Broadcasts to keep blind people in touch
Media | Social Welfare
Yang Qingfeng (杨青风), a 25-year-old blind man who is studying massage and acupuncture at a special college for people with disabilities, has been making school radio programmes since he was 16. But until recently becoming a professional broadcaster seemed an impossible dream.
His dream is now coming true thanks to “In Touch for China,” a project launched by the BBC World Service Trust on October 15, White Cane Safety Day for blind and visually impaired people.
The 19-month project plans to train 36 visually impaired people in China to produce and present radio programmes. Six of trainees are core members working in a studio in Beijing, and Yang is one of them. The project will train 30 people from different provinces so that they can work from their own homes as freelance correspondents for the programme. The output will be a weekly radio programme produced by the 36 visually impaired people.
The idea comes from BBC’s weekly 15-minute radio show “In Touch,” presented by a famous blind man, Peter White. But In Touch for China has a more ambitious vision. It hopes to produce a 50-minute programme broadcast on provincial radio stations according to Stephen Hallett, China Country Director of BBC World Service Trust.
The shows will consist of a 30-minute pre-recorded programme containing information on topics such as access to education, health and personal hygiene issues. It will also include creative arts slots to show how blind people feel the world through sound. The remaining 20 minutes will be live, with listeners calling in and putting questions to presenters and guest speakers.
“The programme not only targets disabled people, but also the general public, who will have a better understanding of the disabled community through our programme,” says Xie Yan (解岩), Director of Beijing One Plus One (北京一加一), the Chinese partner organisation that is implementing the project.
One of the goals of In Tough for China is to build up a team for One Plus One, which was started by two disabled people seven months ago. Its vision is to use technology to break through barriers for disabled people with disabilities, connecting them with each other and the wider world through Internet and other media.
Hallett hopes the radio programme can also explore new employment opportunities for people with disabilities. Job openings for blind people in China are at present largely limited to two options: masseur or piano tuner.
Training provided by In Touch for China will not be confined to broadcasting and production skills, but will also include computing, general life skills and capacity building.
This is music to the ears of 23-year-old Jin Ling (金玲), who started to lose her eyesight six years ago. She has just finished her university study in land resource management but, given her failing sight, is unlikely to find work in that field. With a soft and gentle voice, she believes broadcasting is good for her as she can express herself and help others.
“I wand to do a programme to provide emotional comfort and support and encourage people to have a more positive attitude toward life,” she says.
In addition to traditional radio stations, In Touch for China will also be broadcast via the Internet, which has becomes a major information source for young people with disabilities, including young blind people.
One Plus One has already uploaded some of the programmes produced by Yang Qingfeng and his friends, and they have been well received by the audience. “We don’t reveal that we are blind so that we can receive objective comments from our listeners. We are encouraged by their ratings and convinced that we can compete with other broadcasters and podcasters,” Yang says.
He now uses computer, professional microphone and an MD player to do interviews and produce his programmes. He says the training at In Touch with China will enhance his skills and develop him into a professional broadcaster, his long-cherished dream.
“Being recognised by society is the best thing I can get from being a broadcaster,” he says.
Looking beyond April 2008 when the project ends, Hallet and Xie hope the studio will become a brand that produces interesting and lively programmes aired in a dozen radio stations around China, and find a sustainable way to survive on its own.
Meanwhile, they hope that In Touch for China will become a model of best practice and that other cities will establish their own self-help organisations and media studios staffed by people with disabilities.
Report by Chang Tianle, October 16, 2006