Sensing Culture was a large and ambitious project with outputs delivered across all partners, managed directly by the RNIB. Collectively the partner organisations house varied and eclectic collections. Each partner had its own strategic or forward plan and specific target groups of visitors were identified to develop within their segment of the project.


Lewes Castle focus group participants. Photograph showing a BPS focus group participant holding an exhibition item. Two exhibitors are on hand to demonstrate the item and to record the participant’s views

Lewes Castle focus group participants.


A key aim was: To support staff and volunteers in working with blind and partially sighted participants, using an innovative approach to engage with the blind and partially sighted community and make more effective use of volunteers.

We needed to find ways of achieving this across all the sites, which vary in size, scale and scope.



Blind and partially sighted people were involved in the project from development to delivery, not just as end users. Aculture of focus groups was established at development stage, with groups informing the direction and output of the various activities. Recruitment of participants, whilst difficult at first, came through networks, contacts, or word of mouth. Target audience input was a vital part of the process and enabled the partners to meet visitor needs.Over the life of the project, 17 focus groups have taken place. Through these, 91 blind and partially sighted people directly provided feedback, to inform the project’s development.



This approach has not only encouraged the involvement of people with sight loss, but is proving to be embedded in creating and delivering future projects across the partner sites.

The focus groups have allowed a voice for those with other disabilities. For example, the Arthur Conan Doyle Collection reached out to users with a variety of disabilities. The focus groups had a range of abilities and disabilities including sight impairment, hearing impairment, dyslexia, knowledge of working with young people with disabilities.


“…being part of the focus group has enabled me to give my opinions of both positive and negative aspects of the prototypes when testing them as a visually impaired person in providing feedback for the museums to provide accessible exhibits. It is really good that our opinions as visually impaired users were asked for, and taken onboard, when trialling parts of the project”

Blind and Partially Sighted Focus Group Participant – OUMC


Top Tips

  • When writing a funding bid, include funding for meeting spaces, refreshments and incentives for volunteers to attend focus groups.
  • Allow extra time to build relationships with gatekeeper organisationswho can help you access your target audience more easily.
  • Don’t forget your existing networks!

When developing your questions or themes of discussion for focus groups, make sure you take time to consider these carefully. Will they create a bias? Are the questions leading? Will they help you to inform your work or project?

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