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“Independent Living” is Burma’s first radio programme that broadcasts to an audience of people living with physical and intellectual disabilities and offers advice about how to live independently.
Myanmar Independent Living Initiative (MILI) is an organisation that provides support for people living with disabilities and helps to raise awareness of disability rights.
In 2011, MILI started to air “Independent Living” on the state-run Myanmar Radio station. A team of people with various physical disabilities run the show, and director Aung Ko Myint, who is visually impaired, feels “Independent Living” is a comfort to those who, because of their disability, cannot leave their homes very often.
“’Independent Living’ provides information for both disabled and able-bodied people. We offer advice so those with disabilities can live on their own,” said Operations Director, Aung Ko Myint.
The programme airs live discussions and radio dramas as well as features and poems.
Pyie Phyo Aung is a producer of a segment called “Dairy of an un-dead flower”. He said it is rewarding when people benefit from listening to his show.
“Not that long ago – just before the water festival – a listener phoned in to say he had suffered from polio for a long time, but had just received walking aids from a donor who heard our show,” he said.
The team at “Independent Living” want to take the programme further. They dream of having their own station and then, in the future, make the move into television.
“I want to try to have our own station like City FM or Mandalay FM, rather than to broadcast from other stations. From there, I aim to have a TV station led by our disabled team,” said Pyie Phyo Aung.
In Burma, disabled people face discrimination. Fifty percent of those with a physical or mental disability will never attend school, and the chances of getting a job are slim.
Campaigners are trying to get disability rights on the agenda. They have drafted a law that would establish overall rights for disabled people and more specifically, would make it easier for children with disabilities to attend mainstream schools.
For now, “Independent Living” is making great strides in educating people about disabilities. The advice they give has helped many people to feel human and believe that they can lead fulfilling, independent lives.