I was navigating the aisle of a bus in pitch-black darkness — not even able to see the shoes on my feet. As I banged my (slightly sore) knee across every single row of seats in the bus and scrambled helplessly to find somewhere to sit, it sunk in. Of course, I knew it would be difficult not being able to see, but I did not realise how lost I would find myself and how insecure I would feel.
My preconceptions were shattered at Dialogue in the Dark, an exhibition where visitors experience what it is like to be blind. Participants are guided through a series of everyday experiences in absolute darkness, assisted by trained blind guides. It opened in Hackney this week and it’s timely — with news today that disabled people in this country are paid 12 per cent less, according to ONS statistics, and the BBC pledging to improve treatment of disabled people.
It’s one thing to “think you know” that being visually impaired is hard — it’s quite a shock to experience for yourself how even the most basic tasks we take for granted become a struggle.
Through this experience I saw how ordinary routines could become extraordinary, and it changed my whole outlook. At a time when politics in this country is becoming increasingly polarised, experiences like this foster much-needed empathy.
Dialogue in the Dark is about creating awareness, empowerment and empathy towards visually impaired people. It is a real, live experience that occurs in a specially designed, completely dark area with different rooms that offer different experiences from daily city life, filled with sounds, flavours and objects without using the sense of sight. The experience helps us to overcome prejudices and stereotypes. You realise how rich and complex the experience of visually impaired people is. In the darkness, knowledge replaces ignorance, and lack of understanding changes into fellow feeling.
Read the entire article on the Evening Standard website here.