VocalEye tested a new tactile technique for describing fireworks for people with vision loss at the Honda Celebration of Light on July 29, 2015 in Vancouver. VocalEye’s Executive Director Steph Kirkland and Board Member Collin van Uchelen teamed up last year to find a way to describe fireworks for people who are blind and visually impaired. After trying to describe fireworks verbally in 2014, they came up with a new tactile technique called “FingerWorks” where the sighted describer “draws” the fireworks on the back of the person with vision loss, providing verbal cues about colour and shape. They tested this method in a workshop earlier this year and the feedback was so positive that they decided to try it at a live fireworks event.
Three VocalEye 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.
It’s impossible to draw or describe 4,000 shell bursts in 20 minutes, but this technique helps the describers to convey a sense of the location, speed and intensity of the bursts, the rate of decay, rhythm, shape and relative size. Tactile cues were supported by verbal descriptions of colour, shape and other qualities. These combine with the sound of the music, the shells exploding and the crowd reactions, stimulating the imagination of the receiver and allowing them to paint their own mental picture.
The receivers had experienced fireworks at an earlier age, before losing their sight.
Overall, the response was very positive. The technique is simple, accessible and easy to share. It doesn’t require any special equipment or cost anything to try it out.
Response from the media was supportive and enthusiastic:
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
Here are the fireworks we described from Team Brazil, if you want to give it a try: