Inspirational Blind & VI Teen Power at Living Paintings
May 7, 2013

We are always delighted to hear about the achievements of many of the blind and visually impaired teenagers who use our free library service.  Amongst them is Liam Mackin, a published poet who, whilst still at school, set up his own sighted guide training company.  Another inspirational teenager is English undergraduate Emily Davison, she’s so fascinated by astronomy that she got a GSCE in it by studying at the Royal Observatory and she also runs her own fashion blog offering style inspiration, fashion and beauty advice to other visually impaired young people.  Or there’s Ben Breen, who has mastered many of the toughest video games through muscle memory and extremely accurate timing.  These blind and VI teenagers don’t let anything prevent them from doing exactly what they want with their lives. 2013 Time Capsule, Emily with her collection of items for her fashion time capsule

Why we’re making culturally relevant, inspirational, lifestyle tactile and audio books for blind and VI young people.

It is not easy negotiating the pitfalls of adolescence when you’ve got the added problem of not being able to participate fully in the visual world. A big part of finding your ‘tribe’ of friends when you’re young has to do with sharing common interests.  Social media plays a huge part in the way young people communicate – they are rarely apart as even when they’re physically separated they can still hang out in a virtual sense via Twitter, Facebook and Skype.  For blind and visually impaired teenagers the barriers preventing them from plugging into this visual and online world can seem insurmountable.

How can a blind teenager experiment with fashion and create their own style when they can’t see all the options and inspirations? Much of our daily conversations rely on cultural references – we use lines from famous films; we talk about soap opera storylines, iconic theatre or must-see musicals; we refer to famous works of art or controversial buildings and iconic sporting moments.  Some blind teenagers struggle with these constant references and can sometimes feel excluded.

Fashion, Football, Food and more…

We’re producing a range of Touch to See books covering some of those areas which blind teenagers really want to know about including Theatre, Film, Music, Fashion, Football, Art, Architecture, Astronomy and Food.  These are inspirational tactile & audio guides which also include plenty of practical advice, tips and positive guidance.  For example, the Fashion book is divided into decades and at the end of each one there’s practical advice on how to achieve the look be it 60s beatnik or a 70s hippie vibe. The Theatre book talks about iconic plays and playwrights but also includes interviews with people in the business.

Living Paintings library member Liam Mackin with Carl Jenkinson, England and Arsenal player

Our Football book provides masses of information, vital stats, history and anecdotes plus exclusive interviews with people in the world of Football including an England and premiership player. It is these added elements which make our books extra special and culturally relevant for blind and visually impaired teenagers.

One of the first publciations in our Teenagers’ range is  ABC UK – a vibrant look at some of the cultural influences that have shaped the UK today from The Beatles to Punk Rock, Sherlock to Shakespeare, Nessie to the Notting Hill Carnival.  We used the fabulous illustrations in the book as the starting point to talk about lots of elements of life in the UK such as popular music, myths, history, food, drink and sport.

Romeo and Juliet tactile picture from ABC UK

Producing books which are tailor-made for the very specific needs of blind and visually impaired teenagers is what makes Living Paintings work unique and valuable. By giving them a handle on the visual and cultural references which sighted people take for granted we’re helping them become more integrated with their social circles.  Blind and visually impaired teenagers do achieve amazing things and with the extra help and inspriration provided by our Touch to See books the sky’s the limit.

Join the conversation on Twitter @LivingPaintings #InspiringBlindTeenagers

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