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: On HBO with one of our favorite writers.
THOMAS: Oh, excellent, ’cause I wanted to watch that. Oh, I can’t wait.
NEFERTITI: He wrote The Wire, one of my all-time favorite shows.
THOMAS: Yes! Yes!
NEFERTITI: What is it, David Simon?
SCOTT B: Yeah, that’s the one.
NEFERTITI: Mmhmm.
SCOTT B: It’s got, you’ll recognize some of the voices. You’ve got, like Clark Peters, who was in The Wire, a couple of other people. Yeah, and it’s about New Orleans, post-Katrina.
THOMAS: Yes.
SCOTT B: All of the music and the beauty and the sadness and the rebuilding. And it is a beautiful show. We’re only through the first season. But I also have to give a shoutout to the description, though we can’t say who it is because we don’t know. There is no attribution on HBO, which was a little bit of a surprise. Most of the HBO content I’ve encountered there is, there has been attribution, but not this one. The narration is fabulous. And the script is really a top-notch script.
THOMAS: Really? And there’s no attribution? Huh.
SCOTT B: None. None at all.
NEFERTITI: No.
SCOTT B: I know. You would expect [laughs] something else.
NEFERTITI: We think, you know? But we don’t wanna say incorrectly.
THOMAS: Okay. Do you know who the narrator is?
NEFERTITI: No. No.
SCOTT B: No. We haven’t determined that either.
NEFERTITI: We think that we know the company. We’re not sure.
THOMAS: POC? POC?
SCOTT B: I don’t think so.
THOMAS: Agh! All right. Got a problem! [laughs] Okay. Go ahead.
NEFERTITI: No, no.
SCOTT B: Yeah, I agree with you. I think it’s a problem on this one. I mean, New Orleans is a diverse city, so you’ve got folks all over the place there. But yeah, the cast-
THOMAS: The cast, yeah.
SCOTT B: -being predominantly people of color.
THOMAS: Yeah.
SCOTT B: I don’t, you know, we could be wrong. That’s the other thing, too, is there’s really no way of knowing. First impressions? I don’t think that the narrator is a person of color. But again, how could we know?
THOMAS: Okay. Right, right, right, right, right.
SCOTT B: Yeah.
NEFERTITI: Yeah.
THOMAS: Interesting. Well, I’m glad to hear that it’s being described, so.
NEFERTITI: Yes. And well, which is of the utmost importance. Cheryl, anything to share?
CHERYL: Well, sure. Nefertiti, you and Thomas and I have been working on audio description in various roles for three films for Superfest International Disabilities Film Festival.
THOMAS and NEFERTITI: Whoo!
CHERYL: So, we have been working on three titles for that. Tickets went on sale today. They are sliding scale all the way down to zero for anybody who wants to attend but doesn’t have the funds. But they are a non-profit, so if you’ve got the funds, please pay for a ticket if you want to. SuperfestFilm.com. All of the films have captions and audio description, and we are super excited about the three that we worked on.
THOMAS: If you’re not going to Superfest, you need to do something about your life. Okay?
CHERYL: Thank you. [laughs]
SCOTT N: [laughs]
THOMAS: If you’re not going to Superfest, check your life. I’m just sayin’.
NEFERTITI: [laughs]
SCOTT N: [chuckles]
NEFERTITI: Check yourself before you wreck yourself.
CHERYL: Because it’s in-person and online. [laughs]
THOMAS: And online. You have no excuse except check your life.
NEFERTITI: That’s right. SuperfestFilm.com. And that was done through the Social Audio Description Collective that we three are a part of!
CHERYL: [imitates tiny air horn]
NEFERTITI: [imitates air horn] Shameless, not so shameless plug.
CHERYL: [imitates more enthusiastic air horn]
NEFERTITI: [laughs] Well, listen, everyone who has listened and who will catch this on the replay, thank you so, so much for joining in the conversation even if that’s just through listening. Please spread the word that we’re here. Remember, we are considering doing a cross-platform type of situation. So, the next time we get together, it might be on some other platform that isn’t Twitter. So, stay tuned for that. We also want to again remind you audio description was made by blind people for blind people. Let’s make room for blind people in all aspects of audio description. And yeah, stay tuned for the next time, likely in two weeks with your three co-hosts and hopefully the two moderators, Scott B. and Scott N. from the Audio Description Twitter Community. And about the Audio Description Twitter Community, if you haven’t joined us, what are you waiting for? Communities. Communities. Audio Description. We are there, and we’d love to have you join us if you haven’t already.
THOMAS: Right. Get your life in order. [cracking up] Join the Audio Description Community.
NEFERTITI: Yeah! Yeah, yeah, yeah. [laughs] Love it. All righty, everybody. Thank you so much.
THOMAS: All right, y’all. Thank you.
NEFERTITI: We’ll talk again soon.
SCOTT N: [imitates the cartoon Bugs Bunny] B-deep, b-deep, b-deep. That’s all, folks!
NEFERTITI: Hang on. Hang on. I’m so sorry. One last thing. I do wanna let folks know tonight, because of the interest, we did focus on blind people being professionals in audio description, and we talked about the workflow and all of that. But we had two other conversation topics, and we want to assure you that we will cover everything that we put out there to folks. It’s just a matter of priorities and what’s most important to the community. But next time we might talk about training opportunities or self-description or something else entirely. So, stay tuned to the community and to our individual Twitter handles, and we will continue to engage with you all. #ADFUBU, I love that. And now I am done. Uh…I don’t know…uh. Mercedes Benz.
THOMAS: Nef, Audi 20,000.
NEFERTITI: Audio 2,000.
THOMAS: 20,000! We got up to 20,000.
NEFERTITI: 20,000!
THOMAS: Come on. [laughs]
SCOTT B: [singing] Bugatti. Bugatti.
NEFERTITI: I’m not fast at this. Sorry!
THOMAS: Oh, Bugatti.
THOMAS and SCOTT B: [laugh]
THOMAS: All right, y’all.
NEFERTITI: All right, you guys. Have a great weekend, everybody. Till next time.
SCOTT B: Take care, y’all.
SCOTT N: Hasta la vista.
NEFERTITI: Bye-bye.

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

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