Radio Udaan, internet-based community radio for disabled people, is 6 years old
This week Radio Udaan, the popular internet-based community radio station manned by visually impaired people, turned six years old. The station was launched in 2014 to offer a platform for the disabled community in India.
Six months. That’s how long many people gave Radio Udaan, the internet-based community radio manned by visually impaired people when it launched six years ago.
“Similar initiatives in other countries had fallen apart very quickly”, says Danish Mahajan, one of the six co-founders of Radio Udaan. “People made fun of us and said six months down the line, we would be history!”.
Danish and the other founders did not lose heart. “We looked closely at a similar initiative launched in Pakistan because of the cultural and social similarities. They had just songs playing through the day”.
Agenda of empowering the disabled in India
From the beginning, Radio Udaan took on the mantle of empowering the disabled community. It did this with shows like TechCity featuring assistive technologies that enable the disabled community. “We used talking software to develop tutorials for blind people”, says Danish. “This meant listeners had to come to us to stay updated with the latest technologies available”. Other flagship shows that remain popular are Community Colours and the hard hitting Badalta Daur, with a weekly focus on serious issues.
“We talk about issues related to disability in a serious, credible way”, says Danish. “We design such that the community has to come to us for the news”.
Team members came together to battle funding challenges
There are many challenges, chiefly funding. The core team is committed to overcoming this, even contributing money out of their own pockets to keep Radio Udaan alive and kicking.
This dedication and sincerity says Madhu Singhal founder of Bengaluru-based NGO Mitra Jyothi, remains Radio Udaan’s strongest asset. “This was a very new initiative for its time and I like the fact that it involves people from small cities”, says Madhu. “The blind community is always tuned into radio and this is a great way for them to get access to information mainstream radio stations never take up”.
Strong community presence
Radio Udaan has a team of about 30 radio jockeys (RJ) based across India. Among the oldest RJs is Jyoti Malik in Ludhiana. 28-year-old Jyoti is a co-founder as well. “The disability community struggled to access trainings earlier. Thanks to Radio Udaan they can do that from home now”. Jyoti loves how invested the community is in the station. “People love to share their learnings with us and shows that are informative get top ratings”.
30-year-old Rajni Dixit, a visually impaired government schoolteacher in Haryana, is a diehard fan. “We get so caught up in our lives and daily routine and miss out on what’s happening in the disabled community. Thanks to Radio Udaan I know everything”.
Three years ago, Radio Udaan expanded its team to include non-disabled RJs. “The presence of non-disabled RJs like Bansuri, Sakshi and Ruchika Seth has helped make our audience more mainstream”, says Danish. “Their awareness about disability has grown and having them onboard enables greater sensitisation”.
One of Radio Udaan’s most popular events is Udaan Idols, a talent hunt for disabled people. Idols has helped unearth talent in remote parts of India opening up opportunities for the disabled community. “One of show winners Sadika who has multiple disabilities got many opportunities after her win”, says Danish. “Another winner Muskaan went to the United States. Radio Udaan has also been recognised in the India Book of Records. All this is satisfying”.
Going ahead, the Radio Udaan team plans to go more mainstream with content in regional languages and reach out to audiences in rural areas and colleges. All welcome ideas says Madhu. “I really appreciate the work they are doing, and their content is followed by people in different countries which is great. I hope they go even further and expand it to people of diverse disability types”.