I had met Clarke at the beginning of lockdown through the fantastic digital artist forum Take Time. Clarke is a great advocate for blind awareness in the fine arts scene, and I got in touch with him recently about the possibility of being an Inclusion Ambassador for Touch Network. Our volunteer Inclusion Ambassadors will be working alongside me to help make sure that everything Touch does is as inclusive and accessible as possible. We won’t always get things right, but we’re committed to listening to people with lived experience.

Seeing differently.

Clarke and I spoke about how we can value the experience of those who have visual challenges or are registered blind. While ‘equality’ is about treating people the same, ‘equanimity’ is about providing support in relation to people’s abilities and limitations. To achieve equanimity within Touch, we can do straightforward things like making sure our policy documents set the right intentions, and getting visual awareness training for our team.

We talked about how Clarke could get involved, maybe by lending his voice to My Amazing Story, becoming an event speaker, and helping us run an event with visual awareness in mind. It would be great if people could experience Clarke’s artwork at our events as a means of understanding his story and his world.

I’m excited to have Clark on board because of his wealth of lived experience and willingness to engage. He brings passion and intelligence to the art of inclusive design.

Braille Art.

Of course, the best possible way of beginning our partnership was to visit Clarke’s exhibition, which ran at Yellow Edge Gallery in Gosport in June. I was able to go along with a few other members of the Touch team, and we had a really impactful and engaging experience.

Personally I particularly enjoyed learning more about Braille – the colour coding system Clark has designed helped me start to get to grips with it as a language. The art itself was fascinating and captivating. The need to touch the works at points and feel the words alongside reading them gave the brain a workout in the best way. I took away with me a new understanding of how it feels to move through the world as a visually impaired person.

The exhibition left me feeling quite emotional, and also just so glad to have Clark give us a window into the world of visual impairment and blindness. It’s a perfect demonstration of how enriching it can be when we make room for all perspectives.

Image description: Braille artworks by artist Clarke Reynolds

Image description: Braille artworks by artist Clarke Reynolds

Your voice.

If you’re passionate about representation and have lived experience of issues around BAME, Disability, LGBTQ+, or any other facet of inclusivity, we’d love to hear from you. We’re looking for volunteers who can give any amount of time, however small, to share their expertise. The role of Inclusion Ambassador can be designed around your value, your voice and your time – and if you want, it may include sharing your story at a Touch event.

If you think you might be interested, just drop me a message at [email protected], call me on 07849189033, or get in touch through our web form. I’d love to chat about how we can continue to build a culture of openness at Touch.

Stevie Williams is Inclusion Lead for Touch Network