McSweeney’s Audio Issue helps the visually impaired access and enjoy print publication

The 64th issue of the Quarterly Concern hopes to be “a riotous exploration of audio-visual storytelling” joining the mediums of sound and print.

24 August 2021

San Francisco non-profit publishing house McSweeney’s has introduced a print and sound issue of its quarterly literary journal, Quarterly Concern, co-produced with Radiotopia – a curated network of independent, listener-supported, artist-owned podcasts.

The issue takes the form of a box which is full of books, booklets, posters, pamphlets, a lantern with an eight-foot-long scroll, a keychain, a fictional toy company catalog, and more. Each of these elements also has an audio component that lives on a special website. Thereby, each piece hopes to establish its own relationship between audio and print. McSweeney’s describes this mix as a “slew of art, fiction, and unclassifiable print objects from some of the most incredible writers and storytellers.”

This issue, the 64th from the publishers, is focused on highlighting the ideas of access and augmentation: “how do stories shift as they move across mediums? How does this relate to the many forms of reading (with the eyes, the ears, the hands, through assistive technology)?” For these reasons, McSweeney’s wanted to make sure this issue was fully accessible to all consumers of creative content.

In addition to the physical issue the publisher are producing a descriptive transcript which will include transcripts of all of the issue’s audio, and audio descriptions of all text and images. “We're committed to making this issue accessible to readers with print disabilities,” says McSweeney’s. “Each of the issue’s components will be available in multiple forms, to be experienced through a variety of sensory organs and accessibility tools.”

Within the issue Pulitzer Prize finalist and composer Kate Soper has delivered an interactive piece about a transhumanist software, whilst deaf-blind poet John Lee Clark has contributed a piece on the limits of accessibility. Writer Katie Booth is disproving the myth that the deaf experience is one of silence and podcast creator Ian Chillag comes to the team with an absurdist customer service phone tree for a toy manufacturer (it took us a few re-reads too). These are just a few of the many other contributors to the issue.

McSweeney’s editor Claire Boyle, Radiotopia’s Julie Shapiro and Audrey Mardavich, and Audio Issue senior producer Andrew Leland co-produced the 64th issue of the Quarterly Concern. It's available for pre-order now and will be released early Autumn.

GalleryMcSweeney’s Quarterly Concern 64: The Audio Issue (Copyright © McSweeney's, 2021)


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About the Author

Dalia Al-Dujaili

Dalia is a freelance writer, producer and editor based in London. She’s currently the digital editor of Azeema, and the editor-in-chief of The Road to Nowhere Magazine. Previously, she was news writer at It’s Nice That, after graduating in English Literature from The University of Edinburgh.

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