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Page last updated at 11:24 GMT, Tuesday, 12 January 2010
Photo show by deaf people with learning difficulties
Callum Carron in a Six Degrees of Art photo
This photo from the Carron family was one of the judges' favourites

A special art project, which aims to improve social inclusion for deaf people with learning disabilities, is thriving in Suffolk.

United Response, which runs a house for clients in Ipswich, is behind the scheme called Six Degrees of Art.

Neil Coote led the project where he gave out 40 disposable cameras to create a photography exhibition.

"It's my way of communicating," said Neil, who lives in the house in Ipswich town centre.

The charity United Response provides support for people with a range of disabilities and its house in Ipswich offers independent living for six deaf people who also have learning disabilities.

"United Response helps people to live a normal day-to-day life with the help of other people," said support worker Ria Towill, who has British Sign Language (BSL) skills.

"They go off shopping, go on holidays with the help or interpretation through us support workers."

The art project has been led by one of the people who lives in the house - Neil Coote.

Ria Towill and Neil Coote
Ria and Neil outside Ipswich's St Nicholas Centre

"Neil had just gone back to Suffolk New College evening classes to learn how to use his camera properly and started to mix with people that understood art and photography," said Ria.

Neil picked 40 individuals or businesses to give disposable cameras to, including Handford Hall Primary School and staff at shops he uses such as Jessops and Sainsbury's.

The fairly loose theme for snapping was 'technology'. The cameras came back and around 700 photos were put on display at the St Nicholas Centre in Ipswich in 2009.

A panel of judges, including Neil, selected their favourite six pictures, which you can see in our gallery:

Neil (via Ria's signing) said: "I was looking for colour and excitement in a picture. The winner was a picture from Sainsbury's because it was a shelf full of coloured bottles."

Social inclusion

United Response exhibition at St Nicholas Centre, Ipswich
Preparing to exhibit at the St Nicholas Centre, Ipswich in 2009

Ria Towill said the project has had great benefits.

"Now, Neil has confidence to interact with people, he understands social etiquette, he loves to meet people and talk to them and other people have learnt small bits of British Sign Language.

"Friendships have been brought from this. One of the managers at Jessops goes out with Neil once a month - has a pint, plays pool - and these two people would not have met had it not been for this project.

"The cashiers and manager at Sainsbury's will now come over to Neil and say 'How are you?' in sign language. How fantastic is that?"

Neil said: "I love cameras and I love taking pictures. I have thousands of pictures on my computer.

"I like going out with people and taking photographs - it's more of a social thing.

"I've made many friends through this project and it's all about going 'out there'. I now go to Handford Hall once a week and teach sign language with the help of a support worker.

"I'd like to have exhibitions of my own work in the future and we're going to work towards that. It could be an online gallery."

From church to cafe

The next stage of the project is an exhibition at Saints Cafe & Tapas Bar on St Peter's Street in Ipswich.

As well as displaying the six photos chosen by the judges, the project has been expanded to include supporting works form musicians, poets and film makers.

It takes place on Thursday, 1 April, 2010 from 6-9pm.

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