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Kingsclere charity making a difference to isolated blind and partially-sighted

Living Paintings Touch to See books sent out free to its library members

Monty enjoys his Touch to See book
Monty enjoys his Touch to See book

Kingsclere-based Living Paintings’ Touch to See books, with their raised images and wonderful, immersive soundtracks, provide a unique understanding of the visual world for those who cannot see.

THERE are two million blind and partially-sighted people in the UK. Moreover, every 15 minutes someone is told that they will lose their sight, including four children every day. It’s a devastating diagnosis, leaving parents uncertain as to how their child can join in with story time, follow school work with their sighted peers and, most importantly, make friends.

As well as the educational impact, blind children face social exclusion as they struggle to join in conversations about the visually-informed subjects that are the basis for so much social interaction. And for older people, who often live alone, blindness can lead to life-shattering isolation, leaving them cut off from the world around them. Kingsclere-based Living Paintings’ Touch to See books, with their raised images and wonderful, immersive soundtracks, provide a unique
understanding of the visual world for those who cannot see.

The books are lent out to visually-impaired children and adults across the UK through a postal service – they can borrow as many books as they like and the service is completely free. “From the littlest fingers through to older people who suffer sight loss, our books are designed for sharing – in class with sighted peers or at home with family and friends,” says the
charity’s CEO Camilla Oldland.

The Living Paintings charity’s work really does changes lives. As the mother of one child, Emily, said: “Living Paintings enabled our daughter to feel part of the everyday world that everyone else takes for granted.

“Being blind is incredibly isolating, but the Touch to See books ensured that other children took an interest in how she read. The books give her a positive view of reading and of herself, which is incredibly important for her mental health.”

A donation of £20 could provide an older isolated blind person with Touch to See books for the next four months. Imagine being in your 80s, living alone and suddenly being told you cannot leave your home or see anyone fin lockdown. Now imagine that you cannot see, you can’t read a book, you can’t look into your garden and see the birds and trees, you can’t go to the shops to buy food, you can’t easily use the internet. This is the daunting prospect faced by thousands of older blind and partially-sighted people across the UK right now in response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Living Paintings can help. They create Touch to See books that are used by thousands of blind and partially-sighted people to bring the visual world to life. They are sent out from a completely free postal library, which is open for any blind or partially-sighted person to join.

“Our unique books include raised images and immersive audio recordings which are often voiced by professional actors and personalities,” says Camilla. "This combination of touch and sound makes up for the missing sense of sight and helps blind and partially sighted people to understand and feel part of the world around them. Seventy-three-year-old library member Danni describes the unique Touch to See books as “boxes of magic”, which provide great comfort in this time of isolation and the voices on the audio descriptions “are like my real friends that guide me through these magical places. It feels as though I have friends with me at home”.

She says: “From my sofa I can visit art galleries, I can visit gardens, I can go bird watching. I can be taken out of myself and into another world, I can travel the world!”

In the current Covid-19 crisis demand for Living Paintings’ service is increasing and will continue to do so over the coming months, but Camilla reassures library members: “We are committed to being there for our library members in these
unprecedented and worrying times. Older and vulnerable library members who are having to self-isolate need our books more than ever to connect to the world and help keep their spirits up.

“Parents of blind and partially-sighted children need our books to help continue their children’s education at home during school closures and periods of self-isolation – as many blind and partially-sighted children have additional serious medical
conditions they will often need to completely self-isolate over the coming months.”

Eight-year-old library member Tayen is blind and going through chemotherapy for a condition called neurofibromatosis. On medical advice she and her brothers are in isolation, but she was over the moon to receive two boxes of new books from Living Paintings and wasted no time getting all of the books out. Her mother said: “I can’t explain just how happy those boxes made her this week. Tayen doesn’t cope well with any changes to her routine so was very upset, but she knows what these boxes of books are, they don’t change and I know she felt comforted and reassured by them.”

To view a short video of how Touch to See books are made, visit https://www. youtube.com/watch?v=phk8Jsd2fR8

Can you help Living Paintings continue their service?

“We are carrying on with our usual service, offering our books to new members who could benefit, and offering extra support for our older and more vulnerable library members to help ease their isolation. We’ll be calling regularly to check in on them.
“We’ll also be giving extra support to parents of blind and partially-sighted
children to use our books at home.
“This increase in need comes at a time when we are struggling to cope with the loss of income from cancelled fundraising events and the loss of volunteers who usually help send out our books and produce new books.

“That’s why we urgently need your donations today. If we can raise £25,000 we can promise to be there for the
thousands of blind and partially-sighted people we support.”

  • £20 could pay for one library member to receive as many of our books as they wish over the next four months.
  • £88 could pay for one copy of a new Touch to See short story book for adults.

“We understand that not everybody will be able to help us financially, you can also help by spreading the word about our work – we want to reach as many people as we can over the coming months.

Thank you for your support.
To donate, here are the charity’s details:

Bank/building society: Bank of Scotland
Branch: 33 Old Broad St, London
Sort Code: 12 09 49
Account no: 00810367
Name on account: Living Paintings Trust

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