British Sign Language in the Art World ~ Edward J Richards, Cutting Edge Design Limited

British Sign Language in the Art World - Credit: Heritage Lottery Fund
British Sign Language in the Art World - Credit: Heritage Lottery Fund
Hello! I’m Edward Richards, a Deaf British Sign Language (BSL) user I set up my own graphic design company, specialising in inclusive and accessible communication.

I have used interpreters for about the last 12 years and kept noticing that no matter the agency I used, the level of choice and quality of the service wasn’t to my linking. I therefore decided to begin work on a better system with fair fees and the ability to give me and other Deaf people back the choice and quality we were missing.. bookONE as it’s called will be operating in the near future.

I ‘m proud to say that I was involved in the London Paralympics Opening Ceremony as an aerial performer, for which I trained intensively for 4 months and last nearly 2 stones in weight, most of which has since found its way back to me! I also work as an Arts Presenter for several leading museums and art galleries in London such as Tate Modern and Britain, Royal Academy of Arts and National Gallery.

As a child I loved all aspects of art but never had full access to the information about the subject for which I had so much passion. I later decided to take on formal art training and studied Art at Camberwell and have always had an interest in how art theory can be expressed in my native British Sign Language.

In 2002, I saw a Tate advert looking for deaf people to become BSL gallery guides and applied without a second thought. This was the first training for Deaf people to become Arts presenters undertaken by Tate or anyone else as far as I know. The programme was very positive and since that time I have given talks at Tate Modern and Britain, the Royal Academy and Whitechapel Gallery, amongst others. I now engage deaf audiences with art and culture and am feverishly learning about new collections, works and ways of presenting. I believe passionately that this work brings deaf people back to the arts and I’m proud that I’m involved in training other deaf BSL guides to widen audiences at Tate and other venues across the UK. Last year, I was asked by Tate to set up and project manage their most recent Signing Art course, where I recruited Deaf experts in Art, research and speaking to Deaf audiences. You can find out more information about the work called ‘Project in a Box’ here I will happily help other galleries and museums set up similar projects, just give me a shout and I’ll be there. Since the course, I have assessed skills and mentored graduates in order to maintain quality.

I’m used to operating in peer to peer situations which helps in creating employment for deaf people where society’s record of recruiting Deaf and/or disabled people is extremely poor.

I also advise on Tate’s Access and Advisory Group. For me, I’m there not just to give a Deaf perspective, but to encourage a different way of thinking for all those involved in access to museums and galleries, creating an ethos of equality and inclusivity that encourages respect for Deaf people in all areas and allows for a more positive experience for everyone in this sector!

Be the first to comment

Leave a Reply