The award-winning Blind History series has just launched the first-ever South African sign language-supported podcast, bringing compelling stories of the past to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The project aims to remove the barrier to information and ultimately introduce new audiences to the wonderful world of podcasts, which is especially relevant during these uncertain times.
Blind History is a collaboration between self-confessed history fanatics Gareth Cliff from CliffCentral and Anthony Mederer, the MD of Taylor Blinds & Shutters. CliffCentral is the biggest podcaster in Africa, providing content that is informative, educational, and entertaining. But, according to CliffCentral’s Greg Cohen, who spearheaded the initiative, podcasts, is an audio-only medium, by its very nature excludes the hard of hearing community.
“When we were approached by Thuli Zikalala (one of the eleven SATI accredited interpreters in South Africa) with a concept to make the medium more accessible, we decided to create South African sign language interpreted videos of our content, starting with our popular podcast series ‘Blind History’. As far as we are aware, this is a first-of-its-kind concept that we’re extremely proud of.”
Cohen believes inclusive content is important, especially in a diverse country like South Africa. “The easier it is for people to access content, the better. We need to embrace inclusivity and not exclusivity. This is especially true with podcasts, where the audience chooses you, and you don’t target your listeners.” He continues, “It’s important to provide information and lessons on an equal playing field to the audience.”
“CliffCentral.com and Taylor Blinds & Shutters are an open-minded, forward-thinking team. I value the opportunity to bridge different communities, create awareness to professional SASL interpreters, and make content more inclusive and accessible to the deaf and hard-of-hearing community,” adds Zikalala.
Blind History and its quirky but comprehensive stories earned a Sunday Times Gen Next Gold Award in 2019 and are now in its third season of 13 episodes.
The series consists of short freestanding episodes, each about an interesting person in history, from Alexander the Great and the Kennedy’s to Caesar Augustus and King Henry VII.
“We like to talk about our favorite people in history,” says Gareth Cliff. “Some of them are favourites because they were really good people, some because they were fascinating and evil.”
The idea was born late in 2018 when Taylor Blinds & Shutters celebrated its 60th birthday. Mederer and Cliff were discussing the relationship between the past, present and the future and their mutual love for history the discussion soon morphed into the idea for Blind History. Although the production of the podcasts is sponsored by Taylor Blinds & Shutters, Blind History is not a marketing campaign. Instead, it simply shares the passion of these self-confessed history nerds with the world.
Each episode airs on CliffCentral, while the podcasts can be found on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, CliffCentral app, CliffCentral website, the Taylor Blinds & Shutters website or wherever you listen to your podcasts.
You can find the first South African sign language podcast here, and delve into past episodes here.