We’re here with another interview with a newer member of our community. The title of this column is “Lower Decks,” hearkening back to the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode titled “Lower Decks,” in which junior officers aboard the Enterprise-D speculate on the reasons for recent unusual actions taken by the command crew near the Cardassian border.
This month’s interview is with the writer behind Ensign Chloe Waters playing a Human female Helm Officer assigned to the USS Eagle.
GALVEN: Thank you for taking the time in doing an interview with me! Could you tell us a little about yourself for our readers out there
WATERS: ::waves:: Hello everyone. Most of you know me by my character name, or by Gar. Perhaps some of you may know me by a few other identities. The person with the stories, the crazy person, or the blind person. Whatever the case, all of those descriptions are true. In any case, I’m eighteen years old, pal, and let me tell ya aboot my proud Canadian background, eh?
Since this will definitely come up, my history with sight, and/or lack there of, is complicated. I am a cancer surviver even though, statistically, I shouldn’t be here. I was diagnosed at six months old and was in treatment for a couple months. I lost one eye to it and the other was saved, even though the doctors didn’t think I could see out of it at the time. A few years later they discovered otherwise. When I was in the fourth grade my vision started to deteriorate and I had to have surgery to get a cataract removed. What vision I had shot back up until I had to have some residual scarring removed two years later because I was starting to lose it again. Two years after that, the cataract began to grow back, and I started to lose my sight so I needed surgery to correct for that again.
My sight was restored, until I went to bed one night a few months later and woke up the next morning… with all of it gone. To this day no one understands why, or why I have since regained some of my light perception. Despite what issues being blind has caused me, it isn’t as bad as it seems. Being without sight allows me to get to know people on a more personal level, because I judge people based on who they are, rather than what they look like.
As for my relationship with Trek, I’ve been a fan since I stumbled on it ever since I was eight years old. The show struck a cord with me immediately, thanks to a certain chief engineer aboard the Enterprise. 😉 I’ll let you all figure out which one. In any case that love of Trek has lead me to joining various roleplaying groups, trying out different characters. And now I’m here.
How did you find out about Starbase 118 and what made you ultimately choose our community and stay with us?
I found out about Starbase 118 primarily thanks to Galven here. To be honest, I think I hung around for… three weeks before I decided to join. Because of some bad past experiences I prefer to observe a group for a while before deciding if I want to take part in it or not. Since people have welcomed me, I figured… may as well give this group a shot. What really sold it though, was after I joined up and was browsing the wiki. I mentioned some accessibility issues one morning, and a group of… three or four players, maybe more, spent close to an hour and a half trying to make the wiki more accessible. Thanks to Sevo and others, that is still being looked in to. With the care and open mindedness people have shown about this… my choice to stay has been solidified.
Your character is a mute which means she doesn’t talk. Why did you decide for her to have that and how are you going to use it for character development?
To be honest? I don’t actually know what gave me the idea to play a mute, but I’m doing it for a couple reasons. Firstly, it’s something probably very few people have seen before. Secondly such a character presents interesting roleplay opportunities for me as a creative person. As for character development, if you’ve read Chloe’s wiki, you know she has had her fair share of difficulties. I designed her this way deliberately. My intent isn’t to explore Chloe primarily, though I have no doubt that will happen. My intention with this character is to cause other characters, and by extension their players, to explore themselves.
How do they react to someone who can’t talk naturally? Do they ask about it or leave her alone? What about her social oddities? Do people tolerate them, try to be understanding of her background? Or do they let those oddities influence their perception of her? There is endless soul searching potential here, not just for my character, but for others as well. That’s what I think makes her great. A character you can explore is fine, but one who you can create, who can cause other characters, and thereby their players, to look inside themselves and think… and consider how they would react to someone so different… there is something beautiful in that to me.
I hope that, through playing this character, I can help bring out the spark of life which made Trek so memorable, so meaningful to so many people. Peaceful coexistence with those who are different than you are, acceptance, and perhaps some social commentary. Only time will tell how this goes, but I’m looking forward to exploring Chloe’s relationships with others.
I think it’s really awe inspiring that you don’t allow your visual impairment to hinder you. You use a reader that helps you read out everything. How does that process work?
While I do not know the specifics of how a screen reader actually works behind the lines, I do know this much. A screen reader, such as NVDA (Non-Visual Desktop Access) on Windows, or Voiceover on the Mac and IOS, cannot function independently. The screen reader relies on whatever program you are using for the information, as it can’t always pick something out on its own. If a program isn’t coded properly, a screen reader may have some difficulty functioning within it, provided how the program is coded allows it to work at all. The screen reader
converts whatever text it can in to spoken words. Sometimes it can even convert images in to spoken words which actually make sense, if said image is coded with a description for the screen reader to detect.
Do you personally have aspirations in the fleet? Are there any OOC activities you’re associated with, or any you’d like to join?
I have a lot of free time outside of classes. There are a couple things I want to do. Things which people like Sevo have made significantly easier. The problem with gaming is that so few games, in the grand scheme of things, are playable by people like me. When one comes along, it’s usually popular for a little while, in my opinion because there’s very little else. Then the game fades away and is forgotten. A new game comes out and the cycle repeats. Why? In my opinion, because there are so few games which allow for interaction with others. Online communities like this one are very different. But people don’t know they exist until they really go searching for them. So I want to do a few things. Firstly, I want to make sure that the website here is, eventually, completely accessible and clear.
Now, while I did code in a limited capacity for a little while, this is way out of my area of expertise. But there are some people I know who might have better luck. My reasoning behind this is, and this sounds strange, but it’s all about appearances. To us as blind people, a website’s appearance is all about how it reads to our ears. If it doesn’t read well, we tend to avoid that website whenever possible. So the first step in tapping into a whole community of people that few realize is out there, is to minimize the head scratching nature of the online environment.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not criticizing anyone here. I completely understand why things are the way they are. Until now there have probably been few, if any, screen reader using players here. As such, no one has really had a reason to test the website with a screen reader. But in a way, the fact that there haven’t been any blind simmers here to my knowledge is part of the problem. I’m hopeful that we can resolve the accessibility issues here, so that when I tell other blind friends about this sim group I’m a part of, I can say with pride that this was the way things started out, and this is how they’ve changed since then. Aside from helping to contribute to the website by testing accessibility, I am hopeful that, in time, I can contribute in other ways. Only time, and the community, will tell what those ways are.
And lastly, I saw on Discord that you have a great cackle. Would you humor me and send a audio recording of this, please?
I know there are many of you — out there with questions of your own. My Discord, and myself, are always open for questions. If there is anything you, the reader, want to know, feel free to satisfy your curiosity in the lobby. Or, if you’d prefer, send me a dm. 🙂
Thanks for your time, Ensign Chloe Waters!
You can read more about Ensign Chloe Waters on the wiki.