Do people in Singapore really understand blindness?

Josh Tseng – Etch’s Content Creation and Communication Manager shares his story, and hopes for Etch’s new programmes with us

“As a person with vision impairment, this is a question I find myself seriously asking every day. Since I lost my functional eyesight after my ‘O’ levels some 3 years ago, the social challenges, specifically adjusting to a lesser reliance on visual cues, has been a hurdle for sure.

 My Story

I was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma at the tender age of seven, and have been clambering my way through my education as I slowly lost my eyesight over time. This May, I’ve graduated with a Diploma in Marketing, and am heading off to SMU to study Information Systems and Analytics.

Apart from my studies, I’m also part of the Etch Empathy team – I began as a Facilitator for some programmes, and and now also helping to manage Content Creation and Communications for the non-profit.

I tell this story because there’s one theme running in the background that would never seem obvious: none of what I’ve accomplished would be possible if it weren’t for people who empathised with and understood me. My lecturers and teachers, my team mates and peers, Aaron from Etch, the list goes on. What’s important is they took the time to connect with me, understanding me as more than just “that blind student”.

 An Opportunity to Empathise, Learn, Connect – For Students

To help students–my peers–understand the vision impaired (VI) better, Etch Empathy would be launching the Blind Café for Students – an experience that marries storytelling with a culinary journey. As school students are served communal meals in organic 100% darkness (no blindfolds required), our VI Hosts will engage with the student participants to share stories about their personal life with blindness.

 To Educators: Why Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)?

Empathy is key to students’ emotional development and learning, and Singapore has been placing an ever-growing emphasis on societal connection to people with disabilities (PWDs).

Your students will be encouraged to engage in a heart-to-heart discussion in the dark, where questions never asked in broad daylight can arise – an emotionally charged experience that will help develop a sense of care and concern for people with disabilities following this enlightening experience.

 As a person with vision impairment, I work with Etch Empathy because I believe in a non-profit’s capability to shape the way our future generation perceives others. The Blind Café is a platform that aims to combine multi-sensory immersion with the storytelling elements in a “Human Library”; it is programmes like the Blind Café, among others, that helps Singaporean students and working adults alike relate to the challenges I face each day.
Empathy is all about human connections, and I hope the Blind Café for Students would be a programme that you and school students you know can connect with.”

For more information on the programme, kindly send any questions via email (josh@etch.sg)