The Accessible Voice: Dave Williams’ Aspirational Advice for Journalists

Perhaps it’s his Northern Twang or the way he speaks as if he’s really thought about what he’s going to say – in any case, journalist Dave Williams has one of those voices that radiates warmth. I first met Dave last year, when he came to interview me for his recent venture, Braillecast . It didn’t feel at all like being questioned by a journalist; we chatted away for a couple of hours, sipped our tea, and Dave made a great podcast out of it. That’s the mark of a true professional.

 

During our conversation, I felt that I had found out as much about Dave as he had about me. He has a family, works as an accessibility consultant, and enjoys cricket and cycling in his spare time.

“I’ve recently got into running,” he told me. “I found a guide runner, who happens to live next door. I think it’s important to do it every week so I don’t feel like I’m dying!”

With his busy work schedule, taking his son to various after-school activities and his frequent trips all over the country, it’s not surprising that he doesn’t have time for all the things he’d like to do.

“I want to go to Toastmasters. It sounds fun, but Monday evenings are when I run.”

Dave is a natural public speaker. He has presented on Calon FM, BBC Radio 4’s In Touch, and has recently reported on the centenary of World War I. It didn’t take us long to discover that we have a lot in common. We are passionate about the use of braille in the education of blind children, enjoy exploring the latest technology, and share a love of journalism.

In our turbulent world, with news coverage radically changed by the internet, I ask him what his tips are for getting content out there. He agrees that the journalism industry is a challenging one to get into.

“For that reason, you can’t do it as a job,” he says. “It’s unlikely that you’ll get regular work. You have to enjoy it and be passionate about what you’re doing. It’s a labour of love.”

Dave describes how any requests that come to him are opportunities he can’t refuse. The demands of being in a certain place at a certain time are easily outweighed by the people he meets.

“I spoke to this veteran who had no arms, no legs, and he was blind. He’d been blown up at the age of nineteen, and he was just… It was good to hear his story.”

Dave also recommends connecting with radio producers on social media.

“It says at the end of the broadcast who produced it. They’re always looking for content, and you want to attract their attention.”

His most salient tip was to continuously generate new content. In the ever-changing climate of news coverage, we never know what producers might decide to use. Dave told me about how he recorded himself going to vote several years ago. The polling station didn’t have the tactile template that is required for people with a visual impairment to vote. He shared the footage on his social media and soon, a BBC producer got in touch.

“We had to check that we could use the material,” Dave says. “You’re not allowed to film at a polling station but because this was audio, it was fine.”

Dave’s recording had brought an important issue to public awareness. The atmosphere of a polling station can be so powerfully conveyed through sound that the visual aspect isn’t necessary. I want to ask Dave if he believes that there are other benefits of audio reportage over film, but he has a train to catch. If our conversation hadn’t been cut short, we would probably still be sitting with our cold cups of tea, discussing the ethics of audio recordings, and how these compare to the tricky business of creating video footage. It occurs to me that there must be many situations when a recording is preferential and more poignant. I’m sure Dave has many examples; I must remember to ask him next time.

Another aspect of Dave’s friendly nature is that he makes everything sound easy. As a blind journalist who advocates for accessibility, he must come up against barriers on a daily basis that would give him plenty of license to moan. If our conversation turned to negative matters, Dave only touched on this lightly before posing another thought-provoking question. His main worry was about what to get his son for Christmas! I promised to have a think and received a hearty handshake in return.

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