Understanding the experience of income and financial security for blind street musicians in Thailand

Stream: Disability and diversity
Date: Wednesday, 11 September 2019
Time: 10.45 am – 12.25 pm

Abstract

This paper analyses the lived experience of people with visual impairment in Thailand, underlining their economic and social circumstances as street musicians. It aims to understand the consequences of their income capacity from street musicianship, and the sustainability of their financial well-being. According to the study of unstructured-conversational interviews with nineteen male and thirteen female street musicians and three group discussion interviews (6-10 per group), street music, despite facilitating almost all blind street musicians economically, did not normally facilitate them to achieve income and financial security, for the following reasons. First, a career in street musicianship could not stabilise income, the amount of which hinged on the number of people who attended performances and donated money, which varied from day to day and time to time, including the choice of location. This consequentially affected their household expenses and living conditions. Secondly, many tended to experience huge financial burdens. They felt obliged to maintain family connections and obligations as culturally accepted. Many had partners and children, some of whom also continued to support elderly parents. This resulted in ongoing financial commitment for them, even though fulfilment of their obligations carried with it a measure of satisfaction and even pleasure. Finally and most importantly, the cost of living for visually impaired people, like other people with disability, was far more expensive than for those without disabilities. Complete access to income and social protection systems including social support services, therefore, is essential to improving social and economic wellbeing for blind street musicians.

Author

Quanchai Kerddaen (Presenter), Faculty of Political Science, Ubonratchathani University
With long interest in human rights, disability politics and social policy , Dr. Quanchai Kerddaen, a blind person from Thailand, has served as lecturer in the Faculty of Political Science at Ubonratchathani University since 2008. He obtained a BA in Political Science from Chulalongkorn in 2002, an MA in Social and Public Policy from Leeds University in 2005, and an MPA from National Institute of Development Administration in 2010. He received a Thai Government scholarship to pursue a PhD in Social Policy at SPRC under supervision of Prof Karen Fisher and Prof Ilan Katz in 2013, and graduated in 2018.