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Lights! Camera! Audio Description Action!

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Abby Interviews Roy Samuelson

Editor’s Note

Hey, guys. It’s me, Abby, I hope everyone is continuing to do well as we begin to ease restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today I have a real treat for you. I recently had the honor of interviewing an extraordinary person who is extremely passionate about the work he does. As a top Hollywood voiceover artist, today’s guest is also a tireless advocate for the blind and low vision community and an overall nice guy. I can barely wait to get started. You can listen to our interview, read the transcript, or do both. Enjoy!

I’m a narrator but I’m playing the role of your friend that’s sitting next to you and making sure that I’m not getting in the way of the story. And what I try to do is make sure that I bring that emotional nuance to the scene so that I don’t get in the way but you can stay fully immersed in it. 

~Roy Samuelson
Abby Interviews Roy Samuelson

Abby: Hey everybody this is Abby and I’m hanging out with one of the coolest guys that I know. And you’re thinking who is that? I’m going to tell you who it is: I’m hanging out with Roy Samuelson. And who is that you say? He is an Audio Descriptor Narrator who I’m crazy about. He is just awesome and he’s done so much work and he’s totally, totally fun to watch movies with and talk about things and boy I just had the best time this morning hanging out and chatting. How are you today?

Roy: Doing great Abby, thanks so much for having me, this is cool! 

Abby: You’ve taught me so much about audio description and like what it means to you and what it is so can you please share it with others because I want everybody to know what we’ve talked about.

Roy: Yes, audio description is a way for a narration track that you listen to talking about what’s happening on screen so the visual elements of a movie or tv show and it’s a way to bring access to those, to someone who might be blind or low vision or other people who might not be looking at the screen right now.

Abby: And let me tell you guys, it’s super exciting for me because you know I’m into everything and I mean everything. So when I got to actually watch this movie and know what’s happening without having to interrupt my friends I’m like oh my gosh what’s happening now because there’s a visual scene gosh what you do is really brings it to life can you talk about how you make that happen?

Roy: Sure, so it’s a big process it’s not just me there’s audio description has been around for decades believe it or not and now it’s at the point where companies bring in a special writer who writes a special audio description script based on what’s happening on screen. And I don’t get involved in the writing, it’s a really specialized skill and those people bring the script to life by watching the movie or tv show and they sometimes get a shooting script. So there’s a lot of research that’s done even before it’s in my hands. People look it over and make sure it’s edited right, make sure the timing is right so that when I get the script that I know when to come in between lines of dialogue. There’s all sorts of really specific decisions that are made before it even gets to me. And then when I get it I read a script into a mic and sometimes I’m directed and told what to do as far as making sure I’m matching the emotional tone of the scene and then it’s edited and mixed and sent out to along with a movie or tv show. 

Abby: That for you is like art to me and you know why? Because I have all these friends that can see and a friend of mine that used to be able to see and she can’t see now and she’s comparing what it was like to watch a movie before like when she could see because there’s so many takes to it. You had mentioned when we talked about this too like a picture is worth a thousand words which has so stuck with me and getting the right narration into that to bring a piece to life when there’s so much going on in those clips, has to be really, is it crazy hard to do?

Roy: Well, I bring a lot of my voiceover experience to audio description. So it is called audio description narration, but what I like to do, there’s a bunch of training that I’ve had for voiceover work. Whether it’s commercial work or doing video games or animation or even taking an improv class or an acting class that helps inform what I bring to audio description. So yeah, I’m a narrator but I’m playing the role of your friend that’s sitting next to you and making sure that I’m not getting in the way of the story. And what I try to do is make sure that I bring that emotional nuance to the scene so that I don’t get in the way but you can stay fully immersed in it. So, in that sense yeah, it is an art and a craft, [laughs] arts and crafts that you can go shopping at Michael’s for…

Abby: [laughs]

Roy: but it’s something that you can bring, that I love to bring to the script. For me it’s a little more than just reading the words.

Abby: What I wanted to know is when you are working with doing all of this like, you’ve talked about all of your background you’ve brought to this. When did you get so excited about audio description? What made you think ‘hey this is what I want to do?’

Roy: Oh, there’s like three levels to it. There were three phases, like when I first found out about it, I had an audition and I went in and I recorded a scene from a movie with an audio description script. And at the end of it, you know normally when I do an audition I’m like ‘oh I hope I book it.’ In this case, that feeling of ‘oh, I hope I book it’ was there but there was this extra element and it was this excitement of [dramatic voice] ‘I’ve never heard of this before, this is amazing!’ And it combines so many different elements of what I was doing in voiceover in such a beautiful way that, that passion; so like on the technical side was really high. And then maybe a few years ago I started connecting with our audiences on social media and learning what they want and how they would love to have audio description and it became this extra phase where it’s like ‘oh okay I can do this, and finding out how to bring the story to life in a way that the audiences want. And that’s been the most rewarding part. And now it sounds like being part of the overall conversation, there were over 4,100 audio description tracks available as of early May 2020, that’s… 

Abby: [gasp}

Roy: so exciting! And it keeps on growing that these streaming services are opting into it outside of the FCC mandates, so they recognize the value.

Abby: You’re talking about people that are blind or vision impaired, are they involved in any of the work you do?

Roy: Yeah, especially now that, oh gosh, there’s so many different directions to go here. Our blind and low vision audiences have definitely been speaking up about what they want that the conversation has changed from ‘does it have it or not?’ which is such an important conversation, being able to make sure that audio description is as ubiquitous and everywhere as closed captioning, that is a huge element. The other thing that’s happening is the quality, the excellence of audio description that a lot of companies that provide audio description are going above and beyond to provide the best they can. And with that, it’s making sure that blind and low vision audiences and advisors and guides are involved in at least some part of the creation. There’s a company that is owned by a blind owner and he’s been very clear about making sure that he hires disabled actors to do the narration; blind, low vision or otherwise, and that kind of inclusion is starting to happen. The other companies are also making sure that their scripts have advisors so that, it’s a different experience it’s not a sighted person putting on a blindfold for an hour and a half and saying ‘oh that’s good.’ There’s something else that comes into it and this is something I think is really important is that for our audiences. You know, “nothing about us without us” is more than just checking a box or a token “gift” it’s an actual necessity to bring the quality of this work to the standard that our audiences deserve.

Abby: What do you learn from the blind community?

Roy: Great question and I’m going to do a little segue but to answer your question about teaching narration for audio description

Abby: Oh yes

Roy: So when I taught classes it’s mostly voiceover talents who are really excited to learn about it and learn the nuance and what sort of things to technically bring their performance to life for an audience. And that’s the perfect time to bring in a blind or low vision advisor. So they join us usually on like some sort of audio call where they’re listening in to the samples that the talents are giving and it’s such a beautiful two-way street. Beautiful in the sense that the voice talents are getting instant feedback about ‘oh you know that was a little too much, you were too into it’ or ‘that was a little too flat’ or ‘that really didn’t match the scene’ or ‘I was taken out of the…’ so that kind of feedback; the advisor is the director in that sense. So my role outside of giving some very general basics in the technical side is to facilitate the teaching of the talent, the voiceover talent being taught by our guide by our advisor. And it’s, the feedback that I’m getting from all sides has been this is what we want and it checks so many boxes for everyone.  

Abby: I’ll tell you, my creator, Steph, you know like she’s so awesome right. What I love about her is like not only has she totally brought me to life which is super fun and we get to be this you know, expressive showing so much but she’s vision impaired which everyone knows and she’s so many things and she’s so open. She’s an African American woman, she’s over 55 and she encompasses all this creativity and she built Bold Blind Beauty and she’s bringing women of every type and men cause you know this year we’re doing Men In Motion. And the reason I bring this up is how do you see diversity in more than one way than just blindness in this field?

Roy: Sure, so I’m a sighted white narrator; that’s what I bring to the table and with that I’m learning alot more about diversity. There is a great event that happened I think in 2019 at the television academy where it was a panel on performers with disabilities and it was also the casting people making decisions to bring in people with disabilities, not exclusively for storylines about disability but about this is a person with a disability who’s playing a character who happens to have a disability. The story wasn’t about the disability it was framed in this panel one of the best panels on disability that I’ve seen so that is one aspect of diversity. I think another aspect of disability that we can even talk about in the world of audio description is that there are other narrators who are people of color, women of color, and all sorts of things. I think that in that world of representation if you’re a blind or low vision audience member you’re going to be listening to this voice for all the things that are happening and that makes a difference. Being able to hear representation of yourself in that voice of the narrator is super important. I can’t speak to much detail about that but I’m a big proponent of more diversity in this world because it is representation and it’s a representation that is happening. I don’t know specifically the percentage, it’d be fascinating to find that out but what I do know is that the more diversity the better and that nobody loses out on that. One of the things that I’m learning is it’s these little steps that do make a difference it’s not like this big 180-degree turn. It’s like even this conversation right now I’ve changed a little bit it’s like ‘oh yeah, okay that’s another way we can approach this’ or little tiny steps and as more people choose to make those steps it becomes like a really big wave in a way that helps everybody out. It not just helps, it makes it more diverse in such a beautiful way.

Abby: If people want to get in touch with you to learn more about what you’re doing, how can they do that? 

Roy: There’s a few ways; I’m on social media so Twitter is @RoySamuelson. I’m also on Instagram @RoySamuelson and I do Alt text on both of those. On Facebook, I’m pretty active in the Audio Description Discussion Group which is a really lively and engaging kind of positive group of pretty close to 500 people that are both narrators, writers, and consumers, audience members. It’s a really great place to learn more about audio description and see the discussion and how it’s growing. There’s a lot of great things happening there and of course, there’s other places that I like to refer people to The Audio Description Narrators of America which is theadna.org, it’s like an IMBD list of audio description narrators based on contributions from our audiences when they hear someone. Those are the main places I like to refer people to.

Abby: I’m Abby with Bold Blind Beauty, it’s been awesome hanging out with you guys and Roy. And keep in touch and we’re going to keep you guys rocking with some more fun stuff and we’ll post the links that Roy also references so you can keep in touch if you have questions. Have a great one. Hey, make sure you have your stilettos on and your canes tapping.     

Roy Samuelson Bio:

Roy Samuelson can be heard on the current season of Westworld as Dolores’ virtual assistant. In the world of Audio Description, he narrates Hulu’s The Great, CBS All-Access’ Star Trek: Picard, Sony’s Bloodshot, Universal’s 1917, and Spider-Man: Far From Home, among 600+ other blockbusters and series titles. He loves connecting TV, film, and streaming decision-makers with audiences who are blind or low vision.    

Image Description:

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Happy Global Accessibility Awareness Day 2020!

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Did you know…

that 70% of the web is inaccessible to people who are blind or visually impaired?

“Accessibility allows us to tap into everyone’s potential.”

~Debra Ruh, Ruh Global Impact

Today May 21st, 2020 marks the 9th annual celebration of Global Accessibility Awareness Day (GAAD). GAAD started with a single blog post written by a Los Angeles-based web developer, Joe Devon, and Jennison Asuncion, an accessibility professional from Toronto. This accessibility holiday is a global event that helps drive awareness for those who are new to accessibility.*

*Source:

Deque Systems

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Being Deaf-Blind During COVID-19

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Editor’s Note:

Here at Bold Blind Beauty our mission to “Improve humanity by changing the way we perceive one another” begins with empathy. Our values rest on the four pillars of P.I.E.R. (Passion, Inclusion, Equity, and Respect). We are passionate about breaking barriers, embracing inclusion, seeing people as individuals, with huge doses of respect. The awesomeness of our world is knowing each of us is unique and our journey through life differs from person to person.

Today, we are pleased to share with you an article written by Casandra Xavier. Casandra will share her perspective on living through the COVID-19 pandemic as a person who is DeafBlind. ~Steph

Being Deaf-Blind During COVID-19

By: Casandra Xavier April 17, 2020

There are going to be challenges for the DeafBlind when it comes to touching objects and people during this pandemic which will feed into additional isolation. Most DeafBlind people experience variations of deafness and blindness. For those who rely completely on touch of persons or things, it would be highly recommended that they keep their hands cleaned and protected at all times as well as their faces. If that is not possible, they would have to avoid people at all costs. When it comes to handling objects; it’s going to be another process of making sure they are able to avoid cross-contamination. I do not believe we would be able to take the new limits of isolation very well. It’s bad enough that we are already isolated within our own DeafBlindness even in large crowds. Some folks are already used to being completely alone while others would have no choice but to adjust. 

In my experience as a 30yr old Deaf-Blind woman living in Boston, MA, I would not be severely impacted by the new limits of not being able to touch people or objects. I have some vision and hearing remaining and I am used to being forced to navigate around barriers in life. I’ve been fortunate with the ability to find ways around complications as best as possible. If I cannot touch someone for the use of ASL (American Sign Language), I would be able to use “close vision signing” in good lighting. If I cannot touch an object, I would protect my hands with disposable gloves. The coronavirus only forces me to tap into my creative ways for avoiding problems in the long-run. I use various sources of assistive technology for distanced communication. When I want to track my stops on the buses before the outbreak, I would use my braille display with a stop tracking app. The app tracks all stops and routes in real-time as we move. I am able to keep the braille on hand and follow as everything moves. Technology for distanced communication is certainly going to replace touching people and objects for the remainder of this virus and beyond. 

If a DeafBlind person caught COVID 19 and needed to seek medical attention, there is a high chance that there would be a massive communication barrier. All medical staff would have their faces covered by masks and most DeafBlind people read lips if hearing voices are difficult. If someone still has hearing and uses amplification devices, it would be best for medical staff to speak louder and clearly if an interpreter is not going to be available. Medical treatment would be critically slower for all parties.  

As far as programs to assist the DeafBlind, there is a nationwide equipment distribution program known as “ICC” which stands for “ICanConnect” for the DeafBlind. ICC is covered by the FCC which allows anyone living with blindness and deafness to receive distanced communication electronics such as phones and computers and such to communicate with anyone they wish.  

If a deafblind individual needed to visit the hospital for any reason and communication is severely limited, there may be a few workarounds. There are a few apps that are accessible to those who use braille devices. The first app is called, “Ava” and it is a transcription app that translates spoken English into a written format which can be used with a braille display. Ava can be used on both iOS and Android devices. The second app is called, “BuzzCards” from Sorenson VRS for iOS and Android. BuzzCards is basically a communication app that can be used to request or communicate. I use all of the above for different situations. 

I am an assistive technology trainer for the blind and visually impaired in Boston and this pandemic has side-swiped my ability to teach anyone face to face. I currently have to train my students remotely and that is a longer process for both me and my students. I communicate with a variation of methods. I use American Sign Language as well as voice. I read braille and blindness-related technologies. I use a Bluetooth hearing aid that is able to connect to my iPhone for streaming media if needed. I used to be able to use SSPs (Support Service Providers) and ASL interpreters for organized events but I cannot do that anymore because of COVID-19. I now have to strategize around the complete lack of help, completing outdoor tasks take much longer. If I cannot find what I am looking for, I end up going home without it. I leave because I am afraid of someone coming near and possibly spreading the Coronavirus to me without knowing. 

My main concern for the DeafBlind people who end up needing medical attention would be the ability to communicate properly with the medical staff. I fear that the medical staff would not know the best practices for helping DeafBlind. Their faces are covered in masks and they are not able to touch the patient or their electronics to relay any communication back and forth.

It’s hard enough helping someone who is either deaf or blind. If you are Deaf, there may not be an interpreter available or the CART (Communication Access Realtime Translation) services may not work properly. If it is a blind person who ends up in the hospital, most staff are strangely uncomfortable with the thought of helping a blind person. The biggest challenge is helping someone who has a combination of blindness and deafness. Honestly, I hope I would not have to visit the hospital because of COVID 19 or during the pandemic. I sincerely hope no DeafBlind person would have to be in the medical facility during this disaster at all.

Final Commentary

Understanding that each of our life’s experiences can be vastly different from another brings us closer to empathy. Remaining open and curious to the idea that every person is unique helps us to be more compassionate with others. This means letting go of our preconceived ideas and respecting differences.

During this unprecedented time, have you considered the challenges people with disabilities might encounter?

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The image is a slip of paper stuck on a corkboard that says “Care = Empathy.” 

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Cultivating Resilience Practice 2: Self-Compassion

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Editor’s Note:

Bold Blind Beauty is thrilled to share with you snippets from Becky Andrews’ new book “Cultivating our Resilience Workbook/Journal.” Adversity strengthens and builds resilience; Becky will share weekly practices to help us become more resilient. ~Steph

Practice Two:  Self Compassion 

As we start week two of cultivating our resilience, let’s check in from last week. How was the experience of giving yourself permission to feel? Letting ourselves feel is an act of strength, courage, and authenticity.  Noticing, Naming, and Accepting our Feelings is Practice One.  

Now, take a pause. With these feelings, how are you talking to yourself? Is what you are saying to yourself helpful or hurtful? If you are beating up on yourself, this is hurtful and takes our pain/challenges to suffering. Notice your thoughts. If it is helpful and compassionate to yourself, you are practicing self-compassion our second practice in cultivating our resilience.  

What is self-compassion? 

It is bearing witness to your own pain and suffering and responding with love and kindness as you would to a friend.

~Kristen Neff

If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. 

~Jack Kornfield

May there be kindness in your gaze when you look within. 

~John O Donahue

Self-compassion could be offering a compassionate phrase to yourself when you are hurting. It can be a soothing touch and acknowledging your pain. Combining these two might look like: recognizing the hurt then acknowledging it with a touch, perhaps your hand to your heart, and a phrase: Oh that hurts – may I feel comfort at this time. 

This week take some time to notice how you are talking to yourself. Practice giving yourself permission to feel and then respond with encouraging words. What’s a compassionate phrase you might use when you find yourself in a difficult situation?  Some examples: 

  • May I feel safe May I accept myself
  • May I feel at ease May I find peace 
  • May I believe in myself May I feel love
  • May I be kind to myself May I feel enough 

A soothing touch might be your hand on your heart, on your shoulder, the butterfly gesture (hands crisscrossed across your heart and tapping on your shoulders), hands clasped together, or the yoga child post can be a calming meditative pose. See what feels right to you.  

Wisdom On Self-Compassion

We live in a time when science is validating what humans have known throughout the ages; that compassion is not a luxury; it is a necessity for our well-being, resilience, and survival. 

~Joan Halifax

“Some people worry that self-compassion will close them off from other people by making them selfish and self-centered. The reverse is actually the case – the more open-hearted we are with ourselves, the closer we feel toward the rest of life. Self-compassion is the foundation for kindness toward others. When we’re more accepting of our own, we become more accepting of others.  Full acceptance of courses, moment to moment makes it easier to adapt and change in the direction we’d like to go.“  

Christopher Germer, Self Compassion, and Mindfulness

To keep a lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it. 

~Mother Theresa

Self-Nourishment

Nurturing Ourselves in five areas: social, spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental. What nourishes you in each of these areas? Take note and intentionally practice nurturing. For me, a nurturing practice is tandem cycling both physically and emotionally. It fills me physically to be moving my body and connecting with my husband in this way emotionally is nourishing.   This week as you cultivate resilience:

  • Practice one: Continue to give yourself permission to feel
  • Practice two:  Practice self compassion and self-care

Resources for more study on this topic:

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Becky Andrews

Becky Andrews is a Licensed Clinical Mental Health Counselor, Small Business Owner – Resilient Solutions, Inc, and founder of the Daring to Own Your Story ™ Retreats. She is also the author of Look up, move forward – her memoir of Losing her eyesight and finding her vision.  

You can follow her at:

Workbook: 

Cultivating our Resilience Workbook/Journal will be out Fall 2020. Email Becky at becky.lpc@gmail.com to be on the waiting list or preorder.

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  • Header: Two hands are shaped like a heart are framing a golden sunset.
  • Becky is sitting on outdoor steps next to her guide dog, Georgie, a gorgeous yellow lab.