The ‘Art is For Everyone’ walk is allowing the blind to audibly ‘see’ art around the Queen City

At least 16,000 people in the Charlotte area are living with vision loss.
To help the blind community experience the artwork that Charlotte has to offer, there's a guided audio tour.
Published: Feb. 17, 2023 at 8:38 PM EST
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - If you’re ever driving around Charlotte, it’s hard to miss all the colorful pieces of art plastered on the sides of businesses.

For the blind community, though, it’s not as easy to navigate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 258,000 North Carolinians are living with some sort of vision loss.

The CDC reports 42% of people with severe vision impairment, have a hard time getting around.

To help the blind community experience the artwork the Queen City has to offer, there’s a guided audio tour called the “Art is for Everyone” Art Walk.

Marlon Stover was born and raised in Charlotte and is now visually impaired.

“I had a pretty good childhood, pretty normal childhood,” he said. “It was high school football games and Friday nights [when I] started having a lot of problems, didn’t really know what was going on with me at the time.”

Stover was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa, or RP, at age 17. It slowly takes a person’s sight over a period of time.

“In Charlotte, we know that there are at least 16,000 people with vision loss living in our community,” Dana Draa said. “People with vision loss are intermingled to some degree, peppered throughout your community, you may have a neighbor that has vision loss, they’re represented everywhere.”

“People with disabilities in general, aren’t on the forefront when people are thinking about those activities,” she continued. “And art definitely is one of those activities. A lot of times when we’re thinking about visual arts, people with vision loss are not considered population to build those events towards or the art exhibits with in mind.”

Anne Lowe is the executive director of Artwalk Charlotte, and discussed the engagement aspect that the walk offers.

“Our walks are a community engagement tool that really connects you to the public art and our community,” she said. “It allows anyone to have access and connection to the art and the artists that fill our streets and our walls and our public spaces with art.”

Artwalk Charlotte is partnering with Metrolina Association for the Blind to make the audio tour possible, and made use of research and disability rights to create the best product possible.

“We thought it was a perfect fit to find a way that the art could even be more accessible for people with low to no vision uses one of the artworks that we’ve already established and researched and made available,” Lowe said. “But it adds a really, really important component. We worked with disability rights and resources to create an audio description, and once somebody is clicking on our Artwalk, the artists for every one Artwalk you can scroll down and you can see all of the pieces that are included on the Artwalk.”

People like Stover are thankful for the work put in by people like Lowe, making it possible for him to see what he can’t physically see.

“They really put a lot of thought into it...having volunteers do audio description, which can you know, help everybody out to be able to get the full experience of the walk,” he said. “It makes people feel calm and accepted. A lot of people been disabled by rejection or not feeling you know, like a place is inclusive...a lot of people struggle with wanting to get back out there and and try new things. And when you’re already challenged you know, you don’t have the competence to do things if there’s not people there willing and to make those spaces available.”

The art walk starts at the Metrolina Association for the Blind office located on Louise Avenue near East 10th Street.

The office also offers several other resources for members of the visually-impaired community.

Related: Looking into the work of the Metrolina Association for the Blind