Effective use of radio for people who are Blind in Pacific Region

Created by ghulam on Thu, 09/06/2012 - 17:23
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Pacific people in traditional dress with Pacific spirit

This was our first visit to Pacific region for the development of Community Based Rehabilitation Network (CBR Pacific Network) and we had a CBR Pacific Forum. Fortunately we got some free time and radio in our hotel room. We found that radio is playing a vital role in connecting the communities, weather information, tourism information, job announcements and all other stuff that local people want to listen. On that time an idea floated in our minds that why not we use radio effectively for people with disabilities. Although it might be not inclusive for all but directly or indirectly it can be made inclusive for all. For example a message or information can be conveyed through someone who interacts with the community that is Deaf or Deafened. Same option can be opted for community of people with evel0opmental disabilities.
People in developing countries are significantly more likely to experience visual disabilities as a consequence of treatable or preventable conditions than are their counterparts in the developed world. While vision impairment is most common in people over age 60 across all regions, children in poorer communities are more likely to be affected by blindness because of various reasons than are their more affluent peers.
Recently Bill Gates announced that snake bites are also a big source of death and disabilities including blindness. Another well-known example is methanol, which is commonly found in methylated spirits, to avoid paying taxes on selling ethanol intended for human consumption. Methylated spirits are sometimes used by homemade wine makers and alcoholics as a desperate and cheap substitute for regular ethanol alcoholic beverages; this toxic element is another cause of death and disability like blindness in many developing countries in Pacific and South Asia regions.

Black and white sign for people who are blind
Mostly older people above the age of 60 acquire blindness in developing world and in Pacific region diabetes is one big cause of blindness. Most of people go in isolation because of disability and exclusion. In such situation radio can provide them a huge sense of affiliation. In this way they will remain connected with communities and current affairs.
In developed word use of radio for people with disabilities is common if we choose the country from Pacific like Australia that Radio for the Print Handicapped (RPH) initiated in 1975 in Australia. Then government established a special radio communications service for the people who are Blind and other people with reading difficulties like people with dyslexia. Now web radios are becoming popular in the communities. Many FM Radios and community radios are linking themselves like RPH or web radios but same time mainstream radios like BBC and VOA.

A person with visual disability braodcasting a radio program - black and white photo
The radio for people who are Blind or have other visual or learning disabilities can be benefitted by radio like, helping people in the local area to find information about work, entrepreneurship and education opportunities, training, as well as other activities. People with disabilities can be included to design such radio programs and broadcast. These radio services can play a vital role to connect and network people with disabilities, their families, advocates and other service providers especially interpreters and personal assistants. As Pacific has itself a geographical system so it is not always easy to support physically. For this purpose community radio can support them ever in tinny and isolated islands to reach the outreach communities.
This radio may share their experience about access to education, work or political participation such projects is already financed by the Japan Social Development Fund, which is managed by the World Bank in Colombia. There is a huge Australian funding is available for pacific Islands and this funding can serve the purpose of sharing good practices and experience in the Pacific context will benefit over all community with disability. Radio has big power because it travels with the air and there is no need of big finances to reach this technology. This strategy can be used to solve in breaking down barriers to information access in outreach communities of people with disabilities.
People with disabilities in Pacific have another opportunity regarding to networking and collaboration to use this type of radio for the community that is Pacific Media Network (PMN). PMN is owned and operated by the National Pacific Radio Trust Inc, and has been established to market a growing range of ‘Pacific’ focused media partners. PMN works with vision "Celebrating the Pacific Spirit!" and their mission is the Pacific Media Network is a Public Interest Broadcaster targeting Pacific peoples to empower, encourage and nurture Pacific cultural identity and economic prosperity. PMN has strong partnerships with other Pacific media brands and events. Please see Pacific Media Network Strategic Framework 2010 -2013 at: http://tinyurl.com/d4x959h
It is not necessary and not recommended that organizations of people with disabilities may have own radio stations, rather than creating their own broadcasting station, advocated the use of existing broadcasting networks for their purposes. They can obtain on air time from existing commercial or community radios. Through such type of initiatives radio programs can be designed in local languages rather then in international or national language.