Clowning around for a good cause

By Peter Boskey

Many of us were scared to death of clowns as children. Some of us still are. However, there is one clown on campus who is trying to make a difference.

That’s right, you may see this week’s featured performer riding to class on his unicycle. Sean Richards, a graduate student and clown, is developing a circus program to help the visually impaired enjoy the circus. Weekender recently sat down with Richards to find out more.

Weekender: What do you do?

Richards: I was a clown with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey for one year. Currently, I’m a graduate student in teaching the visually impaired. I’m also an assistant algebra instructor at Kishwaukee Community College.

W: What are you working on?

R: We are trying to create guidelines to make the circus accessible to the visually impaired. The circus is a visual experience. We decided that it is possible to make it an experience that a blind person can enjoy.

W: How would that be possible?

R: Many of the animals, costuming and apparatus can be touched and explored in order to give appreciation to shape, size and even appearance.

W: Where did you get the idea for this program?

R: The idea originated from the Ringling Bros. current touch tour. It is a half-hour segment designed for blind children. It has clowns, a couple animals and the ringmaster talking to the children.

W: What made you decide to work on the program?

R: Through my graduate work, I have learned that the program that Ringling had could be improved, and through assisting Dr. Gaylan Kapperman in a trial run, we’ve realized how much enjoyment could be drawn from further work.

W: When do you think the program will be finished?

R: To implement all the things we find useful, it will probably take several years to phase them in with the cooperation of Ringling Bros. Total implication isn’t just for children, but for adolescents and adults as well.