The Inspirers: Theater program in Mexico fosters empathy for the disabled
By Chuck Tinte and Alasdair Baverstock

As countries around the world seek greater inclusion for the disabled, many have turned to the arts as an arena to foster understanding.

In Mexico, there's a theater program that relies on a full company of blind actors. 

It's called "Teatro de Ciegos" – the Theater of the Blind.

It's an immersive experience for audiences and a personal quest for the players. The idea is to have all auditorium lights off, and stay that way for the rest of the show. Deprived of clear vision, the audience will experience the performance as the actors experience life – blind.

Audience members are led in human chains around the stage, shown the heightened power of their other senses, and introduced to Braille. 

"It’s about challenging yourself and discovering all the things you can do. Not just a blind person, but anyone with a disability, because often we hold ourselves back by thinking of our disabilities as limitations," said blind actor Jesus Rodriguez. 

Performers thank the audience on the stage at the "Teatro de Ciegos" in Mexico. /Screenshot from CGTN video

Performers thank the audience on the stage at the "Teatro de Ciegos" in Mexico. /Screenshot from CGTN video

According to advocacy groups, more than two million Mexicans suffer from some form of visual impairment, with more than 400,000 fully blind. Activities like theater for the blind are aimed at building empathy within society through experiencing someone else's reality. 

"Teatro de Ciegos" is the brainchild of Juan Saavedra, who has normal vision, and was inspired by a blind friend. 

"When you find yourself in the dark, you are alone, because even if you have someone next to you, you can't see them. Your eyes are open, but you can't see. So what we have wanted from the very beginning is to have audiences experience that vulnerability," he said.

Those who have watched the shows are left in awe. With some describing it as a powerful experience. 

"The value they bring to life, it's sensational. We complain about life, being badly treated, about money, about work, but in reality we have everything. We can see, we are healthy, we have all our limbs. And there are people who don't have that, and it makes you value things," said one audience member. 

As Mexico's Theater of the Blind achieves its landmark 100th performance, the actors hope the experience they offer in the auditorium will translate into greater empathy in the outside world. 

It's now on its 11th year and will perform six shows this month.