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Training scheme launches to boost opportunities for visually impaired creatives

Amelia Cavallo, a visually impaired aerialist, artist and academic during R&D for Flight Paths

A new training programme has been launched for visually impaired creatives aimed at addressing the “lack of accessible routes into theatre”.

Pathways is a four-year-long programme led by Extant, a company led by visually impaired artists.

It incorporates three strands, with the first being a training programme for about 10 visually impaired people every year. The first year of the scheme will focus on performers, with subsequent years to include writers and directors.

Eight actors have been selected for the first cohort, which will involve monthly workshops focusing on craft, drama school applications and industry-related topics, as well as mentoring sessions, culminating in a showcase performance at RADA in London on April 3, 2019.

The second strand of Pathways will be the provision of visually impaired awareness training for theatre companies and training organisations to help them understand how they can work with visually impaired artists.

Strand three of Pathways will be a series of round table discussions with industry figures with the aim of improving access for visually impaired artists.

In addition, Extant plans to release findings on the accessibility of mainstream training opportunities for visually impaired people.

Artistic director and chief executive of Extant Maria Oshodi said: “There is a lack of outreach to visually impaired people applying for professional training from institutions, as well a lack of support and accessibility for visually impaired people in the application process.

“There is also an issue of visually impaired actors auditioning for visually impaired characters but these roles then going to non-disabled actors, which leads to a lack of role models in the profession, sending out a message to visually impaired people that it can’t be done.

“Through Pathways, we hope to debunking some of the myths that  foster fear among theatre professionals unused to working with visually impaired people.”

Pathways has received funding from Arts Council England, the Leathersellers’ Company and the Thomas Pocklington Trust as well as support from the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts, Guildhall School of Music and Drama, RADA and Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Pathways is having a public launch event at the National Theatre’s John Lyons Education Studio at 11.15am on October 9.