Group helps shed light on the visually-impaired

Dialogue in the Dark facilitator and coordinator Wesley Seah was once offered a job as a voice artist. Previously, people would ask if he was a telemarketer or sold tissue paper.
Dialogue in the Dark facilitator and coordinator Wesley Seah was once offered a job as a voice artist. Previously, people would ask if he was a telemarketer or sold tissue paper. PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

A social enterprise from Germany has brightened up the lives of the visually-impaired here since setting up here in 2009, enabling them to perform in concerts and even take part in crisis role-playing.

While the group, Dialogue in the Dark - which has its premises at Ngee Ann Polytechnic - began with only three initiatives, it now runs some 15 different programmes.

Yesterday, the group celebrated its sixth anniversary in Singapore by launching a two-day public conference on social entrepreneurship at the polytechnic.

The social enterprise employs 15 visually-impaired people to facilitate its experiential programmes for the public. It reaches out to around 20,000 people each year, with over 60 per cent being students and the rest corporate participants or members of the public.

These days, activities to let the public step into the shoes of the visually-impaired are not uncommon. The Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped organises "Dining in the Dark" experiences while Nox, a concept restaurant that serves customers in the dark, opened here in 2013.

Moving forward, Mr Glen Ng, course chair of psychology studies at Ngee Ann Poly and one of the group's founding members, said it plans to expand some of its newer initiatives like Play in the Dark, drama performed by the visually-impaired in pitch darkness, and Zero To Hero, a crisis role-play activity.

Besides employing the visually-impaired, the social enterprise hopes to change people's perceptions. Mr Ng said: "We want people to see them in a different light, to offer them opportunities to go into mainstream employment."

Several of Dialogue in the Dark's visually-impaired staff have been offered outside jobs. For example, Mr Wesley Seah, 48, who works as the group's guide coordinator and lead workshop facilitator, was once offered a voice artist job by a corporate participant of his tours.

He said the people he met seem to have a less stereotypical view of the visually-impaired now. People used to ask if he worked as a telemarketer or tissue-seller, but this was no longer the case, he said.

"The awareness starting from (here) has a ripple effect," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 06, 2015, with the headline 'Group helps shed light on the visually-impaired'. Print Edition | Subscribe