Man in beige jacket and black shirt, wears a black scarf tied around his forehead, and holds a glass of wine while reading into mic from sheet of paper in his hand.Bearded man wearing gold scarf talks into mic with two women standing behind also wearing gold scarves, holding sheets and wine glasses.

After the Cast Party event itself we asked all the 30 participants the following questions:

  1. What was your general experience of giving or receiving guidance, both prior to the party and during it?
  2. What was your general experience of the technical equipment?
  3. What was your experience of the party game?
  4. Do you have any suggestions for changes that could be made to this form of navigation, I.E. how the describers work, how the equipment is used, or what type of environment or situation might work best with it?
  5. Finally, what was your experience of the overall project? Any particular memorable high or low points?

Here is a sample of their responses, with D = Describer and V = visually impaired participant.


  1. What was your general experience of giving or receiving guidance, both prior to the party and during it?
    • V. “When I began to receive remote guiding on the training day and located various things in the room that I didn't know existed before that point, I felt quite emotional, as if some kind of significant breakthrough had just occurred for me. Then At the party itself, before the game, I could hear my describer in the initial hubbub of the gathering and found some useful information given to me that enabled me to move about and find people and the bar, but when the game started, I couldn't hear anything and quickly ripped out the earpiece and just navigated around the room fuelled by alcohol.”
    • D. “I found the experience challenging but it was an enjoyable challenge. I didn't get anywhere near as quick and effective at responding to things and describing everything as I would have liked. At the same time there were moments when the partnership really worked and this was gratifying and fun.”
    • D. ” It did feel a bit like a computer game, and that made me wonder if somehow the participants were more like pawns or objects to be moved – I wondered how they felt about being so directly steered around. However, it was also a touching moment when my partner had to let go of the usual aids of getting around and walk off independently – so that is the other side of it – and I think it was quite a important moment for him which was quite liberating. I suppose if the technology was there and the voice directing was digital and not that of another person, who has their own incentives, then it would feel very different.”
    • D. ” Overall I was struck by the nice, casual and co-operative nature of al of the participants and describers. I was definitely uncertain as to what the event would turn out to be like but was glad to see it develop into something tangible.”
    • D. “Prior to the party I thought it worked well, as there was space to move. We worked on a shared language, which was sparse enough to be quick but personal enough not to feel like I was barking orders. It felt as though the description code we developed enabled my partner to function within a space in a way she would not normally have been able to do. She also seemed excited and pleased by the experience, which of course has a knock on effect for me as a describer. During the party, however, most of the preparation work became irrelevant. Because of the number of people, there was very little I could do in terms of guiding as there was no room to move, and any movement was to another (moving) person rather than a fixed point (toilet, bar etc). The nature of the game meant that there were no particular target – you spoke to whomever you were next to and then moved onto the next person. All the work was on the ground and the describer became slightly superfluous here.”
    • V. “it made me laugh a lot. So it was enjoyable but not very functional. I really couldn't hear the description very well. And to switch focus from my left ear to someone coming up to talk to me was difficult. Between me and my describer it was fine but add a room of people and I found it chaos. Also really diminished my sensory perception of the room. I had one ear left to sense the space around me and I missed having two ears to pick things up.”
    • D. “I was able to later develop a formula that works, by adopting some of the ideas I had heard from the main fed back sessions, and by taking more direction from my partner. As a result we were able to get two break-through the first leading my partner into the lifts, guiding her to the floor above were she introduced herself to the camera man. The second is during the party, when the group had completed their task and where looking for the area to collect their prizes. The group, which were all sighted, apart from my partner walked several metres in the wrong direction. With my audio description my partner was able to guild the group to the correct area. She said, ” I can't believe it they didn't have a clue where they were going and me who's the blind one had to show them were to go”.”
    • V. “I simply couldn't cope with the situation of remembering, searching and being guided in a very noisy atmosphere.”
    • D. “I found it quite strange to be watching someone and giving them directions – and watch them respond to those directions. Someone mentioned during the training day that they found it quite controlling and I must say, looking down over the balcony, there is someone slight uncomfortable as to being almost a puppeteer with someone. But the fact that we had worked up such a good relationship over the training meant that this wasn't too uncomfortable. Giving the descriptions at the event was quite different from the training session. The number of people in the room made a huge impact and there were huge implications for directing people around a busy room. There was a lot less room for manoeuvre around groups of people and so the delay became more of an issue. There were lots of people who were mingling quite quickly and so people were likely to either walk into your partner's path or move off when you were trying to reach them. This all became much more of an issue during the game. But I actually really enjoyed describing for my partner in the mingling bit of the party before the game started. My partner was able to move independently to the bar, and could ask me where the bar man was and when he would get served. I was able to give my partner information so that he could approach someone and say “what a lovely hat” or “I've been told you are one of the most attractive women here!” – great potential for those on the pull!!”
    • V. “I enjoyed it during the training day. One could almost believe at times that one was wandering around entirely under one's own steam. The big snag during the actual party was the background noise level. Communication between my describer and me was at best difficult, and at times impossible.”
    • D. ” I already spend a lot of time guiding my visually impaired husband around, so the basic task of guiding a visually impaired person wasn't difficult. I did find that I needed to get used to my partner's way of moving, which was quite different to my husband's characteristic pace and responsiveness to my signals. But we got on fine after we got used to each other.”
    • V. ” There was a conflict between listening to my describer and the person in front of me: one undermined the other a bit. Also, the headset and my apparent addressing of an imaginary person seemed to do what is usually the white stick's job of weirding people out. Then again, not all guests were weirded out.”
    • D. “It is difficult at times to churn out useful descriptions in a rapidly changing environment, and this lead to a great deal of frustration during the party.”
    • V. ” I found it a little strange being directed to things that I could see, my describer was a little unsure of how to guide and describe to a VI person.”
    • V. ” Mixed. However, I'd say that any serious deficiencies were basically not the fault of my describer.”
    • D. ” My experience of giving guidance (and receiving guidance about the guidance that I gave) before and during the party reinforced my belief that these processes really benefit from spending time to enable the paired teams to get to know each other.”
  2. What was your general experience of the technical equipment?
    • D. ” I develop software for mobile phones as part of my job, so it was rather second nature. In the party situation, the limitations became obvious, as the microphone picks up a lot of background noise. This was occasionally useful, as it allowed me to follow the flow of conversations, which informed my descriptions, but more often prevented us from hearing each other.”
    • D. “The technical equipment wasn't that great, although it was great to be able to use the orange phones and to be calling each other like that, but it might have worked better if the headphones meant that we could hear each other more clearly.”
    • V. ” Good that the phones vibrated as well as rang.”
    • D. “I thought Carmel from Orange was very organised and clear with her instructions for using the technical equipment. The equipment itself was fairly basic, and at points I found the 'low-fi' nature of the handsets hampered the quality of sound, and the clarity of sound – which made parts of the conversation quite difficult, with it picking up various feedbacks from the speakers, from other describers etc. But it was amazing to have that many people hooked up, and I have to say not having used hands free before, it was quite a buzz!”
    • D. ” Not bad, though it became very difficult to hear and communicate at some points as the surrounding party sounds became louder and more excited. The general functioning of the equipment was always good though.”
    • V. ” Easy to use in terms of buttons, holding the device, fitting it into the ear etc, but the signal was barely audible.”
    • D. “In the preparation sessions the equipment seemed adequate, although not specifically designed for this use. A number of visually impaired participants looked a little like security guards as they stuck their fingers in their ears to listen (so I wondered what technology security guards used). Again, the large number of people at the party itself meant that neither I nor my partner could hear each other. The equipment ended up as a distracting hiss and so my partner switched it off in the middle of the party and took the arm of a sighted person who shared the same film. Together they completed their task.”
    • V. ” Fine. Needed volume control.”
    • D. “We didn't really have any problems in the training with the equipment, the only issue really being how comfortable the ear pieces were – I didn't find them especially comfortable myself.
    • D. ” However, although I found the wireless/tethered connection with my partner very interesting, both conceptually and practically, and would have liked even more time experimenting with this relationship, when we began to employ this technology at the party, I was a bit confused. I didn't understand the connection between the mobile phone technology approach/strategy and the game that we were playing. It was as if we had been practising a particular solution to a future problem, only to be confronted (at the party) with a problem that required different solutions. Ever agile, my partner and I did our best to adapt. The problems we encountered, of course, may not have been solely to do with the technology, and more to do with the relationship between that technology and the game and the unpredictability of a party full of real people.”
    • V. “Very basic and not user friendly.”
    • V. ” A digital high quality reception maybe required for future experiments.”
    • V. ” Honest, decent, basic phones – no problem.”
    • V. ” Generally good… better quality earpieces that attach to an ear are a must… blue-tooth would be best.”
  3. What was your experience of the party game?
    • V. ” Well that was really quite enjoyable, and engaged my interest appreciably.”
    • D. ” It was fun hearing people reading out disjointed lines to each other and the confused looks as people tried to figure out what they were from. I think a lot of the guests cheated, if you can call it that, by just pooling there scripts, which meant they found there groups much quicker than we could. They also ran around much faster than I could navigate.”
    • V. ” Fun. Great way to meet people!”
    • D. ” I think as a sighted person it was a very useful reminder of the frustrations VI people can experience in this sort of environment, especially when there are factors working against you such as noise, lack of access to written information and people hurrying in the opposite direction!”
    • V. “Great! But ended too quickly. Really well thought up and not much room for improvement. Can I play again?”
    • D. ” I want to say that I thought that the idea of the party game was really very interesting and deserves to be further developed to realise its potential.”
    • V. “I thoroughly enjoyed the party game especially just opening my own envelope and having someone read the information on it remotely and not having to ask a participant to read it to me. I felt the game offered a good balance for describers to take part e.g. stating colour of scarves guiding in a crowded environment and yet gave me the ability and freedom to make my own choices as to where to move around in the room. I felt extremely safe and secure knowing that there was some one looking out for my safety.”
    • D. it was good to simulate a 'private view' or networking atmosphere and that there should be other people to communicate with, interact with and navigate around/to, but the game aspect rushed that part of the evening as there was a rush for people to 'win' I wonder if there could be another way of encouraging interaction, that wasn't so furious?”
    • V . “It was fun but unfortunately my team misread the instructions and I was left out as a result. They thought that they only had to find six people altogether, not six other people!”
    • V. ” Despite the technical difficulties, I enjoyed it. A good laugh.”
    • D. ” I found the experience fun and I really liked the idea of exploring this idea through a game. It was like being an air traffic control pilot or a playful angel and I felt there was this feeling of finding the game and play. Again I felt what was key in this was that I had established a good relationship with my partner.”
    • V. “Liked the idea of putting people in small group's from different films. However, we didn't find out much about each other cos everyone was trying so hard to hear and also to work out what film they came from. I did love the idea of everyone bringing/or wearing something distinctive to the party. This did work well generated conversation and I loved wearing a pink wig!”
    • V. ” It was quite fun actually and it was clear there was a bit of urgency about the thing. Nothing was happening for a while and then I seem to find 3 others at once. I, too, was able to help a couple of people in my travels as they searched for their group. It was noisy and chaotic though.”
    • V. ” This was very good, I really enjoyed the concept of the game, congratulations to who ever thought of it.”
    • D. Did Maria cheat? I wasn't much use in helping to find other “cast members” though could help in identifying the film the lines were from.”
  4. Do you have any suggestions for changes that could be made to this form of navigation, I.E. how the describers work, how the equipment is used, or what type of environment or situation might work best with it?
    • D. ” I think that the processed work but if there was more funding a use of a monitor would be a great Idea so that one could still see their partners when in an obscure area. A device on the phone or monitor should be provided so that if there is a piece of text or an object at a distance it a zoom facility can allow small objects to be described.”
    • V. “I think the most potential for this equipment is for navigational use on stage and it would also alleviate the necessity to use a Braille script during the learning process as the lines could be fed through the headphones – this is of course assuming that there is an improvement in the quality of these! It could also be used for audio describing conferences i.e. perhaps indicating who is speaking and giving audio description of visual materials such as slides and overheads.”
    • D. “Equipment: it needs to be something where the describer/guide's voice is absolutely clean and clear so that there is the minimum interference. In terms of navigation, as I said before, this element wasn't really tested by the game.”
      • “Noise levels: I don't think the current headsets can cope with a lot of external noise so finding situations that aren't going to be hugely noisy would be useful – I suppose the problem is you often don't know how noisy an event is going to be until it happens. Might there be someway to use the loop system in buildings that had it to boost the level or to cut out background noise? I don't know much about loop systems so this could be ridiculous but just a thought.
      • Technology: might Bluetooth be useful so that there weren't so many wires and so that the system was more discreet?
      • Information: I found in the mingling situation that we were stuck with my knowledge – I could give John information on people I knew and people he could describe to me – but what would be really useful would be to access to perhaps a video link of people coming in at reception and giving their names – or a screen showing a shot of the person when they entered and their name – this would be really useful in a networking situation. Although its quite 'big brother is watching', this would actually be really useful for a lot of sighted people too! (Especially people like me who are bad with names!!)
      • Sight lines: the balconies at the hotel were very useful for being able to see most of the floor – even though there were some areas that were hidden. Obviously this wouldn't work in all venues. I suppose though that webcam technologies are getting cheaper and more advanced – so in the future it might be possible to do something with this, whereby the describer is literally seeing what the VI person is seeing.
      • The relationship between the VI person and the describer: I do think ideally you need time to build the relationship and the trust between the two partners. If this was a service, I can imagine that people would want to be able to book people they had worked with before so that language and preferences were already established. You could imagine if this were to take off, that some standards might be developed that everyone would work to but I do think it's nice to be able to tailor to an individual's preferences.”
    • V. “I think a couple more trials are needed maybe in different locations. Outdoors?”
    • D” more advanced equipment? It would be interesting to introduce the use of video phone technology, which might allow the relationship between describer and participant to shift into other contexts, where they aren't necessarily needed to be in the same space to communicate – the visual is projected outside of the space, and interpreted and used by the transcriber to assist a negotiation of that space at a distance. A less acoustically challenged space!”
    • V. “Wandering around with an earpiece, obviously in communication with someone else, would tend to add to my self-consciousness rather than alleviating it. I can't honestly say that I would feel comfortable doing this “for real”.”
    • D. “I think the earphones somehow need to be able to beat the surrounding noises in order for communication to be effective. A clear coding system may have also been helpful been myself and my participant, so that I wasn't just belting out 'left' right' 'go' and 'stop' to her. The pressure exuded by the party atmosphere lead to a rather chaotic orchestration of events, but I suppose that was part of the point. I think in a less frenzied environment, the communication would have been quite smooth, as both of us would have had less distraction to deal with.”
    • V. ” I feel describers need to be well trained given a clear framework to follow in case they do not get the opportunity to speak to the person they are having to work with. I am a grate believer in standardisation as both parties know what to expect of each other.”
    • D. ” Without better microphones and headsets, the equipment would work best in a quieter environment, preferably one without a lot of music or echoes. And I think this sort of navigation would work best when the visually impaired person has control over the communication and can turn the describer on or off as needed. That would make it more of a user-controlled service.” “A. I wander how necessary the human aspect of the description is? For me this added an extra layer, (friendship/personal touch/trust) which was a side effect of the human partnership. By this I am thinking about the long-term implications of this experiment and the next steps. With the use of GPS for cars and pedestrians as navigation systems, it doesn't seem too sci-fi to suggest that this kind of technology could be developed for commercial use by partially sighted people. I wander if Orange would be interested in developing this? The UK is an interesting place to make this work as we are constantly watched by cctv all the time, we in theory have a 'partner/guardian angel' watching us in the underground/trains/etc etc, it does seem that some technology is already in place which could be adapted to serve the purposes of visually impaired people/users.”
    • V. ” Suspect very successful in rehearsals or workshops. I.e. one-one description of dance classes, physical theatre sessions. Or simply rehearsing blocking. When nearly off a script could have feed line going on, enabling performer to move freely without having to handle script. Might even be useful to try during performance. If our equipment had small video screens. The describer could see the action unfold before them and describe back to the VI person. I think this could be very useful in Private View networking events. I.e. the art could be described and the VI person can walk around where they want to.”
    • D. ” If this experiment were to be further developed ( and I think that it deserves to be) then it might be interesting to consider hosting another such “Party” using an exterior location – like a garden party with a twist of Alice in Wonderland. It is interesting to note that there are a number of people/professions who spend hours in meetings etc. listening to remote voices via headphones. This list includes – diplomats/politicians and even some corporate executives listening to their remote advisors, radio and television presenters, translators during conferences, soldiers, etc., Perhaps there is a variation on the Party Game that could include some reference to these or other relevant professions to help the game participants get into character for a bit of role-playing – to perhaps suggest added layers of meaning for the game .”
    • D. ” Another thing we discussed was the idea of having a list of who would be there – if this was a networking event – and perhaps for the describers to have a list of what each party attendee would be wearing. Then we could sit together pre party and talk about which the participant might want to meet/ talk to. I liked this idea a lot because I thought we could really have some fun with that and it might really fulfil the networking potential of the room for the participant.”
    • V. ia warlike talkie type device with each description duo operating on a different channel, an it might be interesting to try this in a dinner party setting; Use a setting with optional seating; Food: a buffet for the describer to talk us through: left, left a bit more, No not that way: oh no! the substance you just plunged your hand into was the taramasalata.”
    • D. ” I think the party game was a good way to test out its limitations, as it was a very dynamic situation. It might be interesting to see how it fairs in more day to day situations like bars, or shops.”
    • V. ” The relationship/language between the guide and the VIP needs to be established. This may need to be formalised for future experiments. Left and right instructions didn't work that well for me, but we did use a very simple clock face, degrees around a circle (with VIP in the middle), words like obstacle, target, swing, etc. If the language is formalised there needs to be alternatives so right could be 90 degrees to your watch. The room was not appropriate in the long run because of the acoustic properties (although it was a great room to be in). A quieter setting, maybe outside, would be a good next trial situation. I would love to participate in a virtual maze type scenario maybe using talking GPS and to see how the contrast would work.”
    • D. “On the issue of media documentation, I suggest that the video production team for similar events in the future might want to consider a video-taping protocol for blind participants that is different from that employed for video-taping sighted subjects. I had this thought when I noticed that sighted people changed their behaviour – sometimes subtly and sometimes obviously – when they noticed a microphone nearby. This option was not open to those who could not see the microphone. So, in the interest of 'even playing fields' , perhaps blind participants could be informed of the microphone's proximity using ways that would not interfere with the sound recording and that would be no more obtrusive than having a microphone on a fish-pole thrust over one's head in mid-conversation.”
  5. Finally, what was your experience of the overall project? Any particular memorable high or low points?
    • D. “The project was well thought out and managed to conduct a live experiment with a group of 30 people and this alone should be congratulated!”
    • D. “Low point was definitely the party for me. However, I thought that the whole project was really interesting, and as it is experimental, the fact that it didn't work for me and my partner is a not necessarily a bad thing overall.”
    • V. ” High point was getting to know my describer and being with a group of VIP's to have a go at a new idea.”
    • D. “I think there is lots of potential for this sort of navigation and description. I was talking to a colleague afterwards and she was saying how amazing it was to mingle with VI friends and colleagues who were moving independently round a party, going up to the bar, approaching people they didn't know able to initiate conversations with some useful information and generally not having to be reliant on direct sighted assistance. Obviously, the experiment wasn't without its problems but I think it's a really exciting concept that should receive funding to be explored further.”
    • V. ” It was really interesting to try out something new and that might have many different uses.”
    • D. “I found it to be a very interesting experience and despite having difficulties with the sound/communication aspect, I am very pleased to have been involved. I liked the way in which it made me look, observe and notice things in a different way to which I might ordinarily do so, and how it made me more conscious of the language I chose to use and communicate in as objective a way as possible.”
    • D. ” My overall experience was a very good one. It was a privilege to meet and work with my participant, who showed me a way of experiencing the world completely different to my own. For that I am really grateful.”
    • V. “I thought it was a wonderfully imaginative experiment. The party side of it was brilliant. A great mix of people and a great venue. Ironically the access aspect was what I found the most stressful, but I think this is all part of the experience. I enjoyed the possible subversive potential of the technology – myself and the describer were checking out the talent.”
    • D. ” My experience of the project was one of fun and exploration and curiosity and play. My favourite moments were navigating in the space with my partner. I felt I was dancing with her and that I was experiencing the environment in a way I would not normally do. I had a great moment when I found the numbers on the curvy wall by the lift. I also remember all the describer words like nudge shuffle tweak. I think this work could be explored further. Thank You”
    • V. ” I really enjoyed working on this project my high point was having the opportunity to walk around in an unfamiliar environment unaided by a white cane or sighted guide.”
    • D. ” The experience was unique, making it very memorable. The style of hosting made it fun and enjoyable, whilst still understanding the importance of the task. Being given an opportunity to be a part of someone else's empowerment was a gift and learning how to effectively audio describe is a blessing.”
    • V. ” I do think that it was a worthwhile experiment. Huge elements of the project were successful. I could tell that most people enjoyed having the opportunity to mingle.”
    • D. “I found it exciting and energising and difficult and a bit scary. The low point was reaching exasperation with the equipment. The high points were whenever my partner managed to meet someone he actually wanted to talk to!”
    • V. ” The guests at the party were great and overall I had a fun and fabulous time!”
    • D. ” I really enjoyed the project, more than I thought I would. The best part was meeting so many people, with and without impairments, who are actively engaged in the arts and enthusiastic about trying something new. I came away from The Cast Party with my ears ringing, but also with my head full of new ideas, not just about navigation.”
    • V. ” I am rather shy of new situations and especially with a large crowd of strangers. I go to football games with HUGE crowds but in only have to interact with my friends there so that is all known to me. By the end of training day I was up for the next bit. Again, I was worried about all these new folks I had to encounter – it was like starting all over again. It was my describer who put my mind at ease here by convincing me that the sort of bods who'd be attending this do were all arty types anyway and not the sort of folks who'd be judging or laughing at me. I felt better. As for the bods with the film and audio equipment? Didn't bother me – I ignored them and they were never a distraction. I even had fun doing the freeze-frame posing before the party itself! Something of which I had no previous experience. I enjoyed myself, had fun, met some nice people and probably gained a little more confidence in so doing.”
    • D. ” I will always remember the smiles when with my remote description my partner was able to turn to one of the female participants and say, “I like your green dress” as an ice-breaker.. I also enjoyed the chance to see and be part of a social situation, without being in it. I realised I was much less nervous feeding someone else lines, than if I was there delivering them myself. It's made me think a little more about that excruciating self consciousness that normally goes with social situations, and perhaps I should not be so worried.”
    • D. ” Overall I thought that it was a wonderful experience – so much so that, as I have mentioned previously, I would welcome the opportunity to participate in any follow-up.”

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