Looking up at the hotels glass ceiling it is laced with wire criss-cross at right angles, and four internal bedroom windows ascend upwards, the top one smaller in perspective.

After the training day, we asked all of the sighted and visually impaired participants the same questions to find out their responses to the day. Below is a breakdown of their feedback in percentages with some additional interesting comments.

Did you gain a better understanding of the purpose of the project through the training day? 98% of the participants answered yes.

  • “Yes, I found the exercises very well thought through in relation to how best to understand each others abilities and strengths. It was necessary to take the time to get to know your partner in order to trust them and feel comfortable giving and receiving instructions. Learning how to work together came about through the simple exercises.”
  • “For me it was also about looking at how I deal with making real time descriptions of space, movement and appearance and at the types of thing that sighted people take for granted.”

Did you feel that the exercises during the training day supported the purpose of the project? 98% of the participants answered yes.

  • “Yes. It helped me to ground the concepts. Like all things when you explore through the practical surprises come along which are exciting.”
  • “I learned that whilst information about the physical layout of the space was helpful, it was the nuances of other peoples actions and appearance that was most interesting for my partner. I now feel confident that my descriptions, even from a remote location, are useful, and will help in the party game situation.”
  • “Hard to know until we get to the party itself, but the exercises were very interesting in terms of the discussions they threw up.”
  • “They were not prescriptive nor did they try to train us in a specific technique, rather the exercises allowed the participants and describers the opportunity to find out what works best for them.”
  • “Yes . I really enjoyed the mutual describing of the room. It helped to create communication and relationship. The directions exercises helped not only to build on relationship but also we found that a language was developing like a piece of dance. The kinaesthetics of moving in space and how pleasurable and creative that can be. I found this fun and creative and inspiring rather than just pragmatic.”

By the end of the day did you feel more confident and clear about your involvement in the project and how you would function? 95% of the participants answered yes.

  • “Glad to have the chance to establish a relationship and rapport with the one person I will be working with at the party itself. It seems very important that this relationship is established and that we both feel comfortable with the language we use.
  • Also, lots of questions come up about protocol were there ever to be any recognised social describing “service” available – issues of confidentiality as were raised by one person, but also of what the relationship should be between the describer and the party-goer if they do not know each other. These are obviously questions that push out of the boundaries of this project.
  • “I liked the way that we gradually built up trust between participant and describer through the course of the different activities.”

Was there anything throughout the course of the day that you would have preferred to have happened differently? 90% of the participants answered no.

  • “I felt there was a slight gap with regards to addressing the needs of people who had partial sight. The tasks seemed to be focused on people who had no sight at all, so there were different issues arising for the people with partial sight.”
  • “There was a moment where I looked up from guiding my partner. I saw fifteen visually impaired people on the ground having their movements controlled by fifteen sighted people staring down at them from various heights, and it didn't feel entirely good. In fact, it was a bit Orwellian. I felt like someone who'd been given control she didn't want instead of someone 'empowering' a visually impaired person. My partner seemed to feel the same way — we didn't talk about it, but he kept sitting down during the exercises and telling me he was fine where he was, and a couple of times he simply broke our cell phone connection and did his own thing, once I'd guided him around a bit. That was fine with me, as I liked him taking control of the communication and saying 'enough' when he'd had enough. As I looked around at the scene after one of those interrupted calls, a describer standing near me was having a (very mild) argument with his/her partially sighted participant because they had different ideas about how the particular exercise was supposed to develop, and the describer very mildly threatened to withhold information from the participant unless he/she played the game 'correctly'. Now, that was a very little thing, done in joking protest rather than in any spirit of meanness at all, but I could see how the personality of either the sighted describer or the visually impaired participant could easily cause a power imbalance, or a struggle for control. I also saw and heard plenty of partners really getting into the exercises, enjoying themselves and having a great time, so I don't mean to cast a shadow over the day's experiences. But I think if this sort of guidance technique is going to work well, the visually impaired service user needs to be fully in control of the process.”
  • “I would have liked to speak more with the other partners about how language enabled them to use the space. We did touch upon this briefly, but I was intrigued to hear about people's preferences for certain descriptions, or motions, and it would have been interesting to explore these ideas further.”
  • “Possibly more of a discussion about describing things as I noticed several describers were very subjective and for some of this task we needed an objective approach.”
  • “I have functional vision and feel if I had, had a blind fold my experience would have been enhanced.”

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