Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Upcoming Projects & Events

I have lots of exciting projects and events lined up for the Autumn and Winter, and thought I would share them here so that you can have a read of what I'll be involved in during the upcoming months!

Wednesday, 27th August
Filming a video with professional dancer, Faye Huddleston, promoting Henshaws Society for Blind People's biggest and brightest fundraising campaign - Bright for Sight! Faye and I take on the 'No Mirror Make-Up Challenge' created especially for the video, applying our brightest make-up products without a mirror!

Monday, 1st September
I'll be starting my work placement, at Henshaws Society for Blind People's Manchester resource centre, with the marketing team. I'll be involved with lots of different aspects of marketing, including; updating and maintaining their social media websites, updating blog posts, sitting in on meetings and taking minutes, connecting and networking with other companies, and so on.

Saturday, 13th September
Have Your Say Day at Friends Meeting House near St. Peters Square. This is a unique and entertaining day for blind and visually impaired people to share and discuss their views and experiences, along with three guest speakers, on topics such as Braille and tactile maps, new technology, the shared space concept and crossing the road safely and independently.

Saturday, 20th September
The One Man's Vision exhibition opens at Salford Museum and Art Gallery, based on the story of Thomas Henshaw and his philanthropic work which resulted in Henshaw's Asylum for the Blind - now Henshaws Society for Blind People. I am currently Brailling out accessible labels to be displayed alongside the special objects and paintings, kindly donated by the RNIB and Gallery Oldham, and will also help to install the exhibits beforehand. You can find out more about the exhibition by visiting the One Man's Vision website here.

Wednesday, 1st October
The second Henshaws Fashion Fundraiser takes place at Alderley Edge Cricket Club in Cheshire. I'll be giving another speech at the fashion show, this time based on the make-up I wear - how I select and purchase my products, how I identify them and how I apply them with the limited vision I have without a mirror. You read about my attendance at the first event, earlier this year, by clicking here.

Thursday, 23rd October
An Envision Meeting at the RNIB HQ in Judd Street, London, to discuss the feedback identified in the coffee shop surveys - as well as to finalise our coffee shop charter, following discussion regarding presenting it to the 4 main coffee chains in the UK.

Monday, 10th November - Wednesday, 12th November
Visit to European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium, with the RNIB and European Blind Union, to meet and engage with MEPs to discuss issues, such as; the accessibility of manufactured goods (including ICT) and the accessibility of apps, websites and social media.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

RNIB Thank You Card Designs

Earlier this Spring, I was kindly asked to produce some new Thank You cards for the RNIB, to be sent out to donors who have recently donated to the charity.

The theme was based on repeated geometric patterns, so I came up with a few pages of ideas which I then shared in person when I visited Judd Street back in April. My designs were held onto and shared in a meeting with other staff members - and it was decided that the below design would be perfect for their cards. I used many different colours as an idea to showcase this design, and the red / orange and blue / green were favoured the most.

With this research, I was then able to come up with four different card designs using the popular blue / green geometric design and red / orange design - as well as mixing them both together! I'm really pleased with how they turned out.

Mock designs are being produced very soon, providing information about myself and my eye condition on the reverse - as well listing my association with the RNIB, as their Young Illustrator of the Year and Envision co-chair and campaigner.

I will be sure to post the cards when they have been printed in the near future!

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Envision Teleconference:
Tuesday, August 19th

The Envision steering group and I had a teleconference tonight to touch base with each other on how our progress is going regarding distributing the coffee shop mystery shopping questionnaire, and to also start discussion on our next steps in the campaigning process for accessible menus in coffee shops.

I have so far promoted the questionnaire through the Envision Facebook page and Twitter page and I have also used Henshaws Society for Blind People's quarterly Hello! Newsletter to present the questionnaire to service users, as well as their online e-mail mailing list.

You can help with Envision's campaign for accessible menus, in the 4 main coffee chains in the UK, by downloading the survey form here and detailing your past experiences when choosing what to purchase without an accessible menu provided. You are free to share with other visually impaired friends and family members too; the more responses, the stronger our voice!

Responses are to be sent to the Envision mailbox (envision@rnib.org.uk) by September 12th.

Here are my notes from tonight's teleconference!

Recap of last meeting's agenda
What key points from the agenda had been signed off and completed. Action plans - discussion of the learning points from the Campaigner's Convention that have been received so far, any outstanding ones are to be completed ideally by the end of the week and e-mailed to Lindsay. These will be compiled into one document to then be e-mailed to the steering group as an attachment.

Now signed off and being distributed. Kimberley has shared it with the Henshaws mailing list, Henshaws Hello! Newsletter (Autumn edition) and through Envision's Facebook and Twitter pages, Naomi has shared it with the RLSB group and Nina will be sharing with Focus and the Birmingham Actioneers. The campaigns planning group will then sift through the responses, identify key themes, e-mail out the evidence and promote the findings to implement into our campaigning. Aim for September 12th to have all questionnaires sent back.

Update to the wider network
Discussion around the update to be sent out to the wider Envision network which is now signed off. Agreement to keep communications regular, possibly monthly as a guideline, but be flexible to whenever seems appropriate to share important news items and issues. Rotate the duty of writing updates between each other, particularly comms and co-chairs, to provide everyone with the opportunity to write something. September 19th is penciled in for the next update.

The bus charter used in the 'Stop for Me, Speak to Me' campaign was sent out as an attachment recently, to use as a foundation and a formula for our own coffee shop charter. We need to identify what our asks are and to think internally as to what the best mechanisms are. For example, do we just want to focus on menus or look at the whole package of the coffee shop experience? Do we want VI awareness training implemented into the manual, included in a full training day or slotting into the half-day training session?

Once identified we can build our asks around those. Cover the key areas, keep consistent to the focus and responses received in the questionnaires and be logical when pulling all of this evidence and information together under headings to then translate when presenting to providers. It was agreed to draft something for the charter and ideally have something to agree on in time for our October meeting in London. This will enable us to have the charter then signed off and put our focus into planning and lobbying the industry.

Two suggestions came up in the teleconference - one was that we could suggest that each store has a designated supporter for visually impaired people. Looking at the bus campaign, using their charter as a guide, a champion is mentioned to oversee that visually impaired people have found their seat, are aware of the bus number and destination, that drivers do not pull away from a bus stop, etc. We could use similar points, tailored to coffee shops. Another suggestion was to perhaps reach out to a contact within the environment and industry to give their input too, and to help with research in regards to what coffee shops currently provide.

Upcoming Teleconferences
Teleconferences in the near future, include; one for the Campaigns Planning group on Monday, 15th September between 7pm and 8pm, one for the Communications sub-group held on Wednesday, 24th September between 5:30pm to 6:30pm, and the Co-chairs will have their teleconference on Wednesday, 1st October (time to be decided nearer to the date). Ideally 4 members from each group would be beneficial, though if one or two can't attend then we will try to keep things moving forward as much as possible rather than rescheduling. It just provides the opportunity to touch base with each other, though between those times do feel free to keep in touch and converse, and give input regarding important items.

Meeting in London
Our next face-to-face meeting will be on Thursday, 23rd October from 11pm to 3pm at Judd Street. Think about the agenda and discussion points you'd like to include; discussion of drafted charter, the practicalities of how to get chains signed up to the charter and the area of focus for the next campaign.

Next Campaign
Think about putting the question out to the wider network, in the next e-mail update perhaps, of what they think the next campaign should be focused around (employment and built environments were mentioned during the teleconference). This allows them to feel more involved and empowered, in the confidence that they have contributed. Ask that question beforehand prior to the October meeting. Follow it up again through e-mail, and even through social media, to push for more responses.

Useful Links

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Skillstep: Week 12

The Skillstep course has now sadly come to an end. All 12 weeks have been completed and my portfolio is finalised and ready for accreditation.

Over the past 3 months, the group and I have massively developed our vocational skills, employability skills, social skills and IT skills; as well as expanding our social circles and making new friends. We all feel self-assured and confident in ourselves as visually impaired and blind people of varying ages and abilities and can achieve anything we put our minds to!

Our final week began on Tuesday with a visit from Elaine, based at Trafford College, who talked to us about our work placements and what skills we feel we developed from undertaking our new temporary roles along with which existing skill we put to good use. I personally felt like I was able to expand my already established social and communication skills by being in a different working environment, and also developed my care skills tremendously - which will benefit me when I become a Guide Dog owner in the very near future. We also discussed our next steps after the course comes to an end and what our aspirations are for the future.

The group and I walked from the Henshaws Manchester Resource Centre further down Talbot Road to Trafford College, and were provided with a tour of the complex by Elaine; who also gave a brief overview of some of the courses that are on offer and the different qualifications that can be achieved and accomplished through the college, if we decide to continue with further education. Prospectuses were provided to those who wanted them.

In the afternoon, Elaine opened discussions within the group of how the vocational portion, provided by Trafford College and tutored by Maureen during her Tuesday sessions, could have been improved - especially through the accessibility of the learning log and accreditation sheets, as well as the way the course was delivered to us. Suggestions and improvements were provided and will be taken on board for the new Skillstep groups in the future. 

During Wednesday morning we were visited by Helen Doyle, Research and Information Manager at Henshaws, to discuss how we found the course and what we especially enjoyed about it - as well as which areas had room for improvement. All of our feedback was positive and was recorded digitally to then be typed up into notes to implement within future courses. I personally liked the length of the course - neither too long nor too short - and I especially enjoyed the variety of topics that the Wednesday sessions provided; introducing us to some new aids and equipment and the Access to Work scheme, refreshing over Braille, the iPad, First Aid and mobility aids and techniques, a cooking session to channel our creativity and work together as a group, travelling down to the Guide Dogs Training Centre, and having visits from the Police, National Careers Service and Transport for Greater Manchester.

Wednesday afternoon Muhammed Karim, Diversities Co-ordinator from Transport for Greater Manchester, came in to talk to the group and I about concessionary passes for blind and visually impaired people and what projects they are in the process of working on in the near future to make transport more accessible to those suffering from sight loss. We were welcome to ask questions and provide suggestions and feedback for Muhammed to then take note of and feed back to the team.

On our final day, on the Thursday, we all went out to Wetherspoon's, relatively close to Henshaws, for our meal along with Skillstep co-ordinator, Julie Parrish. The Big Lottery Fund and Henshaws kindly provided our meal and first drink, and additional drinks and courses could then be purchased by ourselves afterwards. I was one of the final members of the group to leave in the evening and found it very bittersweet but lovely to be able to finish the course in such a nice way.

I'm really glad that I took part in the Skillstep course; I have taken a lot away from it and feel a lot more confident in regards to employability and future interviews especially. My favourite part of the course was definitely my work placement with Guide Dogs and I'm extremely grateful to Julie and to the Guide Dogs Training Centre for making that possible! I had such a fantastic time and learned some really valuable skills. I also really enjoyed the social aspect of Skillstep, I have some fantastic friends that I will be keeping in touch with for such a long time to come.

You can view all of my previous Skillstep posts, submitted on a week-by-week basis, by clicking here and you can find out more about the course itself by clicking here at the Henshaws website, where you can register your interest to the course via e-mail.

I want to say a big thank you to Julie Parrish, Henshaws Society for Blind People and The Big Lottery Fund for providing such an invaluable and beneficial course!

Friday, 15 August 2014

Blog Post with Henshaws:
Daily Living Skills

My newest blog post with Henshaws Society for Blind People, as their resident blogger, is now available on their blog for you to read!

In my latest entry I talk about the daily living skills sessions that I previously received for 10 months, helping to improve my confidence and independence around the kitchen; through orientation of where everything is located, practicing using difference appliances and learning new techniques for preparing food.

I have recently submitted a few more blog posts and I shall share them here when they have been posted in the near future.

You can read my previous blog posts with Henshaws by clicking here!

Monday, 11 August 2014

Guide Dogs Assessment

On Friday - shortly before attending the final day of my work placement at Guide Dogs - I was visited by Richard Woodcraft, my Guide Dogs Mobility Officer (GDMI), for my final assessment in the process of receiving my Guide Dog.

Previous to this assessment I've had my initial meeting at home, some medical forms to complete, and a mobility assessment; demonstrating whether I can use my long cane effectively and efficiently, as a back-up plan for when my dog is ill or when on the waiting list for a new dog. The final stage of the process is a home visit to establish who you live with, what other animals are in the house, the sort of routes you'd be making, how busy your lifestyle is, and where the Guide Dog would be sleeping and spending - as well as undergoing a harness training session.

After Richard filled my forms in, it was time for the harness assessment. I have had a few practices with an empty harness before, all within the past month, so feel very confident when being guided and using the harness, in a relaxed way, to be safely guided around obstacles. I was taught some basic commands and harness techniques too.

My harness training followed the route down to my local shops, which I am very confident with after completing 10 months of mobility training with a long cane recently, so know where everything is located on each kerb - so much so, that I even knew when Richard was being cheeky and attempting to guide me to the Butchers!

My assessment went extremely well, and Richard told me there and then that my application had been approved and I'm now officially on the waiting list to be matched to my dog! I received my confirmation letter of approval in the post this morning to confirm that my application was successful and have received an information pack to read through focusing on the next steps of becoming a Guide Dog owner.

I am over the moon that progress has finally been made in my journey to be matched to a Guide Dog after 11 months since initially applying. I am anticipating the day that I'm matched, have completed my residential training and can begin an independent and mobile life in the safe paws of a successful working partnership with my Guide Dog!

Friday, 8 August 2014

Skillstep Weeks 10 & 11:
Work Placement at Guide Dogs

Guide Dogs Training Centre in Atherton, Leigh

As part of the 12 week Skillstep course at Henshaws, weeks 10 and 11 of the course are focused around a work placement; to help gain experience, learn new skills and provide a general feel of the working environment - as the course itself is geared towards gaining employability skills and helping service users get back into further education, volunteering or paid work.

During the initial interview for the course, you are asked what your interests and skills are to then go towards formulating an appropriate work placement later on in the course, to get as much out of your placement as possible. Since the beginning of the course, I knew I wanted my work placement to be at the Guide Dogs Training Centre in Atherton, Leigh, as I am 10 months into my application and am due to start my harness training very soon. I wanted to experience behind the scenes and witness the inner-workings of the organisation, to pick up some tips to go towards my training and, later, skills for caring for my own Guide Dog when the time comes!

Guide Dogs emblem at the front of the Training Centre

My two-week work placement began on Monday, 28th July and continued through to Friday, 8th August. I was lucky enough to be a part of various departments and experience the many different roles within the training centre, including; puppy training, puppy walking, dog care, volunteering and reception work. I enjoyed all of the roles immensely but have to say that dog care was my favourite!

My placement began with two days of puppy walking and training. I met with and talked to six different trainers and, with them, travelled around Atherton, Bolton and Leigh to oversee the training of different dogs at various stages - some at foundation level, some at intermediate working in their harness and some due to start their advanced training in the next month or so, to then go on to graduate as a fully qualified Guide Dog!

Guide Dogs van - 'Life Changer on Board!'

Dogs undertake 16 weeks of training going to different locations such as shopping centres, town precincts, quiet streets and car parks to implement their training skills by walking a straight line run and stopping at every kerb before being told to go forward. The dogs get to experience being around traffic and navigating around shops, which will play big parts in their working life in the future.

The Atherton centre also has zebra crossings, traffic lights and an outside obstacle course containing traffic cones, safety barricades, A-boards and sign posts; so that the dog-in-training has the knowledge and experience of coming into contact with these obstacles and can safely guide their visually impaired working partner around them without hesitation.

Puppy Trainer, Suzanne, with dog-in-training Inca

There were two tours on Tuesday morning at the Training Centre; one for HSBC bank staff who had donated a large sum of money to Guide Dogs and another for the YMCA youth centre as part of their day trip out. Both trips started with a promotional video of the work that Guide Dogs do, followed by a talk from a puppy walker who looks after the puppy for the first 12 months, proceeded by a tour of the complex and concluding with a demonstration from puppy trainers showcasing what foundation, intermediate and advanced level training dogs can achieve on the obstacle course.

Members of the tour were then invited to have a blindfolded walk using a harness and a trainer, acting as the Guide Dog, to lead them around obstacles and let them experience what it's like to be visually impaired using a Guide Dog. I jumped at the chance to practice using a harness again, as this will benefit me greatly when it comes to my harness training at the end of the month; it's best to get as much practice in as possible!

Guide Dogs-in-training: synchronised demonstration

Bliss (Foundation): obstacle demonstration

Barkley (Intermediate): obstacle demonstration

Nessie (Advanced): obstacle demonstration

It was fantastic to witness the dogs at different stages tackling the obstacle course and comparing Bliss at Foundation Level, who has only completed a few weeks of training, to Nessie who has completed her full 16 weeks of training and is at Advanced Level ready to soon become a fully-qualified Guide Dog!

Puppy Trainer, Sharon, with Nessie tackling the obstacle course

Puppy Trainer, Paula, introducing the demonstration

Puppy Trainer, Sharon, with Guide Dog-in-training Nessie

Guide Dog-in-training, Nessie

Towards the end of the second day of walking and training, I was able to experience working with a dog in harness being guided around the outside obstacle course. I worked with Quasar first, who had a mod plus speed, followed by Yasmin, who walked with a much slower pace. This was the first time I was able to experience walking with a dog in harness and it was excellent practice for me.

It confirmed to me that signing up for a Guide Dog was the right decision and something that I will benefit greatly from in the future. I walked with a confidence I have never had before and was given the opportunity to identify my walking speed (mod to mod plus), and found Quasar to be an excellent working partner! After the obstacle course training, I helped to give Yasmin and Quasar a free run using one of the many grassy areas at Atherton used to provide dogs with some down-time after their training sessions.

Quasar (left) and Yasmin (right)

During Wednesday, I had a mixture of different working roles to experience. I finished my final puppy training session in the morning by travelling to a shopping centre nearby. We took Lottie to a cinema foyer and to Pets at Home to get used to some of the different animals available there, including degus and rabbits, and took Otis to Asda to experience being in a supermarket with stacks of food and trollies around. Both are at intermediate levels of training in their harness and did extremely well!

Lottie in the cinema foyer

Otis in Asda

After the puppy training during the first 2 and a half days, it was time for me to move onto a different role within the training centre - as receptionist! I sat with Sue, who was previously a Dog Trainer at the centre for over a decade. She described some of the tasks she does within her role, such as; greeting guests to the centre and providing any directions, giving voice announcements through the microphone, taking phone calls and, if need be, forwarding them on to the correct departments, responding to e-mail enquiries based on a whole host of different topics, ensuring visitors and staff have signed in and out of the log book, taking mail deliveries, and so on. Duties can vary from day-to-day!

Guide Dogs emblem behind Reception

Computer desk behind Reception

Reception desk with computer, stationary, announcement microphone and leaflets

Behind the reception desk is where Connor resides, who is a current Guide Dog-in-training. This enables him to prepare for and get used to an office environment, incase his future working partner is in employment working in an office. He has a water bowl, toys and a bed and greets guests with a bark or by putting his paws on the desk when they enter the training centre! His puppy trainer, Val, will pick him up when it's time for his training and he goes home to his puppy boarder every night.

Connor, Guide Dog-in-training, behind Reception

In the afternoon, I had my first taster of dog care. I met Joanne in the staff room before lunch, and she guided me down to the kennels before explaining some of the different duties within her department. Some of her tasks include filling in health cards for each dog in the kennel, detailing when they have had vet visits and health checks, logging their dietary information, weight and height, grooming the dogs, taking them to their allocated spend areas outside which are attached to each kennel and hosing down afterwards, giving treatments to dogs who have any health problems, weighing out the correct amount of food for each dog (either Royal Canin or Eukanuba), and providing play time with the dogs after their training.

I was given the fantastic opportunity of grooming 3 different dogs, including German Shepherd Cross Evie and her brother Evan as well as Golden Retriever Chisel, which was excellent practice for me as this is something I will be doing regularly when I have trained for my own Guide Dog!

There are 4 stages to grooming. The first is to get your fingertips into the coat and rub in circular motions across the fur to release the oils in the coat and skin and to help with circulation. The second stage is to use a rubber Zoom Groom against the direction of the fur. This helps to remove the loose hairs, stimulate capillaries and, again, release natural oils from the skin and coat. The third stage of grooming involves using a metal toothed comb at a 45° angle in the direction of the fur to gather the loose hairs in the teeth of the comb and to provide a proper brush through the coat evenly. It's best to start at the ears and move downwards, so as not to spread any germs from the lower end and then move them up towards the face. The final stage of grooming involves using a paddle brush, again to catch any final loose hairs and to also collect any dandruff. The paddle brush also provides a buffer for the coat and gives a nice shine and smooth finish.

After I had finished grooming, I then helped to give play time to some of the dogs who had training earlier in the day. Play time is done inside one of the outdoor play areas which has a box containing lots of different toys as well as a water bucket. Dogs will have their favourite rubber toys to play with, such as tyres, coloured rags, rubber balls and bones, and can have some down-time with each other as well as a much-needed drink after their exertion!

Before leaving and setting off for home on Wednesday afternoon, I met with Pebble - who I had previously met during the visit to the centre a few weeks ago with Henshaws, as part of the Skillstep course. It was wonderful to meet her again, and I must admit that I have fallen completely in love with Pebble!

Pebble having a rest in the staff room

Pebble looking into the camera

Pebble and I, such a model with her paw on my wrist!

Pebble and I

Suzanne, Pebble's Dog Trainer, kindly took some photos of us together and also brought along some brushes, so that I could implement the skills I had learned earlier in the day and give Pebble a nice groom! I feel like I've really bonded with her, but in no way have I been like Paul O' Grady in his Love of Dogs television programme and tried to sneak away with Pebble. That absolutely did not happen!

I had a day off on Thursday, and returned to the centre on Friday to experience working in the Volunteering Department, or PRO: People Resource Office. In this department, staff respond to e-mails and phone calls focused around people wanting to volunteer for Guide Dogs in a variety of different roles; either as Puppy Walkers, collecting money via collection tins at supermarkets and events, or fundraising for the charity in a variety of ways. You can read more about volunteering for Guide Dogs and the various roles available by clicking here.

I was given the task of putting new labels onto the collection boxes, as the older ones featured the previous corporate colours, logo and contact information and newer ones had been redesigned to feature the new logo and contact information. There were 16 boxes altogether, each filled with 15 collection tins, which is a total of 240 collection tins to relabel altogether! Relabelling continued from Friday to Monday, where I remained at the volunteering department for a second day.

Guide Dogs collection tin with new labels

Collection tins: old label vs. new label

I loved how tactile the collection tins were, and it was fairly easy for me to put the labels on as a severely visually impaired person as there was a tactile groove at the top and bottom of the cylinder which I used as a guide to place the label. I quite enjoyed doing the labelling, and Moss - a Guide Dog-in-training, whose boarder works in the volunteering department - would come over to oversee the work I was doing! I think he loved the dogs on top of the tins as much as I did!

When I had finished he labelling, I had another job to do which involved ripping old envelopes and leaflets designed for a Stan Out for Guide Dogs event in the Autumn of last year, that were out of date and needed disregarding. There were 5 boxes of these, containing around approximately 300 envelopes and leaflets each.

Guide Dog-in-training, Moss

When I had finished my work in the Volunteering Department on Monday afternoon, I was kindly invited to watch the filming in the arena of some of the puppies undertaking one of their training classes for Blue Peter, to be aired on the show very soon within the next few weeks. Involved in the puppy training class was Blue Peter's very own Guide Dog puppy, Iggy, who I was very lucky to have met after filming had finished! I took some photos and videos of the puppy class filming, which you can view below.

Blue Peter filming Iggy the Guide Dog pup

Puppy Training class filmed for Blue Peter

Blue Peter presenter, Lindsey Russell, with Iggy (right)

Filming of Blue Peter presenter, Lindsey, with Iggy the puppy

I then met Iggy and her new puppy boarder, Poppy, for some cuddles and photos. She's such a well-behaved little girl and even cuter in real life than on television! You can read more about Iggy the Guide Dog puppy by visiting the Blue Peter website here! Videos are also available of the progress she has made so far.

Myself with Blue Peter's Guide Dog puppy, Iggy!


Some of the photos I took of Iggy,
including her Blue Peter badge attached to her collar!

On Tuesday, I continued with Dog Care for the full day which I had a taster of during the previous Wednesday afternoon. I started the day by helping to give Postie and Ewan a free run on one of the larger grassy areas that had some slight hills. Postie and Ewan are the best of friends, but sadly Postie is a withdrawn dog looking to be re-homed in the near future.

Ewan (left) and Postie (right) during their free run

After giving Postie and Ewan a good 25 minutes free run, it was then time to return to the kennels to begin my grooming session. I groomed 2 dogs in the morning; Tally and Spencer. I implemented the skills I had learned in the previous week, when grooming Evie, Evan, Chisel and Pebble, using the fingertips in circular motions to stimulate circulation and release oils and then proceeded to use the 3 different brushes, that included; the zoom groom, the metal comb and the paddle brush. I was tested on which order the brushes are used, how they are used and why that are used - and passed with flying colours! I consider myself to be an expert now!

Grooming Spencer!

Tally (left) and Spencer (right) on the grooming station!

After grooming, I helped to give 4 dogs their play time; including Eddie, Sadie, Spencer and Roy. As with before, lots of rubber toys are given to the dogs from the box so that they can identify their favourites and play with them and a water bucket is provided for a drink after they have had a play fight with each other! I finished Tuesday afternoon by helping to give a free run to CJ, a black labrador.

During the final day of my work placement at the training centre in Atherton, I tried my hand at obedience training! Laura and Paula, two of the Dog Trainers, talked me through the correct commands  and voice tone to use, and I had a go of telling both Spangle and Pebble commands, such as; sit, down, wait, heel and straight on. I began by having a walk around the arena with them, one at a time, to build up rapport and then gave the commands afterwards. I also tried calling their names when taking them off their leads to see if they responded and came back to me - which they did! I absolutely enjoyed my morning with Spangle and Pebble trying out obedience training!

Spangle and I after obedience training!

Pebble number 2 and I after obedience training!

My work placement at the Guide Dogs Training Centre in Atherton, Leigh, has now sadly come to an end. I've had an absolutely fantastic two weeks and now have a much better knowledge and understanding of the process of how the dogs are trained, how much time and effort is put into each dog, and I've learned lots of invaluable key skills of how to look after my own Guide Dog. The staff have been so friendly and welcoming and I'm so grateful that they have taken time out of their busy schedules to accommodate and support me.

I've recently applied to become a fundraiser and collection tin co-ordinator near to my local area, so hope to be a part of many future events for Guide Dogs to show my appreciation and gratitude!

Friday, 1 August 2014

Visit to the Imperial War Museum North with the Art Galleries and Museums Group

Yesterday morning the Art Galleries and Museums Group, consisting of service users from the Henshaws Manchester Resource Centre, visited the Imperial War Museum North as part of their monthly trip out; organised by group co-ordinator, Mary Gifford. There are around 30 members that attend the group each month in their visit to different art galleries, museums and heritage sites for an accessible audio described tour and object handling session.

This was my first outing with the group, and I enjoyed it immensely. Quite a number of service users are regular members that I know from other groups at Henshaws, such as the Arts & Crafts group - which is run each Friday afternoon, so it was lovely to speak to them before our session began and to hear about some of the other places of interest that they had visited recently.

The group was divided into three smaller groups in order to rotate around each of the three 'stations' that were available to us. The three different stations consisted of a touch and handling session of objects from the First World War, an audio described painting produced in 1915 by Gilbert Rogers and an audio described and tactile bronze tablet from inside the 'From Street to Trench: A War that Shaped a Region' special exhibition.

The first station that I attended was the touch and handling session of specially selected artefacts from the First World War, not on display in the exhibitions. This was located inside the Libeskind Rooms with background provided for each object by Martin Skelton. Some tape recordings were also played before the artefacts were passed around to the rest of the group. The first object was that of a Munitions' Factory Staff Award; a circular medal, engraved on the back with text, surrounded by two laurel leaves. The medal is suspended from a royal blue silk ribbon and brass pin. It was awarded on December 21st, 1918 to D. Sewell for producing the highest average output of shells, copying and boring.

Munitions Factory Staff Award, awarded to D. Sewell
 Ponders End Shell Works 6" Shop

The next object to be passed around to the group was a trench art ring - a brass finger ring associated with, and possibly made by, Sergeant W. Skinner of the Royal Garrison Artillery. Engraved with 'Ypres' located in West Flanders, Belgium. The engraving itself suggests a familiarity of Sergeant W. Skinner to the municipality of Ypres. Skinner was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for 'conspicuous good work and fearless devotion to duty during thirty months' active service'.

Brass trench art ring, engraved 'Ypres'

The third object to be passed around and described to us was that of a trench art bullet, featuring a cross crowning its wide end. It had a height of 45 mm, a width of 12 mm and a depth of 8mm. This was one of my favourite artefacts from the touch and handling session, as something quite beautiful was created from an object of destruction; a flicker of hope in the war and beauty from within the battlefield. It was also very tactile and easy to acknowledge its shape.

Trench art bullet with cross

The fourth and final object, to be described by Martin and passed around to the group, was a Princess Mary Christmas Box from December 1914. Princess Mary had collected funds from the general public by putting out an advertisement. The purpose was to create a 'gift from the nation' to everyone wearing the King's uniform.

The money was used to create an embossed brass box, based on a design by Messrs Adshead and Ramsey, which featured the image of Princess Mary in the centre surrounded by a laurel wreath and flanked on both sides by the 'M' monogram. At the top of the box, a decorative cartouche surrounds the words 'Imperium Britannicum' with a sword and scabbard on either side. The bottom of the box has another cartouche emblazoned with 'Christmas 1914'. The corners of the box feature the names of the Allies; Belgium, Japan, Montenegro, Servia, France and Russia.

The contents of the box included a 1oz tobacco and 20 cigarettes, both incased in yellow monogrammed wrappers along with an accompanying letter of how the officer should behave while on active duty.

The Princess Mary Christmas Box, 1914
with accompanying letter

Inside the Princess Mary Christmas Box, 1914 with
accompanying letter, tobacco and cigarettes

After the touching and handling session with Martin Skelton, my group rotated to the next station of a painting, produced in 1915 by Gilbert Rogers, located outside the Main Exhibition space with audio description provided by Carisse Foster.

Gilbert Rogers was the lead artist commissioned in 1918 to produce work for the medical section of the Imperial War Museum. This huge - 11 foot by 15 foot! - canvas depicts the Royal Army Medical Corps along with the British Red Cross Society, collecting and transporting British troops who were injured during the first Battle of Ypres, in 1914. It boasts mainly earthy tones of brown, green and black - typical camouflage colouring - with bold, contrasting areas of white bandages and red crosses. Another contrast is the quiet imagery of the foreground against the explosions and ruins shown in the background.

This is the first time in 90 years that this painting has been displayed to the public again. It was originally exhibited in the Imperial War Museum of Crystal Palace, London, but a leaky roof damaged the painting and it wasn't able to be restored until the late 1980s.

Ypres, 1915 by Gilbert Rogers

The third and final station that my group rotated to was inside the Special Exhibition showcasing the Great Gable Memorial plaque - a bronze tablet, set within a plinth, commemorating members of the Fell and Rock Climbing Club of the Lake District who were killed in the First World War.

Audio described by Camilla Thomas, she described the bronze plaque in detail and how it comprises of the 12 peaks at the top inside a model map recreation. Underneath is a tablet featuring the names of 20 walkers and climbers who lost their lives in the war. The map was extremely tactile, and the group and I were invited to touch and count the peaks as Camilla read out the names of those on the memorial plaque:

In glorious and happy memory of those whose names are inscribed below, members of this club who died for their country in the European War 1914-1918. These fells were acquired by their fellow members and by them vested in the national trust for the use & enjoyment of the people of our land for all time.

J.S.Bainbridge; J.G.Bean; H.S.P.Blair;
A.J.Clay; J.N.Fletcher; W.H.B.Gross;
E.Hartley; S.W.Herford; S.F.Jeffcoat;
E.B.Lees; S.J.Linzell; L.J.Oppenheimer;
A.J.Prichard; A.M.Rimer; R.B.Sanderson;
H.L.Slingsby; G.C.Turner; B.H.Whitley;
J.H.Whitworth; C.S.Worthington.

Bronze plaque commemorating fallen members of
The Fell and Rock Climbing Club

I enjoyed my first outing with the Art Galleries and Museums group a great deal. The subject matter itself was extremely fascinating, the staff were very accommodating and the audio description of paintings and objects were informative, descriptive and interesting.

I especially enjoyed the handling session of a special selection of objects from the First World War; to have that extra tactile dimension while learning about the object's origins through tape recordings and background provided by staff members was both beneficial and much appreciated. I want to say a big thank you to Martin Skelton, Carisse Foster and Camilla Thomas for their audio descriptions, and to Mary Gifford for organising the visit!

You can find out more about the Imperial War Museum North; their current exhibitions, opening times and facilities by clicking here.