Brad and Laura against a yellow backdrop.

In this kōrero with Brad and Laura on The Hits, comedian extraordinaire Tom Sainsbury chats about his role in the project that’s causing quite a stir in New Zealand’s entertainment realm. The discussion revolves around Sainsbury’s contributions to the innovative Earcatch app, a tech-savvy solution designed to increase access to streaming TV for those with visual impairments.  Play the interview, or read the transcript below (edited for readability). 

Brad: Funny guy Tom Sainsbury’s here! Welcome. Today, you’re here with us because you’re involved in something pretty amazing. It’s for the blind community in New Zealand. I didn’t realize how significant it is—over 180,000 New Zealanders have low vision or are blind. Tell us about Earcatch, the app you’re launching. It syncs up with the show you’re watching and describes what’s happening. How is it different from just listening to a show, since if you can hear, you can listen, right?

Tom: Yes, exactly. The app describes any important visual details or actions that aren’t conveyed through dialogue, helping people with low vision follow along, especially during crucial plot points. I’m contributing my voice to it, sort of like narrating an audiobook. Initially, I went all out with a dramatic reading, but they helped me to tone it down. Now, my voice has a more neutral, guiding ASMR quality, gently describing what’s happening between dialogues, like when someone’s attempting to knock over those wickets.

Laura: So you’re painting the picture with your words!

Tom: Yes, exactly!

Brad: So it fills in the gaps between the dialogue, so, you’ve got to convey a lot of information without rushing or panicking, just maintaining that easy, breezy vibe. Do you find that this experience changes your perspective on content creation, considering you’re in the television industry yourself? Does it make you want to do more to include this community?

Tom: Absolutely, it’s been an eye-opener. I’ve also learned about the Deaf community and the importance of subtitles for videos, not only for the deaf but also for watching in bed without disturbing your sleeping partner. I’m definitely thinking about how to make my content more accessible. My content often involves a lot of talking, so I hope it can reach a wider audience.

Brad: Yeah, because my son’s deaf, we watch everything with subtitles, and it’s amazing that until you’re sort of brought into the world of this community, you don’t realize that exist for thousands and thousands of Kiwis.

Tom: Exactly, and it’s important to remember that some people are completely blind, using canes for mobility, while others have low vision, like those who appear fully functional but only have around 5% vision. It’s quite remarkable.

Laura: Right, so Tom, you’ve worked on one episode of this project, which is fantastic. Also, Taskmaster New Zealand Season 4 is premiering on Sunday night. What else is on your plate? You’re heading to Christchurch tonight, aren’t you?

Tom: It’s a couple of busy weeks ahead. I’m going down to Christchurch, where I’ve always received fantastic support. Christchurch audiences are always quick to sell out, so I’m excited to bring my show to the regions. It’s all about keeping the energy up, especially during those drizzly days.

Laura: Absolutely, that fight-or-flight cortisol surge. You’ve got it. Just keep pushing through. Thank you so much for joining us. We’re thrilled to have you here. We’re big fans of your online content; you’re truly talented. Thank you, Tom.

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