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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The Monday Ramble and the benefits of bringing people together

Group of people at picnic tables wavingThe Monday Ramble activity session at Sense has been a regular feature in many deafblind people’s lives over the past six years. It was an opportunity created specifically to get deafblind people from across the Midlands region together to do regular, gentle exercise, and improve fitness levels.

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Celebrating access to the arts with a new sensory festival

Black and white photograph of manhole cover on pavement with blurred edges to show Marcus' point of view
A photograph exhibited by Marcus Inniss at Moorfields Eye Hospital

Access to the arts is so important, but can often be misunderstood as simply a ‘nice thing to do’ rather than as a fundamental right. Creativity gives us the tools to make sense of the world and articulate our thoughts and feelings, and we’re yet to find ways of making this available to all.

At Sense we’re interested in ways to empower people to find their cultural voice, and we’re doing this through working collaboratively and experimentally with artists and participants to interrogate access to art through the senses.

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Accessible Film Project: Mentors, equipment, sight and sound

A boy placing figurines in a line
Wilf preparing a scene to film

The Accessible Film Project provides creative opportunities for people with sensory impairments to experiment with filmmaking techniques.

We are filming with three groups of participants and each person has their own preference of equipment and engagement with filmmaking. We have been lucky enough to have access to a wide range of equipment and even an experienced filmmaker and animator to act as a mentor.

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How to make yoga accessible for people with visual and hearing impairments

Man assisting seated man with yoga position

My interest in teaching Special Needs Yoga started when my second son was born with Global Developmental Delay – an event which shaped my life and my yoga journey. I realised the potential for Yoga to enrich the lives of people with sensory impairments, and I’ve observed the therapeutic benefits that help many individuals.

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The importance of making activities accessible for older people

Hands weaving paper strips
An older person weaving paper and text

Alex McEwan is an artist who has led a number of Sense arts projects that focus on supporting people with disabilities, harnessing creativity and nurturing confidence. In this post, Alex talks about a project for older people, the bonds they formed, and the incredible access granted by the British Library when project participants visited last year.

We’re constantly told the ‘good’ news, that we’re all living longer. That’s great if the extra years we’re being given are fulfilling, but for many the reality is loneliness and exclusion in a fast-paced world.

Sense asked me to organise an arts project that would focus on the enormous benefits of taking part in a communal activity. With this brief in mind, I set about creating TEXTtile, a ten week arts project aimed at breaking down isolation and connecting local people. Participants were based in Islington, London, were over the age of 55, and had sight and hearing loss.

The importance of making activities accessible for older people has never been more poignant, and will only continue to gather momentum. Older people often live with the challenges of sensory impairment, and many live with additional challenges, such as reduced mobility. But being older, or having reduced hearing or sight, should not spell the end of creativity.

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As a deafblind film critic, accessibility is everything

Michael McNeely in front of the Tornto International Film Festival banner

My name is Michael McNeely, and I am a deafblind film and accessibility critic based in Toronto, Canada. Upon hearing about the Accessible Film Project, I wanted to get involved and show my solidarity. Just like the filmmakers involved in the project, I too face my share of challenges with regards to watching and learning about films. However, I have found my way to being a film critic and to directing a short film with my friends here in Canada.

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Accessible films on the big screen

A boy enjoying the screening
Enjoyment at the screening

Over the past 10 weeks, students from Birmingham and Cambridge who are deafblind have been working hard making films. The process culminated with the exciting opportunity to see the films screened at cinemas.

The Accessible Film Project encourages and provides creative opportunities for people with sensory impairments to experiment and explore film making and accessibility.

We organised two private screenings: one at the Light-House Media Centre in Wolverhampton and the other at Cineworld in St Neots, Cambridge. There’s no better way to watch a film than at a cinema and everyone should have the opportunity to do so.

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Lights, camera, action!

Filming a shopping trip in Cambridge
Filming a shopping trip in Cambridge

How do people with dual sensory impairments access audiovisual media? That was the big question that led me to do a three-year PhD at the University of Roehampton.

I became interested in the topic after studying and working on media accessibility and film projects. There had always been a focus on audio description for blind and partially sighted people and subtitles or sign language for deaf and hard of hearing audiences – but what about people with dual sensory impairments?

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Expressing myself in words and pictures

A segment of 'Light through the leaves' by Lucy Dawson
‘Light through the leaves’ by Lucy Dawson

Photography and creative writing are really important to me. Both help me to express myself, and to describe things that I sense and feel around me. I am deafblind from birth, have a detached retina and use hearing aids.

I first started writing while I was recovering from eye surgery. I was quite depressed about my situation (I was housebound at the time) and so I started writing random thoughts and feelings on my laptop.

I began to put these thoughts together to create poem-like structures. My first piece was called ‘Isolation’ because that was how I was feeling at that moment. I posted the poem on Facebook and got a strong reaction from people, which inspired me to write more. At the same time, it also helped me to feel better.

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