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Charter’s Accessibility Team Hosts Inspiring Discussion with Adventure Documentary Film Star

by Herbert Aidoo-Nyarko, External Communications Intern

DENVER – The Accessibility Team at Charter Communications recently hosted a panel on “The Weight of Water,” a beautiful film about a blind man’s journey kayaking through the Grand Canyon and the incredible team around him. The star of the film, Erik Weihenmayer, spoke alongside the film’s director Michael Brown and Vice President of Accessibility, Mark Balsano. The panel was hosted by Petr Kucheryavyy, Senior Manager of the Accessibility Team.

The adventure documentary is part of our Video On Demand category, “Beating the Odds,” available to Spectrum customers through June 24. Erik began losing his sight at age 4 from a rare eye disease. An adventurist at heart, he has climbed the tallest peak on every continent in addition to embarking on the kayaking journey depicted in the film.

Continue reading a Q&A below with our panelists to learn more about the film and Charter’s Accessibility Team.

How is Charter’s Accessibility Team Designed?

Panel members on the stage from left to right: Mark Balsano, Charter's Vice President, Accessibility, Michael Brown, the film's director, Erik, the film's star, and Petr K, a Senior Manager on the Accessibility Team.

Panel from left to right: Mark Balsano, Charter’s Vice President, Accessibility; Michael Brown, the film’s director; Erik Weihenmayer, the film’s star; and Petr Kucheryavyy, a Senior Manager on the Accessibility Team.

Petr Kucheryavyy: “We made some pretty great strides in the customer side with the work that we’re doing on the Accessibility Team. Can you explain some of those efforts?”

Mark Balsano: “We build accessibility right into the product and right in the things we do every day. We’re building an Accessibility Center of Excellence internally and looking at products from the beginning ideation stage to the delivery of the product. We’ve got a lot of support from our leadership. It’s a cultural thing here. I think that’s what sets us apart. We’re not a compliance, check-the-box kind of team. Although that’s important, that’s not all we’re about.

“Our team is made up of about 60 percent people with disabilities, so we’re not looking at it from an outside perspective. We’re able to look at products and services and say, ‘This is what works.’ I think that’s what sets us apart here at Spectrum.”

What Goes Into Making a Film Accessible?

Erik W. and Michael smiling at the Denver event

Michael Brown (right), said he worked tirelessly to make the film accessible for people who are visually impaired.

Petr Kucheryavyy: “There is so much technology that goes into making a film. What are some efforts you take to make your films accessible?”

Film star Erik Weihenmayer: “Michael, our director, has these incredible visual landscapes and time lapses in his work. It’s a story about a blind guy and he’s really good at the audio. I’m really listening for the audio to match the storyline. ‘Is that the way the rapids sounded in my ears?’ ‘Is that the way the cave echoed?’ Michael has been really amazing trying to create an experience of how a blind guy experiences life and adventure.”

The Accessibility Team’s Recent Award

A smiling Mark Balsano, Vice President, Accessibility.

Mark Balsano is incredibly proud of the Accessibility Team, which was recently honored for their work to make Spectrum products fully accessible.

Petr Kucheryavyy: “Mark, we recently won an award. Can you expand on that?”

Mark Balsano: “We were honored to win the 2019 Marketplace award at the recent Disability Matters North America Conference for the work our Accessibility Team does. We’ve experienced tremendous growth over the last several years and I’m so proud of the work our team has accomplished. We look forward to creating a universal product experience for everyone, regardless of their abilities.”

Film’s Star Embraces Adventure: ‘Get out there’

Erik and his team in their kayaks paddling through a quiet section of the Colorado River.

Erik and his team kayaked through gorgeous vistas like the one above, and precarious rapids like Lava Falls, the most dangerous rapid in the Grand Canyon. Still image from “The Weight of Water” courtesy 2019 Lava Falls Film LLC.

More than a hundred employees gathered in our Denver office to hear the group of experts assembled, and several had an opportunity to ask questions. Erik wrapped up his remarks by sharing his thoughts on what he would say to inspire another visually impaired person struggling to embrace adventure.

Erik Weihenmayer: “For me, it’s about challenging yourself. Just getting a little bit scared. The first thing I’d tell the person is to watch the film, or listen to the film. I struggle with fear the entire time … I embrace this idea of trust, of not shutting down, of not erecting barriers around yourself … Get out there. Join something, a climbing club, a chess club, whatever it may be to connect with something in the world that’s bigger than you.”

Spectrum customers can check out our “Beating the Odds” Category On Demand this month.