We were quite hearten.:tl by a particular letter we received last year from a blind parent of sighted children who for the first time could follow along with her kids the antics of Elmo. Bert, Ernie, and al I the other denizens of Sesame Street. Access for All Over the past twenty years. I have considered it quite a privilege to train d.:scrihers and do AD workshops in rwenty ~rates in the United States and in nine countries around the world, most recently in Moscow for the 2nd Annual Moscow International Disability Film Festival. I mention that because I want to share with you a strong impression from three days of training I conducted there – and 1 found the s.ime sort of pirit severa l years earlier when I conducted live dnys of training in Sofia, Bulgaria . In both countries, the trainees and my hosts taught me that audio descript ion, access to the arts, is about Democracy. Here I am, coming from the United tates, a prosperous, democratic n::uion,and yet access ibility in the U.S . is often not viewed as a right, as a reflection of the principles upon which our nation was founded. People in Sofia, Bulgaria in St. Pctershurg, and in Moscow are wrestling with economic problems attendant to any new democ racy yet to them democracy means ··access to everyon.:.” I learned that from my friends there and I share that wonderfully inclusive notion with you hen:. We have an immense and \’ariccl culture in the United tares. There is no reason why a person with a visual disability must also be culturally disadv:rnt· aged. All people need to be ful I p.irticipants in their nation’s cultural life. It must be rem..:mbered that the ·’able bodied” among us ore only temporarily so-there is only a thin line between ability and disability. With a focus on people’s ahilities, we will come much closer to greater inclusion and total access. About the Author Joel nyder Joel nyder is known intern.1tionally as one of the lirst audio describers . He began descr ibing arts events in 1980 with the world ·s fir ·t ongoing audio description service in Washington, DC. His work made hundreds of live theater product ions accessi ble LO visually impaired audience members: in media, Mr. nydcr used the ·ame technique to enhance PB ‘Ame rican Playhouse productions, ABC and Fox network broadcasts, feature films. the IM/\X film “Rlue Planet” and the Planetarium show “And A Star To rcer Her By” at the Smithsonian Institution’s ational Air and Space Museum . As Director oJTiescribed Media for the National Captioning Institute, he leads a stalTthat produces description for nationally broadcast films and television series including ‘·Sesame Strc ·t’· and DV s. Mr. nydcr·s Audio Description Associates develops AO tours for museums throughout the ·l d States indudin the Enabling.Garden Ut the hicago Botanic Garden the ationul Aquar ium in Baltimore and th!?J P. ul Getty Mw. um in Lu · , ngd cs. Intemationally h introduced description tccbniqu · in Jap n. I, c:I.R nwni> His palm hovers above the baby bird. He lays his hand lightly over the tiny creature. Smil ing, Mohammed curls his fingers around the chick and scoops 3. 3. – Vivid verbs help conjure images in the mind’s eye. it into his hands. He stands and strokes its nearly featherless head with a fingertip. 6 0 I :02:08: 12 00:00:00:23 -· :-:- -:-… [CH IRP ING/RUSTLE: 01] JOEL SNYDER 7 01:02:09:12 00:00:17:19 >> Mohammed starts as the bird nips his finger. He taps 4. his linger on the chick·s gaping beak. He tills 4. his head back. 4. – Description, like much poetry , is written to be heard. Alliteration adds variety and helps lo maintain interest then drops it forward. Mohammed tips 4. the chick into his front shirt pocket. Wrapping his legs and arms around a tree trunk, Mohammed climbs. 8 0 I :02:28: IO 00:00:0 I :04 — — — -…[HEAVYBREATHI G/CL!MBING : 11) 9 0 I :02:39: IO 00:00: 17: 19 –:–:–:->> He latches onto a tangle of thin. upper branches . His legs Aai\ for a foothold. Mohammed stretches an arm between a fork in the trunk of the tree ,md wedges in his h..:,1d and shoulder. His shoes slip on the rough bark. IO OI :02:55: 11 00:00:00:23 …[SCRAPfNG :03) II OI :02:58: 11 00:00: 16:04 » He wraps his legs around the lower trunk. then uscs his arms to pull himself higher. He rises into thicker foliage and hold onto tangles of smal ler branches. Gaining his footing, Mohammed stands upright and cocks his head LO one side. 12 01:03:13:20 00:00:01:04 –:–:–:-…[CH[RPING/FLUTTER] 13 0 I :OJ: 18: 15 00:00: I 0: 15 – :–:–:->> An adult bird flies from a nearby branch. 5. 5 – What to include? T his image is important-t he adult bird returns in the nut sce ne. Mohammed extends an open hand. He touches a branch and runs his fingers over wide, green leaves. 14 0 I :03 :27: 11 00:00:00:23 ··–:- -:–:-…fRUSTLfNG :03) 15 01:03:30:11 00:00:14:08 > I le pats his hand d wn tht: length of”U1ebranch . His fingers trace the smooth bark of the upper branches , search the network of connecting tree limbs, and discover their joi nts. 16 0 1:03:43:20 00:00:00:23 ——-…[RUSTLE :02] 17 0103:45:20 00:00:05:06 01 :03:50:26 >> Above his head, Mohammed ‘s finger find a dense mass of woven twigs–a bird’ s nest. 18 0 I :OJ:50:26 00:00:00:23 …[CHIRPING :03) 19 0 1:03:53:26 00:00:07:15 >> Smiling, he removes the chick from his shirt pocket and drops it gently into the nest beside another fledgling. 20 01:04:01:00 00:00:00:23 …[CHIRPING :OJ] 2 1 01:04:03:04 00:00:13:04 >> He rubs the top of the chick’s head with his index 6. 6 – Be specific — precision creates image s! finger. Mohammed wiggles his finger like a worm 7. and taps a chick’s open beak. Smiling, he 7 – Simi les paint pictures! slowly lowers his hand. Venues for Audio Description In the United States, in ar.:as where a television station is equipped lO participa te. AD lets all television viewers to hear what they cannot sec. It’s accessible via a special audio channel availab le on stereo televisions. Viewers selec t the SAP (secondary audio program) channe l in order to hear the regular program audio accompanied by the descriptions , precisely timed to occur only during the lapses between dialogues. Sighted viewers appreciate the dcsc ripti(lns as wel I. lt”s television for blind, low vision and sighted people who want to be in the kitchen washing dishcs while the show is on. To a limited degree-in approximate ly 200 movie theaters nationwide-aud io description is available for first-run film scree nings; similarly. description can be found on several hundred VHS videotape titles alLhough the VH format doesn’ t allow for tht descr iption to be turned off. DVDs are a far more suitable format, allowing for an audio menu, and the TI-TEINTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF THE ART JN OCIETY, VOLUME 2 ability to select description if desired; unfortunately only se era! dozen DVD ticlescun-emly otler description. There are now federal provisions regarding AD. in particular Section 508 requiring description with g vcrnment-produccd media, and the Federal Communications Commission (F ) rule, cun·ently under review. In 2002, the FCC mandated description for broadcast television several years ago but that rule was successfully challenged by the television and film industry in the courls. ow the US Congress is considering legislation that would reinstate the mandate just as captioning has been required for most television broadcasts in the US for over 20 years. In live performing arts settings, AD is offered free usually at designated performances. People desiring this service may rect:ive headphones attached to small receivers, about the sin of a cigarette pack. Prior to the show, a live or taped version or the program notes i$ transmitted through the headphones after which, the trained desi.;riber narrates the performance from another part of the theater via a radio or infrared transmitter using concise objective descriptions all slipped in between po11ionsof dialogue 0 1· songs. In museums, using AD techniques for the de.~cription of static images and exhibitions, docents find that they develop better use of language and more expressive vivid, and imaginative museum tours, greatly appreciated by all visitors. In this way docenllcd tours arc more appropriate for the lowvision visitor and docents find tl1at their regular tours are enhanced. A lively and vivid descriptive process enables docents to make the museum exrc ricnce more accessible and more meaningful for everyone. Recorded AD tours, spel.:ificallygeared to people with low vision, are increasingly common. Combined with directional information, these recorded tours enable vi~itors who are blind to use a simple handhdd audio player to tour at lea~t a portion of the museum independently and ll’ith new access to the visual clements of exhibitions. Other curators are interested in having certain videos within an exhibit or a p:micular film described. The Audio Describer I have trained des ribers in twdve different states and six different countrie · and I thought it might be of some interest to learn what it talces10 offer description in ways that will be most useful. I recall being simply amazed when l fim encountered ir Arthur Conan Doyle’s brilliant detective. Sherlock Holmes. Brilliant … and incredibly observant. In developing AD for television. a video, for theater, for a museum – in any context- ! cmphas- izc four elements, the first of which is all about the skill that herlock Holmes honed: I. 2. 3. Observation: The great philosopher Yogi Be1i-a said it best: ·’You can sec a lot just by looking.” An effective describer must increase his level of awareness and become an active “sec-er,” develop his ‘visual literacy,” notice the visual world with a heightened sense of acuity, and share those images. Miss Helen Keller told it like it is she said, ‘ Those who have never sufft:red impairment ot’s ight or hearing seldom make the fullest use of these blessed faculties. Their eyes and ears take in all sights and sounds hazily, without concentration and with little appreciation.” Editing: Next, describers must edit or cul I from what they see. selecting what is most valid, what is most important, what is most critical to an understanding and appreciation of an event. In addition. choices are made based on an understanding of blindness and low visioo going from the gener:.ilLothe specific, use of color, inclusion of directional information , and so on. Language: We transfer it all to words–objec live, vivid, specific, imaginatively drawn words, phrases and metaphors. Is the Washington Monument 555 feet tall or is it as high as fifty elephants stacked one on top of the other? How many different words can you use to describe someone moving along a sidewalk? Why say “walk” when you cun more vividly describe the action with “sas hay,” ‘ stroll.” “skip ,” “stumble ,” or “saunter”? But good describers also strive for simplicity, succinctness “less is more.” In writing to a friend Blaise Pascal once noted: “I have only made this letter longer because I have not had the time to mnke it shorter.” While a describer must use language which helps folks see vividly–and even sec beyond what’s readily apparent-,it’s important to maintain a degree ofobjecti ity-describcrs sum it up with the acronym ·’WYSIWYS”: ” What You See Is What You Say.” The best audio describer is sometimes referred to as a “verbal camera lens.” objectively recounting visual aspects of an exhibition. Qualitative judgments get in the way they constitute a subjective interpretation on the part of the describer and are unnecessary and unwanted. Let listeners conjure their own interpretations based on a commentary that is as objective as possible. So you don’t say “He is furious” or “She is upset.” Rather, ‘·He’s clenching his fist” or “She is crying.” The idea is to let the audience make JOEL , NY DER 4. lheir own judgments perhaps their eyes don’t work so wdl. but their brains and their interpretative skills are intact. Vocal Skills: Finally, in addition to building a verbal capability. the describer develops the vocal instrument Lhrough work with speech and oral interpretatio n fundamentals. We make meaning wilh our voices one quick exercise I use involves the phrase: Woman without her man is a savage. ay ii aloud so that it means just Lheopposite ; Woman: Without her. man is a savage. So, effective describe r must learn to ··re-s e” the world around usto truly notice wha t it is perceived with the eye.sand then express the pertinent aspects of those images with precise and imaginative language and vocal techniq ues that rende r the visual verbal. Audio Description and Literacy Not too long ago I conducted a workshop in New Haven with day care workers and reading teachers on what I think represents a new application for audio description. We experimented with developing more descriptive language to use when working w/ kids and picture books. Some of these books are deficient with respect Lo the language skills they involve -they rely on the pictures to tell the story. But the teacher trained in audio tlescription techniques would never simply hold up a picture ofa red ball and read the text:· · cc the ball.” He or she might add: ”T he ball is red-just like a fire engine. I think that ball is as large as one of you! It’s as round as the sun–a bright red circle or sphere .” The teacher has introduced new vocabulary invited comparisons, and u ed mct.nphor or simi le – with toddlers! By using audio dest.:ription, I think that these books will be made accessible to kids who have !ow vision o r are blind •a11d• help develop more sophist icated language skills for al\ kids. A picture is worth I000 words? Maybe. But the audio describe r might say that a fc\V well-chosen words can conjure vivid and lasting images. Indeed. al NCI.Described Media we’re quite proud to be the folks who provide desc ription- for the first time – for Sesame Street. We were quite hearten.:tl by a particular letter we received last year from a blind parent of sighted children who for the first time could follow along with her kids the antics of Elmo. Bert, Ernie, and al I the other denizens of Sesame Street. Access for All Over the past twenty years. I have considered it quite a privilege to train d.:scrihers and do AD workshops in rwenty ~rates in the United States and in nine countries around the world, most recently in Moscow for the 2nd Annual Moscow International Disability Film Festival. I mention that because I want to share with you a strong impression from three days of training I conducted there – and 1 found the s.ime sort of pirit severa l years earlier when I conducted live dnys of training in Sofia, Bulgaria . In both countries, the trainees and my hosts taught me that audio descript ion, access to the arts, is about Democracy. Here I am, coming from the United tates, a prosperous, democratic n::uion,and yet access ibility in the U.S . is often not viewed as a right, as a reflection of the principles upon which our nation was founded. People in Sofia, Bulgaria in St. Pctershurg, and in Moscow are wrestling with economic problems attendant to any new democ racy yet to them democracy means ··access to everyon.:.” I learned that from my friends there and I share that wonderfully inclusive notion with you hen:. We have an immense and \’ariccl culture in the United tares. There is no reason why a person with a visual disability must also be culturally disadv:rnt· aged. All people need to be ful I p.irticipants in their nation’s cultural life. It must be rem..:mbered that the ·’able bodied” among us ore only temporarily so-there is only a thin line between ability and disability. With a focus on people’s ahilities, we will come much closer to greater inclusion and total access. About the Author Joel nyder Joel nyder is known intern.1tionally as one of the lirst audio describers . He began descr ibing arts events in 1980 with the world ·s fir ·t ongoing audio description service in Washington, DC. His work made hundreds of live theater product ions accessi ble LO visually impaired audience members: in media, Mr. nydcr used the ·ame technique to enhance PB ‘Ame rican Playhouse productions, ABC and Fox network broadcasts, feature films. the IM/\X film “Rlue Planet” and the Planetarium show “And A Star To rcer Her By” at the Smithsonian Institution’s ational Air and Space Museum . As Director oJTiescribed Media for the National Captioning Institute, he leads a stalTthat produces description for nationally broadcast films and television series including ‘·Sesame Strc ·t’· and DV s. Mr. nydcr·s Audio Description Associates develops AO tours for museums throughout the ·l d States indudin the Enabling.Garden Ut the hicago Botanic Garden the ationul Aquar ium in Baltimore and th!?J P. ul Getty Mw. um in Lu · , ngd cs. Intemationally h introduced description tccbniqu · in Jap n. I, c:I.R nwni

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