In Thailand, disabled individuals can be seen everywhere in the form of beggars, traveling the streets in Bangkok and asking for money. There are no laws intended to provide and improve the quality of life for these people. Roads, sidewalks, walkways are never equipped or adjusted to provide for wheelchairs or the blind. These unfortunate souls are considered a problem rather than as sharing in equal rights and status. They are looked down upon, although with a certain amount of sympathy. There are only a few facilities and organizations created to support and house them. Likewise, the budgets set aside for these places are minimal at best. Meager at worst.
The Disabled project is driven by the curiosity to understand how the disabled lives, functions and survives on a daily basis. In my search to learn more, I went to a male disabled rehabilitation and housing center on the outskirts of Bangkok. There the haunting and, at times, graphic images of an overburdened and failed care system can be seen. The place is both vastly under staffed and under budgeted, and the ratio of caregivers to patients is 1:40 or 50. Most of the patients living there have been abandoned by their families, not by choice but because their family has no means to take care of them, so subsequently they are brought to the center to be taken care of.
Patients are seen sleeping on the pavement out in the sun, tied to a secure pole or to a bed. The quality of the place is sub-standard, despite the good intentions of the few staffers who work there, with the condition of each patient varying, from physical to mental, to, in many cases, both.
It is my sincere desire to document the condition of the center along with the treatment of its patients. The images I have captured thus far are harrowing, haunting and very visceral. The feelings of loneliness and emptiness are prominent. I want to create a visual commentary that conveys these feelings along with the utter sense of despair and isolation I felt for the place and its patients.
With this project, I hope to help bridge the gap between those in need in our society and society itself. I wish to raise awareness and bring needed attention and better understanding of the existing conditions and to improve the quality of life for these people. I want to capture hope for the hopeless and dream for the few dreams the disabled have left. The project is my very personal and privileged journey into a space most do not care to venture, or simply refuse to acknowledge.- Ohm Phanphiroj