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Talking Mimes is a touching, funny, infuriating, harrowing and ultimately hopeful experience. A virtual reality narrative drawn from true stories of people with profound physical disabilities. An emotional education piece developed for everyone - whether you're a caregiver, teacher, support worker, health professional, family member, friend, lover, hater, or total stranger to disability.
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Talking Mimes is NOT a disability simulator in the traditional sense. Even sophisticated VR / XR simulations of disability are often problematic and can be, frankly, insulting. Watch "Why" and read "How" below for detail.

Allies

These fine allies in the fight against talking mimes have featured, patronised, and/or partnered with us. They are made from the very best humans available:
 
 
 
 
 
 

Testimonials   previous testimonialpausenext testimonial

"Wow! The Talking Mimes VR experience was a brilliant ‘aha !’ moment for many students. They now ‘get’ many of the realities of being unable to move or speak. Talking Mimes is a powerful learning tool that is a must for any person who supports or works with adults or children with disability.  Textbooks, video clips, or personal narratives can’t provide the same insight as spending time as a person with complex disabilities. The sensitive and insightful support Stefan provided before and after the VR session was invaluable to students’ experience too! Thank you Stefan and Thought-Wired – this is great work!"  

- Dr Dean Sutherland, University of Canterbury

"Talking Mimes was a HUGE SUCCESS during the training for my Service Technicians! They were a tough crowd, too, because they are our companies frontline. They see and work with our end users daily, so they have the empathy and experience. They were skeptical at first when I was describing the VR experience. Then they sat through it and 100% feedback was that every employee needs to sit through this experience! They loved it! They were affected, and it was awesome. We have two new technicians who repeatedly said they wish they had seen this from day one and they suggested that this become protocol for all new employees! Thank you for making this experience!"

- Heather Giordano M.S. CCC-SLP, Florida

"Great workshop!", "Invaluable experience!", "Thank you so much for this!"...

- 4th Year Speech Language Pathology Students, University of Canterbury


"Extremely powerful and should be seen by everyone!"

- Catherine Brill, Assistive Technology Division Manager DTSL




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Most of us vastly underestimate the number of people living with severe physical disability, because we rarely see them. It's an INVISIBLE POPULATION, because they're fighting the forest fires of frustration of their life in private. Not because they don't want to be a part of the world, but because the world is not built for them. It is in fact built in a way that specifically excludes them.

Almost all of us will have an access need at some point in our lives, and we will be at the mercy of others. Talking Mimes aims to better inform our behaviour towards those of us that have these needs now. To start a practical conversation around safety and respect. To actively reject the soft bigotry of low expectations. To peel back the layers of alienation and teach us how to be less accidentally condescending assholes, and more on purpose good humans.

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How

To experience Talking Mimes yourself, use it in your organisation, family, circle of friends, or at an event - submit your details below and tell us how you'd like Talking Mimes to work for you. Closed captions for people with hearing impairments are currently available in-app in English - let us know if you're interested in CCs or subtitles for other languages.

The experience should be coupled with a WORKSHOP. Empathy on its own is a gift, but it's only halfway. We need to avoid pity-traps and learn the tools that transform this new understanding into compassionate action - behavioural and social change. Our research psychologist, Dr Sarvnaz Taherian, has developed a comprehensive workshop for Talking Mimes using an empirically validated experiential learning framework (i.e. science says it works good). Talk to us about running a workshop for you, or downloading the kit of materials to run it yourself.

If you just want to be kept in the loop, or you'd like to tell us your own story, please feel free to do that too !  We have open minds and full hearts (except for mimes that talk - if you are a talking mime, please stop what you're doing and seek professional help).









help link Talking Mimes VR Setup & Troubleshooting
Setup and troubleshooting document for the Talking Mimes VR app.
pdf link Talking Mimes Practical Tips for an Inclusive World
A handout from the Talking Mimes Workshop including practical tips and information for behavioural and social change towards people with disabilities.
web link How to Help People with Disabilities Feel Welcome
A succinct article outlining four simple behaviours to reduce awkwardness and intimidation.
web link Accessibility Insights
Free resources/tools for accessible web and desktop application design.
web link The Disability Visibility Project
An online community dedicated to creating, sharing, and amplifying disability media and culture.
web link Attitude Live
The world’s largest collection of videos about chronic health and disability.
web link Able Magazine
An online lifestyle magazine dedicated to disability.
web link Be.Accessible
A movement to change disability into possibility.
web link Accessibility Tick Programme
A programme run by Access Advisors that helps organisations become more accessible and inclusive of people with disabilities.
web link Workbridge
An organisation that helps thousands of people with disabilities or health conditions connect with employers.
web link Cerebral Palsy Foundation
A large CP focused NGO, responsible for highly visible awareness campaigns such as Just Say Hi and Awkward Moments.
web link Embodied Labs
VR-enabled immersive learning system for family caregivers and professionals working in aged care.


News

August 2019
Sessions and Workshops with University of Canterbury and TalkLink Trust
Faith in humanity restored: Christchurch based Speech Language Pathology (SLP) students and practicing professionals, so clearly in it for the love, participated in the Talking Mimes experience and workshops with deep warmth and decency. A glowing contrast to the city’s compounding distresses of its recent history. The 4th year SLP students at UoC should have been hopelessly distracted by the stress of final exams and assignments in the last weeks of the last year of their degree. Instead they were present, engaged and insightful – a credit to their university, and their noble chosen profession.

January 2019
Exhibited at ATiA assistive technology conference
ATiA’s massive assistive technology conference was such a big deal, even the CIA had a booth (you’ll see from the photos they employed some kind of top secret invisibility tech - we never physically observed an agent – so sneaky). Among the many beautiful engagements with the 3,500+ attendees, was a follow up after the conference from a woman who told us Talking Mimes helped her make a difficult decision in advocating for her daughter who has locked-in syndrome ♥ !

CIA booth at ATiA, agents so covert they're invisible
ATiA attendee strapped to their chair for the Talking Mimes VR experience

November 2018, January 2019
Demos and workshop pilots at Kiwi Foo and SparkONE unconferences
It was a proper honour to be invited to Kiwi Foo (New Zealand’s spin-off from the world-famous Foo Camp unconferences) and SparkONE (The telecommunication giant’s own invite-only unconference) and run our first workshop sessions there. We were thrilled by the collective buzz of all the smart, driven people engaging with the experience, and providing such thoughtful feedback for us to work with.

October 2018
Featured at TEDx Auckland
When arguably the smartest media brand in the world invites you to setup your experience at one of their conferences, you try not to wet your pants in front of them as you vigorously accept the invitation. Between the exposed concrete floors in the warehouse backroom, the arm restraints on the chair, and plunging people into darkness at the beginning of each run, the setup had a delightful kidnap vibe. Maybe it was the Stockholm Syndrome, but we were again encouraged and grateful for the emotional and positively charged responses from our participants at TEDx.

The atmospheric TEDx stage
Our first TEDx participant strapped in
Promo shot wearing the Oculus Go on the TEDx stage

July 2018
Sneak preview at ISAAC 2018 augmentative and alternative communication conference
After accidentally setting up next to the service entrance, smack up the far end of the conference, it looked grim for our exposure. To our surprise and delight, though, by day 2 we were overwhelmed by crowds of people making such encouraging statements as "I got told by my colleague to skip the seminar I was going to, ignore all the other booths, if you do nothing else - do this VR thing!" You can see a few of their beautiful and insightful reactions in the trailer above.


Credits

Writer/Director   Stefan Rochfort
Producers   Stefan Rochfort
Angela Hovey
Aliesha Staples
 
CAST
You   Blaze Bailey
Joy   Rachel Nash
Mystery Dick   David Van Horn
Mystery Lady   Leisha Ward-Knox
Doctor Brown   David Van Horn
Older Sister   Aeonie Ostik-Smith
Younger Brother   Samuel Ostik-Smith
Jack   Max Apse
Mandy Slade   Herself
Talking Mime   Milo Cawthorne
Phlegm Artist   Angela Hovey
Dr Sarvnaz Taherian   Herself
nousTM VO   Stefan Rochfort
 
CREW
Directors of Photography   Blaze Bailey
Aliesha Staples
Jason Delaveau
Art Directors   Royce Dawson
Angela Hovey
Wardrobe   Tracey Sharman
Janis Macewan
Sound Recordist   Andrew J Farrant
Editor   Stefan Rochfort
VFX   Stefan Rochfort
Animation   Masaya Todoroki
Graphic Design   Krissy Le Geyt
Stefan Rochfort
Sound Mix   Callum Lees
Stefan Rochfort
Oscar Burt
Spatial Sound Mix   Stefan Rochfort
Stitching/Compositing   Ryan Pow
Jason Delaveau
Disability Consultants   Mandy Slade
Amy Hogan
Quinn Ashton
Selena Ashton
Susan Gauci
Andrew Shea
Research Team   Stefan Rochfort
Dr Sarvnaz Taherian
Simon Raby
Acting Coach   Jeff Szusterman
Casting   Jeff Szusterman
David Van Horn
Workshop Collaborators   David Van Horn
Renee Lyons
Wesley Dowdell
Workshop Facilitator   Jeff Szusterman
Props   Propellor
Artwork   Art Bureau
Catering   Catroux
Location   Laura Fergusson Rehab
The Skin Institute
Software Developer   Stefan Rochfort
 
SPECIAL THANKS
Amy Hogan
Andrew Shea
Simon Raby
Faye Philp
Stephen Doel
Carlson School for Cerebral Palsy
The Skin Institute
Michell Denize
Ryan Lebar
Carrie Shaw
Krystal Thompson
Dmitry Selitskiy
Dr James Pau
Huigenia Ostik
Amy Louise Nightingale
Steve Burgess
Sam Sneddon


Thought-Wired TLA Technologies