by Susan Glass
In conjunction with this summer's ACB convention in Las Vegas, the American Council of the Blind and the Audio Description Project co-sponsored the third Audio Description Conference. The previous two were held in 2010 and 2011. All three conferences were organized by ADP director Joel Snyder. This year's event was attended by nearly 70 people from nine countries, with an impressive roster of speakers and presenters. You can read about the conference and listen to its archived audio program by visiting www.acb.org/adp. Thank you, Fred Brack, Audio Description Project webmaster, for so beautifully archiving this event. And thank you also, Mike Moran of ACB Radio, for recording all of the sessions.
The inaugural Mentorship Program, in which blind and visually impaired attendees of the ACB convention collaborated with describers attending the ADP Conference, was a success! Sometimes people who write and deliver audio description have never had the opportunity to interact with blind people. This program invited blind people and describers to attend the ACB opening general session together, and then engage in at least two additional activities: touring the exhibits, visiting a museum, walking the Las Vegas Strip, dining, and so on. Our mentors were enthusiastic about the chance to work with describers.
Gretchen Maune of Missouri writes, "Perla and I partnered together to mentor Chelsea Pancho from Deluxe, and I believe we all had an excellent time together and gained a great deal from the experience. Our activities included eating together, sightseeing, and shopping, all of which provided opportunities for describing, feedback, and, of course, getting to know each other better. The experience allowed us to learn more about the description process, as well as understand the choices describers have to make when producing an audio description. I am truly grateful I had the opportunity to come to convention to participate in this program — it was a wonderful experience."
Perla Kohs of California agreed. "Chelsea is a delight! She and Gretchen were hungry Sunday night, so we went to Peppermill and talked all evening. The next morning my husband drove us to the Venetian where the three of us — and Keeper, of course — explored and Chelsea practiced her description skills. She is very open to learning and is a good listener. Good thing, because Gretchen and I do express our opinions! Most important, I think, was the concept of having the audio describers actually talk with people who have visual impairment. It seems like such an obvious connection. I learned that audio description is a difficult art and not just a matter of filling in open spaces of time with oral description. The describer has many challenges, and the quality of the description hinges on external factors — technology, time allowed for preparation, etc. — as well as the knowledge, observational skills, and verbal descriptive skills of the person or team writing the descriptive script. Good audio description makes such a difference. How wonderful for us all that this art is being taken more seriously and will increasingly become part of our experiences."
Dan Spoone of Florida wrote, "I wanted to personally thank you for a wonderful experience. I know everyone had different opportunities to meet with their mentee but Leslie and I really enjoyed getting to know Dae Kim from Netflix better. We attended the opening session with Dae and had an opportunity to go to Toby Keith's and had dinner. We also had many informal conversations throughout the week."
Thanks to all of the mentors who made this year's mentor match a success. Our next ADP Conference will probably take place during the 2016 ACB conference and convention in Minneapolis. Please consider volunteering again for what will undoubtedly be an even more fruitful exchange.