Theatre is an important way for people to express themselves – and for people to enjoy participating in and watching – and I’m very glad to see that the theatre opportunities available for visually impaired people are growing. Extant, the UK’s leading performing arts company by and for visually impaired people, is playing a big role in this. I recently attended an Extant showcase event of seven short, 15 minute, scenes by visually impaired playwrights. Some had a sight loss theme, while some were just visually impaired people getting on with their lives, but they were all interesting to watch.
I’m very excited that Maria Oshodi, Extant’s Artistic Director and Chief Executive, has asked me to be on a judging panel for their bursary scheme. The scheme will support UK-based visually impaired artists who want to try something new. There are 15 people who have been nominated and I’m really looking forward to being on the panel, and seeing how we can help these people and how their stories can help other people.
Continuing with the theatre theme of this blog so far, I’m looking forward to attending a play called On the Tracks written by Lucy Hayward in Birmingham this evening (Tuesday 10th April). On the Tracks is designed to be accessible for blind and partially sighted audiences without wearing headphones and having visual clues explained so it will be good to see how this works! I’m looking forward to catching up with Lucy who I haven’t seen for a while. Many of you will know her from her various activities including the early days of the Birmingham Sight Loss Council.
The England Vision Strategy National Conference 2018 is coming up next month. I’m delighted that the keynote speaker for the Conference will be Sarah Newton MP, Minister of State for Disabled People, Health and Work. We’re looking forward to hearing from Sarah, and the launch of the new EVS priorities for 2018-2021, as well as hearing about the good work taking place across England.
Last, but not least, an update on “In Your Pocket” , an accessible media device which gives people access to newspapers, book, magazines and podcasts when you want them, developed by Roger Wilson Hinds, who many of you will also know. We have been testing 25 of the Pockets and one of the things we’ve been waiting for the device to be able to do is voice activated phone calls – and now they can! This is an exciting update to the Pocket as it means people will no longer need to carry two devices, a mobile phone and the Pocket, if they don’t want to.
Photo credit: The Extant website