This caught my attention powerfully. These are the stories we love to tell: the stories of transformation! So I contacted her for an interview that I now share with you.
Unbeknownst to her, Sam's learning journey began at age 11, when as part of a school visit, she visited Dialogue in the Dark in Singapore.
DSE: What do you remember about that visit to DiD SG?
To be honest, not much. I was very young and I didn't really understand what we were doing there. Our teacher took us, it was just another school trip. Of course I remember the darkness, I also remember that I bought something in the cafeteria in total darkness, but I don't remember much else.
And how did you come across DiD again?
I was studying communication at the Ngee Ann Politechnic, which is the campus where DiD SG is. But honestly DiD was never on my radar when I was a student. I was focused on my career. And it came time to do my internship. I was interested in doing my internship at a marketing and design firm. I tried, I interviewed several times but I was losing hope.
Then one of my teachers told me about DiD SG. To be honest, it was like my last resource. And already a little frustrated, I agreed to do my internship there. However, I decided to go with an open mind.
Do you remember your first day?
Of course I do. I had an induction where they explained everything about DiD SG and DiD internationally as well as its history. Then I did the tour in the dark.
Was it different than the tour when you were 11 years old?
I was different. This time I really listened to my guide. I was very impacted by the encounter with her.
Had you interacted with visually impaired people before?
I had never. And it was strange at first. The truth is that I was afraid of saying the wrong thing, I didn't want to offend my colleagues with an inappropriate comment.
Today our communication is very natural. I even developed friendships with some guides; we see each other from time to time outside of work for lunch or a drink.
What would you recommend to people without disabilities to start interacting with people with disabilities?
Get over that initial fear and just say "hello". Then a simple chat is what is needed. The simplest thing in the world: what's your favorite color, do you like to read, what do you do in your free timi? I think a simple chat relaxes people.
Speak to people with disabilities comfortably like how you would with new people you meet, who don't have disabilities. I feel like after working at DiDSG, I've come to understand that people with disabilities truly just want you to treat them like any other person, don't treat them specially just because they have a disability.
You're a communications graduate, and you came across DiD almost as your last resource to do your internship. Did you find something to enrich your career?
Yes, especially the concept of accessibility. I had never thought that the way we communicate excludes so many people. In DiD I learned about practices such as audio description or alternative texts. I understood what my visually impaired colleagues felt when they were excluded from certain communications such as popular programs broadcast in Singapore.
In a communications or marketing company I would hardly have learned that.
In addition, I learned empathy. Not only towards my colleagues with disability, but empathy towards the people around me. I learned to see the needs of others and to stop for a second to support them. That is something very valuable to me.
What lesson do you take from this journey that began with you visiting DiD when you were 11 years old and that today concludes with you making your internship in the same place?
My lesson is to always think of others. Not only think about how you benefit yourself, but how to adjust to benefit other people in society who have the same right as you. To think, what can I do in my day to day life to be more inclusive, to make room for others around me.
I would add, Sam, the importance of staying open-minded, because that helped you to be receptive. And second, that no matter how disparate two subjects may seem, as in your case your communication studies and an exhibition in the dark, there is always common ground, there is always something that can connect and enrich our knowledge.
Lessons to take away for all of us.
Especial acknowledge to DiD SG, where each year a new generation of young students learn not only about social entrepreneurship and how to operate an exhibition but learn so much more about empathy, social flexibility and disability and inclusion!