Behind the Scenes of the New OCALI Podcast: A Q&A with Producer Simon Buehrer

A few months ago, OCALI launched a new podcast, Inspiring Change. The podcast is designed to take listeners on an audio journey with OCALI through a forum of stories and connections from our ongoing work of inspiring change and promoting access for people with disabilities.

Through candid interviews and conversations with leaders and partners in the field of disability, as well as parents, community members, self-advocates, and others, listeners are discovering and hearing how different ideas, perspectives, and experiences help fuel OCALI’s continued efforts to impact lives in Ohio and beyond. 

We recently caught up with Simon Buehrer, the podcast producer, to hear about his journey launching the new podcast. Get the inside scoop on his vision for the podcast, some standout moments and bloopers, and future topics he hopes to dive into.

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Why did OCALI decide to do a podcast?
The initial idea was to bring to life some of the things that OCALI does in a different way. A lot of what we do here can be abstract or specialized for a particular audience. We’re trying to bring those things to the forefront and craft them into engaging and interesting conversations. An audio podcast gives us new ways of exploring and explaining all of the amazing things we’re doing at OCALI, our many partnerships and alliances, why our collaborative work is important, and helps showcase new insights and ways of understanding and experiencing our work. There’s a lot that you can do with audio as a storytelling medium. It’s portable and multi-taskable. Is that even a word? In all seriousness, audio is freeing. Driving, washing dishes, doing laundry – you can do so many other things while listening and learning. Listening to information is also a great way to fill in gaps and create your own picture of a story, which provides richer opportunities to tap into your own ideas and imagination.

What do you hope listeners will get out of listening to this podcast?
The human story is a powerful thing. And a good story can do many things. It can touch you emotionally, it can challenge you to think about something in a new way, it can transport you, it can help you view things through a different lens. We all have our own way of seeing and interpreting the world. I hope this podcast offers listeners new information and the opportunity to expand their knowledge and understanding while hearing different perspectives around disabilities. I want the content to inform, engage, and inspire and I hope listeners take away new information, voices, ideas, and events. We’re working to keep the content evergreen so that topics and interviews are relevant for long periods of time.

What have been some standout moments since you’ve launched the podcast? Or, have there been any mishaps or bloopers along the way?
It’s hard for a producer to pick just one standout moment, especially since we’re still in the early stages of getting this podcast up and running, but there are a few things that come to mind. Honestly, I’ve enjoyed all of the interviews I’ve done. The interview with Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Director Kevin Miller. at the Ohio State Fairgrounds was great. So was chatting with job seekers at an event outside of Cleveland. I love talking with people and hearing their stories and perspectives – that’s a precious gift, especially when they are open to being vulnerable about their feelings and experiences. You have to hold and share those moments honestly with an abundance of care and respect. I’m learning how to approach people and engage them in a real and authentic way.

I recently interviewed a young couple that attended OCALICON. The wife is autistic and he’s neurotypical. The two of them talked about the dynamics of their relationship, the magical and wondrous moments, as well as some of the challenges for them as a married couple, and how they’ve learned to navigate their world together. For example, the wife has sensory sensitivities and mentioned feeling uncomfortable about wearing noise canceling headphones and sunglasses while visiting a bookstore. So her husband also wore headphones and sunglasses so she wouldn’t be alone. That kind of moment is very real and authentic and I think it’s that type of conversation that makes an incredible story that others can relate to. As far as mishaps, while I’m embarrassed to admit, I had a pretty major technical malfunction early on. It was during our first interview for the first episode and I was super excited. We were recording in a private meeting room and I was getting all the equipment set up and ready to go. I was trying to screw in a mic, and all of a sudden, it slipped out of my hand, fell on top of the recorder, and completely cracked the screen. Fortunately, the recorder still works, but, every time I see it, I am reminded of that first day. On another occasion, it was my very last interview of the day, I was going to hit the ‘record’ button at the beginning of the interview. Well, I was so into the conversation that I completely forgot to hit ‘record’ and didn’t capture the most powerful part of the interview. Fortunately, the interviewee was gracious enough to redo the interview, but, it was certainly a lesson learned. 

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Podcast Host Simon Buehrer interviews Opportunities for Ohioans with Disabilities Director Kevin Miller

What topics can people expect in future episodes?
An essential part of the content is to surface stories related to our work, innovative ideas, and our mission of promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities. We also want to highlight some of the incredible partnerships we have with other organizations in Ohio and across the country who are doing some really impactful work. We don’t want this content to be vanilla. We want to explore some topics that may push the envelope a bit. We’re not trying to be controversial or sensational – there’s enough of that going on in our modern world – but we really want to get people talking and thinking about important issues in a new way. While we have a lot of our own ideas, we’re always open to new suggestions and recommendations for stories people should hear. If listeners have ideas for future episodes, we’d love to hear from them, too. Drop me a line at simon_buehrer@ocali.org

If you haven’t taken a listen, here’s a quick rundown on the current episodes:

Episode 1: Shifting Expectations: Reflections on Ohio’s Continued Transition Toward Community Employment and Individual Choice

Episode 2:  A Day at the Fair: The First Sensory Friendly Morning at the Ohio State Fair

Episode 3: An Inspiring Conversation with Kevin Miller