Sound Without Sight Project
Hello, my name is Jay! I’m a professional mixing and mastering engineer, and I have a broad base of experience in other music and audio industry roles too. I also happen to be partially sighted.
In 2018 I reached out within my network for support, as I felt “out on a limb” as a sight-impaired person working in music. I refused to believe I was the only person to have struggled to access certain areas of the industry, so I sought a community hub where I could learn and share knowledge with people with similar experiences. However, such a resource turned out not to exist.
I’ve spent the past year meeting blind and partially sighted musicians and audio engineers to understand some of the challenges faced and the solutions that have been found. I’m very proud to share that RNIB has awarded initial funding from the Elizabeth Eagle-Bott Memorial Fund for me to create a resource to share this information.
The feelings and barriers that I experienced have been echoed many times by people I’ve met since. Under-representation of blind and partially sighted people within the industry, issues with accessing technology and information, and difficulties with networking are very real barriers to people moving forward into work, and even being able to take their own talent seriously.
The field of Music and Sound is vital to many blind and partially sighted people, especially those who wish to study, perform, create, or record music or undertake various kinds of audio engineering, such as radio, podcasting, or sound design. However, there are still major barriers to equality in this sector, despite advances in technology, that prevent people from fulfilling their potential in education, employment, or leisure. Some services, assistive technologies, and resources do exist, but are not well-linked, nor always up to date.
Based on the experiences and need of the community, ‘Sound Without Sight’ will be a network and knowledge hub for blind and partially sighted musicians and audio engineers, and a platform to showcase this community to the sighted world.
I am very honoured that Sound Without Sight has recently merged with the work done by an incredible steering group originally assembled by Peter Bosher, BBC Audio Engineer and Assistive Music Technology Trainer. Our group includes representatives from organisations that support the sight-impaired community, academics in the field of music, and representatives from the music industry.
- We have identified three focus areas for our support:
1. Audio production, including: recording, editing, mixing, live/event sound work, radio, audiobooks, etc.
2. Music notation, including: reading and composing, screen access technologies, obtaining and creating accessible scores, large print and braille music, etc.
3. Performance, including: music or audio performance of any kind; instrumental, vocal, speech/voiceover; individual or group; professional or amateur.
We aim to create an online knowledge hub, which will bring together all existing information and expertise around low-vision accessibility, music, and audio in one place, joining the dots and filling in gaps where necessary.
We will also curate a solution-focused resource to highlight success stories of sight-impaired musicians and audio engineers of all abilities, and the accessible ways in which they work, to help inspire and share this knowledge with others.
The project aims to encourage collaboration within the community and between music and audio technology developers, providing a platform to share information and directly consult the sight-impaired userbase to streamline the implementation of accessible design.
What are ‘Sound Without Sight’s main objectives?
1. Showcase the work and achievements of sight-impaired people in audio and music roles: from partially sighted people who use minor but ingenious adaptations to improve accessibility in their field, through to blind people who use assistive technology to create and perform. We will share the work of: performers, composers, sound designers, producers, sound engineers, audio editors, broadcaster engineers, radio hosts, mastering engineers, audio programmers, research and development, sound artists, live/event sound engineers, sound recordists, post-production roles, voiceover production, etc.
2. Present sight-impaired professionals as role models, highlighting accessible ways of working that these professionals have adopted or developed, to inspire users wanting to participate in these fields.
3. Assemble an encyclopaedia of accessible ways of participating in music and audio based activity, collating this information in one place.
4. Form an information hub and directory that gathers and signposts to existing resources, joining the dots between services that are currently difficult to discover.
5. Create a publicly discoverable and fully accessible platform for sight-impaired creatives to share examples of their work, whatever stage they are at in their careers.
6. Post content regularly, tagged with relevant keywords to allow users to easily filter and search for helpful information.
7. Identify and fill knowledge gaps where required. E.g.: teaching methods, software tutorials, employability skills, accessing live music and its culture, training opportunities, tutorials, Q&As, behaviour and conduct, guidance on communication and dress, business for music, freelance workshops, health and safety considerations for working in audio-based roles, signposting to wellbeing services, etc.
8. Adapt to user need. Encourage feedback and suggestions from the community, which will influence the content that is posted.
9. Highlight research and development being done to increase accessibility for sight-impaired people in audio and music software and hardware. It could boost sight-impaired people’s confidence to know that their needs are being considered.
10. Function as a launchpad for sight-impaired creatives to suggest solutions to barriers and display them to prospective audio product developers.
11. Create a hub for collaboration within the sight-impaired community, incorporating and evolving the existing VIBE forum as part of the new website.
12. Present an attractively designed and fully accessible website with mainstream appeal, to engage with fully-sighted people. This will encourage a wider userbase to access information, enabling teachers, family members, and society to support the sight-impaired community.
13. Demonstrate to fully-sighted employers that sight-impaired people are capable of doing great work.
14. Through communicating with users, understand the most common barriers that exist currently, to influence future developments in accessibility.
How do I get involved and support ‘Sound Without Sight’?
If you would like to get involved, please use the links below to visit our website, sign up to our mailing list, and connect with our social media accounts:
Although we are incredibly grateful for RNIB’s initial funding, ‘Sound Without Sight’ currently remains a primarily voluntary project, so we are seeking funding and collaboration opportunities to bring our idea to life with the polish and scale that it deserves. We owe big thanks to TAVIP (Technology Association of Visually Impaired People), who have agreed to host the project until it grows to the point of being able to sustain itself. Any donations made through this page would be hugely appreciated. Here are a few examples of how your support could help the project:
£10 could cover an hour of paid moderation to keep our online community safe and our knowledge hub accurate.
£15 could allow us to pay a member of the community for their time, to share ideas and experience with the project via a remote interview.
£20 could cover the time of a contributor to write or proof-read an article or piece of curated content for the platform.
£30 could cover the hosting costs to keep our platform online for a month.
£40 could allow the project manager to dedicate three hours to focused work towards delivering our objectives.
£50 could cover expenses to travel to a studio, concert, education institute, or music industry company so that we can meet members of our community and gather content so that we can share their work.
£100 could allow us to work with a web designer to improve the featrues and accessibility of our website, according to user feedback.
£150 could cover the basic prototyping of a new assistive tool suggested by the community.
£300 could cover a day of studio hire for our community members to try their hand in a professional environment, either as artists or engineers.
£500 could cover the organisation and running of an online music and sound event to bring the community together.
£1000 could cover the production costs for a series of much-needed multimedia tutorials, which would allow our users to learn key skills so that they can engage fully with their chosen activities.
Thank you very much for any donations that you are able to provide! I look forward to sharing more news and updates about Sound Without Sight in the coming weeks and months.