Listen with the Lights Out: 19 Podcasts About Blindness

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Editor's note: This blog post by Susan Kennedy was originally posted on The Bello Collective, a newsletter and publication about audio storytelling and the podcast industry.

Man sitting outside listening to music with headphones

Listen with the Lights Off: 19 Podcasts About Blindness

Ever since I loaded my beloved orange iPod mini with Fresh Air episodes, I’ve enjoyed podcasts. Gaining a disability a few years ago didn’t end my love of the audible word, it enhanced it. Currently, my accessible smartphone fuels my keen consumption of podcasts, so I’m serving up interesting, funny, and myth-busting stories. You’ll meet a variety of people with visual impairments and explore topics related to blindness. They’ll blow apart assumptions about the blind and perhaps even notions of disability. Get ready.

  1. "Eyes on the Road," The Moth
    [September 20, 2012, 13 minutes]
    Ryan Knighton will make you laugh, cringe, think, and laugh some more. When the Canadian writer took the Moth stage, he spoke about slow-speed crashes, missed signals, and taking a stand despite uncertainty as he went blind.

  2. "How to Become Batman," Invisibilia
    [January 23, 2015, 58 minutes]
    Holy wooden headphones! Expectations affect behavior. First, hosts Lulu and Alix introduce the idea with an experiment. Then they present a profile of Daniel Kish, a SoCal man who uses echolocation to navigate the world without restrictions. Invisibilia unpacks the reality of low expectations for people who are blind, the product of a social system with certain beliefs for certain people.

  3. "Blind Kids, Touchscreen Phones, and the End of Braille?," Note to Self
    [August 31, 2016, 19 minutes]
    Host Manoush Zomorodi hears from reporter Ryan Kailath about visiting a tech savvy institution in the disability community, the Texas School for the Blind (TSB). Students and staff of TSB consider how smartphones diminish the desire to learn braille. But, literacy is not as simple as using a touchscreen.

  4. "Blind Love," The Longest Shortest Time
    [March 19, 2014, 24 minutes]
    The choice to bring a life into this world changes relationships. What happens when you’re a parent with a disability? Jeff and Sarah Overmars, a Canadian couple, reflect on parenting when a spouse has vision loss. Romance, hardship, and honesty in the marriage unfolds.

  5. "Reading by Ear," Adaptive
    [April 20, 2016, 20 minutes]
    Audiobook technology wasn't invented by Audible. Mara Mills, Associate Professor of Media, Culture, and Communication at NYU, tells the fascinating history of Talking Books, the books made specifically for people with print disabilities. Cultural shifts deconstruct the stigma of what to read and how to read it.

  6. "Driverless and Sightless," Ouch: Disability Talk
    [July 8, 2016, 23 minutes]
    Let’s turn now to a BBC import. Ouch offers commentary from a rotating panel unafraid to use humor to advocate. This episode includes Damon Rose and Emma Tracey, two people with visual impairments, and guests who banter about independent transportation. They volley the social and political consequences after a driver dies behind the wheel of an autonomous vehicle.

  7. "Do You Dream in Color Insights from a Girl Without Sight," The Diane Rehm Show
    [October 22, 2012, 52 minutes]
    Laurie Rubin, an accomplished opera singer and writer, speaks with Diane about her career and how she doesn’t let her blindness define her.

  8. "Architecting About Dance," The Allusionist
    [September 23, 2015, 14 minutes]
    Witty host Helen Zaltzman examines a technology many people with vision loss use: audio description. With it, listeners obtain info about nonverbal elements like costumes, facial expressions, physical movement, and sets. Zaltzman chats with audio describer Alice Sanders and choreographer Steven Hoggett on the challenging task of narrating dance.

  9. "My Delicious Experience," Seminars@Hadley
    [October 9, 2012, 60 minutes]
    Blind people wield knives like everyone else: carefully and effectively. Former Hadley student, writer, home cook, and MasterChef champ Christine Ha details her appearance on the reality show as well as cooking with vision loss. Her compassion and ability to connect shines through in the Q&A part.

  10. "Wait Until Dark," Snap Judgment
    [July 24, 2015, 11 minutes]
    A Louisiana student has a problem. Drama, action and comedy plays out.

  11. "Alabama Shakes' Brittany Howard On Small-Town Life, Big-Time Music," Fresh Air
    [January 28, 2016, 45 minutes]
    Everyone has a story, and this is Howard’s. She’s a talented singer/songwriter and musician. Also, she has vision loss. She recalls the creativity behind her soulful art with interview maven Terry Gross.

  12. "Blind Parenting," Transom
    [June 5, 2012, 13 minutes]
    On Transom, independent producer Jay Allison showcases creators of audio stories. In this episode, two siblings who are blind and whose parents are blind contemplate blind parenting. That’s a lot of blind and a lot of parenting. Are you nervous? Relax, learn, and enjoy.

  13. "Laura Bridgman's Education," Stuff You Missed in History Class
    [June 4, 2012, 27 minutes]
    Two ladies wax historic about Laura Bridgman. She was the first educated American with hearing and vision loss. Charles Dickens wrote about her. In her time, Bridgman became the most famous woman in the world.

  14. "Fake Service Dogs and Blind Imposters," Blind Living Radio
    [August 14, 2015, 17 minutes]
    Hosts Harley Thomas and Danielle Creapeau and guest Norbert vent about the scourge of fake service animals.

  15. "Maria Johnson," RNIB Connect's Morning Mix
    [September 20, 2016, 10 minutes]
    Johnson, a fitness instructor from the west coast, radiates energy. On this piece from the UK’s first station for the visually impaired, she chronicles the first time she traveled solo with her white cane.

  16. "Justin Kauflin," JazzWatch
    [January 29, 2015, 42 minutes]
    Acclaimed pianist Justin Kauflin, mentored by Clark Terry and signed by Quincy Jones, is interviewed by host Greg Bryant. Hear him play songs and recount his experiences living in NYC, and touring the world. Also, they remark on the award-winning documentary Keep On Keepin’ On, which followed the supportive relationship between Kauflin and Terry.

  17. "How Guide Dogs Work," Stuff You Should Know
    [October 22, 2013, 41 minutes]
    Josh and Chuck mansplain guide dogs.

  18. "Strangers in the Mirror," Radiolab
    [June 15, 2010, 26 minutes]
    Vision loss isn’t all in the eyes. It can develop in the brain. In this live-on-stage episode, Oliver Sacks, a well-known neuroscientist, and Chuck Close, a popular portrait artist, ruminate on their face blindness.

  19. "Icon for Access," 99 Percent Invisible
    [February 18, 2014, 17 minutes]
    Ok, ok. This one isn’t just for blindness. It relates to all disabilities But a playlist wouldn’t seem right without a selection from the great 99% Invisible team. The show has delved into universal design and autonomous cars, but in this episode, it conveys the creation of the international sign of access. You know it. That white figure sitting in a white wheelchair with a blue background. Isn’t there a better, more dynamic option for representing people with disabilities? Listen and consider why symbols matter.

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