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Radio becomes the vision for blind Whitireia journalism student

May 17th, 2011 | By | Category: Featured Article, Front Page Layout, News

BLIND radio student David Piper is unfazed by the prospect of having to beat his disability to make his mark in radio – it’s nothing new.

The loss of his sight, public perception and living life by a walking stick are just some of challenges that life has been thrown Mr Piper’s way.

Mr Piper, pictured, says he believes radio is a perfect fit for blind people, and his blindness is a blessing in disguise because it has strengthened his other senses.

“I think radio is perfect for blind and partially-sighted people. I’ve got a pretty good ear for radio, so that’s why I’ve been following the radio path.”

Mr Piper has a knowledge and interest of subjects as diverse as geography, sport, politics and current affairs, which he hopes will boost his chances of getting a good job in radio.

Unlike most blind people, Mr Piper knows what it is like to have clear vision and be able to see different colours.

“For someone who is born blind, they’ve never known colours for example. I know what colours and people look like. I know who’s got blonde hair or dark hair. The grass is green and the sky is blue.”

Mr Piper says he was frustrated when his blindness set in, but he now makes a point of looking for the positives rather than the negatives.

“It can be frustrating at times. I’d love to watch my son play rugby. Both my sons play cricket. There’s nothing you can do about it, you just have to move on.”

Disabled journalists are not an uncommon sight in the media.

Niu FM marketing manager and Whitireia advisor Pere Maitai has been in broadcasting and the media for over 30 years.

Mr Maitai says media organisations have to be prepared to take a gamble when employing disabled journalists, because there are always risks.

He says the cost of catering for a blind broadcaster may put off commercial broadcasters.

“Their thing is to make money, the more audiences they get the better it is. Talking about blind people in particular, you have to set up a special computer for them.”

Mr Maitai says Mr Piper will have to work harder than anyone else in order to succeed in radio, because it is one of the toughest forms of journalism.

“He has to be bloody good, just knowing commercial radio and television. He’d have to be the best, better than Paul Holmes voice. The unfortunate thing about being disabled is you’re 200% behind everybody else.”

Mr Maitai has experienced working with disabled journalists – he used to work with a producer in a wheelchair.

“She could produce, there was no problem about that and could even direct, but she wanted to go do stories in field,”

“Folding up her chair takes longer, getting stories in. You want somebody that can be there quick, who can report.”

Whitireia radio journalism tutor Ana Tapiata, who has worked in radio for 27 years, says blind students are instantly disadvantaged.

“Speed will be an issue, his ability to able to turn things around quickly and he’s got to be able to process very quickly.”

She says the most crucial requirement Mr Piper will need to master will be learning to read radio scripts.

She says it will be a challenge to find radio outlets that would be willing to take Mr Piper on during the internship period – which requires a radio journalism student to work in a radio newsroom.

Fellow radio journalism student Samantha Ives asked via Facebook for guidance for Mr Piper from radio journalists in the Kiwi Journalists’ Association.

She received a number of responses with links to overseas blind radio journalists, such as Peter White on BBC Radio and Global Voice – an international group of blind and sighted radio presenters.

Mr Piper says he has enjoyed most of the tasks involved on the radio diploma, but there have been a few challenges such as approaching people for interviews and learning the necessary technical skills.

While on a class trip to Radio New Zealand, Mr Piper began thinking about the future job opportunities that could open up if he manages to successfully complete the radio course.

“When we went around Radio New Zealand, I looked at some of the job that I could do. I realised I couldn’t read the news, but I’m always thinking about some of the job opportunities in the industry that I could do.”

Disabled journalists have managed to make it on the airwaves before. Mr Piper is determined to join them.

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is a journalist in the making, with the aim to become a sports journalist. He enjoys all sports especially rugby league.
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