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article imageOp-Ed: Audio Describer donates her voice to help those with disabilities Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Sep 23, 2014 in Entertainment
San Francisco - With so much these days about access and having a voice to be heard, voice-over artist Michele Spitz is very outspoken when it has to do with access to the arts.
She describes the voice over work as 'descriptive audio.' Regardless of how she describes the work, voice over, descriptive audio, Spitz is very vocal about this issue. "People don't realize that people with disabilities greatly benefit from access to the arts. This is a call to advocacy," said Spitz. The issues she sees clearly is not so much about ADA legislation but about people's ongoing need to be reminded, aware that disability is in everyone's lives in someway and this is why including disability in the blueprints of any event, especially with the arts, it is crucial.
"This is a mission for me, a very passionate one," she said. This is why she donated so much of her time, skills and talent to Superfest 2014, The International Disability Film Festival of the San Francisco Bay Area. It will be held at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco this coming Nov. 2.
Superfest International Disability Film Festival is a showcase of juried films held in the San Francisco Bay Area. This annual competition celebrates cutting-edge cinema that portrays disability culture in all its diverse, complex, and empowering facets, and is the longest running festival of its kind in the world.
After its developmental years in Los Angeles, it was transferred to the Bay Area in 1998. At that time it operated as a project of "Culture! Disability! Talent!" Known as CDT the annual film festivals were held in Berkeley from 1998 to 2011, initially under direction of Pamela Walker. Then as time went on, Walker was succeeded by Liane Yasumoto in 2002.
After a decade's time, in 2012, CDT began to search for new leaders with the vision, talent and energy to take Superfest to the next level.
Superfest was able to ask Catherine Kudlick, the director of the Paul K. Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, and Bryan Bashin, CEO of the San Francisco Lighthouse for the Blind to be the directors of the festival.
“With a panel of judges all of whom are disabled, we’ve selected a cadre of groundbreaking short films from around the world about many different types of disabilities,” said Jennifer Sachs, Superfest Coordinator.
The most exciting aspect of the film festival is that it is all about inclusion and working through the obstacles of disability rather than being confined by them.
Spitz explained that as a ground-breaking event, trying to raise consciousness, Superfest needs all the help it can get. This past June when she met with Janet Gallin of, Gallin noted that Spitz has established herself as someone who uses her narrative voice skills for some very important causes and fundraisers.
As this reporter talked with Spitz in person and by phone about Superfest, her enthusiasm for Superfest was evident. She explained, "There is no reason anyone with any kind of disability should be denied access to the arts. If that person wants to be there and enjoy that event or show, a person with a disability should be able to."
This then brought the conversation a bit further to examine the concept of disability. "Seniors often have a variety of disabilities, from mobility to seeing and hearing. Yet when we see younger people with those same conditions the reaction is different. Why is that?" Spitz was quick to point out that, "anyone and just about everyone has had or at some point will have some sort of disability to deal with in life."
"If I sprained my ankle and had to have it in a brace or a cast why should that stop me from going out to a show? If my doctor says I can return to work as long as I use crutches or a cane, etc. then if I can go back to work, why should I not also be able to go to the movies, see an exhibit at a gallery, and so on."
Lending her voice to six of the 11 films at this year s Superfest festival in San Francisco  descrip...
Lending her voice to six of the 11 films at this year's Superfest festival in San Francisco, descriptive audio artist, Michele Spitz believes very strongly in accessibility to the arts for people with disabilities.
courtesy of Michele Spitz
Spitz went on to say that disability is not really exclusive to any one group or age or economic background. "A disability, in whatever form it can take, can happen to anyone. We are all vulnerable."
And, she also believes that access to the arts not only enhances people lives it has a power to encourage healing. Music, art, theatrical experiences, these all have transforming, life-enhancing qualities. People with disabilities should be able to experience them as much as they are able to, just like everyone else.
"It is about democracy too," said Spitz. The freedom to express oneself, one's beliefs, and so on are guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. So why not recognize that a step further by realizing that all people should have access to the venues, spaces and locales that allow all people this constitutional freedom? That includes people with disabilities," she said.
An event like Superfest not only affirms this, but reaches out to the world and wants to celebrate it. The embracing of disability is more than simply an acknowledgment, it is to recognize that having a disability means not letting a person become confined by it. The upcoming day-long film festival aims not only to include people with disabilities but spot lights what is possible.
"I think one the most important contributions I made other than being a sponsor for the festival, as well as my actually sponsoring some of the actual films, is the donating my voice for six films out of the 11 to voice the descriptive audio." Spitz sees her work and the Superfest Film Festival as not only affirming but as a dynamic life-line to thousands of people from all walks of life. "If I can also help a person with a disability participate in the arts, in some way then that too is my goal," she said. People who have a disability need to stay in tune, connected to society and that includes all of the arts. Superfest starts at 11 AM and ends at 6 PM, at the Contemporary Jewish Museum theater complex.
For more information about Superfest which will be opening this November 2, visit the Superfest web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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