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"Audio Description for State Parks" by Blake Lindsay

Blake at Carlsbad CavernsEach time I have an opportunity to serve as a mentor for a person experiencing sight loss, I begin our conversation by affirming "if you have to be blind, now is the best time."  I state this claim because of the latest available assistive technology and expanded resources that people with diverse needs are benefiting from these days.

A few years ago, I was invited by Joel Snyder, a 35 year veteran in audio description, to help fine tune scripts for audio tours.  One of my fondest memories is working with Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico.  State park audio tours enable people who are blind to tour the caverns independently.  These scripts are so well-defined, we often receive even more beneficial information.  The narrative not only covers facts about each exhibit, it expands on visual observations.  The navigational instructions correspondingly assist in explaining when to turn right, left, and precisely how many feet to walk to the next exhibit.

With state park audio description, the describer visits the site twice:  first to observe all that can be seen at the exhibit while taking hundreds of photos and video and consulting with staff.  Once the descriptive team completes a draft of an audio described tour to be recorded, they consult once more with site staff to make revisions.  The audio describer visits the site a third and final time to test the material on a person who is blind.  These audio tours will soon be available through apps for smart phones, therefore eliminating the need for portable MP3 players currently provided upon request.

Earlier this year, I traveled to Tucson Arizona's Saguaro National Park to refine their instructional script.  There are at least 2,000 types of Cacti's plants.  I admired a 100 year old Saguaro tree standing over 40 feet.

I encourage you to take a trip to these fascinating places.  With Google, there are accessible facts to help manage your expectations.  Before visiting any new site, it is helpful to inquire if tours are equipped with audio description.  This ongoing project will take several years to complete.  Please help support this productive mission through your participation and advocacy.  Let's encourage joyfulness that they are investing in our independence.

Blake Lindsay

Excerpted from the Dallas Lighthouse for the Blind Newsletter Edition 5, used by permission