Born out of an idea to create an opportunity for visually impaired people to engage more with their surroundings, Braille-Art now decorates an inner-city wall of the Ural city of Yekaterinburg. A street art festival, creative agency and an NGO came together to create a truly unique piece of work that can be enjoyed by those who experience the world differently. Here’s how it happened.
It started with a collaboration between the creative minds of STENOGRAFFIA, a Russia-wide street art festival, and the Moscow-based creative agency Possible. The two groups wanted to create an opportunity for sight-impaired individuals to interact with the city of Yekaterinburg. Those who are visually impaired live and navigate in cities that are predominately built with able-bodied people in mind, and Yekaterinburg is no exception. As a result, there are fewer opportunities for the blind to engage with the city, which can lead to feelings of social isolation. STENOGRAFFIA and Possible wanted to change this.
In consultation with White Cane, an NGO that facilitates social opportunities for visually impaired people, the collaborating group conceived a project that would facilitate an opportunity for visually impaired people to engage with the city. This meeting of minds resulted in Braille-Art, a piece of street art that can be enjoyed by everyone, whether they have vision or not.
Braille-Art contains elements specifically designed for blind and sighted people. The project reflects inspiration from American runner and three-time national champion in the women’s 5,000 metre race Marla Runyan, the legendary musician Ray Charles and Mikhail Pozhidaev, a Russian software developer who created an operating system for the blind after he lost his vision.
To fully appreciate the project, blind and sighted people must come together to share their different experiences of it. Those with sight can appreciate the images on the wall that represent the work’s three heroes, a stylised stadium, sheet music to the song Hit the Road Jack and a microcircuit were painted on the wall. For people who can read braille, the project tells the story of these three inspirational people, who were able to overcome their personal challenges to become captains of their industries.
STENOGRAFFIA team member and Braille-Art creator Andrei Kolokolo told RUPTLY News that bringing in elements that both blind and sighted people enjoy has the potential to bring people together. He says:
‘When we [fully sighted people and people who are blind] are all talking and hanging out together, they [people who are vision impared] can tell us what the text is about, and we [people with vision] can describe what picture we see. So it seemed to be a really good idea that could unite people.’
As an added bonus, and fun thing to do, the team created sticker packs (in both braille and Cyrillic) so that people can place them around the city and enhance the already creative Yekaterinburg streets with stories of their own.
Have a look at Braille-Art yourself. Find it at 36 8th March Ulitsa, Yekaterinburg.