A different idea for lunchtime today (and not on this years list, so a bonus). Elizabeth and I headed off to Harbour Town (Docklands) and gave Dialogue in the Dark a go. The concept was developed in Germany back in 1988 and has since grown to being "shown" in 42 countries with Melbourne starting up this month.
So what is it? Well it's a unique experience that aims to raise awareness for those living with blindness and also creates employment opportunities. Arrived knowing that we would be walking around in the dark, but with no real idea of what to expect. For a start, it's all indoors and safe - no real danger of running into a door and breaking your nose (unless you were really clumsy, but then that could happen in the light as well).
We were each (there were 4 of us in our group) given a white cane, warned to not wave it around too vigorously (shin whacks to be avoided) and led into the dark where we were introduced to our lovely guide Beth. And off we went, visiting a "park" and various other Melbourne iconic spots (won't give it away). At first you just want to hang on to the handrail, and your eyes are straining to see (it really is pitch black) but after a few minutes, it becomes easy enough to let go and feel your way around.
The surprising thing is that you do start to listen to background noises and quickly work out voices and where people are. If you're claustrophobic or don't like bumping into strangers (no groping now), then it might not be your thing, but I found it interesting. By feel we were able to pick out all sorts including fruit and veggies as well as ordinary things found around Melbourne. No nasty surprises.
Beth took us back to her "apartment" and I could swear there was the smell of baking, but apparently no it's just the senses playing suggestive tricks on us! We then just sat and chatted and she was happy to answer our questions about her blindness (she actually has a small amount vision) and what it's like living with vision impairment.
It's a humbling experience and certainly makes you appreciate sight and that we sometimes take our senses for granted. Is it worth doing? Absolutely, it helps to break down barriers in a fun and friendly way.
Oh yes, one thing I wanted to know, should you offer help? Would it offend a vision impaired person? Beth advised that sure, there is nothing wrong with going up to anyone and asking if they need help. She did say, please don't grab them by the arm (or any body part for that matter) though, without speaking first! She got a shock when someone grabbed her suddenly as she was boarding a tram to help her off, that she slipped and broke her ankle. The guy's response, "you wouldn't have slipped if you'd asked for help!"