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.
Jake Sawyers is 22 from Port Talbot and was born completely blind in his left eye and 25% vision in his right eye. “I started with UCAN and built up my confidence when I was 13, and I’d been told that I’d be good at performing arts. My degree was in performing arts. I went to Carmarthen so I basically took my situation and tailor-made it for myself, and I got a First. I’m used to having a visual impairment and that I’ve always grown up with it I always factor it into everything that I do.
“I’ve always described being visually-impaired as looking down a camera lens, because I do work with a camera with my working eye. But because I’ve never known any different it’s so difficult to describe. I’ve always asked my brother how he sees because I don’t physically understand how two eyes can meet up together to make one image – that’s something that really confuses me. It’s a two-way system.
“There was always that huge potential that things could’ve been a lot different. I think if I wasn’t supported by my family or UCAN, I think things would’ve turned out a lot differently. Me, being a performer, would find it hard to get work anyway, but being a visually-impaired performer – if you’re not supported with that ambition it’s going to be a lot harder to achieve.
“Film-making and photography is something that I do as a hobby; being asked to do it by UCAN in Future Insight it gives you so much professional development and self-worth it’s like I feel like I’m trusted to do something, and know that I can do it, and I can go to professional people and show people my work but I wouldn’t have been there without the Future Insight project, RNIB and everyone at UCAN.
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.