Comics for the blind. "There's only one voice: the voice in your head."
June 8, 2017 4:38 PM   Subscribe

"On the Blind Panels podcast, we hold a Conversation in which a blind person and a sighted person talk about the same comic book that they’ve both read. These Conversations are fascinating and are often an excuse to delve into deeper things." a project from Comics Empower. Here's a short clip where you can hear what a described audio comic sounds like while Colleen from Blind Inspiration Cast listens in. Vice did an interview with Guy Hasson, the creator of the site, (via)
posted by jessamyn (10 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
I did not know this was a thing and it is immediately my favourite. I can read text but it is slow and it makes comics just unenjoyable enough that I don't read many of them, being able to just enjoy the art while flipping along with a comic is all I've been wanting. A couple of years ago I made a GitHub project to read subtitles out loud using OS X's speech synthesizer so I could watch subtitled anime and foreign films, but having a person read is so much better because it becomes part of the performance. The audio description narrator for the Netflix Marvel series is the best example of this. When I bought Logan on iTunes and turned on AD I was just on the moon when I heard the same voice describing the opening scene.
posted by Space Coyote at 6:43 PM on June 8 [3 favorites]


Hey awesome
posted by bq at 6:56 PM on June 8


I don't understand how these are comics—comics is sequential art. *Wouldn't this be an adaptation instead?
posted by koavf at 8:48 PM on June 8


I don't understand how these are comics—comics is sequential art.

Reading the links in the FPP may assist on that front. These are audio descriptions of said sequential art.

In fact, it's in the title of the Vice piece linked in the FPP:

Comics Empower sells and makes in-house audio adaptations of comic books for the blind and visually impaired.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 7:15 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


Sure but an audio version of a book or film would be an audio dramatization or adaptation. There are unique features of either media which can't be replicated or transmitted and furthermore, they have strengths which the original media don't have.
posted by koavf at 9:20 AM on June 9


Is a film with subtitles/closed captions an adaptation?

No. Neither are these. Making something available in alternative formats to enable access is not an adaptation.

And audio book is a book. A book that you read.

An audio described TV show is a TV show that you watch.

An audio described comic is a comic that you read.

In an ideal world, all formats would be produced at the same time as a matter of course. We're not there yet, sadly. I'm pleased to see this initiative.
posted by Helga-woo at 11:07 AM on June 9 [2 favorites]


As someone who spent about eight years narrating audiobooks, I can say unequivocally they are not adaptations in the sense a novelization of a film or a screenplay based on a book is an adaptation. This includes instances of books containg illustrations, figures, tables, etc. - up to and including graphic novels or comic books.

The text is read word-for-word (assuming no abridgement). To me, "adaptation" would mean tweaking the text of a print book to fit an audio format.

Now, the narration for illustrations, etc. requires scripting ahead of time, i.e., thinking through the best way to convey the content of the illustration in a way that will make sense to someone who can't see it.

As Helga-woo says, this is merely rendering the work in an accessible format or, in the case of a described video track for a movie or TV show, adding an accessibility feature. Think of it more of a "parallel script," maybe?
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 2:21 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Well, they say that they are adaptations. I suppose in the industry, there may be different meanings of that term. An audio transcription/explanation/etc. is an interesting take on a visual medium—I know that similar services exist for feature films that describe the contents of the visuals in earpieces that the blind can enjoy while listening to the audio.

On the other hand, subtitles are not an adaptation—they are simply a different encoding of spoken language and they are almost entirely mechanical with very little (if any) artistic or creative originality. Additionally, they only supplement rather than replace the existing work. If I am making an audio recording of something which is written—especially something with visuals—then that is a new creative work derived from the original and adapted to the relative strengths and weaknesses of the new medium.

Comics by necessity has a visual language and visual cues so you have to subtract away a lot of that when doing an audio version—just like how reading sheet music can't tell you what it's like to hear a piece. Certainly, it gives a good start but musical notation and musical performance are not the same thing and they have relative merits.
posted by koavf at 4:53 PM on June 9


Additionally, they only supplement rather than replace the existing work.

I see it more like reading poetry in translation. Well-translated poetry will have adjustments made to the poems to really hit the spirit of what the poet was trying to say, not just do a word for word transliteration. The translator is seen as something of an artist. But someone who reads poetry in translation still feels like they've read the work of the original poet.

I mostly enjoyed the short piece I linked to where a woman who has not listened to this sort of described comic before is talking about what the experience is like for her. And the Vice interview sort of talks about the two different styles of "audio comics" that are out there. Some places do more radio show type things with voice actors and music and these folks do a very heavily descriptive passage through the comics as if one were turning pages.

Not all blind people have been blind from birth. I believe if I were a sighted person who had lost my sight who also loved comics (as I do now) I would badly want to get to experience comics and this is the closest approximation to my current experience.
posted by jessamyn at 9:17 PM on June 9 [1 favorite]


Well, they say that they are adaptations. I suppose in the industry, there may be different meanings of that term. An audio transcription/explanation/etc. is an interesting take on a visual medium—I know that similar services exist for feature films that describe the contents of the visuals in earpieces that the blind can enjoy while listening to the audio.

This is described video. Some movies and some television programming carry a described video track (e.g., The Simpsons has one) that can be enabled by switching the TV/receiver over to SAP (Secondary Audio Program) so that both the described video and original audio are enabled. And yes, where available in theatres, described video is provided through an FM transmission of the described video track, and on DVDs or Blu Ray versions, if there is description provided, it can be enabled via the menu. Netflix was shamed into providing descriptive video for Daredevil a while back because I mean COME ON. They've since added described video for a number of other shows as well.

More on described video from the Media Access Group at WGBH, who do a ton of work in this area.

All of which is to say that described video is a different thing than an audio book narration - it's scene-setting, character description and contextual detail that works in concert with the existing audio track of the movie/program.

Pro tip: if you want a described video track that's hysterical, I'd recommend watching Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter with descriptive video enabled.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 11:44 AM on June 10 [1 favorite]


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