Next Generation Text Relay – the latest

Joff McGill

Joff McGill

BT have now publically committed to a launch of their Next Generation Text (NGT) Relay service on 1 October, nearly six months late.

The new platform has been tested throughout July, August and September and is now handling all text relay calls. A user trial has also been taking place, and over 400 people have participated. Sense welcomes this important but long overdue step to improved access to telecommunications for deafblind people.

The new NGT service will replace TextRelay and many users may already have noticed their calls going through the new BT have now solved the problems with the platform that led to the postponed launch last April, but if you experience problems when your call goes through NGT please let BT know at on the Next Generation Text Pilot website, or email

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The silent beauty of the Bradley

Molly with her guide dog UnisMolly Watt

This summer I took my A levels and was delighted with my results – I got two A*s in art and design and a C in English Lit/Lang. My parents congratulated me and bought me a few lovely gifts one being the Bradley Timepiece.

I had heard about “The Bradley” and thought it would be good for me, but on actually getting one I was elated as it was more than I had imagined.

The box it comes in is tactile and has Braille on it, whilst I’m not a braillist it is great that it has been made accessible in that way. On opening the box, which was a little fiddly, there were also Braille instructions which was impressive, for me instructions in large print would have been better or even a link to instructions I could access electronically.

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A Wooden Tree-house & coloured animals

Today, we made a tree-house using strings and nails based on the drawings that they made as homework.

Last week, participants were given some homework to do before today’s session.

Just as every teachers who give out homework to students, I was a bit unsure if people would actually do it.
But of course, our participants are great at proving my assumptions wrong.
Being asked to make fives drawings of tree-houses, Sara made wonderful drawings based on additional research.20140920_105947
For building a tree-house with strings and nails
 this is the sample that I brought for demonstration:

Clay Animals & Coloured Mugs



Every week participants are given a creative task to do for homework which is a preparation for the following class.

Last week, they made a drawing of their favourite animals every day which became the subject of the class today.

Using their drawings as a guide, they shaped a number of animals with clay.

As they have used plastic (Polymoph) for moulding during the last session (which was a more difficult material to handle as it hardens quickly),

this week, with clay, the participants were able to make more complicated shapes:

such as a rabbit, a turtle and an elephant.




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A Picnic with Squirrels

“I showed the flower papers we made last week to my carer. She loved it so much that she bought me some papers so that I could make flower papers for her.” – Pam ( Participant)
The goal of this art workshop is not about gaining art skills but enriching  everyday experience through creativity and imagination.
Each week, the session revolves around the theme of a forest. Previously, trees and flowers were the key subjects for painting and sculpture.  This week, we worked on a rather imaginative topic: making a bowl & mug set for a picnic with squirrels.
After handing out some acorns for inspiration, I demonstrated how to use Polymorph, which is a new plastic material that is pliable once it’s applied with warm water. Participants absolutely loved this new material and some preferred this to clay!
Once they made a bowl & mug set using Polymorph, we designed tablemats using Paul Cézanne’s still-life paintings as a basis for abstract collage.
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At Westminster Pier this morning, Big Ben chiming in the background and sun streaming along the Thames a 99 year old Dunkirk ship docked, swathed in 7,000 pompoms – many made by the people Sense supports across the United Kingdom.

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The pompoms sailed away with Kirstie Allsopp to Hampton Court Palace for the launch of the #worldpomination, a World Record attempt for the longest Pompom chain at The Handmade Fair in support of Sense.

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When we started The Great Sense Pompom Challenge almost twelve months ago, we had no idea that we’d be at this point. Our campaign started as a very simple idea – to get everyone doing something fun together to raise awareness of Sense and deafblindness.

People from all around Sense crafted pompoms, that we then stitched together into an enormous Tapestry of Touch that toured around the UK for six months, finishing in Kings Cross Station. Continue reading “#worldpomination”

Inaction is not an option

The social care system is in crisis.  Many disabled and older people who need care or support are going without.

Research commissioned by the Care and Support Alliance found that half a million people who would have received care in 2009 are now unable to get it.

A new report by the Barker Commission on the future of health and social care in England puts forward recommendations on how to change this.

The report is clear.  More money is needed and society can afford it.

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Charcoal, oil paints and van Gogh

1“I believe that it is one’s duty to paint the rich and magnificent aspects of nature. We need gaiety and happiness, hope and love.”
– Vincent Van Gogh




10It’s easy to focus on the challenges and barriers that disabled people face when engaging with arts and culture. A big part of my work is to advocate for better access, increased opportunities and improved participation for disabled people in the arts.

8The incredible thing about art is that everyone gets something different out of it. Difference is what we all have in common, and in art – this is especially true.

In the second week of visual and tactile arts workshops at TouchBase SouthEast, the group started to explore their own views on art making, trying out different techniques that they may or may not have before, to see what worked best for each of them.

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From little things, big things grow…

Accessible arts and cultural activities can seem like a given, because so many of us do it without even thinking. We read about an exhibition, we catch the train, we go for a walk around, see the work, and catch a cup of coffee in the gift shop. We rummage through bookstores, flick through television channels, salivate over new recipes, and blast our favourite tunes while dancing around the kitchen.

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We do these things because being creative is innately human – it is something we all do. For people with multi-sensory impairments, arts and culture aren’t always as accessible. Information about what is on is hard to access, how you’ll get there is a logistical minefield, and when you get there – everything is behind glass! We’re trying to break down some of those divides and barriers to access at Sense, and last week we began an exciting new tactile arts workshop programme for people with dual-sensory impairments living in Hertfordshire.

Over the next ten weeks, the group will be working with visual arts facilitator, Yva Jung at the newly refurbished TouchBase SouthEast in Barnet, to develop their personal arts practice, and exhibit their work. Continue reading “From little things, big things grow…”

Meet Gulliver, my robotic communicator-guide

Liz Ball

Liz BallA recent article in the New York Times explored how robots are being used to care for and support older and disabled people and the roles they might take in the future. It introduces us, for example, to Paro, an artificial baby seal being used to provide comfort to people recovering from strokes. If responses on Twitter are anything to go by, most people find this a depressing concept. Not me!

The argument put forward by those who find this depressing goes something like this. Robots take the human element out of care and support, fobbing people off with artificial relationships and interactions with technology rather than people. To rely on technology is to undervalue those needing care and support and to shun our responsibility to them.

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