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Help save our disabled-led transcription business

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Background Statement

Hello! I’m Zara. I founded Academic Audio Transcription (AAT) in 2017 as a disabled, chronically ill and neurodivergent PhD student when I was forced to go on medical leave from my funded PhD whilst still needing to pay my rent and bills. Being functionally housebound–and at the time, mostly bedbound–my options were limited to remote work that paid a pittance, or making myself much sicker by trying to conform to conventional workplaces.

After this and two decades of trying to navigate inaccessible workplaces and educational settings, I reached a place where I knew that I wasn’t going to find flexible, accessible work I could do from home that paid a fair wage.

So I built it myself, and Academic Audio Transcription is the result.

Disabled people are the world’s largest minority, and anyone, whatever their other social positions or identities can become disabled or chronically ill at any time. 20-25% of the population–between 1 in 4 and 1 in 5 people– is disabled in the UK. Many, if not most, have faced similar barriers to me.

This is why AAT exists.

What makes us unique

We have up to 25 active freelancers across our project work at any given time and core teams of freelancers working on admin, operations, and marketing. We offer work at the pace and capacity that people can manage around their flare-ups, crashes, relapses and remissions, and other commitments. Our work is also spread fairly across the team according to capacity, interests, expertise, and preferences.

None of our team ever has to fake a stomach bug to take time off for a depressive episode, or a brutal menstrual cycle; they don’t even have to tell us why they need more time if they do.

We refuse to replicate the pernicious, anxiety-inducing and often shaming gatekeeping predominantly nondisabled organisations count as ‘business as usual’.

We also improve access to transcription and closed caption through staggered pricing, and supporting projects which, like us, reflect a commitment to intersectionality, from artists and activists working to document the experiences of anti-Black racism in universities and healthcare, to museum curators producing exhibits on Bengali diaspora experiences in London, and scholars working to increase understanding of the barriers faced by LGBTQIA+ scientists and engineers of colour in academia and industry.

Why we need your help

Despite our best efforts, 2023 was our leanest year ever, and 2024 is starting similarly. We’ve had multiple months in a row where our monthly takings have come in less than what we need to break even, with handfuls of confirmed projects delaying their start dates at the same time.

We have nothing left in reserves and have taken loans from friends and family to survive.

We’ve been looking for investments and other revenue streams but the timelines are too far out for us to only rely on them.

We think the reasons for this are multiple: our biggest market so far, the university sector, is in chaos; our historic main marketing channel, Twitter (I won’t call it ‘X’!) is falling apart, with users haemorrhaging to at least four other platforms; and the much-vaunted if problematic rise of AI. Despite its exploitative labour practices in the Global South and often failing to live up to its promise of increasing efficiency, given the additional edit time it often costs to make it comparable with human-made transcripts, AI has had an impact on our potential market.

AAT is more than a business to us, it’s a manifestation of not just our belief in equality and equity of opportunity, but our need to realise that belief as a reality to pay our bills, feed ourselves and our kids, and keep ourselves engaged with stimulating work which contributes to projects that really do make a difference.

The help we need

We have until 31 March 2024 to raise funds or the money will truly run out, and we risk not being able to pay our freelancers or our (low) monthly overheads. Our monthly operating expenses are approximately £6000. Raising this amount will give us some space to plan our next steps.

We can’t express the relief we would feel at being able to plan and grow our business from a place of security and not fear. We want AAT to thrive, and we can’t do it without you.

Thank you.
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Donations 

  • Anonymous
    • £25 
    • 2 d
  • Anonymous
    • £25 
    • 14 d
  • Anonymous
    • £5 
    • 2 mos
  • Hette Phillips
    • £25 
    • 2 mos
  • Anonymous
    • £7 
    • 3 mos
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Organizer

Zara Bain
Organizer
England

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