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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My experience volunteering on a Sense holiday

Smiling man and boy in climbing helmets on cargo net

21 year old Matthew, from Kent, is studying Special Educational Needs and Inclusion at Canterbury Christ Church University.

Matthew was a volunteer on two Sense short breaks where he supported holiday makers at Standon Bowes outdoor education centre to do rock climbing and raft building, and helped on a holiday at Hall Farm cottages on the Norfolk broads.

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Two young boys with their mother and pet cat
This Giving Tuesday we’d like to say a massive thank you to everyone who has supported us throughout the year. Sense supports people who are deafblind, have sensory impairments or complex needs to enjoy more independent lives, and we couldn’t do it without you.

From donating and volunteering, to taking part in an event, here’s a rundown of some of the ways you can help. And if you’d like to do something quickly, you can text SENSE to 70111 to donate £3 (T&Cs).  Thank you.

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In Search of the Golden Racquet

Dramatherapist Kate Copley has been working with Providence Court in Exeter, a community resource centre with Sense’s flagship community café, Café 55, which is run by deafblind and disabled volunteers.

Kate, individuals (the actors) and intervenors (the support actors) will bring to life the original drama that they have been developing. They have been learning theatre and acting techniques on a weekly basis, to culminate in this performance.

In Search of the Golden Racquet

4 May – 6.30pm
Cygnet Theatre: Friars Gate, Exeter, EX2 4AZ

Audience participation is optional (Sit in the front row, if you dare…)
Time approx. 45 minutes.  No interval.

For tickets, please contact Lisa Burwood at Sense on 07970 130268 or pop into Café 55 on Northernhay Street in Exeter, Mon – Fri 9.00am – 3.00pm

Tickets £5 Concessions available upon request
This fund raising event will help support future creative arts opportunities.

Wayne McGregor and Random Dance at TouchBase South East: a short film

Celebrated choreographer Wayne McGregor CBE and his company are collaborating with national deafblind charity Sense to explore the infinite possibilities of dance as a means of expression for people with sensory impairments.

During a week-long workshop that took place last week at TouchBase centre in Barnet, company dancers, deafblind people and their care staff explored their creative and physical potential.

Building a common language through touch, the dancers and participants tried out various exercises and games and came up with movement phrases unique to each participant’s communication and mobility needs.


Sense Holidays: a new dimension

Janet Caldwell, Sense Online Champion

For the first time this summer, iPads have been provided for some of the holidays, as part of the Online Today project (funded by the Big Lottery).

Two holidaymakers looking at an iPadScrapbooks have always been part of the holidays, and then much enjoyed by the kids with their friends and families afterwards. This year for the first time, the young people have been able to generate and view immediately photos on the iPads, and then send images back so that they could be enjoyed at home and shared. A bit like an extension of the conventional scrapbooks. As always happens when a young person gets hold of an iPad, another world of adventure and excitement opens up, sometimes in unforeseen ways. Continue reading “Sense Holidays: a new dimension”

No such thing…an immersive installation created by eighty young people

Over the past few months we’ve been touring our immersive installation created by eighty young people that Sense supports in Peterborough, Luton and Cornwall. The project that has been supported using public funding by Arts Council England, has been designed by the sound art group Call & Response and developed in-situ at Metal Peterborough.

Last stop was the contemporary art MK Gallery in Milton Keynes over the weekend of 5 & 6 September.


The weekend was a great success with many visitors dropping by the Project Space to immerse themselves in our sound project.

Two features of the installation are a vibrating sign with 6 speakers attached to the back of it and the amazing vibrating packs from Subpac.

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The tour kicked off at Metal Peterborough on the 18th June with Hampton Resource Centre students performing in the garden.

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From Peterborough we went on to Southend as part of Village Green Festival. With almost 30,000 people at the festival, local young people were queueing up all day to have a go.

The following weekend we went to Village Beach in Grays.

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It was amazing to tour the project and show the creative work we did for six months – from music making and improvisation to field recordings and composing. 

Audio description by Dr Louise Fryer

You can download an audio description of the experience (6MB MP3) if you couldn’t make the performances.

Louise Fryer was a pioneer of Audio Description in the UK, piloting description for BBC television in the mid-90s. She describes for the National Theatre
and VocalEyes and has trained describers in the UK and Australia. Louise has a doctorate in psychology. Her research interests include visual perception, sensory substitution and immersion in audiovisual media for people with sensory loss. Louise is a teaching fellow at UCL in Audio Visual Translation. For over 20 years Louise was a presenter for BBC Radio.


My experiences of using Dragon Software

Tony Lawton, Sense Digital Champion

In this month’s technology oldblog, I am going to share some thoughts about a piece of technology which helps me to get online called Dragon NaturallySpeaking. I have Usher, some useful vision and moderate hearing loss, so it is important I find the technology that works for me.

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