Los Angeles Radio Reading ServiceAre you a fan of the annual Rose Parade and Rose Bowl football game in Pasadena, California?

Herb Merriweather wrote to tell me about the amazing opportunity he has to help the blind to see through his involvement as an emcee and commentator broadcasting the blind and handicapped portion of the Rose Parade.
Learn more about what announcing for the blind entails in today’s VOX Daily.

Announcing for the Visually Impaired at the Rose Parade

Voice over talent Herb Merriweather wrote to me about the honor and opportunity he has to broadcast the blind and handicapped portion of the 2011 Rose Parade on New Years Day. This event is held on January 1st each year and is the precursor to the Rose Bowl Football game in Pasadena, CA. The broadcast of the Rose Parade will be heard on both the Tournament of Roses Website and on the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service website.

Something interesting to note about broadcasting for the blind is that there are many people involved in a live production that you may not have thought of. There is the emcee, the audio describer, a spotter on the street who keeps the emcee informed and others who help to make the production run smoothly.

This morning I was on the telephone with Jolie Mason, Project Director at the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service and she was able to give me a detailed account of the roles and responsibilities of those who are reading for the blind via live broadcast.

The Los Angeles Radio Reading Service (LARRS)

Founded in 1994, The Los Angeles Radio Reading Service is a project of Community Partners, a local non-profit corporation broadcasting on 67 KHz of 88.5 FM Los Angeles.
LARRS is coordinated by people who are blind or who have worked in the field. Their mission is to ensure that those who are print impaired have the same access to information as those who can read text.

Emcee, Commentator and Audio Describer

As the Emcee, Herb is responsible for pacing the parade and decides when they start to discuss the next unit, float and so on. Herb is also fulfilling the role Commentator working alongside Teri A. Grossman. Teri will serve as the Audio Describer and is responsible for scripting and reading the descriptions.

The descriptions are written by the audio describer and then the narrator, also known as the voice talent, reads it. The Audio Describer tells the blind viewer what is happening on the screen while there isn’t any dialogue.

I asked Jolie if everyone who did this announcing needed to be sighted and she shared that it is possible for the Emcee to be blind or visually impaired. How can this be? The emcee listens via cell phones to a person called a Spotter who can see what’s going on a block down the street. The Spotter updates the emcee on what is coming up next and how long a gap might be between floats so that the emcee can better pace their commentary and fill in the time accordingly.

In the case of Herb (who is sighted) and Teri, they’ll be looking at a monitor before they speak and share about what is going on for their audience.

Audio Description

You might have come across stations on your television that have what is known as Audio Description. Audio Description conveys the meaning of what is going on for those who cannot see what is on the screen but are able to follow along with the dialogue. When Audio Description is employed, the voice a narrator speaks in between lines of character dialogue to describe the visual aspect of what is going on for the benefit of those who are visually impaired.

I’ve seen an episode of Franklin that included audio description. The cartoon was just as it would be on a regular station, however, narration that wouldn’t usually be there was interspersed to provide context and describe actions that were not directly spoken of or referred to in the dialogue between characters.

Many programs have been enhanced to include Audio Description including Masterpiece Theatre’s Agatha Christie Mysteries, including the series featuring the Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot. While it is the same picture that everyone sees along with the same dialogue, audio description is used to paint a picture for those who are unable to view the imagery by sight.

Audio Description and Objectivity

Something interesting about Audio Description is that the description is objective and doesn’t draw any conclusions. Audio Description accurately describes what is on the screen in graphic detail without being subjective and leaves interpretation up to the listener. The Audio Describer’s responsibility is to choose words that allow the blind person to interpret what the meaning behind their descriptions are.

For instance, instead of saying that someone in a parade was wearing a beautiful, expensive gown, the Audio Describer would say that the person was wearing a blue floor length gown made of chiffon that shimmered with diamonds. The idea is to paint a picture of what is going on or what is being presented, not to influence opinions.

Listen in Live

If you’d like to hear Herb Merriweather and Teri Grossman providing commentary and audio description live at the Rose Parade tomorrow (January 1, 2010), you can listen in at this link here via the Los Angeles Radio Reading Service website or via the Tournament of Roses site.

In addition Herb and Teri’s TV description from the Gallery, there is also a group of LARRS volunteers broadcasting a live curbside description of the Parade from Colorado Blvd, near Garfield. There will be an audience there of about 200 spectators who are blind or disabled, and their guests. They enjoy the parade, as well as donated coffee, donuts, bagels, hot chocolate, and the group has their own private porta-potty! Jody Kepple will serve as commentator for that broadcast and Anne Nicholson will be the describer. If you go to the LARRS website, you will have a choice of two different broadcasts.

Happy listening!
Best wishes,
Image courtesy of The Los Angeles Radio Reading Service
Cool fact: The Braille shown in the image spells “Radio”



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