Tag Archives: Movies

How I Got My Own Personal Audio Describer for  the Lion King

A lion head with a huge shaggy mane

While I was watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade last month it was announced  the Lion King  was celebrating 25 years of its theatrical production. I recalled the first time I saw the Lion King. It was the animated version and I was totally sighted. I remember the incredible music and visual affects. A friend even purchased the original soundtrack and we would listen to it  during our car rides around town.

Missed First Production But Went to Second

Of course, this was many years ago and I am blind today. But my vision loss didn’t stop me. When I heard the theatrical production was coming to my local theater I had to go. The first time the production came I missed it waiting on a friend. By the time we got  to ordering the tickets it was sold out. I was very disappointed.

I promised myself next time to grab a ticket immediately and not wait around. So, when they came back again that is exactly what I did. Lesson learned. I was sitting on my sofa watching TV and the commercial came on announcing the Lion King was coming back to Atlanta. WooHoo! I ran to the phone and got out my credit card to buy a ticket. I didn’t even tell anyone, I just did it.

Excited About Live Audio Description

When I was purchasing my ticket the representative told me the production was available in audio description. I was elated. I was already familiar with how it brought movies and TV to life. I had also used audio description for plays  and musicals so I was aware of live audio description. It is very similar  to TV and movies but you get to engage with the audio describer right there in the theater. I would wear a headset to hear the description and the describer would be located nearby in the theater  giving me info on what was happening on stage. I was even more motivated to go. To see this wonderful production and then to have it audio described! Well, it just beat all.

Confusion About Audio Description

Two women have a sign language conversation at a table.

ON the day of the performance an usher guided me over to the deaf and hard of hearing section. I was confused because I am not deaf nor hard of hearing. Unfortunately, things like this happen all the time to me and my community. People lump the blind and deaf together as if we have the same disability. I have had friends  tell me of times people thought they needed a sign language interpreter. Or people talking really loud  to us as if we have  hearing loss. I mean it goes on and on. So, although I was confused I was not totally surprised.

I asked the usher about audio description and  now they were the one confused. I explained what audio description was and how it worked for the blind. The usher  didn’t know what to do so got a manager. While I waited I talked to the real time captioner for the deaf. I knew her from disability events where she  would do captioning. This type of technology reduces the need for multiple sign language interpreters  because the captioner would use a device to type and the words would appear on the screen for several deaf people to read at one time.

Got Personal  Describer

While we were chatting and catching up the manager came over to apologize. He told me there was a mistake and I was told wrong. There would be no audio description after all. He was deeply sorry for the misunderstanding and embarrassment. As I was processing this news another man came over to introduce himself. He told me he was a professional audio describer  and was here to observe the captioning process. He said he would be happy to audio describe the production for me. So, I went from major displeasure to major  happiness in a matter of a few minutes.

Described All the Sights and sounds

audience of people facing a stage watching a play. There is one person on stage surrounded by furniture.

We decided to move away from the crowd and sit closer to the corner of the room. It was a good spot for him to see everything  and to also talk in my ear without disturbing people around us. The production began with the animals coming down the aisle  moving toward the stage. It was just like in the movie  where all the animals  travel to Pride Rock for the ceremony of Simba. He described the vibrant and colorful costumes. He described the fluent body movements of the dancers  as animals. He described all the sights and sounds. It was amazing! Who knew I would have my own personal audio describer sitting right next to me.

He even described the dancers who pretended to be  grass and water. They were dressed in green. They had these fan-like objects in their hands also in green. This was to simulate the tall moving grass from the movie. It was the same set up for water. The dancers were in blue and moved their bodies simulating water flowing. He described other dancers dressed in animal costumes and how they moved around the stage just like the animal  they  mimicked.

A giraffe with an extended long neck

I was truly captivated by the creativity  of the production and talent of the dancers and actors. It was literally just like in the animated version. Since I was sighted when I saw the movie  I use my visual memories. Along with those memories and an excellent audio describer, I had a wonderful time. What started out as a disappointment turned into  an exciting moment for me.

Watched Movie on Disney+

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

This past week, to honor the 25th anniversary, I watched the movie again. It was available through Disney+ in audio description. Of course, it was different from the live theatrical production with my own personal describer. Who could match that? However, it was enjoyable all the same. Hakuna Matata!

Watching Audio Described Holiday Movies Will Put Some Ho Ho in Your Christmas

Christmas tree fully decorated with presents underneath

Watching Movies Are Part of Holiday Season

What is a perfect way to get into the holiday spirit? My answer is cuddling up with a mug of hot cocoa or the classic holiday three flavor popcorn tin  and laying on the sofa to watch a slew of Christmas movies. Everyone knows that watching a heartwarming holiday flick is one of the merriest parts of the season along with decorating the tree and baking grandma’s legendary cookie or brownie recipe.

Bowl of multi flavored popcorn sitting on a table. There is butter, cheddar and caramel flavors in the bowl.

Whether you’re in the mood for a traditional family holiday classic or a romantic Hallmark Christmas movie, there is something for everyone including the kids. View holiday romcoms, funny Christmas comedies and even Christmas horrors from the comfort of your home.

Christmas Movies Available in Audio Description

As a blind person how do I join in on the holiday spirit? How do I enjoy this merry tradition? Audio described movies and films are the ones I watch this season.

An audio described movie is when images, scenes, actions and descriptions of the actor’s appearance are described during natural pauses in the film. It allows me to know what is happening and enjoy the film along with everyone else. Audio description is available in a variety of mediums such as analog TV, streaming services, DVDs, cable, satellite and movie theaters.

Additionally, you can find audio description available at live theatrical performances and museums. The National Library Services for the Blind and Print Impaired offers a detailed resource guide on  audio description.

Audio Description at Home

Now, it’s time to make that Christmas movie list and don’t forget to check it twice. The Audio Description Project has created a  Christmas theme movie list. On their site they catalog the movie and streaming service such as Netflix, Apple TV+, Disney+, iTunes and Amazon Prime. They also list the traditional TV guide  for movies and films  that will air on TV and cable stations.

As the holidays approach this info will update, so check often for new movie titles. There is something for everyone regardless  of being naughty or nice.

Audio Description at the Movie Theater

Empish wearing audio description headset at movie theater

Don’t want to watch Christmas movies home alone? Rather have a jolly good time and watch a holiday flick at the theater? Audio description is available  at your local movie cinema. National chains such as AMC Theatres and Regal Cinema offer audio description for most blockbuster films. They will indicate that information on their website or app next to the title of the movie so you know in advance if it is audio described or not.

Once you arrive request the audio description headset at customer service. Be sure it is the one for people with vision loss because theaters do provide equipment for the deaf and hard of hearing as well. You should hear the audio description at the beginning of the film. If not contact a theater representative to assist you to correct the problem with your device.

Star shaped powder sugar cookies on a plate with cup of coco

It’s the most wonderful time of the year to watch an audio described movie. Each year more and more movies and films are available to the blind community. Don’t let the Grinch steal your holiday cheer. Throw on your ugly Christmas sweater, grab some snacks and enjoy the movies!

Audio Description Helps Me Keep a Thanksgiving Day Tradition

An orange background with the words “Happy Thanksgiving Day” in block script

This time of year we celebrate the holidays and  its traditions. Thanksgiving brings on lots of food, family and fun. One major Thanksgiving  tradition is watching the Macy’s Day parade.

A Thanksgiving Day Tradition From Childhood

Since I was a small child,  this TV event was a regular part of my Thanksgiving Day  celebration. .  I would get up early in the morning still in my pjs, grab a bowl of cereal  and park myself right in front of the TV. For the next few hours my eyes were glued to the screen  watching the huge helium balloons, colorful and beautiful floats  and listening to the many marching bands.

Each year  something new and exciting happened with the parade . It could be new helium balloon cartoon characters and a list of popular musicians  and entertainers. The marching bands held a special place for me. My mother was in a collegiate marching band and later I attended Florida A&M University, famous for the infamous Marching 100.

A marching band performing with conductor in a parade. The ban is wearing red with white stripes on their pants and caps playing instruments

While I was captivated by all the sights and sounds of the parade my parents were busy in the kitchen preparing our Thanksgiving meal. My dad would do the major cooking of smoked turkey, ham with pineapples, collard greens, mac and cheese and sweet potato pie. While my mother  cooked and prepared the cornbread dressing  with giblet gravy. Sometimes they would call me in to do a taste test  otherwise I was barred from the kitchen until they were done. Of course, I had no problem with that command because the Macy’s Day Parade was on and I didn’t want to miss a minute.

View of the inside of a basket filled with root vegetables like squash, pumpkin, potatoes, carrots and onions

Tried to Continue After Blindness

Years later, as an adult I still continued this Thanksgiving day tradition. Dawning my pjs  and holding my cereal bowl I sat on my sofa and watched the proceedings again. It was just like old times. After vision loss I made attempts to watch it but after a couple of tries I knew it was not going to work.

The Macy’s Day Parade was too visual. Too many things to figure out.  Too many things I couldn’t enjoy anymore. So, for years I let this tradition go and just kept my memories.

What is Audio Description

But about 3 years ago I noticed audio description  became available for this parade. An audio described TV show or movie is when images, scenes, actions and descriptions of the actor’s appearance are described during natural pauses in the production. It allows the blind or visually impaired viewer to know what is happening and enjoy the film along with their sighted peers.

Audio description is available in a variety of mediums such as analog TV, streaming services, DVDs, cable, satellite and movie theaters. Additionally, you can find audio description available at live theatrical performances and museums. The Macy’s Day Parade was audio described live by Descriptive Video Works, Where I sit as an advisory  committee member.

Audio Description Brought Tradition Back

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

I was so excited to reintroduce this Thanksgiving Day tradition  into my life again. Even during the pandemic, The parade aired. Although condensed with a shorter route  and no live audience on the street, it was still great. I got to hear one of my favorite entertainers, Patti LaBelle, sing. Woohoo! This year  was the 96th anniversary. There was  a performance from the Lion King, more balloons, floats and several marching bands. Then a finale of Santa Claus and Mariah Carey singing her famous song, “All I Want for Christmas is You.”

Like the Thanksgiving meal, it just wouldn’t be the same without  watching this parade. I am just so glad and grateful audio description  lets me keep this Thanksgiving tradition. And hopefully for many more years to come.

I’m Still Not Back in the Movie Theater and Here’s Why

Empish wearing audio description headset at movie theater

National Cinema Day

Two years ago, I wrote a post about my reluctance  to watch movies at my local movie theater, AMC. Although, they had put COVID protocols  in place I was still not comfortable. The pandemic  was still raging and our numbers here in Georgia were still high. Well, that was some time ago  and since today, Sept 3, is National cinema Day it is appropriate to give an update.

Haven’t Return to Movie Theater

I have to be honest with you and say I have still not entered a movie theater. Things with the pandemic are slowing down. People are getting back out and about. Things are  getting back to some kind of normalcy  we experienced before. So, if this is the case, what gives? What’s my issue? Movie theaters are doing all kinds of promotions to get people back in. While researching this post I saw  online  $3  movie tickets  for today. What a steal! But that is still not enough to coax me out of the house. Even the  bankrupted company, Movie Pass, for which I was a loyal member, is back  and up and running.

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

My initial  reasons were the pandemic but two years later I am in a different place in my life. Trudging all the way to the movie theater  on public transportation is not in the cards for me anymore. Now, it is about time management. Do I have the availability  to travel and watch a movie? The answer is no, not anymore. Especially when I can  just easily  turn on my firestick  or smartphone  and watch a film in my home. Also, as an introvert I don’t feel the need to be around people to enjoy my entertainment. Here’s one last reason. I am job hunting  and spend my days  looking for new freelance jobs and/or polishing my  work skills.

Attending Live Theatre

Now,  you might say, “Empish, you just shared about attending live theatre, so what’s the problem?” Good question. It is true, I have recently  gone back to see live performances  but that is a different animal. A live production  is not like watching an actor on  a movie screen. The excitement and thrill of being  up close and personal  is a feeling that doesn’t compare to the cinema. Besides, I go see a live production about  once a month or so. Something like that. It is not very often, whereas  new films come out every weekend or so.

Decision Not Forever

popcorn in a movie theater style square package with movie tickets in the background

So, even though this is the day to nationally celebrate the movie theater, I’m still staying home. I don’t think this decision is forever. No, not at all, because I got to see the sequel of Black Panther. Just like the first one, this is a movie  you gotta see in the theater with a large soda and bucket of buttery popcorn.

Have you been back in the theater since the pandemic? If so, what has been your experience? Or are you like me and staying put at home?

Representation Matters: Excellent Audio Description of The Harder They Fall

Empish watching TV. She is sitting on sofa pointing remote control at TV.

Grew Up Watching Westerns

While growing up in Texas watching westerns were a big part of my childhood, especially on Saturdays. There was Big Valley, Bonanza and The Lone Ranger. In the evenings, my favorite western was  Gunsmoke, starring James Arness as Matt Dillon. I even enjoyed Little House on the Prairie and later as an adult, watching Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman.

But rarely have I ever seen a western with Black folks. Maybe a token  character or two. But definitely not a full cast. So, it was to my delight to view the movie The Harder They Fall  with audio description. Although, the movie premiered on Netflix  some months ago, I am just getting around to watching it. But better late than never, right? And boy was it well worth it. The film  has a cast of characters loosely based on real cowboys, lawmen and outlaws of the 19th century American West. It is about revenge, love and redemption. The film stars Jonathan Majors, Idris Elba, Zazie Beetz, Regina King, Delroy Lindo, Lakeith Stanfield, RJ Cyler, Danielle Deadwyler, Edi Gathegi, and Deon Cole.

Popcorn in a red bowl and a mug of a warm beverage on the table with a fireplace in the background.

Representation Really Does Matter

Now when it comes to representation it really does matter. What I am talking about goes beyond race, gender, sexual orientation, religion, etc. It is providing equal access  to information in a film, movie or TV show for those with vision loss. It is the way information is described  and given to me as I engage with the film. Since I am blind watching films with excellent audio description is important to me. I watch  a lot of audio described movies  and I have to tell you  this one was done exceptionally well. Let me tell you why.

Race and Skin Tone Described

From the very beginning of the movie race is communicated. In the opening scene  we view a Black family sitting down to dinner. They are dressed in clothing of the time period. One of the men is described having  dark Black skin with a salt and pepper beard. Too many times I have watched films with people of color in them never knowing that fact. There are times I don’t discover it until the character  self-identifies  by saying in one of their lines they are Black, Asian, Latino, etc. Then I have to  reprocess the scene because  if race is not communicated the thought process is to assume the dominate race which is white.

The audio description didn’t shy away from identifying variations of skin tone. In the Black community we are a rainbow of skin tones-from light skin to medium to dark-and variations in between. Throughout the whole movie skin tone variations were given which I greatly appreciated. For example, a character  was described as a copper skinned man. It gave me context and understanding as to what the person really looked like especially since I had eyesight before. Other movies I have watch stop short and just describe hair and eye color. Some have stepped a little closer and have mentioned  terms like olive  skin tone or just use the generic word brown.

Clothing and Movie Title Described

Detail description of clothing. I was very impressed  because too many times in the movies I watch there is little to no description of what people are wearing. In one scene  a male character was wearing a poncho and black pants. While a female character wore a felt bowler hat. Yet, another male character wore  a Crimson velvet coat. This information is specific and helpful to understanding the time period of the movie  and also giving more equal access to what my sighted peers are getting too.

I Loved the description of the title of the movie, as one of the main male characters shot another character, the words  to the title appeared on the screen one bullet shot at a time. That was clever and creative.

Black Hair Described

Unique description of Black hair. Very rarely do I watch a movie where Black hair is audio described. Every so often I will hear a word like dreadlocks or afro letting me know the character is probably  Black. But in the Harder They Fall I was so pleased by the description of hair. For example, Stagecoach Mary had fluffy shoulder length natural hair and Treacherous Trudy Smith had micro braids.

Final Thoughts

My last observation of the audio description in this movie was how it  was timed well with the music. This is a tricky thing to accomplish because it depends on the type of music  and the scene in the film. Sometimes the audio description can be distracting  or hard to follow because the music overpowers  the scene. But in this movie I found both worked very well together.

The audio description was provided by International digital center  with writer, Liz Gutman, and voicer, Bill Larson. I have noticed their name numerous times in the credits of movies  I have seen. I am very appreciative of their work  and hope to see more of this kind of audio description in the future not only from them but other companies that audio describe as well.

You Butter Believe It, I’m Celebrating National Popcorn Day

Container of Movie Popcorn in a Colorful Cardboard Box

My Childhood Popcorn Memories

Popcorn has been one of my most favorite snacks since I was a little kid. I remember growing up and my mom popping kernels of it over the stove. She would dawn oven mittens and shake the covered pot from left to right. I could hear the kernels rattling in the bottom of the pot. I could smell the aroma of the corn popping. Ah, yes, the sweet anticipation! She had a serous knack or maybe a maternal instinct of knowing just when to remove the popcorn from the stove so that it didn’t burn. She knew exactly how much oil, salt and popcorn kernels to place in the pot. Most times it came out perfect. It was our Saturday afternoon treat along with watermelon slices. We would munch on popcorn watching episodes of Soul Train trying to figure out the scramble board and the latest dance moves.

Microwave Popcorn

Empish getting ready to use microwave

Then the 80s came and microwaves were all the rage. We slowly migrated to microwave popcorn instead of stovetop. This was a new invention and not bad tasting. Sometimes the challenge was getting the timing exact and it was different for different brands of popcorn. The worse thing in the world was the smell of burnt microwave popcorn wafting out of the kitchen. But the cool thing was there was little clean up. Microwave popcorn was self-contained so once the bag was empty just throw in the trash. There was no pots or bowls to wash afterward. And, of course, this new popcorn innovation didn’t stop us from our Saturday afternoon ritual of watching Soul Train. That continued on business as usual.

These days I don’t watch Soul Train anymore but still eat popcorn. Sometimes with my mom. Sometimes with friends. Sometimes by myself. I usually have a bag full at my local movie theater. But since COVID I have stayed home and had my popcorn while watching an audio describe movie.

Other Popcorn Options

I have had popcorn during the holidays. You know those Christmas canisters with the three sections. One for butter, one for cheddar, and one for Carmel. During my Christmas visits home, my family would enjoy one of those canisters while watching TV and sharing family stories and gossip. When my mom and I weren’t eating regular popcorn we enjoyed Cracker Jacks and Fiddle Faddle. I remember Cracker Jacks would come in these little boxes. Along with the caramel coated popcorn were peanuts and a little surprise inside. Not sure if Cracker Jacks is still around anymore. I am sure someone reading this post will let me know. As I got older I moved away from Cracker Jacks and ate Fiddle Faddle which is similar but no surprise inside. Then some years ago a friend introduce me to Poppycock. This one is the best as it is a gourmet caramel glazed popcorn with a variety of nuts like almonds, cashews, walnuts and peanuts. OMG, it is to die for!

Celebrate National Popcorn Day

All of these memories and thoughts of popcorn were prompted by the fact that today, Jan. 19, is National Popcorn Day. There is a National Popcorn Board. Yeah, who knew a board like this existed? Well, they decided to create this delicious day of celebration and I’m all in. I will be popping my bag of homestyle flavored popcorn. But what about you? Do you enjoy popcorn? If so, how will you celebrate this popular snack?

Films About the Disabled Receive 2021 Oscar Nominations

Container of Movie Popcorn in a Colorful Cardboard Box

WooHoo! Three films featuring people with disabilities got the Oscar nod this year. I was so excited because representation matters. I was able to view two of the three films enjoying them both. The Oscars have been criticized in the pass for its lack of diversity and inclusion but this year I saw progress. The three films are:  Feeling Through, Crip Camp and the Sound of Metal.

Feeling Through

Feeling Through was nominated for Best Live Action Short Film. This 90-minute film is about a homeless teen who meets a deafblind man and how that encounter changes his life. Tereek (Francisco Burgos) is a young man trying hard to keep his homelessness a secret and is desperately looking for a place for the night. While texting friends, hoping he can crash with them, he ends up helping Artie (Robert Tarango), a deafblind man waiting for a bus. Their interaction is complicated. They have differences in abilities, temperaments and ages. However, as Tereek helps Artie navigate a ride home, he learns to see the world through another perspective beyond his own  and broadening his horizons in the process.

I saw this film on YouTube and had

some mix feelings about it. although I enjoyed it because it was available in audio description, featured people of color in a lead role and people with disabilities I struggled a bit with the storyline. Perhaps it was my own uncomfortableness with the vulnerability of Artie being deafblind and depending on others. As a blind person I found it a little unsettling to have to hold up a sign asking for help like that. I began to wonder did this man need some training for the deafblind? How does that work? Those kinds of questions swirled around my head. Depending on the kindness of strangers can be a little unnerving when you have a disability. But in this film, you see it play out and Artie is helped but also taken advantage of which bothered me. Yet, at the end of the day the film shows the challenges of both characters; one obvious and one not so much, which makes me think this is what the film was all about.

Crip Camp

The next film is Crip Camp and it was nominated for Best Documentary Feature. Crip Camp: A Disability Revolution follows the birth of the disability rights movement. The film starts in 1971 at Camp Jened, a camp for teens with disabilities and focuses on how those campers become activists in their fight for accessibility legislation.

I saw this film on Netflix and also in audio description. Absolutely loved it! It reminded me of my years working as an advocate at disABILITY LINK, an independent living center. I appreciated the real rawness of the film. They just showed you what it was like to be disabled and how much fun they had at camp. I like the fact the camp gave them the freedom to just be themselves without restrictions. Too many times others who are not disabled want to dictate our movements which can be quite suffocating. Viewing the film, the campers looked like they were having so much fun as any person attending camp should regardless of ability.

The Sound of Metal

The Sound of Metal is the third film and got the most nominations. It was nominated for six Oscars: Best Picture, Best Actor (Riz Ahmed); Best Supporting Actor (Paul Raci); Writing (Original Screenplay); Film Editing; and Best Sound.  Out of all those nominations It won an Oscar for Best Sound.

The film is about   punk-metal drummer, Ruben’s (Riz Ahmed) journey of losing his hearing. After several one-night gigs, he begins to experience intermittent hearing loss. When a specialist tells him, his condition will rapidly worsen, he thinks his music career and life are over. His bandmate and girlfriend Lou (Olivia Cooke) check the recovering heroin addict into a secluded sober house for the deaf in hopes it will prevent a relapse and help him learn to adjust. But after being welcomed into a community that is very accepting, Ruben has to choose between his equilibrium and the drive to reclaim the life he once knew.

I have not seen this movie yet because it was released on Amazon Prime but after reading the reviews and summary’s I might have to get a subscription. I can understand why this film got so much Oscar attention. The film sounds like a good one because of the realistic portrayal of a man losing his hearing which directly impacts his career and things he loves. How do you play music without hearing it? I can understand his dilemma. I went through something similar when I went blind and was trying to figure out how to be a journalist. This profession is writing and I can’t see. How does that work? I appreciate the storyline because people need to see how a disability can come into your life at any time. As a matter of fact, most people are not born disabled. So, seeing the journey on the big screen is commendable.

I applaud the Oscars for nominating these films and look forward to more hitting the big screen in the future. It is important that our stories get told, acknowledged and rewarded just like others.

What Does a Shark, ABC and Audio Description Have in Common?

Empish wearing audio description headset at movie theater

Did my title grab your attention? I sure hope so. Well, now that you are here reading my blog post let me explain what a shark, ABC and audio description have in common.

The Shark Tank

I am a huge, huge. Let me say it one more time. Huge fan of The Shark Tank. This one-hour show allows Entrepreneurs to pitch their small businesses to investors called sharks. The reason I am such a fan is I love the creativity and originality that is displayed on the show. There are such cool consumer products and all types of businesses. The ingenuity showcased is amazing! I also love the negotiating strategy used with the investors. They discuss why their business is worth what it is while the investors explain why they will give the money or not. Sometimes they haggle back and forth even getting a little heated but that is all a part of the show.

Watching The Shark Tank on ABC

I tune in every Friday night at 8pm Eastern Standard Time. On what station? You guessed it. On ABC. Do not call me. Do not text me. Do not ring my doorbell. Do not email me. You will be ignored. Because I am glued to the TV watching my Shark Tank. ABC has been running The Shark Tank for about 11 seasons and I have been watching it faithfully for several years now.

Audio Description of The Shark Tank

Now you understand my love of Shar Tank and watching it on ABC. Now let me explain the audio description part and how that connects. Audio description provides extra verbal narration     of visual elements happening in a TV program or film. It could be hand gestures, facial expressions, physical movements or a description of clothing and action. It describes things that a person with vision loss might not notice or realize. As of July 1, 2018, ABC, CBS, NBC, Fox, Discovery, HGTV, History, TBS, and USA are each required to provide 87.5 hours of audio-described prime time or children’s programming per calendar quarter. As part of those hours, ABC selected The Shar Tank as one of their shows to provide audio description. WhooHoo! So, when I first heard about this a couple of years ago, I was very excited and it just enhanced my viewing pleasure. Now, I am really, really ignoring you on Friday night! When the show first comes on a voice is describing the shark swimming. I would get descriptions of the people coming in to the tank like what they look like, their dress, hair and eye color. Facial expressions would also be described and there is a lot of that going on in the tank as the entrepreneurs react to the investors. Eyes rolling, eyebrows furring, mouth dropping, grim looks or smiling faces. Sometimes if they are doing a demonstration as part of their pitch that would be described as well. Then the money and negotiation amounts would also be described.

Well, several months ago my description fell off, got disconnected or something. Not sure what happen but because I am a huge Shark Tank fan I still kept watching. I knew in the back of my mind I needed to get the description fix. I reached out to my local ABC affiliate, WSB-Atlanta, via email. I got a reply that my concern was being sent over to one of the engineers to investigate. I had to reach out to the close captioning contact for the deaf because there is no direct contact for the blind. This is an issue we talk about in the blind community all the time.  But typically, the close captioning departments are familiar enough and can assist. In my case, I didn’t hear back. So, I tried again. Still no response. I called and left a message with no reply. So, a friend suggested to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and that did the job.  I got a call from the chief engineer and we began to work on the problem.  Over several phone and email conversations it was determined that the audio description signal was not reaching my TV for ABC. I was getting it for all my other stations like NBC, CBS and FOX meaning that it is working properly on my end. I got a sighted friend to come over twice to work with the engineer via phone. But as of this writing we have not found a solution yet. It seems that my TV has a setting separately for each station. Although we set it up for audio description it is still not working.  The engineer and I are persevering and are hopeful that we will come to a resolution soon. But in the meantime, what am I going to do on Friday nights? You guessed it. Keep watching my Shark Tank!

The Audio Description Challenge

Here’s another challenge with audio description but this one is a cool and fun one I think you will enjoy. One of my fellow visually impaired blogging friends, Steph McCoy, loves audio description too. So much so, she helped launch Audio Description Awareness Day last year. She is promoting a challenge at her blog,  Bold Blind Beauty. Here are the details:  On April 16 2021 Bold Blind Beauty presents the Second Annual Audio Description Awareness Day and with it, kicks off the Audio Description Awareness Challenge, hashtag TADAChallenge. Here’s how it goes: Step one, find a friend to watch a TV episode or movie of your choice with audio description. Step two. At the end of the month, post your experience on social media and use the hashtag TADAChallenge which stands for The Audio Description Awareness Challenge.

Being a Vegan is not Just for White Folks Only

The Invisible Vegan: A Movement Toward a New Consciousness poster with a green background and a black stylized fist grasping an orange carrot. In the lower left corner are the list of the featured performers'.

I recently made some changes to my meal plan and have moved more into a plant-based diet. This change surprisingly has not been too hard because fruits and vegetables are my jam. Even before I started working from home, I would take a salad to work just about every day for lunch. It would be filled with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers, broccoli and even green bell peppers and onions with a sprinkling of chopped nuts. My co-workers would be eyeballing my lunch as I quickly moved out of the break room and back to my office to eat my crunchy rainbow feast. So, when I heard about The Invisible Vegan documentary by Jasmine Leyva I just had to watch it. Now, before I give my two cents let me give you the summary.

Summary of Invisible Vegan Documentary

The documentary begins with the personal story of Jasmine Leyva, a 30-year-old black actress and filmmaker currently based in Los Angeles. Over the past seven years, Jasmine has committed herself to veganism, both in lifestyle and research. Taking Leyva’s unhealthy childhood growing up in Washington, DC as a point of departure, the film interweaves her narrative with the professional and personal experiences of a prominent group of vegan activists. The film integrates interviews with popular culture luminaries including Cedric the Entertainer (actor and comedian), John Salley (former NBA player and wellness advocate), and Clayton Gavin (aka Stic of the hip-hop duo Dead Prez).

The Invisible Vegan also explains how plant-based eating is directly linked to African roots and how African-American eating habits have been debased by a chain of oppression.

Africa, Slavery and Soul Food

AS I sat and watched the 90-minute film, I was nodding my head and saying, “Yes, that’s right, that’s right!” Sounding like people in the amen corner at church. She was speaking truth to power and I was not too surprised by nothing coming out of this young lady’s mouth. She started out explaining how a plant-based diet came from Africa and how it is not just for white folks. She ticked off the names of Civil rights activists who are vegetarians like the late Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, and Dick Gregory. She mentioned Angela Davis too. This was enlightening because I only knew about Dick Gregory as I had read about his diet plan before. He was a firm believer in better health just as much as in civil rights.

She talked about how our enslaved ancestors were forced to eat the scraps on the plantation. How they made meals out of the leftovers. Yes, this is so true. I remember reading the book Roots and many other slave narratives where scenes played out just like this.  Because of this situation Black people passed down this type of eating from generation to generation. It is embedded in our family and culture.  

So, when she started talking about losing the “Black card” I knew exactly what she was talking about. I am nodding my head again. The type of food our ancestors ate on the plantation evolved into what we call today as soul food.  This includes favorites like fried chicken, collard or mustard greens, okra, cornbread, sweet potatoes or yams and blackeyed peas. It also includes some kind of pork product like ham, pig’s feet, hog head cheese and the all-time favorite for many Black folks – chitlins! So, if you are a Black person and don’t eat soul food then you can lose your Black card and be called out. That is not a good situation. Believe me I have been there myself. Not for being a vegan, like Jasmine, but for my efforts in trying to lose weight. Many of these items are not healthy and/or not cooked in a healthy way. So, believe me, I get it. She also talked about how eating soul food is not just the food itself but about a sense of being and belonging. These foods are comforting and connect us to our family, history and legacy in this country. If you don’t think so, go back and watch the classic 1997 movie Soul Food.

Challenges of EatingHealthy

A head shot of Jasmine Leyva with long dark hair, smiling and leaning on one arm in a casual pose. She is wearing a brown and white sleeveless top and a long silver chain around her neck.

With this being said, it is hard for people to change and move to a healthy diet or even become a vegan for that matter. She shared about her journey to become a vegan and the ups and downs of that experience. When it comes to diet and nutrition our doctors are not well equipped to help because they get little education on it when they are in medical school. They are sometimes more apt to write out prescriptions or recommend surgery. I experienced this myself when talking to my PCP and was fortunately referred to a nutritionist.  There I learned about food groups and how food impacts the body. She also talked about food deserts and lack of access to healthy foods. As they say, “No Whole Foods in the hood!”  I could also relate to that too. I have had to get on the bus and travel miles away to find healthier options. And don’t forget about the cost of healthy food! OMG! Why does organic cost twice as much? Crazy! It takes a lot of work and energy to do all of this which I find very stressful at times.  No wonder it is so easy to grab a hamburger at McDonalds. One thing I found interesting and a bit surprising was how meat processing plants are located near minority communities. I didn’t realize that. I mean I knew about how they treat animals, the hormones and the runoff; but not the location.

No Judgement to Become a Vegan

The last thing about the documentary is that it was not judgmental. Jasmine shared her life journey, laid out the facts, and had other people share their experiences. It was not this hard-line approach. She encouraged you to start where you are. I am not ready to go totally vegan but I thought I could do something like meatless Mondays, tofu Tuesdays or salad Saturdays. You know, ease my way into a plant-based lifestyle.

Although this film is not audio described for people like me with vision loss, I still got so much out of it. I encourage you to check it out especially if you are trying to change your eating habits and curious about a vegan lifestyle. The Invisible Vegan is available to watch now on TubiTV and stream on Amazon Prime

Year 2020 is a Wrap!

Fireworks Display

Well, y’all the year 2020 is a wrap! And boy what a year it has been for all of us. Who what have known all the things that happened this year? Wild fires, hurricanes and floods, police brutality, racial tension, distressing elections and of course the big kahuna COVID-19.  I struggle sometimes just to remember what happened last week with so much going on! I am not going to sit here and write one of those top-10-year-in-review type blog posts because you can easily go online and read that already. But what I am going to do is make a meager effort to do a mini recap of some of the things I blogged about here on Triple E.

I started this blog in January of this year and I was able to successfully write a blog post on a regular basis. My goal was to write a post weekly. I didn’t quite make it but I came very close with 50 published posts and with 52 weeks in a year that is not bad! Actually, that is a major accomplishment with all the craziness going on, managing this blog on my own and having a visual disability. So, I am going to pat myself on the back for this one! Woohoo!

Empish and the Author, Noel Holston at Library Book Signing

One of my first post focused on reading and books. I attended a book signing at the library about a man who experience deafness. I was so taken by his story I not only went to the signing, chatted and took a photo with him afterward, but wrote a book review called Life After Deaf. This one post led me to write many more during the year on this topic of books and the devices I use to enjoy them.  I even connected Black History Month with a book I read on Haban Girma who was the first deafblind black woman to graduate From Harvard. One cool thing about blogging is that you can revise, revamp and reprint old post from the past. I did that a couple of times but noted it specifically when I reposted a review on the March Trilogy by Congressman John Lewis to honor him when he died this year.

Empish at concession purchasing popcorn and other snacks.

Besides my love for books and reading, watching movies runs a close second. Before the coronavirus caused the theaters to shut down, I would go to the movies a couple of times a week. But all of that changed in mid-March and I settled for watching movies at home only. Even when my AMC theater reopened, I decided to not go back and I shared why in a post.

Empish Sitting in Front of Laptop Wearing Headset with Microphone

I have been able to watch movies at home thanks to accessible technology. I wrote several posts this year on how important  this is from being my own tech support to the anniversaries of the ADA and GAAD.

 

The biggest technology change for me this year has been using Zoom videoconferencing. Prior to the coronavirus I used Zoom for one of my monthly book clubs but my usage increased tremendously. This year I started using Zoom for telemedical appointments, exercise classes, socializing and volunteering. I have been Zooming all over the place this year! Unfortunately, all my technology experiences were not positive and I hit some major road blocks. I struggled with depositing paper checks with my bank’s mobile app and my advocacy efforts didn’t provide any relief. I aired out my frustrations here on Triple E. Although I didn’t get a satisfactory resolution from the bank, I was able to from the issuer of the checks.

I felt okay about that and I realized during this COVID-19 crisis that my mental and physical health were more important than ever before.  I wrote about managing my anxiety,  exercising and strengthening my body at home, maintaining good eyecare, wrestling with my lack of sleep, and grieving during a pandemic. Due to all that was happening I made more efforts to keep a positive attitude and pursue happiness in the small things.

Empish Working in Home Office

Now it is time to say goodbye to year 2020. To let go of all that transpired this year and look ahead to the new year. I am excited about the possibilities of what this next year will bring. I have set more goals for Triple E. Writing more interesting stories about blindness and visual impairment. More reviews on books that I have read.  More of my views on current topics, technology and much, much more. So, stay tuned! I look forward to the journey and you coming with me. Let us all have a Happy New Year!