Penlee House Gallery and Museum help the blind to ‘see’ exhibitions for the first time



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A Cornish gallery has teamed up with a local sight loss charity to help blind people ‘see’ their exhibitions for the first time.

Penlee House Gallery and Museum, based in Penzance, has worked closely with iSightCornwall to allow blind and partially sighted visitors to have the chance to fully experience their exhibitions for the first time.

To achieve this the gallery has introduced audio descriptions of key paintings which have been recorded onto a device called the PenFriend.

Visitors carry the small device around the Gallery with them and when they want to hear a description of the painting they simply tap the PenFriend onto the bright orange sticker next to it and listen to the description through a set of headphones.

People with little or no sight can be given assistance to find the stickers.

“It’s a wonderful tool and so simple to use,” said Pam Beattie, a member of iSightCornwall who was invited along to Penlee House to explore the current exhibitions.

She and others were asked to share their ideas about how to improve the experience for people with visual impairments.

In fact the idea came when Pam, who uses Penfriend at home, spoke of the potential benefit the device could have at the Gallery.

“I have very poor central vision so the audio descriptions help to fill in the blanks for me,” she added.

“Being able to linger at a particular painting or go back to a previous one gives me the independence to enjoy the Gallery at my own pace, which doesn’t happen with a guided tour.

“It’s wonderful that Penlee House have done this, I wish all other galleries would do the same.”

The group also got the opportunity to create their own artwork alongside local artist Carys Wilson.

An exhibition of their work is on display in the Gallery throughout August and the group were invited to the opening day on Tuesday, August 1, so that they could also explore the exhibition properly for the first time.

They were also given a live…

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