“Close Your Eyes, Open Your Heart” to Thailand’s First Disability-Focused Podcast by People with Visual Impairment
Oftentimes those who recognize social differences do not know if they should call people with vision disabilities “visually impaired” or “blind”, as both terms seem to reflect classification and put physical limitations on the spotlight. During the 2nd Youth Dialogue on “youth with disabilities”, hosted in support of exchange of opinions, the answer from participants with visual impairment was to ask each person with disability for their preferred term. A question so simple, yet rarely ever uttered as most people hesitate to engage with the topic of disabilities.
Similar to the happenings at Youth Co:Lab 2021, wherein a team with members from the disability community was selected as one of the top 5 contestants for the second round, and underwent rigorous preparation sessions for social innovation and enterprise that “left no one behind”, in accordance with the event’ annual theme, both the project staff and the participants learned how to convey information to people with visual impairment effectively, and create an environment of equality. The result was the commendable scenario, in which other teams joined hands in providing assistance to achieve the goals together.
“As of now, voices of people with disabilities are not relayed by the disability community.”
This sentence lays a foundation for “We Are All The Same”, a team with aspiration for hosting a podcast that tells various stories of people living with disabilities. This team aims to present ideas about inclusive design, or invite designers with an inclusive mindset to explain the methodologies behind their innovation, including their products, spaces, or services. The team also sees this podcast as an emerging medium for awareness-raising, asking innovators to come up with inclusive design for their products.
Sarocha “Ploy”, representative and founding member of “We Are All The Same” (Rao-Muen-Gan), said that the stories of people with disabilities were always told, visualized, and interpreted from an able-bodied perspective. Such narratives were filled with marvels of people who never had first-hand experience with disabilities, as seen in the general depiction of how visually impaired people traveled. They also perpetuated disability-related misconceptions, eliciting pity and urge to help a ‘charitable case’ from audiences instead of helping them to understand the disability community better and join a cause for change. What Ploy wanted people to know was the ordinary aspect of the lives of people with disabilities. They, too, want to take part in a variety of activities. They, too, have a wide array of interests, like anyone else. What they do not want is having their disabilities overemphasized to the point that other people no longer see the ordinary in them.
We Are All The Same, a title chosen by the team themselves, reflects this ordinary quality in people with disabilities. They have the same interests as able-bodied people, for instance, cosmetics, investment, or how to start a business. They also harbor the same sentiments as able-bodied people, such as frustration with politics, or passion for environmental preservation. The goal is not to criticize the society’s negligence of the disability community, but to create understanding among members of the society, closing the distance between all of us. Ploy said that, for example, she wished to show appreciation towards inclusive products such as Facebook that works with a display-reading program that translates photos into text for people with visual impairment to understand, or other applications that use voice instead of visual symbols. Ploy saw these products as examples of accessibility. They represented innovations that enabled people with disabilities to join activities along with others, corresponding closely to the idea of sustainable development. When discussing existing problems, Ploy would like everyone to think that accessible design for the disability community also meant better quality of life for all.
Ploy said that the podcast, currently under her team’s development, would let the audience know from the start that this podcast team consisted of people with visual impairment. This decision aimed for confidence in the authenticity of stories that were distilled from the real-life experiences of people with disabilities.
They called the podcast “The Thinker”, because it was planned since the beginning of the project that inclusive designers would be invited to talk about principles or values that led to the creation of their products. Another podcasting format they had in mind was giving account of their everyday living as a way to illustrate the current situation and challenges faced by people with disabilities, and share new innovations or other things deemed beneficial to the disability community. Throughout Youth Co:Lab 2021, this team intended to produce 3 episodes with 3 different themes.
Ploy maintained that people with visual impairment could not escape inequalities that towered over everyone, because we all shared the same society. People with vision disabilities in remote areas or with limited access to technology would receive fewer opportunities in comparison to those living in the metropolitan area. This intersection of social issues could contribute to further marginalization, leaving them behind and forgotten one day. She hoped with all her heart that the Thinker would help people understand each other, recognize the values of humanity of all fellow human beings, and join hands in creating a society where every person could reach out and receive opportunities for a continuous period of time.
Follow and show your support to We Are All The Same at “The Thinker Podcast,” soon.