A new system for special educational needs: Six months on

It has been six months since the start of the new system of special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) in England.  Since September 2014, local authorities have been working to put new systems and processes in place after the Children and Families Act 2014 became law last year.  Sense worked hard when the new system was being designed to make sure it could bring positive benefits for deafblind children, young people and their families.  But what have we heard so far about the impact the new legislation is having on the people we support?

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Weaving with sound

We were very lucky to have guests at a recent Material Memory session who showed us some pretty cool things we could do with weaving. Emilie Giles from the Open University explains what we got up to:

For session 3 of Material Memory, myself and Janet van der Linden from the Open University ran a session with the group in weaving with eTextiles (yarns, threads, fibres and fabrics which can conduct electricity) and other interesting materials. Using a combination of these, a woven swatch can be created that can trigger sound on a computer, just by touching it.

I had popped in to see the group the week before to demonstrate something which I had made, a woven swatch containing an array of conductive and non-condcutive materials. Everyone took turns to have a go with it, stroking, poking and squeezing it to explore how their actions could change the sound produced, using a circuit board called Arduino and an application called Super-Collider.

We began the workshop by exploring conductive materials: some of these being very metal-like, smelling metallic and feeling rough, whilst others feeling soft like regular thread.


The group were very intrigued as to how a soft object such as this could trigger music and spent some time feeling my example piece, and the different textures within it.


As the Islington museum also have a wonderful archive upstairs, we also drew from their collection of photographs of dance halls, theming our workshop around music as we were using the eTextile to trigger different sounds and songs.

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We showed the participants how they could trigger music files with the conductive materials using a circuit board by Bare Conductive called the Touch Board, sparking conversation about songs which they wanted us to find. One participant also brought in some music for us to listen to which her mother used to sing to her.


Before they began their weaving we asked the participants to go over to a materials table and spend some time feeling different yarns, threads and fibres including jute fibre, milk protein fibre, a selection of yarns, unwashed sheep’s wool and merino fibres. One of the participants commented on how the latter reminded her of a cat. They also chose conductive yarn and fibre to go in their weaving too.


Everyone’s approach to the weaving was different, as well as favouring different materials, everyone’s technique differed too.

Some participant’s followed an over and under technique, whilst others went back on their warp (the yarn they were weaving through) before going onto the next part. Some participants chose to include personal materials, such as fabric and ribbon which they had brought in whilst others stuck to the materials which we had chosen.




The group was very focussed through the session but everyone
took the time to observe and comment on each other’s work.


At the end of the workshop everyone had something which they could take away, either as a square or a rectangle – each piece being different.

The current idea is that hopefully the participants can make their final collaborate piece, a quilt, interactive. Something which incorporates the work which they did today and that can trigger sounds which are personal to them upon being touched. We will be involved with this process and look forward to catching up with the group and their progress later on in the project.

Thank you Emilie and Janet for your fantastic workshop – the group were excited to show us what they had made and talk about how much they enjoyed the weaving activity – a definite winner!

Tactile Histories Exhibition @ The Museum of Childhood

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Visitors were actively encouraged to touch, smell, listen and interact with the quilt.

After some last minute minor adjustments the completed Tactile Histories Quilt went on display at The V&A Museum of Childhood generating much interest from those who came purposefully to see the final outcome of 12 weeks hard work by our Bethnal Green quilting group and those passing museum goers who couldn’t help but interact with and explore it.

And there was lots to explore; with fabric pockets hiding household smells , a plethora of different textures and an audio accompanyment via hand held speakers, telling the stories of the quilters in their own voices.

Young and old, experienced quilters and enthusiastic amateurs all enjoyed relating to the life histories told and techniques used to produce the quilt.

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Surprisingly compact considering its content! Here’s to phase 2 : Material Memory @ Islington Museum starting Feb 2015.

A huge thank you to our lovely quilters and The Museum of Childhood for hosting us.

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Last minute adjustments!

Islington Museum hosts Material Memory

I had never been to Islington Museum before going on a pre Material Memory project recce.   The reason? Well,  mostly because I don’t live there, and to be honest, even if I did, IMG_4204it’s a bit tricky to find, hidden beneath Finsbury Public Library; but then is it not often the case that you have to venture below the surface to find  hidden treasure?

And what a subterranean  treasure trove of Islingtonian history! As culturally rich and diverse as the people from all walks of life who have lived in and contributed to this popular and vibrant London borough.

The glass fronted entrance fittingly reflects the open and informal atmosphere of the small, but well stocked, museum. Its knowledgable staff are welcoming and unstuffy giving the museum an accommodating ‘approachable -ness’ not always noteworthy of larger institutions.

Not being from Islington, or even London turned out to be a common thread, with participants originating from from England, Scotland, U.S.A, Portugal, Iran, India, Kenya and Italy .We are a truly international quilting team!

Can’t wait to delve into the archives and draw out and add to the many narratives waiting to be discovered. Even more interested to see how they will be interpreted and re-awakened by the Material Memory participants.

Material Memory : A Community Quilting Project

Exciting news! We have embarked on the next phase of the Sense, life histories quilting journey; Material Memory at the Islington Museum. This project follows on from  the successful Tactile Histories community quilt made with Bethnal Green participants at The V&A Museum of Childhood.

Together, a diverse group of Islington residents, who had previously never met, will tell their own life histories, their responses to their shared local space of Islington and  their shared experiences on their Material Memory journey.

Taking the form of an open book, and employing various art, audio technology and craft techniques the quilt will grow and evolve as the project progresses. Panels of image, text and material imbedded with sound are made each week in response to topics generated through conversation, shared interests and objects from the museums’ archives.

The Islington group will weave a patchwork of their own life histories with Islington’s colourful heritage, and it is hoped, make new friends and have a deeper appreciation of their shared part of London.  Weekly meetings will see the group discovery common ground and make fabric responses to it over the course of 12 sessions.

Ultimately, it will be the group who decide upon the design for the final outcome and the finished quilt will be displayed at Islington museum, taking pride of place in the museum’s glass fronted foyer.

It is already evident that this group are a creative and  engaged  bunch,  brimming with ideas. They come from a wonderfully rich and  diverse backgrounds and bring life stories and a readiness to share their experiences. Mix this with a fantastically accommodating venue with loads of resources, and I for one, can’t wait to see what unfolds!

Watch this space for regular Material Memory updates…

The personal is political: or, why we need to hear from you

It’s still wintry outside but spring is already in the air – spring, that is, for the political parties here in Wales who are holding their annual spring conferences over the next few weeks.

Party conferences aren’t usually something the public feel is relevant to their everyday lives or something they want to get involved in. But, last weekend I went to the first of the Welsh political parties’ spring conferences and it got me thinking – and learning – about how I might be able to bring the personal into the political.

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Changes to BBC iPlayer

We have had a number of queries regarding the shutting down of the BBC iPlayer Bigscreen service that took place on Saturday 14 February 2015.

The BBC will no longer support this service on smart televisions and other network devices although it will still be available on the Freesat service.  You can find out more about the new BBC iPlayer for connected TVs and the closure of iPlayer Bigscreen on the BBC internet oldblog.

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Tactile feedback for gesture control….

Donna Corrigan
Computer controlling UltrahapticsOver the past couple of years I have had the pleasure of listening to and working with both people with deafblindness and product manufacturers. Optimal accessibility means an easier time for everyone, and is more cost effective to the manufacturer to get it right from the outset. However, some technologies can only be fully accessible via customisation, after all everyone has different preferences and needs.

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Riddles of the River

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I move through water 

I sleep by the river bank 

I like summer 

Fish swim under me 

I smell like smoke 

I eat oil and make engine noise 

I take people on holiday 

Who am I? 

The London group of Poems of the River met for the third time in Greenwich and it was wonderful to see how confidence is growing and comfort is setting in.

Group members talked about looking forward to Fridays, as they know it will be filled with games and creative activities themed around rivers!

The room was decorated with drawings from the previous week and the group did well to remember our river song, complete with signs which we performed together to (and with!) our new group members who quickly learned the song.

Next we discussed some new river animals and created a fresh story as a group about… a fish. Inspired by a certain Big Mouth Billy Bass, who sung a fair few renditions of his classic hit songs for us!

The group created the sounds of the river using gloves, bells and a rain maker whilst Laila read ‘The Pike is staying still’. There are so many ways to make, tell and share poetry and there is always a way to get involved.


Our most recent poem…

The fish is… 


soft and slimey 

with gold green scales

happy when moving its’ tail 

playing music and singing! 

it tastes like water

eats baby fish 

has grey eyes

looks like algae 

and smells funny!  

RoboBraille offers quick online braille transciption

In this oldblog, we’re going to focus on an online resource called ‘RoboBraille’.

Paper with Braille embossedRoboBraille is an e-mail and web-based service capable of automatically transforming documents into a variety of alternative formats for the visually impaired. This service is free for individuals and there is no need to register. You simply fill out the simple self-service form, upload your document that you wish to be made accessible and the Robobraille service will email the document back to you within minutes.

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