Plus Community Partnership conceptualised the Sensory Photography programme and early 2018, a collaboration began with Malaysian Association of the Blind (MAB) and Studio DL Photography.
The objective is to empower the visually impaired with the opportunity to explore an activity they previously had no access to. Firstly, the Sensory Photography programme is centred on Photography as a channel for self expression. Secondly, it could lead to an additional source of income.
There are over 488,000 visually impaired Malaysians (Source: National Eye Survey 2014) with limited career opportunities. Between 2012 and 2017, only 360 are employed and 200 are skilled (Source: Estimated from MAB from registered cases in Jabatan Kebajikan Malaysia).
The pilot programme from 10 March to 2 June, consisted of 10 lessons with 9 participants.
After each class, a chapter of the lesson was written and at the end of the programme, a syllabus was compiled into a handbook on teaching the blind the art of photography. This is a first in Malaysia.
In the duration of the 10 classes, the visually impaired students were empowered with the knowledge of photography, starting with learning the basics of camera handling.
For those whose photographs are exhibited, they now have the skill and output from an activity dictated solely for the sighted, as well as a new-found self-confidence and a ‘can-do’ spirit.
In a programme that involved interaction between the sighted and the blind, there was a sense of inclusiveness and equality. The knowledge platform was two ways, where the blind and sighted learnt more of each other’s world, and at the same time improving tolerance, acceptance and perception.
The programme has challenged the status quo of the capabilities of a marginalised community. And now the Sensory Photography Exhibition is proof that those visually impaired have the potential to do more and offer great artistic perspectives in a sighted world.
As a new act of empowerment for a community, Sensory Photography is one of the many platforms for a progressive new Malaysia. Appropriately, the exhibition is centred over the period of Hari Merdeka and Hari Malaysia.
The exhibited photographs were made accessible to the sighted as well as the visually impaired. The collection showcased 70 Photographs, out of which 28 were featured as Tactile Photography accompanied by Audio Descriptors.
This again, is another first in Malaysia.