I recently had the pleasure of meeting Camilla and Liz from Living Paintings, a charity for blind and partially sighted people. So amazed by their journey and their vision for the future, I am inspired to share with you a little something about the work that they do and the difference they make to peoples lives on a day to day basis.
Living paintings was founded by Alison Oldland MBE in 1989. Alison was a lecturer in Art History and had recently adopted a trainee guide dog that didn’t quite make it to fully qualified but was destined to be a wonderful family pet. As a thank-you, Alison decided to give a sequence of lectures in Art History to raise money for Guide Dogs for the Blind in which she spoke about works of art projected onto a large screen. Knowing that the Head of Appeals for Guide Dogs, Tony Castleton, was in the audience for her first lecture and that he could not see, she went about describing in great detail each work of art that appeared on the screen. This impressed Tony so much that he asked Alison to record a series of descriptions for other works of art that he could keep personally and enjoy within the comfort of his own home. This was the beginnings of the idea that formed Living Paintings.
The award winning charity focuses on creating Touch To See books. These are tactile books which also include audio descriptions that are designed, created and published for blind and partially sighted people. These books often include raised images, initially carved in wood and then transferred to plastic, painted by hand with accompanying audio descriptions often read by well known figures. They have a large library of books and packs aimed at everyone from pre-school to adults which promotes learning and enhances the lifestyle of those who use them. Apart from this ground breaking approach, another amazing achievement is that the entire library is available for anyone to borrow books totally free of charge, giving everybody the chance to enjoy and benefit from the experience.
In the world of art, design and print, the needs of blind and partially sighted people are often overlooked. Living Paintings does a wonderful job in making people aware that everyone is entitled to enjoy art and have the right to a good education and quality of life. It has made me personally aware that in any work that we do, we shouldn’t forget that there is a whole audience out there who want to engage with us in this area. How do we do this? Maybe, look at our websites. Are they fully accessible? What can we do to improve the readability in this area? Think about each design we create. How inclusive is it? Is there any way it can reach more people?
Along with continuing to build their current library, Living Paintings’ ultimate aim is to to create a central hub in which partially sighted and blind people can enjoy a complete web experience all in one place. Along with borrowing books to enjoy at home, they will also be able to visit the website and learn about associated subjects in great detail, including, links, video and sound. They aim to make their website and library accessible to the blind and partially sighted community, a large number of which are currently unaware that a charity and service like this currently exists.
The charity relies heavily on donations and a large number of volunteers. Please take a moment to check out their website and gain awareness in this area, read their success stories or maybe spread word that there are still so many people that are yet to know and in turn benefit from the wonderful work this charity does.
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