Great to be back at Ysgol y Deri collaborating with teaching practitioners from across the autism and PMLD sector in Wales. With a focus on Enchantment and the new Expressive Arts curriculum, our first “digital imagining” workshop considered whether co-production could be a viable and feasible method of addressing the digital marginalisation of pupils with profound disabilities.
The Sherman Theatre hosted the first Vision 21 drama and dance summer school last week. Cariad joined Morgan Thomas and Tamsin Griffiths in co-creating a moving performance that incorporated drawing, acting, puppetry and dance. We revisited Somantics as a method of engaging the group, working at times with individuals but, wherever appropriate, using the interface to tease out some of the narratives emerging though the different activities. We also modified some of the early Somability prototypes as a backdrop for actors as they performed their scenes. Everyone had a lot of fun; by the end of the week the group were confident in improvising and sharing their creations, openly inviting each other to join in. There was a real buzz of excitement for the showback
The iconic Senedd building in Cardiff provided the setting for a Cariad Interactive paper prototyping workshop with the Gesture-based Professional Learning Community (PLC). Neil Mendoza took on the tricky programming task, while Pete encouraged participants to quickly communicate ideas on paper. The PLC added some interesting ingredients and challenges for the interaction designers, as they playfully explored how rhythm could enrich the learning environment of young people with severe learning difficulties. The winning pitch resonated inclusivity, showing that an inclusive design is something that can excite all of us.
Not to have confidence in one’s body is to lose confidence in oneself’
Simone de Beauvoir (1974)
Many people, either through disability or ageing, have limited opportunities to enjoy meaningful activities that promote full body movement and physical exercise. Immobility not only impacts on physical well being, but also personal independence and self-expression. The Touch Trust is a charity providing specialist creative movement programs for people with profound and multiple needs, inspiring people to connect with each other though the body. In recent years Cariad Interactive worked with Cardiff Metropolitan University and the Touch Trust to explore how motion-sensing technologies could promote user-led enjoyment of movement. Whilst we have adopted a mindful approach to designing, setting judgements and ambitions aside, working in partnership with therapists and end users has been a creative challenge for everyone involved. The Touch Trust programme is responsive to individual needs, alert to the emergence of self confidence, taking even the most tentative movement as a possibility for action. Technology on the other hand, can seem disembodied, homogeneous, and lacking in responsiveness.
The workshop at Well Being 2013 invited delegates to review video footage in order to appreciate the need for appropriate inclusive design activities, and to think about how to incorporate influences from therapists and end users, in design for wellbeing. In trying out simple movement such as stretching, twisting, and combinations of these, the workshop enabled people to create flowing artworks that amplify bodily engagement. In this process of using technology to draw attention to actions our perception of disability was confronted.
This one day-workshop is to be hosted at the iconic Welsh Assembly Government Senedd Building at Cardiff Bay. The workshop is one in a series of activities organised in partnership with the Professional Learning Community (PLC) in Gesture Based Communication in Wales. Anthony Rhys, founder of the PLC, is providing us with a creative challenge in designing for disability. This gives us an opportunity to try out our Paper Prototyping workshops with key stakeholders from disability networks in Wales.
The short session delivered for Hirstwood Training covered how to use ReacTickles Magic and Somantics to experience sensations such as squash, stretch, push, pull, press, reach, tap, tickle and so on, where action and reaction are closely matched. Input data also included sound and movement, enabling users to capture, observe and create images with their bodies. As both these applications do not require previous experience of technology they can increase the inherent accessibility of the iPad. The abstract design adds to this inclusivity, as both children and adults can discover meaning through action. The session demonstrated how to trigger imaginative responses and expressive communication rather than to teach skills. I asked the audience to think about the iPad as a medium rather than a tool, particularly when projected. The amplification afforded though large scale projection supports gross motor movement and rhythm, creating possibilities for empathic, co-located interaction. Drawing on case studies and video testimonies, the sessions evidenced how these minimal interfaces have enabled users, some with the most profound disabilities, to quickly gain confidence in their ability and a sense of mastery.
Bridgend Day Centre caters for the needs of people with learning disabilities, giving them access to education, training, and a range of creative and therapeutic activities. Following on from our work with the Touch Trust and Rhondda Cynon Taf Skills for Independence, we created a bespoke training programme for the Day Centre and set up a camera/projector system in the Sensory Studio and the Touch Room. The first part of the training introduced Gestural Interaction through: Background Research , using ReacTickles to establish cause and effect, and encouraging the use of Tools For Touch, in order to generate confidence in Direct Support Assistants and other staff in using our technologies. We then referred to video testimonials and started to explore Somantics, whilst at the same time learning about the benefits of Body Schema & Mirrors and Gestural Communication. Finally, we looked at Staging The Action: how to set up a simple system – anywhere! Although we were running short of time, I briefly introduced Creative Movement: body awareness, weight, space, rhythm, moving with others, and provided the Day Centre with written documentation that explains how to encourage creative movement in adults with profound learning difficulties. We left and camera system at the Day Centre for a week, which they have been able to set up themselves and explore in their own time. The Feedback and documentation is available on request.