Disability Employment Part 1: Draft Audio Story

I don’t know if there is a large audience for a podcast about being disabled and working in public accounting, but I went ahead with this project as if there were one.  

From the beginning of taking this course, I knew that I wanted to interview accountants with disabilities to learn more about their lives. I wanted to understand why they chose their careers, what kinds of accommodations they needed, and what changes they wanted to see in the field to become more inclusive. Of course, I had my own ideas about these issues, but I knew that my perspective alone would not be enough, and I wanted to challenge my previously-held notions. 

I began brainstorming the questions I wanted to ask, and I thought about who I wanted to interview. I have a few friends who are disabled, and I wanted to hear their opinions, so I asked them if they would be interested in being interviewed, and they agreed. I also advertised my request for interview subjects over Instagram and at the Disability Business Resource Group at my work. I promised all of my interview subjects that they would be anonymous and let them know my intentions for this audio story.  

In total, I have interviewed five people so far and plan on interviewing a 6th person by the end of this week. The people I’ve interviewed come from all over the country, have unique career experiences and represent a range of disabilities. 

I am incredibly grateful for the time my interviewees took to answer my questions. All of the people I interviewed are intelligent, hard-working, and thoughtful, and I am so pleased to have the opportunity to share their thoughts and experiences. I have two goals for the audio I’ve collected:

  1. Create a short audio story for the COM 561 course.
  2. Release a longer-form audio report featuring more of the interviews that paint a greater picture of what it is like to be disabled in the workforce.

I’m not sure who my audience is for these audio stories, but I have some idea. I hope that whoever listens to these stories comes away with a greater understanding of what it is like to be disabled in the workforce. I also hope that the audio project I create may reach someone with a disability considering a career in accounting. Upon listening to these stories, that person will have some idea of the possibilities open to them in public accounting. Or maybe not. Public Accounting is not for everyone, but for many people, it is an upwardly-mobile career that comes with a steady paycheck and benefits. 

For each interview, I scheduled an appointment with the interviewee through either WebEx or Zoom because both conferencing programs have easy record options. Each interview was about half an hour-long, and I gave each person a list of general questions I planned on asking. I want to emphasize that I am not an expert on living with a disability in the US. There are many topics related to disability that I am unfamiliar with, so I appreciate everyone’s patience and openness as I asked my questions. I would also like to note that some people I interviewed preferred my usage of the term “neurodiverse” instead of “disabled.” I am very much open to constructive criticism regarding my interviewing techniques because I would like to improve.

After my interviews, I uploaded the raw audio files to google drive, and from there, uploaded those files to Adobe Audition. Next, I created a multitrack session and one-by-one input each full interview into each track. Then I listened to each interview and began the long process of editing 30 minutes of raw audio into 10-second sound bites. The fun part of this process? I still have more editing to do. I still have three more interviews to listen to, upload, and edit down into a three-minute audio file. With each interview, I also have to edit out references to people and companies on top of removing the “umm’s” and sniffles and other weird sounds that come with human speech. 

I am happy with what I have as a rough draft. My rough draft consists of three edited interviews, my narration, and a copyright-free song I found online. The music in the background of the interviews is “Etude Op. 25 no. 2 in F minor – ‘The Bees'”, and I chose it for its fun, energetic pace. I also edited the song slightly to match the flow of dialogue, though I know this process is not perfect, so I plan on making more edits upon hearing the critiques of my team members. I do not think the music is louder than anyone’s dialogue, but I have also listened to the same audio file for a week now, so I look forward to some fresh perspectives. 

My multitrack session, complete with three interviews, narration, and music (I hope this helps my reviewers visualize the audio story I’ve put together)

7 thoughts on “Disability Employment Part 1: Draft Audio Story

  1. Alexandra,

    I sincerely enjoyed hearing your audio story! Your voice is clear, confident, and an absolute joy to listen to. I particularly like how you used three different interviews and spliced together various soundbites from each interview. Your approach here assured me, as the listener, that you took time to gather your research, and that your story offers multiple perspectives on the topic of being disabled in the profession of public accounting. I like how you compounded the interviews on top of one another while also making sure to break up the interviews with your own narration.

    That said, I feel as though the soundbites provided aren’t given much individual introduction, which made me a bit lost on who was speaking and what exactly they were speaking about. I think it’d be helpful to add a bit more context before each interview clip (which I know can be difficult since your intent is to keep the interviewees’ identities anonymous). To help orient the listener, perhaps you could speak briefly about the interviewee’s role, or even just introduce the question you asked them before playing their soundbite.

    While I like your addition of soft background music, the track is a bit fast-paced. It took me a few moments to register the music, but once I did, I found it difficult to focus on the narration. Additionally, the tempo of the song added a slightly chaotic energy to the story which didn’t really seem to fit the tone of the story itself. I’d suggest testing out a few different tracks or try listening through the story without any background music to see how to tone shifts.

    Overall, amazing job! The way you spoke and composed your story made me want to hear more – I wish the clip was a full-length podcast episode! I’m looking forward to hearing your final draft!

    Best,

    Lily Engel

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    1. Hi Lily,

      Thank you for the excellent feedback! I could see how the different audio clips could be a little confusing, so I’ll try and think of a way to introduce the actualities so that it’s more clear who is speaking. I’ll also take another look at my music options! If you have any other suggestions, I’m all ears!

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  2. Alexandra –

    I very much enjoyed listening to your audio story. Although you state you aren’t sure there would be an audience for your topic, I think you might find there is quite a large audience as I think the population of people with disabilities is incredibly under-served. This could lead to something very valuable to lots of people if it were something you’d like to continue or perhaps collaborate on with others. It is especially interesting to me as my mother has become progressively disabled over the last eight years, with the last four living with a leg amputation. One of your interviewees mentioned sometimes people assume a physical disability also indicates some sort of mental disability, which as she pointed out, is not the case. That was a great take-away and also validation that it is a common misconception.

    You provided a great introduction that lets the listener know exactly where the story is going so I can see you put time and effort into organizing your thoughts and mapping out your goals for the project. I very much enjoyed listening to your introduction and narration throughout the audio – you have a nice tone and sound professional and sincere in your interest in the topic. I am also very impressed with the fact that you interviewed so many people for the project – this gives multiple perspectives on the same topic, which helps give the story value and gives it credibility.

    A few things you might consider for your final draft. First (as with my own project), you have a few responses to your interviewees (umm’s, yes, etc.) that could be edited out. I was amazed when I listened to my own recording to find how many times I responded when it really wasn’t necessary or appropriate. I think I was a bit uncomfortable with the process so I think the more practice we get, the better we will be able to leave space for silence, or allow the interviewee another few seconds to finish their thoughts.

    One other suggestion is (if you have audio of it) I think it could be super impactful to have someone describe a situation at work that they struggled with, but that they were able to successfully resolve. I think a bit of a story woven in would be valuable to listeners and give the story a bit more interest. The draft ends a bit abruptly (as did mine) so assuming you will be working on smoothing that out. I found it quite difficult to present a meaningful audio story in three minutes as well.

    Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed your draft project and can’t wait to hear your final!

    Best
    Kim

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    1. Hi Kim,

      Thank you for the suggestions and for the wonderful perspective! I agree with you on how my draft ended – it’s a little clunky and awkward, so I’ll have to brainstorm how to properly edit the ending. However, I was able to interview a few other people whose audio did not make it into this draft, so maybe I’ll be able to use some of that to weave a more complete story!

      I’m very excited about this project and grateful to have the opportunity to amplify the voices. I love your suggestion about having someone describe a situation that they could overcome, and I wish I had thought to ask it in my initial interviews! I think I had a few people talk about the importance of self-advocacy, so I think that will probably make it into my final draft. If I continue to hold these kinds of interviews, I’ll make sure that question is on my list!

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  3. Upon review of the helpful critiques left for me by my groupmates and my own self-reflection, I see several areas in which I could improve my audio draft. I think what I need to focus on most is the ending. I liked how it ended because I thought it encapsulated an important idea: the need to self-advocate. However, the audio clip’s placement is awkward and makes the ending less clear. I’m going to try to experiment with rearranging a few audio clips so that the end of the audio story is my narration. I’ll also be going through the entire track and edit whatever dialogue I think could benefit from a little polish.

    I liked the song that I chose for my track’s background, but I’m open to looking into other options. The reason I chose “the Bees” was that I liked its energetic, chaotic tone. In addition, I wanted to pick a kind of music that represented the complicated feelings of having to navigate the professional world while also managing a disability and how the two can often be at odds with each other. However, since I would like to inspire and educate, I think it would be a good idea to look for an additional background sound that is positive and supportive.

    Utilizing these notes, I hope to go forward and make a few changes to my audio draft to hopefully improve what I have currently created.

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  4. Alexandra–

    What a professionally layered story you’ve produced! Your friendly and brisk voice drew me in from the onset, and as soon as you brought in that second and third voice, I happily settled in to listen, thinking “Oh, FANTASTIC—it’s a complexly woven story like on NPR!” My only regret is that we were restrained by three minutes because I wanted to hear more.

    It was a marvelous lesson to hear how you wove your voiceover with your subjects’, and how you used both male and female perspectives. Your story did not feel crowded and I cannot believe you packed so much information into such a brief segment. You took me on a journey that put me in the shoes of people I’ve never met. How did you do that?!

    I skimmed your self-reflection and agree with elements you’ve already considered revising, with a couple more:

    1. I like the happy music threaded throughout the entire story, but found it a little frenetic and distracting. One thought might be to consider more contemplative music for the majority and save the peppier Bees for that last 15 seconds. It would help underscore the important lesson your subject shared that we can all can benefit from: if we need something, just ask!

    2. You mentioned you’d like feedback on your interviewing techniques—if you’d like to share one or two of your full conversations with me (Lily and Kim too?) I’d be happy to listen and comment. It would also be a great help for me/us, too.

    3. I listened to your story several times through headphones, through laptop, and on speakerphone through my cellphone. I later did this with own story and found the same issue: although headphones equalize all speakers’ voices, cellphone and laptop dramatically showed how different in volume and quality they were. Looking forward to seeing how you might address this, because I’ll be working to fix it too.

    4. At 40 seconds: since you mentioned “I’m curious about” which made wonder more about you. (I realize I had done this too). If you have room, you might introduce yourself in the beginning since this is a story based on your personal interests, as opposed to your company’s. It would help me feel more connected to your exploration.

    I’m going to borrow some of your best practices such as:

    1. You interviewed multiple sources, which also gave you a buffer in case some didn’t work as well as others.

    2. You assured your subjects they would be anonymous.

    3. You advertised through a specific and known venue, which lent authority and trust to your purpose.

    4. You shared a visual of your multi-track session—thank you!

    5. Best of all, you had a teaser at minute 2:30 that left me anticipating the next podcast, because you asked listeners to “join me for…” to discuss “…hopes for the future.”

    Yep, I’m hooked. Thank you for showing me what’s possible in a mere 2 minutes and 45 seconds (I’m still shaking my head) and I can’t wait to hear your final story. And please me know when I can subscribe to your podcast. 😊

    Elaine

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