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Robin Paley Yorke: 5 tips for sight-impaired theatre practitioners

Robin Paley Yorke
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Robin Paley Yorke, 24, has been sight impaired in one eye since an accident when he was 17. He trained on Rose Bruford College’s European Theatre Arts course and has always been interested in ensemble theatre. He is a performer and workshop provider for companies such as Extant, Invisible Flash and the Orpheus Centre.

Here are his five tips for working as (or with) sight-impaired practitioners

1. Be sensititive to needs

If you, yourself, are fully sighted then make yourself fully aware of the implications and complications of having a sight impaired company member – and train everyone else in the company. Access needs (large print, Braille script, line feeder, audio description etc) might add to cost but don’t let it inhibit casting.

2. Find tricks and resources to help you

If your sight is impaired then find out what works for you. The spectrum of disability is very wide and each individual is different. Do you, for instance, need the props labelled? There are some amazing apps such as Be My Eyes too so don’t be afraid of technology.

3. Recognise that you are more than a blind person

Remember that you are not defined by your blindness. It need not limit you in the performing arts industries. Sight-impaired people have worked very successfully as hoop and silk artists in circus, burlesque and as writers and directors. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t – if you have the right skills – be cast in a mainstream show either.

4. Deal with other people’s misconceptions

If you don’t, for example use a white stick, guide dog or Braille, directors sometimes take the view that you’re ‘not blind enough’ for the job. Not looking blind can, ironically, be disadvantageous. Speak up about this so that such stereotyping is challenged.

5. Be proactive

Liaise with specialist organisations. Companies such as Graeae, Taking Flight, Extant and Candoco Dance Company can be stepping stones to other things in the current climate. Make your own work actively and share your experiences. Look for venues with diversity training (Stratford Circus, for example) or which might offer the chance of residencies.

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