Audiobook boom is good news for Canadian actors and listeners
Made-in-Canada audiobooks bringing Canadian voice to U.S.-dominated industry, as actors learn new skill
By Salimah Shivji
CBC News, Nov. 26, 2017
Salimah Shivji is a journalist with the national arts and entertainment unit.
In a downtown Montreal recording studio, seasoned actor Tom McCamus, known for his work on stage and in films such as Room and The Sweet Hereafter, put on his headphones, stepped up to the microphone, and heaved a sigh.
He was gearing up to breathe new life into Michael Ondaatje’s classic novel In the Skin of a Lion by turning it into an audiobook.
“It’s the first time I’ve done it,” an admittedly nervous McCamus said. “I called some friends who do [audiobooks] a lot and asked them and got some advice on what to do. I hope I do a good job for Michael.”
The project is part of a boom in Canadian audiobook production led by Amazon-owned Audible. Eighty per cent of its newly commissioned audiobooks of Canadian novels are being produced in Canada, and the company has pledged
$12 million over three years to develop new content.
In the Skin of a Lion is one of more than 50 audiobooks begun since Audible launched its Canadian website in mid-September to bolster its previous catalogue of around 100 Canadian titles.
The company has also partnered with Canada’s richest literary award, the Scotiabank Giller prize, as a sponsor. This year, according to BookNet Canada, sales of five Giller-nominated novels went up 1,115 per cent after they made the Giller shortlist.
Amazon Kindle Service
Amazon owns Audible, which recently launched its dedicated Canadian service, with $12 million earmarked to create audiobooks in Canada. (The Associated
Audible’s game plan is to use well-known Canadian actors to interpret classics of contemporary Canadian literature, hoping to capitalize on the popularity of audiobooks, particularly among young, university-educated women, and the nearly 20 per cent growth in sales over the past three years.
Add to that the estimated 35 titles being converted to audiobooks by Penguin Random House Canada’s brand new in-house audiobooks production division, and you have plenty of new work for Canadian actors.
Even the prime minister has signed up, reading the foreword of his 2014 memoir Common Ground, while the bulk of rest of the book will be narrated by actor Colm Feore.
Learning new craft
This fall’s surge in acting work is welcome, but it’s also opened up an awareness that the art of reading an audiobook is a skill that needs nurturing.
That’s where Braden Wright comes in.
The experienced voice actor first became interested in audiobooks while living in the United States two decades ago. He has been hosting training sessions for Toronto-based actors who want to learn the “acting acrobatics”
that it takes to successfully read an audiobook.
“It’s a one-person show,” Wright said, with the narrator in most cases changing pitch and accents to bring to life all of the book’s characters – male and female.
Toronto-based voice actor Braden Wright has been holding training sessions to give other actors tips on how to best perform an audiobook. (CBC)
“The funniest misconception is that it’s [simply] reading a book or that, ‘I can read, I can do well’ . when really there are things that are very specific about audiobook work.”
One major difference is that, unlike most acting work, the narrator must remain somewhat in the background.
“There’s a certain kind of neutrality that you have to do in reading the book, because you want the listener to create what’s happening,” McCamus said. “If I tell too much of the story through my own interpretation, then I get in their way.”
‘It’s like a marathon’
Another requirement is stamina, since an average audiobook takes at least 20 hours to record with retakes.
“It’s like a marathon,” said Sarah Mennell, who was recently in studio to read Michael Redhill’s Bellevue Square, rushing to get the Penguin Random House Canada audiobook ready in time for the Giller prize gala, an award that Redhill ultimately won.
“Halfway through, I think I’m not going to be able to finish this book, I’m not going to be able to finish this day, this hour.”
Recording the audiobook of Giller-prize winning novel Bellevue Square, Sarah Mennell said she would have to pause at times, not only because it was ‘a marathon’ session, but also because the author’s word moved her so much.
Despite the long hours, Mennell appreciates the creativity involved, and she’s building a bank of accents for future audiobooks gigs.
“I’m in the age range of my career where parts are declining,” she said.
“With audiobooks, I get to play all these different characters that I would not be able to play on film or television.”
A starry world unto itself
It’s not only Canadian actors opening up to a new world of audio opportunities, but also Hollywood stars.
Many, including Claire Danes, Nicole Kidman and Colin Firth, have twigged to the acclaim that can come from reading into an audiobook fan’s ear.
But there is already a star system in the audiobook world. Barbara Rosenblat may be familiar to Netflix fans as the actor who plays Miss Rosa in Orange is the New Black, but to book listeners, she’s the Meryl Streep of audiobooks.
She has narrated more than 500 and she literally wrote the book on it. It’s called Audiobook Narrator: The Art of Recording Audiobooks. (No, there’s no audiobook version of it yet.)
While Mennell hasn’t done nearly that many, she’s already won praise for her read, from fans as well as the author whose vision she interpreted.
“She’s really imbued the book with its tone, the tone that I wrote,” Redhill told CBC.
“I’ve listened to her read the book, and I feel like I’m entering it from a different direction,” the Giller prize winner added. “I can actually see and hear things in the storyline that I wasn’t necessarily aware of, because she picked out things of her own.”
Am I cheating when I listen to a book?
With the explosion in popularity of audiobooks and more people being introduced to the format, there’s also the niggling question that keeps coming back to torment fans of the medium: Is listening to an audiobook in some way cheating?
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Accessing Education With a Disability Isn’t As Easy As We Think
Nov. 27, 2017
Lack of leadership in accessibility isnt just a problem for the University of Ottawa.
As someone who lives without a disability, a wheelchair ramp is one of the first things that comes to mind when I think of accessibility.
But accessibility goes far beyond this, especially in a campus context, expanding to measures such as proper snow removal in the winter and ensuring that students are able to see the text on a PowerPoint in class.
On Sunday, Dec. 3, it will be International Day of Persons with Disabilities. In light of this, I decided to investigate how accessible the University of Ottawa is for persons with disabilities for this weeks issue of the Fulcrum.
Whether its a physical impairment or special learning needs, the conversations that I had while writing this piece brought me to the conclusion that equal access to education, both here at the U of O and at postsecondary institutions across the country, isnt quite as easy as one would imagine.
Physical barriers to accessibility
Borrow a wheelchair one day or pretend that you cant walk on your two feet for one day or just an hour, and you will see how the campus is not made accessible, says Dr. Virginie Cobigo, an associate professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences School of Psychology, who specializes in intellectual disabilities.
For Megan, who is in her third and final year at the Faculty of Law, common law section, structural barriers are among the biggest challenges to accessibility at the U of O. Megan had requested that her surname be omitted from this story.
In my first year on campus, the elevator at (Fauteux Hall) was not working for about three months, which was obviously really challenging, she says.
Megan, who lives with a physical disability, notes that the accessible entrance to Tabaret Hall has been closed since January of this year.
I’m lucky that I dont have classes in Tabaret Hall, but that’s where you get your transcripts and student enrolment and all those kinds of things, and that’s been really, really challenging over the last year.
Dr. Cobigo believes these barriers to accessibility boil down to a lack of leadership among the university administration.She cites challenges such as a lack of accessible doors, round doorknobs, and hallways that are not wide enough for wheelchairs in some buildings, such as Vanier Hall where her office is located.
To be frank, I dont think that the University of Ottawa is doing much that is good in terms of accessibility. Of course, the new buildings are more accessible than the older buildings, but it is the law. So its not a leadership from the University of Ottawa, its just that the university has to make the buildings accessible according to some minimal standards and requirements, because of the Accessibility Act.
These older buildings, and the fact that they often fail to be modernized, pose one of the largest challenges to students and staff with mobility issues.
Leila Moumouni-Tchouassi, vice-president equity for the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa (SFUO), shares these sentiments, saying that the buildings are very old and the university has yet to put investments after all of these years into making sure that the buildings are more accessible.
So often its the fact that a lot of buildings dont have buttons to be able to open the doors there arent ramps, there arent elevators, a lot of the classrooms themselves when it comes to seating arent accessible, she continues.
But Charles Azar, a subject matter expert in architecture for campus facilities at the U of O, explains that such problems are historic, as older buildings were not designed with accessibility in mind. According to Azar, campus facilities is trying to match or exceed current accessibility regulations using their existing budget.
It’s also worth mentioning that the definition of an accessible building is a moving target, he notes. As codes and regulations continue to evolve, it becomes increasingly difficult and costly to update old or existing buildings to the current standard.
It also extends to more than just accessible entrances and spaces, but to all related pathways, washrooms and even signage as well. We always try to find creative and budget-conscious ways to accommodate those with disabilities, but updated, older spaces can rarely match new ones and identifying alternative accessible spaces is often the simpler or only feasible way to address accommodation requests in the short-term.
Policies and attitudes towards accessibility
On another front, Moumouni-Tchouassi believes that leadership at the administrative level is lacking when it comes to university policies, the main issue being that they dont accurately reflect the diverse experiences of students on campus.
I think a long time ago (the U of O) started talking about an accessibility policy, and they still have yet to produce and finish it and make sure that students are being able to access it, says Moumouni-Tchouassi.
It’s up to the university to make sure that one, in policy, it forces itself and its stakeholders to properly accommodate students, but then also making sure that when it is building all of these buildings, and when it is putting all of this money into improving this campus, that that includes making sure that its more accessible.
But besides leadership at the administrative and policy-making level, Dr.
Cobigo believes that negative attitudes towards disability hinder accessibility at the U of Othis is especially true for students with developmental or learning disabilities.
I still hear some of my colleagues saying that if we use some universal design for education, the level and the quality of the education will be lowered, which is not true, she says. Making things accessible is not making things easier, its providing different formats so that the informationthe content of the coursewill be accessible to most students.
Some examples of this include students submitting an audio recording for an assignment as opposed to a written paper, professors complying with standard font sizes and colours on PowerPoints so that everyone in the room can read the slides, and ensuring that all students can see the professors lips during the lecture, for those who may have a hearing impairment.
Dr. Cobigo notes that it can be a challenge for professors to be conscious of the complex and diverse nature of accessibility, specifically for larger class sizes, and so there needs to be training and resources available to them to ensure that they meet accessibility standards.
She suggests that this can come through having a committee chair in accessible learning, and partnerships with disability specialists. Cobigo, who is the director of the Centre for Research on Educational and Community Services at the U of O, believes that by increased partnership with the Teaching and Learning Support Service, the centre can help disseminate resources and facilitate training workshops for professors to better meet the needs of their students.
How is the university tackling accessibility issues?
So, with these issues in mind, how is the U of O currently accommodating its students and staff with disabilities?
According to Megan, Protection Services has been helpful in making campus physically more accessible for her. One of the challenges she faces is that in the winter over the past two years, snow has not been cleared quickly enough, making her walk from the parking lot to Fauteux Hall cumbersome.
After speaking with Protection, they gave Megan the option of either designating a parking spot to her that would always be cleared of snow, or having her pay extra for a spot in the indoor parking garage.
I was sort of pleasantly surprised that they were amenable to that, she says.
At the student federation level, the Centre for Students with Disabilities
(CSD) facilitates programs and activities based on the requests and needs they receive from students. According to Moumouni-Tchouassi, this means being receptive and open to students, and tailoring accommodations and services to fit their diverse needs.
The thing about accessibility, especially when it comes to disability justice, is that there’s no one way to put it out for all people, because that in itself would be inaccessible, she says.
In addition, Moumouni-Tchouassi says that the SFUO brings what they find from their conversations with students through services such as the CSD to the university administration.
The U of Os Human Rights Office (HRO) also plays a major role in accessibility on our campus, through programming, training, and policy-based work.
Marie-Claude Gagnon, an accessibility policy officer for the HRO, says that the CSD has helped the office identify accessibility barriers, as well as retrieve documentation they have worked on during an accessibility awareness week (to) share with facilities.
Further, the (HROs) volunteers are stationed across campus to provide in-person accessibility assistance to students and staff, and help ensure easier access to resources and information available on campus. They are also responsible for identifying accessibility barriers and reporting them to the Human Rights Office, says Gagnon.
The volunteers wear black and white Accessibility Squad vests, which make it easy for individuals requiring assistance to identify them.
The HRO is also involved in relaying the accommodation requests it receives to campus facilities, which is responsible for areas such as construction and the campus master plan.
Mike Sparling, manager of facility conditioning and scheduling for campus facilities notes that they have just completed a campus-wide accessibility audit from 2014-17 that included stakeholders such as the Student Academic Success Service (SASS), the HRO, and the SFUO.
The process took three years to complete and will soon provide a gap analysis of our existing conditions vs. the current code requirements (that youd see in a new building), identifying which spaces are deemed accessible or not by todays standards, says Sparling.
These audits will also form the basis for a prioritized action plan to reduce barriers on campus, including providing accessible paths within buildings and barrier-free washrooms, classrooms, and public spaces.
Student success in the classroom and beyond
Despite the numerous challenges, Megan highlighted positive experiences with SASS, a campus service providing academic accommodations to students with disabilities and specific learning needs.
SASS academic accommodations follow a request-based model, receiving students concerns with accompanying documentation from a doctor, psychologist, or other medical professional, and from there (looking) at what courses theyre taking, what faculty theyre registered in, and (setting) up appropriate accommodations, says Sylvie Tremblay, director of SASS.
Examples of accommodations that SASS offers include extra time on exams, smart pens that record lectures, laptops with specialized software, and ergonomic chairs and desks. SASS also works with the Office of the Registrar and campus facilities to properly accommodate students in their classrooms, such as by ensuring that a student with a disability does not have class in an inaccessible building.
But Vincent Beaulieu, academic accommodations manager for SASS, says that all this can be a challenge particularly at the beginning of the semester as students rearrange their schedules.
Things change. Students will drop courses, register to new courses, so the beginning of each semester theres a lot of logistics involved, moving a classroom multiple times in some cases, and then as soon as you move one classroom you have to move the other classroom, and sometimes just swapping them is not possible, its a lot of logistics, he says.
And while both Tremblay and Beaulieu believe that SASS does its best to accommodate students, they recognize that they have to do so within their means. According to SASS 2016-17 annual report, roughly two-thirds of funding for SASS comes from the U of O itself, and only one-third from the provincial government.
One of the challenges were having provincially is that that funding hasnt gone up. In fact its gone down in the past 10 years, especially (with) the increase in student enrolment, increase in need as well. All campuses in Ontario are seeing much, much more demand for their services. So if you take inflation into account, if you take the growth of our services into account and all these other factors, the funding has decreased substantially, really, over the years, Beaulieu says.
This overall lack of provincial funding means that its not just the U of O that is experiencing a strain on their budget for academic accommodationsits a province-wide crisis.
As U of O president Jacques Frémont recently shared with the Fulcrum, decreasing government grants mean that the only place (the university) can get funding is through tuition. So with the university itself providing roughly 65 per cent of funding for academic accommodations, this money is largely coming from students. But, as Beaulieu shares, the need for such accommodations is ever-growing.
We have a bit of a dream around universal design, this idea that if learning outcomes and curriculums were more universal in their nature we wouldnt need as many accommodations in the first place, Beaulieu says.
Of course, this universal design, and any efforts made to make our campus and campuses across the country more accessible in the near future need to prioritize the voices and experiences of those students and staff with disabilities.
As Megan shares, a lot of times, those who dont have disabilities are the ones who are saying whether or not somethings accessible, but that doesnt really help when its not your experience, its not your lived experience.
And while stronger leadership at the administrative level is key to building a more accessible learning and working environment, this push for change starts with students. Moumouni-Tchouassi believes that its important that students come together to fighteven if we dont necessarily identify with those things.
Its important to make sure that we all just generally can access education in a more equitable way, and making sure that were all taken care of under the same system, because were going to be here for anywhere from three years to it feels like a hundred, so we might as well make sure that were all taken care of.
For students and staff looking to provide feedback and suggestions on accessibility at the U of O, please visit the Human Rights Offices Accessibility Hub.
Contract Job Posting
Blindness Skills Instructor
Pacific Training Centre for the Blind
817a Fort St
Victoria, BC, V8W 1H6
Independent Contractor Position
Blindness Skills Instructor
Location: Victoria, BC
Reports To: Program Coordinator
Dates of Contract: January 9, 2018 to June 29, 2018
Hours: up to 12 per week (number of days and hours are somewhat flexible).
Hourly Rate: $20
We are looking for someone who is passionate about teaching, excited by new challenges, and interested in working as part of a small, energetic, grassroots organization.
Services to Be Performed:
- Provide individualized and group instruction to blind adults in all areas of the alternative techniques of blindness, such as Braille, talking computers, travel with the long white cane, cooking, home management, job readiness etc.
- Work / train part of the time under sleepshades / learning shades, if not totally blind, and use a long white cane at all times during the program.
(guide dogs are of course welcome to be at the centre, but the expectation is that the individual will use a long white cane when actually teaching.
- Help students become independent by adopting the structured discovery / problem-solving method of teaching used at the centre.
- Help to plan programs and program activities.
- Provide community outreach and help to identify the needs of blind individuals; Propose ways to meet these needs. Assist in the recruitment of new students.
- Provide services as part of a multidisciplinary team through group and one-on-one lessons.
- Link clients with formal and informal resources, and help individuals develop their skills and ability to use their own resources and those of their community to solve problems and find solutions.
- Support the Program Coordinator and other staff in the management of client files and demographic reports.
- Assist in the submission, writing and compilation of student reports to ensure student requirements are being met.
- Candidate must be legally blind.
- Strong belief in and understanding of the structured discovery model of blindness skills training taught at the centre, and the centre’s positive approach to blindness.
- A degree or diploma in a Human Services, Social Work, or Community Social Services, or experience in a relevant field of knowledge with blindness experience preferred. Previous training at a structured discovery blindness centre an asset.
- Experience in teaching adults and an understanding of the unique needs of adult learners.
- Working knowledge of Braille, adaptive speech and Braille technology, travel with the long white cane, and other aspects of blindness skills.
- Experience working with people who have various disabilities in conjunction with blindness such as physical challenges, learning disabilities, brain injuries and mental health issues.
- Must be detail oriented and possess effective organizational and research skills.
- Must have excellent written and verbal communication skills.
- Have experience in developing and organizing lesson plans.
- Possess the ability to work with a variety of people in a diverse range of situations.
- A willingness to be flexible.
- A willingness to help out occasionally during extra activities such as conventions and recreational activities.
- Punctual, reliable and dependable. Work requires high degree of emotional intelligence and intuitiveness.
Please email a cover letter and resume to Elizabeth Lalonde, Executive Director, at Elizabeth@pacifictrainingcentre.ca no later than December 15, 2017.
This new policy was posted to the Uber website yesterday. All Uber drivers will be receiving the updated policy as well.
The text is below, but here is a link to the policy on Uber’s website:
Service Animal Policy (Canada)
UPDATED NOVEMBER 13, 2017
Canadian laws prohibit driver-partners using the Uber Driver App from discriminating against riders with service animals, including by denying them service. As explained in Uber’s <https://www.uber.com/legal/policies/non-discrimination-policy/en/>
Non-Discrimination Policy, driver-partners who engage in discriminatory conduct in violation of their legal obligations will lose their ability to use the Driver App.
What is a Service Animal?
A service animal is an animal that helps an individual with that individual’s disability. (Disabilities can be visible or non-visible—you can’t always tell who has a disability.)
There are two ways for an animal to qualify as a service animal.
First, an animal is a service animal if it can be easily identified as one.
For example, the service animal wears a harness or a vest, or is obviously helping the individual with their disability.
Second, the individual may have a document confirming the animal is a service animal, like a health professional’s letter that the animal is needed due to a disability; a government-issued service-animal card; or, in Québec, a certificate from a service-animal training school.
If the animal is not easily identifiable as a service animal, a driver-partner may ask the individual to show their confirming document
Legal Obligations of Driver-Partners
Driver-partners have a legal obligation to provide service to riders with service animals.
By virtue of their written Services Agreement with Uber, all driver-partners using the Driver App have agreed to comply with the law. If a driver-partner refuses to transport a rider with a service animal because of the service animal, the driver-partner is in violation of the law and is in breach of their agreement with Uber.
Consequences for Refusal to Transport a Rider with a Service Animal
If Uber determines that a driver-partner knowingly refused to transport a rider with a service animal because of the service animal, the driver-partner will be permanently prevented from using the Driver App. Uber will make this determination in its sole discretion following a review of the incident.
If Uber receives plausible complaints on more than one occasion from riders that a particular driver-partner refused to transport a rider with a service animal, that driver-partner will be permanently prevented from using the Driver App, regardless of the justification offered by the driver-partner.
There may be very rare circumstances where, because of a driver-partner’s membership in a group protected by human rights legislation, carrying a service animal would be an undue hardship. Uber will not permanently prevent the driver-partner from using the Driver App if (a) the driver-partner has written evidence, like a doctor’s or cleric’s letter, dated before the incident and confirming that they belong to a group protected by human rights legislation and how carrying the service animal is an undue hardship, and (b) the driver-partner (i) arrived at the rider’s location rather than cancelling the request, (ii) got the rider, or helped the rider get, another ride without delay, (iii) waited with the rider until the rider was safely aboard the other ride, and (iv) promptly told Uber of the incident through this <https://help.uber.com/h/5f3eac46-e977-44a0-873e-f1881d48f4cb> link.
However, driver-partners may still be liable to civil and government penalties for refusing service.
How to Report a Service Animal Complaint
If a rider has an issue related to their service animal—including issues regarding ride cancellations, harassment, or improper cleaning fees—the rider can report the issue to Uber.
To file a complaint from the Uber Rider App, navigate to the “ <https://help.uber.com/h/5f3eac46-e977-44a0-873e-f1881d48f4cb> I Want To Report A Service Animal Issue” complaint screen, which is available through both the trip details screen and the account menu button.
To file a complaint from the Uber website, select the “I Want To Report A Service Animal Issue” link or the “Help” link on the Uber website.
Once a rider submits a service animal complaint, Uber’s specialized support team will investigate the issue and take appropriate action in accordance with Uber’s Services Agreement and this Service Animal Policy.
Rights of Riders with Service Animals
Riders cannot be denied service because they travel with a service animal. A rider will be refunded any trip cancellation charges or other charges imposed because a driver-partner denied a rider service because of a service animal.
Riders cannot be charged cleaning fees for shedding by their service animals. Riders will be refunded any cleaning fees charged for shedding by their service animals.
A rider will not be charged for the first or second reported mess involving a service animal’s bodily fluids. A rider can be charged for the third reported mess involving a service animal’s bodily fluids. The rider may contest that such a mess occurred by responding to the fee notification email to notify customer support. If a rider contests the cleaning fee, Uber will make a reasonable good faith effort to determine whether a mess occurred.
Please register with:
Department of Psychology
RESEARCH PARTICIPANTS NEEDED
We are looking for adult, visually impaired women to volunteer to talk about their experiences with violence and their everyday safety concerns. You do not necessarily have to have been victimized to take part – we are looking for a range of voices.
As a participant in this study, you will be asked to take part in a small focus group with about 6-8 other visually impaired women that will last approximately 90 minutes.
In appreciation for your time, we will provide you with a FREE self-defence workshop for blind/partially-sighted women.
For more information about this study, or to volunteer,
ALEXIS FABRICIUS 647-388-0664
This study has been reviewed by and received ethics clearance
through the York University Research Ethics Board.
- Approximately 6-8 women per focus group. The focus group itself is 90 min and the self-defense session will be about 90 min. So, approximately 3hrs for both parts. (on the flyer)
- Interested women must call Alexis to register for one of two sessions to be offered in December 2017.
Sessions will take place at the CNIB at 1929 Bayview Ave (Room 218 A and 218 B) To meet Alexis at the front reception.
On: Sat Dec 2/17 12 to 3 pm or Sat Dec 9th, 12 to 3 pm.