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Get creative in Learning Disability Week

RIX team encourages connections through art 

This year’s Learning Disability Week will take place from 14 – 20 June. The theme will be art and creativity, and the University of East London (UEL) will be supporting the special week and the Mencap campaign.  Why not get involved at the Mencap website?

Getting creative is a way to stay connected for many people with a learning disability - and their families – and this was especially true through the challenges of the past year.  

UEL is a firm advocate in supporting those with a disability or learning difficulty. The Research and Media Centre (RIX), hosted at the London Docklands Campus next to the Royal Docks, is doing some ground-breaking work helping people with learning disabilities to communicate about their lives. As we are committed to making a positive social impact through research, RIX Research & Media is one of UEL’s flagship research centres and a champion in making a difference. 

Central to RIX’s multimedia advocacy approach is the RIX Wiki - an easy-to-build personal website which a person with learning disabilities can build themselves or with the help of a carer using pictures, text, video and sound clips. The research centre was a nomination for the 2016 THE awards in the ‘Outstanding Contribution to Innovation and Technology’ category.

Being based at UEL, the RIX centre also brings people with learning disabilities into the heart of academic programmes.  Not only do they deliver lectures for social work and education studies, teaching educators, SEN specialists, educational psychologists and social workers but they also contribute to the university’s media and creative industry studies, ensuring that students have access to inclusive settings in their learning programmes.

Gosia Kwiatkowska, Senior Lecturer and Co-director at RIX, said, “We are heavily involved in all our programmes and recently hosted an online event with Reading University where our Purple Stars group shared their creative work that took place over Covid-19.  This was all done by our team Ajay Choksi and Kanchan Kerai with Kate Allen, an artist from Reading, and of course our famous Purple Stars Ros, Rufaro, Lee, and Paul.”

The Purple Stars group was established in 2016 to develop opportunities for people with learning disabilities to work as artists and technologists to transform museum experiences and make them really inclusive. Purple STARS stands for Sensory, Technology and Art Resource Specialists and they use sensory and digital media to create alternative interpretations of museum collections.  The Museum of London have recently commissioned Purple STARS to create an exhibition for the The Talking Point Gallery at the Museum of London.

The RIX Centre last year also managed to secure funding to provide a suite of digital apps which enable people with learning disabilities to face the challenges of isolation as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.  An example would be the RIX Multi-Me toolkit which offers a secure and easy-to-use online support platform with features for multimedia blogs and messaging, goal-setting tools and health checks.  This was all aimed at supporting people to stay within their own homes and maintain the support they needed to keep safe and manage their mental and physical wellbeing.

Find out more about Ajay Choksi who started working at the Rix Centre, UEL in 2007 as a technical assistant and is known as the Wiki Master at RIX.  He is seen as an invaluable member of the team and specialises in exploring and developing new media technologies to improve the lives of people with learning disabilities. 

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