With increasing number of people in Brunei suffering from blindness either from birth, accidents or as a complication from diseases such as diabetes, it becomes imperative to prepare not just the patients on how to deal with the disability, but their family members and the community at large as well.

Jamary Dangat, an Instructor at Pusat Bahagia briefed participants of the blindness simulation event ‘Dine With Us’. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

“There are around 500 individuals with visual impairment registered in Brunei, but the number is actually more as some families do not officially register their children or family members,” said Jamary Dangat, an Instructor at Pusat Bahagia.

He said more awareness and knowledge is needed in order to equip the public — especially family and friends — on how to interact and understand the needs of individuals with visual impairment.

Jamary, who has been working with the centre for 12 years, suffered vision loss since birth. Growing up, he was able to see a little and even read. However, as the years go by, he struggled but that did not stopped him from being independent.

Unfortunately, in 2009, his eyesight took the turn for the worse.

“I can walk around Pusat Bahagia or other familiar places on my own, but I am not confident walking in new or unfamiliar places without help now,” he said.

Recalling his own experience growing up, the 47-year-old said that there will be family members and friends who will be either ashamed or clueless in dealing with the disability.

My family was ashamed of exposing me and bringing me out until in 1979 when I entered Pusat Kebajikan as a trainee. I was eight years old at that time.  It had helped my family to be open minded and to accept me as I am.

He added: “I don’t want what had happened to me to happen to others [who suffer from visual impairment].”

As part of efforts to raise this awareness, the Ship for Southeast Asian & Japanese Youth Programme (SSEAYP) International Brunei Alumni (BERSATU) teamed up with Pusat Bahagia last week to organise the ‘Dine With Us’ programme. The event was aimed at highlighting what life is like for people living with visual impairment.

Pusat Bahagia staff is on hand to assist participants of the blindness simulation event ‘Dine With Us’. Photo: Rasidah Hj Abu Bakar/The Scoop

As part of the programme, 30 participants were blindfolded and dined in the dark to give them first-hand experience into the lives of the visually impaired individuals. The idea was inspired by ‘Dining in the dark’ organised by the Singapore Association of the Visually Handicapped.

Jamary praised the event, saying that it was not an insult to the visually impaired.

“I do not see this event as an insult to us visually impaired as some may argue that such events can caused more harm than good. It’s important to share how we do things so that people can better understand our needs and promote inclusion of special needs individuals in Brunei,” he said.