Interview with Dave Uhlman
We are very lucky to have in our midst an extremely talented and friendly member called Dave Uhlman. I am sure that some of you must have already heard his show “Hear and there” and interacted with him on Inclusive Planet.
Hear & There is an adventure program that is centered on detailed descriptions. Dave gives his unique perspective on museums, nature walks, art shows or just about anyplace he can visit. Dave can put words to the visual so the listener can see and enjoy the experience. Many of the places they go are accessible for people with disabilities.
Personally, I love the show! I was also lucky enough to spend some time speaking with him about how he started doing the show, and what he loves most about doing it.
I’m also really glad that The Dolphin show has been very popular with the members on Inclusive Planet!
You can read the interview below.
How did you start doing all this?
I was volunteering in a local museum and they had never had somebody with a visual impairment that volunteered for them. The museum was really not accessible and I saw the problems that I was having and I decided to make a change with and I started learning about accessible museum exhibit design and I became a consultant just through my own education for museums on how to become accessible and communicate their exhibits and messages to people with disabilities. I stumbled across radio reading service in the United States; there are networks of radio stations that read newspapers etc. for the blind community. I did a couple of shows and I realised that it would be a good vehicle to get the word out there about accessible museums. I started going to museums and interviewing them about their exhibits and their accessibility that’s how the show started out – to get people with disabilities to go to museums and see the exhibits. My early shows are about that. I started doing the show on a regular basis and doing hikes and finding ways to describe things that perhaps a blind person has never seen or done. I wanted to make it a fun, new experience for people and also to highlight the places that are accessible and talk about those.
One of the main complaints I got from museums is that “we make changes for people and accommodations, but they don’t use them!” what I found is that most museums don’t have a disability /accessibility outreach program. They don’t know where the organizations or the people with disabilities are and how to bring them into the museum or the venue. So I started “Hear and There” as a way to bridge that gap and get the word out, and get people going for these events.
I started doing the show with a little hand held digital recorder and then editing the programs on my computer. I taught myself the ropes of doing interview. In the first ones, I said ahh and umms a lot, but I learned how to edit them on the computer later!
How has the show changed over time?
I have changed the that way I describe things for my shows because when I started out I was talking to an audience to Cincinnati , Ohio and so I would give directions and descriptions of things for people from Ohio. But now having been on the internet and seeing that people from all over the world are listening in, I need to change the way I describe things to suit a world audience instead of a local audience.
I started out doing the show for the blind but it really is for everybody. When people listen to the radio, isn’t everybody who listens to the radio blind at that time? They can’t see what you’re talking about. The better the descriptions the better is the image that is brought to their minds. So what I am really trying to do is capture an image in people’s minds and take them someplace maybe that they have never been before, and that works for everybody. So I have changed the way that I look at the show in terms of just a blind audience into a universal audience.
Often times on the show I like to have a blind person with me. I am visually impaired myself but I can see a little bit but I like to have a totally blind person there because it totally changes the conversations with the people that I am interviewing. If just I am there the people that I am interviewing think that I am a sighted person so if they hold up a vase and they say,” this is an Egyptian vase”, that’s how they describe it. But if I have a blind person is there, their mind goes to describing for that blind person and then they’ll say that it’s a vase with a large base on it and a large rim and they’ll start to describe it for the blind person so it makes it easier for the people on the show to know the audience and it gets in their mind on how to do descriptions.
Was it difficult to start doing the shows, describing everything in detail? Especially keeping in mind audience who are visually impaired?
It is difficult to describe things because for the first time that you see something, you have to figure out what its elements are and what are the most important elements but how you describe it, so that there is an image in the mind of your listener. Everybody has different interpretations, they listen to different things. One of the exercises that I go through on my presentations is that I have a relic of a short man who is squatted; it is an American Indian relic and I have a replica of it. I have my listeners close their eyes and have them describe it and then I have them open their eyes and then look at it, and ask them – was it what you thought it was? How well could you describe it? And 10 people in the audience have 10 different interpretations. You have to realise that there are certain things that help people imagine things and especially for blind people, one of the techniques is that when I describe things I put it in terms of the size of their hands or the size from their elbow to their hands instead of saying a foot (an American measurement) because it gives a much better idea of the size of things. There are a lot of little tricks to describing things that I have picked up and developed. Because when I am doing the show often times it’s the first time that I am seeing things – a lot of times I don’t record trying to describe it with the people that I am participating with me because it takes up 2-3 times to find the words for the best description. That’s the interesting and challenging part of doing the show. On my website I have a hand-out under the cool resources where I put together a sheet for people who would lead a group of blind people on a bird watching or listening tour. The local rangers have never led a group of blind people and this helps them think about how to describe birds and bird calls and the forest to people on a hike. Most bird watchers are pretty list fanatic. They keep a list of all the birds they’ve seen and when they are out look looking at birds they have a field guide that has a picture of the bird and they look for certain colours on the birds feathers, certain patterns on the tails and that’s what a bird watcher is really concerned with – to identify the bird that they are looking at.
But all this is not helpful for a blind person. Here’s Dave describing what he suggests as a solution for visually impaired people…
Listen to the excerpt on Youtube (opens in new window)
Button 1 is pause/play
How did the show become so popular?
The show is heard 70 times a month on the various stations that I am on, via the internet and various reading stations and that is one of my main accomplishments! For 5 years I did the show and it was just heard in the Cincinnati area and once I got on the internet and explored the different venues, a lot changed. I put up the website and then I found out about ACB radio and some internet stations, and I got my show broadcast on there. From that people around the world started hearing my show and then I got a twitter account, and that’s really brought a lot of exposure towards people finding out about “Hear and there”.
I have only been on the internet for a year and exploring it and it’s been very interesting!
My website gets a lot of hits and it gives me a nice sense of accomplishment but there is a lot more to do!
The great thing about doing the show is that I show the museum docents, rangers and many others the positive aspects of accessibility. They see the people and how the people that they have never reached before – people with disabilities or the blind people experience their museum or their venue or their hike. And what rangers and docents see them having a positive experience, they feel great!
“Hear and there” shows that I have done have showed them this positive aspect!
When I started doing the show it was called here and there, but when I got on to the internet I realised that most clubs and organizations have newsletters called here and there. And so to try and make a differentiation, I decided to change it hear. And then I realised that since blind people use screen readers so they don’t hear the difference so I make sure I
And like Dave always says, Hear what we’re talking about and you’ll feel like you’re there!
Dave Uhlman is an Accessibility Consultant for Museum Exhibits and outdoor recreation parks. You can learn more about his adventures on his website http://hearandthere.net/default.aspx
If you would like to subscribe to the Hear and There Podcast, use this link in your podcatcher or add it to your Favourites feed list.http://duhlman.podbean.com/feed
You can also add him as a friend on Inclusive Planet - http://www.inclusiveplanet.com/en/view_quick_profile?un=user/663
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