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Textiles in Practice students using special glasses to simulate a visual impairment.

Partnership with RNIB enables students to work with visually impaired people to develop creative solutions

7 December 2023

Textiles in Practice students participate in tactile workshop

BA (Hons) Textiles in Practice (TiP) course is once again collaborating with the Royal National Institute of Blind People (RNIB) on a project with our creative students. 

Locating Live(s): ‘Beyond Sight’ is a Level 5 unit in which students are encouraged to consider the potential for textiles as a broad discipline which has the capability to enrich lives, make change and promote positivity.  Students adopt a dialogic design thinking approach, exploring participatory, sensory and inclusive design methodologies to consider human-centric accessible design innovation.  The partnership with the RNIB enables students to discuss the challenges of sight-loss with visually impaired people to help them create useful solutions. 

Neil Baxter and Reanna Parkinson from the RNIB visited the School of Art to run a Tactile Workshop to enable students to experience different types of sight loss.  They also brought with them a group of people with visual impairments and some specialist equipment to help the students experience some of the hundreds of different types of sight-loss. 

RNIB workshop

Unit Lead, Emma Cocchiarella, said  “We hope to encourage and ignite empathic approaches to designing with others in mind.  We will be exploring how textiles has the potential to communicate spatially through sensory engagement, exploring concepts relating to the way we live. Ultimately addressing how Design has the capability to impact, enrich and empower other people’s lives, beginning to establish personal values for practice and ways of working both professionally and creatively in the future.”

“When I put the vision glasses on and it was a struggle.” said Ellie Green-Hix a second year TiP student.  She said that she was attracted to the project after she took a careers assessment and found that she was most suitable to be either a designer or a carer, so this project brought both areas together.  Ellie talked about continuing to develop this area in her own practice, “There is a gap in the market.  Most companies wouldn’t think about touch, taste, feel or smell.  Designers need to think about all our senses”.

The students will work on their ideas over the next few weeks before the RNIB return to Manchester School of Art.

Marcus Lord, External Liaison Manager at Manchester Metropolitan University said “we were approached by the RNIB many years ago and have been working with them ever since.  They told us that many visually impaired people were interested in seeing and creating art but most galleries did not cater for them properly. Our Academics created a student project to engage with people with visual impairments into the world of haptic and sensory design This is one of the ongoing projects I am most proud of.”