Starting out from founders Bernie and Jane Latham’s kitchen, UCAN was established in 2005 running drama workshops in partnership with RNIB Cymru at the Sherman Theatre Cardiff. Since then they’ve gone from strength to strength; delivering workshops across Wales and into Europe, and launching the UCAN Go app which supports visually-impaired people to confidently navigate a growing number of theatres.
Today they’re based in Cardiff University’s School of Optometry and Visual Sciences where members are delivering confidence-building theatre workshops to visually impaired young people on the National Lottery Community Fund-funded Future Insight project, and thanks to Cardiff University, teaching 300 of the next generation of junior doctors about living with a visual-impairment each year.
Ben Richards is 25 from Barry, was born with his visual-impairment and can only see 3 metres for every 60 that fully-sighted people can. He joined UCAN after a chance encounter with Bernie and Jane.
“People have told me what I can see after having eye tests and things like that but the reality to me is that I feel that can see the same as everyone. I used to play football with Vale of Glamorgan football league with fully-sighted people, and they say the same thing to me, they ask “how do you play?” and I’d say, well, “I feel like I see like you”, I just don’t feel any different.
“I was at a teacher’s retirement do and Jane and Bernie spotted me because I was doing a speech for my teacher. Bernie came and asked me if I was interested in doing a part for a play for him and that was two years ago, and since then I’ve not looked back. In the last year I’ve started working with them, I’m registered self-employed and my life is taking shape, and it’s all down to these guys and the National Lottery. It’s really changed my life completely.
“With the junior doctors, we’re just trying to give them the best representation of people with visual impairments so that they can be prepared for what they are going to experience in the workplace. I’ve been mainly working on the physical side of the workshops, and a lot of the students are so shocked at the variety of things that you can be affected by. Simple things like reading tins of beans; it doesn’t really cross their mind that you would need to read the list of ingredients on a tin of beans but that’s really the only way that we can get that proper representation across because people who learn about this kind of stuff from a full-sighted teacher aren’t going to get that kind of stuff across so well.
“The Future Insight program really helped me start onto employment, I’d never really started on things like film-making before. It’s opened so many doors for me, and given me so many opportunities, and it’s proved to me that the things I am good at help me structure films better, like researching questions for the script. To have that opportunity to express yourself and feel like I did a good job made me feel really good about myself, it’s been brilliant.
UCAN Productions in Cardiff are in partnership with the Royal National Institute for the Blind Cymru who received a National Lottery Community Fund grant of £999,450 for their Future InSight project which supports blind and partially-sighted young people to become able and independent individuals with the skills and confidence to make a smooth and successful transition into adulthood.