iC2: The Blind Teach The Sighted To See

A paper discussing blind people guiding a sighted audience to explore visual art experiences.

Despite initiatives to address accessibility, the institutions of visual culture continue to exclude from their audience those people who do not have the privilege of good vision.

In this paper, I argue that it is neither the mode nor manner of expression that is at fault, but rather the design of the audience experience that perpetuates the barrier to meaningful and dignified engagement in our ubiquitous visual culture.

I will explore how a new project underway in Melbourne and Brisbane aims to resolve the shortcomings of first generation visual literacy initiatives like audio and verbal description by melding ekphrastic expression, phenomenological and formalist analysis with a dynamic digital platform delivery for a rich, mobile and autonomous audience experience of the visual.

In effect, the blind as people who are ‘visually remote’ teach the sighted to see by guiding a sighted audience to explore visual experiences thoughtfully and systematically. This requires any typical shorthand to be expunged in favour of intimacy, revealing the essential form of experiences that might otherwise have been passed over at a glance for reasons of brevity or taste.

While the collaborative methodology affords social and cultural dividends, this is not a disability project. Rather, it is a much broader communication project informed by the experience of disability. I will also be demonstrating the pilot project during the Assembly as an iC2 Walk down nearby Swanston Street.


The iC2 Walk is supported by the City of Melbourne Arts Projects 2015.