by Susan Glass
With so many concurrent events happening at this summer’s ACB conference and convention in Minneapolis, attendees might have overlooked the dynamic and inspiring gathering that took place Sunday through Tuesday in Lakeshore A of the Hyatt Hotel. What gathering was that? It was ACB’s Audio Description Project conference, and it featured 46 participants representing 8 nations (including speakers), and attendees from 16 states and the District of Columbia.
ACB Radio recorded the entire conference, and you can download or stream every session. Just launch your web browser and type www.acb.org/adp. You’ll find audio files of the entire conference, as well as the full print version of the agenda and program. You’ll also find an abundance of additional resources, including up-to-date lists of the most recent DVDs and television programs that are now audio-described.
ADP’s second mentorship initiative, in which we paired an attendee of the ACB convention with a describer attending the Audio Description Conference, was a success. Ten ACB members volunteered to mentor, and since there were more describers than mentors, some mentors graciously reached out to two describer partners. We did everything from watching clips of describers’ work and giving them feedback, to attending general sessions and exhibits, to dining out, to exploring Minneapolis. Mentors and describers all learned from each other and enjoyed the experience.
“Adele was wonderful, as was Aloha,” writes audio describer Joyce Adams, who partnered with ACB member Adele Moller and her guide dog Aloha. “I think our mentorship match-up was a good one, as evidenced by the fact that Adele and I are now Facebook friends. And because we’re FB friends and some of her blind friends have also liked photos I tagged her in, this has also made me more mindful of including brief descriptions of any photos I post ... whether she’s checking them out or not.”
Vicki Ratcliffe describes her experience with her describer partner as wonderful. “Trillian Turner, the lady for whom I was a mentor, and I had a wonderful time during convention week. On Tuesday morning we walked to a coffee shop, had breakfast and then took the hotel shuttle to tour the Mill City Museum. Trillian and I never stopped chatting because we had so many interests in common, and she was a wonderful describer and guide when we toured the Mill City Museum.
“Trillian’s grandfather had lost his sight last year and her eight-year-old daughter was diagnosed as being visually impaired this year. After coming back from the museum, I told her about several vendors in the exhibit hall and she was able to purchase a talking watch for her grandfather as well as obtain applications to the NLS program for her daughter and grandfather.
“On Thursday we met for lunch and chatted about the conference, what it was like to be a describer as well as hobbies and interests that we both have. On Friday, we picked up breakfast at the hotel from the market and, since we both love being outside, we took our meal there to chat and eat. Trillian shared a paragraph, asking for my input, in regard to the description that she wrote. Because her description was so well-written and portrayed great detail, I told her that it was truly a work of art. The only question that I had was to know if any words appeared on the video.
“Trillian intends to become a describer, and I told her that in my opinion, she would do extremely well. She loves the theater as much as I and we had conversations about describing dance, what people want to hear with description and lives of blind people in general.
“We plan to keep in touch, and it was such a joy to serve as Trillian’s mentor. Both of us enjoyed each other’s company, sharing experiences and getting to know one another. For me, this mentoring experience was a highlight of the week.”
ACB member Carl Richardson had equally enthusiastic comments about his experience with describer Chuck Constant. He’s still in touch with his mentee from the ADP conference held in Las Vegas in 2014.
“I receive far more from the mentorship opportunity than I can ever give,” says ACB first vice president Jeff Thom, who not only hosted two describer partners, but also introduced them at Monday’s general session, and praised both the ADP and the Mentorship Initiative.
The ADP Mentorship Initiative allows blind and visually impaired people to be ambassadors for sighted describers, and for the sighted community at large. It raises the greater question of how ACB members can actively mentor the sighted community as we go about our work, leisure activities, and daily lives. Regardless of whether we consciously think about it, we are, by virtue of being in the minority as blind people, always being watched, and always setting an example. In what other conscious ways might we go about mentoring?
Thanks to Jeff Thom, Leslie Thom, Adele Moller, Andrea Pitsenbarger, Steve Dresser, Carl Richardson, Barbara Hermansen, Kim Bannatyne and Vicki Ratcliffe for serving as ADP mentors this summer. I hope you’ll consider volunteering again for our next ADP conference, to be held in conjunction with the ACB conference in Saint Louis in 2018.