Jane Latham's Story
Concerned with the prevalence of isolation, lack of employment and work experience opportunities for young people with visual impairments, Jane’s Fellowship, in 2012, took her to the USA to see how organisations, schools and colleges are tackling these issues.
Jane Latham is the co-founder of UCAN Productions, an arts co-operative for blind and partially sighted young people in the UK. UCAN challenges the perceptions of visual impairment and runs programmes to develop physical and vocal confidence, to raise aspirations and promote individual abilities.
Jane travelled across four states in the USA, visiting many organisations (many of which have gone on to form the foundation of ongoing partnerships and collaborations with UCAN). She spent time at Perkin’s School in Boston, one of the most renowned blind schools in the US, where she learnt how technology is at the forefront of improving the lives and opportunities of visually impaired young people.
Her experiences also revealed the lack of provision in the UK for young visually impaired people to access drama and performance arts. She was able to share her work and best practice which was met with genuine enthusiasm and formed the basis of collaborative work.
Since her return, Jane was made an Honorary Fellow at the Cardiff University of Optometry and Vision Sciences in recognition of her work. The university now hosts UCAN Productions and works directly with young people who help to lead their research.
In 2013, UCAN Productions secured funding from the RNIB to work on a five-year confidence building programme for the ‘Future Insight Project’. The Arts Council in Wales also funded UCAN Productions to deliver UCAN focus, a photography course for young people with low vision, as well as a cross generational outreach project for visually impaired young people to connect with (often newly) visually impaired elderly people to inspire mutual learning and support.
In 2014, UCAN Productions joined forces with partner organisations from Bulgaria, Italy, Luxembourg and Belgium and became part of a two-year VISION Erasmus Plus project. The project aims to share best practice around helping visually impaired young people build confidence, self-esteem and lead independent lives, and culminates in a joint production in Sicily in 2016.
UCAN Productions has also secured funding through the Digital Research and Development Fund for the Arts in Wales to work in collaboration with technology partner Calvium to co-create an accessible indoor navigation app called UCAN Go.
Jane has developed and maintained strong links with many of the schools and organisations she visited on her Fellowship working on projects and exchanges. In August 2015, UCAN Productions will be joined by the Los Angeles theatre group, ‘Theatre by the Blind’ who will be involved in UCAN Production’s 10th anniversary celebration.