Monday, 27 October 2014

Steering Group Meeting:
October 23rd 2014

The Envision steering group and I met at the RNIB headquaters in Judd Street, London, last Thursday to discuss the next steps in regards to our coffee shop campaign.

This was my first meeting as a co-chair for Envision and one of the responsibilities within my role is to help chair meetings, by; keeping track of the allocated time set for each topic, ensuring that all items on the agenda are discussed, and that everyone has had the opportunity to have their say and share their views.

I lead on welcomes and introductions, as well as 2 segments of the coffee shop campaign itself - reviewing the feedback received so far through e-mails and hard copies sent in, plus monitoring the SurveyMonkey results, followed by discussion of the VCC teleconference that I chaired recently.

We have almost 70 responses to our coffee shop survey so far which includes initial reponses from the steering group and Envision members earlier this year via mystery shopping, e-mail and hard copy versions sent in through promotion of the survey via the RNIB website, and finally through SurveyMonkey - the electronic version of the coffee shop survey.

The SurveyMonkey version can be found here and will officially close on December 12th at 5pm, allowing as much time as possible to push for any final feedback responses to build a stronger campaign voice and evidence base. If you are visually impaired and feel strongly that coffee shops should stock accessible menus and have greater staff awareness, then please feel free to fill in the form and share your views to help us compose a more accurate charter.

I provided and analysed statistics of the main areas we are looking at in coffee shops; staff awareness, easily identifiable staff and the availability of accessible menus for each of the 4 main coffee chains in the UK (Starbucks, Costa, Cafe Nero and Pret a Manger). Only in 3 instances were visually impaired customers provided with an accessible menu in the feedback we have so far, all from one particular coffee chain.

Next on the agenda that I lead on, was the recent VCC teleconference that I helped to chair. It was held during the evening of October 6th, with various visually impaired and blind campaigners located across England (which included a member from the wider network of Envision and a member of the steering group) on the call to serve as a focus group. This provided the opportunity to collect more feedback to our survey and to also generate some ideas for the development of our charter.

I discussed some of the main points raised during this teleconference, such as lighting, layout and the exterior street furniture, as well as general feedback and comments from each individual question found within the survey.

After breaking for lunch, the steering group and I considered the possibility of producing our findings into the form of charter to present to the industry with our evidence and key asks. We looked at the common themes and generated 5 or 6 key asks which will be developed into a first draft, conducted by myself, over the next few weeks. Through this, we also created a timeframe for the following 4 months to measure our progress which continues on into the New Year.

Key Dates

Here is a timeline of some key dates and deadlines
for Envision during the upcoming months:

Monday, 10th November 2014
First draft of the charter to be completed,
which I'll be leading on and composing.

Monday, 17th November 2014
Final comments from the steering group regarding the drafted charter to be sent in by this deadline. Teleconference in the evening with the entire steering group.

Monday, 1st December 2014
Charter finalised and signed off.

Monday, 5th January 2015
Identify contacts to draft meeting letters to.

January 2015 - February 2015
Identify the next campaign areas we wish to work on, and collect feedback and comments from the wider network. The shortlist can be presented in an electronic format, via SurveyMonkey, for users to vote on their preferable campaigning area. Deadline by February 2015.

The suggestion of 'coffee mornings' was brought up, to be conducted among VI groups or friends, which could be a really useful platform to gather any further key points we wish to draw up for the charter. The coffee mornings could be promoted through blind and visually impaired societies and charities, local talking newspapers and social media.

The steering group and I then generated some ideas of next year's campaign and how to canvas the views of all members within the wider network. The issue of DSA - Disabled Students' Allowances came up quite a lot and may be the leading topic that we wish to include in the shortlist to send out to the wider network to vote on and campaign for. This can be done through SurveyMonkey and sent out via e-mail and social media. Similarly, looking at the steering group for the upcoming year, we could also add a nominations section to the SurveyMonkey so that the entire network can have their say regarding their steering group members.

To conclude our meeting, we conversed about the first year of Envision (which was celebrating its first Birthday, to the exact day, on Thursday, 23rd October - a year since our Parliamentary visit and launch of the network itself) and reflected on the progress we have made so far in our campaign. Each member of the steering group shared their experience of personal development achieved over the past year thanks to Envision.

I have benefitted so much from my involvement with Envision over this past year. My confidence has grown in leaps and bounds, I'm able to address a whole room regarding statistics, quotes and research I've gathered, I've honed my organisational skills, and in particular, my social media skills; documenting each meeting and teleconference via my blog and then promoting through the Envision Facebook page and the Twitter page, which I created and regularly maintain.

I'm looking forward to my next year working with Envision and hope to witness even more progress from our network!

Useful Links

Friday, 17 October 2014

Visit to One Man's Vision Exhibition

One Man's Vision exhibition
20th September 2014 - 18th January 2015

Earlier last week I visited the One Man's Vision exhibition, at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, for the first time since its opening to the public in late September. The exhibition celebrates the life of Thomas Henshaw, benefactor of Henshaws Society for Blind People, Manchester's oldest charity at 177 years old.

I visited with curator Laura Wigg-Bailey to help with evaluations which also presented the opportunity to experience all of the installed exhibits and the audio described tour.

Tour of the Exhibition

The tour begins on the right-hand side of the exhibition space where the MP3 players, housing the pre-installed audio tour, are located. A member of staff will be situated nearby to help, if needed, and the player itself provides all of the details of the buttons on the front of the device and their functions on the opening track. The audio tour is provided by Anne Hornsby, of Mind's Eye Description Services, enabling blind and visually impaired museum, art gallery and theatre-goers to have increased access to the arts and cultural events.

For the exhibition Anne goes into detail about each historical object, portrait and related item of interest, as well as telling the story of Thomas Henshaw and his Will; which helped to develop what is now known as Henshaws Society for Blind People. Also provided is the number of steps needed to enter the main exhibition space and instructions of how to use the red tactile marking to help guide visually impaired and blind visitors.

Bust of Thomas Henshaw (1860)

The audio tour begins at a marble bust of Thomas Henshaw, sculpted in 1860. It details the appearance of Henshaw, from his double-chin to his receding hairline, as well as a brief history of the sculpture itself including the story behind the crack in the neck of the bust.

Engraving of 'Manchester School for the Deaf and Dumb
with the Chapel and Blind Asylum' (1826)

Portrait of Thomas Henshaw

After hearing an introduction and overview to the life of Thomas Henshaw, we are then greeted by a table of items that are used on a day-to-day basis by blind and visually impaired people. Visitors are very welcome to handle and explore these fully-functional objects.

Items include a document reader containing the Will of Thomas Henshaw, Braille books with J.K.Rowling's 'Tales of Beedle the Bard' as the main example, a signature guide, a handwriting guide, pocket magnifiers, bolded pens, a symbol cane, talking scales and food control guides.

Document reader containing a printed copy of Henshaw's Will

Blindfolds and simulation specs are also housed on this table for those who want to experience the tour as a blind or visually impaired person would. These also help to showcase a better understanding of what people can and cannot see with their sight condition and the barriers that they face. The simulation specs come in many varieties, some of which include representations of; central vision, peripheral vision, scattered debris across vision and blurred vision.

The exhibition is divided into sensory tours

The exhibition can be experienced in a variety of sensory ways; seeing and touching, seeing only, touching and hearing, and hearing only. Each corresponding experience is accompanied by a coloured line:

Black Line: Seeing and Touching
Blue Line: Seeing
Red Line (Tactile): Touching and Hearing
Yellow Line: Hearing

Each coloured line will guide you around the exhibition space and objects safely, pertaining to the sense(s) you have selected. As a severely visually impaired person myself, I chose the red line of touching and hearing. The touching aspect is implemented by a tactile red line, made of felt, that is easy to follow around the exhibits and the hearing aspect is provided by the MP3 player's installed audio tour.

Information board about Thomas Henshaw's Will

The exhibition continues with a wicker crib presenting a tactile and visual representation of the ones that were made everyday at the Henshaws workshops during the early 1900's. The workshops provided employment to visually impaired and blind people of the time up until the 1980's when they were closed, due to health and safety and equal opportunities issues.

A large, black chest engraved with 'Henshaws Institution for the Blind' is presented next. This was owned by the Solicitors Slater and Heelis (now known as Slater Heelis LLP), who stored Henshaw's Will and other important documents inside the chest when working on his legal case of ensuring his £20,000 went to his charity supporting blind people.

Following on from the chest is a display case of important local items, including; a bell from the Henshaws Blind Asylum School (1920), a minutes book from the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society (1904), Henshaws Souvenir Book (1937), and Isabel M. Heywood's O.B.E (1930) for her services to the blind, creating the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society. A Manchester Picture Album (1895), Braille Writing Slate (1945), a Framed Picture of the Godfrey Ermen Home for the Blind (1920) and Ceremonial Trowel (1964) are also included in the display case.

Special artefacts relating to Henshaws

RNIB PENfriends are situated between each display case of special objects, housed on a plinth with corresponding stickers preloaded with information, allowing VI and blind visitors (or those choosing to be blindfolded for the exhibition's sensory tour) to read the information that is printed on the labels located next to each object in the display case.

A PENfriend is an electronic device, in the shape of a pen, that enables the sight-impaired to record their voice onto labels and identify different objects. The audio track on the MP3 player will mention when a plinth of PENfriends is nearby so that further information can be obtained from the stickers relating to the items in the corresponding display cases.

RNIB PENfriend housed in plinth

The next items in the exhibition are located on the wall, and feature photographs and a printed emblem. The photographs are of Miss Isabel M. Heywood, O.B.E. and the founding Trustees of the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society (with Miss Heywood in the centre). The society was founded in 1900 and opened a small home at The Crescent, Salford and developed by opening more homes and workshops over the years. They later merged with Henshaws in 1980.

The printed emblem is that of the Manchester and Salford Blind Aid Society, with the tagline "to lighten the world for the blind". Inside the emblem is an illustration of a winged angel holding a torch, comforting and helping a young woman who has fallen to her knees. Scrolls surround the top of the illustrations with the words 'friendship, instruction, recreation and help'.

Manchester & Salford Blind Aid Society emblem

The next display case contains various crockery from the Oldham Bluecoat School for the Blind, which was set up using funds bequeathed by Thomas Henshaw in his Will, as well as a selection of miniature hats that Thomas Henshaw used to showcase his designs; Henshaw was originally a Hatter businessman. Thomas Henshaw's wooden cane, and a child's bag made at the Oldham Workshop for the Blind are also displayed.

Above this display case is a bronze plaque from the 'Institution for the Blind' in Oldham, from 1933. The plaque was unveiled by Councillor Marjory Lees to commemorate the opening of extensions to the original building.

Child's bag made at Oldham Workshop for the Blind

The next section of the exhibition focuses on the development of adaptive writing styles for the blind; including Braille, Moon, New York Point, Boston Line Type and Fishburne.

Books containing different tactile writing styles

A display case houses different texts incorporating some of these adaptive writing styles, with more information provided by the PENfriends located on the adjacent plinths. The display case in this section contains tools that were used to create these writing styles, including; a Hughes Typograph, Klein Type Pin Brailler, and Braille Training Computer LED Visual Aids. Also included in this display case is a set of embossed dominoes adapted for blind players, and a Braille Micrometer used in machinery.

Braille training computer LED visual aids and Braille Micrometer

Displayed on the wall above this display case is an oil on canvas portrait of William Hughes, inventor of the Typograph for the blind. While he was the Director of Henshaws Blind Asylum in the mid-1800's, he invented a typewriter for the visually impaired and blind which won a gold medal at the 1851 Great Exhibition at Crystal Palace in London. It is arguably the first ever typewriting machine.

The audio tour brings us to the next section of the exhibition which is focused around the five most common eye conditions causing blindness in the UK, as well as showcasing treatments and tools used by Doctors of the past to treat these conditions.

Common Eye Conditions

The common eye conditions include Cataracts, Diabetic Retinopathy, Age-related Macular Degeneration, Retinitis Pigmentosa and Glaucoma. The PENfriends in this area describe the conditions in more detail and the problems that they cause.

The display cases in this section contain tools used by Doctors of the past to help treat these conditions. Items include model eye balls to study the anatomy of the eye, Optometry testing equipment, hand-painted prosthetic glass eyes, a glass eye bath, an eye scalpel set, Weiss cataract instruments, a Giles Archer colour unit, glasses with extra mounted lenses and horn-rimmed brass framed glasses; all by kind permission of the Thackray Medical Museum in Leeds and the Manchester Royal Eye Hospital.

Hand-painted prosthetic glass eyes

The final portion of the exhibition spotlights how blindness and visual impairment affects people; both those living with their sight condition and the people around them. Opening up this section is my illustration, Elephant in the Room, created specially for the exhibition. It incorporates the theme of how the public react to visual impairment. You can read more about my illustration and the meaning behind it here.

My illustration with Braille and print biography
and description of the piece

Standing proudly with my illustration

I especially loved Anne's audio description of my illustration. She goes into great detail about the colours and mediums I used and the symbols surrounding the piece. She also reads my biography and the meaning behind my artwork.

Next to my illustration is a display cabinet of items relating and belonging to Blind Joe; Oldham's town crier of the late 1800's, named as such because of his visual impairment. Joseph Howarth was so fondly remembered that he was immortalised in a statuette not long after his death.

Display case commemorating Blind Joe

The display case contains aforementioned statuette, as well as Joseph's bell that he used when employed as a town crier giving the news to those who could not afford a newspaper or could not read, as well as his favourite cup.

Model of the Henshaws Blind Asylum, 1857

A stone model, contained in a glass case, represents the Henshaws Blind Asylum previously located on Chester Road, in Old Trafford. It housed the blind as well as providing a school for the 'deaf and dumb'. It was demolished in 1971 when the college was relocated to Harrogate.

The model is followed by a timeline of the history of Henshaws and major events and achievements within the visually impaired world, such as; the invention of Braille shorthand in 1899, Henshaws Blind Asylum changing its name to Henshaws Institute for the Blind in 1921 and finally Henshaws Society for Blind People in 2000, showing the changing attitudes of the public, Germans training German Shepherds, Dobermans and Airedale Terriers to lead their war-blinded soldiers in 1921, the British Wireless for the Blind Fund being set up to provide a free radio to every blind person in the country in 1929, and Henshaws celebrating its 175th birthday in 2012.

Henshaws and visual impairment timeline

To the right-hand side of the timeline is a model representation of a Napoleonic Soldier. Many lost their sight during this War, and subsequent ones too, fighting for their country. They would return home to poverty with no help from the Welfare State and would be left begging for themselves and their families. They would continue to wear their uniforms out of respect for their country and as a badge of honour.

Concluding the exhibition is a separate audio section with interviews from four service users of Henshaws. They describe how their lives were previous to their visual impairment and how Henshaws has greatly benefitted their confidence, independence and skills through the various service, support and social groups that they provide.

I had a wonderful time visiting the One Man's Vision exhibition using the audio tour and tactile lines to make my way independently around all of the exhibits. I learned many new things that I didn't know before including some of the adaptive types of tactile writing for visually impaired and blind people, the story of Thomas Henshaw and his Will, and the history of blind societies in my local area.

It was extremely fascinating and I would urge anyone to visit this interesting and completely accessible exhibition.

Image Gallery

Here is a gallery of all the photos I took whilst visiting the One Man's Vision exhibition. Click on the thumbnails to enlarge.


There are a number of workshops and talks planned in the near future relating to the One Man's Vision exhibition. Feel free to come along and enjoy artist-led sensory workshops, inviting you to be creative without vision!

Saturday, 18th October: Drawing Workshop
Saturday, 25th October: Mystery objects
Tuesday, 28th October - Friday, 31st October: Create tactile and sensory artworks with artist Hannah Cawthorne
Saturday, 1st November: Create tactile and sensory artworks with artist Hannah Cawthorne
Saturday, 22nd November: Special tour by the exhibition's curator Laura Wigg-Bailey

The One Man's Vision exhibition is open until January 18th, 2015. Visit the official website for further information, events and blog posts.

You can view all of my previous posts regarding my involvement with the installation of the exhibition, as well as creating a special illustration to be displayed alongside the items and objects of interest, by clicking here.

Monday, 13 October 2014

Bright for Sight Walk

Yesterday morning, Henshaws held a Bright for Sight dog-friendly walk at Heaton Park in Manchester!

Registration began at 10:30am with the 3 mile walk starting at 11am. £200 was raised altogether from the event, and prizes were won by the best-dressed canines; including toys and treats from Pets at Home. Well done to Alba and Lynx for dressing in adorable brightly-coloured costumes and winning some great prizes!

After the judging of costumes, it was time for the walk to begin! The route itself was sign-posted incase the convoy broke into smaller groups and we walked through scenic woodland passing a garden centre, golf course, bowl green, children's park, paddock of horses, lake and Heaton Hall.

You can help raise funds to Bright for Sight by visiting the Henshaws JustGiving page here or texting HBFS14 and the amount you wish to donate to 70070!

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Letter from the Mayor of Salford!

I've received the most wonderful letter from the Mayor of Salford, Ian Stewart, this weekend! When my mum opened it and read it out loud, I couldn't believe that I had received such a lovely message!

The Mayor had written to express his delight of my final illustration for the RNIB's Insight Magazine, where I depict him holding up the 'Spirit of Salford' sign. My illustration was based on my achievements over the past year, and I wanted to include the Mayor after the lovely tweets he sent to me via Twitter earlier in the year after I had appeared in the Salford Advertiser and Manchester Evening News for my illustrations with the RNIB.

Letter Transcript

Dear Kimberley,

I am writing as I have recently seen the illustration you produced of me promoting the Spirit of Salford, which you completed for the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) Insight Magazine.

I have to tell you that I was absolutely delighted when I saw the illustration. Not only because the illustration is a fantastic likeness, but remarkably it highlights that you, the artist, truly incorporate the Spirit of Salford.

You are an inspirational young woman who creates beautiful illustrations which are rightly being recognised nationally and Salford is extremely proud of you. Your passion, determination and creativity sums up everything about the Spirit of Salford.

I sincerely hope that you get to follow your dream and study fine art at the Royal National College for the Blind in Hereford.

Well done and best wishes for the future.

Yours sincerely,
Ian Stewart
City Mayor

I want to say a big thank you Mr. Stewart for taking the time out of his busy schedule to write to me personally. I am truly honoured to receive such a delightful letter and it is something that I will treasure and keep for my lifetime!

Friday, 10 October 2014

Henshaws Christmas Cards
Now Available!

My winning Christmas Card design, titled 'Christmas Girl', is now available to purchase at the Henshaws Resource Centres located in Manchester, Liverpool and Newcastle, as well as the specialist College in Harrogate and Arts & Crafts Centre in Knaresborough.

I purchased three packs yesterday as soon as they were made available, as well as receiving a complimentary pack for designing the card, to give out to friends and family over the Christmas period!

My design was based on the competition theme 'A Christmas Wish'. It features a younger version of myself - a curly redheaded girl - in a pink duffle coat and turquoise gloves posting her letter off to Santa. A little Robin Redbreast sits atop of the postbox surrounded by a snowy landscape. A silhouette of Santa can be seen in the top-left corner of the card flying in his sleigh, being pulled by reindeer against a backdrop of the moon and pink, purple gradient of the starry night sky. 

My illustration was created using my favourite mediums of black fine liner and coloured pencils, and it also incorporates Photoshop CS5 brushes to create the bright stars in the night sky. You can view my original blog post detailing my 'Christmas Girl' design by clicking here.

Each pack is priced just £2.50, with 100% of the proceeds going to Henshaws Society for Blind People, and contains 10 cards and corresponding envelopes.  The full list of winners and their designs, as well as further information on how to order, can be found at the Henshaws website here.

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Bright for Sight 2014

Wear Bright, Bake Bright, Create Bright!

It's October 9th which marks the start of Bright for Sight 2014!

Bright for Sight is Henshaws Society for Blind People's biggest and brightest annual fundraising campaign, helping to raise vital funds in order to support people affected by sight loss and other disabilities. Bright for Sight is taking place on October 9th, 2014, which is World Sight Day. I would urge anyone and everyone to get involved with Bright for Sight to raise as much money as possible for Henshaws and to help make a difference to the lives of people like me.

There are lots of ways to get involved with Bright for Sight! Whether you decide to Wear Bright or Bake Bright, the fundraising part is really simple. Bright for Sight can be done at school, work or with friends - it's entirely up to you! To register your interest and to order your BFS fundraising pack, please click here.

Send pictures of your activities to brightforsight@henshaws.org.uk or share them through Henshaws' social media websites at Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #BFS. The best ones will be shared with the Henshaws online community!

My Fundraising Project!

Over the past few months, I have been very busy working on my secret Bright for Sight fundraising project. I can now finally reveal that I have been creating Bright for Sight Bunnies and Bright for Sight Bracelets, to be sold at the Manchester Resource Centre over the course of the next week.

The bunnies are available in 7 colours; green, yellow, baby pink, hot pink, red, purple and blue, and retail at £5 each. The bracelets are of a fishtail design, made from various loom bands, in combinations such as pink and purple, green and yellow, orange and blue, red and yellow, pink and blue - and even rainbow gradients!

The idea for my project was constructed last year during the previous Bright for Sight event. Service users, volunteers and staff were wearing bright and baking bright - but I noticed a lack of crafted items to help raise money and provide a commemorative, keep-sake item to remind people of the money they donated to Henshaws.

I wanted my items to be very colourful, to tie in with the Bright For Sight theme and I conducted a survey earlier this year to service users who partake in the groups that I attend to determine the most popular colours, price and animal shape. Aftter the initial research was carried out, it was time to construct a prototype to use as the foundation for all of my crocheted creations!

The bracelets were created over the summer, after I fell in love with the looming craze and discovered how tactile a craft it can be when they are made on the fingers. It's easy to keep track of the bands being used and fun to play with all kinds of colour combinations; from pastel, to neon, to mis-matched! These retail at 50p each.

Bright for Sight Film: #NoMirrorMakeUp Challenge!

I was very kindly asked to take part in a #NoMirrorMakeUp Challenge earlier this September to raise awareness of visual impairment and the barriers that are faced on a day-to-day basis with simple tasks, such as applying make-up, where sight is taken for granted.

As I only have 10% central vision in my left eye, and a little bit of light perception in the other, I cannot see my own reflection clearly enough in a mirror and have to apply my make-up in the tactile way of just using my hands and feeling around to make sure I've covered all of the main areas. I label my make-up using the RNIB PENfriend, an electronic voice-lebelling device, and arrange my products on a flat surface in the order that they will be used so I can keep track.

The challenge is designed to draw attention to how vision can be taken for granted and how difficult a barrier it can be when you can't see your own progress in a task that relies heavily on sight.

You can view the finished result of my video below!

You too can take part in the #NoMirrorMakeUp Challenge!

Simply grab your camera and set to record, apply your make-up without using a mirror, upload to your social media websites with the hashtag #NoMirrorMakeUp and then donate either online or via text by texting HSBP14 with the amount you wish to donate to 70070.

You can read more about the Bright for Sight campaign, as well as stories from the service users who have benefitted from the fundraising event, by visiting the official website here!