Cambodia, like many South East Asian countries, didn’t have a great history of support and empowerment for the physically disabled. That was until an entrepreneur with a vision launched the Seeing Hands Massage Salon –– blind masseuses whose physical difference is no longer a disability but now an asset. The theory goes that whenever one sense is deprived, it heightens the sensitivity of the others, meaning that a blind masseuse is going to be able to read the nuances of your muscles in the way they might read braille, leading to an exceptionally deep and responsive massage that gets it just right.
Seeing Hands salons not only provide great massages and beauty treatments though; they offer employment, empowerment and dignity to the marginalised blind community. I wondered, as I sat back to enjoy a manicure and pedicure, how a blind beautician might manage a French polish, and I admit to eyeing the cuticle-removing scissors with a little trepidation. I was reassured to find, however, that in tasks which require vision, fully-sighted beauticians take over.
However, all profits are turned back into the Seeing Hands mission, either in the training and support of the blind employees or in facilitating the spread of this venture – which is proving a great success, with many branches of Seeing Hands within Phnom Penh and across the country, and similar salons opening through other charitable organisations. Now that’s visionary.