Jack Straw Cultural Center, in partnership with Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences (AVIA), the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind (DSB), The Washington State School for the Blind, and the Seattle School District, is proud to offer a variety of programs providing access and training in audio production for blind and visually impaired individuals of all ages.

The Seattle Channel featured the Jack Straw Blind Youth Audio Program on its "Community Stories" Program. Watch the program online.

Through the Light: Profiles in Blindness

Jack Straw's project Through the Light: Profiles in Blindness has been selected as the inaugural project for Humanities Washington's new Washington Stories Fund.

Through the Light is an expansion of a special project conducted during the 2006 Washington Council of the Blind conference by Jack Straw Cultural Center, Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences (AVIA), and the Washington State Department of Services for the Blind (DSB). Visually impaired high school students interviewed visually impaired adults about their professions and what they had to overcome to achieve their goals.(Hear a piece produced by student Abby Traverse from these interviews here.)

Through the Light will provide opportunities for blind and visually impaired youth and adults to share their stories with each other and the broader public through recorded interviews, podcasts, and public events. Jack Straw, AVIA, DSB, the Seattle School District Vision Services, and the Seattle Public Library LEAP program are currently setting up interviews and discussions.

If you'd like more information about this project, or would like to be involved, please email us at education@jackstraw.org.

The Blind Youth Audio Project

The Blind Youth Audio Project, initiated in 1995, is an annual workshop series run in conjunction with DSB's Youth Employment Solutions (YES) program. Blind and visually impaired high school students from across Washington state are housed at the University of Washington for 6 weeks while participating in job placement programs all around Seattle. As an extracurricular component to the program, students are invited to attend a series of 8 workshops (twice weekly for four weeks) at Jack Straw's studios, a few blocks from the UW campus.

Typically 12-18 students participate in the program each summer, working with JSP staff engineers, theater artists, and guest musicians and sound artists. A principal advisor in this program is Todd Houghton, a blind musician/engineer/producer. The workshops span a range of audio projects and skills including: short radio drama production, soundscaping (live and mix projects), interview and radio production, multitrack and stereo music recording and mixing, and long-form radio theater creation and production.

Students from the Washington State School for the Blind summer youth program also come to Jack Straw every summer for an intensive 3-hour workshop on music, radio theater, and basic audio.

Hear audio and see photos from some previous years of our Blind Youth Audio program:


Seeing with Sound: Jack Straw New Media Gallery Accessible Youth Art Workshops

In April 2014 we began a new series of accessible workshops for blind and visually impaired students and their sighted friends and family at Jack Straw in conjunction with our New Media Gallery program. The first series of workshops was inspired by Rachel Green and Seth Sexton's installation Hypnagogic Jerk, which incorporates dance, sculpture, and sound. This project was provided under a contract with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of their VSA Arts Access for Kids program.

We have continued this series of workshops with our New Media Gallery artists. Click the links below for audio, video, and pictures from all of our workshop series.



Olympic Sculpture Park Descriptive Tours and Concerts

In the fall of 2013, accessible tours of the art in Seattle's Olympic Sculpture Park were provided for the first time for blind and visually impaired audiences. Jack Straw Executive Director Joan Rabinowitz and Jesse Minkert, Executive Director of Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences (AVIA), developed a joint program in which Minkert provided walking audio described tours of the art in the Olympic Sculpture Park, along with performances by artists from the Jack Straw Artist Support Program.

Anzanga Marimba Ensemble performs the electrifying and energizing music of Africa using eight marimbas - hand-crafted xylophones made from various hardwoods. Lelavision uses original kinetic sculpture, live music, and dance in their performances of "Physical Music." Minkert provided audio description for both performances. The tours and events were designed to be accessible for blind and visually impaired individuals, but were also open to the general public.

Click here for audio, video, and pictures from the Sculpture Park tours and performances.

Sound and Movement

In 2008, we began working with a new partner, the Pacific Northwest Ballet. In the spring, AVIA and Jack Straw brought a group of blind and visually impaired adults to see A Midsummer Night's Dream at PNB, with a back-stage touch tour and live audio-description. In June, we followed up with a workshop on dance and audio description, and in July we added a new movement and sound workshop to our Blind Youth program with dancers Shannon Barnes and Stephanie Scopelitis and sound artists Susie Kozawa and Esther Sugai.

Blind Youth Audio Project 2008:
Esther Sugai at the Sound & Movement Workshop (Sherwin Eng)

Blind Youth Audio Project 2008:
Sound & Movement Workshop
(Sherwin Eng)
Audio Journalism

Blind high school student Abby Traverse, a Jack Straw veteran, worked with Jack Straw producer and mentor Jennie Cecil Moore on two audio projects.

Most recently, Abby completed an interview with Kristina Horner, a musician with the band The Parselmouths. The band is part of the wizard rock community, a group of musicians who create music inspired by the Harry Potter series of children's books. Abby prepared questions for the interview, interviewed Kristina in the studio, selected clips from the interview, wrote and recorded narration, selected music, and made editing decisions.

You can listen to Abby's interview with Kristina Horner here:

Abby interviewing Kristina Horner

Listen to Abby's feature on Wizard Rock group The Parselmouths

Abby Traverse: Interview with Kristina Horner of The Parselmouths

In 2007, Abby produced an 8-minute feature on professions held by blind and visually impaired adults. The feature was based on a series of audio interviews conducted by 17 visually impaired high school students with 8 visually impaired adults at the Washington Council of the Blind conference in Seattle, Washington. The WCB interview program was produced by the Department of Services for the Blind and Jack Straw Productions. Transcripts and audio from the interviews are available online as part of the American Foundation for the Blind's Career Connect Project.

If you would be interested in being interviewed or joining our journalism group, email us at education@jackstraw.org.

Listen to Abby's feature on blind and visually impaired adults

Abby Traverse: Audio journalism from the Washington Council of the Blind Conference

Abby Traverse at the WCB Conference
(Dean Wong)

WCB Conference
(Dean Wong)

Accessible Adult Workshops

In 2003, we began offering workshops for blind and visually impaired adults. Based upon the long-running Blind Youth Audio Project, these workshops feature four intensive sessions. Skills taught include basic digital recording and production, studio acoustics, and microphone use and technique. Production segments have included: interview and radio production, stereo music recording, commercial production, and sound design.

Visually impaired adults are also offered a reduced rate to our professional audio workshops.

Interactive Digital Audio Workstation

A primary component of all of our programs with blind and visually impaired persons is our newest digital audio workstation: a PC running Sonar audio editing software, as well as JAWS and Caketalking, which convert screen information into voice prompts from the computer. This workstation is fully functional for blind users, allowing recording, mixing, and editing of music and spoken word projects. Normally residing in an editing suite, the system can be relocated in either of JSP's two studio control rooms to facilitate recording and training projects.

Training Residencies and Intensives

Jack Straw has been pleased to offer a limited number of training residencies and two-day intensive sessions. Intensives, open to groups or individuals focus on a specific aspect of audio productions, such as music multitrack recording or narrative production, and covers that topic over two full days. Residencies allow participants to work one-on-one with a professional engineer-instructor to learn the Sonar environment and basic recording and production technique. This format allows for extended use of the Sonar system, and the opportunity to complete a significant project. The goal of this training is complete self-sufficiency on the Sonar system. Past residencies include:

Nick Baker ~ Nick, a musician and high-school junior during the period of his residency, completed a CD with several musical pieces and a public service announcement, recorded and mixed on the Sonar system. Nick is interested in pursuing a commercial recording and production career, so an added emphasis was put on the ability to adhere to time constraints and complete the entire project on deadline.

Nick Baker (Dean Wong)

Maureen Shenberger and PJ McGraw ~ Over 10 hours of studio time, Maureen conducted field recordings and interviews, writing a narrative about her experiences as an Americorps volunteer. Both participants worked jointly to record, edit, and mix the material into a radio feature.

Our programs for blind and visually impaired individuals are produced with the generous support of the Seattle Office of Arts and Culture, the Rodrigues Fund, the Washington State Arts Commission, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts as part of their VSA Arts Access for Kids program, ArtsFund and the Power2Give program, and individual contributors.

For further information, contact:

Joan Rabinowitz, Executive Director
Jack Straw Cultural Center

Arts and Visually Impaired Audiences


Copyright 2020 Jack Straw Cultural Center~ All rights reserved