VocalEye tested a new tactile technique for describing fireworks for people with vision loss at this year’s Celebration of Light on July 29, 2015. VocalEye’s Executive Director, Steph Kirkland, teamed up with Board Member, Collin van Uchelen, to figure out the best way to describe fireworks for people who are blind and visually impaired. After trying to describe them verbally in 2014, we came up with a new tactile technique where the sighted describer “draws” the fireworks on the back of the person with vision loss, providing verbal cues about colour and shape. We tested this method in a workshop earlier this year and the feedback was so positive that we decided to try it live!
Three board members with vision loss participated in this experiment: Collin van Uchelen, Laura Mackenrot and Karim Damani; and four sighted describers: Anika Vervecken, Carolyn Vacheresse, Rachelle and Steph. Rick Lin took photographs.
While the tactile technique couldn’t accurately depict the 4,000 shell bursts in 20 minutes, it did convey a sense of the location, speed and intensity of the bursts, the rate of decay, rhythm, shape and relative size. These cues combined with the music, the sounds of the shells exploding and the verbal descriptions of colour and other details that allowed the receiver to paint their own mental picture.
All the participants had sight at one time and were familiar with what fireworks looked like. The participants who found the technique the most valuable were those with the most vision loss. One participant who still has some vision found the technique distracting.
Overall, the response was very positive and we’re excited to share this simple technique with everyone and we’re thrilled that the technique itself is so accessible. It doesn’t require any special equipment or cost anything to try it out!
Our next step is to work with people who have never experienced fireworks to find out if this technique would be of any interest or benefit to them. We hope to offer some workshops and post some videos in time for fireworks season next year. Stay tuned!
We got some fabulous media coverage, including this great clip from Global TV:
Here are the fireworks we described from Team Brazil, if you want to give it a try:
IN THE PRESS
FIREWORKS FOR THE BLIND AT THIS YEAR’S CELEBRATION OF LIGHT – BRITISH COLUMBIA
CBC News, July 31, 2015 | VIEW ARTICLE (includes link to EARLY EDITION Audio)
VOCALEYE OFFER FIRST LIVE DESCRIPTION FOR THE BLIND OF VANCOUVER’S CELEBRATION OF LIGHT
Global News BC, July 30, 2015 | WATCH VIDEO
VANCOUVER NON-PROFIT HELPS VISUALLY IMPAIRED ENJOY CELEBRATION OF LIGHTS
News Talk 980 CKNW, July 30, 2015 | VIEW ARTICLE
VANCOUVER NON-PROFIT TAKES HANDS-ON APPROACH TO DESCRIBE FIREWORKS TO THE BLIND
The Province, July 29, 2015 | VIEW ARTICLE
DESCRIBING FIREWORKS – SHELBY THOM INTERVIEWS LAURA MACKENROT
NEWS TALK 980 CKNW, JULY 29, 2015 | AUDIO
DESCRIBING FIREWORKS INTERVIEW WITH SHELBY THOM (FEATURE)
NEWS TALK 980 CKNW, July 29, 2015 | AUDIO
DESCRIBING FIREWORKS INTERVIEW
THE KID CARSON SHOW KISS FM, July 29, 2015 | AUDIO