BCMS Volunteer Day at Living Paintings

Debbie Henderson writes: What is a normal work life these days? Dynamics have changed and hybrid working creates new ways of working, where you may not see colleagues every day or every week.

It was very uplifting to see a return to a norm which supports volunteering and helping others – a core value here at BCMS. One of our neighbours here on Kingsclere Park, near Newbury, reached out for support to clear out their building. Before lockdown they had been flooded and the damage was now finally going to be addressed. This building houses incredible resources that transforms the lives of thousands of blind and partially sighted people. Let me tell you a little more about the charity behind this.

Living Paintings are the national charity that don’t see blindness as a barrier to experiencing the visual world. For 30 years, they’ve been creating unique ‘Touch to See’ books and resources for blind children and young people from their Kingsclere offices, and lending them out to families, schools and professionals from their free postal library.

Living Paintings adapt some of the world’s best-loved picture books into tactile-audio versions

The charity works mainly with children and young people and a big part of their work is championing accessibility in children’s publishing. Living Paintings adapt some of the world’s best-loved picture books into tactile-audio versions that children can experience through touch and sound, so they don’t have to miss out on the stories captivating their sighted peers and families can enjoy story time together – just like everybody else. Illustrations from each book are adapted into unique ‘feely pictures’ so little fingers can feel every detail of the original illustration, with the text included in braille throughout the book. Each comes with a specially recorded audio track that guides their hands over the tactile pictures and describes the pictures throughout the book, with audio tracks recorded by big-names such as Ethan Hawke, Rochelle Humes, Fearne Cotton, David Walliams and Tim Peake.

Living Paintings also produce a range of tactile-audio resources that are linked to the National Curriculum to support students of all ages in their learning, and a range of resources to help blind people explore their interests. From music, history and culture to works of arts and famous museum exhibits – all of Living Paintings’ work is designed to make sure that blind people have access to the visual world that sighted people may take for granted.

Living Paintings rely on volunteers to carry out their work – and you can get involved

Willing hands were needed and a team from our office worked with the wonderful people from the charity – resulting in thousands (and thousands) of boxes, each containing a touch to see book, being moved to a temporary home and back into a refurbished library.

Now I love books! You may well have been a bookworm growing up or a parent who enjoys snuggling up with their children and a good book, so it was heart-warming to be packing up books like Hugless Douglas, Hairy Maclary and classics from Julia Donaldson. And who can’t be excited seeing The Christmasaurus mould being painted. I hope Tom Fletcher is available to do the audio, alongside tactile ‘feely’ pictures (if anyone knows him… please get in contact). The Magical Worlds resource allows you to discover what a snitch looks like or to share in JK Rowling’s vision of the characters of Harry, Hagrid and Voldemort.

A massive thank you to my amazing team mates on this job – Simon Glover, Sue Forgeron, Shivam Arora, Andy Denny and Glenn Jenner.

The charity rely of volunteers to carry out their work. From volunteer painters to bring life to the feely illustrations to volunteer librarians who help get their books out into the community, their work would not be possible without the army of dedicated volunteers who give up their time to support the charity. If you would like to explore how you can utilise the resources or to support/volunteer for this remarkable charity please visit their website Books For Blind Children and Adults – Living Paintings

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