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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Meet Gulliver, my robotic communicator-guide

A 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!

Continue reading “Meet Gulliver, my robotic communicator-guide”

Rehabilitation services must innovate to survive

Rehabilitation training equips blind and deafblind people with the skills they need to live independently, such as cooking without sight, communicating in new ways, or using a long cane to get around. I have written elsewhere about the importance of this for deafblind people. The Care Act emphasises the need for this type of service that can reduce, eliminate or delay the need for long-term care and support.

Yet, the number of people receiving rehabilitation training is falling, as is the number of rehabilitation officers employed by local authorities. Local authority budgets are under severe pressure from government spending cuts and increasing demand for services.

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Product review: the Bradley timepiece

The Bradley timepiece is a stylish tactile watch designed for visually impaired people.

Developed by Eone with the principles of inclusive design in mind, the watch has had a lot of interest from non-visually impaired people attracted by its stylish appearance.

We asked Dr Philip Gafga and Shaun McGarry, who are both deafblind, to see how the Bradley measures up as a practical device for telling the time.

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The fight goes on to victory

Sometimes, campaigning is exhilarating: we are doing fun and exciting things and getting quick results. For example, when I was a student, I was involved in a campaign that arranged for a wheelchair user to abseil down a building in tandem with a senior manager from a sister organisation to highlight its inaccessibility. Just six weeks later, a lift was installed. But, most of the time, campaigning is hard work, slow and a bumpy ride.

When you have been campaigning for something for years, it is easy to lose the will to live, never mind to keep repeating the same points.

It is at times like this that we need to reflect on, and draw strength from, what we have achieved, no matter how small these successes may be.

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The wonders of my new toy

Lynda JonesLynda Jones

Earlier this year I had a very difficult decision to make.  Should I continue with my mobile phone and its tactile keys and TALKS software, or take the plunge and get an iPhone given that TALKS is no longer readily available? I was comfortable with my Nokia and TALKS and very nervous about using a touch screen and more complicated technology, but after much thought I took the plunge. I visited a couple of local mobile phone shops and found the O2 shop assistant was the most helpful and set up my new phone with voice over and phonetic alphabet.  On a frivolous note, I bought a bright pink one!

I had to wait two weeks before getting one to one instructions on how to text and make phone calls but in the meantime I was told about Siri and could ask my iPhone to send texts and make calls.  I learnt that I had to be careful though as Siri sometimes didn’t get it right. Once I sent a text saying “Say hello to everyone XXX”, but unfortunately Siri sent “Say hello to everyone except sex.” Ooops!  It did give everyone a good laugh and I shall never live it down.

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Sense Active’s first football session

a deafbling girl and her communicator guide playing football at a Sense Active football eventOn a cold December morning in Sandwell, 17 very enthusiastic participants – complete with scarves and gloves – took to the football pitch to take part in what was Sense’s first ever football session.

Although for many, it may have been the first time they have ever had a football at their feet, there was plenty of excellent dribbling, passing, shooting and catching on display.

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Window Eyes Screen Reader

Chris Fox

Window Eyes logoWe have some really good news for those of you who use a screen reader on your Windows based computer. G W Micro the maker of Window Eyes screen reader and Microsoft have announced that as long as you have Microsoft Office 2010 or above, either as a standard DVD install or a subscription to Microsoft 365 you have access to a free fully functioning copy of Window Eyes.

You will also need a computer running Windows XP, Windows Vista, Windows 7 & Windows 8/8.1

The only differences between the free and paid versions are as follows:

The free version does not have:

  1. Braille & Large Print instruction manual.
  2. You have only the standard Microsoft voices (others are available for £40.00 excluding VAT).
  3. Technical Support is provided for initial setup only.

Continue reading “Window Eyes Screen Reader”