In early 2020 I delivered a series of three workshops for Higher National Diploma photography students at Sandwell College with support from Multistory and course leader David Waldron. These formed part of the Photography, Art and Design 2020 syllabus, intended to increase understanding of individual wellbeing.
The first workshop introduced the ethics of photographing blind and visually impaired people, and included discussion on assisting Sandwell Visually Impaired (SVI) members in navigating the studio. Students were made aware that light sensitivity can be a problem and flashlights disorientating. The second workshop aimed to create a Graphics Interchange Format (GIF) that shows what it is like to negotiate a crowd with a white cane. The GIF, produced by Angela Grabowska and Terry Burling from SVI, with my audio description, was shown as part of National Eye Health Week 21 – 27 September 2020 by Multistory, Sandwell Council, and Sandwell Visually Impaired. The third workshop explored how blind and visually impaired people might be fully represented in advertising. Accompanying audio description will ensure that the blind and visually impaired fully understand the advertisement.
Central to each session was the sharing of stories to secure understanding of all that full-sighted, blind and visually impaired people have in common.
The workshops led to a fun event at the Portway Leisure Centre, Oldbury, with me being photographed in the water at the time of an SVI aquafit class. In addition, Seeing in Isolation formed friendships that led to further cooperation and collaboration, for example Stephen Keenan from SVI photographing other members, which was featured in the Multistory blog in November 2020.
A crucial outcome of these workshops was the raising of awareness that blind and visually impaired people have a great deal to offer their community and need not be defined solely by the limitations of their sight.