This Clever Podcast Helps Kids Imagine What It’s Like to be Blind

A young child has earphones on and is listening pleasantly. Behind her are illustrations of different objects like a feather, kit, radioI like to start my mornings with coffee and a podcast. I never used to be into podcasts, actually — I’d listen to a few here and there — but when COVID-19 regulations started keeping us closer to home, morning podcasts became a part of my routine.

The first one I ever listened to was Serial, a murder mystery. Since then, my two favorites are Crime Junkie and Morbid: A True Crime Podcast.

A few weeks ago, our Easterseals blog moderator Beth Finke told me about a podcast called X-Marks The Spot and asked me if I’d be willing to give it a listen and write a review for you Easterseals National blog readers.

Created by the Chicago Children’s Theatre (CCT), X-Marks The Spot is a five-part serialized audio production conceived and directed by CCT Artistic Director Jacqui Russell. She came up with the idea after completing a 2018 residency at Otis Elementary, a Chicago Public School where some children with visual impairments learn alongside their sighted peers.

Listeners to the podcast are encouraged to listen to the dialog and the narrations to enjoy a story using their sense of smell, taste, touch and hearing rather than depending on their sense of sight. Sighted people can and do enjoy all sorts of podcasts, but they might not be used to podcasts that are more of a performance and a story. Not being able to see the action may be new to them. I thought this was really interesting, so I was glad to give it a listen and then give you readers this review.

Described as an “extra sensory experience,” X-Marks the Spot is obviously much different than what I normally listen to. I’ll use certain scenes to give examples here , but don’t worry about spoiler alerts – my examples won’t spoil any major plot twists! Here are my thoughts about the podcast’s representation of blindness:

  • X-Marks The Spot follows a family with 4 children, including Melody, who is blind. It begins by introducing each member of the family, and then having that person speak so the listener can identify the person based on their voice. I enjoyed the beginning of the podcast because Blind people are used to identifying people by their voices, but sighted people may not be.
  • The beginning also described the different dimensions of visual impairment. Some people who identify as blind actually have some sight. Melody, the character in the podcast, is completely blind, just like me.
  • The first episode also addresses something that intrigued me, because it’s a question I often get: how do you describe color to a blind person? There’s a quick scene that is a great representation of this. While the children are in the car, they play a game where someone describes a color without saying what it looks like: they use their other four senses instead. This way everyone can play on an even keel, Melody is not at a disadvantage because she can’t see. Example: “This color sounds like a sick guitar solo. It feels like a skinned knee. It smells and tastes like desert air.” The color was red. This was one of my favorite scenes, partly because I had read once about describing color to a blind person using senses, and another because it was fun! I, too, was able to play along and try to guess what color they were thinking of.
  • In another episode, the kids are flying a kite, and their mother puts a bell in the kite so Melody could hear how high it goes. I don’t know if I ever flew a kite as a child, but if I did, we never adapted it like this. That’s certainly not because my family didn’t want to. That idea just never occurred to us.
  • I think this is a great podcast for children. Even as a 28-year-old listening to something geared toward a younger crowd, I found myself laughing at some parts.
  • I think it does a great portrayal of blindness, from the color game to mentioning the white cane to even being able to hear the sound of the Braille writer.

I think kids of all ages would really enjoy this podcast — it might give them ideas for ways to adapt things, such as the kite and the color game. My family has always wondered how to describe color to someone who can’t see (my dad has asked me this a few times and has always been curious).

So now I can give him an idea. While X-Marks the Spot is different from podcasts I normally listen to, it is something lighthearted, amusing, and I’m glad I was able to write about it here. I recommend you give X-Marks the Spot a listen – you can find out more and link to the podcast from the Chicago Children’s Theatre web site.


 

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