Galas Are Fun: Even Online

I have only been to two galas in my life: a law and disability rights gala and the NBP gala. The first was in person and the second was online. Both were equally, gratifyingly cool; and in some ways, my online attendance to the NBP gala was extra special to me.

Last year, I was serving my first year as a board of trustee on the NBP board. I wanted to attend the annual gala and participate fully. However, life happens and I was unable to attend. I made an extra commitment to myself to ensure that I was at the 2016 gala. I will be attending and hoping for warm weather in Boston.

For those who cannot make it in person (because I understand that life happens), I hope you consider participating in the gala goodness virtually. It’s not too hard to do and I know the experience will be even better than last year.

Although I was deeply saddened not to be present in person at the 2015 gala, I was excited to be a virtual participant. I had mixed feelings about virtually attending an evening gala with guest speakers, awards, fundraising, and of course, the dinner portion of the night. How were they going to keep my attention while steak and wine were being consumed?

The answer to all of my questions was easily provided by the wonderfully detailed and inclusive staff at NBP.

ACB Radio covered the gala and broadcasted all of the live portions online. It was easy to connect to ACB Radio and listen. I loved listening to all of the fabulous speakers—and even when a video was shown, I felt like I came away with just as much info about the video as I would have if I were there. During the dinner portion, and other portions that don’t translate well online, ACB Radio aired pre-recorded interviews with NBP staff. I loved this. In fact, it made me feel quite special to have access to these recordings while others were wining and dining.

California is three hours behind Massachusetts and the gala began during the end of my work day. It was super convenient to be able to leave work and listen to the gala while commuting. I prepared my own feast at home while listening. (Don’t ask what I made because I truly don’t recall.) What I do know is that I made my own personal wine selection that night and raised my own glass to NBP and all of the wonderful things it does to put braille into the hands of blind people across our nation.

The one part of the entire gala that I felt excluded from was the auction and fundraising aspect of the gala. I was so caught up in the excitement and I really wanted to give in any way I could. I very much appreciate how responsive NBP staff are to feedback and to ensuring that the mission of NBP can happen because this year they have figured out a way for virtual guests to give as well! You can participate in NBP’s silent auction from your home, whether it’s on your computer or your cellphone, from October 17th through the night of the gala at 9:15 PM. You can register here!



Photo: Audience looking toward the stage and listening to a speech at the 2014 Gala.

So don’t fret. Can’t buy a ticket to attend or afford the plane flight out? Grab your favorite internet-browsing device, get onto ACB Radio, and tune in to the gala on October 28. I’ll be there and I promise to make an appearance on the radio. But I warn you, I might ask you to donate to NBP because it is the cool thing to do. After all, who doesn’t want a little more braille in their life?

By Lisamaria Martinez

If There Were Twitter Fifty years Ago

I’m a history, news, and politics buff. Radio is also an enduring passion of mine. It’s been a long time now since I worked full time in commercial radio in New Zealand, but thanks to the Internet, I keep my hand in. With a team of over 40 volunteers, I run Mushroom FM, an Internet radio service staffed predominantly by blind broadcasters.

Mushroom FM has a sister station, Mushroom Escape, which plays a wide variety of radio drama and comedy. Sometimes, we deviate from that mission a little to commemorate special events. This Friday, we’ll be playing radio coverage of the Kennedy assassination from a range of sources, complete with all the jingles and commercials of the day.

In putting this special day of programming together, I’ve immersed myself in many hours of radio and TV coverage from that day, so I can select the best material in terms of both content and audio quality. It occurs to me that in addition to being a profoundly tragic day that altered the course of history, it was also the day breaking news came of age. Television networks went into a continuous news format for a prolonged period for the first time. Radio, with its ability to get correspondents on the air from a range of places more easily than television, held its own.

In sifting through all this material, I began reflecting on just how differently we consume breaking news stories now. Of course we have continuous news channels, and correspondents are easier than ever to put to air, but radio and TV are no longer the first place I turn to for breaking news. When I receive a push notification on my iPhone from one of my many breaking news apps, the first thing I do is turn to Twitter. With Twitter, anyone with a mobile device at the scene of an unfolding news event is a global journalist. It has democratized the news reporting process. Both trained journalists, and people who just happen to be bystanders when history unfolded, can record their experience in 140-character chunks for near immediate world-wide publication.

Mindful that absolutely anyone can be a global publisher thanks to Twitter, a bit of intelligence and healthy skepticism on the part of the reader goes a long way. Sometimes misinformation is spread, and for a while taken as fact. This can happen due to genuine confusion and misunderstanding, and in some cases because people are being mischievous. But reading first-hand accounts of unfolding events is often a more informative way of getting news than the constant repetition of talking heads trying to fill air-time with the same limited material over and over.

Tweeting BlindReading tweets about major events as they develop is just one reason why I find Twitter such a useful communication tool, and just one of the reasons why I hope my new book, “Tweeting Blind”, will encourage more blind people to become a part of Twitter. Twitter is fundamentally a text-based medium, making it ideal for those of us who use screen readers.

How different it would have been, had the thousands of people who lined the streets of Dallas been able to tweet, fifty years ago.

Jonathan Mosen is a highly experienced producer and consumer of assistive technology and a skilled communicator through broadcasting, other audio and print.