Feeling The Future – Access To Arts and Culture For People with Visual Impairments Trizia Wells, Inclusion Manager at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum

Eureka Museum

Feeling the Future: Access to Arts and Culture for People with Visual Impairments tells how Eureka! has developed a series of sculpture workshops with partially sighted artist sculptor Lynn Cox and the artwork installation in February. There is also included Trizia’s recent visit to Bilbao in Spain with Traveleyes, which tells about tactile tours at the Bilbao’s Maritime Museum and Guggenheim Museum.

Link for the article is below:

First page of Feeling the Future Access to arts and Culture by Trizia Wells, Eureka
Feeling the Future – Access to Arts and Culture for People with Visual Impairments (click to download)

Making the Case Symposium: The Whitworth Friday 25 May 2018

Digital flyer
(Image credit: Rhiannon Davies -Deborah M, Manchester Museum Volunteer)

Venture Arts puts learning disabled people at the heart of culture and heritage and encourages cultural leaders to do the same.

Learning disabled people are taking ownership of culture and heritage places and spaces at the MAKING THE CASE | SYMPOSIUM, taking place at the Grand Hall, the Whitworth Friday May 25th 2018.

Venture Arts invites culture and heritage leaders and representatives to join them as they bring together ten ground-breaking organisations and individuals to share best practice in making our cultural landscape a more rich and welcoming place, with learning disabled people at its heart.

This will be a day of open discussion, debate and sharing to encourage change. Directors, artists, consultants, academics and curators will present their work to support the sector to reflect on and re-evaluate their approach to learning disabled people.

We’ll hear from experts in the field including Actionspace and Royal Academy of Arts (London);
Esther Fox – The History of Place (UK); Bluecoat – Blue Room and Jade French, Art As Advocacy Collective
(Liverpool); Holly Grange, the Whitworth (Manchester); Autism for the Arts (Manchester); Manchester Museum (The University of Manchester); HOME (Manchester) and Royal Exchange Theatre (Manchester).
(Image credit: Rhiannon Davies -Deborah M, Manchester Museum Volunteer)

Films and discussions will take place throughout the day. Delegates will uncover hidden heritage stories with Esther Fox, Head of the Accentuate Programme. She’ll present the groundbreaking Heritage Lottery funded disability project, History of Place, which follows the lives of deaf and disabled people over 800 years, across 8 different national locations.

There will be a chance to gain valuable insight into how creative organisations across the country are helping the cultural and heritage sector to open their doors to learning disabled people.

We’ll hear key success stories from speakers including Sheryll Catto, Co-Director of Actionspace, and Molly Bretton, Access and Communities Manager from Royal Academy of Arts, about their long-running “Friday Afternoon Art Club” partnership project.
Ella Walker, HOME Manchester, will talk to participants from Venture Arts’ Cultural Enrichment Programme about their experiences of this fantastic initiative. She’ll also talk about her own experience of the programme and the incredible impact it’s had on HOME as an organisation.
Ella Walker, Volunteer and Work Based Training Manager, HOME Manchester says: “Hosting the Venture Arts placements last year was a fantastic experience for us at HOME. We learnt so much from David and Liam and it was brilliant to support their exploration of HOME and see their confidence and experiences develop. Creating an annual placement will allow us to support more people to explore HOME and help to lead us in ensuring our venue can be a place for all”

Amanda Sutton, Director, Venture Arts says: “It is such a pleasure to be joined by so many great organisations for our symposium and to be able to show some of the excellent work being done in the sector with disabled people. I am really looking forward to hearing about others’ experiences and to some lively debate. It is timely too as the heritage sector starts to embrace Arts Council England’s Creative Case for Diversity, so it will be a day when we can all work together to start to make culture and heritage more welcoming and inclusive to all.”

Esther Fox, Head of Accentuate says: “Heritage and the arts can change lives and disabled people are leading that change. Whether it’s understanding our heritage and those who have gone before us or creatively reinterpreting historic material to ensure our voices are present. Working in partnership with our leading cultural institutions is providing a platform to spotlight this work.”

Making the Case Symposium marks the completion of the first phase of Venture Arts’ Cultural Enrichment Programme, which was developed in response to how few learning disabled people currently access cultural venues. Supported by national lottery players via the Heritage Lottery Fund, the programme has allowed Venture Arts to work closely with Manchester based museums, theatres and galleries including Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester Museum, the Whitworth, People’s History Museum and HOME Manchester, to co-create engagement programmes tailored to each participant. Several programme participants have since gone on to volunteer within heritage or have been introduced to other initiatives run by cultural venues. As a result, when you go into a cultural space in Manchester, you are now much more likely to see learning disabled people involved in and taking ownership of our shared culture.

The symposium takes place from 10.00am – 4.00pm on Friday 25th May at the
Whitworth. Tickets are on sale now at http://bit.ly/BookMTCSymposium.
Twitter @VentureArts #MTCSymposium | Facebook @VentureArtsManchester |
Instagram @venturearts_
For more information or interviews please contact Kate Royle, mailto:comms@venturearts.org or call on
0161 232 1223

Oral History Training/Volunteering opportunity: History of Place Project

History of Place is offering a day of oral history training at M Shed Bristol on 30th January, followed by flexible opportunities to volunteer until April, taking oral histories of disabled people in Bristol.

Full details here:


Do pass this on to people who might like to take part – everyone is welcome, and we hope participants will pick up some useful transferable skills.

There’s also a HOP newsletter, which will carry events and further exhibition openings over the next few months – you can sign up at the top or bottom of the page here: http://historyof.place/events/

Labelled: The History of Neurodiversity in Pre-existing Museum and Archive Collections

Disability Co-operative Network

What is the Museum of the Labelled?

DCN is very proud to be supporting this project. Jess and DCN believe that museums can influence society. ‘Museum of the Labelled’ will help to break down barriers, stereotypes and give the participants confidence and self-awareness. Museum of the Labelled’ will gather people’s thoughts and experiences, positive and negative, to raise awareness of neurodiversity in society.

To enhance ‘Labelled’, Jess would also like members of the wider community to submit online their own stories, research, art and thoughts throughout the project. Participants will gain an understanding of themselves, give them an opportunity to be involved with a creative project and to develop a sense of belonging and improved wellbeing.

What does this mean for pre-existing collections?

Through the process of ‘Museum of the Labelled’ Jess will begin to create a wider neurodiversity archive of museum objects, art and people’s voices. Neurodiversity history is currently dispersed, with small collections across many museums and archives. Objects are often not recorded fully or used for public engagement. The project aim is to allow museums and collections to share their neurodiverse objects in a central place and allow the public to discover neurodiverse history and highlight hidden stories.

How will the Museum of the Labelled develop?

Jess would like to do this by delivering a participatory art project and by locating relevant museum objects. Participants will:
a) learn about neurodiversity history through exploring archives and museum objects.
b) reflect on their own personal experiences, in comparison to, and informed by, archive items from the selected neurodiversity collection.
c) use this as a catalyst to create new accessible art works. The group will learn about the history of neurodiversity through exploring archives and museum objects. A high proportion of people who are neurodiverse will at some point have a mental illness.

DCN are supporting this project and will be presenting at Neurodiversity and the Arts at Autograph, London on Thursday 9 November and MA Conference Festival of Change on Friday 17 November.

Slides from Museums Association conference are here Slides for the Museums Association

I think I have objects which may relate to this project, what do I do next?

Check out our handout Neurodiversity infographic master
If you have objects which you think will relate to the history of neurodiversity or you are not sure. Do get in touch with Becki at info@musedcn.org.uk or Jess at dyspraxicme@gmail.com

Participants Required: Impact of technology on the experience of blind and partially sighted visitors in museums

Disability Co-operative Network

Rafie is a PhD candidate at UCL. My research examines the impact of technology on the experience of visually impaired people in museums. I am looking for participants who are blind or partially sighted, and who are interested in museums and normally use technology during their everyday life.

Here is Rafie’s information in respect to her research:

It is ok if you have never visited a museum before, and even if you have been to the chosen museum already. I will be happy to assist you in the planning of the visit, should you require so.

Participating in this study involves visiting a museum of your choice between the Museum of London, the Wallace Collection, and the Victoria & Albert museum. It will be up to you to decide which museum to visit, when, how, for how long and with whom (although I recommend doing so with a companion). After your visit, I will conduct an interview about your experience that will last about one hour. The interview will not be about the content of the museum, and it is not a test: I only want to hear from you about your experience, your opinions and your ideas.

In case you are interested in taking part in this project, I have attached an information sheet with all the details about the study and about the participation.

I will be happy to discuss this further and answer any question or concern you might have in person, via email, or via phone/skype.

In case you are not interested in taking part in this study, but know someone that could be interested, I kindly ask you to forward this message to them.

Thank you for time, and I look forward to hearing back from you!


Rafie Cecilia
PhD candidate
UCL Institute of Archaeology
UCLIC Centre of Human-Computer Interaction



Tel: 07404463243



Unlocking the South West’s heritage for everyone: Volunteers needed

Heritage Ability and Heritage Lottery Fund


Photo Credit: Neil Warren

The South West is full of wonderful heritage places to explore, from caves to historic houses and sweeping landscapes. According to the Papworth Trust, disabled adults in the North and South West report the highest number of life areas (education and leisure) where participation is restricted.  Despite the efforts of museums, galleries and other leisure attractions, feedback from disabled and Deaf people suggests there is more that can be done to make these places more accessible.

The Heritage Ability project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund has a clear vision – to break down barriers at these heritage places, unlocking the South West for everybody to enjoy.

Photo Credit: Neil Warren

Heritage Ability is delivered by the charity Living Options Devon (no.1102489). The charity is user-led, meaning its staff and volunteers have first-hand experience of the issues faced by disabled and Deaf people. The charity’s mission is to ensure that people with disabilities and Deaf people across the South West have the opportunity to life the life they choose.

The Heritage Ability project will support at least 20 heritage places across the South West, from the West tip of Cornwall all the way to Gloucestershire to take a holistic view of accessibility – looking not just at doors, toilets and ramps, but at a whole range of aspects that shape the visitor’s experience. Interventions will include British Sign Language (BSL) videos, easy read literature, large-print format interpretation and visual stories to support a wide range of disabilities. Many sites will also benefit from an all-terrain scooter (Tramper), enabling them to access the outdoors like never before.

The project will also be informed and led by disabled volunteers, who will go undercover and mystery visit these heritage locations to give feedback. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to act as Heritage Ability champions, becoming an advocate for a heritage place or cluster of local heritage places to support these sites in a variety of ways. If you’d like to get involved and find out more about the project, visit www.heritageability.org

Consultation Opportunity (Questionnaire) Dyslexia and the Impact of Managerial Practices Research

Disability Co-operative Network


I’m trying to determine whether or not there is a relationship between managerial practices, and the impact on people with dyslexia regarding employment stability.

The study involves the completion of a short questionnaire which is available online and will take approximately 40 minutes to complete. Please click on the web link below to take part in the online questionnaire.

Link – https://stirling.onlinesurveys.ac.uk/dyslexia-and-the-impact-of-managerial-practice-research

Secondly in-depth interviews are available for anyone who would like to contribute further to the research and should last approximately two hours.

If you would like to participate in an interview and want to find out more, please email me at: dps00002@students.stir.ac.uk

The deadline is 19th July 2017.

Many thanks

Dean Smith

University of Stirling

NEWS: Reimagining the neurodiverse performance space – participants required

Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, Coventry

Culture Coventry are looking for participants in the following project:


Neuroaesthetics explores the synergy between the needs and interests of neurodiverse audiences, with the fascinations and performance modes utilised by live artists. Working in collaboration with young people who are largely non-verbal, with severe needs, the artists will be challenged to find meaningful points of collaboration, and together radically re-imagine the neurodiverse performance space.

Each artist will explore and reconfigure their distinct practice in this highly unpredictable, ‘extra live’ context with the support and guidance of the two lead artists. It is anticipated that seeing their work through this new lens and receiving unmediated audience responses will provoke rich new creative lines of enquiry.

Neuroaesthetics looks to challenge ideas of risk in a highly safeguarded area of work, and dismantle the idea of a fixed a ‘disabled theatre’ aesthetic to make way for new possibilities of making performance for and with this often sidelined group of individuals.

Application and further details:

Applications are open for artists to take park in the project this October.
The deadline for applications is Mon 19 June at 12noon.
Further details including how to apply are here:


Lingusio : the audio guide that removes barriers ~ Antonia Eggeling

Lingusio scarf

In future, museums will mainly be places of human encounters. Lingusio is more than just an audio guide. Inclusively created content and an unconventional design promote a lively interaction regardless of knowledge or skills. The guide not only recognizes the right of people with disabilities to equally take part with others in cultural activities, but it has a profound impact on the entire museum: Lingusio offers the possibility to see artworks from a whole new perspective to regular visitors, experts, as well as new audience groups.

The innovative audio guide was developed in cooperation with experts in the fields both of museums and people with learning difficulties in order to create a new way to experience a museum visit.



The project addresses the inclusion and accessibility of people with learning difficulties in Museums. As determined in the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (United Nations), “States Parties recognize the right of persons with disabilities to take part in an equal basis with others in cultural life”[1]. Likewise accessibility is a crucial part of the concept and also regularized by law. The regulations apply not only to physical barriers, but also to those with regard to content and mediation.

The project aims to make content more accessible for people with learning difficulties. Moreover, it opens it to a broader public and therefore provides future business ideas for museums in general.



Lingusio Scarf in use
Lingusio Scarf in use

Lingusio is a hardware device that enables the simple and understandable dissemination of content not only for people with learning difficulties but all visitors. The formal difference to an ordinary audio guide is obvious: it’s a scarf. The device features a barrier-free design and intuitive functions that represent a significant improvement over a regular audio guide. Formal and technical aspects of the product follow the principles of universal design.

Lingusio rests on the shoulders of the visitor like a scarf. One end of the device serves as a speaker, the other as volume control. A reader is located in the scarf and enables the automatic identification of the artwork within a certain radius. As soon as the speaker-part of the scarf is raised for listening, the corresponding track starts to play.

Above all, however, the design has a large impact on the handling and therefore also on the behaviour of users. Previously museum visitors were closed off permanently from their environment due to headphones. In contrast, the scarf enables an “open ear” and thus a more conscious perception of the environment.




People with learning difficulties not only have had direct input on the design of the device, but also on the content of the audio guides – making access to museum content simpler and easier for everyone.

In a co-creation workshop, people with learning difficulties and museum educators deal intensively with the artworks of a future exhibition. The aim is to gather three very different descriptions, opinions or ideas for each piece of art. These heterogeneous contents are then transferred to audio guides that are visually distinguished by three different colours.



Lingusio scarf
Lingusio scarf

The aim of the special design in the shape of a scarf is to share the content with visitors wearing another color. The awareness that he or she might be listening to something else arouses curiosity and encourages people to talk. Lingusio therefore not merely transmit information and broaden perspective, but function primarily as a basis for discussion and facilitate encounters with other visitors.



Lingusio scarf - interaction between visitors
Lingusio scarf – interaction between visitors

The goal of the project was to develop a product concept that introduces not only people with learning difficulties to the yet unknown and with numerous psychological barriers afflicted context of museums. The goal was to create something that promotes interaction between all visitors and therefore includes various people. Consequently, the information based on the research with a specific target group has a profound impact on the entire museum, including experts, regular visitors and new audience groups.

A significant personal development of the co-designers in the course of the project could be observed. The initial intimidation created by the museum halls disappeared. All participants were full of self-confidence, curiosity and drive. Having attended the workshop enabled them to move freely and express their opinion about the works in the exhibition.

The active involvement of people with learning difficulties in the development of contents, offers the opportunity to develop creative and intellectual potential – this encourages the participants and allows wide parts of society to partake in this project.

“The project proves that the removal of barriers for people with learning difficulties provides additional value for society as a whole. At the same time, is creates possibilities for innovative business ideas.”

(Tobias Marczinzik, PIKSL)

Antonia Eggeling
Designer of the Audio Scarf

In cooperation with the PISKL experts






[1] United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, article 30, see http://www.institut-fuer-menschenrechte.de/fileadmin/user_upload/PDF-Dateien/Pakte_Konventionen/CRPD_behindertenrechtskonvention/crpd_en.pdf


The Employers Stammering Network

Employers Stammering Network

What is it?

The Employers Stammering Network is a membership network of employers where Network members and supporters are committed to creating a culture where people who stammer can achieve their full career potential.

Launched in 2013, Employers Stammering Network members employ over 1.5 million people, with employees who stammer playing a leading role

The Employers Stammering Network is hosted by the British Stammering Association and is the first network of its kind anywhere

Why have a network?

In many workplaces there is little awareness or understanding of the issues that affect the 500,000 adults in the UK who stammer. Since people who stammer may go to great lengths to hide it, their colleagues may not realise what they are going through

Employers rate highly the qualities that people who stammer often possess, including resilience, empathy, listening skills and creativity. However research tells us that a huge stigma surrounds stammering and discrimination is commonplace.

We’re here to change this and show that’s it’s totally OK to stammer at work.

What do we do?

  • Increase awareness and understanding of stammering, making it possible to speak openly about it
  • Help members develop and lead internal networks to support positive change and build confidence amongst employees who stammer
  • Strengthen and develop partnerships between and beyond our members
  • Share learning and practice and provide mutual member support.

Four examples of activities

  1. Campaign posters to raise interest and challenge stereotypes
  • With pro bono support from Ogilvy & Mather we have a fantastic set of templates that members have adapted for posters, banners and leaflets.
  • These feature real individuals who stammer and demonstrate their strengths, why they are an asset to their employers and how both employers and employees benefit from being themselves at work.

EY launched their version to great effect on International Stammering Awareness Day on 22 October 2015.

EY Poster - Dinesh

  1. Ground-breaking workshops
  • We have run a very successful series of three workshops for employees who stammer (first series by invitation to members) on Re-defining Stammering at Work. We plan to re-run this
  • We also offer a workshop for HR, recruitment, diversity & inclusion, line and counselling managers, open to members and non-members (reduced fee for member organisations). This can also be offered in-house to employers by arrangement (fee)

For more information on workshops please contact Helen Carpenter, ESN Membership Manager hc@stammering.org or 020 8983 1003

  1. Events

We hold high-profile networking events for member organisations and supporters

Speakers Event - Nov 2015
Speakers Event – Nov 2015
  1. Information and advice
  • Our dedicated web pages provide a lot of useful information available to all employees and employers stammering.org/esn
  • We also provide briefing and information packs on stammering and communication at work for members

Do you support the Employers Stammering Network and the British Stammering Association? Six ways to stay in touch

Can we help you?

  • Perhaps you are planning an event at your workplace related to stammering or want some help in doing so?
  • Want more information about how your organisation can join the Employers Stammering Network?
  • Or maybe you’d like to explore further with us what you can do in your workplace?

Contact Helen Carpenter, ESN Membership Manager on hc@stammering.org or 020 8983 1003.

We’re always glad to hear from you!

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
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!

The Secret Museum: Film Production with Autistic Young People ~ Suzanne Cohen

Filmmaker and educator Suzanne Cohen talks about her experiences of delivering media projects at the British Museum.

I have been facilitating weeklong film projects for young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASD) (13 – 19 years) in the summer holidays for the last seven years with an organization called Camden Summer University in collaboration with speech and language therapists from Whittington Health NHS.

Most of the courses have been hosted by the British Museum which is an excellent venue as it offers a large classroom plus lots of break out spaces for small group work, access to the collection and a very supportive environment created by Education Manager Katharine Hoare who we work closely with.

My role has been to devise exciting projects inspired by the location/exhibitions using a range of filmmaking techniques, which develop vocational skills. The end product is screened at a cinema in the British Museum in the Camden Summer University Young People’s Film Festival, which motivates us to do bigger and better things each year.

Of course the other important aim is to develop communication and interpersonal skills through group work. This gives the participants the opportunity to meet and make friends with other young people with similar interests who also have social communication difficulties or ASD.

Kate Bayley (Speech and Language Therapist – Team Leader) explains that ‘the course targets a number of vital skills for adulthood such as confidence, teamwork and independence. Social anxiety and individual needs can be supported by the therapists, so that the young people are free to focus on enjoying the galleries of the British Museum, and learning film skills from a professional. The feedback we get from young people and parents is that this can be a huge step in these young people’s lives!’

I was new to working with young people with ASD and initially I found it a struggle because things seemed to move slowly due to a range of issues which varied from student to student. These included short attention spans, focusing in on minute details, difficulties sharing and accepting others opinions, and lacking confidence/proficiency with IT.

In addition the young people with ASD found it difficult at times to be flexible and work in groups which led to some arguments and conflicts with each other. Increasing the number of adults present helped to ensure that everyone could supported to engage in the group as much as they wanted whilst allowing them opportunities to be taken out of the group situation if things became overwhelming for them. This year we had ten young people plus nine adults (myself and an assistant, a parent and 7 speech and language therapists per day).  Some of the young people knew each other from previous years and it was lovely to see them becoming more comfortable within the group situation.

The speech and language therapists have helped me to adapt my teaching for working with groups of young people with ASD, in the following ways:

  • Tightly structured activities, which get looser as the week progresses.
  • Presenting lesson plans on the board at the start of each section so expectations are clear and students know what to focus on now and what is happening next.
  • Explaining abstract concepts more thoroughly using simple unambiguous language and visual examples wherever possible
  • Including movement breaks to assist concentration and help students calm down or re-energise accordingly.
  • Class discussions need some preparation to be fruitful, e.g. break out into pairs first to enable them time and space to sound out or write down their views with others before contributing to the whole group .

The concept of ‘The Secret Museum’ animation was inspired by the mini tours we had been given to areas of the museum, which are not accessible to the public. The story is about a youth group on a day trip to the museum. We focus on four characters that get distracted by something and are lured away into a secret realm where they encounter an object come to life. Finally they come out of the situation unscathed returning to normality.

The idea was to make a collaborative film where each small group devised a main character and wrote and directed their particular storyline. I provided the narrative structure in order to pull the whole thing together and to help the students to create a more focused storyline. The speech and language therapists encouraged the use of interior monologues to develop empathy skills.

We used stop frame animation rather than live action party because the young people found exaggerated characterisation , facial expressions and movements easier to perform than ‘natural’  acting skills.

Each group storyboarded, shot, acted in and edited their sections, which were combined into a 4.5 minute film. You can see the results here (https://t.co/J3cdhd9gen); it is brimming with ideas and humour and is technically very proficient.

It has been great to see some of the young people returning year after year. I find the groups stimulating to teach and think the work they produce is very unique.

Here’s another animation (https://t.co/ykYsXsm8Sw) using monologues with avatars inspired by the Life and death
 Pompeii and Herculaneum exhibition.


Feel the Force Day III, 10 October 2015

Feel the force day welcome

Does inclusion have to cost the earth?  No.

We recently visited Feel the Force Day in Peterborough.  Feel the Force Day is the world’s only Film and TV Convention for people with disabilities and visual impairment. It should be noted that Feel the Force Day is for all, however it is marketed as such as a number of the larger comic con style events are understood to be not accessible to disabled audiences.

Feel the force day - Main event hall
Feel the force day – Main event hall

Feel the Force Day is now in its third year, with a second ‘sister’ Feel the Force Day to be launched in Plymouth.   The organisation is run by two people and a team of volunteers.  They are an incredible group of people whose enthusiasm for sci-fi, film and TV is evident when you visit. But their commitment to access to all to engagement in public spaces is evident by the sheer numbers in attendance (5,000 people visited this year for the 1 day event) and the charged positive atmosphere on the site.

The day itself is accessible on a number of levels.  Firstly, cost is incredibly low in comparison to a similar event.  Each ticket costs £3.30 per person.  We spent almost 5 hours at the event, which for £3.30 a ticket is an absolute treat itself.

Feel the force day - sensory table
Feel the force day – sensory table

Secondly, there is lots to do and all manners of engagement.  Such items on offer were touch tables for people who were visually impaired.  These tables had masks, toys, tactile shapes of transport vehicles and fighter ships. Also toys to touch for the concept of what is on screen, such as lightsabres and Doctor Who daleks.  There is the fantastic concept project of ‘Think Stink’ which is a selection of bottles and jars with various concoctions of herbs, spices and other things to create what a place smells like.  So, the Forest of Endor has smells of herbs, trees and plants in a small smoothie bottle.


Feel the force day - Dalek from Dr Who
Feel the force day – Dalek from Dr Who

There were over 1000 costumers, who enabled people to touch their costumes so to interpret what C-3PO looked like, what shape R2 was.  But also to interact with the audience, including young children, family groups and adults.  The costumers really ‘gelled’ with the audience by little quips and comments and engaged into conversation.

Thirdly, the audience meet actors and actresses.  During the day we met actors and celebrities from TV and film.  These included Ian McNeice who was recently ‘Winston Churchill’ in Doctor Who, Jeremy Bulloch who was ‘Boba Fett’ in the original Star Wars trilogy, and Trevor and Simon from Going Live.   We also had

Feel the force day - TV's Trevor and Simon
Feel the force day – TV’s Trevor and Simon

illustrators, the Department of Ability and a Paralympian.

During the day, there were projects highlighted on the main stage including local schools and groups, with a number of organisations and local support groups available.

The key is this, often inclusion is mistakenly seen as a costly venture.  Here it is difficult to see why.  Feel the Force Day does not have a high budget.  Instead it is based on building partnerships and with careful planning and evaluation.

The organisation has the confidence to talk to people, to network and generate new partnerships with local and national organisations.  Inside the large reception area are pitches by local charities and organisations to inspire and support families and individuals.

Feel the Force Day is now raising their profile via fundraising and appeals for Feel the Force Day IV which will be held on 1st October 2016.  More details to be found on there website:  http://www.feeltheforceday.com/


Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability Was Kept in A Box ~ Mat Fraser and Research Centre for Museums and Galleries, University of Leicester

Critically acclaimed actor and performance artist Mat Fraser was commissioned by the Research Centre for Museums and Galleries at the University of Leicester to create a new artistic work, shaped out of a collaborative engagement with museum collections, research and expertise in medical history, museums and disability. This was a key part of the Stories of a Different Kind project (July 2012 – Feb 2014). Cabinet of Curiosities: How Disability was kept in a box reassessed the ways in which disability and disabled people are portrayed in museums.

To see Mat’s Keynote Speech at the Museums Association Annual Conference and the Cabinet of Curiosities project, please see here:


Social Media 101 for Community of Persons with Disabilities ~ Debra Ruh, @debraruh

I am often asked why I adore social media.  Why?  It has the power to change lives and connect the community of persons with disabilities.  It is critical for the billion people with disabilities globally to come together on social media.  If our community came together on social media – we would be hard to ignore.  My daughter Sara has Down syndrome and she has made many friends on social media.

Social media is all about connecting, engaging and being social.  People do not want to be ‘talked at” or not ‘followed.  People want to follow someone that is real and engages back with others.  They want to get acknowledgment when they share your work.  They want to ask questions, get answers and have the ability to learn from each other.

I am still surprised by the number of people that will not follow others back.  Social media is SOCIAL.  I am blessed by my followers and enjoy engaging with these amazing people.  I have a pretty solid following and always try to follow back.  If I have missed you – just send me a note on social media and I will follow you.  However – I do not follow accounts that are up to mischief, porn, nasty posts.  I believe in free speech but do not want to contribute to negative or hurtful chatter on social media. I like @TedRubin advice and his hashtag #BeKind.

I believe that social media can be used for great good and great evil.  This medium cannot be ignored by the community of individuals with disabilities.  We must engage and empower with each other.  Plus show solid examples of how and why persons with disabilities add value to society and the workforce.

I use social media to chatter about Inclusion, Digital Divide, Disability Inclusion, ICT Accessibility, Digital Media, Women’s Issues, Civil Rights, Social Business, Robotics, Wearables, IoT, 3D Printing, Smart Cities and Social Good.

I believe that our community is starting to find our voices via social media.  However, there are some accessibility problems with social media.  Individuals with disabilities are often left out of the social media conversation because the social media platforms and apps are inaccessible.  Social media has to be accessible or we continue to widen the Digital Divide.  For example, video needs captions, graphics and pictures need text equivalents.

The Internet and Social Media has opened many opportunities and has improved the quality of life for these users, but many still face barriers.  If social media tools are not accessible those platforms stand to lose out to competitors that make the tools accessible for everyone.  Accessibility should be built into the system, website, app and platform just like privacy and security.

The good news is that social media applications can be made fully accessible allowing everyone to use them. Those efforts will support persons with disabilities, individuals that speak other languages, ICT novice and older users too.

Tips for engaging on social media and finding your voice:


It is critical to engage on social media to take full advantage of these powerful mediums.  For example: use the requote option on twitter to share good content and comment on the content.  Even saying – ‘good content – worth a share’ is appreciated by the authors of the post.  Or Say – “hello – thanks for the follow”.


Please follow others back if you like their content. Following and engaging are critical on social media.


Share content that speaks to you.  If you like the content – chances are others in your network will also enjoy it. Help spread the word about good content by sharing with your network.


It is critical to use #hashtags to help others find your content.  Hashtag important words in your posts like #disabilities, #socialgood, #accessibility and other keywords that people are tracking.  That way others can find your posts. Also this is a great way to find good people to follow.


Join multiple social media platforms (Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, G+, Instagram, and Pinterest are a few common ones) to help build your network and following.


Use tools like Buffer App, Manage Flitter, KLOUT, Tweet Deck or Hootsuite to help manage activities and posts


Create a post to reward companies that are including us.  If a company includes a person with disabilities in their post – reward them by doing a post that reinforces their good behavior. Or a corporation gets recognized in the media for employing persons with disabilities.  Give them a positive shoutout on social media. When @Toyota supported the @SpecialOlympics. I tweeted their content and thanked them for supporting our community.


Often people join social media and start pushing their services or products (books, public speaking).  It is okay to share a little about your services but keep it to a minimum.  It is better to offer good content, share others content, engage and only occasionally talk about your services.  If you share good content people will take the time to learn about your services.


Take the time to set up a good profile that tells followers about your work.  Include your website if you have one and use keywords to describe yourself.  A good profile is worth its weight in gold.  


Social media can be used to help the community of individuals with disabilities find our voice.  We can break down the barriers that prevent us from being taken seriously as a community and market.


I had the pleasure to start #AXSChat with two partners from the UK, Neil Milliken @neilmilliken and Antonio Santos @akwyz.

AXSCHat is an open online community of individuals dedicated to creating an inclusive world; we believe that accessibility is for everyone. Social media has great power to connect people and we hope to accomplish and encourage in-depth discussion and spread knowledge about the work people are doing to enable greater access and inclusion through whatever means.

We host weekly video interviews and twitter chats with people who are contributing to making the world a more inclusive place through technology or innovating to enable wider participation in society for people with disabilities.

The topics will be wide ranging and we want to encourage discussion and ensure everyone has a voice on social media so we encourage you to take part by tweeting and using the hashtag #axschat.

We hold the chat every Tuesday at 3pmEST and 8pm GMT.  #AXSChat is a popular chat and is joined by people that are interested in accessibility, disability inclusion and empowerment from all over the world.  We would be honored for you to join the chat. You can learn more and view accessible and captioned videos of past guests at www.AXSChat.com

Also want to know more about this topic – consider my book.  “Find Your Voice using Social Media” http://ow.ly/kxglR and please follow me @debraruh and I will follow you back.


Remember as @tedcoine a brilliant leader that also has dyslexia says, ‘Be a Giver not a Taker’.


To learn more about Debra Ruh, visit our website at www.ruhglobal.com or via social media @debraruh or @sararuh.

Danger! Men at Work ~ Ed Watts

Danger Men at Work Sign in displace case.

Founded in 1889 as the first English gallery in a park, the Whitworth has been transformed by a £15 million development. This is a gallery whose visitor numbers have climbed spectacularly in the past five years, whose contemporary exhibitions programmes have given new life to international collections, and whose risk-taking curatorial team has gained global attention.

Part of the University of Manchester, the Whitworth is a gallery that is a place of research and academic collaboration, and whose education and learning teams have generated new approaches to working with non-traditional arts audiences.

Yet despite its ambition and change, the Whitworth is also a gallery that has retained a sense of the personal, the intimate and the playful. It is a place that its visitors love, and feel that they own. For them and for us, the Whitworth is simply the gallery in the park, one of the most remarkable galleries in the north of England.

Over the last year the Whitworth, part of the University of Manchester, turned our attention to addressing a traditionally under-represented audience within cultural activities, older men. This May was the focal point for this work as we launched publications, research, programmes and an exhibition, exploring older men’s participation in society and culture.

The presence of older men within activities at the Whitworth, or lack of, has been apparent for some time. Despite being in Manchester, a city known nationally and internationally for its Age Friendly credentials, older men still fall into a minority within such activities at the gallery. Through conversations with fellow programmers from other cultural organisations, big and small, it became clear this was not just a problem in Manchester.

The closure of the Whitworth for a major fifteen million pound redevelopment gave a unique opportunity to explore this is in further detail, in anticipation of engaging this audience in all of what the new Whitworth has to offer. To understand why older men were not getting involved in such activities, you first need understand what made those activities, that did appeal, so successful. The gallery also wanted to ensure that older men’s voices were at the heart of this research, speaking with those that participate and those that do not. To get their views on why they get involved and possibly more importantly, why they choose not to.

“It’s a lot harder to get through to men. I think men in general are hesitant about joining anything, and I think word of mouth is better from a member than someone who’s running it.” – Participant

The findings of this report, A Handbook for Cultural Engagement with Older Men, were all been gathered through conversations, with groups, artists, organisations and most importantly with older men. Whilst the Whitworth has been closed Ed Watts, Engagement Manager, took to the road, travelling the breadth of the United Kingdom from Glasgow to Bethnal Green, from Rhyl to Belfast and meeting some real characters along the way. These conversations highlighted the diversity of this group that is often too readily described as simply “older men”. These groups are made up of men of all shapes and sizes from a variety of cultural and social backgrounds. It’s clear that an over fifties group can often work “intergenerationally” without the need to involve any primary school. These discussions opened up an array of wider debates, from funding and the role of the NHS to opening the can of worms that is gender stereotypes. It was these notions of “being a man” that made the diversity of the selected case studies so important.

“I can hardly draw a breath, never mind put pen to paper!” – Participant

This handbook, funded by the Baring Foundation, features six case studies of existing best practice from across the UK.  The case studies were selected to show the diversity of this work and included, Burrell for Blokes in Glasgow, a Men’s Shed in Rhyl, a Bengali men’s dance group in London, Out in the City, a LGBT group in Manchester, Equal Arts in Gateshead and the Live and the Learn project with National Museums Northern Ireland. The handbook outlines key findings, including recruitment and barriers, programming and participation, what kind of activities and models of participation older men would like cultural organisations to offer and impact, exploring the motivations and self-reported benefits for older men of engaging in cultural group activities.

At times these conversations were been side splittingly funny and spine tinglingly emotional in equal measure. It was moving to hear these men talk passionately about the impact these activities have had on the quality of their lives. Whether through improved health and wellbeing or simply making friends and developing new social networks, each story emphasised the importance of this work and the need to spread the word to the more isolated older men within our communities.

“That’s the one thing that’s kept me alive. I would not be here today. I’ve discovered all sorts of things. I mean my main objective is meeting people, that’s what it’s involved. I love all the groups- I’m part of it”  – Participant

Alongside this research, a special exhibition was developed with a group of older men in our new Collections Centre, a public space where visitors can gain access to our collections more easily. This new space is where we can show, share and care for our important collections – opening them up for research and display in new ways. Danger! Men at Work, has been co-curated with a group of older male residents at Anchor Housing Trust’s Beechfield Lodge care home in Salford. The residents were visited by a artists, curators and conservators from the Whitworth and consulted about the new exhibition, which explores notions of masculinity, identity and ageing. The group, made up of a retired postal worker, a civil servant, teacher, crane engineer and bus driver, had full control to decide which exhibits and artefacts should feature in the exhibition, which has been funded by the Baring Foundation to tackle isolation and loneliness in older men. The exhibition has been open since May and has proven so popular with visitors it has been extended until October, five months longer than it had originally been programmed for.


Ed Watts
Engagement Manager
The Whitworth

Neurodiversity in Employment by Sean Gilroy and Leena Haque

So, what is Neurodiversity and why are we interested in it?  Well, Neurodiversity refers to conditions which cause a person to process information differently; Autism Spectrum Condition, Asperger’s, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dyspraxia and other neurological conditions are becoming increasingly known by the term Neurodiversity and they affect at least one in 25 people.

We started working together around 3 years ago, after I (Leena, Hello) joined the BBC through the Extend Scheme – an employment scheme aimed at people with disabilities.  This is when I met Sean, who was to be my line manager (Hello.)  Now, while we each had relevant experience of each other’s respective fields, we noticed that there was a lack of information regarding Neurodiversity from the perspective of the new employee and for the employer.

Specifically, we felt there was a lack of information regarding awareness of hidden conditions and the effective management of neurodiverse individuals. Likewise we felt that there was similar lack of resources for people with hidden conditions to access when facing the prospect of applying for roles or starting employment.   Basically, where was the consolidated best practice for employers to draw on which provided support for both managers and staff.

So, we set up an anonymous, online survey to explore both the employment experiences for people with hidden disabilities and the knowledge and awareness of line managers. We promoted the survey via social media – an excellent forum often frequented by Neurodiverse individuals and anonymous so as to encourage people to tell us how they really feel.

We managed to get an excellent response to this, 470 people completed the survey broadly split 70/30 between staff and managers.  There were positive stories out there from people that replied, citing the individual creativity of line managers and where people felt they were being actively supported.  But there was also the message that Stigma is still a concern for people and that managers didn’t always know where to go for support and information.

Until recently the disadvantages and negatives of hidden disabilities (if not all disability) have been focused on, while the special talents that often come with these conditions are overlooked. From our perspective on this project, the need to increase awareness is mainly about dispelling the myths, perceptions and even prejudices people may have about these conditions, especially in employment.

This situation is possibly easier to understand if we consider that the conversation around diversity in the work place usually concentrates on visible differences; race, religion and physical disabilities. Increasingly though, more companies are now recognising the need to embrace, nurture and facilitate those with hidden disabilities, especially in those areas where Neurodiversity tends to excel – Creativity and Technology.

While organisations are increasingly aware of the broadest spectrum of what Diversity means, there are still those barriers to employment which Neurodiverse individuals have to overcome in order to get the chance of employment.

Take for example the application and interview process, once you have managed to find a job you’re interested in.  The first barrier is having to complete an application form, which is often full of employment jargon, non-specific descriptions of responsibilities and hidden expectations.  The type-face and font may not be easy to read and decipher and it can be unclear as to who and how you might ask for assistance.  There is also only the one way to apply – in writing, which is not necessarily someone’s preferred method.

Then, if you manage to be selected after deciphering the application, the second barrier is having to suffer a face-to-face interview.  How best to cope with the protocol of maintaining eye contact, answering open-ended questions based on hypothetical scenarios or being invited to give a brief history of your experience to date.

To be fair, as well as anyone with ASC for example, this process is something many of us will probably relate a certain sense of anxiety to.  Which brings us on to a rather interesting side-effect of our research…

When we highlight some of those aspects we’ve identified as being problematic for Neurodiverse conditions, we often receive a positive response from Neurotypical people.  Whether it be the anxieties of applications, the patterns on the wall or floor being distracting, social cues at work being misunderstood, buildings being difficult to navigate or emails difficult to read; it appears that we all share certain things that we would like to change, that perhaps we are all on the spectrum?

So, if we can make changes to help people with Neurodiverse conditions the payback could be larger, in that these changes are likely to help a wider population.  If we can review our recruitment practices, we may begin to identify new streams of talent.  And if we look at making the working environment accessible for all, considering both physical and hidden disabilities, that retention rates and working efficiency could improve for everyone.

We believe it is important to keep in mind that an individual is a unique learner; that no two people are exactly the same and no two people learn and work in exactly the same manner. If we can open up to new ideas and allow individuals to demonstrate skills and talents in a way they feel best able, might we not be able to find more appropriate ways to identify and retain key talent in the workplace.