Today we’re excited to announce a brand new Sensing Nature venture which aims to support access to nature sites across the UK for people with sight impairment.
Called ‘Nature Narratives: Vocalising Nature Sense’, the new project was prompted by last year’s Nature Sense workshop and is a collaboration between Sensing Nature, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Andy Shipley, Heritage Ability and VocalEyes.
Supported by funding from the Economic and Social Research Council’s Impact Acceleration Account, the Nature Sense team will be designing and delivering tailored visual awareness and audio description training workshops at three flagship RSPB and Heritage Ability sites.
The overall aim of the project is to build capacity to welcome and support people with sight impairment, provide engaging and appropriate experiences, enhance the profile of RSPB and Heritage Ability sites through existing visual impairment networks, and raise awareness of nature settings as places for everyone.
Since its inception in 1998, VocalEyes has been providing valued access services for visitors with sight impairment to museums, galleries and cultural heritage sites across the UK. This new collaborative venture aims to broaden their work and expertise within the realm of natural heritage sites.
A key finding emerging through the Sensing Nature study so far is how positive experiences of exploration and immersion are often accompanied - or preceded - by challenges of orientation and navigation in varied nature settings. These encounters can shift and change, both in the course of the day with light and weather variations and unexpected wildlife encounters, and through the year with seasonal change.
These types of insights will be used to inform the training content developed through this collaborative venture; together with the specialist wildlife and botanical knowledge held by the RSPB concerning non-visual opportunities to ‘read’, identify and relate to different aspects of nature.
To capture and share the workshop learning more widely, we will also be producing a series of written materials that can be adapted and tailored to the rich and varied natural heritage sites that people may be keen to visit around the country.
By distributing these materials through the Sensing Nature network and beyond, we hope to promote greater awareness of the range of adaptations that could be made – either through on site changes or with staff/volunteer training programmes – to unlock opportunities to derive a sense of awe, pleasure, learning and nature connection amongst visitors with sight impairment around the country.
We’ll also make materials available online, so stay tuned for updates on both social media and our partners’ websites.