Access Tech: Voice Actors Learning About Braille Tech

Hello Shiquers and welcome back to Nerdy Shique Universe! Time for a new post in the Access Tech category on here and I think this will be a nice one to start the New Year off in this category!

Voice Actors Learning About Braille Tech from a Blind Person!

I know this topic seems a little silly to talk about but I was inspired by Brandon McInnis to write this post after this year’s Holiday Matsuri!

I have been an anime fan for most of my life and still remembered how Toonami first started when I was in elementary school and remembered how I came home through those years to catch Voltron, a little bit of Gundam Wing or DBZ and most of the time Sailor Moon. I even remembered how Fox Kids started showing Pokémon and Digimon to get into the anime broadcasting game and even started to draw in the anime style since I thought the art style was very interesting. As time went on, I did find out that I was going blind with Retinitis Pigmentosa and still enjoyed anime and didn’t think I would be doing press later on in my life like I had now nor get into Braille tech.

When I was in my Summer Semester of University back in 2011, I started bringing my Perkins Brailler since due to my past few semesters Braille did help me pass my classes, I even made Braille flash cards for myself to help myself study with the most important things I knew that were on the test and did pretty good and even started bringing a full page Braille Slate with me to class during the spring and it did work but it was hard always knowing when to change the page in the slate and where I was doing my characters because the cells were on the back and you pretty much had to write in backwards fashion to get the characters to show. Plus, having the stylus in my hand at all times did hurt. I did have a laptop but the track pad always moved my notes around Word and made studying a bit harder on myself. After having a teacher not liking my Brailler, I contacted Blind Services about the issues with my notetaking especially when I almost left class a few times due to how the teacher was complaining about the Brailler in class and I was told about Braille tech and I was all in for it. During the fall term, I was introduced to devices by Freedom Scientific and H. I. M. S. and was supposed to be introduced to Human Ware but due to how close it was to the end of the semester I decided on the H. I. M. S. Braille Sense Plus and chose the QWERTY which is what you just have a computer keyboard and give it a Braille display underneath and you type as normal and whatever you type it will translate that into whatever Braille grade you chose in the settings. If you chose Grade 1 it will be uncontracted Braille and if you chose Grade 2 it will translate into contracted Braille even the contractions for most words too. These were the only two Grades with Nemeth, also known as math code, that has been around for a long time until the new Unified English Braille Code that came around two years ago where some of the contractions were eliminated and made some of them look different to make translation a lot more easier even for Ducks Bury which is the program that helps print out Braille documents.

Having this device did help me out for the rest of my time at college, even in my Japanese classes I had to take as a language requirement and feeling the words in the notes helped with studying in order to pass. As time went on and after starting this blog, I didn’t know doing press at conventions existed until Career Services suggested it to me. I remembered volunteering at conventions in the past but doing press was a whole new world all in itself. Not only it gave me awesome opportunities to work for conventions but it also gave an awesome learning experience.

“Take A Look At That!”

When I started with press, I was totally new to it and didn’t know what to do either since I hadn’t done it before. I figured that I would use my Braille Sense for taking notes and writing interview questions. Even though MetroCon 2013 was our first time doing press, I didn’t get that many notes since we were hanging out and observing the layout, hosting panels, and of course going back and forth between the con and hotel. We did learn some things from our first time which includes don’t wait until the end of the year to post anything. (I didn’t transcribe our interviews until the end of that year.) The following year, 2014, Omni Expo did ask us for press but that year I was the only one out of the three of us to go since Gondras had a test that weekend. I did also have a cold that year too and it wasn’t easy getting up early to catch the paratransit van after having Nyquil and surviving on Monster Javas but I did get through it. The first person who was amazed by my Braille Sense, since I did put my questions on it and recording with my Olympus recorder, was Carrie Savage who you may remember her as the voice of Mokona in Tsubasa and XxXHolic and now Lisana on Fairy Tail. I did explain how it worked as in when I typed it shows up on the Braille display and I can read off of it by feeling the characters. I was surprised that someone would have a reaction like she did because not a lot of people have seen a device like I had and even a volunteer did ask me about it during the weekend and knew that more people would probably ask me what it was as time goes on.

During that same year, we did return to MetroCon since we did enjoy it the year before and that year was also testing my cosplay design skills with .hack since it was hard what to do and I created my own character. Besides cosplay being tested, I found out that Dante Basco was going to be a guest that year and chose him along with Troy Baker, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, and and Richard Epcar to interview. Not only I had to show my blog for the agent but also interview questions to see if I get to interview him and it was hard to ask him because I didn’t want to ask the wrong question. After making them and sending the link, I did get the schedule and he was the first to be interviewed by me and when I show up to the guest room that Friday and I did surprise him with my cane in hand and explained my eye condition since he did ask me about it and was even more surprised with the Braille Sense since it gave him a new person to meet and that is someone who is blind. I did tell him I used to be a fan of American Dragon Jake Long when I was sighted. He did ask me questions about how I learned Braille and how long it took me to learn which I was honest with taking me two years to learn especially having a tutor for Grade 2 because it is not easy trying to learn the many different rules for every contraction in all the textbooks. He even watched me go around the File Manager getting his questions and pop up on my Braille display. It still felt amazing getting to have that one on one with him and showing him my Braille Sense.

I did have to upgrade after one of the keys broke off and did have to scramble with a backup plan for Omni Expo the following year while Blind Services was purchasing my Braille Sense U2. I felt it was time to switch to the Perkins Brailler keyboard since I wasn’t in college anymore and would help expand my tech skills even in typing and using chord commands where you would use the Braille letter and the spacebar together. I even surprised the guy who trained me since I was familiar with the H. I. M. S. product before and able to transfer some of the skills from that to this one. During the time the unit was purchased, I had to bring out the old Brailler again and type out my interview questions and put into a binder due to not able to use the old QWERTY during that Omni. Lauren Landa even asked to feel my Braille pages after my interview with her and she told me about some neighbors she had that were deaf and it was cool that she knew people who were disabled and had to explain that I normally had my device that with the questions but waiting on a new one in the meantime and she thought it was cool that I had a physical Braille copy with me. It did take me days to get this binder together when it usually takes me hours on my device and when I got the newer one I was really relieved to have it for the summer and able to practice typing until Holiday Matsuri came that winter. It was our first year doing press and first time to bring the U2 to it and I think we surprised the Guest Relations people that we wanted to interview some of their guests that year and had go through some bits of complications especially when it was being done during their signing time but we eventually got to interview Todd Haberkorn and Josh Seth. Josh was the one who was surprised by my Braille Sense U2 since he never saw something like it before and I did explain how it worked and how it was a new keyboard for me due to it being a new device that year for me and I let him touch some of the Braille on the display so he could get a feel for the dots. The one that got even more mesmerized was Brian Beacock at Omni Expo the following year since not only he was the first guest to have a con give us a good word about our work but throughout our interview even on camera he was like, “This thing is so cool!” Which I would never have thought that after the experiences I had with other actors would find my Braille tech amazing even on camera.

This past year at Holiday Matsuri, we did catch Brandon McInnis’ eye with my little Braille Sense due to being at the very front of his panel with J. I was taking my notes as usual while listening to them talk about their life experiences. That Saturday evening before we had to cover the Idol Festival we did drop by his and J.’s tables and Brandon told me about being a software programmer if I got it right and asked me about the Braille Sense because he told me how he was watching me take notes and I was surprised that he did notice my finger movements since I did have to type like if I was using a Brailler. I did explain what it was and about H. I. M. S. a little since he and J. live in Texas and that is where it’s located and even explained the internet and how that worked, etc. He was wowed by it and it made me feel good for the rest of the evening and had me thinking about this post since I did feel like I was teaching these actors something from my own world as a blind person and that there are blind people enjoying their work as much as the sighted does.

In the end, after these experiences, I feel like I was giving a new learning experience not to just myself while interviewing the actors or even asking a question during a panel but also giving them a learning experience with my own device. I have been using Access Tech for many years and remembering times in college where there were some people who do notice what I use in class or they just pass by like it’s nothing but it feels like it has changed because technology is growing at fast rates, heck there is now Braille Note Takers taking on Android tech and I would like to get my paws on that. Plus, it gives a voice actor a new insight on what their work means to a lot of people even the blind themselves. I still remember how I told Steve Blum “Thank you for all the work you have done!” When he talked about the dad who had an autistic son during our interview when I asked about his favorite convention experience. It still kind of brings me tears because of how touching the story is and now with me telling these actors about my own experiences as a blind person and how I can talk to them about my Braille device it feels like they are learning from me a little more. Heck, even some of the other Press people I met before the Cosplay Runway got to know that a blind person has been doing press alongside them during the weekend after seeing my Braille Sense on the table. I guess I not only have taught some blind people in Access Tech but also sighted people including the ones who have voiced many of our favorite characters on screen for many years.

Well, that is about it for this post and man it did bring a lot of memories and knowing that I can keep on going with my Access Tech Specialist dreams makes me feel even better. I am not going to let it stop because technology has been my element even if I have my writing skill and working on my third book. No matter where my path leads me I know I will keep on following it. I can’t wait for next year’s Omni Expo where we get to catch up with Josh Seth and Paul St. Peter and get to meet Derek Steven Prince and get to see his reactions to my Braille Sense and cane when I hand him Digimon Season 2.

What is next? The final bit of coverage from Holiday Matsuri 2017 with the Idol Festival. And again major thanks to Brandon McInnis for inspiring me to write this after asking me about the Braille Sense, it was a great thing to bring up and glad I gave you a nice learning experience. Who knows I may run into you at another convention probably as a guest or just doing press as usual or working in Texas teaching someone tech.

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