Tam Gilbert, a Dorset-based visually impaired artist, is researching the stories of visually impaired women in Dorset. The Heritage Lottery Fund is funding her investigations into the experiences of women in Victorian Dorset and modern times. Artist and story-teller Michele O’Brien joins Tam on her journey.

Sensing Helen

The Sensing Helen project is inspired by Helen Keller’s experience of learning to communicate. Keller was the first deaf and blind person to graduate in the US.

Tam is exploring three areas of visual impairment heritage. She is researching the story of two visually impaired/blind women in Dorset when there was little understanding about disability.

Oral histories

Tam is also collecting ten oral histories from visually impaired women across Dorset. These focus on people’s memories and experiences of growing up visually impaired or blind and learning how to communicate.

Finally, Tam is working with school children from Victoria Education Centre. This is to find out how young people facing disabling barriers are learning ways to communicate.

Dorset Blind Association

Tam says:  ‘I am really excited to be working on this project. It is fascinating to find out how visually impaired women were seen by society in the past. I can’t wait to share our findings. I am intrigued to find out what we share with Helen and her UK peers.’

ScreenPLAY is filming the project for a documentary. Dorset History Centre will store the final oral histories and research in their permanent collections.

To read more about the project, follow Tam’s blog on Disability Arts Online.

The Arts Development Company is managing the project in partnership with Persuasion Arts, Dorset History Centre, Victoria Education Centre, Dorset Blind Association, The Priest’s House Museum, Disability Arts Online and LinkUpArts.

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