Mosen At large is more inclusive with transcripts, thanks to a grant from InternetNZ

I have been producing podcasts since late 2004, not long after podcasting became a thing. As a blind person with a background in radio, I gravitated to the medium.

In late 2019, I started the Mosen At Large podcast as a way of maintaining my connections with the global online blind community after taking up my role as CEO of Workbridge, an employment service for disabled people in New Zealand.

I wasn’t sure how regularly I would be able to produce the podcast nor how much time I could devote to producing it. I called it Mosen At Large because for the first time in a long while, I wasn’t associated with any major player in the blindness technology space. I was free to share my own opinions and to fund the podcast myself so I am not beholden to any sponsor. That is liberating.

Over the last 20 months or so, I have produced 117 episodes. Many of them are around two hours long. Given my interest in technology and my involvement in the AT industry as a product manager and journalist, we have talked extensively about its use from a blindness perspective. We’ve covered tips and tricks, new product demonstrations, explanations and tutorials. We’ve discussed the promise of this technology to level the playing field as well as its frustrations, including financial barriers to digital inclusion. But I wanted the podcast to truly reflect all the things that interest me. I have been keen to go beyond technology. In the end, technology is a means, not an end in itself. It’s a means to self-actualisation for blind people, a way for us to maximise our contribution to society.

Achieving such important goals requires changes in public policy, more enlightened public attitudes, and a belief among blind people that we have the right to advocate for our full inclusion.

Mosen At Large has become more than just a podcast that communicates my interests and views, although of course as its host I lead the discussion. We have become a meeting place where our issues are discussed. We’re now heard by thousands of blind people every week, as well as a few sighted people who are interested in hearing about lived experience of blindness and the things we are thinking about. Our shows are packed with contributions from our community across the world. It is an amazing thing to be a part of, and I manage to pull it off by devoting a small amount of time at the beginning and end of my workday, as well as much of my Saturday before I publish it on Sunday New Zealand time. I love to do it.

I have, however, had one serious concern. It has not been possible for those members of the deafblind community who can’t hear podcasts to benefit from the material the podcast offers and to contribute to the discussion. I have investigated various ways of addressing this serious accessibility deficit. I tried various automated transcription services, which I could afford to fund myself. Though they are effective for a single speaker with a good microphone, they don’t always do so well with the range of accents and recording environments usually heard on our podcasts. For Mosen At Large, the only thing that was going to cut the mustard was a transcript generated by humans. Since I’m frequently producing three hours of content weekly, that is a considerable expense to meet out of my own pocket for a podcast that carries no advertising.

I did fund a transcript of the Brailliant Braille display discussion because that was of particular interest to deafblind people, and the response I got was very moving. People appreciated being included.

This spurred me on to try and find a longer-term solution.

That solution has come in the form of an on-demand grant generously provided by InternetNZ. Among its many important functions, InternetNZ provides funding to support community-led initiatives that extend the availability, use, and benefit of the Internet.

I am excited and grateful to have received a $10,000 grant to fund the production of human-generated podcast transcripts for Mosen At Large. This will allow the deafblind community to enjoy the podcast via technologies like refreshable Braille, or their text-to-speech engine of choice which may be easier for some to hear than a spoken word recording.

Deafblind people can participate in the discussion by emailing in writing or attaching an audio clip if they wish to do that.

I have been passionate about seeking a way to do this, because deafblind people are excluded from these conversations most of the time. InternetNZ’s grant will make a big difference to a group that is digitally excluded far too often. I know the podcast will be the richer for deafblind people being able to offer their perspectives on the issues being discussed. I hope the lives of deafblind people will also be enhanced by the information and debate.

I will publish transcripts on this website going forward within a few days of the audio being published.

If you know of deafblind people who might benefit from this resource, I would appreciate you spreading the word. If you use the transcripts and find them beneficial, please let me know, so I can pass your feedback on to InternetNZ and they can be aware of the difference they are making.

As well as a huge thank you to InternetNZ, I want to thank the Mosen at Large whanau (a word we use in New Zealand meaning extended family) who listen and contribute to Mosen At Large every week. We have built a very special community of which I am immensely proud. Sometimes, we discuss some challenging, contentious issues, but we do so in a climate of mutual respect. That is all too rare in this polarised age.

If this grant from InternetNZ will allow you to be a part of the Mosen At Large community for the first time, I warmly welcome you and look forward to your contributions.