Essex SLC work to make art accessible

Essex Sight Loss Council is working with Chelmsford Museum and Chelmsford Theatre to explore how they can best support blind and partially sighted customers to make art accessible.

As part of this work, Essex Sight Loss Council (SLC) members shared their lived experience of accessing theatres and museums as someone with sight loss. They also delivered a vision awareness session and sighted guide training.

Supported by Martin Symcox, Head of Sport and Leisure Development, at Thomas Pocklington Trust, the session aimed to ensure staff have a better understanding on how they can support their blind and partially sighted (BPS) visitors.

During the session, staff learned about various eye conditions, how to communicate effectively with BPS people, and received sighted-guide training.


Essex SLC member, Alexander Ramzan, with Engagement Manager, Samantha Leftwich. They are standing in front of 'Boris the bear', an exhibit in the museum.

SLC member, Alex, with Engagement Manager, Samantha Leftwich, in front of the ‘Boris the Bear’ exhibit


Dr Mark Curteis, Assistant Museums Manager – Curatorial and Learning at Chelmsford Museum, said:

“The engaging session delivered by Samantha and Martin, supported by volunteers from Essex Sight Loss Council, was amazing.

“The mixture of practical advice and the opportunity to listen to real life experiences from local blind and partially sighted people was illuminating. Everyone was supportive in the session and encouraged us to think and ask questions.

“The delivery helped break down barriers and helped us understand some of the often very easy things we could do to support visitors with sight loss. By doing this we can make their visit to the museum easier, more enjoyable, and less challenging. We all left the session enthusiastic about what we could do.”


Essex SLC then returned to Chelmsford Museum to complete an accessibility audit to feedback how it could be made more accessible to BPS people. Suggestions included:

  • tactile signage and markers
  • accessible routes
  • audio description on exhibitions
  • offering touch tours to BPS visitors
  • updating the accessibility page on their website.

Both the museum and theatre are committed to improving the accessibility of their sites. Essex SLC looks forward to supporting them to make this happen.

Samantha Leftwich, and SLC member Alex, looking at a display at Chelmsford Museum. Two staff members are stood behind them.

Engagement Manager, Samantha Leftwich, and SLC member Alex reviewing an exhibit in the museum



Martin Symcox, Head of Sport and Leisure Development, Thomas Pocklington Trust, said:

“Chelmsford Theatre and Museum staff were fully engaged in the vision awareness training. It was important to share the lived experiences of our SLC members in the challenges that they have faced in the past when accessing facilities. I’m pleased that there was such an enthusiasm from the attendees to make some small changes to make their facilities even more accessible. We know that small changes can make a huge difference to the confidence of blind and partially sighted people.”


Samantha Leftwich, Engagement Manager for East England, added:

“Essex SLC has enjoyed working with Chelmsford Museum and Theatre to provide vision awareness sessions and accessibility feedback.

“It is fantastic that they are keen to engage further and work alongside us to ensure their venues and services are accessible to blind and partially sighted people.

“We are looking forward to this partnership growing and developing further throughout our project to make arts and culture accessible to people with sight loss.”


Samantha Leftwich and SLC member, Alex, standing inside an exhibition room, talking to staff members.

Samantha and Alex, talking to staff at Chelmsford Museum

Join Essex Sight Loss Council

Essex Sight Loss Council is looking for new members. If you are blind and partially sighted, live in Essex, and want to improve services for visually impaired people in your area, we want to hear from you.


You’ll get the opportunity to create positive change for others, meet like-minded people, have a voice, feel valued, receive training and learn or enhance your skills. Whether you’re interested in public speaking or honing your social media skills, there’s something for everyone to get involved in.

Find out more about Essex Sight Loss Council


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Publication date: 28 June 2023

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