Can sound be made visible? Exploration via sensory marble runs

A boy and girl holding on to a card tube, held up beside a wall and painted in red light

How can sound be made visible and tangible to young people with sensory impairments? As artists, that’s the challenge we set ourselves with a collaboration between Sense and the British Library, taking inspiration from its enormous sound archive.

My name is Emma McGarry and I am a visual artist. I have been working on a Sense and British Library collaboration to deliver an exciting eight-month project with a group of young people with sensory impairments.

Every month, myself and Judith Brocklehurst – another artist working with the British Library – come together to meet with young people who have sensory impairments and complex needs, at one of the Sense Centres in Barnet.

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As more of our lives happen online, how do people with sensory impairments stay connected?

Two women seated at a table, one using a tablet, one smiling to camera

The internet is playing an increasingly important role in our everyday lives; we use it to talk to family and friends, search for jobs, navigate the streets, pay bills and buy Christmas gifts. But for many people with sensory impairments, accessing the internet and using new technologies can present huge challenges.

Online Today, a Big Lottery funded project, supports people who have sensory loss to get online. It explores how participants can develop independence through the use of technology and the internet- for example, gaining assistance from specialist accessibility apps to identify household products or navigate to a particular destination. At Sense, the internet plays an important role in helping individuals in Sense accommodation to stay in touch with family and friends.

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Having a job reduces loneliness, but finding work can be tough when you’re disabled

I was privileged to be asked to speak at the Parliamentary reception for the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness, about my own experiences of loneliness as a disabled person.

I am deafblind; I’m severely sight impaired and have a severe to profound hearing impairment. Accessing social situations and noisy busy environments can be very difficult for me. Feeling frustrated, annoyed, angry, scared or upset because I cannot access something, or go somewhere – due to the implications of my impairments – can be made worse by feelings of loneliness and social isolation.

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How Sense is providing award-winning support to its Care Managers

Three people side by side, one holding a certificateAt Sense, we recognise the importance of supporting our registered care managers. Their role is absolutely critical for providing high quality support services and enabling the people we support to achieve outcomes.

Registered care managers set the culture and quality for the services they manage – from the recruitment and support of person centred teams through to their focus on continuous improvement and development of their services. However, we should not underestimate the demands and pressure of the role. They will frequently be juggling many competing demands and requests, both within the service but also from families, commissioners and care managers, and from head office. How do they fit it all into their working day?

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When you have sight and hearing loss, group discussions can be really difficult

Graphic with photo of Gary and text that reads "I felt misunderstood and very alone"

As someone who has sight and hearing loss, I would like to draw attention to the feelings of isolation and loneliness within one’s circle of friends and family. Although in some cases this can be attributed to one’s personality, it is possible to feel ‘left out’ by their nearest and dearest.

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Like many disabled people, I experience loneliness on a daily basis

"Simple things like going to the pub can the stressful" - Ian, Jo Cox LonelinessI experience loneliness on a daily basis, as do many disabled people I speak to. Public attitudes, accessibility and employment support are all areas that must be addressed if we are to tackle social isolation for disabled people.

I was born partially deaf and have limited vision as a result of Usher syndrome, a progressive condition which slowly causes my eyesight to deteriorate.

I always liked to keep busy with work and friends. However, as my eyesight deteriorated, it felt like my ability to do this became hindered.

But in reality it’s a lack of awareness and support that limit disabled people.

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Co-production – a better way of working together

Two men communicating via hands on deafblind manualPutting people at the heart of decision making is a key strategic priority for Sense.

Our aspiration is to move to a co-production approach where people actively contribute to every stage of planning, design, development and service delivery across all parts of Sense, reflecting our ‘I’ Statement: ‘No decision about me, without me’

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What questions do six year olds have for deafblind people?

A seated man with a group of students, seated on the floor
Steven Morris with the Year 2 students

Last month, I went back to school… well for an afternoon at least!

Over the last few years, I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to one of my local primary schools, Chepping View Primary Academy in High Wycombe – where my wife works – to talk about living with a sensory impairment.

My visits have helped the children to understand more about the work Sense does, and the people it supports. As a result, the school council decided to run ‘Sense cinema day’ just before Christmas, raising more than £800 for the charity.

Each year, I speak to the Year 2 children about braille, certain technology that I use, and then I brave their questions!

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Campaigning for Sense helped me give my brother a voice

A boy smiling
Saima’s brother, who is supported by Sense

My name is Saima and I have been campaigning for Sense for a number of years. I got involved in campaigning after personally experiencing the difficulties of getting the right support and service for my brother.

My brother is supported by Sense in Luton, and has been for several years. The team there are fantastic. Since my brother has attended, he has transformed into a confident, happy and independent young man, and it is all down to the hard work of the team. I have been a supporter of Sense since then.

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How accessible and useful is the Amazon Echo?

Two men seated by a table with a black cylundrical device
Tony Lodge and Steven Morris with Tony’s Amazon Echo

You may have heard about Amazon’s Echo, a hands-free, voice controlled device that uses Alexa (Amazon’s version of Siri, a talking digital assistant) to perform various tasks such as play music, control ‘smart’ home devices, read the news, set alarms, add items to shopping lists and more.

I met up with Sense member Tony Lodge to learn more about using the Echo and how it might be of help and accessible to disabled people. Tony brought one with him and we and put it through its paces.

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