Audio Description and OCALI’s #DescriberSquad

Rather through books, personal narratives, movies, or theater; stories impact our lives from childhood on. Stories are a way for us to learn, explore new or unfamiliar ideas, and possibly even develop emotions, such as empathy. Personally, one of my favorite ways to enjoy a story is through theater. It energizes me, compels me to think and be reflective. 

But, what if someone has a negative experience because they cannot access the full story? Barriers exist in many ways that stories are told, especially in videos. Important information is often presented in a visual way that is not also available in the auditory track or cannot be deduced from auditory cues. There might be text on the screen that someone with a reading disability may have difficulty reading. Someone with a visual impairment may hear the noise of an object dropping, but be unsure of what is happening in the video because they did not see the object fall and hit the ground.

A way to remove this barrier is to provide audio description for videos. Audio description (AD) is a recorded narrative or audio track that is added when a video contains visual information that is not naturally included in the audio or explicitly stated by the host or narrator.

The Training

As an organization that works to remove barriers, OCALI is constantly investing in professional development for staff to address barriers and work to implement best practices. In July 2018, a team of three of us were given the opportunity to go to St. Louis to attend the Audio Describer Training provided by the American Council of the Blind. 

With much excitement and anticipation, we boarded the plane to St. Louis and spent three days fully immersed in audio description with a diverse group (from voice actors to stenographers), totaling 18 trainees. It was energizing to see a range of people with a passion to break down barriers and work to increase access for so many.

After valuable instruction, collaborative work, and a final practicum, the three of us returned home with a certificate in audio description and so became OCALI’s very own #DescriberSquad.

Early Process

When you study something new, a field or a topic, it opens you up to a whole new set of ideas, thoughts, and contemplations. After our training and taking a week or so to reflect, the #DescriberSquad quickly realized we had a lot of work to do; work that was not necessarily clear. We also realized we had a lot of questions; questions that were not easily answered with a Google search.

We started by developing a spreadsheet to organize our existing and upcoming video content. During this initial phase, it became apparent just how many people would need to be involved in the audio description process. We needed to work with our colleagues who are creating the content, video producers and editors, the web development team, and most importantly, we had to work collaboratively and consistently among ourselves.

The spreadsheet helped to organize our work and set priorities on which videos would be completed first. But we still needed more. We were constantly asking questions:  How would you describe this? Where do we send the videos when we are done? Is the quality of my audio recording meeting OCALI standards?

As a result of our questions, our next document was the Audio Description Workflow, which delineates the 11 steps from start to finish. It has been shared throughout the organization and serves to help structure our workflow and also answer common questions from colleagues.

All of our early audio description work culminated in what is now the OCALI Guidelines for Audio Description. The document serves as a ‘go-to’ resource; providing definitions, what to describe and how to describe it, and other general information. 

Where We are Now

We have learned so much over the past 18 months. We have made mistakes, realized some inconsistencies, and have also had many successes. Our web development team has recently added the ability to access audio-described videos on our website with ease of access. The #DescriberSquad has provided trainings, both internally and at conferences. Our IT and Media Specialist has an efficient system for audio recordings and video editing. After 38 videos and counting, we have realized both the uniqueness and complexities of our video work as an organization.

If I had to pick one thing that mattered the most in our start with AD, it would be the constant willingness and collaboration. We were never met with “we can’t do that with videos” or “that’s not possible for our websites.” Our colleagues always met us with a willingness to find a solution and an excitement to talk together. We are proud of our work and excited about moving forward and making even more progress.

Five Years of ABLE: Building STABLE Accounts for the Future

Robert Sprague Ohio Treasurer logoBy: Ohio Treasurer Robert Sprague


The end of 2019 marked the five-year anniversary of the passage of the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act. As you may know, ABLE empowers people with disabilities by helping them to take better control of their finances and live more independently. After passage of the federal legislation, Ohio was the first state to jump in, launching the STABLE Account program in 2016. Since then, and notably in the last year, the Treasurer’s office has championed the ABLE Act’s purpose
and provided people living with disabilities with a powerful tool to help them plan their financial future.

STABLE accounts are the premier ABLE program in the country, and more than one in four ABLE accounts are STABLE accounts. Since taking office one year ago, our team has made it a priority to grow the program even further and create innovative partnerships that are establishing STABLE accounts as a mainstream financial tool.

(And signing up is easy – just visit

The STABLE Account program saw unprecedented growth and success in 2019. Our national presence was cemented in February with the opening of the 10,000th active account. By year’s end, we surpassed 14,000 active accounts, effectively growing overall participation by more than 40 percent. This great news continued into November when STABLE reached $100 million in total participant contributions.

As part of our office’s mission, we’re committed to being bold innovators who improve people’s lives. Our work on STABLE accounts is playing a large part in how we follow through on that mission. New partnerships with the State of Ohio and the City of Cincinnati allow state and city employees to make recurring direct deposits into STABLE accounts. In the coming years, we’ll continue to build these types of partnerships both in the public and private sectors to make contributing to STABLE accounts easier than ever before.

With your help and the support of advocates across Ohio, we’re going to reach even more individuals and have a greater impact in 2020. While a great deal of progress has been made since the ABLE Act became law, I can assure you we’re just getting started.

We look forward to continuing to work with you in the new year. Through the STABLE Account program, we are improving and empowering lives, while also helping to alleviate the financial burdens felt by families across the Buckeye State and nationwide. As always, my door is open, so please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and ideas. Together, we’re helping to build peace of mind and financial security to those living with disabilities.

Coming Together to Create Greater Access at Community Festivals, Fairs, and More

Although it is still winter and Groundhog’s Day revealed an early spring, we are already thinking about summer.

The picnics, vacations, swimming pools, camps, and, of course, the Fair!

Yes, it’s time to think about the summer fairs and the endless fun provided to individuals across the state as they experience the rides, games, shows, competitions, and the food – mouth-watering funnels cakes, elephant ears and deep fried, well, just about anything.

And for those involved in organizing these annual community gatherings, planning for the 2020 season began months ago. In fact, fair staff from across Ohio gathered in early January to network with old friends, connect with new members, learn about the latest attractions, and share experiences. And, this year, OCALI was able to join in on their early planning by providing information on creating a sensory friendly environment.

“This was a tremendous opportunity for OCALI to connect with communities across the state to advance our mission of inspiring change and promoting access,” shares Jen Bavry, Program Director Family and Community Outreach Center at OCALI. “As the Ohio State Fair General Manager Virgil Strickler stated last year ‘the Ohio State Fair isn’t just about the food and rides – it is about the community’ and I couldn’t agree more. When we all come together, we create greater access to meaningful experiences and social opportunities for all individuals in their communities.”

Jen, along with Alicia Shoults, Marketing & Public Relations Director, Ohio Expo Center and State Fair presented to managers and staff at the 95th Ohio Fair Managers Association Convention on January 3, 2020. The session provided an opportunity for participants to learn about the experiences from the first Sensory Friendly Morning at the Ohio State Fair, gain a better understanding of sensory processing and how to provide an environment that accommodates sensory differences, and discuss tools to support hosting a sensory friendly morning. 

“It was wonderful to be able to join this group,” explains Bavry. “There was such great energy and interest in the room as we shared our experience, as well as tips to support them in making their community event more accessible. For many, it was just a matter of taking a different approach to the great things they are already doing.”

Session participants were able to walk away with resources to help them in creating sensory friendly environments in their communities, including a checklist of things to consider when planning for their summer fair.

“Ohio’s county and independent fairs are incredibly interested in becoming more inclusive, “ shares Alicia Shoults, “Speaking with representatives from these fairs at the Ohio Fair Manager’s Association convention facilitated an open dialogue on how our fairs can become more sensory-friendly statewide. We feel incredibly fortunate for our partnership with the experts at OCALI. Their insights and expertise allowed us to get a great start in 2019, and we are already building on that momentum with expanded plans for the 2020 Ohio State Fair. This is just the beginning of a wonderful partnership.”

That’s right, planning for the 2020 Ohio State Fair is underway. The Ohio State Fair will once again host a Sensory Friendly Morning. The morning will offer a similar experience as last year with the lights lowered and sounds turned down. Fairgoers needing a break can relax in the OCALI Quiet Room or take in the shade and peaceful surroundings offered by the Ohio State Fair’s own eight-acre Natural Resources Park. In addition to the Sensory Friendly morning, the Ohio State Fair will continue to build on its efforts to expand access and ensure inclusivity during the entire length of the Fair, running July 29 through August 9, 2020.

Save the Date!
Sensory Friendly Morning
Ohio State Fair 2020
August 5, 2020
9:00-1:00 p.m.

Stay tuned for more information about the Ohio State Fair Sensory Friendly morning, including a special parking permit, sensory friendly activities, and resources to support your visit.

Office of Policy Update – January 2020

Office of Policy logo

In the fall of 2019, Ohio’s Interagency Work Group on Autism (IWGA) conducted a survey of young adults with autism and/or other special health care needs (i.e., diabetes, epilepsy, cancer, etc.) who had recently exited high school.

The National Technical Assistance Center on Transition has identified predictors of post-school success, things that can be done in high school to increase the likelihood youth will further their education, get and keep a job, and live more independently. While Ohio’s response rate was low, data from the IWGA survey supports these predictors. Specifically, the survey highlighted two key predictors: work experience and self-determination (as evidenced by IEP participation). A few highlights of the survey include:

  • Students with work experience in high school were significantly more likely to pursue additional training or education, have a job currently and experience success finding and keeping a job.
  • Students who actively participated in their Individualized Education Program (IEP) meetings were more likely to go to college or get additional training after high school, look for a job, and/or be working.
  • Of those students surveyed who had no work experience in high school: 70% did not pursue additional education or training; 80% did not get a job after high school; and 75% still don’t have a job.
  • Only 50% of students not actively participating in their IEP meetings have looked for a job.

More results can be found here. The survey also asked questions about access to medical care and insurance, which will be shared in future issues of OCALI Now.

Perspective & Possibilities: Celebrating 2019 and Ready to Kick-Off a New Decade

By: Shawn Henry, Executive Director, OCALI

Perspective and possibilities—as we wrap up 2019, these are two words that I’ve been reflecting on over the past few weeks. The end of the year at OCALI is an extremely busy time, but also a time of incredible celebration. Just a few weeks ago, on November 20-22, our team hosted nearly 3,200 attendees from around the world at OCALICON—the nation’s premier autism and disabilities conference.

The growth of this conference has been incredible—steadily growing each year. We love seeing that this event fits a need for so many. But, what’s even more exciting and special to me is the community that we’re creating together. It’s a community of people from all over the world, serving in different roles with different ideas and opinions. It’s this type of community that creates an environment of innovation, learning, exploring, and true connection—all aimed at promoting access and inspiring change for people with disabilities and those who love, care for, and support them. From educators, service providers, parents/families, self-advocates, community leaders, policy makers, and others, we’re striving to connect each other to create and expand accessible and inclusive opportunities for all.

Continue reading “Perspective & Possibilities: Celebrating 2019 and Ready to Kick-Off a New Decade”

A Look Back at OCALICON 2019: Stories from Attendees


On November 20-22, more than 3,100 state and national leaders, K-12 education leaders and practitioners, service providers, policy makers, families and self-advocates from 39 states and three countries gathered in Columbus, Ohio at OCALICON. Now in its 13th year, OCALICON 2019 had record-breaking attendance—a trend that has continued over the past three years.

Rather than writing a traditional recap article, we decided to ask a few attendees to share their personal experiences at OCALICON. Don’t forget to save the dates for next year’s conference—November 11-13, 2020, once again at the Greater Columbus Convention Center in Columbus, Ohio. Details will be coming soon!

Continue reading “A Look Back at OCALICON 2019: Stories from Attendees”

Inspiring Change: A New Podcast from OCALI

Inspiring Change Podcast logo

Hot off the press is OCALI’s brand new podcast, Inspiring Change. Take an audio journey with OCALI through our monthly 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 will discover and understand how different ideas, perspectives, and experiences help fuel OCALI’s continued efforts to impact lives in Ohio and beyond. 

Continue reading “Inspiring Change: A New Podcast from OCALI”