In Touch with Art Conference
In Touch with Art Conference
The Dog Rose Trust is exhibiting at the In Touch with Art Conference at the V&A on October 13th. A leaflet has been put together about the work of the Trust and the text of it can be found below.
The Work of the Dog Rose Trust
For more than 20 years the award-winning Dog Rose Trust has been at the forefront of interpretation in sound and touch for people who are blind and visually impaired. From a start with the University of Birmingham’s Cathedrals Through Touch and Hearing to innovative 3D printing the aim of the Trust has been to research and develop more effective techniques for everyone to use. Universal and multi-sensory design is key to the work of the Trust and the research that is carried out. We work with colleagues who are visually impaired, including our close friend and advisor, St. Dunstaner, Eric Sayce.
Technology has moved on fast over the 20 years but little advantage has been taken of it in the field of interpretation for people with visual impairments. In way-finding talking sat-navs are a great advance and blind people can use computers with ease. But many museums and galleries seem to be still in the touch-screen, inaccessible era; there are plenty of solutions out there, but little support for them.
Some years ago we worked with a firm in Cardiff to produce silk screen printed panels on powder-coated steel that could be used out of doors, a particularly important point for us. These worked very successfully, combining full colour pictures, text, raised images and Braille and were durable and colourfast. Somerset Council installed over 40 of them around the Avalon Marshes and the Trust produced an accompanying CD and tactile booklet. Now the new tactile printing methods is a versatile Roland printer that does colour printing as well as raised images and Braille
When we were consulting with colleagues for the Ludlow audio guides, a particular request was for a model of the Castle and we have now been able to provide this, thanks to an Equality and Diversity Grant. It has been created by 3D printing, a rapid-prototyping technique.
‘3D tactile models are an essential component of any interpretation system, providing the information with the fingers which the eye cannot see’, wrote Eric Sayce and we agree.
We have worked on a range of methods: Lost wax bronze casting, etched zinc, hand-made wooden models for casting, 3D cintered nylon, sand cast bronze, carved limewood, cast glass, china clay models of cups and copper foil images with school children.
Now with money even shorter imaginations need to come into play. How can we make exhibitions, galleries, heritage sites accessible to all? Let’s face it: models and raised printing are not cheap.
There are small low tech solutions for the short-term such as Bumpons to mark the position of switches and buttons and Wikkisticks that can give the outline of an image. These are not durable in the long term but are cheap and easy to replace and we are sure you all use swell paper for tactile images.
In the recording field there are many innovations to make the sound of an audio guide more evocative and descriptive of its situation. We record in situ whenever we can but if we cannot, we add appropriate sound to complement the narration.
For the recent Ludlow Castle recording we had a special session with some musicians who play medieval music so that we could, at the suggestion of our blind colleagues, highlight the usage of each area: dance music for the great hall and plainchant for the chapel and so on. A ruin, however picturesque, needs ‘peopling’.
Audio playback systems and internet downloads have seen a great advance in recent years and we make use of the internet to allow everyone to access our recordings. One listener from America wrote: ‘The UK seems to be slightly or more so ahead of the USA when it comes to making things more accessible to blind people.’
We have to be careful that we are not reinventing the wheel, but it’s now hard to find out what else is being done, especially in other countries. Perhaps a forum on the internet could be set up for this.
Make your own audio guide: we set up an audio course for heritage organisations to learn to do this, but few people took it up, so we spent the grant on publishing a book – Another Eyesight, which tells all: it is available from www.dogrosepress.co.uk - in print and as a Word file on CD.
The Ludlow Museum audio guide, made in 2010, worked with local people, including college students, to record all the narration, oral history and extra information sections.
Recording can be done cheaply and easily on solid state recording machines which cost less than £300: we use an Edirol RO9 and the Audacity editing programme can be downloaded free. Write a good script, record and edit it and you are away and you can do all the updating yourself at no extra cost.
Julia Ionides and Peter Howell, The Dog Rose Trust, 83 Greenacres, Ludlow, Shropshire SY8 1LZ
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