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2014 Audio Description Project (ADP) Conference

Joel Snyder “AUDIO DESCRIPTION:  *EYE* HEAR THE DIFFERENCE!”

Riviera Casino and Hotel – July 13-15, 2014 – Las Vegas, NV

Audio Description Project Conference Highlights

We had a terrific Conference this year!  There were 66 attendees from nine countries signed up (including speakers), with an average attendance of 35 at any given session.  We had a good split between users and providers of audio description, with excellent opportunities to interact.  Our new mentor program also paired describers with ACB Conference attendees who weren't otherwise directly involved in our project.  The mentors/mentees learned from each other.

One highlight of the Conference was the presentation by Tom Wladkowski, Vice President of Accessibility at Comcast.  Tom described his X-1 cloud-based platform for delivering an easy-to-use accessible TV and video controller later this year.  He not only described features initially available (like a talking remote with simple controls and a talking Guide), but the intent to add features like voice control in the future.  Tom also acknowledged problems with customer service reps not understanding video description issues, so they established a dedicated Accessibility Center reachable at 1-855-270-0379.

Separately, important dates mandated by the FCC moving accessiblity forward were reviewed, including the requirement for emergency message scrolls to be voiced by May 2015 (though that will interfere with the delivery of video description); and the requirement for accessible user interfaces (such as one-button access to video description) by December 2016. 

* * * * *

Day I – Sunday, July 13, 2014

     Pointer Audio for first half of Sunday
     Pointer Audio for second half of Sunday (starts with Legislative Update)

1:00 pm-1:30 pm    Welcome/Introduction to the ADP

Fred and Kathy Brack1:30 pm-2:30 pm    Getting the Most Out of the ADP Website: How to Access Audio Described TV, Movies, and Videos Fred Brack, ADP Webmaster, and Kathy Brack, AD Consumer

     Pointer Website Presentation (PowerPoint Slideshow)

2:30 pm-3:30 pm    Description and Literacy – Programs like the Described and Captioned Media Program and several published papers have demonstrated how description can build literacy.  Joel Snyder chaired this discussion with panelists including Jason Stark of the DCMP, Judy Dixon of the National Library Service, and Mary Ann Siller, Dallas-based educator working with blind children.

    Pointer Jason Stark's Presentation (PowerPoint Slideshow)

3:30 pm-4:00 pm    break 

4:00 pm-4:30 pm    Legislative Update – A review of the current status of the mandate for broadcast description; broadcast description in the digital era and the FCC; and the end of Department of Education funding for broadcast description.  Eric Bridges, Director of External Relations and Policy, ACB; Karen Peltz Strauss, Deputy Chief, Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, Federal Communications Commission (Ms. Strauss will appear on video)

  4:30 pm-5:30 pm    Advocacy for Audio Description / Boosting Description for Media – How can description become more “visible”?  How can we most effectively advocate for description, particularly in various media formats, e.g., television, film, the web, DVDs and smartphones.  Dr. Josh Miele of the Smith-Kettlewell Video Description Research and Development Center discussed developments with Simon Padro, Compass Interactive, developer of Parlamo; and Chelsea Pancho, Deluxe Digital Media.

5:30 pm-6:30 pm    Mentoring Meet-Up / reception – Chaired by Susan Glass.  This year, the ACB Audio Description Project offered its inaugural “mentorship” program: sighted attendees of the Audio Description Project Conference were paired with a blind or visually impaired mentor.  The best describers develop an understanding of  the audience for whom they are providing a critical service.  What better opportunity for such interaction than at the ACB Conference and Convention, where some 1500 blind people were present?

At this brief meet-and-greet session, ADP Conference attendees were given the opportunity to meet and be mentored by an ACB member/description enthusiast and join him/her for the opening plenary session of the ACB Conference and Convention AND at least two other activities during the sessions over the next two mornings—e.g., touring the exhibit hall together, attending an affiliate meeting or an additional ACB general session, taking a walk, eating a meal together, or watching an audio described film.  Our objective was that these interactions would give lots of practical experience interacting with a blind person—and perhaps forge a new friendship and increase understanding between the sighted and the blind communities.

6:30 - Dinner on your own

Joel Snyder, Dan Spoone, and the group from Macau
Dan Spoone and Joel Snyder, with Chi Ping Cheong (Albert),
Wan Ping Mo (Amy), and Lei Hang Hung (Leo), Macau Describers Association

Day II – Monday, July 14, 2014

     Pointer Audio for first half of Monday
     Pointer Audio for second half of Monday (starts with AD in Spanish)

1:30 pm-2:30 pm    Broadcast Description – Who creates description for broadcast television?  Are there quality standards?  Can description producers work with cable and satellite companies to make it easier for consumers to access description?  Rick Boggs of Audio Eyes chaired this session with Tom Wlodkowski, Comcast, and Jeremy Fisher of Caption Max.

2:30 pm-3:30 pm    The Description Profession – How and where do audio describers become employed, especially for film and TV, but also for museums or performing arts?  What about opportunities for AD consumers to contribute to the process?  Joyce Adams, long-time describer and supervisor of description for nationally broadcast television and feature films, with panelists Rick Jacobson and Teri Grossman, freelance describers, and Chris Snyder, audio editor. 

3:30 pm-4:00 pm    break

4:00 pm-4:45 pm    Audio Description in Spanish – 53 million people of Hispanic descent constitute 17% of the population of the United States.  How is audio description serving Hispanics who are blind or have low vision?  Maria Diaz of DiCapta (formerly Closed Caption Latina) presented an overview of Spanish audio description availability in the United States.

    Pointer Website Presentation (PowerPoint Slideshow)

4:45 pm-5:45 pm    Knowing Your Audience – Performing Arts Description  It all began with the performing arts.  What are the most recent advances?  What can be done to entice more consumers of the service?  Joel Snyder, ADP director, will chaired this session with Steph Kirkland of Vocal Eye in Canada, and Bonnie Barlow, Denver-based freelance describer with 22 years of experience describing productions at the Denver Center for the Preforming Arts.

5:45 pm-6:30 pm    Seeing the Art-Visual Art/Museum Description  Elisabeth Axel of Art Beyond

We presented an overview of the top programs for visual art description in the United States; the perspective from abroad was presented by Dr. Joselia Neves a published author on museum description in Portugal, Michele Hartley of the National Park Service, and Martin Wilde, Chicago-based freelance describer with experience describing exhibits. 

6:30 - Dinner on your own

7:00 pm-8:15 pm    Field Trip –Illusions  with audio description starring Jan Rouven—Unbelievable Magic! Undeniable Mystery!--at the Riviera Hotel!  (Extra Fee)

Bernd Benecke8:30 pm    SPECIAL OPPORTUNITY – Bernd Benecke of Bayerischer Rundfunk (German television), and author of Audio Description As Partial Translation - Model and Method, spoke on “Creating AD: How to Work with the Audio-Description-Evolution-Model (ADEM).  Before writing an AD script,  describers will normally analyze the source material. This should include the following aspects:  What is the anticipated audience? Is it for children with a smaller image memory than grown-ups?  What was the describer’s personal experience when watching the material?  What does he or she want the blind and vision-impaired audience to experience when listening to the AD?  And what information is already given in the original soundtrack and thus can be left out in the AD?  Or is there anything in the soundtrack that causes difficulty for the describer, e.g., the sound in a scene does not match the image?  This presentation took an example from daily media description work and demonstrated how ADEM can help in deciding what, how and when to describe.

Stacia and Alex
Attendees Stasha from Q Media Productions and Alex from Solo-DX

Day III – Tuesday, July 15, 2014

     Pointer Audio for first half of Tuesday
     Pointer Audio for second half of Tuesday (starts with The Audio Description Consumer, after awards recap)

Deborah Fels1:00 pm-2:30 pm    Luncheon with guest speakerDr. Deborah Fels – Dr. Fels is an associate professor in the School of Information Technology Management at Ryerson University in Toronto. She has a special research interest in access to computing systems for people with disabilities.  One of her various project involving audio description includes the development of described episodes of Odd Job Jack, an animation series produced for the Comedy Network. The descriptions for this animation are unique in that they have first-person narrative descriptions synchronized with non-verbal sounds in addition to the silenced-only portions as well as user-controlled extended descriptions.  Dr. Fels was the 2013 recipient of the ADP’s Dr. Margaret Pfanstiehl Memorial Achievement Award in Audio Description, Research and Development.

Chris Gray presenting award    Pointer Deborah Fels'  Presentation (PowerPoint Slideshow)

2:30 pm-3:30 pm    ACB/ADP Awards – Presented by Chris Gray, Chair, ADP Awards Committee, former President, ACB

3:30 pm-4:00 pm    break

4:00 pm-5:00 pm    The Audio Description Consumer – Audio description is first and foremost in service to the needs of people who are blind or have low vision.  Kim Charlson, ACB’s President chaired this discussion with panelists and audio description enthusiasts Dan Spoone, Susan Glass, Satauna Howery, and Kathy Brack as well as comments from the Conference’s mentors and mentees (see the “Mentoring Meet-Up session described above).

5:00 pm-6:00 pm    Open Sharing / Discussion

6:00 pm                  Adjourn

6:30 pm-7:30 pm    Book Signing – Joel Snyder, ADP Director and President of Audio Description Associates, LLC, was available to discuss and sign copies of his new publication (with associated website) The Visual Made Verbal: A Comprehensive Training Manual and Guide to the History and Applications of Audio Description.  Order the book by clicking the cover photo below!

The Visual Made Verbal