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.

Continue reading “Inaction is not an option”

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.

Continue reading “Charcoal, oil paints and van Gogh”

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.

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

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.

Continue reading “Rehabilitation services must innovate to survive”

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.

Continue reading “Product review: the Bradley timepiece”

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.

Continue reading “The fight goes on to victory”