Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Radio Mirchi's Initiative to Reach Out to the Visually Challenged

When we tweeted about the voice volunteers of the Rotary Helen Keller Talking Book Library, our friends @owos mentioned that Radio Mirchi had done something similar. A quick Google search ensued and with an email address at hand, I sent out a mail to the Radio Mirchi team. And, soon we were talking to Pallavi Rao from Radio Mirchi, Delhi.

A year ago, Radio Mirchi's CSR division was created and after some pondering, they realized that it was a logical step to work with visually challenged people as both their world's were influenced by the world of audio. The studios and infrastructure were there and so were the people with great voices... what else did one require? Just a little time and effort!

After tying up with the National Association of the Blind (NAB), Radio Mirchi started reaching out to several institutes/schools across the country through 32 of their radio stations.

One of the projects they undertook was the production of an audio newsreel. Every Friday, a CD would leave their stations with a weekly round-up of the news. But what was the point? Couldn't people hear the news on television? What they found was that many of the institutes that housed visually disabled people did not even have an audio player. The audio newsreels were produced in different languages and distributed for free. Pallavi shared an incident which involved an institute in Coimbatore praising the audio newsreels but adding that they did not want the newsreels. After some investigation, they found out that the institute did not have a CD player. The news hit the airwaves and within two days, 21 CD players found their way to the institute.

Radio Mirchi also experimented with the film Hari Puttar and produced an audio film. Audio films are not a new concept, but this was Radio Mirchi's maiden venture. When a film is being screened, a blind person can hear the dialogues, but he/she misses out on the action happening during the interlude scenes. Radio Mirchi got all the actors back to the studio, tweaked the script a bit, introduced a sutradhar, added more descriptive dialogues and the audio film was ready! The movie was aired across 11 stations and events were held for blind children to attend. The resounding laughter of the children proved that the experiment was a successful one. The radio station is also talking to other producers/filmmakers about releasing the rights for their films for such ventures and two audio films may be ready by the end of this year.

Last, but not the least, Radio Mirchi has also started recording audio books. They first started recording from their studio in Delhi and started with syllabus books for schools and colleges. It soon became evident that this was not an easy task considering the volume of information one was dealing with. That was when Radio Mirchi asked the public to come forward and help them with this venture. Within a short span of time, the radio station saw a surge of people volunteering to help. The material is recorded and then sent to NAB for editing and made available through the NAB offices and libraries.

We are happy to mention that during the course of the conversation, we got talking about Pratham Books. And thanks to some of our Creative Commons licensed books, our books were readily available for them to record. After we send out the books, they will be recorded at the Radio Mirchi studios and sent to NAB. Yayyyy, more books for more children (and in atleast seven languages)!

Another thing that makes us happy is that the tweet sent out by @owos also received a response from @barkhad (one of our followers on Twitter). She told us that she had attended a de-brief session by Radio Mirchi. We spoke to Pallavi and have requested if Barkha could work on one of the books we send them. And she will be!!

( Thanks @owos for letting us know about this initiative; Pallavi for patiently explaining this initiative and also agreeing to work with us; Barkha Deva for sharing your experience and volunteering to record one of our books)

Image Source : aloshbennett

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